Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Where we going fellas?

 By Henry Lipput

A long time ago, when (if you can believe it) The Beatles were struggling young musicians, tired of their lack of luck and playing low-paying gigs around Liverpool, John Lennon would try to buck up his fellow bandmates by asking, in a faux American DJ voice, “Where we going fellas?!” The answer was always “To the toppermost of the poppermost!”

Well, Joe Kane of Glasgow, opportunity knocks! 

Kane, the “one-man beat group,“ is a multi-talented musician, singer, songwriter, and performer (he’s played with Neil Innes, Joey Molland, and The Bootleg Beatles). He’s adopted the Poppermost name for his own musical project and the first Poppermost release, last year’s“ Can’t Take That Away” single, was a fab-tastic Mersey beat romp. 

The A Piece of the Poppermost EP (Bandcamp) shows Kane lovingly mining the musical vein of other mid-Sixties groups. 



“Well I Will” could have been recorded by The Easybeats and “Laziest Fella in the Realm” is a jaunty, Kinks-flavored tune like “Dedicated Follower of Fashion.” “Get it Down,” with its McCartney vibe, is a cross between “I’ll Follow the Sun” and the songs he wrote for Peter and Gordon. And “In & Out” is the kind of feel-good song favored by Herman’s Hermits and might still become a pub sing-along

In addition to the “Can’t Take That Away” single and the A Piece Of The Poppermost EP, Kane has recorded eight more songs that a scheduled to be released on his Hits To Spare album in June. It’s available on vinyl and because the CD of A Piece Of The Poppermost has already sold out it might be a good idea to pre-order it.

Next Time: Jeremy Porter’s Sweet Tooth 

Sunday, May 2, 2021

All You Need Is Friends

 By Henry Lipput

While waiting for the release of his second album with Lisa Mychols (the first was one of my favorite albums of 2020), SUPER 8 is doing what he always does during a break: make more music.

The result this time is the wonderful new single “For My Friends” (Bandcamp). It’s the second “taster” (but I prefer to think of it as a “treat”) for his next solo album being released later this year on The Beautiful Music label.



“For My Friends” is a warm embrace as well as a salute to all of those people who help you through the tough times (like last year) and are there with you to celebrate the good ones.  

My alternative title for the song is “All You Need Is Friends” because SUPER 8 has channeled his inner George Martin to create the brilliant arrangements: there are strings and horns and the only thing could make this song better is if he flew in a snippet of his “Love Like Ours” song into the mix near the end. “For My Friends,” with its echoes of a certain Fab anthem from the Sixties, could easily turn into a sing-along with your best mates.

And this being a SUPER 8 single there is, of course, a video this time with photographs of his friends.



Next Time: Where we going fellas?

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

The Freewheeling Matthew Sweet

 By Henry Lipput

Matthew Sweet’s splendid new album Catspaw (Omnivore Recordings) is his first since 2018’s Tomorrow’s Daughter and also his first entirely solo release (except for drums which are played by his longtime collaborator Ric Menck). On his previous albums Sweet has played rhythm guitar, bass, and keyboards and well as supplying both lead and backing vocals. On Catspaw, for the first time he also plays all of the lead electric guitar parts (he‘s no slouch on acoustic leads either as he proved on “I Thought I Knew You“ with Lloyd Cole on rhythm acoustic from his 1991 breakthrough album Girlfriend).


Since Girlfriend Sweet has had NYC post-punk guitar icons like Robert Quine, Richard Lloyd, and Ivan Julian provide the lead electric guitar parts and he obviously has learned from these masters. He has said his playing on Catspaw was “free form” and “spontaneous” (I would add “freewheeling” to this list to describe his loose and melodic playing). There’s also a stomp and crunch to his guitar work on the new album that recalls Neil Young in his Crazy Horse mode. The opening track “Blown Away“ is a prime example; “Drifting,” on the other hand, has a fine clean line (and there‘s also a lovely bit of counter-melody in the mix that recalls The Youngblood’s “Get Together.”)

Although there are some dark moments on Catspaw, for every song like “Best Of Me” in which Sweet questions whether there’s any point in his being alive (“What if the best of me isn’t good enough/And any world that doesn’t have me is better off without”) there are songs like “Give A Little” (“Give a little bit of love/And I’ll give a little bit of love back to you/Give a little bit of hope/And I’ll give a little bit of hope back to you”) and the seize-the-day message of “Challenge The Gods” (“Just do what you want to do/Go where you want to go/Challenge the gods to act”). 


And for every breakup song like “Come Home” (“But I won’t forget again/That my heart’s already torn/I remember how it feels/To be lost without you”) there are songs like “Coming Soon” that tell of hoped-for new loves: “You’ve arrived to bring about the end of the world/I’m about to make you mine/You’re about to see me as I want to be seen/So I’m already feeling high.”

Next Time: All You Need Is Friends

Saturday, April 17, 2021

A Few Of My Favorite Things: 2020 Edition

 By Henry Lipput

Here, at last, are my favorite releases of 2020. In the past I’ve called this post Better Late Than Never but for a number of reasons it’s Later than usual. Blame it on Covid funk, blame it on allergies that put my head in a different kind of funk, or you can put the blame on Mame.

In the following paragraphs I’ve listed my favorite albums, EPs, singles, compilation, and reissue. I’ve also included a Spotify playlist (except for a song from two of the EPs and the compilation) so you can hear a bit of what I've enjoyed last year. 

Despite my use of this playlist, I’m very aware that musicians don’t make much money from streaming services so I’ve included with the descriptions below a link to where you can buy a download, CD, or vinyl copy of an album or song (I have done all of these things). And since the pandemic hit musicians have been unable to tour -- a major source of income -- it’s even more important now that you show your support in this way.              


ALBUMS

Close Lobsters, Post Neo Anti: Arte Povera in the Forest of Symbols


Post Neo Anti: Arte Povera in the Forest of Symbols (Last Night From Glasgow/Shelflife) is an album six years in the making. This great band from Scotland released two albums in the 1980s (the last being 1989’s Headache Rhetoric) and a bunch of singles (19 are collected on the Forever Until Victory! compilation).  The band was quiet until they released two EPs, one in 2014 and the other in 2016. Two songs from each of these EPs make up the second part of Post Neo Anti: Arte Povera in the Forest of Symbols and the rest of the songs continue and reinforce the legacy of what I like to call “The Clash with Rickenbackers.”

Tugboat Captain, Rut







With their debut album Rut, Tugboat Captain, a four-piece DIY band from London, have created a Technicolor song cycle that thrills in its inventiveness and the use of sounds and dynamics. And although the songs on Rut (vinyl: Double A-Side Records/digital: Bandcamp) were written before the pandemic, the themes of many of the songs (even the titles themselves), like “If Tomorrow’s Like Today,” “Day To Day,” and, especially, the single “No Plans (For This Year),”  fit together to make up something of a concept album about what we‘ve been going through.  But, it’s anything but a downer; it’s a joyful listen full of great tunes and arrangements .

Even As We Speak, Adelphi


Like their Shelflife label mates Close Lobsters, Even As We Speak's Adelphi (Shelflife) was a long time in coming. It’s the band’s first album since 1993’s Feral Pop Frenzy. Going their separate ways for a number of reasons the band reformed in 2016 to play at the NYC Popfest in celebration of Sarah Records. The response was so positive the band returned to the recording studio to produce The Black Forest EP in 2017. Adelphi is full of wonderful tunes like the jangle pop of “Forgiving,” the full screen cinematic sound of “Unknown,” and the gorgeous Mary Wyer vocal and squeeze box-like accompaniment of “Leaves.”

Brandi Ediss, Bees and Bees and Bees


Bees and Bees and Bees is the amazing debut album from Massachusetts-based singer-songwriter Brandi Ediss (Futureman Records). She joins a long line of honest voices like Joni Mitchell that weren‘t afraid to write about both their failures and successes at love. Many of her lyrics are honest, sometimes painfully so and her clear vocal lines and the album’s simple arrangements only add to what comes across as a confessions of heartbreak or joy about relationships.

The Apartments, In and Out of the Light

Peter Milton Walsh has been part of the music scene in Australia since 1978. The sad and beautiful In and Out of the Light (Talitres) is full of songs of regret, encouragement, and even anger that reflect experienced life (and love) lessons. And whether In and Out of the Light is a concept album about one relationship or a collection of songs about the many over the years that didn’t work out, it illustrates how there’s something worse than the hurt of a breakup: it’s the post-breakup that you have to live with.

the black watch, fromthing somethat







Is fromthing somethat (ATOM Records) the album that puts an end to the black watch’s brilliant failures? Founded in 1987, the band celebrated their seeming lack of recognition on 2019’s  great 31 Years of Obscurity: The Best of the black watch: 1988-2019, a career-spanning compilation.  In 2020, refusing to rest on any laurels, the black watch released two albums and an EP. They continue to have a winning streak of great guitar-based tunes with rarely a failure in sight. Track after track on fromthing somethat, their 19th LP,  showcases a band at its peak. 

Suzzy Roche and Lucy Wainwright Roche, I Can Still Hear You








I Can Still Hear You (StorySound Records) is the third collaboration from Suzzy Roche and her daughter, Lucy Wainwright Roche. I’ve been a fan of The Roches since their first album came out in 1979. Whether it’s genetics or a sign of how much they love each other, there are times on I Can Still Hear You when Suzzy and Lucy harmonize that recall the sound of The Roches.  Founding member Maggie Roche lost her fight with cancer in 2017 but her spirit is very much a part of the new album. Maggie sang lead on the traditional Irish song “Factory Girl” on The Roches’ 1980 Nurds album and Lucy brings the song back on I Can Still Hear You. She also sings “Jane,” a song that Maggie wrote when she was 18 and has never been recorded until now.

Lisa Mychols and SUPER 8








LISA MYCHOLS & SUPER 8 (US: Lisa Mychols, Bandcamp/Canada: The Beautiful Music/UK: SUPER 8, Bandcamp) is a concept album (it even has a theme song and a joke with a reference to Sgt. Pepper!) about summer loves. It’s a glorious sun-baked boardwalk stroll down memory lane for some and a perhaps a soundtrack for future romance for others. The album is a meeting of musical minds and a true collaboration with both of them writing lyrics and music. After their first musical partnership (the fantastic single “Timebomb“) they decided to just keep going. They wrote and recorded this album using every trans-Atlantic means possible to send each other ideas, music, lyrics, and even videos. 

Theater Royal, Portraits








Theatre Royal, a four piece from the UK, have been around since 2010 (you should really check out the collections of their singles and b-sides on Bandcamp) and I’ve been enjoying listening to them when the songs get played on the internet radio stations I visit. But I really started paying attention when they began releasing singles and an EP back in 2019 to build interest for what would become their fifth album; I was hooked. As excellent as their previous work has been that album, Portraits (Bandcamp), is a major step forward for the band in terms of songwriting and performing.  

Willie Nile, New York at Night







Willie Nile’s latest album, New York At Night (River House Records) is a love letter to the city he obviously adores.  Nile has been making records since 1980 and New York At Night shows that he’s lost none of his songwriting chops. Working with his long-time live band. Nile has created a set of rock and roll gems. And as much I enjoy the kick-ass tunes it’s the beautiful and melancholy gems sprinkled throughout the album that show his range and the ones I love the most.

EPs

Shop Girls, A Fine Day in Anfield








Despite rumors to the contrary, the Cardiff-based Shop Girls is an all-male trio made up of Leroy Kenneth Rahman on drums and percussion, Damir Zlaktic on bass, and James P. Davies on vocals and guitar. Their A Lovely Day At Anfield EP (Bandcamp) is full of brilliant pop tunes. “Louise Megee” recalls The Boo Radleys with a bit of a Macca medley thing going on. “I Love Clara Crowe” has more than a touch of The La’s  and “nIGHTbEAT” is a rocking band workout.

Peter Hall, There's Something Wrong With Everyone








Peter Hall’s There’s Something Wrong With Everyone EP (CD: The Beautiful Music/digital: Bandcamp) is a wonderful mix of melancholy pop and it doesn’t hurt that Hall‘s voice is gentle and welcoming. Hall’s influences include Wings-era McCartney, Big Star, Emitt Rhodes, and George Harrison’s self-titled solo album. The EP initially came out as a digital-only release early in 2020 but the Beautiful Music CD includes a bonus track you’ll just have to buy to hear. 

Cleaners From Venus, July








Martin Newell, of the long-time British band The Cleaners From Venus, a well-respected iconic/ironic DIY legend, is known as the Jangling Man, a song from his great 1993 album The Greatest Living Englishman. And he doesn’t disappoint on the July EP (Bandcamp) with it’s crunching guitar riffs and dazzling jangle. He’s advertised as fronting The Cleaners From Venus although he may not be fronting as much as being a one-man band. As the Bandcamp page notes, Newell  is both “muse and Word-sick“ and he recorded the tracks at Chez Martin “between tea-breaks and sleeping.“

SINGLES

The Shop Window, Evacuate








The Shop Window, a band from Kent in the UK, consists of Carl Mann (vocals/guitars), Simon ‘Syd’ Oxlee (vocals/keys), Martin Corder (bass), and Phil Elphee (drums). “Evacuate” (Bandcamp), one of the four singles they released in 2020, opens with a single finger on a synth keyboard and the vocals begin with the song’s chorus. Described by the band as “evoking nostalgia” it’s a “a warm hug sounding like today from yesteryear.” After the chorus, the band is in full swing and it’s a joyful noise with some fine jangle. Keep a look out for their debut album to be released in the coming months.

the blue herons, Go On








the blue herons is another transatlantic duo with Andy Jossi from Switzerland supplying music and instruments and California’s Gretchen DeVault providing lyrics and vocals. the blue herons have been releasing singles since 2017 and the latest “Go On” (Bandcamp) is another fine example of their dream pop sound. They continue to keep busy and have already released the “Endless Rain” single in February.

Vince Melouney, Women (Make You Feel Alright








The single by Vince Melouney, a member of the original BeeGees from 1967 to 1969, “Women (Make You Feel Alright) (Bandcamp) is a crash course in garage rock. In addition to Melouney on vocals and lead guitar, the band includes Jonathan Lea of The Jigsaw Seen on additional guitars and maracas, Alec Palao on bass and Paul Kopf on backing vocals (both are members of the San Francisco-based band Strangers In A Strange Land), and the always amazing Clem Burke of Blondie on drums.

COMPILATION

Various Artists, Garden of Earthy Delights: An XTC Celebration








Futureman Records has had a great run of tribute albums (like 2018’s Altered Sweet tribute to Matthew Sweet) and Garden of Earthly Delights (Futureman Records) is no exception. A range of indie artists cover songs from XTC’s 1977 debut album White Noise to 2000’s Wasp Star (my personnel favorite).  Highlights from these two CDs and another 17 digital tracks include King Radio’s mashup of “Mayor of Simpleton” and The Kinks’ “Victoria,” Gretchen's Wheel’s lovely “The Last Balloon,” Dot Dash’s jangle-infused “Respectable Street,“ and Anton Barbeau adds a touch of reggae to  “We’re All Light.”

REISSUE

Allyson Seconds, Bag of Kittens








The collaboration between Allyson Seconds and Anton Barbeau is a match made in Heaven, or at least in Sacramento. Originally released in 2009 the pair’s delightful Bag Of Kittens (Big Stir Records) has been reissued with four never-before-heard bonus tracks.  This album is a must for anyone (like me) who adores the 2016 Seconds and Barbeau release Little World or anyone who loves off-kilter pop with great vocals. As with Little World, Barbeau wrote, produced, and arranged the songs on Bag Of Kittens but it’s her voice that shines throughout the album. Seconds can sing like a child, a woman, and a siren singing rock, ballads, and country. And Barbeau has provided all of those for her.


Next time: On to 2021! or How Sweet It Is


Monday, March 15, 2021

Three from the black watch

 By Henry Lipput

Are the black watch brilliant failures?

Not as far as I’m concerned although I didn't find out about them until 2019 when they released their amazing 31 Years of Obscurity: The Best of the black watch: 1988-2019,, a career-spanning compilation that deserves your immediate attention. It contains tracks from the band’s 17 albums and many, many singles and EPs including that year’s  outstanding magic johnson album. I may have missed out on their early years but I’m a full-fledged fan now.

Founded in 1987 in California, John Andrew Fredrick, he of a voice sounding like Lou Reed fronting a goth band but with a major gift for pop, has been the only consistent member of the group and its principal songwriter. Refusing to rest on any laurels, the black watch released two albums, brilliant failures and fromthing somethat, along with the nothing that is EP in 2020. They continue to have an enviable winning streak of great guitar-based tunes with rarely a failure in sight.

brilliant failures

brilliant failures (A Turntable Friend Records) shows the range of band leader John Andrew Fredrick’s songwriting and his band’s talent for arrangements. They run the gamut on the album’s first three songs: from the finger-picking guitar sound of the opening track “Julie 2” that recalls The Beatles’ “I Will” and “Julia,” to the all-out rock and roll of “crying all the time!,’ to the jangle pop of “brilliant failures.”


“red dwarf star,” with its monster bass line, layered shoegaze guitars, and synth runs, is just about three minutes long but there’s so much going on that it demands repeat listens. The ballad-y “the personal statement” is one of the few first-person lyrics on the album, although it’s not clear if it’s about Fredrick or a combination of people and events.

“one hundred million times around the sun” might very well be Fredrick’s “Tomorrow Never Knows.” It begins with a backwards psychedelic guitar lick. there’s a spacey drone of a bridge followed by some terrific crunchy guitar work;  it's another tune begging for repeat listens.

“julie” is a pop gem and the dark, guitar-driven “technology” ends the album with a thought we might all have had a some point: “technology is leaving me behind/and that’s fine.”

fromthing somethat

Is fromthing somethat (ATOM Records) the album that puts an end to the black watch’s brilliant failures? Track after track on this, their 19th LP,  showcases a band at its peak. Most of the songs were recorded after just a few run-throughs following Fredrick bringing them in and it captures the excitement of the moment.

 

saint fair isle sweater” is a rocking, full-band blowout and a perfect opening track. “the nothing that is” a toe-tapping treat that looks at the bright side however difficult: “The gutter is a brilliant place to start/To contemplate the stars.” There are lovely female backing vocals along with some well-placed synth fills,

The jangley “green stars, clouds departing” is a song not written to reflect the last year of pandemic living but certainly fits the bill: “Why can’t I focus on one thing at a time?“ The sludgy, fuzzy “such like friendly demons” has a dreamy bridge and stand-out drumming. It’s another song that at four minutes could do with another four to continue the wig-out that ends the song.  And the instrumental “the haves & nots” is pure pop gold with chiming guitars and a fab rhythm section.

the nothing that is EP

the nothing that is EP (ATOM Records) contains the album version of the song from fromthing somethat as well as a ten-minute mix by Scott Campbell (who produced brilliant failures and also played bass and keyboards on that album). The mix has a drone-filled, 90’s house vibe and it goes without saying headphones are required (preferably the kind John Cusak wore in High Fidelity). 


 

There are also three new songs on the EP including the terrific, pop-y, pysch-guitar laden “the very thing,” a sound that fits somewhere between Rubber Soul and Revolver.


Next time: A Few of My Favorite Things: 2020 Edition




Monday, March 1, 2021

Triple Play #3 (Still More From 2020)

 By Henry Lipput

Phil Cooper

Except for drums, Phil Cooper plays nearly every instrument and writes and sings every song on  his latest album These Revelation Games (Bandcamp) making him much more than a triple threat. Cooper hails from the UK and has let it be known that he’s influenced by, among others, bands like Crowded House and Squeeze and you can hear it throughout his new album.

 And although his melodies -- and he certainly has a gift for a tune -- have echoes of the work of these groups, it’s Cooper’s vocals that really show how time spent listening to Neil Finn and Glenn Tilbrook has made him the singer he is.  For example, the upbeat, rocking “A Thousand Tiny Differences” not only sounds like a full-band classic Squeeze song like “In Quintessence” from East Side Story, Cooper’s vocal is full-on Tilbrook. “Into The Void” begins with some wonderful Beach Boys-like harmonies and would have fit nicely on later Squeeze albums like Some Fantastic Place.

“Treading Water” and “Keep Your Hands Upon The Wheel” both have a Crowded-House-Alone-Together vibe with a touch of Finn on the vocals.  On the latter song, Cooper plays a Macca-like bass riff . He’s also a mean lead guitarist and brings the crunch on “House Of Mirrors,” “Tell Me It’s All OK,” and “Changing Times.”

Tremendous

Relentless (digital release), the debut album from the Birmingham, UK, glam rock (emphasis on rock) band Tremendous, is full of three-minute exploding pop rock songs with influences that have been thrown into a giant blender.


I first heard the band (a tight-knit trio consisting of singer/guitarist/songwriter Mark Dudzinski, Ryan Jee on bass, and Dave Lee on drums) when they released their “Rock ‘n’ Roll Satellite” single back in 2019.  I imagined an alternate musical past in which Eric Carmen, having left Raspberries, moves to London and joins a glam rock band. That’s what Tremendous, in its hook-laden time machine, brings to the present 


“Rock ‘n’ Roll Satellite” is a super glam rock track (“You glitter my bones/You glamour my shoes”) and there’s even a reference to the Spiders From Mars. “Heartsinker” could have been written by Paul Westerberg for any of the first three Replacements albums and is played just as fiercely by Tremendous (another clever lyrical choice from Dudzinski:“You give love heart disease”). The ballad "Like Dreams Do" (not the Lennon-McCartney one) is a change of pace that mid-song becomes a metal guitar fest.

The Foreign Films

Another multi-instrumentalist, Bill Majoros, is the mastermind behind The Foreign Films. His latest, Ocean Moon (New Songs and Hidden Gems) (CD: Kool Kat Musik/digital: Bandcamp), is a concept album with new songs (and a couple of previously released ones) about love .             

If you were listening to AM radio in the ‘70s, you’d be lucky to hear songs as good as those on Ocean Moon with its echoes of Eric Carmen, Elton John, and other melodic heavyweights from that era.




There’s a theme running through the album with characters in the songs listening to music and the effect it has on them. One of the many highlights is the beautiful “Dream With Me Tonight.” It’s a song about summer love and the atmosphere that makes such things possible: “Sail into the setting sun/Here comes the summer night/She wants to go steady with you/And dance in the jukebox light.”

In “Katie and the Crystal Hearts” a young woman walks along the beach alone thinking of a song she’s heard: "‘I'll forever love you’ said the song on the radio.” “Down On The Boulevard (Pinball Kid)” is a memory song about being young and begins with a wonderful yearning croon from Majoros. The song also mentions a radio: “All the crazy things we did/Stevie and the Pinball Kid/Dreaming to the radio aglow in the night” and borrows the piano riff from Elton John’s cover of “Pinball Wizard.” And “Stars In Her Eyes” is a terrific lost solo Lennon track.


Next time: Three from the black watch

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

The Light and Dark of The Apartments

By Henry Lipput

It’s hard to imagine someone in their twenties writing an album of songs like the ones on The Apartments’ In and Out of the Light (Riley Records/Talitres). Peter Milton Walsh has been part of the music scene in Australia since 1978 and the sad and beautiful new album is full of songs of regret, encouragement, and even anger that reflect experienced life (and love) lessons. And whether In and Out of the Light is a concept album about one relationship or a collection of songs about the many over the years that didn’t work out, it illustrates how there’s something worse than the hurt of a breakup: it’s the post-breakup that you have to live with.

The album was a global effort with Walsh and bass player Eliot Fish working with producer Tim Kevin in Sydney, French Apartments Natasha Penot and Antoine Chaperon recording their parts in various studios in France, English drummer Nick Allum working in London, and Chris Abrahams from Australia’s The Necks on piano. 


“Pocketful of Sunshine” is the story of a mismatched relationship: “You were a running spring of fresh hopes/You had your pockets full of sunshine/I had my hands full of rain,” Walsh sings, taking the blame and acknowledging “Some fall in love/Some fall in loneliness.”

In “Write Your Way Out Of Town” he encourages a former lover to move on by using her creativity:  “Whatever it was that went wrong/She poured it into song/Whatever it was that went wrong/Write your way of town/Write your way out of sorrow.” And he’s hoping that this might be a way to bring them together again: “Could you write your way back to me some day?”


Former relationships and the continuing emotional ties are also the subject of “Where You Used To Be” (“There’s a whole in the world where you used to be”) and he takes the blame again on “Butterfly Kisses:” You saved my life with a butterfly kiss/So many troubles I just couldn’t fix/I went singing through the Summer/Then the Winter set in.”

On “I Don’t Give A Fuck About You Anymore” Walsh’s narrator fools himself into believing that he’s moved on and doesn’t care at all about this former lover: “I like living without you/Can’t you see I’m getting by?/Except when I’m dreaming or drinking/Breathing or sleeping/Walking or talking/I don’t give a fuck about you anymore.”

Next time: Triple Play #3 (still more from 2020)

Friday, January 15, 2021

Triple Play #2 (More from 2020)

By Henry Lipput

Rachel Brooke

Rachel Brooke’s The Loneliness In Me (rachelbrookemusic.com), her first solo effort since 2012’s A Killer’s Dream,  is a marvelous return to the sound of country music before it became Fleetwood Mac-ed.



This is especially clear on “The Awful Parts Of Me.”  With her voice and the production, by her husband and fellow musician Brooks Robbins, Brooke conjures up the spirit of Patsy Cline and producer Owen Bradley not unlike k.d. lang’s 1988 Shadowland album which was one of the last albums produced by Bradley. Brooke and Robbins have put together a group of top-flight musicians who get what the pair are trying to do and the results make for a stellar listen.

The Loneliness In Me is, as can be expected in this genre, full of songs of heartbreak and missed opportunities, sometimes felt by her but also inflicted on others.  An example of the latter is “It Ain’t Over Till You‘re Crying” about a woman cutting loose a guy she has strung along and insulting him along the way: “You’re just a fool’s gold in the mine,” she sings. 

On “The Hard Way’ Brooke reflects on a failed relationship: “All of your reasons were sad but true/I was one too many in your spotlight for two.” Missed opportunities are highlighted in “Great Mistake,” a rewrite of sorts of the classic “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows:“ I was always chasing rainbows/Until someone stole my pot of gold.”

Adele & the Chandeliers

It’s not surprising that some of the songs on Adele & The Chandeliers debut album First Date (Bandcamp) sound like the early Go-Betweens when the band was just a three piece and before Grant McLennan moved from bass to guitar. Adele & The Chandeliers is also a three piece: Adele Pickvance on bass, organ, bongos, synthesizer, piano; Ash Shanahan on drums, mellotron, vocals; and Scott Mercer: on electric guitar, 12 string guitar, piano, synthesizer, and vocals.



Pickvance was the bass player for Phase II of  The Go-Betweens and, after the death of McLennan in 2006, continued to work with Robert Forster on his album The Evangelist and toured the world with him for an evening of Velvet Underground covers at museums. (I saw them at The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh and it was one of those musical evenings that you wish would never end.)

First Date if full of short, sharp songs that, in most cases, run for less than three minutes. The album kicks off with “German On My Mind.” Pickvance’s bass is front and center and Mercer’s spiky riffs recall the sound of post-punk guitarists like Andy Partridge of XTC  . (Karin Bäumler, violinist and wife of Robert Forster, provides the spoken word portion of “German On My Mind.”) The terrific “1234,” is another call back to the 80s and “Treasure” is a bouncy pop gem with the band really meshing. The cover of Buzzcocks‘ “Love You More” is a both a rave-up and a tribute to an obvious influence.

One of my favorites on First Date is “Swimming With Sharks” a  song where the band stretches out. Clocking in at just over six-minutes, it could have been another fine three-minute tune but around the three-minute mark  Adele, Scott, and Ash decide to keep going. It’s like when you see a band live and they just keep playing and you can’t believe your luck.

Allyson Seconds

The collaboration between Allyson Seconds and Anton Barbeau is a match made in Heaven, or at least in Sacramento. Both are natives of that West Coast city although Barbeau now calls Berlin home.

Originally released in 2009 the delightful Bag Of Kittens (Big Stir Records) has been reissued with four never-before-heard bonus tracks that include of cover of The Beatles’ “Baby’s In Black” that ends with Barbeau doing his best Dylan impersonation. This album is a must for anyone (like me) who adores the 2016 Seconds and Barbeau release Little World or anyone who loves off-kilter pop with great vocals.



As with Little World, Barbeau wrote, produced, and arranged the songs on Bag Of Kittens but it’s her voice that shines throughout the album. Seconds can sing like a child, a woman, or a siren singing rock, ballads, and country. And Barbeau has provided all of those for her.

And also like Little World and his solo albums, Barbeau the multi-instrumentalist brings along his musician friends to help flesh out his songs. On Bag Of Kittens these include guitarist Kimberly Rew (The Soft Boys, Katrina & The Waves), Alan Gregg (Mutton Birds), Vince Di Fiore and Gabe Nelson (Cake), and the whole of Oxford band Stornoway.

“I Used To Say Your Name,” with its spooky electric organ , is a broken-hearted apology to a former lover. “On A Bicycle Built For A Bicycle 9” has a terrific bass riff and is a spacey tune that recalls The Dukes of Stratosphear's “Bicycle Ride To The Moon.”

The sludgy, druggy, sexy “Put Your Finger On Me” is a song that almost demands you hear it on headphones (not earbuds but the big, black John-Cusack-in-High-Fidelity ones; ask you Dad if he still has his lying around but don’t be surprised if he’s using them to listen to Bag Of Kittens.) 

“If I Could Bring You Trouble” is a  duet and a showcase for the Seconds and Barbeau mind-meld and vocal bond. “Dig My Pig” has nonsense, repeated lyrics but it a jangle-pop treasure. And "Obviously Love" and "I'm Just A Country Girl" ("from downtown Sacramento") bring out the country side of the duo's talents.

Next time: The Light and Dark of The Apartments

Monday, January 4, 2021

It runs in the family

By Henry Lipput

“It runs in the family” sang Maggie, Terre, and Suzzy Roche on their debut album The Roches

And their talent continues to run in the family. Suzzy and her daughter, Lucy Wainwright Roche (her father is Loudon Wainwright III and her half-brother is Rufus Wainwright), have released I Can Still Hear You (StorySound Records), their third collaboration. The recordings began in Nashville and then Suzzy and Lucy completed the project during quarantine in their apartments in New York, one in Manhattan and the other in Brooklyn.

I’ve been a fan of The Roches since that first album came out in 1979 and it’s a real treat to hear voices like those again. I Can Still Hear You is like a warm embrace from a long-time friend and as Suzzy has said about the album “In a time when so many people are suffering, you hope that you can put something out into the world that will comfort.” It’s also a message from them that we’re not alone but in this together. So, it’s great to see you again, Suzzy, and it’s wonderful to meet you, Lucy.


In Lucy’s “I Can Still Hear You” she asks someone who is no longer with her to “Remember the words or the parts that you saved/Or carousel horses or have the summer behaved/Or off in the distance/Remember me too/‘Cause I can still hear you.” There’s a ghostly vibe to the song, reflected in the piano playing in the song’s middle as well as the video which shows empty New York streets during the lockdown. 

Suzzy's“I Think I Am A Soul” is a song for these times as we have faced stay-at-home orders and only essential businesses staying open. If no one sees us for days at a time, do we still exist? “Floating around 14th Street every day/Shopping for tomatoes/Stopping at the light,” Suzzy sings. “The soul that I am gets lonesome like a million others.”

“Swan Duck Song,”also from Suzzy, is both a fairy tale and a recognition of how people and things can change over time and take many forms. “I went to the pond today/Looking for the swan,” she sings. “But the swan had turned into a duck/Tough case/Bad luck.” A few months later, Suzzy returns to the pond and the duck is gone but she does hear the sound of a tiny bird in the sky: “The duck said look at me/Now I‘m a hummingbird. “ (On a personal note: my sister believes, and I have no reason to doubt her, that the hummingbird that comes to the feeder on her deck is the spirit of our mother who passed away more than five years ago. She also thinks the other hummingbird who always crashes into a window is our father.)

Whether it’s genetics or a sign of how much they love each other, there are times when Suzzy and Lucy harmonize on songs like “Talkin’ Like You (Two Tall Mountains)” and “I Think I Am A Soul” that recall the vocals of Suzzy and Terre on albums by The Roches. All that’s missing is the addition of Maggie who lost her fight with cancer in 2017. But Maggie’s voice still lives on (you can hear it on a wonderful collection  Suzzy put together) and her spirit is very much a part of I Can Still Hear You. Maggie sang lead on the traditional Irish song “Factory Girl” on The Roches’ 1980 Nurds album. Lucy brings the song back on I Can Still Hear You as a tribute to her aunt and she also sings “Jane,” a song that Maggie wrote when she was 18 and has never been recorded until now.

Next time: Triple Play #2 (More from 2020)

Monday, December 28, 2020

Tugboat Captain’s album is not a Rut you’ll want to get out of any time soon

 By Henry Lipput

Although the songs on Tugboat Captain’s brilliant album Rut (vinyl: Double A-Side Records/digital: Bandcamp) were written before the pandemic, the themes of many of the songs (even the titles themselves), like “If Tomorrow’s Like Today,” “Day To Day,” and, especially, the single “No Plans (For This Year),” fit together to make up something of a concept album about what we‘re going through right now.  But, let me be clear, it’s anything but a downer; it’s a joyful listen full of great tunes and arrangements .

How strict are the rules for what makes a concept album? Like John Lennon once said about Sgt. Pepper: “It’s a concept album because we said it was.” And even though I'm no John Lennon (obviously) I’m saying Rut is a concept album. 

Rut was  recorded at the Abbey Road Institute (located in and associated with Abbey Road Studios) where producer David Dargahi was trained and, as a result, he obviously knows how to make a record come alive. Dargahi and the band, a four-piece from London along with some of their musician friends, have created a Technicolor song cycle that thrills in its inventiveness and the use of sounds and dynamics.


A perfect example is the amazing “If Tomorrow‘s Like Today.” It begins with a bouncy “Penny Lane”-like piano riff, breaks for an absolutely sublime piano interlude, and stops for a loud and crunchy guitar solo.  The result is its very own Abbey Road musical medley.

“No Plans (For This Year)” is an invitation to romance but things being what they are it’s also a sign of our times when hooking up is a bad idea and everybody else is locking down.  Although more RAM than Pepper, the song follows a similar template to “If Tomorrow’s Like Today” (especially the piano riff) but adds  a prominent horn section as well as a wonderful sting arrangement. “Everything About You” will remind you of chatting up someone at a club before, during, or after a band’s set and with any luck we’ll be doing that again some time soon.

“Day To Day” is another song that has down-at-the-heels lyrics but is just a delight to listen to. It opens with a burst of horns as it sums up the life of a musician who may be skint because of his inability to tour (or it may just be the usual musicians lot): “Now I’m in the supermarket/buying food that’s clearly passed it” and there’s also this bit of information “Each day’s a success/If I can pay for my own smokes.”

“Check Ur Health,” opens the album with a sideshow vibe and a first-person lyric. It’s something we all seem to be doing on a regular basis. Is that a headache? Are those body aches? Check ur health.  The song works in the same way as  the title songs from Sgt. Pepper and Magical Mystery Tour (a more recent example is “Trip & Ellie’s Music Factory” from this year’s excellent release from Lisa Mychols and SUPER 8).  For some reason I can’t really explain, “Check Ur Health” makes me think of “All Of My Friends Were There” from The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society.

Next time: It runs in the family




Monday, December 21, 2020

There are no fools like The New Fools

 By Henry Lipput

“What did you do during the lock down, Daddy?”

If you were The New Fools, a Cambridge, England-based band consisting of Tony Jenkins on lead vocals and acoustic guitar, The Druid on electric guitar, Dave Seabright on bass guitar, Pete Carter on drums, and Shay Jenkins on keyboards, you recorded eight brand-new songs on each member's mobile phones and then everything was mixed together by Christian Gustafsson. The first single, “Nothing Toulouse,” was released in May and another seven were released during the summer. They’ve now been assembled on the splendid album Papillion - The Complete Lock Down Sessions (Everlasting Records/Bandcamp).



You might think, like I did, that the title of the lock down album was a reference to the Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman movie about prisoners trying to escape an island prison and these songs were escaping from the lock down. But it turns out, according to Tony Jenkins, the album title (with an extra ‘i’) is in fact a nod to that great band The Go-Betweens who had a loose  rule that album titles would have two LLs (Tallulah and 16 Lovers Lane, for example).  The New Fools have adopted this rule and so far have released their three albums with two LLs in the title: last year’s Brilliant, Mershmellow from earlier this year, and now Papillion

One of my favorite songs from the sessions is “D.N.S.” a wonderful salute to the skiffle era. For you kids too young to know about skiffle, it was England’s pre-rock-and-roll craze popularized by singers like Lonnie Donegan and embraced by groups such as The Quarrymen which later became The Beatles. The song rocks in a quiet sort of way and it’s a joyous look back at that time: “Won’t someone tell me where that sound is coming from/Just four people dressed in black and they’re kicking up a storm” and “They can’t believe they make that sound with just four people playing.”

Although bands like The New Fools haven’t been able to perform live for their fans since the spring, “Sunday Night” is about a musician with a much-loved back catalogue having to perform the old tunes again and again to an audience who are also people of a certain age. It’s not an angry or mean song, but presented with a sense of resignation: “And I’ve written so many songs/But no one wants to hear the new ones/Or face their sorrows.”  There’s a lovely flugel horn played by James Stygall that introduces the song.

Age is also a topic in “Old Bones” and also a feeling of both sadness and resignation: “I don’t think I can take another winter/These old bones sure feel the cold” and the chorus echoes the feeling of time having gone by “So much has changed/Are you still the same?/Or have you gone the way I’ve gone?” There’s a wonderful guitar solo from The Druid, some fine organ work by Shay Jenkins, and, as always, a warm vocal turn from Tony Jenkins. 

“Witch,” which gallops at full speed, opens with Kristin Hersh reading an except from her 'Rat Girl' memoir: “This is the story of a girl/A girl who flew from this world/On the fender of a witch/A too bad hard luck don’t stop drive away.” It might just be me but I’m hearing a bit of Donovan’s “Season Of The Witch” on this tune.

The last song to be released and the closing track on the album, “We’ll Meet Again,” is the only one that touches on the difficulties people are facing during these difficult times. But it’s also an uplifting message with the hope that we can meet again when things get back to some sort of normal.  “We’ll meet again/Along with our old friends/And the one’s we won’t see again/We’ll drink to them,” sings Tony Jenkins. “We’ve never known times so strange/So many things we had to change/It hurts so bad/We’ve been through hell/And back again.” But, like those four lads from Liverpool once sang, we’ll be okay because “All you need is Love” and the song ends with a sing-along of that grand sentiment.

Next time: Tugboat Captain’s album is not a Rut you’ll want to get out of any time soon





Monday, December 14, 2020

Take the time to hear what Dusty Wright has to say

 By Henry Lipput

You would have been mistaken if you thought the title song on Dusty Wright’s 2018 album Gliding Towards Oblivion would be about the affects that humanity was having on our planet and where we‘re headed if nothing is done. But it really wasn’t. However, with his cover of Credence Clearwater Revival’s “Bad Moon Rising” last year it became abundantly clear where his concerns lie as the song was presented as a tribute to those fighting climate change.

On his serious and extremely tuneful new album, Can Anyone Hear Me? (Pet Rock/Bandcamp), Wright goes all in on writing protest songs about (among other things) climate change, gun violence, and child abuse. (“Awareness“ songs might be a better way to describe them because what he’s protesting is our lack of awareness and action on these issues.) 



Because some of the songs, like the opening track “Rain Rain” (a hopeful song despite having been written on a rainy, dreary day in March during a NYC lockdown) are not obviously part of the protest genre, I’m reminded of what Dylan said to the Royal Albert Hall audience during his 1966 tour of England: “They’re all protest songs.” 

Wright, in a voice that recalls the late, great Harry Chapin, plays acoustic and electric guitars, eBow, mellotron, harmonica, and percussion on the new album. He is joined by singers and musicians who are very much in tune with him and his words.  They give Can Anyone Hear Me? an early Americana vibe not unlike post-motorcycle crash Dylan albums like John Wesley Harding.

One of the most striking songs on Can Anyone Hear Me? is “Book Of Tears” a song Wright has said came about after the horrific mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. He seems to be asking: If there’s a Book Of Love, why shouldn’t there be a Book Of Tears? “I found this book/With so many names/The pages were all filled with pain/Who has read/The Book Of Tears?”

“It Makes No Sense” is also about gun violence, especially as it concerns the young victims and it’s also about the hunger children face in the richest country in the world. On “Broken Birds” Wright sings of “fractured wings” and “shattered dreams” as he addresses child abuse and the terrible harm it does to a child’s future. He hopes they can find the strength to hold on to their dreams and try to fly.

The full band “Can Anyone Hear Me?,” with its Byrds-like jangle, is a plea for recognition for those who are ignored or feared because of their economic status, color, or what country they‘re arrived from. “You can buy more guns/And build more walls/But the hate in your heart/Will be the end of us all.”

Far be it from me to tell someone how to put together a track listing, but the joyful, hopeful, rocking “New Year Bliss” should have been the last song on Can Anyone Hear Me? Written and recorded when things in this country looked especially bleak and now (with a vaccine and a new resident in the White House) it looks like what was once a dream is now a reality. With birds singing and applause at the end, it’s a wonderful wish for a new beginning.

Next time: There are no fools like the New Fools.

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Trip and Ellie's burst of color

 By Henry Lipput

For the second time this year Lisa Mychols and SUPER 8 have created music to brighten up the dark days of 2020.

The first was their wonderful self-titled release last July, a concept album of sorts about summer love. And now it’s the single “Red Bird,” (Bandcamp) that, in their words, is an “enchanting slice of Wintertime Pop featuring Trip & Ellie sharing vocal duties (plus the obligatory sleigh bells!)” (and who am I to disagree?).


Taking a walk during the winter, it’s sometimes difficult to see anything other than a wide expanse of snow. Even some animals, like the deer, have begun to camouflage their coats to blend into their habitats.

But every once in while you’ll see a burst of color, a flash of red, a cardinal, a red bird. And that’s the feeling you get from the new Mychols and SUPER 8 single. It’s a sign of life in the middle of a world where the sight of a red bird, and the sound of its cheerful chirp, can seem like the hope that will take place come the spring.

And, because it’s Lisa Mychols and SUPER 8, of course there’s a video:






Next time: Take the time to hear what Dusty Wright has to say