Posts Tagged indie rock

music review: James

james girl

In 1994, James catapulted into the U.S. spotlight with the cheeky, yet layered single “Laid” from the album of the same name. The band formed in the 80s in Manchester, England. Part of the 90s Britpop wave along with The Stone Roses, Charlatans UK, Blur, Oasis, Happy Monday, Pulp and The Wonder Stuff. I adored Britpop back in the 90s. It was my heart. In 1997 the band released its seventh album Whiplash with the wonderful songs “She’s a Star” and “Tomorrow.” I giddily interviewed bassist James Glennie in 1997 as contributing editor/writer for the Boston zine Instant Magazine.

In the 90s James was one of my favorite bands. When one of my favorite bands returns with new music, I become nostalgic and also apprehensive. I analyzed the words to every song. Cerebral lyrics ranged from self-improvement to politics [google “Sit Down”] . Heartbreaking, comforting, making me feel less a one-off weirdo. If you could wear out a CD I did. Several times over. Seven remains my favorite James album. Favorite songs [many of them!] include: “Sometimes”/ “Say Something”/ “Born of Frustration”/ “Sit Down”/ “You Can’t Tell How Much Suffering (On A Face That’s Always Smiling)” / “How Was It For You?”/ ”Out to Get You”/ She’s a Star.”

Many bands will remain synonymous with the 90s alternative/ indiepop/indierock/Britpop days, many popular 90s-era bands and artists are touring [Smashing Pumpkins, Liz Phair, Belly, Jesus Jones, Radiohead] and some never stopped. Some put out new material sporadically. Is it a comeback or a continuation after a brief hiatus? That’s difficult to say. Musicians generally keep writing, keep recording, keep performing. I thought that James hadn’t released anything since 1997. But that’s not true. The band took a break in 2001 and reformed in 2007. Somehow I missed some of those other James albums such as Millionaires [1999] and The Night Before [2010]. My relationships with music publicists vacillate. Also we know how fickle music consumers can be. Marketing and music sales have dramatically. I still like [or appreciate] many bands I liked in the 90s but it was a different time, a different decade and will always remind me of my 20s when I was insecure and figuring out a path. I’m still questioning myself and my choices.

So now, over 32 years after signing to Factory Records in 1982, James released its fourteenth album Girl at the End of The World on March 18, 2016. This electronica/ indie-rock album soars on the opener “Bitch” with its wah-wah guitar and the slow-burning “Attention” — a call to arms with its bold urgency—as well as the optimistic “Nothing But Love.” Then “To My Surprise” rouses and burns. Gentleness and Tim Booth’s subtler vocals blend with a funkadelic keyboard-based beat on “Dear John.” The best song “Catapult” features an upbeat attitude, deep riffs and a vaudeville arrangement. The current single “Girl at the End of the World” is a good one with its distinctive James-y wave. Another stand-out is “Move Down South” with its haunting beats and thoughtful lyrics about our relationship to the environment—“too late we’re all responsible/ too late to hold a wake/ we’re all drilled out..” Ah James. Be still my heart. Shatter my soul.

–review by Amy Steele

Girl at the End of the World
BMG
release date: March 18, 2016

purchase at Amazon: Girl At The End Of The World

James Discography:

• Stutter (1986)
• Strip-mine (1988)
• Gold Mother (1990) (re-released in 1991 as James)
• Seven (1992)
• Laid (1993)
• Wah Wah (1994)
• Whiplash (1997)
• Millionaires (1999)
• Pleased to Meet You (2001)
• Hey Ma (2008)
• The Night Before (2010)
• The Morning After (2010)
• La Petite Mort (2014)
• Girl at the End of the World (2016)

, , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

music review: The Blue Dolphins

thebluedolphins_coverart

Summer isn’t quite over. Sure, once Labor Day rolls around, it’s the unofficial end and you’re thinking about cardigans and changing leaves. Listen to this sunny, uplifting pop duo– perfect for driving around with your windows rolled down or dancing barefoot in wet grass. The Blue Dolphins is two-time Grammy Award winner engineer Alfonso Rodenas and Victoria Scott. The two met at rock pit The Cat Club on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles and started playing and recording together in 2010. Scott grew up outside of London where she learned to play the recorder, piano, and guitar and taught herself to sing by age 12 emulating the varied styles of Carole King, Nina Simone, N’Dea Davenport and Aretha Franklin. From Spain, Rodenas played bass in indie pop-rock band Vitamin Vil, and has since worked as a freelance producer, recording, and mixing engineer in Los Angeles, California.

Singer Victoria Scott exudes genuine emotions in a deep earthy manner. The songs combine a 70s rootsy vibe with international world music influences and flair. Superb guitar and intriguing melodies throughout this seemingly effortless album. “Walking in the Sun” features a cool surf guitar riff and carefree lyrics. “Wide and Blue Horizons” also churns with surf guitar and sounds a bit dangerous until Scott’s vocals anchors everything. Scott and Rodenas duet in lovely harmony on the optimistic and comforting “Peace in the World.” Things slow down a bit on the gorgeous “Stars” and twangy and bluesy “Breaking for the Blue” If the marvelous, dynamic “Sail Away” doesn’t make you long for surf and sand and holding hands then you’ve lost your ability to feel.

The Blue Dolphins
Come On! [TRIBE ALIVE RECORDS]
release date: September 18

, , , ,

Leave a comment

new music: Birch

Birch, “Halfway”

electropop/folky/indie pop in the vein of Metric and Chvrches with 60s girl-band vocals. invigorating, infectious and catchy. Michelle Birsky graduated from college with a music composition degree and moved to Brooklyn. She worked at a commercial music house, music supervising an indie film and interned with film composer Elliot Goldenthal. In August of 2014, Birsky went on a two-week solo, silent retreat to her parent’s house in Vermont where she began working on songs for Birch’s debut.

who:

singer/songwriter Michelle Birsky
bassist Mat Towles on bass
guitarist Emma Munger

birch

The Halfway EP is available for download on August 28.

, , , ,

Leave a comment

new music: Mophono; Positive No

Mophono, “VL Mono”

do you want to feel like you’re in a video game? distorted beats and persistent blips and beats mesmerize and pulsate on this simultaneously futuristic and retro release from Bay Area native Mophono. His Facebook page lists these genres: Dirt Wave, Thug Jazz, Riot Funk, Psyche Madness, Musique Concrète. I prefer the latter two.

Mophono’s EP M.O.3 is out on DJ Shadow’s Liquid Amber imprint.

Positive No, “Pedal Through”

indie rock. very 90s. sweet, wistful vocals and blurred guitar. Positive No is: songwriter/guitarist Kenny Powers; singer Tracy Wilson [90s post hardcore band Dahlia Seed]; bassist Sadie Powers [Richmond’s synth-pop group Dead Fame] and drummer James O’Neill [Snowy Owls, Plain Scrap]. debut album Glossa [Negative Fun / Little Black Cloud] out September 18th.

, , , ,

Leave a comment

music preview: Wolf Alice at The Middle East Wednesday August 5, 2015

wolf-alice-band

I adore this band so much right now. Along the lines of Curve and Throwing Muses, this is gorgeous indie guitar rock with dark swirling melodies and a female vocalist. Simultaneously haunting and brazen with spidery guitar and hard bass, Wolf Alice cuts all angles. I found out about Wolf Alice from DJ Dan O’Connell on XFM London—the benefits of listening to a London radio station at the gym etal. In June, the North London band released its debut album, My Love Is Cool [Dirty Hit/RCA Records].

The fourpiece is currently on tour in the states and will be playing my birthday [happy birthday to me!]– Wednesday August 5 2015– at The Middle East Restaurant and Nightclub in Cambridge, Mass.

who:

Ellie Rowsell (vocals, guitar)
Joff Oddie (guitars, vocals)
Theo Ellis (bass)
Joel Amey (drums)

TOUR DATES:

Wednesday August 5
Middle East (Downstairs)
Cambridge, Mass.

Thursday, August 6
The Hollow
Albany, NY

Saturday, August 8
Santa Monica Pier
Santa Monica, Calif.

Tuesday, August 11
Hawthorne Theatre
Portland, Ore.

Wednesday, August 12
Neumo’s
Seattle, Wash.

for more on Wolf Alice

, ,

Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: