Category Archives: Vinyl records

DIVA IN A YELLOW TANK – Diva In A Yellow Tank (LP)

Album: Diva In A Yellow Tank

Artist: Diva In A Yellow Tank

Label: self-released

Release Date: October 20, 2017

https://divainayellowtank.bandcamp.com/releases

The Upshot: A ton of poppy fun via memorable melodies and delightful vocal harmonies.

BY FRED MILLS

Sunshine pop from the Sunshine State have never sounded more luminous: Hailing from South Florida, Diva In A Yellow Tank (a delightfully inscrutable monicker that may or not be the result of the members playing one of those “pick a noun… next an adjective… and then another noun…” naming games) conjures fresh images of classic New Wave acts like Elvis Costello and Squeeze as well as such Paisley Underground icons as the Three O’Clock and early Green On Red. Vocalist/keyboardist DL Mandell, guitarist Dean Anthon, bassist Marissa Mandell, and drummer Bryan David Johnson have an instinctive grasp on how to fuse earworm melodies, sweet harmonies, and kickin’ beats—and, yes, before you ask, they even have a song titled “Sunny Day,” which chugs along merrily via surging organ (Farfisa, perhaps?), la-la-la vocals, thrumming bass, and four-to-the-floor drums.

Other highlights? “Burnt Toast” is an obvious standout, rife with twisty chord changes and back-and-forth tempo shifts that bring to mind vintage XTC; “Trouble In My Mind,” swaggering and sassy, triggering the aforementioned Costello notion; the quirky, garagey psych-pop of “Lost and Found”; and “Always There,” with its sing-songy vocal motif. It would probably do a disservice to definitely peg the band as “retro,” because the quartet doesn’t seem particularly interested in songwriting via template. Rather, given how Mandell’s organ is the dominant instrument here, and the way the harmonies also behave texturally in the songs’ arrangements, it’s impossible not to think of earlier artists who rely on a similar approach. And one thing is guaranteed: These folks are surely a ton of fun in concert, capable of turning a crowded club into a smiling, bouncing-up-and-down mass.

DOWNLOAD: “Burnt Toast,” “Sunny Day,” “Lost and Found”

THE REMAINS – Live 1969 (LP)

Album: Live 1969

Artist: Remains

Label: Sundazed

Release Date: January 12, 2018

www.sundazed.com

The Upshot: Legend has long held that Boston’s Remains were an incendiary live group. A good as their few studio records are, they don’t provide a lot of evidence to support that assertion. But as newly-discovered recording from the tail end of the 1960s makes the point in emphatic fashion. (Check the link at the bottom for an exclusive interview with the band.)

 BY BILL KOPP

The Remains were one of the coolest and most promising r&b-flavored American rock bands of the 1960s. The Boston-based group scored the supreme honor of opening for the Beatles on their final U.S. Tour. And the Remains would be immortalized by inclusion on Lenny Kaye’s incalculably influential garage rock compilation, Nuggets.

What the Remains never quite did manage was to release a proper album. They were “big in Boston,” as the saying goes, but they never broke out nationally, and despite the presence of an excellent songwriter in guitarist Barry Tashian, most of what they would leave behind recording-wise were cover version (albeit very good ones).

Fast forward to present day. Tashian recently made a stunning discover in his personal archives: an excellent quality live concert recording of the Remains. No, it’s not from their opening slot for the Beatles. And in fact it’s not even a recording from the band’s original run. This tape is a document of a reunion gig at the fabled Boston Tea Party on March 16, 1969. And though original drummer Chip Damiani had left right before the ’66 Beatles tour (to be replaced by N.D. [Norman] Smart, later of Mountain and Hello People), he was back behind the drum throne for the reunion.

Perhaps disappointingly, the recording kicks off with a song rock fans have long since tired of” the McCoys’ “Hang On Sloopy.” But in fairness to the Remains, they tear into it with relish, emphasizing the rhythm and blues potential buried within the song. Their reading of “Route 66” is reminiscent of the Rolling Stones’ version (the Stones were a key influence on the band’s sound).

The band’s cover of the Kinks’ “All Day and All of the Night” is quite punky, and keyboardist Bill Briggs’ electric piano is wonderfully nasty, playing the role of rhythm guitar. Tashian simply rips it up on a relatively lengthy lead guitar solo. Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” is pretty good as well, though despite the Remains’ spirited playing and singing, it’s not remarkably different form every other cover of the song you’ve heard.

But things get wild. The very best (by far) songs the Remains ever did were “Don’t Look Back” (written by a young Billy Vera) and “Why Do I Cry.” The latter is here in all its r&b fury, sounding not unlike the Stooges with an electric piano. In fact the Detroit band featuring one Iggy Pop is as good a musical guide for the aesthetic on display for this entire set: exceedingly raw, full of energy and rocking as hell.

In many ways, “Why Do I Cry” is the high point of Live 1969. The rest of the set is mostly familiar material, though it’s played with unmatched fervor. The Remains pile-drive their way through a supersonic (and delightfully ragged) reading of Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode,” and head straight into a blues number, Muddy Waters’ “She’s Nineteen Years Old. With the pace slowed waaaay down for the blues, the energy flags a bit, but the Remains play the tune in sinister fashion, extending it to nearly six minutes.

“Tell ya what: we’ll just do something else altogether,” Tashian tells the crowd. That something else is Richie Valens’ “La Bamba” (with pretty fine Spanish vocals), sliding right into a malevolent and delightfully bum-note filled Rolling Stones cover, “Empty Heart.” The band wraps up with a track off their ill-fated album (released after they broke up, “Diddy Wah Diddy.” In the Boston group’s hands the tune sounds not a bit like Captain Beefheart’s version; instead, it – once again – calls to mind the Stooges. And what’s not to love about that?

Nobody knew this tape existed until recently. It existence proves something that was always said about the Remains, both by fans and Tashian himself: the band’s studio recording barely hinted at the Remains’ intensity. So here it is, in all its ragged glory. Fittingly enough, the album is available from the folks at Sundazed Records, on good old fashioned vinyl.

You may also enjoy: my wide-ranging interview with The Remains’ Barry Tashian, from 2010.

 DOWNLOAD:  “Why Do I Cry”

 

WICK AND THE TRICKS – Not Enough EP

Album: Not Enough EP

Artist: Wick and the Tricks

Label: Black Site Records

Release Date: October 13, 2017

http://black-site.org

BY DANNY R. PHILLIPS

I was given this record by none other than L. Ron Drunkard of Kansas City based punks Red Kate.  After Red Kate’s show at The Rendezvous in St. Joseph, MO, L. Ron slipped me a copy with the reassurance that my liking of Wick & The Tricks was virtually guaranteed.  Guaranteed?

When I am given a guarantee of anything, my natural response is to instantly doubt them.  Cynicism runs deep in me so, as I put the needle down on Wick & the Tricks’ 7-inch EP, Not Enough (Black Site), I was positive that I would not be blown away.  I could not have been more wrong.  The four songs that make up Not Enough show a band fully steeped in rock ‘n’ roll, glam and southern California early ‘80s punk rock.  The sounds blasting through the late 1970s speakers in my living room, came on like a tidal wave.  The drums of JoJo Tornado are rapid fire, the voice of Wick Trick is angry but telling, spitting words with a fury and determination unseen today, while the blistering guitar of Chris Stallion, coupled with Jane Asylum’s raunchy bottom end is the icing on the fucking cake.

“Yr so Bad” opens the festivities like a kick in the teeth.  Johnny Thunders influenced riff drives the tune that is as catchy, glamorous or in your face as anything ever cranked out by ‘70s giants T. Rex.

“Kansas City Bang Bang” is aggressive punk rock at its sleaziest while “Tough As Nails” sounds like Marilyn Manson in the middle of an orgy with the members of X and Fear.

Over just four songs, Wick & the Tricks have gotten my attention.  While some of their influences may be easy to put a finger on (The Ramones, Slade, Iggy and The Stooges, the aforementioned T. Rex), there is something lying within the grooves that I can’t quite put in place.  Maybe it is something hidden, something that will be sussed out, to be polished, something to be revealed when there is a full album to spin.

Until then, Wick and the Tricks’ Not Enough is just that: not enough.

 

 

Check them out on Facebook, Bandcamp, or at black-site.org.

 

KHRUANGBIN—Con Todo El Mundo

Album: Con Todo El Mundo

Artist: Khruangbin

Label: Dead Oceans

Release Date: January 26, 2018

https://deadoceans.com

The Upshot: Long, cooling drones, funky surf guitar lines, angular Middle Eastern twang and more from the Texas trio.

BY JENNIFER KELLY

Khruangbin brings the sleepy funk in a second full-length, unspooling long, cooling drones that twitch faintly with syncopation. The Texas trio weaves bass and guitar in slippery conversation, Laura Lee’s low-end licks working at angles with Mark Speer’s surf guitar lines, overlapping, interconnecting, but never quite in unison, as DJ Johnson colors the rhythmic structure with interesting bits of rattling, chiming, plinking percussion.

The disc’s first half is most engrossing, especially the slinky, smouldery swagger of “Lady and Man,” which whips up funk intensity with explosive starts and stops. “I went to college,” sing-songs Lee as the cut unfolds, “I could have been a doctor…could have been a lawyer.”  It’s one of the few tracks with words, albeit much-repeated, trance-y words, as laid back as the music. “Maria Tambien,” the single, is surfier, almost like the Mermen, and has some of the same angular Middle Eastern twang as Richard Bishop’s Freak of Araby. It is by far the strongest cut on the album.

Late album tracks drift and drone, pillow-padded with angelic “oohs” and paced for motionless contemplation. “Evan Finds the Third Room,” descends into jam band funk, “Rules” and “Hymn” fall asleep at the switch. There’s definitely a place where quiet storm soul, surf and psychedelic drone come together, but drift too far off, as Khruangbin does late album,  and find yourself marooned in a windless sea, hot, still endlessness all around.

Consumer note: The vinyl version comes on limited edition colored wax.

DOWNLOAD: “Maria Tambien” “Lady and Man”

DINOLA – Up High 12” EP

Album: Up High

Artist: Dinola

Label: Saustex

Release Date: January 19, 2018

www.saustex.com

The Upshot: Witchy vocals and thundering instrumentation conjures up some of that ol’ New Orleans black magic.

BY FRED MILLS

Oh hell yeah. Voodoo chillun Dinola, a smouldering 1-gal/3-guy combo from New Orleans who could make the paint peel in your penthouse just by tuning up, debuted digitally last fall with this six-songer, and Up High now gets a full physical rollout via badass Lone Star label Saustex. And whether you prefer a heavy-vinyl 45rpm 12” (my choice, as always) or the ever-convenient compact laser disc format, it’s a guaranteed neighbors-across-the-duplex-aggravation machine. It was overseen in the studio by Dave Catching way out at the same Joshua Tree studio where Queens of the Stone Age previously wreaked havoc, so you know that’s a TMOQ right from the get-go.

Sultry vocalist Sue Ford is the center-stage draw, as one might imagine, a cross between punk icons Siouxsie and Chrissie Hynde as well as such latterday minxes as Kathleen Hanna, Corin Tucker, and Courtney Love. (My new fantasy: an American Idol- or The Voice-style singoff between Ford and Gwen Stefani. The hollaback girl, inexplicably touted as a fired-up and punk rock by a lot of folks who should know better, wouldn’t stand a chance.) But her bandmates—guitarist Eric Laws, bassist Edward Payne, drummer Jimmy Ford—are bruisers in their own right, with the band’s beaker chemistry boiling over particularly well on tracks like the thundering riffage of “Apocalipstick” (check Laws’ dissonant fretboard swipes alongside Sue’s speak-singing swagger) and its somewhat more “tuneful” (term used relatively) radio-friendly title track counterpart.

And a cover of Screamin’ Jay’s “I Put a Spell on You” achieves the near-impossible: Into Dinola’s hands, a musical torch is hereby passed, the band appropriating and reinventing the oft-covered classic for its own malevolent purposes. Here, Sue is nothing if not witchy—a new voodoo queen for the Now Generation. Can I get an “oh hell yeah”?

DOWNLOAD: “I Put A Spell On You,” “Up High”

AMPLINE – Passion Relapse LP

Album: Passion Relapse

Artist: Ampline

Label: SofaBurn

Release Date: January 26, 2018

http://www.sofaburn.com

The Upshot: Dissonance and melody a la ‘90s alt.rock from the Kentucky combo—served up on vinyl, to boot.

BY MICHAEL TOLAND

Kentucky’s Ampline hearkens back to the glory days of the ‘90s alt.rock that didn’t hit the radio – loud, jagged, freely mixing dissonance and melody, flying the guitar flag high. Passion Relapse, the trio’s third album, easily finds that midpoint between catchy and chaotic. Songs like “Captions” and “Charm Offensive” use chord progressions that sound comforting at first, but don’t resolve quite how you think they should, while the riffs keep the propulsion roiling. Plainspoken vocals prevent any slides into noisy emo territory, while a sense of self-compression keeps the tracks from boiling over the sides of the band’s pot. “Low Light” and the title track manage a thrilling level of intensity without going into unhinged overdrive. There’s a sense of tight control that elevates Ampline out of the ‘90s revivalist ghetto and puts them on the path to distinction.

DOWNLOAD: “Passion Relapse,” “Captions,” “Charm Offensive”

AMIGO – “And Friends” LP

Album: “And Friends”

Artist: Amigo

Label: Carlisle Beauregard Records

Release Date: January 26, 2018

www.facebook.com/amigotheband / www.amigotheband.bandcamp.com/

The Upshot: Stealth moments of Americana, indie rock, and garage that are guaranteed to creep into your dreamscapes and line your waking activities, from a gifted NC trio.

BY FRED MILLS

Let us dispense with formalities and summarily count the ways:  A rockin’ North Carolina—specifically: Charlotte, NC—twang/psych trio with classic ‘70s singer/songwriter and early ‘90s indie-rock smarts; ace guest turns from a slew of fellow NC virtuosos (among them, mandolin and fiddle ace John Teer, from Chatham County Line); recording sessions with Mitch Easter at his Fidelitorium studio, and mastering by Dave Harris at Charlotte’s Studio B. Sure sounds like a litany of TMOQ signage to this impartial observer. One hazards the statement that “And Friends” by Queen City trio Amigo is about as quintessentially Tar Heel as a Dean Smith tailgate party or a Sen. Sam Ervin memorial barbecue.

Okay, so maybe “this observer” isn’t exactly impartial, having seen the band awhile back—and in about as up close and personal a venue as it gets, during a record shop in-store performance. (Raleigh, NC, store Schoolkids Records, to be specific—the group loves breeding such intimacy, trust me.) So this reviewer doesn’t need much encouragement, having been a fan since 2014’s Might Could album: Frontman Slade Baird, drummer Adam Phillips, and bassist Thomas Alverson have the kind of musical mojo and natural stage charisma that’d create new friends whether appearing on a huge festival stage or sharing a post-gig beer at your local neighborhood pub.

There are elements of both classic and contemporary on “And Friends,” notably (for the former notion) the pedal steel, piano, and woodwind-adorned “I Wanna Live (UK Surf),” a stately, gently moving existential meditation that suggests a tuneful summit between Traffic and American Beauty-era Dead; and “Underground Medicine,” a full-tilt twang/garage raveup guaranteed to make those 2am last calls complete washouts as the audience absolutely refuses to let the group off the stage for another hour. Hey, next round’s on me, Slade.

Beyond that, there are stealth moments on this gorgeous collection that are guaranteed to creep into your dreamscapes and line your waking activities, from stunning opener “The Big Idea,” which conjures sonic memories of The Band (listen, in particular, for the Garth-like organ and some sinewy lead guitar); to an out-of-this-world cover of John Prine’s “Everybody” (did I use the word “raveup” yet in this review?); to a somewhat sneaky reprise of “The Big Idea” that gets retitled as “Almost Something Good” and is recast as a haunting acoustic guitar reverie eventually giving way to a lush country-rock arrangement.

Sings Baird, amid a swell of mandolin, pedal steel, guitar, bass, and drums: “What if I found something good? It’s just the way I feel – I only hesitate because the first time, it was almost something good. A little apprehensive ‘cause the last time was so fucked up.” As vulnerable a moment as you’re likely to encounter in this still-young new year—and a sentiment to let you know you’re not alone for the rest of this unfolding year as well. Lord knows, we’re gonna need some shoulders to lean on.

These guys, well… they’re your amigos.

Grab it on sweet heavyweight vinyl (w/download code included), folks, or on CD and digital should you require. You know what this reviewer recommends…

DOWNLOAD: “The Big Idea,’ “I Wanna Live,” “Underground Medicine”

 

VARIOUS ARTISTS – Nightshining (Vol. 26) LP

Album: Nightshining (Vol. 26) LP

Artist: Various Artists

Label: Vinyl Moon

Release Date: October 20, 2017

 

https://www.vinylmoon.co/volume026/

The Upshot: One of the few vinyl subscription services that provides a genuinely meaningful way to digest new music and build your vinyl collection at the same time.  

BY JONATHAN LEVITT

With the resurgence of vinyl there are plenty of subscription services out there not worth the price of admission. Thankfully this is not the case with the Vinyl Moon mix tape, on a record concept that offers on a monthly basis, to the musically curious, two sides of astutely curated songs. It’s a cool concept, and one that aims to satisfy your vinyl porn fetish at every turn (I’m talking to you Fred Mills). [Yep. He’s a sick one. —#Vinylporn Ed.] From the music to the deep purple vinyl to the sleeve art, it’s a beauty to behold. Nightshining’s songs and associated artwork give one the sense of being lost in a foreign metropolis. The assembled images that were taken somewhere in China, remind me of some of my earliest memories of Shanghai. I recall wandering around on my bike and just staring at the buildings with their odd shapes and colors, coupled with the strange scents wafting in the air, feeling that I was a million miles from home. Caught with that final glow in the sky before things go black, these images, shot by photographer Marilyn Mugot, are worth the price of admission alone. But hey, this isn’t an unboxing review, so let’s get to the music.

Side A begins with Kan Wakan’s “Phantasmagoria Pt. 1.” Dark and melancholic, the song is a real stunner that’s part jazzy with hints of Massive Attack/Portishead embedded within. The next amazing tune is by a band called Shy Girls, whose track “Why I Love” does a beautiful job of mixing an icy remoteness over a river of passion. It’s a really sad and reflective piece that makes me want to hear more from this group. Rounding out side A is the band Mustard and the Silverfish, with the track “Jubilee Green,” a slightly off-kilter psychedelic pop tune that revolves around what sounds like a Hammond B3 and a Moog, high-as-a-kite-vocals, and flanged out drums to yield a narcotic effect that was hard to shake. Side B’s standout tracks include the Chameleons-like track “Nevada,” by Brooklyn band Hypoluxo and imbued with a distinct eighties vibe. Leo Law’s “Brothers and Sisters” is a brilliant track from this UK singer songwriter, and as the liner notes say this is barely his second recorded song. Funky, soulful and totally chill, this track is perfect for listening in your room as the sun sets in the winter sky.

Side B definitely wasn’t as strong musically as Side A, but even so, the number of unknown bands that I heard and the format that I heard them on proved to be a unique experience that I won’t soon forget. This is a great idea that I hope will gain some traction as one of the more meaningful ways to digest new music and build your vinyl collection at the same time.

DOWNLOAD: “Phantasmagoria Pt. 1” “Why I Love” “Jubilee Green” “Nevada” “Brothers and Sisters”

 

DYLAN HICKS – Ad Out LP

Album: Ad Out LP

Artist: Dylan Hicks

Label: Soft Launch

Release Date: October 20, 2017

www.softlaunchrecords.com

The Upshot: Singer-songwriter (and novelist) Austin-born/Minneapolis-based Hicks creates a delightful stew of Americana, soul, rock, and jazz.

BY FRED MILLS

Minneapolis raconteur Dylan Hicks describes himself as “singer-songwriter, minor novelist, folk pianist, essayist, and odd-jobber,” which is fair enough; last year he published second novel Amateurs and busied himself on various writing projects while prepping a new album. And on Ad Out he seems utterly relaxed and comfortable in his own skin, hardly the sound of someone who spends his days scraping and hustling and stressing. Fellow artists, take note: Here’s a guy showing you how life is supposed to be lived—enjoying it.

Ad Out, available on digital, CD, and sweet heavyweight vinyl (thumbs up!), follows 2012’s acclaimed Dylan Hicks Sings Bolling Greene (a kind of musical companion to his first novel, Boarded Windows), and as produced by John Munson and featuring the ensemble Hicks is “provisionally calling” The Dylan Hicks Retreat, the songwriter comes across as erudite and engaging, with a delightfully wry sense of humor lining the edges. Highlights? There’s the jaunty opener, “Interested Party,” wherein Hicks, in his trademark part-croon, part-drawl, part-sing/speak, rolls the word “interested” around in his mouth like a delicious piece of candy. “Asking For a Friend” could be a long-lost outtake from The Band, stately Americana with a gospel undercurrent, while the funky “I Was Made Anew” is a soulfully-rendered masterpiece boasting Hicks’ jazz ivories, wiry wah-wah guitar (courtesy Adam Levy), and a 3-piece horn section.  And on “A Chance In Hell” Hicks skillfully channels Mose Allison—speaking of jazz ivories—with understated aplomb, right down to the offhand vocal style.

All in all, a delightful effort, one which pays multiple dividends upon multiple spins. More, please.

DOWNLOAD: “I Was Made Anew,” “Interested Party”

ASK ‘EM NO QUESTIONS, THEY’LL TELL YOU NO… Mudhoney’s “L.i.E”

Mudhoney by Vincent Vannes

As a new live album recorded on tour in 2016 demonstrates, the Seattle band is always morphing, and always, always, always is a monster live band.

BY JENNIFER KELLY

The set starts in a monstrous wall of feedback, a fuzzed out roar that parts, like primordial swamp for the fuzz-clustered, two guitar crocodilian riff of “Fuzz Gun,” a form of guitar mayhem first plotted before Nirvana broke, before grunge became a fashion statement, when it seemed like the primitive stomp and psychedelia skree of Mudhoney might become, if not the next big thing, something bigger and more lucrative than the journeyman hard rock outfit they eventually turned into. That cut, and the one that follows is “Get into Yours,” from the 1989 S-T, are a quarter-century old when we hear them now, somewhere in Eastern Europe, but they sound just as relevant, just as hard and blunt and distended with volume as they must have when Mark Arm and Steve Turner first thought of them.

Mudhoney’s new live set, L.i.E. (Sub Pop), a/k/a Live in Europe, collected from a 2016 tour, is bluntly, ferociously coherent, though it spans three decades, seven albums and one Roxy Music cover.

The set list leans a bit on 2013’s Vanishing Point, then and now, the band’s most recent full-length (though a new one is coming in 2018), with an extended, pedal-fucked, guitar-spiraling, through-the-rabbit-hole treatment of “The Final Course,” followed by the slyer, more compact boogie of “What to Do with the Neutral” (“What to do with the neutral/It’s not an easy problem,” sings Arm, who has demonstrably spent more time on extremes). The post-millennial Mudhoney albums have an air of comfortable free-ness, of settling in with what the band has, of getting over undue expectations, and their loose, humorous bluster colors this live performance. But they make perfect sense in conjunction with older material — the explosive vamp of “Judgment Rage Retribution and Thyme” from 1995’s My Brother the Cow, the viscous chug of 2009’s Piece of Cake’s “Suck You Dry.”

You might think that covering Roxy Music is an odd choice, but “Editions of You,” is one of Ferry’s rougher, more rocking outings. Mudhoney gets at the twisted, clanging guitar line, pumping it up with pummeling drums, and obliterating any vestigial crooning in a barrage of Arm’s frantic shout-ranting. It sounds, in the end, like Mudhoney. It’s followed by the best cut on the disc, the long, fever-blistered rampage of “Broken Hands,” which encapsulates blues-like dirge and psychedelic freakery in its slow-moving, drum-rattling procession.

Which sounds completely different but also like Mudhoney, always what it is, always morphing, and always, always, always a monster live band.

Incidentally, Mudhoney and Sub Pop made an intriguing move with the album by not releasing it on CD, just vinyl and digital. And then they paid further tribute to vinyl collectors (Such as moi. — Blurt Wax Ed.) by also pressing up a special European-only, limited-to-500-copies version pressed on clear vinyl and boasting different gatefold artwork from the standard US pressing, it’s on 180gm CLEAR VINYL. And initial copies came with a 7” Bonus single. (“Touch Me I’m Sick” b/w “Where the Flavor Is”). Nice touch, gents.