The Virginmarys are three-piece rock band from Macclesfield, England who formed in 2006 but 7 years later release their debut LP Kings of Conflict following the release of several EPs that were generally well received. This band is a good example of the new model for releases – most bands get to put out a couple of singles and EPs in order to test the waters before a record company commits to a full length release. This is not to say that Virginmarys are novices having played the Download Festival in 2010 as well as supporting a variety of UK based bands such as my favorites Ash and We Are Scientists as well as Slash, Eagles of Death Metal and Feeder. So, where do they fit in the musical genre mix? Probably more metal than alternative, the key to this band is really that they have updated the 70’s metal sound with catchy melodic songs that rock in the same way that Billy Talent and the aforementioned Ash do – they are anthems of teen angst that you don’t mind singing along with. Overall, a nice change of pace. Try: “Dead Man’s Shoes”, “Bang Bang Bang” and the stripped version of “Just A Ride.”
Bet you never thought you would find a country record in the drop box. Sure there were hints with alt-country offerings such as Old 97s and Wilco appearing with some regularity, but Austin Texas’ Wheeler Brothers is much closer in sound to country than alternative. However, unlike traditional country albums, Gold Boots Glitter is a breath of fresh air in a stale scene. I was genuinely surprised by the atmospheric quality to some of these songs, the grit on Nolan Wheeler’s vocals, and the great harmonies throughout the record. Don’t let the country label sway you from picking up this gem. There are plenty of tunes to peak your interest and the record is diverse. The three Wheeler siblings (Nolan, Tyler and Patrick) started playing music with guitarist Danny Matthews while attending Louisiana State University, joining up with high-school buddy A.J. Molyneaux when they returned to Austin. The product of these tight knit relationships is found in the spectacularly smooth back-up vocals and harmonies. Start with “Straight and Steady”, You Got A Lot of Love” and “You Like.” Truly a gem.
Bergen, Norway’s Young Dreams channel Brian Wilson through a modern electronic pop sound. Led by vocalist Mathias Tellez, Young Dreams on Between Places revisits the Beach Boys as filtered through early Yeasayer and Vampire Weekend. Once you hear the opener “Footprints” you’ll get where this record is heading. If you loved the Beach Boys “sound” then you will not be disappointed by Between Places. Try “Footprints” “Fog of War” and “The Girl Who Taught Me To Drink And Fight.”
Formed from the ashes of the once awesome Milburn, Sheffield England’s Dead Sons are part of the new-psychedelia movement along with Tame Impala but tend to fall somewhere between The Arctic Monkeys and Queens Of The Stone Age. It may be because vocalist Tom Rowley sings very much like the Monkey’s vocalist Alex Turner but in sound there is something swampier and dark going on more akin to 80’s band the Southern Death Cult better known as the Cult. Often described as desert rock, on The Hollers and the Hymns, which is the Dead Sons debut, the label is a little dubious, as this record rocks like a mother. Try “Junk Room”, “Quest For The Fire”, and “The Hollers and The Hymns.
If you thought dropping the Wheeler Brothers record was unusual, Aussie pop rock Because They Can is a first as well. Falling on the poppier side of the pop-punk equation and marketed in Australia as a “boy band”, there is something different about the songs appearing on the 8 track EP, Alive. Look, the suits the band wears are a little too obvious as is the band’s name which is a reference to Hanson’s second album Because They Can, but the catchiness of these songs is undeniable. Because They Can videos are almost unwatchable because of the manufactured appeal (for example see : “It’s Not About You” (http://youtu.be/jFNplCTmmqs ) but if you close your eyes and just listen, Alive is full of songs in the same vein as San Cisco from last year – good solid songs that belong on radio somewhere. Lots of bounce. Try” It’s Not About You”, Alive” and the acoustic “I Wish I Knew”.
The Nashville indie scene is heating up. I know – who knew that in the home of all things country, that there was an indie scene. Well, now you do, and it is sparking. On You Belong Here, the debut by Leagues, the band explores what dance rock would sound like filtered through americana. Vocalist Thad Cockerell has a very broad vocal range with a pleasant falsetto that drives this collection of electro-pop influenced songs that have distinctive and well written lyrics. You will be singing along from the first track “Spotlight” with its crisp guitar work and precision drumming. Perhaps that is what this trio distinct – these are well crafted songs that Thad Cockrell, guitarist Tyler Burkum , and drummer Jeremy Luito have taken great care to perfect. There is an Arcade Fire feel to his record, so if that is in your sweet spot, pick this up. Try” Spotlight”, “Magic” and “Haunted”.
One of my favorites from this month’s selections is Gilbert, Arizona’s Lydia and their latest record Devil. This is definitely a left turn for the band formed in 2003 who on previous releases explored the darker side of indie rock with substantially gloomier lyrics. The band, formed in 2003, has had some member shifts in the past couple of years, but on Devil, the band, primarily vocalist Leighton Antelman, seems to be at peace with the transitions having moved on from what was a fairly acrimonious split with founding member and guitarist Steve McGraw as well as with Mindy White who left the band in 2010 to form States with two former members of Copeland, Bryan and Stephen Laurenson. So what about the music? Well, like Copeland, this is melodic indie rock which is more guitar driven then past releases but still not that fast. Think of this as a down tempo All American Rejects with catchy choruses oft repeated without the up tempo numbers. See? I guess I am a sucker for songs that slow burn and then shift after a minute such as “Runaway” which starts acoustic and slow and then after the first chorus, picks up the pace, becoming joyous and uplifting as the song progresses. There is much to enjoy on this LP, so give it a chance to win you over. Try” Runaway”, “Knee Deep” and “From A Tire Swing.”
What started off as the solo side-project of Mike Polizze, then the guitarist of Philadelphia free-form heavy rock outfit, Birds of Maya, Purling Hiss has evolved into a power trio, with drummer Mike Sneeringer and bassist Kiel Everett, adding muscle to the project. Water on Mars is the band’s third release but unlike the other bedroom releases, this is a significant upgrade in sound. Like other Philadelphia cohorts, Kurt Vile and The War on Drugs, Purling Hiss’ sound falls somewhere along the continuum between Bleach era Nirvana and Bug era Dinosaur Jr. (who they sound very similar partly because Polizze sounds like J Mascias) and the guitar intonation is reflective of Dinosaur Jr.. It is difficult to deny the likeability of the riffage produced by Polizze who used to also played guitar for Grand Funk Railroad! I was caught off guard when I first heard “Mercury Retrograde” which has the same vibe as Kurt Vile, but unlike Kurt Vile, traverses the noisier side of the indie rock spectrum with a few jam band elements, but as Purling Hiss says, on “Rat Race” “everyone wants to have a good time” – I do and I did. Try “She Calms Me Down”, “Mercury Retrograde” and “The Harrowing Wind.”
The drop box also finds the release this month of Rival Schools “lost second album” found that was supposed to have been released 10 years ago, but finally sees the light of day. A little background may be helpful. Rival Schools formed in New York in 1999 and were originally signed to Photo Finish Records, featuring Walter Schreifels on vocals and guitar, Ian Love on guitar, Cache Tolman on bass guitar; and Sam Siegler on drums. Rival Schools were a hardcore ‘supergroup’ as all of the members were alumni of such ’80s and ’90s hardcore bands as Gorilla Biscuits (Schreifels), CIV (Siegler), Youth of Today (Schreifels and Siegler) and Iceburn (Tolman).The band’s name (and that of their first LP) comes from the Capcom fighting game, Rival Schools: United By Fate. So where does Found fit is the picture? The original band broke up in 2003, just prior to the release of this record when Ian Love left the band. As time has passed, the band briefly reunited with Love on guitar, but as of the release of the record, April 9, 2013, the band is touring as a three piece. For a band of hardcore legends, Found represents an interesting shift in sound, that nearly 10 years after the original planned release sounds fresh and relevant in the punk rock pantheon. To be clear, for those of you reading the notes, for me, punk rock is not hardcore (neither the hardcore punk nor the bastardized dance version either). Punk rock is characterized by short sharp songs with a definitive garage rooted sound, free of effeminate vocals and guitar solos, without the roaring vocals found in hardcore and with a verse chorus verse ( see Nirvana was correct) song structure. If we work with this simple definition, then you can see how various bands fit in this structure, and Rival Schools is a great example. I bought the debut and I would have bought this record the first time around if it had seen the light of day. So here you go, a fully realized punk rock record that captures a band in the middle of where it started and where it is today ( check out 2011’s Pedals). Try ”Missing Glider”, “Indisposable Heroes” and the cover of the Buzzcock’s “Why Can’t I Touch It”
I probably would have put Sweden’s Satan Takes A Holiday (“Satan”) in the drop box for the name alone. Satan Takes a Holiday is also the name of an album of evocative, “lost” songs by Anton Szandor LaVey, founder and former high priest of the Church of Satan. However, on Who Do You Voodoo, Satan, revisits the same territory as the Hives and like all Swedish bands does it with great style and energy. This is 60s garage, punk and rock’n’roll in the same vain as Danko Jones and the Hives making for a great live show. You will not be able to get enough of this. Try “Who Do You Voodoo” (http://youtu.be/1H3WcMAWTi8 ) ( Check out this live show at Mods vs. Rockers Stockholm: http://youtu.be/47XFPJmaVwM ), “Karma Babe” and “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.”
Keeping with the garage rock and roll theme but more on the garage side than the rock side is Thee Oh Sees new record Floating Coffin. Thee Oh Sees are prolific. As I covered the San Francisco based band’s background last time with the release of Putifiers II, I’ll stick to this record, which picks up where Putrifier’s did – straight forward garage punk rock played at full speed with all the psychedelic fuzziness now polished and incorporated into what may be the finest of the 15 albums released by the band. John Dwyer is a master of the sonic shift and the band is a full examination of the lo-fi garage movement. This is best exemplified on the stellar “ Toe Cutter/Thumb Buster”. The lyrics which tend to the dark side and sometimes mumbled, make for a difficult exploration but patience is not only a virtue but is rewarded on tracks like “No Spell” and Strwaberries 1+2”. Try“I Come From The Mountain”, “Toe Cutter/Thumb Buster” and “Night Crawaler.”