Tyrannosaurus Dead / Joanna Gruesome Split 7″

This excellent split single on Odd Box Records is the first time I’ve come across Tyrannosaurus Dead (excellent name) but definitely not the first time I’ve come across the wonderful Joanna Gruesome (Will post a review of their new split 12″ with Trust Fund soon).

Post Holiday Dead Song is the offering from Tyrannosaurus Dead here and I’m instantly hooked. We’ve got great fuzzy double guitar attack right from the outset. Upbeat, bright and sharp sounding. Very reminiscent of 90s American indie rock, particularly Dinosaur Jr who I know a lot of bands get compared to but that can’t be a bad thing.

Particularly pleasing is the cutting back and forth between the male / female vocals. The two voices are actually fairly similar and complement each other really well, especially when singing together. This is not the bands first single so there’s plenty else for me to go and discover. As good timing has it their debut album will be released on Odd Box Records on 11th November. If it’s a strong as this single i can sense a lot of listens ahead.

The Joanna Gruesome track here is Anti-Parent Cowboy Killers, the song that opens their brilliant album Weird Sister. It scorches through it’s two-and-a-half minutes and is a perfect introduction to this band. We’ve got the pop hooks crossed with crushing indie-rock and  the switch from singing in verses to yelling and great boy/girl vocals in the chorus. Joanna Gruesome have tunes all over the place and the music should please anyone who loves a bit of melody twisted with some ferociousness. If you get a chance to go see JG play live don’t miss it.

Well Played to Odd Box Records for giving each band one side of the cover for the sleeve of this single. That doesn’t happen enough on split singles for my liking but it’s great when it does!

Girl Band – De Bom Bom 7″

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Girl Band are astonishingly impressive to see live. I’ve been lucky enough to catch them twice in 2014, first in Barcelona and then somewhere in a field in Yorkshire. Even more impressively they seem completely capable of transferring the controlled chaos of their live performances onto record.

De Bom Bom is the latest in a series of singles from Girl Band on Any Other City records. It’s the only one I’ve actually been able to get my hands on (their Record Store Day single Cha Cha Cha only had 100 copies pressed) and I’m so pleased I did. It’s not that their music is hard to get hold of, their singles are available as free downloads from their bandcamp page so go get ’em.

De Bom Bom fizzes and crackles like an electric shock. The drums pulse along keeping a frantic dizzying beat whilst the guitars and bass sound like they’re winning a fight with a chainsaw. There’s no hook here like the catch of the bass line from their earlier Lawman single. Just power and electrical energy crackling and pounding through disintegrating speakers. The vocals range from polite, if slightly lazy sounding charm to maniacal screaming and yelling. It doesn’t feel like it all fits together in one place, how can any of this be planned? It does fit though, perfectly.

Side B is a cover of I Love You by Beat Happening. I’ll not pretend to know the original but we’re treated to more noise over a hypnotic bass line and what occasionally sounds like a broken lawnmower plugged into an amp. I’ll need to go and check out the original to see how much of the Girl Band treatment this has been given, I suspect a lot. Either way it doesn’t really matter. It’s excellent.

The single comes in a really simple white sleeve with De Bom Bom stamped on it and it’s hand numbered on the back (mine is number 32). The white sleeve is wrapped in card, again with the band name simply stamped on and the song titles stamped on the back. Pleasingly the vinyl is also hand numbered. It’s all straightforward to look at and feels like a really special package, very much DIY.

Deers – Barn 7″

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Having heard this on the radio a couple of times recently I was delighted to pick up a copy of the 7″ single. I wasn’t so delighted to discover that this isn’t the first single by Deers meaning I’ve missed the boat to get my hands on the Demo 7″ that they released earlier in the year. Ah well, can’t get them all, I’ll go download it soon no doubt.

The Barns single has two tracks. First up on Side-A is Castigadas en el Granero (apparently this loosely translates as “Grounded in the Barn” if that helps at all – probably not). This is such a friendly track, not in a polite shake-your-hand way but in an instant let’s-be-best-friends-right-now excitable way. It’s rough and ready and happy to please. This is indie pop having a good time. The band sound extremely enthusiastic and I’m guessing when they play live they’ll probably be having just as much fun as the audience.

On the flip-side is Between Cans, a little bit slower paced than the a-side but equally infectious. The guitar intro strongly reminds me of Beach House minus the dreamy sound and production. Similarities end there though, the vocals kick in and it’s sounding more like a 60s girl group. It’s pop all over. The voices sound great together (Spanish accents always sound so good) whether singing or almost shouting (but shouting in tune of course).

 

Back Cover - nice intro to the band
Back Cover – nice intro to the band

The recording and production on both tracks is rough to say the least. It sounds like we’re sitting in a room above their Madrid practice space listening to the band playing live below. It suits the songs perfectly and sounds all the more charming for it. Really looking forward to hearing more from Deers, debut album out in 2015 so i’ll be keeping an eye out for that. I’m also hoping to catch them playing Glasgow at the end of November.

  • Label – Lucky Number  http://www.luckynumbermusic.com (and Mom + Pop Records in USA)
  • Format – 7″ Single on black vinyl (Limited to 500 copies) available at
  • Released 3rd Nov 2014

Owl & Mouse – Somewhere To Go EP

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It’s not everyday you discover a band by watching them play a gig on a moving steam train. That’s the wonderful Indietracks Festival for you and that’s where I first came across Owl & Mouse in 2013. It was hot and seriously sweaty on that packed train carriage, I couldn’t really see the band but could hear them, if only just. Just was enough though and I sought out their CD at the merchandise tent which came complete with a hand drawn cover. I also got given a 7″ picture disc of this band for free (I tried to pay for it but they wouldn’t take any money) which I believe was the only “official” Owl & Mouse release before the Somewhere To Go EP.

The hand-drawn CD Cover
The hand-drawn CD Cover

Owl & Mouse seem to be the perfect fit for a label like Fika Recordings with their love on indie pop and all things nice. Owl & Mouse are 100% nice so if nice isn’t your thing then look away now. Me? I like nice. It’s nice to be nice.

The Somewhere To Go EP offers four songs (aren’t EPs just great?) and the formula is very simple. This is heart-felt folky pop, usually just a ukelele strumming a gentle chord pattern at a gentle pace. Hannah Botting’s singing melts across the songs. Her tone is beautiful, it’s like a voice that’s kept wrapped up in a blanket and only let out for special occasions.

Opening song Don & Anna starts with the lyric “You made my day before it started, I thought of you ’til dawn” and we’re off to a warm start. This is where Owl & Mouse songs get intriguing. The music and the vocals are dreamy, sweet and almost always sombre. However, the lyrics can be surprising. Often pleasant, often sad and almost always very personal. Don’t Read the Classics, the 3rd track on this record, is the perfect example with lyrics so personal you can feel the hurt and heartbreak so much it can be uncomfortable. It’s devastating and powerful stuff but yet it couldn’t possibly be any softer on the ears.

Track 2, Western Skies, offers a bit of a change with a male voice but other than that it’s all exactly what you’d expect from this band. These 4 songs do present a bit of a development from some of the bands earlier songs with additional instrumentation and vocals. It definitely feels like a bit more of a band rather than a girl and her songs. It’s bittersweet from start to finish and it sounds perfect when lying in the dark if you need or want to relax.

The record itself is very well presented by Fika Recordings. There’s the label’s trademark brown cardboard sleeve and nice hand-drawn artwork (by Paul Rains of Allo Darlin I believe) with one simple colour. It looks as good as it sounds. The record itself is pressed on blue vinyl to match the colour on the sleeve.

  • Label – Fika Recordings http://fikarecordings.com
  • Format – 7″ blue vinyl Limited to 300 copies (still a few left i believe, go buy one)
  • Released – May 2014 (roughly!)

Bleached – For The Feel EP

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Front Cover

So it’s late October in Glasgow and it’s been unseasonably warm of late but all of a sudden today it’s freezing. Let’s face it, we’ll be freezing here until at least April. As soon as this record starts it’s summer again and you’re dancing with friends at a festival just as the sun sets to end a warm day.

Bleached’s For the Feel 7″ EP on Dead Oceans Records has 3 tracks. The title song is on side-A and side-B contains two cover versions, Poison Ivy by The Coasters and Born To Kill by The Damned. This EP follows on from the bands’ excellent 2013 album Ride Your Heart. Originally released as a download in July 2015 the EP was put into a physical format just recently.

Lead track For The Feel bubbles with optimism. This is straightforward rock n’roll punk being played and sung with a smile and it’s catchy as hell. The guitars jangle through their three chords backed up by a bass line that adds the roll to the rock. The vocal harmonies at the chorus add some more sunshine. This is fun from start to finish.

There’s a real vintage feel to the Poison Ivy cover. The main guitar part surfs along, the vocals catch that doo-wop spirit of the original artist and it all adds up to Bleached sounding like they’re loving making this great song their own.

back cover
back cover

Born to Kill is the noisiest and fastest of this 3 song collection and that’s no surprise given it’s a song by The Damned. This is more punk sounding than most Bleached songs I’ve known previously and it’s a sound that suits the band really well. This punk aspect is what makes this my favourite song of these 3. It’s just as much fun as the other two tracks but deserves to have the  volume notched that wee bit higher.

If you love your music to be fast, fun, uplifting and carefree go and check out Bleached.

  • Label – Dead Oceans http://www.scdistribution.com/release.html?catalog=DOC094
  • Format – 7″ Limited Edition (I’ve no idea how many copies it’s limited to)
  • Released – September 2014

Sleater-Kinney – Start Together 1994 – 2006 Box Set

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I remember reading an article in one of the UK’s music weeklies or monthlies back in 1997  or 98 about what was going on in the U.S. alternative music scene. Sleater-Kinney’s third album Dig Me Out had just been released and the article exclaimed that we just needed to sit back and wait for endless more bands to appear having been inspired by this record. Such bombastic praise is perhaps not particularly unusual within music journalism but in this case it was correct. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Sleater-Kinney is that they went on to repeat this across several more albums, the quality of their output hardly ever wavering right up to their final album The Woods.

A year or so later I saw them play at King Tuts in Glasgow as part of the Dig Me Out tour. The band I played in at the time were opening for them on a bill that also included The Yummy Fur (Oh my god were we excited..) and they were equally breathtaking live as they were on record. This gig was busy, but not exactly packed out. The critical acclaim around the band at this time had not yet translated to record sales and bigger venues than clubs but that was to come over the following years. Dig Me Out and the introduction of Janet Weiss on drums seemed like the major kick-starter for that process.

The rate of development from their 1995 debut Sleater-Kinney and 1996’s Call the Doctor to Dig Me Out is incredible and it all happened across such a short space of time. Ok we’re not quite at Guided by Voices levels of productivity here but the songwriting partnership between Corrin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein provided so much quality in so short a space of time.

After Dig Me Out the standard didn’t drop for a second. The three albums that followed, 1999’s The Hot Rock, 2000’s All Hands on the Bad One and 2002’s One Beat were all fairly similar in nature, sometimes a little more subdued (the Hot Rock), sometimes a little more noisy (All Hands on the Bad One) and perhaps slightly more angry than usual (One Beat). Never any less brilliant. It was only 2005’s The Woods, the bands’ final album at the time and rooted in classic rock, that made any significant departure from their most recognised style. By this time Sleater-Kinney’s popularity had grown considerably over the years. We’re not talking Pearl Jam levels of fame here but certainly a major departure from their Olympia Riot Grrrl roots. Then it all stopped. Their unwavering presence across 12 years would come to an end in 2006 and many hearts would be broken. Until now of course as excitement builds towards the bands 2015 return.

My personal favourite Sleater Kinney album? Usually depends which one I’ve just listened to although I think it’s fair to say I go back to Dig Me Out slightly more than the others. Every song on that album is memorable, no more so than the devastatingly sad One More Hour.

Now for the geeky part. The Start Together box set is a large slice of heaven for vinyl lovers. Sub Pop love to produce a special edition or two, a “Loser” edition as they lovingly refer to these things. The contents of this box are beautiful and the perfect tribute to Sleater-Kinney and their career thus far.

Front Cover of the Photo Book
Front Cover of the Photo Book

Vinyl aside there is a fabulous hard-back photo book crammed full of previously unseen pictures of the band. It’s all presented in chronological order with photos representing the times and tours for each album. There’s also a nice foreword from each of the band members. It’s a great pictorial history of the band in a format that works far better than any online gallery ever could.

The box also came with a white vinyl 7″ single featuring Bury Our Friends from their forthcoming album No Cities to Love. I’ve written about this elsewhere in this blog so I’ll not write any more here.

As for the seven albums, each is produced on a different coloured clear vinyl with a marbled effect. Each comes with an inner lyric sleeve as well. The One Beat LP also includes a poster of the photo from the front cover of the box set. The Woods is a gatefold cover, double green vinyl with music on 3 sides.

The box set isn’t a complete musical history of the band. Sleater-Kinney did release other songs on various singles and compilations. A particular favourite of mine is a split 7″ with Cypher in the Snow as part of the Free to Fight singles series on Candy-Ass Records.

Free to Fight #1 7"
Free to Fight #1 7″

Overall Sub Pop have clearly put a lot of love into this collection. Fans of the band who also love their vinyl will treasure this collection forever.

Next on the want-list will be the Loser edition of the new album, out in Jan on Sub Pop of course!

  • Label – Sub Pop
  • Released Monday 20th October (UK)
  • Format – Limited Edition of 3,000 box sets containing 7 x LP albums on various coloured vinyl + Book + Art Print + 7″ single on white vinyl (one side etched – 500 random copies of this 7″ were signed by the band)
  • Note – After the initial 3,000 boxes sold out the set is being reissued with each LP on black vinyl. Each remastered album has also been released individually on black vinyl

Speedy Ortiz & Chris Weisman 7″

Split Singles. Double Joy! This is number 14 in the LAMC series of split 7″s from Famous Class records, a series in loving memory of Ariel Panero (for more info go to http://www.famousclass.com/lamc-series/ ). The series has featured bands and artists like Ty Segall, White Fence, Lower Dens and Parquet Courts. The premise being they ask a band to supply an unreleased song for the A-side and also ask the band to pick their favourite emerging artist for the B-side.

From cover by Sadie Dupuis of Speedy Ortiz
From cover by Sadie Dupuis of Speedy Ortiz

I picked this single up because of the presence of Speedy Ortiz who’s previous records I’ve loved. Side A features a new Speedy Ortiz song called Doomsday, a gloomy title and a slightly gloomy song with Sadie’s voice acting as a sweetener over slow churning guitar parts. The pace of this song is a lot slower than the majority of their debut Album Major Arcana and lacks the fizz and spark of their recent Real Hair EP. There’s still plenty of fuzz on the guitars and they offset the bittersweet vocals perfectly creating a feeling of foreboding but a sense that it’s all gonna end ok (can Doomsday end ok?). I suspect live this will become a much heavier song but on this 7″ it’s beautiful.

Purple Vinyl Edition of 300
Purple Vinyl Edition of 300

Chris Weisman is a new name to me and I knew within ten seconds of the needle landing that this song was right up my street. I Took it of a Record is perfectly gentle. The guitar strums and flows along and Chris sings softly like he’s scared of waking up whoever is asleep in the same room. It’s over before you know it and the final refrain of “I took it off a record, or at least I tried” suggests the singer is never quite certain he achieved what he was trying to but he was perfectly content trying anyway. Perfectly content sums this song up nicely.

  • Label – Famous Class
  • Released – 7th Oct 2014
  • 7″ Available in 3 editions (200 x Purple and Yellow Splatter vinyl, 300 x Purple vinyl and Standar Black vinyl)
  • Available as a name your price download over at https://famousclass.bandcamp.com/album/lamc-14
  • Proceeds go to the Ariel Panero Memorial Fund at VH1 Save the Music
  • Famous Class say “We do the special coloured vinyl for fun’s sake and it’s no fun to see it on ebay for $50”

Sleater-Kinney – Bury Our Friends 7″

7" signed on side A
7″ signed on side A

Perhaps it’s cheating to write about this 7″ on it’s own? It is part of the “Stay Together 1994-2006″ box set    released by Sub Pop on 20th Oct 2014 (more on that particular treasure chest in another post) so it’s not like you could pick this single up on it’s own for a few quid. However, it’s a special one and of all the music in that retrospective collection this was the only new song.   This 7″ was a surprise addition to the Stay Together box set. Pressed on white vinyl and completely untitled other than the date 01/20/2015 it sparked a bit of a social media frenzy regarding whether this meant Sleater Kinney were coming back after so many years. Of course we now know the answer to that and that this 7” was a clever way of marketing the re-launch of the band. It’s a single sided record with the song Bury Our Friends on A and the signatures of the band etched onto side B.Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 16.54.43 Somewhat excitingly according to a Sub-Pop tweet 500 random copies of this single were autographed by the band. Looks like I was one of the lucky ones!

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Side B with etched signatures

As for the song itself I admit to much trepidation when first playing this. Hearing new music from one of your all time favourite bands after such a long time can be a big let down. No such worries here. Immediate relief turns very quickly to hyper excitement as Sleater-Kinney flow straight back into form. The guitars are jerky and angular. The music slows during the verses but the pace is maintained by a determined self-assured vocal sung almost in a staccato style. The chorus stomps, pounds and grins with defiance. “We’re wild and weary but we won’t give in” sums up the tone of this song. It’s a departure from their last album “The Woods” but that album was a bit of a departure from the bands previous style. Bury Our Friends is brash, confident and marks a very exciting return. There’s absolutely no sign that Sleater-Kinney have lost any of the spark that they always displayed all those years ago.

  • Label – Sub Pop
  • Edition of 3,000 7″ Singles on White Vinyl in paper sleeve (500 copies signed by band)
  • Released on 19th October 2014 (UK) as part of Sleater-Kinney Start-Together // 1994-2006 box set
  • At time of writing this song is available as a free download at http://www.sleater-kinney.com
  • Sleater-Kinney’s album No Cities To Love will be released on 19th Jan 2015 on Sub Pop