From a cosmetic standpoint, the rather iconic pose and garb of choice Seattle's Connections sport on this record sleeve leads one to believe this combo would be prime contenders for a slot on a Killed By Death or Teenline compilation. As it turns out, that observation isn't far off the mark, at least as far as aesthetic is concerned. "Tug of War" is Television styled "punk," with a more acute semblance of melody. Good, but a notch or two shy of time capsule worthiness. "Give Me the Knife," belted out by the lone female (no name provided) in this septet, takes a more aggro tack, packing punchy chords and a heaping dollop of sass that goes a long way in defining it's three potent minutes.
Never mind the mullets...here's Kashmir. Okay, so let's not ignore the elephant in the room. In short, if you can get past the sleeve of this 45, which is gratuitously seeped in the '80s as you could ever possibly get (not that you'd want to...right?), the proceedings within the grooves are surprisingly flattering. Don't let their moniker fool you, there's not a shred of Led Zeppelin homage occupying a stitch of these songs, rather a straightforward new wave motif reigns here. The sublime "Outside" packs a hook far more devastating than any of their mainstream competition could muster, thankfullyy deriving more from U2 and the 415 Records crop than say, Duran. "Boy" is a bit darker, but no less approachable. I have not a shred of info to pass along regarding Kashmir, save for their whereabouts, potentially in the Portland, OR area, which is where this single was cut.
Details are a bit sketchy, but starting life in the mid-80s, Denver's Alarming Trends, helmed by Rebecca Watson released this album three years into their career and recorded sporadically thereafter. The most revealing piece info I have to offer on this coed quartet is that a cult-classic movie of the same name was directed by guitarist Ronnie Cramer in 1987, which naturally featured the band. You Make Me Live in a Trailer kicks off in almost disarming fashion with "What Does Your Heart Say," a relatively conventional pop tune before launching into a cornucopia of songs that range from surly no-wave to icy post punk with modest goth overtones, not to mention intermittent, avant excursions. The frantic, punky "Mangled Never Center" stands out vividly among Trailer's comparatively calmer environs, making me long for more selections in a similar vein. I think I need to live with this record more before reaching a definitive conclusion, and luckily enough you have the luxury of partaking in such endeavors at your leisure. Alarming Trends continued to churn out music as late as 2001, and have two additional albums available through CD Baby. Ronnie Cramer has a robust selection of solo albums to his credit, as well as low-budget films, which from the looks of his website is more than just a casual hobby. This rip was taken from a very static-laden slice of vinyl, so don't say I didn't warn you.
01. What Does Your Heart Say
02. Out at Night
03. Without You Fine
04. Echoes in the Dark
05. Mangled Nerve Center
07. White Cross
08. Some People
09. I Wonder Why
10. Fever Dreams
11. Rude Seduction
Punk rock. Blackbox Records, based out of Germany I believe, released a spate of punk/pop/grunge type records in the early '90s, and this CD compilation manages to gather up nearly 20 songs, many of which had only existed on vinyl prior to. Some fairly renown American outfits are present and accounted for: Samiam who contribute an acoustic take of their 1990-era chestnut, "Home Sweet Home," Big Drill Car's live rendering of Billy Joel's "Big Shot" is phenomenal, and the Doughboys take on Kiss' "Stole Your Love" live in the flesh. As for the other Yanks that appear on Blackbox, there's in-concert Big Chief goodness, Nova Mob's "Evergreen Memorial Drive" is a tuneful pop reprieve from this disks overall mayhem, and Bone Club and The Heretics who never got their due on either side of the pond, round up the US contingent.
The most prominent of the European participants, Leatherface contribute a pair of songs from the Mush-era (or thereabouts). Probably worth the price of admission alone for more than a few of you. Spoon (track four) are not the Austin indie idols of the same moniker. The Speed Niggs assault our collective senses with their version of Murphy's Law's "Secret Agent S.K.I.N," and the Big Drill Car indebted Thud! pose the musical question, "What is comfort when you're dead?" Indeed.
01. Big Chief - Jungle Jam (live)
02. Nova Mob - Evergreen Memorial Drive
03. Samiam - Sky Flying By
04. Spoon - Fearless
05. EA 80 - Wo steht die Uhr?
06. Heretics - Gotta Go
07. Boxhamsters - Auf Wiedersehen
08. Leatherface - Eagle
09. Bone Club - With Me
10. Thud! - What is Comfort...
11. The Nozems - Psycho
12. Maximum Bob - Way 2 B
13. Speed Niggs - Secret Agent S.K.I.N.
14. Big Drill Car - Big Shot (live)
15. Doughboys - Stole Yer Love (live)
16. Leatherface - Dreaming
17. Heretics - Straight On
18. Bone Club - Time of Day
19. Thud! - If I die...
Upon sharing Lustre'salbum and single a few days ago, it was brought to my attention that there was yet another single kicking around from these unlikely Chapel Hill, NC denizens. Actually, make that an ep, a promotional one at that, supplied to radio stations and the like in support of the "emphasis track," "Kalifornia." I've gone on about how utterly addictive Lustre's melodious riffola is (which you can peruse my testaments to via the links above), so I'll get right down to the disk at hand and point out that the Kalifornia ep features two really excellent b-sides, "Great" and "Drag" that so far as I know appear exclusively. Things close out with a slightly edited version of "Nice Overalls" which can be found on the Lustre record, as well as the Empire Records soundtrack. Unless some demos or outtakes surface this is likely to be the final words on Lustre, so far as these pages are concerned anyway. Cheers.
04. Nice Overalls (edit)
The curiously titled What is My? What is Mo? is one of a handful of demo eps recorded by the Dimestore Darlings, a spirited New York bunch who possessed the nonchalant moxie and charisma of some of their key inspirations which thankfully included Dramarama, the Replacements and Soul Asylum. A familiar recipe, but one that's aged nicely since these four cuts were committed to tape the better part of two decades ago. The Darlings are what the Hold Steady could have amounted to if their singer ever attempted to carry a tune (harsh, I know). Turns out these guys have a Tumblr page with streaming audio of these tunes and about eight more, plus a super thorough and entertaining bio. Highly recommened. I've plucked a paragraph from that bio which specifically addresses this tape. Enjoy (or not). But you will.
We emerged 30 hours later with the second EP in hand: What Is My, What Is Mo?—the title the result of a Justin and Steve misread of Gene Simmons asking the musical question “What is my charisma?” It was heavy on the kick drum, frenetic, and a strong move forward. Justin’s “Sometimes It’s Me” and “Damage” were both genuinely surprising with their lyrical depth, and the grooves themselves had a dizzying, reckless feel, a kind of walloping gait that left no room for instrumental niceties, but were still both interesting and accessible, particularly “Damage,” which had a rough-hewn Keith Richards vibe and a drunken nose-sung vocal that worked perfectly. It’s a great song. In all, What Is My, What Is Mo? was an adrenaline-fueled, determined sound of a band blasting off, which Jay nailed when he yelled “I’m stressing out” in the second track, his “Waste of Time.” And Aaron plays the living hell out of his kit throughout. A fun time had by one and all: Imagine the Keystone Kops, loaded, making a record against an insane deadline and you get the idea—fun but exhausting.
01. Sometimes It's Me
02. Waste of Time
Thought I'd give everyone a heads up on this one, as the physical edition of this title is limited to a mere 200 copies. If you're already a Graham Repulski convert you're likely to be a completist, and since this fella is on the creative tear that he is (six releases in roughly two years) I wouldn't sleep on this.
For those of you who can recall your first encounter with Guided By Voices 1994 magnum opus, Bee Thousand, experiencing any given record by this New Jersey progidy is bound to induce déjà vu all over again.Graham has all the classic Pollard-ian earmarks set to “stun” in an enjoyably slavish fashion, including but not limited to: a doggedly lo-fidelity recording ethic, slightly manipulated vocals, esoteric and oblique scripture, and a doctrine that screams, “if the song exceeds the two minute mark, time to hit erase" Truth is, Graham has virtually picked up where Mr. Pollard left off in say 1999, doleing out melodicly rich colossus' namley the title track, and "Mommy's Dreaming" (which in all fairness exceeds the 120-second threshold).
Among his other four-track forarys 2011's Into an Animal Together is the bona fide full length, racking up 24 songs, but if that strikes you as too imposing for your virgin pallete, My Collar is Red, by comparison tallies up a mere four and serves as equally a convincing introduction. For those going the clear red vinyl route, head over to Big School Records, or if the streaming/downloading method gets you through the night, head over to Bandcamp, and please check out more of this gentleman's surprisingly fresh back catalog.
It was nearly three years ago that I shared a scarce slice of wax by Concord, CA's Parade, titled Circle of Deception. Still got that one in your ipod? Yeah, I thought so. It wasn't until I was browsing at Jerry's Records in Pittsburgh that I discovered there was a second Parade album, which I'm featuring today. Turns out they were up to their same old tricks on Love and War, copping a pint or two from the 'Mats/Magnolias/Junk Monkeys wet bar. Ringing guitars and punchy, high strung exuberance all around, with a number of comparatively refined ballads on side two. If any of you can offer some details on Pariah, Parade's precursor band. The singer/bassist is Ray Lujan, and I have to wonder if he's the same Ray Lujan who writes for Maximum Rock 'N Roll. I suppose I'll keep wondering 'til someone confirms that suspicion.
01. Flowers For Pretty
02. True to Life
03. Heaven Help Us
04. One Step Closer to Home
05. Torn in Two
06. The Forgotten Man
07. Love and War
08. When Hope Walks By
09. Time Won't Stop for Us
10. Prisoners of Our Dreams
11. How Can You Win?
Upon discovering his Seattle noise-pop trio NewSweet Breath back in 1995, via their first full length, Supersound Speedway, my appreciation for Graig Markel's music grew and grew with each successive record that he had any involvement with, whether it be more outings with NSB, his electronic offshoot Animals at Night, and not the least of which solo recordings. By my count, 2012's brand new self-titled platter is his sixth under his own name, following up 2007's Via Novella. Hardly spending the last four years slaving over an ornate, orchestral rock tour de force, a la Brian Wilson in the late '60s, Markel instead returns to the table with a refreshingly lucid batch of ten acoustic songs, tracked straight to analog tape in his domicile studio.
Far from a wordsmith in league with the likes of Waits, Westerberg, or Pollard, Graig Markel's isn't an erudite or arty scribe, rather it's the voice that sinks in so indelibly. His sparse, no-frills arrangements lend a purity to this collection, perfectly befitting it's melancholic tenor, that wisely eschews any wrought or maudlin transgressions. Par exemple, "My Last Words," as it's title implies, mines a mournful vein, but no more so than Nick Drake's Pink Moon, a classic he's apparently taken to heart. Economical yet thoroughly substantive, Markel's balled-esque soliloquies are undeniably straightfoward, but soothingly uplifting. Graig Markel is available from CD Baby, and on white vinyl through his website, but if you need any further convincing embrace the sound on his Soundcoud page.
I'm not sure what the UK music press had to say about the Cherry Blades at the time In-Dependace made its way into the shops, but in all likelihood it wasn't very concise. Why? Judging from these eight songs, the Blades were serial genre-hoppers, sounding like a different band on damn near each one, making any sort of broad stroke review all but impossible. Some of the tangents explored include patently trippy pysche revival ("Happy Families"), ragged indie guitar excursions ("Everyday is Extreme" and "Face #1") to relatively linear Britpop ("Everything Is Extreme"), with plenty of halfway points in between. Some of the heavier cuts belie faint dream-pop undercurrents, blending in seamlessly. Though they were unlikely deliberate in doing so, the Cherry Blades assembled an album delivering a makeshift microcosm of where British indie music was headed at the dawning of the '90s. To my knowledge, the band had at least one more record to their credit, an ep titled Imperial.
Re-ripped from CD (Feb '13)
02. Happy Families
03. Everyday is Extreme
04. Everything Is
05. Down #1
06. Face #1
08. Morphine Waves
Maybe it's the hypocritical cynic in me but even with all the technological advances that make obtaining (and for that matter learning about) any given piece of music so instantaneous, I still yearn for, dare I say 'a more complicated' era when fanzines, 120 Minutes, college radio, and last but not least, word-of-mouth was the delivery system for virtually any and all exposure for new and exciting new zounds. Maryland's Jet Age don't necessarily brandish the same musical motifs of my nascent discovery years (late '80s/early '90s) but the essence of Domestic Disturbances is more then than now. Ironically, their encompassing sonic foundation is constructed on one that's a little more current, say firmly in the realm of Ted Leo, and to a lesser extent The Thermals.
As with most musically inclined trios, economy is key, and the Jet Age don't fritter away one iota of it, endeavoring in the stripe of sharp, rhythm-centric post-punk that employs an abundance of clipped, clangy chords, heavy-goes-it snare drums, and occasional plumes of static, executed as only a lean, hungry skeleton crew can. Disturbances is one of those rare records that's as lovingly roughewn as it is painstakingly tight. Most bands operating under such similar premises would likely convey themselves as insular, even dry, but in their case the Jet Age write songs that are thoroughly heartfelt. "Hey, Captain" is searingly soulful in that Stonesy Some Girls kind of way, "Left for Dead" boasts hefty swells of distortion, with a dash of tremolo tossed in, "Home" unfurls guitar god solo's amidst an engulfing echoing stew, and on "I Want to Touch You Again," the guys manage to seize Gang of Four's metronome for an infectious four minutes. And that little synopsis covers only one third of the album. As an aside, mouthpiece Eric Tischler possesses a vocal timbre very much on par with Joel Plaskett (who you might know from bygone Halifax rawkers Thrush Hermit). If you're as chuffed and heartened as I am, put a little Jet Age in your life and order Domestic Disturbanceshere, or go the digital route via Bandcamp.
I'm not about to purport to have any firsthand knowledge, or even a rudimentary awareness of Japanese indie rock and/or so called "J-Pop" in general. In fact, my only entry for a Japanese artist, The Playmates, stretches all the way back to 2008 for their stupefyingly impressive Short Wave album. It's not so much a matter of prejudice, rather utter lack of exposure that would point to a deficit of music from the nation with that nice, plump red dot on their flag. Sunnychar were a coed five-piece from Tokyo, whose chipper punk-pop conveniently brings to mind one of the only Japanese acts I am notably familiar with, Shonen Knife. On what is presumably their only stateside release, Sunnychar ooze vivacious charm and vigor, decked out in harmonies and cutesy pizazz that only a female-fronted combo from the Land of the Rising Sun could so capably deliver, particularly on the leadoff cut, "You're My Battery." Two more originals ensue, as does a cover of Yoko Ono's "Sisters O Sisters."
01. You're My Battery
02. My Little Girl
03. Sisters O Sisters
04. La-vi La-vi
As I mentioned in my critique of their 2010's Post Modern Romantic album, I became acquainted with The Well Wishers after feasting on the back catalog of frontman Jeff Shelton's previous outfit The Spinning Jennies. The Jennies, who's run lasted the better part of the '90s (and a slightly beyond) were one of the quintessential power pop purveyors of their era. Problem was I only caught wind of them by their last record, 2002's Stratosphere. Shelton wasn't one to stay idle, and almost immediately in the Spinning Jennies absence The Well Wishers came to light, and they're already up to their half-dozenth platter, Dreaming of the West Coast.
Stylistically, Dreaming... isn't a dramatic departure from Post Modern Romantic, but it is varied, with the Well Wishers breaking away from their usual aesthetic to indulge in the arcing, sparking punk free-for-all "All I Got," and jack knifes a 180 on the markedly more genteel acoustic ballad "Truth Is Coming Home." As for the aforementioned "usual aesthetic" there's gobs of Merseybeat flirtations, and Shelton's familiar Ricken-pop jangle and strum. Suggested destinations? "Escape the Lights" is the Posies gone paisley (minus the dayglo aftertaste) and "Here Comes Love" is linear yet luminous. On past WW outing's The Chameleons and The Nils have been the recipients of the cover treatment, and in the case of Dreaming it's an uber-obscuro Nuggets era nugget (pun intended), "Have Some More Tea" originally performed in 1967 by The Smoke.
Now for the nitty gritty. Virtual copies of Dreaming of the West Coast can be obtained from Bandcamp...now, while the physical edition becomes available on January 24.
I wish I had some pertinent details to offer on Marshal Fields, a long retired Bay Area five-piece but fortunately the music can stand on it's own. Omitting one "L" from "Marshall," for fairly obvious reasons, this combo delivers a flawless record of rich, resonant power pop that occasionally skews slightly right of the dial. Ringleaders Eric von Radics and John McClellan, whether consciously or not, seemed to subscribe to the same modus operandi and stringent quality control of Tommy Keene and Todd Rundgren among other top shelf singer/songwriters, without being derivative of them. Immediately winsome hooks and deftly crafted arrangements make every moment count. Bloody good stuff. Incidentally, Matt Wallace has an early engineering credit on this disk.
01. Come a Little Closer
02. Shouldn't We
03. Just Another Day
04. Changing It Again
05. Malaria Moon
06. Hurry Home
07. If It's You
Until I have a chance to rip more vinyl (should be another day or two) I thought I'd offer everyone an upgrade in FLAC (aka lossless audio) to one of the most popular albums I've featured on Wilfully Obscure to date. Pollyanna's third LP, Hello Halo never saw proper release in North America, but despite it remaining an endearing favorite in their native Australia, it managed to go out of print roughly a decade ago. Since I shared ...Halo nearly four years ago, I've received numerous requests from several of you to fill in the gaps, and post Pollyanna's otheralbums and singles (the latter of which I still have to attend to), yet despite their fairly robust body of work, it's these fourteen songs that I retreat to time and time again.
In my original entry I remarked that this wasn't album one could easily genre-lize, so to speak, rather there were a plethora of facets running the gamut from power-pop to emo to more traditional alt-rock. In that respect, Hello Halo is just as elusive today as it was when I discovered it in the late '90s. Truthfully, I opt to indulge in this album's post-adolescent ruminations, cautionary themes, and bittersweet, empathetic ethos rather than it's underlying sonic constructs (which I have to admit are impressive in themselves). For every visceral, gut-reactive surge ("Cinnamon Lip" and "Pulling Teeth" to name a couple), Halo turns on it's head in a markedly sobering and contemplative direction ("Cooling Your Heels," "Velocette"), with plenty of arresting offerings that fall somewhere in the middle. Will Pollyanna's moxie work it's way into your psyche as it has mine? Only one way to find out, and if you're feeling a little less committal and don't want to absorb 300 mb of hard drive space, the MP3 version is at your disposal here.
01. Peachy Keen
02. Frosted Over
03. Hilltop Green
04. Cooling Your Heels
06. A Beginner's Guide to Under Achievement
07. Brittle Than Broken
09. Forgetting How to Feel
10. Cinnamon Lip
11. Pulling Teeth
13. Rat in the Ranks
Holy cow. I forgot what a damn good album this was, until I played it for the first time this week in probably close to a decade. Last Thursday I featured a single from Lustre, an unlikely entry in the Chapel Hill, NC indie rawk sweepstakes from fifteen years or so ago. Actually, they really couldn't boast much of an indie pedigree at all, considering this self titled platter was delivered by A&M. Proving just how much fun three chords could be, Lustre's penchant for muscular, guitar crunch and penetrating hooks put them in league with Sugar, Fig Dish, Head Candy, and other such saccharine laden riff brokers. A dash of '90s AOR didn't do Lustre much harm (or good) but even with every lick in place they failed to make a pronounced dent at lamestream radio. I mentioned in my original Lustre post that the group's closest claim to fame, "Nice Overalls" turned up on the Empire Records soundtrack, and for the love of straight-to-video, it's also on the album. As a final thought, copies of Lustre are pretty scarce to find without a gold promo stamp marring the cover. In addition to the track list and d/l link, you can also watch the video for "Kalifornia" below.
01. Musta Been Cool
04. Wasting Time
05. Stay (How Long?)
06. Nice Overalls
10. Still Seems There
I don't know how many of ya'll were paying attention this past summer when I shared a cassette demo of a long defunct Regina, Saskatchewan outfit that went by the name of Mrs. Svenson, but in my write up, I alluded that more recordings were said to exist, particularly a CD, Flood. As it would come to pass, Flood would never see the opening of it's proverbial gates. An albums worth of songs was recorded, but never issued due to the band's dissatisfaction with the material. In any event, I've been given clearance to share them with the public, and considering how stoked I was with that six song tape I consider it something of an honor.
Mrs. Svenson, having culled their moniker from a random search in their local white pages, had been active since the late '80s and had gone through a myriad of lineups, with drummer/vocalist Mark Fleischhaker being the group's only constant presence. Those aforementioned half dozen "demos" (please refer to the tracklist in the original post linked above) were to carry over into Flood in the same incarnations, save for a remix of "Fall." An additional six songs were to encompass the full Flood experience, which are presented here as well. Also included are alternate versions of a couple songs.
In my original Mrs. Svenson article I mentioned that the band took some more than discernible cues from Canadian contemporaries the Doughboys. That comparison is particularly warranted on such melodically indelible slammers as "June," "Fall," and "Shoes," leading me to believe that the 'Boys Crush album was vying for some serious playing time on Svenson's collective boom boxes and in-dashes. While not wall-to-wall perfection, Flood exudes more than it's fair share of magic, and hinted of even greater things that should/could have been in the offing had the band's luck panned out a little better. Speaking of which, I'll have more Mrs. Svenson coming your way in the not too distant future. A big, big thanks goes out to Oxy for stringing this altogether for me, and creating some spiffy sleeve art to boot!
02. Life Lesson
03. Stone (mono)
05. June (mono)
08. Never (mono)
09. All Along
11. Book of Truth (mono)
12. Glass (mono)
13. Our Situation (mono)
14. Flood (mono alternate version)
15. Never (mono alternate version)
Funny how such a great record from such a crucial era can go virtually unheralded for all these years. Even in powerpop/KBD corners Mentor, OH's Wild Giraffes have flown under the radar all this time, as has this record. Granted, Right Now saw the light of day on the local indie imprint Neck Records (possibly the band's in-house label), but nonetheless, far scarcer records have enjoyed more visible reputations, albeit posthumously I should add. Hovering somewhere between a more advanced Flamin' Groovies and Cheap Trick, Wild Giraffe's rootsy undercurrents rubbed elbows with faint, post-punk chord wrangling a la Roger Miller of Mission of Burma. If the Figgs had started their career, say a decade early, they would probably have approximated a solid cross section of this album's content, which by the way hosts no less than three classic covers: "Good Times" (Easybeats), "Burning Love" (popularized by Elvis), and "Move It On Over" (Del Shannon). isksp blog is hosting a Wild Giraffes single from 1978, "Ensemble and Majorettes," which is just as stimulating as Right Now, and worth significantly more money from what I understand.
01. Right Now
02. Good Times
03. In and Out
04. The Real Things
05. I Got You
06. Burning Love
07. I Can't Make It
08. She Do Rock
09. Weather Girl
10. I Don't Know About You
11. We'll Never Know
12. Move it on Over
Might as well get my annual token "new romantic" post out of the way for 2012. Truth be told, I don't know the first thing about Polo (the band or the game). I purchased this record in a bundle on Ebay sometime ago. Really liked the sleeve, but anyway. In case anyone is wondering what type of music I cut my teeth on back in the early '80s, this record is fairly representative. Polo were an androgynous as all-get-out bunch of guys with hair teased to the heavens, and would've slotted in just fine with Duran, ABC, Living in a Box, and lesser knows like Tictoc. Thoroughly competent if anything else. Oddly enough, "We Can Work It Out" isn't the Beatles tune. Go figure. A fanclub address on the back sleeve indicates that they were products of Claremont, CA, or thereabouts. Enjoy, and comment as you see fit.
Thought this would be an appropriate follow-up to my Lustre entry from yesterday, not that the two groups share any sort of relation, but who sonically speaking are cut from almost identical sackcloth. There's no readily available info to be had regarding Cinderblock, a three-piece San Francisco treat whose Greatest Hits album is almost certainly titled in jest, given there doesn't appear to be any releases preceding (and in fact, following) it. Nothing particularly fancy, in fact a bit anti-climactic as far as rugged, power-chord fortified rock goes. Despite some spicy axe squalls from leadman Jason Apodaca, Cinderblock strike me as a wee bit sedated on the John Strohm produced Hits, leaving me to wonder what demo or rehearsal takes of the relatively stimulating "Leaves" and "Bed and Shower" would have done for this pair or ears. The material here occasionally brings to mind the Pedaljets, albeit with more of an AOR tilt. Furthermore, I have big reservations for the two concluding clunkers, "This is Me" and "Everything," but don't be sad, eight out of ten ain't bad.
Ahh. I love the smell of post-grunge in the morning. "Alternative" by virtue of the Seattle tsunami of '91, Lustre delivered hulking, Collective Soul-sized riffs, within the confines of a demonstrably more credible package, a la Sugar or Head Candy, if that means anything to you. Lustre emerged from Chapel Hill, NC of all places, which you'd never guess in a bazillion years from any of their recorded output. A commendable full length followed in 1996, that frankly went nowhere, but the LP track "Nice Overalls" made an appearance on the reasonably successful Empire Records soundtrack. These guys were sticklers when it came to melody, and good on 'em for that I might add. Assuming their album hasn't been given away elsewhere I can share it if anyone's interested. Both of these songs aren't on it, so chomp away on this lil' stogie and enjoy.
I never really paid attention to Polara during the nineties, despite working at college radio and seeing so many of their CDs in used bins (I don't mean that as a dig). In fact, it wasn't until a couple years ago that I put two and two together when I learned that Polara head honcho Ed Ackerson had previously fronted Minneapolis's 27 Various, a combo I've featuredtwice on these pages in about as many years.
I've only experienced one Polara full length in it's entirety, and that would be their self titled debut which dropped the same year that this dandy 45 did. My impression is that Polara was a far more idiosyncratic animal than the comparatively straightforward psyche-addled guitar rock of 27 Various, and I suppose that notion would be in keeping with this single, featuring three songs with each mining it's own disparate terrain. Maybe I should break it down track by track. Yeah.
A1. "Scorched Youth Policy" - An august, two-minute burst of dream-pop, cum Wire's '80s electro fixation (heck, Ackerson recalls Colin Newman big time on this one)! Sounds like a little phaser was tossed into the blender as well, with the overall effect being none-too-dissimilar from what overseas contemporaries Rollerskate Skinny were churning out. Beats anything on the Polara album.
A2. "Puffy (Buzzcrusher '95)" - Strummy, acoustic, and a little navel gazey as well. Appealing, but hardly a game changer
B. "Attrition" - A bittersweet slice of indie guitar rock that agilely splits the difference between Pavement and Teenage Fanclub, buttressed by a devastating hook.
Translated from French, Le Lac Leman, means "Lake Leman," which is an actual lake in Switzerland. For better or worse, that specific body of water doesn't encroach at all into the themes expressed on the Verichrome Tulips' presumably one and only album, recorded by the co-ed German quartet. This is merely an educated guess, but their roster might have boasted British and/or American origins, given there isn't a foreign accent in sight on this wax. A Myspace bio (linked above) mentions that the songs comprising Le Lac Leman were inspired by the sensation of "being unhappy in love." Simon Steiner's, copious saxophone work lends an often strident and upbeat panache to the Tulips prevailing tenor that's inclined to Roxy Music, as much as say the Psychedelic Furs, the Teardrop Explodes, and occasionally The Fall. Leman's sonic wanderlust is all over the map, not to mention a bit unruly in spots, so prepare yourself for the unexpected. A few additional songs can be experienced on their aforementioned Myspace page.
01. Talk to Me
02. Letter Box
03. Thinking Of You
04. Someone New
06. Day One
07. Badcave Romance
08. Boat Goes By
09. October Frustration
10. I Follow You
11. Hampstead Sunset
To anyone who espouses the notion that my musical persuasions are solely relegated to the past (specifically the '80s and '90s) you're right...and wrong. The emphasis on Wilfully Obscure is and will likely remain retro, but I'm still enthused about new music from both emerging and classic artists. I thought I'd run down twenty-five of my favorite releases of 2011, not only as a way to catalog them for my own remembrance (in the event senility sets in later in life) but for your amusement and recommendation as well. 2011 was not a banner year for music, but in fact slightly superior to 2010 which I conveniently summarized. On the proverbial one-to-ten scale, there were in fact no tens, or nines, or even eight and a halves (save for maybe my top pick). Nonetheless there was plenty to pique my interest and maintain my curiosity, thanks to a clutch of inspired newbies. A little synopsis follows each title on my hallowed and coveted album list. Bear firmly in mind that your results may very.
In addition there are short lists (in no particular order) for honorable album mentions, and some of my favorite reissues of 2011. Towards the end of this lengthy diatribe, I've also included a link where you can download a "Best of the Blog" compilation featuring songs from twenty of my most cherished blog entries and retro discoveries for the year, including a handful of songs from albums not previously featured. A huge thanks goes out to anyone who has contributed in any small way to Wilfully Obscure over the past year. You have sincerely made this a more robust and substantive site.
Top 25 albums of 2011:
01. Farewell Continental – ¡Hey Hey Pioneers! (Paper and Plastick) - Justin Pierre of Motion City Soundtrack goes the co-ed route with Kari Gray turning in the most neurotic and endearing rock album of the year.Bravo. 02. Maritime – Human Hearts (Dangerbird)- Ex-Promise Ring frontman Davey von Bohlen follows up 2007’s Heresy and the Hotel Choir with a record that’s nearly as visceral and inspired. 03. Doleful Lions - Let's Break Bobby Beausoleil Out Of Prison! - Space age hooks paired with an often surreal indie rock stride.Many happy returns. 04. Parachute Musical – Kill It Cut It Down - Probably my favorite singer/songwriter album of year.Piano rock bliss. 05. Yuck – s/t (Fat Possum) - Everything you've heard about them is 200% true and then some. 06. Ringo Deathstarr – Colour Trip (Sonic Unyon)- Delirious, engulfing dream-pop revisionism that virtually none of their ‘90s forebears had the smarts to come up with on their own. 07. Tim and Jean – Like What - Passion Pit-inspired techo pop from this prodigious and infectious Australia duo. Too bad it didn't see the light of day in North America.
08. Street Chant – Means (Arch Hill) - This sucker picks up where Dinosaur Jr.’s Bug left off, and furthermore, is indicative of the trajectory Sonic Youth should have charted in following up Goo.Nearly as revelatory as Yuck, and that’s saying quite a bit.
09. Pocket Genius – Nordic - Wasn't expecting something this potent after a decade hiatus. Pocket Genius bear the charismatic nonchalance and zesty reverb of The Replacements, Doughboys and Soul Asylum, in an oddly unique context.
10. Neon Indian - Era Extraña - True blue innovators.In the electronica venue, they are currently without peer.
11. Saves the Day – Daybreak (Razor & Tie) - This was my most anticipated album of 2011, and even though it didn’t quite live up to my lofty expectations, Chris Conley is still the consummate melody weaver. 12. Foo Fighters – Wasting Light - A milestone for Dave Grohl and Co.The Foo Fighters are the only arena band whose concerts I’m not embarrassed about attending.
13. Shy Mirrors – Sailed Blanks (Big School) - The Superchunk and Weezer (blue album-era) aesthetic is alive and kicking up a storm. 14. The Strokes – Angles (RCA) - Returning a few years late, and IMO a song or two short, Justin Casablancas and Albert Hammond Jr’s inspired recent solo endeavors spilled over into their fourth platter, giving the Strokes the shot in the arm they were overdue for. 15. Under Electric Light - Waiting for the Rain to Fall - A sublime fusion of shoegazer headiness, suave keyboard-enhancements and breezy melodies. Thoroughly transporting songs. 16. Male Bonding – Endless Now (Sub Pop)- Not as wall-to-wall bonkers as they were on 2010’s static laden Endless Now, but still plenty nervy and voracious. 17. Patrick Stump - Soul Punk - Soul? A few notches shy. Punk? Not a trace. Savvy? Like you wouldn’t believe. 18. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Belong (Slumblerland) - The not-so-difficult second album. Irresistible. 19. Foster the People – Torches - 2011's soundtrack to summer 20. Joey Cape – Doesn’t Play Well With Others - Another devastating helping of acoustic missives from the brainchild of Lagwagon and Bad Astronaut 21. Office of Future Plans – s/t (Dischord) - Burning Airlines with a little cello thrown in? Works for me. Welcome back Jay. 22. The Drums - Portamento (French Kiss) - Doesn't match last years debut, but strives to anyway. 23. Sea Lions – Everything You Always Wanted to Know... (Slumberland) - A stirring update of classic C86-era Brit Pop with a bevy of old school hipster influences to die for. 24. Wire – Red Barked Tree (Pink Flag) - Still on the cutting edge after all these years, delivering a record that distills many of the key sonic attributes of their five-decade long run. 25. Lunch - s/t ep - fuzzy indie rock newbies drawing on a cornucopia of '90s influences. Check out their song "Turn Around" streaming on a number of websites.
Rival Schools – Pedals
Graham Repulski – Into an Animal Together
Iron & Wine – Kiss Each Other Clean
Sway – This Was Tomorrow
Samiam – Trips
Stuyvesant – Fret Sounds
The Forms – Derealization ep
Sloan – The Double Cross
The Cars – Move Like This
The Active Set – 11
Real Estate – Days
Dot Dash - Spark>Flame>Embers>Ash
Janes Addiction – The Great Escape Artist
High Tension Wires – Welcome New Machine
The Feelies - Here Before
Fountains of Wayne - Sky Full of Holes Muler - Hope You Found a Home The Raveonettes - Raven in the Grave
Recommended reissues and compilations:
Nirvana - Nevermind super deluxe edition
Jesus and Marcy Chain - discography reissue series (Edsel)
Bitch Magnet - three CD discography (Temporary Residence)
Radio Dept - Passive Aggressive, Singles 2002-2010
Lagwagon - Putting Music in It's Place box set (Fat)
Ben Folds - The Best Imitation of Myself - 3 cd deluxe edition
Jayhawks - Tomorrow the Green Grass deluxe
Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin - Tape Club (Polyvinyl)
Sebadoh - Bakesale deluxe (Sub Pop)
The Modulators - Tomorrow's Coming (Kool Kat)
Although it's well out of my price range (and I've only heard the main album portion), it's a safe bet to say that the Beach Boys Smile Sessions box takes the cake in terms of deluxe reissues for 2011.
Finally, here's the tracklist and link to our 2011 best of the blog mix:
01. Humidifier - Nicotine
02. Slumber - Valliat
03. Dissonant Blue - Practical Harmony
04. Beauty Constant - It's One Life (demo)
05. Beat Clinic - Brenda on the Big Bed
06. Rhythm Corps (Method) - Solidarity (1984 vers)