Saturday, October 25, 2014

Feel Something



The History of Apple Pie
Feel Something
(Marshall Teller)

I love love love the 2013 debut album Out of View by The History of Apple Pie (see #2 pick of the year here).  I cannot emphasize this enough.  What it lacks in all out originality (really, what is truly original these days?), it more than makes up with sheer exuberance.  Rarely have I come across an album so filled with a clear and tangible energy.  That album bleeds with a rush of electricity and momentum and never ceases to paste a grin upon my stupid face,

Well, that was 2013, and now they are already back (like bands used to do – release an album about once a year) with their second full length.  Not a lot has changed, except bassist Kelly Lee Owens has been replaced by new member Joanna Curwood.  The band is still spearheaded by the wonderfully adorable Stephanie Min and gurus Jerome Watson and Aslam Ghauri, whose twin guitar assaults continue to astound with force rather than intricacy.  This time around, the sheer runaway whoosh of their music is tempered a bit.  That rarely captured runaway train that is their debut feels more studied here and it stifles the initial impression.  This is visceral music that tends to sound better the louder it goes, so reeling in the reigns takes a bit of getting used to.  Luckily, the band has added a little more variety to the mix to make up for the less aggressive attack.

We initially got a glimpse of their minor expansion with last year’s single “Don’t You Wanna Be Mine?”  This bouncy – echo laden pop number has more in common with early Inspiral Carpets than anything they’ve done before, especially with the addition of some crazy organ and a dance vibe.  This album is more spacious and open overall – allowing these new sounds to make their impact in a subtle way.  There’s 60’s groovy sound of “Special Girl,” which adds more new wrinkles with buzzing keyboards and what at times sounds like someone letting squealing air out of a balloon.  The piano driven shuffle of the other pre-LP single “Tame” again brings some addictive elements, even if it doesn’t have the same urgency of their earliest singles like “Mallory” and “See You,” but check out the amazing drum roll transitions from drummer James Thomas!  Wow!   The newest single “Jamais Vu” (or never seen) strikes maybe the perfect balance between where this band has come from to where they may be headed.  The song includes more deft musicianship and space, but they let things loose and unleash some serious noise during the chorus (“Who cares?  I don’t”). 

Unlike their debut this album took me a few extra listens before its charms began to batter their way into my thick skull.  The cracks started with the final three songs.  The stumbling, off-kilter beat of “Ordinary Boy,” at first feels discombobulating, until its quick transition into a wide open massive addictive sing-along chorus and I love the bridge with their trademark simple scales style guitar “solo” that is really a layering technique for an explosive instrumental rush.  Next up, the penultimate song “Snowball,” which should be a freaking huge radio hit all across the globe, reclaims this band’s strength of creating super sugary sweet melodies within bubbling over noisy chaos and I never want it to end.  Finally, the album closes with “Just Like This,” which acts as a perfect dreamy conclusion to a pretty good collection.

It will be very interesting to see where The History of Apple Pie decide to go next, but in the meantime, I’m going to enjoy the smiles they’ve been giving me the last 18 months.  What a treat.



The History of Apple Pie "Jamais Vu"


 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

We Come from the Same Place



Allo Darlin’
We Come from the Same Place
(Slumberland)

Besides poorly written music reviews and rambling directionless musings about medical issues, this blog is littered with half formed failed efforts at short stories.  These weak efforts I have sporadically posted have always portrayed moments in time.  The goal, I suppose, is to capture immediacy and meaning in the mundane – to find drama in the unspoken and undone.  Maybe this is part of why I draw so much from Allo Darlin’ (silly name aside), because singer Elizabeth Morris’ lyrics effortlessly paint emotional moments in time in so few words.  She can convey more imagery and meaning in one stanza than I could ever achieve in 4,000 bumbling words.

Allo Darlin’ have always evoked the emotional depth and poeticism of the legendary Go-Betweens, along with the simple charm of The Lucksmiths (especially their final LP 2008’s First Frost) – two long time favorites.  We Come from the Same Place is their third long player and it has a come with high expectations.  I was a little lukewarm with their 2010 debut, but once I made the effort to listen to the 2012 second album, Europe, I discovered that they were on to something pretty damn special (my #2 pick for record of the year – see review here), and it has remained on heavy rotation ever since.  There’s often a fear of what may come from a newly favorite band.  Will they stick to the same formula?  Will they expand and grow?  Will they somehow stay true to the spark that first drew us to them?  It’s a no win scenario for most artists.  If they don’t develop, people will eventually lose interest.  If they broaden their horizons, there’s no way to know if their fan base will follow them down that path (and then disparage them for making the effort).  Allo Darlin’ somehow managed the ultimate trick from debut to album number two, by sticking to the same formula, but making it sound more powerful and poignant.  The same cannot be said of the transition from Europe to this latest release, but despite sticking to their guns this is still fresh.  Maybe their strengths lie in the sheer friendliness of their sound and Morris’ words.  Paul Rains’ fresh and endlessly melodic guitar leads, Bill Bottling’s deep bass lines, and Mike Collins’ spiky drums fills are comforting, while Morris’ rich vocals and her sentimental vignettes of love found, lost, or missed from all over the world feel like postcards from one’s oldest and  dearest friend.  Their music contains a warmth and lushness that feels welcoming.

The album opens with the endearing “Heartbeat,” a tale of a drunken night out dancing with friends – probably in an effort to get over a recent break-up, so the fun and games is entrenched in lingering heartbreak (“I’m starting to think true romance is fictional”).  There actually seems to be a lot of drinking across many of these stories.  The wine comes out in “Angela” as Morris does her best to help a friend get through a recent break-up and one absolutely heartbreaking chorus: “And the hardest thing we ever have to learn is when those we love don’t love us in return.”  Meanwhile, “Kings and Queens” (originally released on the 2012 Where It’s At Is Where You Are Records 7777777 singles club release) finds our narrator hopping from bar to bar and feeling the high of being in love and having fun.  Rains joins Morris on vocals in the sweet duet “Bright Eyes” - reminding a little of the gone too soon Standard Fare, except things are okay here.  It’s nice to hear Rains unleash a little buzz and feedback on his guitar as this song climaxes.  The entire band brings an edge to “Half Heart Necklace,” where we find Morris delving into a song about falling for the bad guy.  There’s more upbeat pop perfection with “Romance and Adventure” – a song filled with mixed emotions, but the dreamy chorus put things on hold for a brief moment as Morris admits a need to revel in her sadness (“I’m just tired of being strong”).  It’s this open hearted honesty that is Allo Darlin’s strength.  When their earnest and tangibly genuine music plays, one can feel the passion of each song long before delving into the vivid short story lyrics. 

We Come from the Same Place ultimately comes to a happy ending.  The final three songs, though fraught with uncertainty, come to the realization and acceptance of finding love and a willingness to let go and enjoy the adventure.  The anticipation and nervous excitement of the record’s closing song, “Another Year,” is absolutely bursting in the slow glide and bounce of the music, while Morris describes a sketchy plane trip into the unknown and the beginning of a new life.  Because it feels so real, it is ultimately encouraging and inspirational.  Another lovely album.



Allo Darlin' "Romance and Adventure"

 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Dreamboats and Lemonade



The Yearning
Dreamboats & Lemonade
“If I Can’t Have You” digital single
(Elefant)

Ever since I began my foray into the land of the LPGA the final week of August (see my previous post: New Life), my routine has been completely off kilter.  Until earlier this week, I have not turned on my stereo at home, in my car, or dialed up tunes while at work, which may be the longest I’ve gone without making personal choices with music since I was a little kid.  I’m not sure if I needed the break, or if it was something worrisome, but I finally cracked open some sealed records that have been sitting around my living room unopened for several weeks.

It’s fitting that the first album I encountered this week is the debut LP from The Yearning Dreamboats & Lemonade.  The Yearning makes music that I have been a sucker for since I was a child – music that transports me to someplace unreal but ideal, which is where I’ve found my thoughts most of the time these days.  They magically recreate the innocence of the late 50s/early 60s doo-wop girl groups as spear-headed by producers like Phil Spector and the Brill Building songwriters and bands such as the Ronettes, the Shirelles, the Supremes, Martha and the Vandellas, and my favorite the Shangri-Las.  Songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Joe Moore, along with the stunningly beautifully voiced Maddie Dobie have created a world where going steady and holding hands and a desire for a simple and true love has not yet been spoiled by years and years of jadedness, heartbreak, and the cruel realities of what humankind can dole out.  In other words, the perfect soundtrack for a person like me looking for a renewal, a redo, and a new spark.

“Dreamboat” begins this collection with sounds of an ocean shore and classic doo-wop “dum dum do-do-wa’s” from Dobie and Alicia Rendle-Woodhouse and a waltz that is exactly about drifting away completely with a special someone and it is so damn perfect that it seems like this song has always been around to hum along with.  This anticipation dressed in classic pop is also presented beautifully in the exciting “Tomorrow Night,” as Dobie prepares to see her beau.  The first single, and my introduction to the band, “If I Can’t Have You,” brings in a dose of longing, as Dobie emotes about having to settle for someone other than that afore mentioned ‘dreamboat’ atop a drum beat and a church organ that recalls the best girl group story songs over time (The digital single also includes the non-LP b-side “Gotta Pull Myself Together,” originally by the Nolans, new wave era girl group – only the Yearning washes away the dated sound of the original production). Similarly, the vocal harmony packed “Lemonade,” also finds our girl lost in dreams of a crush unfulfilled.



Meanwhile, the jaunty “Dance with Me” brings in a deep bass groove and would make the perfect soundtrack to the busy old rock-n-roll roller skating rinks that I’ve heard about or seen in movies - not the rundown, dirty, mostly abandoned, and creepy ones I remember as a kid.     Elsewhere, Moore channels his inner Ennio Morricone with the Spaghetti Western cinematics of “Marry Me in the Morning” and the Marty Robbins sounding “Every Time I Fall in Love.”  It’s the melancholic “Chasing Shadows” that really captures me though, especially once the scooting bass line delicately begins and the Camera Obscura-esque trumpet and flute orchestrations fill the room.  My favorite song here is the finale ballad “When I Was Your Baby,” whose simplicity evokes all kinds of sadness and a lingering realization that this was all a dream.

Moore, Dobie and company have crafted pop perfection that is an ode to a musical era from long ago, but one that is timeless and still sounds fresh today. 


The Yearning "If I Can't Have You"


 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

New Life



Each year when I take time away from work and pretty much anything else that is part of my daily life to attend the annual LPGA event here in Portland, I am reminded of one very specific thing: the way I live my life needs to change.  It becomes more acute each year.

I’ve written incessantly and repetitively in this blog over the last few years about my obsession with attending this tournament – the Portland Classic (see Summerside, The Clown via LPGA.com, Numb, and Sparkle in the Rain for past recaps).   What began as a tournament that I sheepishly checked out on a whim in 2010 has now turned into my only planned days off from work and the main thing I look forward to each year.  This past weekend proved that the shine is not wearing off.  This was probably the best one yet!  Each year I throw myself into this event with more and more gusto and keep adding ways to get more involved.  It is this sign of life and burst of energy and enthusiasm that emphasizes each time how unhappy I am with much of my life outside of this annual week long event.

Morgan Pressel
 There are far too many highlights for me to even begin to scratch the surface here.  There are so many little moments that occur when the LPGA stars are just out and about everywhere you happen to venture around the golf course property.  I mean, just by chance, Morgan Pressel and I caught glances as she strode down the first hole after her opening tee shot during the first round and I threw up a silly wave hello, which she returned in kind, along with a goofy grin!  It was fun to see Hee Young Park jump into one of the local food carts to serve food immediately after shooting a seven under 65 on Saturday



Hee Young Park working at Bro Dogs




Irene Coe
I was able to meet two professionals during the early week Pro-Ams that I volunteer caddied for: the delightfully chatty and energetic Irene Coe, early Monday morning (who sadly had to withdraw from the tournament due to back pain), and the fantastic Swedish major winner Anna Nordqvist on the hot Wednesday afternoon prior to tournament play the next morning.  A friend also gave me VIP passes to the “Champions Club,” which is the hospitality tent perched behind the 18th green at all golf tournaments - the ones where people eat and drink for free and seem to live a life I don’t really understand.  


Anna Nordqvist



The big highlight for me, of course, was getting to see my favorite golfer Jee Young Lee make the cut and see her hit every shot of all four rounds. I have chronicled how I encountered Lee two years ago with my first volunteer caddy group and how she became my latest favorite golfer, but this year, as I watched her struggle and scratch for pars and wind up only in a tie for 72nd place, I wondered to myself: “why she is so fascinating to me?”  Why is it that I live and die with every shot she hits?  When she hits an approach iron to six inches for a kick in birdie, like she did on the 11th hole Sunday, my heart soars with joy and I love seeing her normal stern determined game face brighten with a huge smile.  But then when she hits a dying duck hook out of bounds on the relatively easy par 5 seventh hole to score a double bogey (also on Sunday – just after I thought to myself, “Today is going to be a good day!” - proving that I am probably a curse), I feel awful.  I feel despondent.  I feel frustrated and I feel for her.  Golf, unlike most competitive activities, is so isolating and so exposed and a player is actually paid based on performance (i.e.: the worse one does, the less money they make, which means fewer opportunities to be in tournaments – imagine that in the NBA or MLB on a game by game basis).  So much of the game is played inside one’s head and there are so many things that can go wrong and generally do.  Jee Young Lee has all of the tools to be one of the best players on tour – I have no doubt.  I have seen a lot of great players up close and she has the tools.  She can hit it really far and straight.  She has the skill to get up and down from almost anywhere (as I’ve said before, she has hit three of the most amazing shots I’ve ever seen), she can curve the ball left and right.  Her putting is very smooth and consistent.  I guess I root for her so hard, because identify with her.  Why isn’t she better?  I don’t know.  I don’t know if she lacks the focus, or the confidence, or just has bad luck, or has simply lost the fun.  I often ask the same questions of myself.  I truly believe I have the tools to do a lot of good things in this world, but everything feels like a struggle and I never feel like I can excel or can break free from standing still.  But most importantly, I don’t feel much passion for what I spend most of my time doing.  It’s a terrible cycle that I know I need to break free from, I simply am not sure how.

Jee Young Lee putting

Every time I have seen Jee Young Lee play, she has had a different caddy.  This year, her caddy Kelly, was a northwest guy – from Gig Harbor, Washington.  I learned this because the only consistent people in the gallery besides me all four days were an older couple who followed JYL shot for shot just as I did. This couple were Kelly’s parents and it is amazing and sweet how much people will talk about their kids with very little prompting.  Apparently, several years ago, Kelly decided to pick up and go to the Bandon Dunes Golf Resort (amazing place) and attend their caddy school for a few days (my kind of schooling!) and become a caddy for the resort.  Well, eventually, through another caddy he knew, he was asked to fill in on an LPGA player’s bag for a week and now he has been doing so for a few years.  He travels the world, caddies over in South Korea for their pro tour during the LPGA offseason.  He went out and grabbed his very humble dream.  He does not yet have a regular player that has hired him.  His parents were hopeful that Jee Young Lee would take him to Evian France with her in two weeks, but that had yet to be determined.

I bring this up, because I have often joked about how I hope that an LPGA player takes me on as her caddy – snagging me out of the crowd during the tournament.  How I want one of them to take me away and rescue me from the sludge and grind I dwell in 51 weeks a year.  I honestly don’t know if I would enjoy caddying.  I don’t know if I have the desire to travel that much and have the guts to live without the security of a regular paycheck (only a select few caddies get that steady money making machine player on the pro golf circuit), and I would worry about my health care.  But the message rang out loud and clear.  I need to find a new direction.  It is past time to begin forging a new life – a new direction.  I need to learn how to let go of the security of doing what I always do, and have always done, and start the search for what will make me want to get out of bed each day.  I know life will always have its ups and downs, but maybe those down times won’t seem so insurmountable if I actually feel a little better about myself.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Broken Heart Surgery



Pete Fij / Terry Bickers
Broken Heart Surgery
(Broadcast)

I’ve been sitting in front of my laptop for what seems like forever, trying to come up with something clever to say about Broken Heart Surgery - this collaboration between Pete Fijalkowski (formerly of Adorable and Polak) and Terry Bickers (of the House of Love and formerly of Levitation), which has been on repeat the entire time.  Luckily, it finally just dawned on me that I am incapable of cleverness, so I should just get on with it.

These two guys are behind some of the most exciting, influential and amazing music I have ever encountered.  I get misty eyed when I think of the first time I heard the House of Love’s stunning “Christine,” or the thrilling drive of Adorable’s “Sunshine Smile,” but those songs were a long time ago and I hate to say it, but sometimes “super groups” or collaborations between musical heroes are often lackluster or disappointing.  Wisely, Fij and Bickers have slowly and quietly unveiled their shared musical vision.  It now seems like ages ago that the embittered ballad “I Don’t Give a Shit about You” reared its sardonic head teasing us with its tasteful simplicity.  And it’s this simplicity that makes this album so damn perfect.  Instead of each of them trying to somehow recapture their youthful exuberant work and potentially creating a mess, they instead have created a singularly focused album, where every damn song is about breaking up and dealing with the notion that if you’ve just broken up with someone, then that means that up to that point, well, you’ve failed in that department every step of the way for a lifetime.  In other words, the entire collection deals with that fine line of self doubt, disgust, anger, sadness and hurt of a freshly collapsed love affair all wrapped within a wry sense of humor.

The opening “Out of Time” sets the mood for the entire album.  A softly strummed acoustic guitar guides the way as Pete Fij states reasons why this latest relationship has failed entirely in terms of technology vs. romanticism, while Bickers’ stellar guitar melody elevates the song to a higher level.  Similarly, “Downsizing” places this failed relationship into business terms, which then sends our broken hearted narrator into seeking love rehab at “Betty Ford.”  Elsewhere, in “Breaking Up” he laments how she gets all the good stuff from their split (“she got the car keys & I got run over”), while “Loved & Lost” is two minutes of quiet clich├ęs (“It’s better to have loved and lost…”) that abruptly ends with a threat to those who perpetrated such notions.  It’s this sense combination of humor and sadness that keeps this album from falling into a complete abyss, as well as the restrained, but subtlety fleshed out melodies of each song.

Naturally, I gravitate to the real heartbreaking moments of fragility of the collection.  “Parallel Girl” evokes heaviness with a tasty John Barry guitar line and a descending atmosphere, while Fij sings of the one that got away and imagining a parallel world where things actually turn out right.  Meanwhile, “Sound of Love” begins with a sense of hope (“the licking of her lips / just before the kiss”); before we soon learn that the sound of love is really the lingering memories of the good moments and the sounds of his former partner leaving.  Then there’s the painful realization in “Gravity” that we rarely can have what we most want. 

Broken Heart Surgery is, simply put, pretty damn perfect.  I recommend you find out for yourself.



Pete Fij / Terry Bickers "Betty Ford"


 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

All I Remember is Waiting



The Heart Wants
All I Remember is Waiting
(Junefourth)

It was maybe a little over a week ago when I felt like giving up this act I act of writing about music releases that have me currently inspired and excited.  The entire point of writing these things is to help expose musicians to a wider audience.  Of course, silly me, I forgot to go out and find an audience.  However, after either receiving news of upcoming albums by favorite artists, learning about some intriguing new artists, and then picking up a few new items last week, I decided that I just don’t care.  I’m going to share my thoughts anyway and hope to connect at least one person to a band somewhere along the line.  Good music gets me every time.  I cannot shut up.  Amongst the new items, the most immediate release comes from The Heart Wants, because this collection is being released as a digital download only.  So much of the music I buy on vinyl or CD is via mail order, so I often have a lag time between release date and actual arrival.  It’s also immediate in sound and has been on repeat around here for the entirety of the last week.

The debut album from The Heart Wants is actually a solo outing by Chris Y from Omaha’s Drakes Hotel.  If you are one of the only ones out there who have read any of my rough, unschooled music writing over the last several years, you will know that I am a big proponent of this fantastic duo (see references galore here).  Chris Y is the multi-instrumentalist / sound guy from that group, who very occasionally takes over lead vocals, but now we get the opportunity to hear more and not surprisingly, this is really enjoyable.

All I Remember is Waiting is not a far cry from Drakes Hotel, so if you’re already familiar and a fan, this is a must.  What may be the most startling is the sheer pure pop that we are introduced to from the get go.  The opening song, “Astronomical” has the familiar Drakes drum machine and the sparkling meshing of guitars and keyboards, but Chris Y eschews some of the veneer of mystery and intrigue and goes straight for the catchy direct hook and a chorus that is wordy, but still gets lodged into repeat mode into the consciousness.  And don’t get me started on that upwards bound guitar line and the chiming bridge.  This rivals the best pop nuggets of Ian Broudie’s sometimes brilliant Lightning Seeds 25 some odd years ago.  The similar sounding ‘Tales Like Factories” again provides busy breathy harmonies during each verse, before opening up into a direct hit chorus (which features an Amy Drake appearance on backing vocals).  I’ve never so happily sung “your heart dies” to myself so much.  Another three minute upbeat pop single comes along with “Evil Friends,” which closes with a majestic orchestral style keyboard flourish that for some reason reminds me of the beautiful instrumental second half of New Order’s goofy “Every Little Counts” (Brotherhood 1986).

The amazing music and lyrical imagery that help make Drakes Hotel so impressive continues unabated throughout All I Remember is Waiting.  “Leave the Scene” is a mid tempo exploration and reflection about ridding oneself of life’s regrets, mistakes and stumbles.  The clever chorus of “leave the scene on the cutting room floor” is a nice idea, but then we begin to realize that song is really a plea to an unrequited love and the palpable sense of loss and impending heartbreak makes the idea of getting rid of certain “scenes” more urgent.  “Currents in Shade” a dark sounding slow burning song that introduces some striking piano into the musical mix and evokes the darkness of a Joy Division song.  Elsewhere, the piano returns prominently on the album’s dramatic centerpiece, “Stay Home.”  The “Procession”-style keyboard wash of “Stay Home” augments the heavy crashing of piano chords (reminds me of the piano on The Hurting – era Tears for Fears - think “Ideas of Opiates”), but instead of feeling the menace of the oncoming storm, this song provides warmth and comfort, especially when the guitars and drums kick in.

The album closes with two of my favorite songs.  “Amelia” is a combination love song and plea for access into the thoughts and mind of his object of affection.  The dramatic chorus is an alarming juxtaposition to the gliding effortless sounding flow of each verse.  Meanwhile, the perfect set closing “Light is Low’ provides a solemn and resigned farewell.  It leaves the listener satisfied, but filled with lingering thoughts and questions.

Again, if you’re already a fan of Drakes Hotel, this will be right up your alley.  If you’re not, well, you should be.  Word has it that a new Drakes Hotel album is on the horizon, so Chris Y’s foray into creating The Heart Wants album only gives us all a chance to hear more of this incredible music!  Couldn’t ask for more.



The Heart Wants "Leave the Scene"


 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Honeyblood



Honeyblood
Honeyblood
“Bud” 7”
(Fatcat)

When I first heard Honeyblood’s single “Bud,” back on a very chilly evening last winter, I instantly fell in love.  They somehow captured the momentous bright shining energy of Belly’s “Feed the Tree” and crossed it with the lazy hot summer afternoon vibe of Mazzy Star’s “Halah.”  For anyone that has known me for a long time, they most likely know that I played those two songs to death upon their respective releases twenty plus years ago.  These were songs that I simply could not get enough of.  Over and over again, I’d play them.  “Bud” has been exactly the same.  The vinyl may have to be replaced soon, because the chiming guitar, crashing cymbals and soaring dual vocal chorus of Stina Tweeddale and Shona McVicar reminding me that “it’s not your fault at all” have been like a blissful narcotic, but the grooves are starting to dull from overuse.  When I was lucky enough to see Honeyblood open for We Were Promised Jetpacks back in February, I was noticeably disappointed that they didn’t follow their performance of “Bud” with a second one, because I always listen to it at least twice.  If there are any copies of the single left, I highly recommend tracking down the vinyl, but at least snag the download, because the B-side “Kissing on You” is also a wonderful piece of pure pop a la Best Coast, but as filtered through early Spinanes (think “Suffice” or ‘Spitfire”) guitar/drum simplicity.

Honeyblood "Bud"

It seems like it’s been eons since I’ve been waiting for Honeyblood’s album to finally be released, but finally it has arrived and it does not disappoint.  This Glasgow duo’s self-titled debut lives up to the promise of “Bud” and has me brimming with excitement.  I’ve never been one to take much stock in historical heritage, but sometimes I wonder if the bit of Scottish in my family’s bloodline is why I love so many Scottish bands and why I approach almost anything that I love with at least a small touch of dread and trepidation.  The opening song “Fall Forever” begins with an urgent guitar strum before bursting into a Pale Saints-like hazy and grinding fuzz of beautiful noise that somehow both finds comfort and solace in the early excitement of a fresh new crush, yet the lyrics are filled with harsh images of blood, lambs to the slaughter, punching and scratching.  In other words, this song is pretty much perfect.  It simply continues on from there.  Stina’s vocals and lyrics effortlessly roll off her tongue in such a natural conversational way.  In “(I’d Rather Be) Anywhere but Here,” she rattles off her escape plans from her childhood locale and common theme, but here it sounds so tangibly identifiable and the music is absolutely brilliant.  The echo-laden guitar layers and steady heavy beat evoke the huge sound of Whipping Boy’s 1995 masterpiece Heartworm.  The similar sounding “Biro” presents us with allusions to frustrations and the futility of writing about the human condition (“If I threw my pen into the sea / I know there will be someone to write after me”).  When does one cross the line from identifiable troubles to simply whining? 

“Bud” reappears on the album in an altered state, which of course, gives me ample excuse to begin listening to it as much as I did last winter.  Peter Katis’ production on this version is interesting, because he strips away the Mazzy Star blur, which gives Stina’s vocals a softer plaintive feel and Shona’s drums a bigger impact.  Luckily, Katis does not mess with the glory of that spectacular chorus.  Newest single “Super Rat,” is a vicious indictment of someone who has wronged them in love and with zero subtlety with a chorus of “I will hate you forever” and this: “SCUMBAG!  SLEAZE!  SLIMEBALL!  GREASE!  You really do disgust me!!” 

The second half of this album loses zero momentum.  “Choker” begins with a classic rock riff and pounding rock drums, all while providing a sinister peak into a troubling relationship (“What doesn’t kill you / just makes you stronger”).  Meanwhile, “No Spare Key” provides one of the sparest arrangements, Stina’s free flowing words, and a bridge to die for.  The pure pop side of Honeyblood shines through as “Joey” comes in with a bounce in its step and some fantastic vocal melodies, as does the handclaps and pop waltz of the breezy “Fortune Cookie.”  They also bring on song straight ahead rock with the shout-along ‘Killer Bangs” and another diss with “All Dragged Up” (“Why won’t you grow up?”). 

“Braidburn Valley” closes this incredible debut with a moody isolated autumnal walk outside that slowly reveals some kind of deep hurt, before breaking into a blistering buzz revealing that the hurt is both mental and physical (“Another fucking bruise / This one looks just like a rose”).  The simple imagery is amazing and intriguing and tells so much more than the thrifty use of lyrics.

All I can say is: get the album, see them live, and support this music.



Honeyblood "Super Rat"