Sunday, January 30, 2011

Reviewed :: Ancient Kids - Odd City

Normally bands are formed long before recording a debut album, however Jordan Robson Cramer decided to write and record the entirety of Odd City before putting a band together. Ancient Kids features past and current members of Montreal's best and brightest, including Islands/Unicorns, Adam & The Amethysts, Anemones, not to mention Cramer's other band Sunset Rubdown. Odd City was recorded from November of 2009 to August of 2010 with Jordan playing nearly every instrument in a loft space recording studio known as Digital Bird with Martin Horn handling production duties.

Admittedly we are big fans of Jordan's work in the Spencer Krug [Wolf Parade] fronted Sunset Rubdown, but we were unsure of what to expect from his first solo outing. What we found was one of the most varied and infectious records we've heard in a quite some time. Odd City starts with the rousing fuzz pop of See Through, which leads into Crystal Family a gorgeous piano driven ballad that reminds us of Sophomore Slump era Grandaddy, but after a couple of minutes angular guitar lines and pounding drums enter, which makes for one of the albums most immediately satisfying tracks. Throughout Odd City Jordan Robson Cramer displays penchant for writing catchy as hell choruses and the uncanny gift of delivering deadpan lyrics over sunshine pop which allows him to never sound overwrought or dramatic. This is best exhibited in our current favorite, Slowing Down (Already), when Cramer delivers the line "wintertime just has a way of fucking with our heads", not only timely but dead on. As a whole Odd City works beautifully mostly because it's an eclectic and engaging record that comes damn close to pop perfection.

Ancient Kids have offered Odd City at there Bandcamp site for free with the recommendation that you pay $8 and we wholeheartedly concur. So if you like what you hear below (and we think you will), plunk down some of your hard earned cash.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Plan Accordingly :: Hands and Knees

Hands and Knees will celebrate the release of their terrific new LP, Wholesome tonight at Great Scott. Be There.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

This Weeks Short Bursts ::

Ringo Deathstarr + Say Hi + Explosions in The Sky

Austin, TX pop noise makers,Ringo Deathstarr will release their debut LP, Colour Trip on March through Sonic Unyun Records on March 8th. Even with the comparisons to My Bloody Valentine and Jesus and The Mary Chain we hesitate to toss the shoegaze tag, mostly due to the bands true pop sensibilities that we hear under the sea of noise and feedback. According to fronter Elliott Fraizer, Colour Trip represents a full realization of the bands vision, a vision through a druggy haze of sound. The band heads off to Europe next month for a tour supporting Dean Wareham before returning home for a U.S. tour including a hometown gig at this years SXSW.

Ringo Deathstarr - So High
Shame on us for being surprised by the arrival of a new album from Say Hi, after all 2009's Oohs and Aahs remains in frequent rotation around here. The new record is another superbly titled offering,Um, Uh Oh issued earlier this week on
Barsuk. The album is already receiving some well deserved praise and is being called Eric Elbogens most mature and introspective song cylce to date. Say Hi play The Middle East on March 6th with Blair and Yellow Ostrich.

Say Hi - Devils

We would be big fat liars if we didn't admit to how damn excited we our about the prospect of a new recording from post-rock goliaths, Explosions in The Sky. The bands new LP is entitled Take Care, Take Care, Take Care will be issued by the fine folks at Temporary Residence on April 26th. The six track album was recorded in West Texas with John Congleton. Explosions in The Sky will play Radio City Music Hall with Low and Eluvium on April 6th for as of now the bands only scheduled U.S. date.

Take Care, Take Care, Take Care Album Teaser

Friday, January 21, 2011

Hallelujah The Hills + The Capstan Shafts January 18, 2011| T.T. The Bears

*Photo courtesy of Jon Bernhardt

Since the release of Revelation Skirts, The Capstan Shafts latest hookfest and one of
our 10 favorite records of 2010, we've been feverishly checking the bands on-line haunts for an announcement of a Boston area show. So when this pairing with Hallelujah The Hills was announced it was a no brainer, we had to be there. Dean Wells arrived in Boston Tuesday night fronting a power pop trio, not the four or five piece incarnation that he had toured a few months earlier and blasted through 13 songs in about 35 minutes. A charming albeit all too brief performance that left us wanting more.

Somehow over the past five or so years we have inexplicably missed every opportunity to catch Hallelujah The Hills play live. We own all the records and play them frequently but something always seemed to prevent us from catching one of our favorite bands, local or otherwise. Well we're happy to report that we finally put that gross misjudgment to an end this past Tuesday night. With the band about to start recording their fan funded third album next week our expectations were high to hear the yet to be recorded material as well as selections from the bands impressive back catalog and HTH did not disappoint. The bands six members took up nearly every inch of the small stage at TT's for a cacophony of guitars,drums, brass, and strings for a concise and impassioned set. The night hit it's high point when frontman Ryan Walsh regaled us with a story of an unknown benefactor of the bands soon to be recorded Some of Them We Lost 7", a raucous track that treads the line between pop and noise beautifully. Maybe it was that we finally got to hear songs like, Wave Backwards to Massachusetts and A Guide To The Worlds Most Fantastic Monsters in their raw and unfettered states or maybe it was the fact that Hallelujah The Hills are a powerful and dynamic live act. Either way they were well worth the wait.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Transmissions :: Boat

As far as we're concerned March 22nd can't come soon enough. That is of course the release date for Dress Like Your Idols, the new long player from Seattle's self proclaimed purveyors of sloppy pop, Boat. Luckily for us the band has offered this video for (I'll Beat My Chest Like) King Kong to hold us over. The band has also issued the track on 7" with two b-sides, including the much ballyhooed, Landlocked featuring John Roderick of The Long Winters. Both releases are being issued by Magic Marker.

Order the (I'll Beat Mt Chest Like) King Kong 7"
Pre-order Dress Like Your Idols

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Ash Gray Proclamation Presents ::
An Interview with Ryan Walsh of Hallelujah The Hills

Hearing Hallelujah The Hills 2006 debut, Collective Psychosis Begone was something of a eureka moment for us, one of those records that you can't wait to tell your friends about or anyone who will listen, for that matter. With Colonial Drones, Boston's indie pop titans managed not only to match the excellence of their debut, they trumped it with a stunning recording of fuzzed up pop and infectious balladry just 3 years later. This past November HTH turned to their fans and Kickstarter, to launch a campaign that gave fans the opportunity to pre-order the bands yet to be recorded third full length. The Kickstarter Experiment was designed to assist with the expenses of recording and releasing a new record while the band is in a limbo period with their current label.

Hallelujah The Hills linchpin Ryan Walsh recently agreed to field a few question from us, we discuss The Kickstart Experiment, the recording of the bands next record, and what we can expect tonight, from the bands first show of 2011 with The Capstan Shafts. We'd like to thank Ryan for his time and willingness to share.

Bryan Hamill: After finding the band in a pause period with your label Misra Records, you decided to turn to Kickstarter for the HTH III experiment, can explain what led to that decision and how you feel about the strong response from Hallelujah The Hills fans who contributed to the recording of the next album?

Ryan Walsh: Albums cost money to create (at least the type of one we want to make right now). Without label support you can raise the money but doing that might delay you a year. A year in band years is like 2 in human years. If you sit on a bunch of songs for 2 years by the time you're ready to record them they've grown stale. So, hoping to avoid that we rolled the dice hoping a portion of our fan base would be interested in being Jr.Record Producers. And they were! It's amazing.

Bryan: How has the recording sessions been going?

Ryan: They actually begin next week. We'll record 2 songs, completely, in a 24 hour period, once a month, through out the winter and spring.

Bryan: Can you give us any hints of what we can expect from III?

Ryan: Back to our roots! A return to form! A concept album about what we'll sound like 50 years from now! And other awful conceits!

OK, that was rude. I apologize. 9 songs. 35 minutes. I really think people talking about their next work is probably the source of some of the most unreliable, way-off comments in all of interview history. There's no perspective. I might as well be a meteorologist (been trying to get a good public fight going with a TV weatherman for years now).

Bryan: On Tuesday Hallelujah The Hills play their first show of the new year with The Capstan Shafts at Great Scott, can we expect to hear any of the new material that you've been working on in the studio?

Ryan: Yes, at least 3 songs that will be on the next album are on the set list. I'm looking at the set list right now. Is it a bad idea to write out my in-between song banter on the set list? After song 2 I wrote, "Insult someone in front row, make them feel small, then mention the merch table."

Bryan: How did the pairing with The Capstan Shafts come about?

Ryan: I forget how I first heard the Capstan Shafts but I liked them immediately. I wrote Dean and he started sending me these albums. Lots of them. It was like The Jam Of The Month Club. I've tried to get him to play live here for years. He's been on bills before but then fate intervened. 3rd times a charm.

Bryan: Back in October you suffered the untimely departure of your drummer, documented in a youtube video, how has the band soldiered on with that absence?

Ryan: To be honest, it was fairly painless. It was a shocking night and a tremendous pain in the ass in the moment. I'm glad that we finished the set. I hope it was at least entertaining for the crowd that night.

Bryan: Last fall the Boston music scene lost one of its most ardent supporters and local music champions, Billy Ruane. Can you tell us how you first encountered him?

Ryan: I was sitting at an outdoor patio in the front of a venue in Knoxville, TN. An employee of the club came out with the land-line phone and said, "There's someone on the phone looking for Ryan Walsh." I said, "That's me" ready to hear some awful news from back home or something. A voice said, "Hi this is Billy Ruane and I'd like to book you for the Middle East anniversary concert I'm putting together." That was the beginning of the rocket ship ride. I knew him very briefly, relatively, but every encounter was memorable.

Bryan: What did it mean for you to able to perform at Billy's memorial birthday bash last November?

Ryan: A whole lot, truly.

Bryan : For the forthcoming album, did you have the songs written before bringing them into the studio, or did you take a more collaborative approach to writing, involving the other members of the band.

Ryan: I'm writing as we record, as we go. Now I'm noticing I'm starting to write about writing as you go. One new song called "Get Me In A Room" is sorta about that and how people develop relationships with songs. I think some people open up more to their favorite songs than they do their family, ya know?

The band, as always, is an arranging juggernaut. I bring in a bare bones demos and then we really have a lot of fun shaping it all together. It's a true collaboration.

Bryan: You recently shared Nightingale Lightning, a song slated to appear on the new album for free download at your official website as well as your newly launched Bandcamp site, that track was culled from a show you played this summer in Toronto, are there any plans to release that show for a future HTH Live album?

Ryan: Maybe as a downloadable free extra for something. It was one of our favorite performances, even from the moment we first got off stage, but the recording isn't perfect. There's some Chatty Cathys near the microphone that becomes kinda bothersome during the quieter songs. So, "Live From Toronto On Woody Guthrie's Birthday" might see the light of day but probably nothing too official.

Tonight Hallelujah The Hills play T.T. The Bears with The Capstan Shafts and Nowhere Lights. A line up not to be missed.

Grab tickets from TT's/Ticketweb

Friday, January 14, 2011

Reviewed :: Robert Pollard - Space City Kicks

Just like clockwork, the new year arrives and Robert Pollard is ready to unleash another slew of releases to the faithful. With upcoming collaborations with former GBVer', Doug Gillard on the forthcoming Lifeguards LP and Mars Classroom, in an almost too good to be true line up that fetures Big Dipper's Gary Waleik, and Pell Mell's Robert Beeman, to be released this March. Not to mention the next Circus Devils or Boston Spaceships album that he'll write this weekend or next. But, first up on Pollard's 2011 docket is the release of an 18 track solo offering, Space City Kicks.

The material found on Space City Kicks treads the line between charming pop experimentations and fully realized rock anthems. From the brash punk of the albums opener, Mr. Fantastic Must Die! to the perfect power pop of Touch Me in The Right Place at The Right Time, Space City Kicks is the ideal album for those still coming down after the recent GBV reunion and proof that Bob's got plenty of tricks left in his bag. He achieves perfect balance with seemingly, off the cuff skeletal snippets and fist pump inducing pop rock, the likes of, we haven't heard since, Alien Lanes or more recently on 2006's superb,From A Compound Eye.

Once again Robert Pollard recorded the tracks at Waterloo Sound in Kent,OH with assistance from frequent collaborator, producer, and multi-instrumentalist Todd Tobias. Space City Kicks continues the tradition of Pollard solo albums by offering enough immediately satisfying tracks to hook us in on first listen, but the real pay off comes after repeated listens when the albums best moments reveal themselves. Pollard sounds as loose as we've heard him in a while especially after last years reflective and poignant, Moses on a Snail. Space City Kicks incorporates the best of Bob's post-GBV output; marrying the abrasion of Circus Devils with the big hooks of Boston Spaceships and the melancholy of quieter moments found on past solo releases. Space City Kicks is a superbly crafted pop record riddled with memorable hooks abundant melodies and to our ears the first great record of 2011.

[MP3/Stream] Robert Pollard - Touch Me in The Right Place at The Right Time

Pre-order Space City Kicks, released on January 25th on Guided By Voices, Inc.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Transmissions :: Big Troubles Live in D.C.

New Jersey's noise pop stalwarts, Big Troubles played Washington D.C.'s, Subterranean A last weekend and offered up this brand new, unnamed, but completely fantastic new track. Enjoy it while we continue our begging campaign in hopes of convincing Big Troubles to play a Boston show in the very near future!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Three Must See Shows to Kick off 2011

As you can tell from our overflowing show list to the left, 2011 is putting it's best foot forward with an impressive line up of shows. With so many Live music options this winter we thought we would take a few minutes to point out a few that we're planning on making room on our dance cards for this month and recommend you do the same.

First and foremost we must call your attention to a show featuring two of our favorite purveyors of guitar pop and Pollardesque song titles, Boston's Hallelujah The Hills and former Vermonter Dean Wells' The Capstan Shafts. Both bands play TT The Bears on January 18th. Expect more hooks than your Granpa's tackle box, none of which will be rusty however. Buy tickets now via TT's /Ticketweb.

We're all kinds of excited to catch Boston's hard to pin down popsters Hands and Knees when they celebrate the release of their excellent new LP, Wholesome on January 27th with assistance from Doomstar!, Fedevess, and Weymouth's skuzz poppers, The Needy Visions. Grab tickets for the Wholesome album release.

Hands and Knees are still offering Wholesome on their Bandcamp page as a free stream, but we ask you to do the right thing and through them a few bucks and buy it.

Also check out this footage of Hands and Knees playing the pRIMORDIAL SOUNDS Showcase last month the the Middlesex Lounge, performing Dancing On Your Tears.

The fact that the shows we're most looking forward to all feature local bands is a testament to the current state of the Boston scene and we're not done yet. On January 29th we will find the excuse we've been looking for to catch a show in the newly opened Brighton Music Hall, when Mean Creek celebrates the releases of their new Hemophiliac EP,with Taxpayer, Girlfriends,and Dirty Dishes. Mean Creek recorded the new EP at Head Gear Studios with John Agnello (Sonic Youth). You can catch a glimpse into the recording process as well as the art of achieving the perfect drum sound, through a couple videos the band has posted to their tumblr site

Mean Creek - The Comedian

Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Video :: Centro-matic

In 2001 we were on a pretty rabid Promise Ring/Vermont bender when we were given our proper introduction to Denton, TX's Centro-matic through = Opportunity, the split EP they released with Davey von Bohlen's Vermont. It took just one listen to the tracks contributed by Centro-matic before we were completely hooked on the superb songwriting of fronter Will Johnson. 10 years have passed and as far as we can tell Johnson keeps on getting better and better, weather releasing music with Centro-matic, South San Gabriel, or as a solo artist Johnson seems incapable of writing a bad song. Centro-matic have always seemed to be priority #1 with Johnson and the band have just announced the release of a new album, Canidate Waltz, to be released in April. We know very little about the new album other than this new video that band posted to their site on New Years Day. Only in My Double Mind is decidedly more pop than we've heard from the band before, but it's also immediate, accessible, and pretty damn close to perfect.