Thursday, June 14, 2018

Indie Pop on the Pitch

No USA to root for in this World Cup, kicking off today in Russia, but there is just enough for me to hold my interest. I like to support the underdogs. Since Wales, our heroes from Euro 2016, didn't make the cut, I'll move my allegiance to Iceland this time around. More importantly, Eugene Levy as Woody Tobias, Jr. is still playing for the Red Devils, meaning I have to root for Marouane Fellaini and Belgium to go far. Then there's Croatia's horse-racing unis. Yep, that's just about all I've got.


Jimmy over at Matinée Recordings, however, is the real football fan over here, and I bet he and his kids will be glued to the tube the next month. To drum up excitement for the Cup, he has gathered five exclusive soccer-themed anthems from his international stable of indie-pop stars that make for a souvenir EP sure to bring you to your feet. Here's a quick look at the lineup in Matinée's words:

Australian stars Last Leaves kick things off with the splendid guitar pop classic "Golden Days To Come" with its call and response chorus, trumpets, and a choir of fanatics to cheer on the Socceroos. Swedish band Red Sleeping Beauty makes its Matinée debut with the glorious electric pop hit "Dressed In Yellow And Blue" featuring an infectious chorus about one life-changing goal in the summertime. Spanish duo the Royal Landscaping Society shows its support for La Furia Roja with the absolutely mesmerizing track "2010" recalling Spain's World Cup championship earlier this decade. English legends the Popguns deliver in spades with "Red White And Blue" posing the question "is it so unimaginable thinking we could win?" and using brilliant harmonies, furious guitars, cheering crowds, and handclaps to advance the English side to the next round. Finally, Brazilian popstars Pale Sunday break a six-year silence with the ace fuzz pop song "Dirt Pitch Superstars" in honor of their team's campaign for an unprecedented sixth World Cup victory.

Order your 'Official Matinée World Cup EP'. Now on with the matches.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Unearthing Early Mann Quite a Discovery

Let's wrap up this trio of posts on the genius of Jon Brion with his work as producer. I could pull out any number of albums from the shelf, and I was nearly tempted to choose something from Robyn Hitchcock or the Polyphonic Spree, but his influence was probably most felt on the early solo albums of Aimee Mann. Their relationship goes back to the waning days of 'Til Tuesday when Brion joined the band on guitar as a touring member. Brion co-wrote a couple of songs on Mann's 1993 solo debut, 'Whatever', and he also co-produced. It was a well-received album, and you could hear there was a lot more there than she had shown in the 'Til Tuesday days.

Brion was even more involved in 1995 followup 'I'm With Stupid'. He co-wrote four songs, including the two we are going to listen to today. He also played a myriad of instruments on the long player, including bass, harmonica, cello, drums, acoustic and electric guitars, keyboards, percussion and backing vocals. I have always pictured the making of 'I'm With Stupid' being a blast. Several friends stopped by to help out, such as Juliana Hatfield, Bernard Butler, Neil Innes, future hubby Michael Penn, Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook.

Mann has never been a letdown through her nine solo albums, and she is touring with Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit in my neck of the woods this September. I have never seen her perform in person, but this seems like the perfect time to right this wrong.

Choice in the Matter
Amateur

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Brighter Days With the Grays

More from Jon Brion today, this time courtesy of very short-lived power-pop supergroup (in my mind, anyway) the Grays. For their lone album, 'Ro Sham Bo', songwriting duties were more or less split into thirds between Jason Falkner, Buddy Judge and Brion. Dan McCarroll played drums and co-wrote a tune. The 1994 long player for Epic was produced by Jack Joseph Puig. He worked on both Jellyfish albums and would produce Falkner's first solo album in '96, the must-have 'Presents Author Unknown.' 'Ro Sham Bo' should have been a smash. For most of the last quarter century, it hasn't even been in print.

You know all about where Falkner and Brion went from here, but Judge and McCarroll did just fine too. McCarroll was former president and head of A&R for Warner Bros. Records, and now he is at Amazon Music as global head of originals and artist relations. Judge worked his way up at Apple Music and is now a senior product manager. If I was a co-worker, I would incessantly question them about the Grays and their other bands. Judge was in the Springfields with Ric Menck and Paul Chastain during the Sarah years, for cryin' out loud! Here is my favorite Brion-penned song song from 'Ro Sham Bo'. You might want to turn this one up.

Same Thing

Thursday, June 7, 2018

'Meaningless' Music From Renaissance Man

I was watching Greta Gerwig's excellent coming-of-age movie 'Lady Bird' last night, and it got me thinking about how much I appreciate the film scores of Jon Brion, particularly on this movie and 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind'. These days, Brion is probably known more for his film work and producing others, but I have taken a few albums off the shelf that feature Brion as power-pop star, and we'll listen to more of him next time, but let's start with his only solo album.

In the late '90s, Brion was signed to Lava Records, then an Atlantic entity, and 'Meaningless' was meant to be put out by them, but he was released from his contract after completion. Brion put out the album on his own in 2001, calling his label the tongue-in-cheek Straight to Cut-Out. This one-and-only catalog number from Straight to Cut-Out was .00001. Save for one song, Brion plays all of the instruments. That song is "Trouble", and check out this backing band for that one: Jim Keltner on drums, Benmont Tench on piano and Greg Leisz on pedal steel. His girlfriend at the time, the brilliant actress Mary Lynn Rajskub, provides backing vocals. If you feel like you've heard this one before, perhaps you have. Brion's late friend Elliott Smith used to like to cover it.

If you're a fan of Aimee Mann, Jason Falkner or Brendan Benson, you'll want to track down this album.

Trouble

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

I Tought I Taw a Postcard Tat

The family went to Portland this weekend. That meant a quick stop at Crossroads to visit my favorite record stall. Mrs. LTL and the boys waited in the car while I ran in for a quick perusal. About two minutes into my search, Mrs. LTL tapped me on the shoulder. "Uh-oh," I thought, thumbing through the records a bit faster, "my time must be up." Instead, she pointed to someone she had noticed through the window. "I think that woman has a Postcard Records tattoo," she said excitedly. "I'm going to go talk to her."

The woman seemed as shocked about running into someone who correctly identified the tattoo as we were discovering it. Turns out she and her husband own the very stall I have obsessed about on these pages all these years. Oh, and the husband has a matching Postcard tattoo to boot. Their mutual admiration of Postcard can be traced to one band... Josef K. Now that's what I call the backbone to a successful marriage! I can't tell you how exciting it is to know there are other Postcard obsessives in the Pacific Northwest. Obviously, I'm on a Josef K kick now. Let's listen to a favorite of mine from the band's final Peel Session, circa June 22, 1981.

The Missionary

Saturday, May 26, 2018

One That Got Away

As I was refiling several records in the letter G section, I came upon my very beat up copy of Al Green's 'Greatest Hits' and thought what a shame it was to have skipped. Sure, this is one of those scraping the surface collections, but this was a pivotal album in my youth and one that helped me stray into a genre much different than the punk, post-punk and new wave I was listening to at the time. Never mind if it was Orange Juice that brought me here. Point is, I got there, and it wasn't long before I had a whole mess o' soul. I skipped the good reverend because my vinyl is in sorry shape, but I present Green's music today via the 42-song double CD reissue I bought a few years ago to replace it. Thanks for everything, Mr. Green. It's been an education.

Tired of Being Alone
L-O-V-E Love

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter G, Part 16)

Today's selection will conclude this round of the letter G. For various reasons, I have skipped several favorites, including Game Theory, Grandaddy, Gene, Gorky's Zygotic Mynci, the Granite Shore, the Goon Sax and Green on Red, to name but a few. All I can say is there is a method to the madness, and one of your favorites might have been omitted because it was a relatively new release or had already featured on these pages. I assure you just about everything I have will pop up here eventually. At any rate, I agree with our pal George this letter has been one of our more interesting stops so far. I especially enjoyed listening to Gang of Four again. It had been a long while, and I have been spinning it with regularity for weeks now.

Let's wrap things up with a rather rare vinyl format. Here in America, you could get the 2006 EP "From the Cliffs" by Guillemots as a double 10" with gatefold sleeve via Verve Records. I could be wrong, but I believe it's the only 2x10" in my entire collection. Everything I have heard by Guillemots has been good, and there have been some hits, but I don't believe Fyfe Dangerfield and his band ever eclipsed their first single, "Trains to Brazil". It's an old story, a group putting out their best straight out of the chute, and even if Guillemots had never put out another song, the band would have been immortal. It's that unforgettable. Dangerfield says "Trains to Brazil" is about appreciating life. Sounds good to me.

Trains to Brazil

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter G, Part 15)

This band takes me back to 1983. I first saw Guadalcanal Diary on MTV's 'Basement Tapes'. Although they didn't win, the video for "Watusi Radio" remained stuck in my brain until I picked it up on debut long player 'Walking in the Shadow of the Big Man' in 1984. The audio for that video clip was a live take of the song taken from a performance at 688 Club, a famous Atlanta spot from 1980-1986. Although the studio version was superb, nothing topped the video version. To this day, I'm still looking for a copy of that show!

There was so much to love about Guadalcanal Diary, but my infatuation with early R.E.M. had much to do with sticking with them through a rather disappointing follow-up album, 'Jamboree', in 1986. Guadalcanal Diary was often compared to their more popular neighbor during this period, but looking back I think it's a rather lazy connection having much more to do with geography than sound. Like many great bands in that era and locale, Guadalcanal Diary were briefly signed to the great Atlanta-based label DB Records, home to Pylon, Love Tractor, and the Swimming Pool Q's, to name a few, but it wasn't too long before Elektra came a callin' and snatched them up after 'Walking in the Shadow of the Big Man'.

My favorite of Guadalcanal Diary's four albums was (and still is) '2 x 4'. Critics and the public seemed to agree. Paste Magazine hailed it as the No. 64 album of the entire decade. The return of producer Don Dixon after the sophomore slump had more than a little bit to do with it. Dixon would return in 1989 for Guadalcanal Diary's final album, 'Flip-Flop', and the single 'Always Saturday' garnered a ton of plays on '120 Minutes'. Sales weren't exactly brisk, however, and the band would commit to family life and other projects shortly thereafter. In a nutshell, if you don't already have them, you should seek out all three of the Dixon-produced LPs. They were a real trip to rip from my vinyl collection today.

Watusi Rodeo (1984)
Trail of Tears (1984)
Litany (Life Goes On) (1987)
Always Saturday (1989)

Thursday, May 17, 2018

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter G, Part 14)

JC featured the Groovy Little Numbers in his Scottish songs series two months ago, and you can get a rundown of their second of two EPs the band released on legendary label 53 & 3rd over at his place. Here are the three songs from the first EP. I don't have the original 12". Rather, I have this on a comp Avalanche Records released in 1998 that covers both EPs. I'm picturing it with the BMX Bandits comp above, also from Avalanche, because I always listen to them together. If you're interested, here is a recap of the day I bought these two records at Avalanche in Edinburgh. One of the best days ever! As for the songs, Joe McAlinden wrote the first two. A-side "You Make My Head Explode" would be the band's only hit, peaking at No. 25 on the UK indie chart in early '88. Catherine Steven takes a turn on lead vocals with the closer, and I just can't resist Mairi Cameron's wonderful trumpet on this grittier version of the Association hit from 1967. Genius!

You Make My Head Explode
Hey! Hey!
Windy

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter G, Part 13)

Better make this a quickie. As I mentioned yesterday, I'm on the clock with my Scritti Politti marathon. So many more from this letter, but I think I'll cap it at five more from G.

Goodly Thousands are not a band you would describe as prolific. The discography of these Irish lads can be boiled down to an extremely limited EP release in 2011 (50 copies), a double-A side 7" in 2011 (which was a re-recording of two songs from that first EP) and a follow-up four-song 7" EP in 2015. At least you can catch up quickly, and it's all quality. The band is so in my wheelhouse. Lots of jangle and sad-sack lyrics. The kind of tales that will make you think of Julian Henry, Harvey Williams and "Understand" era Brian. Take this litmus test to see whether you will find Goodly Thousands endearing or corny. Here are the opening lines to the 2013 song "I Wish".

I wish those were my hands in your hair
I wish I could go out without worrying you'll be there
I ought to tell you I like you the most
But my mouth gets dry every time I come close

Clearly, songwriter Colm Dawson is my kind of people. Hope he is yours too. You can get these two sentimental seven-inch singles shown above from the always dependable Shelflife Records here and here. Highly recommended. Now I'm off to work on making eye contact.

I Wish

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

When the Wife's Away, Scritti Politti Will Play

Yes, your favorite series has returned after a nearly one-year absence. I'm not one to subscribe to conspiracy theories, but hear me out. The way Mrs. LTL will tell it, she no longer works at her old job because, well, she didn't like it very much. That goes double for the extensive travel that went along with it. The eyes don't lie, however, and hers has had a little twinkle in them these past few months. She says it's because she loves her new job, one with almost no time on the road, but I know better. I swear there's just a little more twinkle because she sees me using the feather duster on my rather vast collection of Scritti Politti records. Did I ever mention she hates Scritti Politti? Well, for the next three days, Mrs. LTL is at a conference in SoCal, and I'm going to go gangbusters for Green while I can.

Here's the single that began the 'Cupid & Psyche 85' era (albeit more than a year before the album was released), and it opened many eyes to just how much polish Green would be putting on his pop. "Wood Beez" may not have gone over well with many of Scritti Politti's early fans, but the result was a legion of converts and a No. 10 hit in the UK. It even broke the Top 100 here in America (No. 91). Only "The Word Girl" the following year would be bigger for Green in his homeland. Here are all three versions. I'll warn you that last one may have a few too many mid-'80s flourishes for all but die-hard fans, but I love it.

Wood Beez (Pray Like Aretha Franklin) (7")
Wood Beez (Pray Like Aretha Franklin)
Wood Beez (Version)

Oh, and there's an anniversary in these parts. Luckily, since Mrs. LTL is away, it's a slightly less important occasion than the one you may be thinking. The blog turns 9 today. If I may be so bold, I'm rather proud of the accomplishment. Thanks to all who have stopped by through the years.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Something to Smile About

I have less than two years left in my 40s, Turns out, according to Jonathan Rauch in his new book The Happiness Curve: Why Life Gets Better After 50, although I'm probably sinking to the very bottom of my midlife slump right now, things will start looking up at 50 and continue in that direction until I'm 80. So, I've got that going for me.

Then there's this. I'm at that age when I should be weeping for the future, but I just can't because I'm hearing a multitude of whippersnappers realizing Wire is one of the greatest bands to ever grace this planet. Here are a couple of bands that aren't afraid to take a ride in the wayback machine. Blues Lawyer may not be from London, they are from Oakland, actually, but this band will make you want to dust off your copy of 'Chairs Missing'. Give "Unstable" a listen. It's even shorter than "Outdoor Miner"! You can pick up 'Guess Work' from Blues Lawyer here. Eureka California's influences are all over the place, and the boy-girl duo of Jake Ward and Marie A. Uhler aren't shy about turning it up an extra notch, but "Threads" has me thinking about the loudest moments on 'Pink Flag'. Fourth album turns out to be the charm for these two from Athens, Ga. 'Roadrunners' needs to be on your shelf.