Saturday, July 22, 2017

Last Listen From a Distant Drive

Prolific would not be the best word to describe the frequency of posts in these parts since the LTL Family returned from the Southwest. I'll try to do better. This will conclude the vacation snapshots. I'm sure this is starting to feel like Grandpa's tired slideshow at the family reunion.

Our trip to the Utah-Nevada-Arizona corridor wouldn't have been complete without some time at the Grand Canyon, and that's where I'm taking you today. Mrs. LTL and I used to go to Arizona every year to catch our beloved Chicago Cubs during spring training. After the birth of our first child, we had this ridiculous notion our life wasn't going to change one bit, and we took him along to spring training when he was a year old. Needless to say, that marked the last time we caught the Cubs in Mesa. That also meant we hadn't been to the Grand Canyon in 13 years, and our kids had never been there. It's a picturesque setting that never gets old. As usual, these photos don't do the ol' place any justice.

Due to the excessive heat, there was a slight haze I had never dealt with since we always saw the Grand Canyon in March when there would be snow. Still, my boys didn't know any better, and they enjoyed the different shades of orange and red that made up the rocky terrain.

We have plenty of elk here in the Pacific Northwest, but their relatives around the Grand Canyon were much much bigger. This fella was enjoying his leafy dinner at sunset.

As I mentioned in the previous two posts, I had many hours on the road to listen to the mix of 2017 songs I put together just before I left. The trip from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon was about four hours (one way!). Quite a few albums got a good airing, including two from Australia. I highly recommend 'Living Right' by Glaciers and 'Benefits of Solitude' by Dag. Both groups obviously grew up listening to the right bands from their home country. Like many of you, I have fallen hard for the charms of Sacred Paws, too. Can't get enough of those horns! The new single from the Fireworks is bound to be near the top of my songs of the year list. Beth Arzy from the Luxembourg Signal is fronting the band now, and I'm truly smitten.



As darkness set in on the vast highway, I put on slow burner 'Please Be Mine' by Molly Burch. It's an album I have had for quite a few months, but I believe the environment had something to do with me becoming completely taken by her sound this time around. You'll think of Dusty and Patsy and even Spector at times when the percussion kicks in. I never expected this right turn from our friends at Captured Tracks, but it has been most welcome.



I could go on and on, but that's what December is all about. OK, two more, then. I don't get a chance to go local too often, but Seattle's own Zebra Hunt is right up my alley. Lots of jangle and with a hint of that Australian scene I have been going on and on about since Chook Race, Community Radio and the Goon Sax came into my life last year. You're going to want to put latest album 'In Phrases' on your short list.



And now on to my home away from home. I do miss the Chicago scene (and Portillo's hot dogs!), and hearing 'Lost World' from Star Tropics has me thinking about the old days. As you must know by now, I'm mostly about '80s indie pop and all of the jangle that comes along with it. Star Tropics hearken back to that time but to a different branch of the tree. I have read the band is into the Sarah scene (there is even a song call "Another Sunny Day"), but what I have been hearing is New Order all over new album 'Lost World.' I guess it doesn't matter much what influenced their sound. I just know it's pushing my buttons.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

More Songs For a Distant Drive

Did I mention our trip to the Southwest was a scorcher? I took this photo of the dashboard as we pulled into our hotel in Las Vegas after a long day of hiking and sightseeing. Note the time and temperature. The hottest day of all was when we ventured to Hoover Dam. We were ready to jump into Lake Mead when the mercury read 116 degrees! I have been to the Palm Desert a few times in my life, but I don't believe I have ever been in heat quite like that.

Seeing Hoover Dam was well worth the sweat and panting. I was filled with mixed emotions as I studied the beauty of the structure. It was built during the Great Depression, and I was fascinated by not just the mighty structure itself, but the beautiful art-deco details and finishes as well. Then your mind wanders to those that put themselves in harm's way and even died to complete the project. I couldn't help but wonder whether we would or even could build something this grand today. Here are a few more shots from that memorable day.





This has been a fantastic year for reissues and compilations, and I already have a solid top 10 with almost a half year to go. Here are a couple that got quite a bit of play while watching the odometer.


'Three Wishes: Part Time Punks Sessions' came out at the beginning of the year with little fanfare, and that's a real travesty. I mean, c'mon! This is the June Brides, 14 Iced Bears and Aberdeen recorded live from Los Angeles in 2011 by Rob Campanella of Brian Jonestown Massacre in what the Brides' Phil Wilson described as "the most rock 'n' roll day of my life." For indie-pop fans of a certain age, and you know who you are, hearing a new recording of 14 Iced Bears for the first time in 25 years should be enough to get you seeking this one out... along with that old anorak up in the attic.


Moving ahead a few years, if you have any recollection of German indie-pop label A Turntable Friend Records, then you know their stable of stars included the likes of Love Parade, the Apple Moths, the Claim, the Rileys, Boyracer and many more. I picked up 'The Test of Time' compilation at my local indie shop just before taking off on the trip, and I have never been happier to find this one in the bins because the shipping on this one would have been ridiculous. Forty tracks on three heavy pieces of vinyl housed in a dazzling tri-fold sleeve that includes an album-sized scrapbook of the label's history.

The packaging is nothing short of perfection. What a feast for the eyes. I especially love how you get a photo of the front and back sleeves of all the releases along with a comprehensive discography. There's just so much to look at while you're listening. 'The Test of Time' is a definite contender for compilation of the year! Here is a peek inside. Like those pictures from Hoover Dam, I wish I was able to take better photos because this doesn't really do the packaging justice, but here goes...

Back next time with one more go around of music and photos from the family vacation.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Music for a Distant Drive

The family unit is back from a terrific trip to the Southwest. There were few sing-a-longs like above, but there isn't much better for a music lover than hundreds of miles of road with little to do but catch up on recent releases. The vehicle we picked up in Las Vegas had satellite radio. So there was something for everyone in the car... for a while, anyway. Sooner or later, however, I was going to get out my iPod to listen to that killer comp of songs from the first half of 2017 I assembled just before we left. The next few posts will feature some favorite moments from that list.

This is a picture I took as we were leaving Zion National Park after a picturesque day of hiking. We stayed as long as we possibly could, but when the moon made its appearance, it was obvious we squeezed as much out of the day as we possibly could. Here are a couple of inspired covers that are sure to make my list of favorite songs come December. Cattle is a Japanese quartet (two fellas, two gals) that just missed making my top 10 albums list in 2015 with "Somehow Hear Songs." The new five-song EP "Slow Sailor" continues to float my boat with their beefy side of dreampop. You'll want to turn up this take of Ride's 1992 classic "Twisterella."



This is another shot from Zion, along the Narrows. This shady hike through the water was the perfect way to cool off. The temperature peaked at 106 degrees that day. Here's another cover that grabbed me on the drive. The Luxembourg Signal is a favorite that's had nothing but praise on these pages. In fact, only the Popguns kept the band's self-titled debut from topping my list of best albums in 2014. Shelflife recently released a new 7" by the Luxembourg Signal, and both sides of the "Laura Palmer" single are beautiful. There was a certain amount of risk in their faithful rendition of "Let's Make Some Plans" by Close Lobsters because the Wedding Present's version is already so well known, but there is plenty of room in the world for more Close Lobsters! We may hear from Beth Arzy's other band later in the week. More from my 2017 mix, along with more photos from the trip, next time.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Top Single in the Subway Organization Poll Is...

The votes are in, and I would call the winner of the best Subway Organization single a mild upset. Immediate thoughts went to Russian hackers, but is the Kremlin really filled with fans that wanted to make sure Edinburgh's finest got their moment some 32 years after the single hit the indie chart? Yes, the Subway Organization's very first single, the Shop Assistants' "All Day Long EP," also known as the "Shopping Parade EP," came out on top. Nearly half of all voters (48%) checked the box for Shop Assistants. The Flatmates, by far, got the most total votes, but the band's myriad of singles split voters. Still, "Shimmer" fared well and was clicked on 41% of all ballots. Going in, I would have bet on "Ask Johnny Dee" to take this thing, but then again, I voted for a different single from the Chesterf!elds. In case you're interested, here are my top 5 (in order). Thanks to all of you who participated.

My Ballot
The Flatmates - "I Could Be in Heaven"
The Chesterf!elds- "Completely and Utterly"
The Rosehips - "Room in Your Heart"
The Flatmates - "Shimmer"
Razorcuts - "Sorry to Embarrass You"

Complete Results of the Subway Organization Singles Poll
1. Shop Assistants - "All Day Long EP" (aka "Shopping Parade EP")
"All Day Long"
"Switzerland"
"All That Ever Mattered"
"It's Up to You"
2. The Flatmates - "Shimmer"
3. Soup Dragons - "Whole Wide World"
4. The Chesterf!elds - "Ask Johnny Dee"
5. Razorcuts - "Sorry to Embarrass You"
5. The Flatmates - "I Could Be in Heaven"
7. The Flatmates - "Happy All the Time"
8. Soup Dragons - "The Sun is in the Sky EP"
8. The Chesterf!elds - "Completely and Utterly"
8. The Rosehips - "Room in Your Heart"
11. The Chesterf!elds - "A Guitar in Your Bath EP"
12. Choo Choo Train - "Briar Rose"
12. The Flatmates - "Heaven Knows"
12. Choo Choo Train "High"
12. The Charlottes - "Love in the Emptiness"
16. Razorcuts - "Big Pink Cake"
16. The Flatmates - "You're Gonna Cry"
18. The Groove Farm - "Surfin Into Your Heart"
18. Korova Milk Bar - "Do It Again"
18. The Fastbacks - "Wrong Wrong Wrong"
21. Bubblegum Splash - "Splashdown EP"
21. Rodney Allen - "Circle Lone EP"
21. The Groove Farm - "Driving in Your Car"
21. The Fastbacks - "In the Winter"
25. The Clouds - "Tranquil"
25. The Rosehips - "I Shouldn't Have to Say"
25. The Groove Farm - "The Big Black Plastic Explosion"

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Did You Vote for Your Favorite Subway Single?

My vacation is coming to an end. Last call. Polls close at 11:59PM on Sunday. For you indie-pop fanatics out there, here's a little hint on the proceedings. The photo above is taken from a single that has fared very well in exit polls. Do you recognize it? Vote below...

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Here's Where Your Vote Really Counts!

By the time you read this the LTL family will be on its way to the sizzling states of Nevada, Utah and Arizona for hiking at Zion National Park and the Grand Canyon. In the meantime, in an attempt to keep things interesting on these pages, I cooked up a little poll for you indie-popsters to ponder. When you finish voting, feel free to participate in some exit polling via the comments section, and check back July 10th for what are sure to be riveting results.