BABIES s/t

What happens when Cassie Ramone (The Vivian Girls) and Kevin Morby (Woods) take a break from their acclaimed projects? They make Babies – and it’s a beautiful rosy cheeked love child of sound. Just after Valentines Day The Babies released their self titled full length on Shrimper, and since then it has been a favorite rotating on my turn table. The record flows from hit to hit with lo-fi catchy gems perfect for the coming summer. If you like garagey boy/girl vocals it will be hard to ween you off The Babies. It’s no surprise that opening track “Run Me Over” has been deemed an unofficial single of the album. The track starts slowly with a surfy guitar before breaking into a propelling garage rock jam, setting you up for a collection of nicely crafted pop tunes. Over all, The Babies sound is easy to digest and isn’t to be taken too serious. After all, the band was formed to be a fun side project and the songs have a timeless quality. “Breakin’ The Law” will make you flash back to the moments when you met your first partner in crime. Mid album Babies go on to channel the Velvet Underground in campfire sing-a-long “Voice Like Thunder” while “Meet Me In The City” showcases Morby’s raw vocal quality that is similar to a young (un-jaded) Frank Black. The tail end of the album is more artistic and jam oriented with tracks “Wild I” and “Wild 2” where Ramone and Morby each tell their own perspective of the demise of romance. “Caroline” serves as the perfect closer to the album, beginning with a drawn out instrumental where the guitar carries the melody until the buildup is too much to bear and the band explodes into one last hurrah of up tempo hollers and shouts. While the Babies was formed to be a fun side project for Ramone/Morby to return to simpler times and smaller audiences, this record is too hot to keep them cooped up for long.

One Nation Under Wild Flag

The heads of critics and fans alike imploded when it was announced that Wild Flag was being waved into existence. Everyone loves a super group; especially one full of some of the most talented women in indie rock history: Carrie Browstein (Sleater Kinney/Excuse 17), Mary Timony (Helium), Janet Weiss (Sleater Kinney/Quasi), Rebecca Cole (The Minders).

Before the band had even played their first show, the hype was building over the Internet. Not even a demo had been leaked pointing to their musical direction, and the band had even laughed off the buildup stating that unbeknownst to their die hard fans they could be a polka band! Instead of giving into the pressure by throwing a lo-fi demo on the Internet, the ladies of Wild Flag decided to keep their audience in suspense as they crafted their sonic identity. Finally, the mystery was unveiled to the public when they set out on their first tour during the fall of 2010. Sold out shows to curious fans was the result. Still no recordings were available (except for online-aired bootleg video taken by fans at shows).

Flash forward to 2011: Merge Records releases Wild Flag’s debut 7” – available in advance on the band’s tour to SXSW, and to officially release to select record stores on Record Store Day. The record opens with “Glass Tambourine”, fronted by the charming Mary Timony, the former front woman of seminal shoegazey prog rock outfit, Helium. Years later, her low alto croon is mesmerizing as her sonic army supports her in a style reminiscent of the epic tunes she composed during Helium’s heyday. Each band member is allowed to shine in “Glass Tambourine” as it twists and turns through a proggy song structure. Janet’s calm backing vocals are matched with the fury of Carrie’s guitar solos layered underneath a space storm of otherworldly effects. “Future Crimes” boasts Carrie Brownstein’s spitfire vocal presence while showcasing her signature guitar talent. Rebecca Cole also hones down her skills on the keys with an extremely catchy arpeggio while Janet Weiss keeps the beat steady and sweet with complementary backing vocals. It is a pop song that is easy to follow, yet channels the live energy the four women have possessed like magic.

Since their first shows in the Northwest, Wild Flag has polished out their sound and have proven their ability to be more than just a short lived – yet rad – side project. Their live shows are growing in numbers and musical intensity, sure to win over veteran fans and newbies alike. More importantly, they continue the legacies they have earned as individuals in the past with a fresh new sound that is bound to start a revolution for generations of young lady rockers united under Wild Flag.

Adam Gnade – B-sides and Rarities

I love me a good B-side or rarity collection. It is like uncovering a lost treasure chest, sunken in the depths of the sea of creativity. Adam Gnade seems to have an ocean of lost words in his “talking songs”, and has compiled them into From Farm Houses to Tour Vans. The collection is simplistic and acoustically arranged, topped with Gnade’s luring brand of storytelling. All of his past works have been thought provoking and emotionally charged to send a haunted wind through your ears, and this one is no exception. It is dusty, yet a rewarding listen like uncovering hidden family secrets in the attic.

Download the album at adamgnade.bandcamp.com

Cat Power: What Would The Community Think?

I recently bought What Would The Community Think by Cat Power on vinyl. Of course, I had loved the album since high school, so it seemed fitting that I would add it to my collection. I have always been a big advocate of Moon Pix and the Covers Record – stating these were my favorites. However, as I listen to …Community I am realizing it is probably one of her best cover to cover record ever!

Black Mountain: Wilderness Heart

I am becoming obsessed with Black Mountain’s Wilderness Heart. The band released the album at the tail end of 2010, and has proven to be one of the best records of the year. Many of the songs are slowed down a notch, played out on acoustic guitars whilst showcasing rather intimate vocal duets between Stephen McBean and Amber Webber. The collection is rather soulful and folky in stark contrast to their face melting heaviness of their previous works. However, long time fans can still expect a few rockers including the title track “Wilderness Heart” which is becoming one of my fav songs in the new year.

Super Wild Horses Interview

Aussie girl-duo Super Wild Horses are still galloping into the indie scene with their debut full length, Fifteen. The album contains super cool garage licks that has a solid pop sensibility rooted in simplicity and feedback. Outsider Music Press is super stoked that Hayley and Amy took some time out of their day to talk about their formation, inspirations, and what to put on the perfect mix tape (all while astounding us with their Australian slang!).

How did Super Wild Horses form?

HAYLEY: Amy and I had been living in different cities for a few years and then finally started hang out again when I moved over to Melbourne. The band formation was totally unintentional … we got together one arvo to drink beer and make some tunes up and then things rolled on quickly from there, when Amy’s boyfriend booked us a show and refused to let us get out of it. We had about 6 songs at that stage – one was a New Kids on The Block cover.

What made you decide on the name?

AMY: We were briefly called Sexretary (when we never really thought we’d end up playing gigs) but quickly realized that name was rubbish…the name Super Wild Horses came from a set of pictures we saw in an old 70’s television graphics book.

Who have been your musical heroes?

AMY: Ray Charles, Tina Turner, Sonny Rollins, The Velvet Underground, Smog

Hayley: The Cure, Tina Turner, The Shangri Las, Tom Waits, The Lemonheads, Scott Walker, Nina Simone…..

Who recorded “Fifteen”?

AMY: Mikey Young recorded it for us in a beautiful country house in rural Victoria. He came down with an 8-track and a few mics and it was a pretty simple process. He was great to record with as he seemed to be happy with capturing us as we sounded in there, so there wasn’t a lot of stuffing around with sound etc


What inspires your music?

AMY: All kinds of things. We both listen to a lot of different styles of music so I guess it all filters through at some point or another and I think we’re both drawn to simple songwriting that captures the essence of an idea without it having to be cloaked in big orchestration or fancy arrangements. Going to see live bands is a great inspiration as you’re right there with the band in that moment – and if it hits you right and you’re feeling the song it can lead to a flood of ideas or a feeling you capture and take home with you that then becomes a seed of its own.


What sorts of tours have you done? Future tour plans?

AMY: We toured the states in September which was a blast (and we hope to go back there again next year). Played the great Goner Fest and did a bunch of shows around the country with some awesome bands.

HAYLEY: We’ve got some tour dates coming up with Jon Spencer Blues Explosion which we’re stoked about. We’re playing the Big Day out in Melbourne and also a January show with one of our favourite US bands Thee Oh Sees. Summer’s gonna rule.

What other Aussie bands are awesome? Past? Present?

AMY: There are really so many great Aussie bands – PAST: The Go Betweens, X, The Church, The Scientists, The Saints, Ian Rilen & The Love Addicts, Radio Birdman, The Birthday Party, Roland S Howard – all bands everyone would know and love… and at the moment there are bands like ZOND, Deaf Wish, The Twerps, Boomgates, UV Race, Circle Pit, The Ancients, Panel of Judges, Lost Animal, Straight Arrows, Dead Farmers, The Darling Downs…could go on and on really…

HAYLEY: Yeah where do you begin? There’s so many awesome bands from our own backyard that deserve to be rediscovered and dug up. Some other oldies I love would be The Moffs…and if we’re ncluding NZ in the mix I’d have to say The Moles, Verlaines, The Clean, The Bats ….so many. One of my favourite local releases this year is from Scott + Charlene’s Wedding.


What are your survival must haves for tour? (outfits, music, foods, etc)

AMY: When we were in the States Mexican was the all-out winner for food, but veggies became really important and we had a couple of home cooked meals that made us feel human again. You end up having a lot of late and boozy nights on the road, so anything that remedied the feeling of absolute unhealthiness was a lifesaver. I couldn’t like without cotton tips either. For some reason loud music makes my ears feel dirty!

HAYLEY: A little tape recorder to record song ideas, gaffa tape to fix my busted shoes, lucky horse shoe necklace, herbal throat spray and ear plugs to combat against Amy’s mad snoring.


What is your favorite album of 2010?

AMY: I actually forgot this album came out this year when we did a top 10 list recently, but I think the Roland S Howard record “Pop Crimes” was amazing. Royal Baths “Litanies” is a cracker too and Hayley and I were blown away by this band when we saw them in San Francisco.

HAYLEY: Loved the Eddy Current Suppression record, Scott and Charlene’s Wedding is Oz as (as mentioned before) and also really dug a release by an American dude that plays under the name White Fence. This record was like uncovering a hidden gem from your dad’s dusty record collection.

If you were to make a mix tape what would be the top 5 songs you would put on it?

AMY:
Karen Dalton “Something On Your Mind”
Outkast “B.O.B”
Ray Charles “Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying”
X “I Don’t Wanna Go Out”
New Season “I Get My Kicks At Home”

HAYLEY:
“Standing By the Window” Tactics
“Another Day in the Sun” The Moffs
“Dance this Mess around” B52’s
“Getting Back into You” Silver Jews
“I’m On Fire” Bruce Springsteen

What’s next for Super Wild Horses?

AMY: We just recorded a few songs which will be going on a a couple of 7’s in the new year, working on a new record, and hopefully some more touring.

Young & Wilder

Portland based garage duo, Young & Wilder need to get a room. Not just any room, but a desolate cheap motel off of a route towards Memphis, where they can have at it in the middle of nowhere. It’s true – the guy-girl duo have sexual tension so thick you would need a chainsaw to break through the sensuality. Oh the woes of the young and the wild. Curiously, the band’s bio reads like an old fashioned long-distance correspondence between would-be lovers. In fact, it’s hard to tell if the pair have given each other their minds, body, and soul – or only just a fraction of the puzzle. Until then, their new EP, Between You and Me should suffice to keep them – and their listeners – passionate about their undefined affairs.

The band is generously giving it up for free via Bandcamp, and you’d be a fool not to take it. The five song collection is in perfect contrast to the despair the upcoming winter tends to bring; each song is sizzling with retro sounding sunshine. Opening track, “Swamp Lady”, drives forward, with 60’s pop in the rear view mirror – perfect for any fan of the Ravonettes with Samson Wilder and Carolina Young’s impassioned vocals twisting and turning around each bend of a guitar string. “It’s Wrong” is a sunny California-esque jam telling the tales of forbidden love, clenching the thighs shut in agony. Between You and Me, Young & Wilder have made an infactuating first impression, intriguing enough to keep you looking forward to the next listen, and hot enough to keep you warm and fuzzy this winter.

Overcasters Bring Stormy Sounds for Stormy Hearts


In this tech-savvy music age, it is refreshing to see a band make a conscious effort to revive the power of the guitar. Denver-based band, Overcasters, resurrect an army of guitars to the stage, layering them in a torrent of sonic mayhem. Their debut, The Whole Sea Is Raging, is composed of moody power rock songs which sort of sounds like the vicious churn of an untamed ocean of sound. The album was recorded back in May by Los Angeles producer Rick Parker, and is about to release on October 22nd – just in time for Halloween! In fact, Overcasters is a little spooky and fall is a perfect time of year to rock out to their dreary, hard-hitting sound. Their music is like rain shimmering on a hard, black pavement lit up by a street light in the dead of night – where something ominous could occur at any moment. The Whole Sea Is Raging hazily recalls the layered psychedelic guitar anthems of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, and Kurt Ottaway’s forceful baritone is drenched in darkness with a hint of Nick Cave influence. Erin Tidwell’s tom heavy drum syncopation keeps the band grounded with the help of bassist, Sam Doom, while Ottaway and John Nichols play out a sinister drone on their screaming guitars. Overall, Overcasters are probably best enjoyed in stormy weather, or to console a stormy heart. This fall they will be taking their sound to the stage across the stage in support of the new record. Check out their dates here

AGENT RIBBONS: CHATEAU CRONE

Since 2006, Agent Ribbons has been trekking throughout America’s pinpoints and Europe with a sound channeling the romance of past eras through a modern montage, uniquely their own. On October 12th, their sophomore full length, Chateau Crone will be released by Bay area label, Antenna Farm Records and later on vinyl via the band’s Spanish record label, Acuarela Discos. As a long time fan of Agent Ribbons I was ecstatic to receive an advance press copy for review. Since July, the record has been on heavy rotation and quickly became one of my favorite albums of the year – if not all time!

Returning Agent Ribbons fans will immediately notice the lush, crisp and clean production traits of Chateau Crone, a step up from the stark minimalism of their debut, Upon Time Travel And Romance. The polished sound can also be attributed to Agent Ribbon’s growing talent in arrangement, as the record marks a variety of exciting layers and explores a myriad of genres. From the jangly lifestyle of gypsies to rustic barrooms and misfortunes of love gone astray, Chateau Crone is elegantly tied together with the band’s astounding compositions completed with a keen sense of melody and musical innovation.

In a past interview, Natalie Ribbons stated that while she would have enjoyed flashing back to influential pockets of time such as the Victorian era or the innovative artistic revolutions of the 70’s, she wouldn’t trade the opportunity to create music in any other time than the one she is thriving in right now. Music is her time machine to the past, offering possibilities and access to different stylistic traditions to mold together in a postmodern world.  Such a craft of sonic collage making has been her lifestyle for the past half decade; a talent she has continued to develop sans stagnation and taken to the road time and time again. Unlike Lauren, who has played in other bands prior to Agent Ribbons, the band is Natalie’s debut into the indie music world. However, she  masks her musical debutante status seamlessly with a powerful confidence exuded through highly emotive vocal tremors and frisky guitar playing.

Agent Ribbons live the vagabond lifestyle. They are in it for keeps and most of the time call the open road their home, touring for many months out of the year, rain, sleet or shine. Most recently, they have returned to their new homestead of Austin, TX after a month long national tour with Girl In A Coma. The future was looking bright with stellar audience responses and even a cordial visit to the NYC offices of their dream magazine, Bust, to shoot photographs for a future article. However, the tides quickly turned when violinist, Naomi, unexpectedly left the tour to attend to personal matters. With only a matter of weeks until the official release of Chateau Crone, her departure has left the rest of the band scrambling to find a replacement for their upcoming European tour. Although, despite the chaos and drama, Agent Ribbons has a knack for keeping their chins up and pressing forward. As the famous saying goes, “The show must go on”, and if all else fails, they will continue on as a duo, restoring the powerful original dynamic which had won the hearts of their fans since the beginning.

 

photo by Ryan Mihalyi

 

Just like the bearded lady or death defying antics of acrobats, who wowed and awed audiences in traveling shows, the material on Chateau Crone is a show stopper. The album showcases a new-found maturity since Upon Time Travel and Romance, with skilled musicianship and songwriting technique, all whilst maintaining a simplistic charm. Opening track, “I’m Alright” is an anthem of independence and new beginning, starting off with a pouncing surf guitar leading into a catchy refrain demanding nothing but your love and admiration. It is a powerful opener, full of life and possibility.

However, the highs quickly dim to a brooding low, with the gloomy “Grey Gardens”. The haunting song begins with a dissonant minor arpeggio before transforming into an airy waltz laden with emotion and somber strings. It’s eerie 60’s folk quality sounds like Simon and Garfunkel tangled in a rosemary bush outside of the famous Grey Gardens estate itself. In fact, the subject matter is based on Natalie Ribbons’ heavy infatuation with the 70’s documentary which details the demise of Edie Beale. Unlike Natalie, who has relentlessly pursued her creative endeavors, Beale had isolated herself from accomplishing her dreams. She became a recluse and prisoner to her mother’s demanding needs, ultimately, holding herself captive in an overgrown and decrepit mansion amid the surroundings of the wealthy Hamptons neighborhood. Still, the singer has a borderline obsession with the Beale story and has even taken to dressing like the infamous Little Edie, wearing cheap knee highs and adorning a collection of head scarves. Just like the story it follows, the song is beautiful in its disgrace and features lovely harmonies between Natalie and Lauren Ribbons, waltzing over each other throughout its softly glowing chorus.

Since their formation, Agent Ribbons has developed a skill in composing captivating arrangements while remaining faithful to the simplicity that has won over their fans. Part of this is made possible by the now former Ribbon, Naomi Cherie. While her time in the band was limited, the classically trained violinist added an orchestral quality, elevating the album’s overall complexity whilst pulling the heart strings of the listener. Such an example is found on the warm string montage halfway through “Born To Sing Sad Songs” and her gypsy fiddle parts sirening off throughout “I’ll Let You Be My Baby”.

Speaking of which, “I’ll Let You Be My Baby” has become one of my favorites off of the album. Stomping in right after the spacious and surrealist vamp of “Dada Girlfriend”, the song revives the band’s danceable and tongue in cheek hotness. Agent Ribbons has always placed an emphasis on the dramatic presentation of their songs and “I’ll Let You Be My Baby” seems like it could stand as a provoking scene in a cabaret or the relic of the long lost vaudeville era. Musically, it is a sexy Eastern European folk song that may as well been written in the smoke filled brothels of old time Paris, in a haze of baroque chanting and the foot stomping percussive whirl of bottle tapping into drunken melodrama.

Yet the joy and carefree nature is about to cease when a time clock is struck and wound back to the darker corners of Agent Ribbon’s material in the album’s centerpiece, “Wallpaper of Skin”. The dramatic yet driven song is one of the band’s most original compositions on the record. Amid the rocking chaos, drummer Lauren Ribbons keeps the beat while adding a soft harmony for Natalie’s freight train vocals to fall back on. Naomi shines just as bright with heavily accented swipes of her violin throughout the epic piece.

The momentum is kept up with “Your Hands, My Hands”, a jagged punk addition to Chateau Crone and the band’s entry fee into the feminist manifesto, blatantly glorifying the formerly taboo subject of female masturbation. Other standouts include “Oh La La” which begins with a retro feel caused by the vintage effect on Natalie Ribbon’s voice, recalling singers from the 40’s, as she croons about romance torn miles apart. The chorus seems to come out of nowhere and can be slightly shocking upon first listen. On it, the band takes a pinch of doo-wop into its sonic repertoire, nostalgic of the call and response backing vocals during the Velvet Underground’s “Femme Fatale”. The album takes a breather with “Rubiks Cube”, a thoughtful ballad contemplating the emotional complexities using the popular colored square as a metaphor; like broken love it is impossible to reassemble.

It’s no surprise that the band’s infamous “Wood, Lead, Rubber” slinks in to conclude the album. The track sneaks in with Lauren Hess’ innovative clicking on the rims of her drum as Natalie Ribbons hollers out her lyrics with her signature direct sassy attitude. During the past few years, Agent Ribbons has made it a habit to close their fiery set with this propulsive tune complete with dramatic choreographed guitar rock outs. Naomi Cherie’s maniacal violin parts flair up the instrumental breakdowns throughout the song, competing with a ghastly theremin, while Lauren Hess keeps the chaos grounded with the steady beats on her toms.

Chateau Crone is a grand addition to anyone’s record collection and is sure to continue to propel Agent Ribbons into the consciousness of many. There is an unspoken pressure for bands to exceed their successes with each new release. Luckily, these ladies don’t seem to be suffering from such a dilemma and are ballsy enough to take large leaps into a pond full of lily pads, each representing a different sub-genre to hop onto and embellish without fear nor boundary. With Chateau Crone, Agent Ribbons diverse songwriting and delivery signals a band whose talent will continue to grow and expand into the future.

CORIN TUCKER – 1000 Years…

 Five years after Sleater Kinney’s final opus, The Woods, propelled them into the indie mainstream, founding front woman, Corin Tucker is stepping back into the spotlight with her stellar debut, 1000 Years.

The years have rolled by since Sleater Kinney declared indefinite hiatus, stagnating Tucker’s singing career, shifting her focus towards raising children. Yet, a solo effort seemed inevitable, and also a bit inconceivable, as the singer’s banshee shrills were barely contained when supported by the power of the Sleater Kinney collective.

However, Tucker brings a surprisingly subdued vocal presence to 1000 Years which has aged like a fine Oregon pinot. Furthermore, her songwriting is stronger than ever and finally seems to have complete control over her vocal siren sounding off with improved range and delivery.

During the initial press push, Tucker attempted to satisfy people’s inquiry and expectation relating her work to Sinead O’Connor’s The Lion And The Cobra – a reference that is blatantly spot-on during the first ping of reverberated percussion of “Half A World Away” when compared to O’Connor’s “I Want Your Hands On Me”.

Die hard Sleater Kinney fans will find nostalgia in the record’s first single, “Doubt”, which is a sexed up, garage-rockin’ anthem featuring Tucker’s signature upper-range wail. Conversely, Sleater Kinney fanatics may initially scoff at calmer acoustic numbers, “Dragon” and “It’s Always Summer”, reducing them to watered down folk, but upon second listen Tucker’s improved technique arranging a miniature orchestra shines through.

All references aside (she also cites The Raincoats as a major influence which explains some of the subtle off kilter weirdness throughout the album), Tucker and maintains a solid amount of originality and innovation. Sara Lund of Unwound and Seth Lorinczi of the Golden Bears are the back bone of the band, adding orchestral drum beats and a variety of extra instrumentation, icing on the cake. “Pulling Pieces” begins as a ballad before it morphs into one of the most epic jams the album has to offer. Meanwhile, “Handed Love” has a cool jazz feel meshed with the best of late 90’s alternative pop. It’s catchy sing-a-long chorus is perfect for blasting it through the window as you drive through a city of roses.

The album finds a home at Kill Rock Stars – whom helped nurture Sleater Kinney’s career before they were snatched up by Sub Pop – and is an excellent addition to the noteworthy label’s catalog.

It will be a long time before Corin Tucker isn’t referred to as “the girl from Sleater Kinney”. Still, 1,000 Years is an astounding first step in establishing a new identity aside from the profound legacy she has already nurtured.

Corin Tucker and her band will be going on tour to support the record out October 5th on Kill Rock Stars.

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