Thursday, December 30, 2021

 Jim Basnight has been around for a long time, and has always made music I really like, these three new singles – "Genius of Love," "Ugly Side," and "Lose Me" – being the latest. If you’re new to him, start here. You will have a good time listening.

Jim was kind enough to answer a few questions for me.

Andrea Weiss: Tell us more about Seattle-NY-LA, which features these songs?

Jim Basnight: It's the best recordings and songs by the band known as Jim Basnight and the Moberlys or the Moberlys, which featured the late Dave Drewry on drums. It was the version of the band, after the original band, but it lasted much longer. Dave and I started playing together in 1981 and parted ways in 1989. The other players were mainly Glenn Oyabe on guitar and harmony vocals and Toby Keil on bass and harmonies, but there were others. The late Ben Rabinowitz played lead guitar on “I Need Your Love" and “I Wanna Be Yours." Roger Burg played keyboards on “Your Fool" and keyboards and backing vocals on “Genius of Love.” Jeremy Bar-illan played guitar and sang backups on “You Came and You Conquered” and “Love So True." Roger Moutenot played organ on “You Came and You Conquered." Harlan Hollander sang backups on “Summertime Again." Al Bloch played bass and sang backups on “You Came and You Conquered” and “Love So True." Jay Work played saxes on “Ain't It Funny." The album was produced by a variety of producers, including Peter Buck of REM, Moutenot, Hollander, Dave Ogilvie, Lindsay Kidd, J.B. Bauerlien, Ron Woods, Ian Gardiner, Edwin DeShazo and Dean Chamberlain. It was recorded in LA mostly, but “You Came and You Conquered” and “Love So True" were recorded in NY. The band was based in NY from 1980 to 1984, but those were the only tracks which made this collection. The band was based in Seattle from 1984-85, but all of the tracks included here were recorded in Vancouver, BC. Those tracks included, “I Wanna Be Yours," "I Love You So," "Alone with Her," and “I Need Your Love." To summarize, the band lived in three places, which all made important impressions on the music. Some might say that our sound had a common thread, but our environment influenced the sound to me. We were all Seattle guys, so that influence of bands like the Sonics, the Raiders, the Heats, and the Modernettes followed us. So did NYC influences such as Lou Reed, the Heartbreakers, Blondie, the Dolls, the Shangri-Las, and the Ramones. LA brought its influences too, such as the Plimsouls and the classic LA power pop sound of the late 70's, and more twangy guitar acts such as the Byrds or Buffalo Springfield. In general, the band had it all, but also had a common thread of  a certain recognizable strain of two guitars and harmonies Beatles/Stones, but definitely on the pure pop side of all of the above.

AW: These songs have a mid 60s British Invasion feel to them, which I like, and they also sound 70s punk. Which of these styles is a greater inspiration for you, or are you after an equally melded sound?

JB: I'd say they're equal. Definitely not 90s or, for the most part, 80s, unless you want to include some of the bands I've already mentioned, or others such as The Hoodoo Gurus and the Replacements. The big musical movements which influenced me in life were:

The golden age of rock and roll, especially Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran, Link Wray, Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, and Little Richard. The folk era of Bob Dylan, Peter, Paul and Mary, and Pete Seeger. The British Invasion, especially the Kinks, but also the Who, the Small Faces, and a number of others, including those I've already mentioned. The garage acts of the 60s, especially the NW acts, but also the Standells and the type of acts spotlighted by Lenny Kaye's Nuggets album. The psychedelic era, notably Hendrix, the Airplane, and others I've mentioned. 60s pop, such as the Buckinghams, the Grass Roots, The Classics IV and others I've mentioned.Glam rock, such as T-Rex, Bowie, Mott, and others I've mentioned. Early Power Pop, such as Badfinger, Flaming Groovies, and the Raspberries. Punk Rock, the 1977-78 edition, such as Generation X, the Dead Boys, Eddie and the Hot Rods, and others I've mentioned. Finally the late 70s and early 80s NW sound and LA sound of the Cowboys, the Last, and other bands I've mentioned.

The psychedelic and folk stuff didn't play into our sound much, despite the way it influenced my writing. Most of the tunes from that vein which surfaced were not what Dave was into, so I did them solo, or occasionally as a duo with Glenn.

AW: All are about love gone wrong. Is that an easy topic to write about?

JB: If you're talking about the latest set of tunes I've sent out as recommended airplay tracks, basically a second EP of tunes from the album after the first I sent out ("Summertime Again," "Tonight," "Rest Up," and "She Don't Rock"), two of them arguably are about love gone wrong. Those are "Genius of Love" and "Ugly Side." "Lose Me" is a very positive love song about how full and rich one feels to be in the arms of the one they love. "Genius" is about losing, by being tricked into believing there was reciprocal love, but who cares because the ride was so darn fun. "Ugly Side" is dark, but uplifting in the sense that it's an admission to oneself that mere lust is not good enough and that is not a choice, though I've been there, that I am looking to make. I think there are a lot of songs which could be interpreted as love gone wrong on this album (though there are a few which are just plain fun and others like "Lose Me," such as "What I Wouldn't Do" which are clearly songs about romantic fulfillment), but I see the hopefulness behind the feelings of loss or disappointment. I think the band's sound and mood are one of eternal hope and optimism in the search for love and the respect for love, despite the obstacles.

AW: Where can Seattle-NY-LA be found?

JB: It's available to stream or download nearly everywhere you can do that. The place to go for the best price is here, where it was first released in early 2021:

It hasn't been made available on CD or LP yet. That may happen in the near future, as might also the Makin' Bacon album I released later in 2021.

 Jim Basnight

Genius of Love

Ugly Side

Lose Me

PowerPopholic Records

These three new singles are nicely punky, in a very 70s sort of way, but are also 70s style melodic pop. They are all about the ups and downs of relationships. All three are very appealing, as they are clear and direct, fun, but meaningful, simple, but not simplistic.

If you’ve never gotten into Jim Basnight’s work before, this is a great place to start. This is rock the way it isn’t made anymore. I say that not as an old fogey. it’s just that I want to hear as much of this type of rock as possible, bring it back to prominence, and, as I say, here is a good place to start.

Andrea Weiss

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

 I first heard The Big Believe on a song called “Let's Pretend We’re Spies,” with guest vocals by Let’s Active’s Faye Hunter. That song was great, as is everything I’ve heard since from The Big Believe. After some time off, they’ve returned with three singles, "Doing My Utmost," "Hundreds," and "Girl On Wire." We discuss them below, as Amanda Louise Thompson, band leader, was kind enough to answer a few questions.

Andrea Weiss: How did Daniel Wylie of Cosmic Rough Riders come to co-write “Doing My Utmost?” 

Amanda Louise Thompson: We had been communicating online for years, like - over a decade.  I've been a fan of CRR since about 2001.  At some point I shared my own albums with him and he loved the songs.  I remember we did a swap once:  His solo record Fake Your Own Death for my band's (Ozone Baby at the time) debut Love Like A Foghorn.  In fact, those two titles might just sum us both up, respectively!  So it was during Covid lockdowns that I asked if he fancied writing together and he kinda said he'd been waiting for me to ask.  We couldn't be further apart geographically in the UK.  He's right at the top of the country and I'm right down the bottom.  So given it was all done remotely, it couldn't have been easier.  I'd send a chorus, he'd send a verse, I'd send a verse, he'd send a chorus.  All in voice recorders on our phones, and they always blended together perfectly without trouble.  He's a really nice guy, too.

AW: How did “Girl On Wire “ get released through Aldora Britain?

ALT: Ooh how weird - I can't remember how I first came to Aldora Britain Records, or even whether they came to me or the other way around... but it happened, and that was another easy thing.  Tom Hilton, who does all the work there, releases tons of independent music and really supports it.  It's all digital.  AB released my track "Frequencies" back in March 2021, which had good response so I offered up "Girl on Wire" before I'd even finished recording it, so that something new was out with them before Xmas and to give myself a deadline, stop me fussing about with it too much.

AW: “Girl On Wire” sounds feminist, which is great. Is that the case?

ALT: If it is, it's taken me 51 years to have my first feminist thought.  But in a way, yes.  It's a collection of different tricky situations for women, all wrapped up in one fictional protagonist.  People, friends were telling me things, for example a friend was hiding her sexuality for personal reasons,  someone else had a kid who was getting into all sorts of scrapes due to social media pressures.  Stuff to do with appearance and judgments.  I also added my own situation of societal attitudes to women who've chosen not to have children, then threw in a few lines about prostitution too.

AW: I hear the New Pornographers and Let's Active in the sound of these songs. Were they influences here?

ALT: I suppose those two bands must be in there to some extent, as it's no secret I love them the most!  However, I personally don't notice being influenced by them, maybe I am.  There would be no point in trying to sound like your favourite bands.  A lesser version of them?  That's daft.  Like "Owl City" and "Postal Service" (I love "Postal Service").  Yet after the event, listening back to a finished song, sometimes there are little sections where I notice and think "actually that is not unlike something The New Porns might do."  Mainly, though, I reckon we all make the music we want to hear, and please ourselves first, so it's always gonna be in the same genre as the music I like best.

AW: Will these songs be on an upcoming album?

ALT: Yes, they will both be on our third album, which should be out in the summer of 2022.

 The Big Believe

Doing My Utmost/Hundreds/Girl On Wire

Self-Released/Aldora Britain Records

These three new singles from The Big Believe, which will be on a upcoming album, are three good ones to add to the already fine BB discography. More good indie pop about relationships, including, on “Doing My Utmost,” to oneself. That song was co-written with Daniel Wylie of Cosmic Rough Riders, a fine band in their own right.

The Big Believe, for those who don’t know, is a UK band headed up by Amanda Louise Thompson. They’ve been around for a while, and their earlier albums, Illuminate and Juggernaut, are worth checking out, especially if you like the three singles, which are well worth the money.

Andrea Weiss

Monday, December 13, 2021

 I’ve been a Bye Bye Blackbirds fan for a number of years, particularly their last album, 2019’s Boxer At Rest. Now they're back with a very fine new single and video, "We Got Lost."

Bradley Skaught, the leader of the band, was kind enough to answer a few questions for me.

Andrea Weiss: How did you come to write a song with Matt Piucci?

Bradley Skaught: I had been noodling around with the verse melody for a bit and was feeling like I didn't have any ideas for how to develop it. It occurred to me that I should get someone else involved and that Matt was the one! Something about that verse melody and drone-y, winding guitar stuff in D just felt like something he could work with. It felt Rain Parade-y to me in some way, whether anyone else would've thought so...

AW: How did Doug Gillard come to be involved?

BS: Doug produced our last record, and he's one of those guys who just always knows what a song needs to elevate it, even in a support role. If you've heard any of the recent Guided By Voices records, you've likely noticed a ton of great little orchestral parts and arrangement details aside from just his guitar playing. "We Got Lost" is such a simple song (structurally speaking) that I felt like it needed something to give it more dynamic shape -- he came back pretty quick with that cool keyboard string stuff.

AW: Where did you get the footage for the video?

BS: The video is entirely the creation of the director, so to get to your next question...

AW: Who directed the video?

BS: Marry Waterson made the video for us! She's a fantastic artist in a whole bunch of ways -- visual artist, video artist, fantastic singer and songwriter, etc. I'd been following her for a while because I love the music of her whole extended family, but when I started seeing all these cool video projects from her, too, I wanted to have her do some stuff for us. She did a couple things for our last record, but this one is a little more involved and fleshed out than those. I don't know exactly where all the footage comes from, but she mixes treated film/existing footage with animation and other processes in such a cool and unique way.

AW: Is there a new album in the works?

BS: There is! It's done! Hopefully early next year we'll get it out.

 The Bye Bye Blackbirds

We Got Lost single and video

Self Released

The Blackbirds return with a fine new single and video. This love relationship song is mellow power pop/college rock, but with heavy guitars for a nice contrast. The video is found footage, some of it showing places in England, some of it psychedelic, all very good and a lot of fun to watch. If you’ve been wanting to hear something new from this band, their first release since 2019’s Boxer At Rest will cheer you up big time.

Andrea Weiss

Thursday, December 9, 2021

 Eliza Gilkyson

Wanderin’ video

Howling Dog Records

This is another wonderful single from Gilkyson. The lyric video is one long shot from a car traveling down a wooded road in the fall, trees turning color, a mountain pass, few cars passing by. The lyrics are about rambling from place to place, never finding a home, by choice, being a free person. It’s an adaptation of an old Irish ballad that her dad’s band, Terry Gilkyson and The Easy Riders, recorded in 1958.

Eliza had this to say about the song: "I always loved this song, especially my dad’s version, but I wanted to rewrite it from a woman’s perspective. We women like to wander too, but you rarely hear about that in those early folk songs. I set it in the Old West, because that's where I had my happiest roaming days, and I think it makes a great Western rambling song."

She and Don Richardson sing and play all the instruments on the track, but the sound is rich and full, which adds to the enjoyment of the song. Go get the full album when its released January 14, 2022.

Andrea Weiss

Friday, December 3, 2021

 B. Hamilton

Keep A Little Light On video

Sofaburn Records

This song is from their album Nothing and Nowhere, which is very good. The video shows a guy looking out at the Oakland Inner Harbor from Jack London Square. It’s a lovely scene, too -- nice, sunny, warm, birds flying, and so on.

It’s also a lyric video, with a good message: Keep your chin up and cheer up, good things are on their way. That’s basically what the song is about, tricking yourself out of major depression.

So if you want a pick me up, and some mellow, but hard, rock, try B. Hamilton, starting with this video. You’ll feel great after seeing it.

Andrea Weiss

Thursday, December 2, 2021

 Protomartyr/R. Ring

A Half Of Seven split single

Hardly Art

This single, first released in 2015, is getting new life, as R. Ring’s Kelley Deal toured with Protomartyr this past November. I saw the Philly show. It was great, rocking, and a lot of fun. And Protomartyr's “Blues Festival,” as great as it is on this single, sounded even better live.

The song is basically advice to bands starting out, and good advice too. “Don’t hold the mic like a crying child,” “don’t let the band open up their mouths,” and “don’t fall prey to your own ego” are some examples. Kelley also sings on it, and her advice is “don’t get ahead of yourself.” All of this is set to bristling, bracing rock, angry for all the right reasons and having a good time being so.

R. Ring’s “Loud Underneath,” sung by Kelley, is about the moment of truth, in any situation, and having  it go okay. The music is just as rocking as “Blues Festival,” but it isn’t angry, more like “there you go, good.”

If so if you’re looking for some great, smart rock, get this single. and then pick up Protomartyr’s albums and R. Ring’s debut, Ignite The Rest. You’ll be glad you did.

Andrea Weiss

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

 The Weeklings

Christmas Day single

JEM Records

This song apes Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” but with quirky lyrics about a Christmas gathering. It’s a lot of fun to listen to, especially if you know the Dylan song in question, and will put smiles on your face.

Andrea Weiss

Sunday, November 28, 2021

 A Very Merry Christmas

Lisa Mychols & Super 8 single

JEM Records

She’s from Long Beach, CA. Super 8 is from Scotland. They got together to record this Phil Spector Christmas type song, which also sounds like “Da Do Ron Ron.” The lyrics bring holiday cheer, merry everything to everyone.

So if you want a fun Christmas song to bounce all over the room to, this is it. It will put you in a great mood for the holidays.

Andrea Weiss

Saturday, November 27, 2021

 I first heard of Spygenius on their album from last year, Man On The Sea. That was a great one, and equal to it is their followup, Blow Their Covers. Guitarist and lead vocalist Peter Watts delves into it more in my interview with him, and his answers are very interesting. Thank you, Peter.

Andrea Weiss: While most people know who you are now, for anyone who doesn't, could you give a short history of the band?

Peter Watts: Of course. We are a four-piece group based in the South East of England and we got together about fifteen years ago (wow, how did it get to be so long!?). We’d all been in other bands which had fizzled out one by one, so we created Spygenius because we didn’t want to stop. Our ‘mission statement’ was to write, record, and perform original music for as long as we could get away with it without really worrying about what anyone else thought of it – which is what we’ve been doing ever since! Apart from just recently, of course, when we recorded a collection of cover versions to keep ourselves busy during lock down.

AW: Would you say these covers are songs that have influenced you?

PW: Yeah – it varies a bit from song to song, but between the four members of the band our tastes are pretty eclectic, and we draw on a lot of influences. But all the songs have some sort of direct connection to what we do as a band, and how we approach things musically.

AW: Would you say that these bands you cover are favorites of yours, even if they're not an influence?

How did you choose which songs to cover?

PW: Ooh, this is quite hard to answer because, like I said, our tastes are pretty broad and we don’t all like the same things! And different songs are there for different reasons. But some of the song selections definitely reflect musical touch-points for Spygenius, bands which we had in mind to emulate a little when we set out. Traffic are a definite point of connection between me and Matt (keyboards). I fell in love with Buffalo Springfield’s harmonies as a teenager and always wanted to do something like that. Squeeze do the whole clever, complex lyrics thing and hail from South London, which is where three of us are from originally. Gene Clark made me want to write songs. Most of the band really like Madness, and Alan, our drummer, just has the perfect voice for the lead on Michael Caine! So yeah, a lot of the selections are from groups who inspired or influenced us from the get go, but then a couple of the tracks are covers of songs by other musicians we’ve met along the way through David Bash’s International Pop Overthrow Festivals, or through Big Stir Records, and just feel an affinity for. And then there a couple of oddball selections – a song that was playing at the party where Ruth (bass) and I got together as a couple ("Griselda"), or the song that my old 80s band was named after ("Murrumbidgee Whalers") – so there’s a story behind each selection. So, for instance, "For Pete’s Sake" and "Come On Home" were songs that I just happened to hear when I was very young and that set me on the road to becoming a musician. So there’s a variety of reasons, but every song has some sort of a connection to what we do as a band and how we got here.

AW: The song “Therapy” by Plasticsoul takes a positive view of it, which is great, as does your cover. Did you want to emphasis that positivism?

PW: Yeah, it’s a great song, and Steven is a label-mate and a good friend of ours. We love him and miss him. At the last Liverpool IPO before Covid he came over to England to play and Ruth and I were drafted in as temporary honorary Plasticsoulsters, which was great fun. Somehow we all ended up spending the night in a converted double-decker bus in field in Wales…rock and roll! But as for our cover, I think we thought that the mood of Therapy was more ambivalent – it’s positive, yes, but not just positive – and that while Steven’s original version is kind of defiant, there’s also a vulnerability in there, and we wanted to try and bring that out, to just draw out a whole other side to the song. And it’s a testament to just how good that song is that it worked so well with such a complete rearrangement.

AW: I love your cover of Squeeze's “Is That Love” and a lot of these covers from the 80s. How important was that decade to you?

PW: Well, it’s probably something to do with our ages! The 80s was when I had my youth, but I always felt slightly at odds with what was going on. I suppose I woke up musically at the tail end of the 70s when the New Wave thing was happening, and then the 80s went all New Romantic and synthy, which didn’t quite do it for a guitar nut like me, but there was still loads of great stuff going on if you dug around a bit, so I took to digging around. I was kind of obsessed with Robyn Hitchcock for a while, and used to go to every Jazz Butcher gig that I could muster the cash for. Of course, we lost Pat just the other day, which is a bloody tragedy… but Squeeze hail from a part of London just a little bit round the South Circular road from where I grew up, so there’s an affinity there, and when I was first trying to learn how to sing I used to flatter myself that maybe I could make my voice sound a bit like Glenn Tilbrook’s – and we picked Is That Love because Matt and I both get a bit excited about how clever the structure is, and because I always wanted to play that guitar solo!

AW: Ditto for “Queen Of Eyes,” which is also a tribute to the late Matthew Seligman. What do you want to say about him and the song?

PW: We met Matthew through Rex Broome of Big Stir. Matthew had offered to record a bass line for the Armoires, and Rex arranged for him to do it at Casa Spygenius down here in Canterbury – and we just hit it off with him. I mean there was the obvious musical connection, what with me being a wee bit of Soft Boys fan, but more than anything we just made each other laugh. So the actual recording session was over pretty quickly and we hastily adjourned to the pub to the watch the football and talk nonsense at each other, and after that Matthew would visit us and we’d all be very silly together, and he became a big supporter of the band, offering feedback on recordings we were working on, occasionally writing nonsense reviews, planning future musical projects, and coming to our gigs, and at one gig he joined us on stage at the end for a really, really shambolic version of "Queen of Eyes," which I think only Matthew had actually played before… and I’m not sure any one of us was sober. In the wake of that, we conspired to record a cover of the song. Ruth and Matthew had teased one another one night about each other’s bass lines being either too busy or too simple, so when we decided to record the song, Ruth wanted to record a really busy bassline, just to give Matthew a laugh… but of course that’s not how things worked out. He never got to hear our version, and in the end, Ruth decided to copy Matthew’s original bass line, in honour of him. I can’t really say how much we miss him. He was a joy to know and I wish he were still here. There were so many delightful conversations that we never got to finish.

AW: You’ve had success with your music. What would you tell someone who's just gotten that kind of musical success?

PW: Success is such an elusive idea…Dylan probably had it right: the only measure of success worth worrying about is the one you create for yourself, and if you do that right you can’t really fail! We set up Spygenius so we could keep doing our own thing musically, finding out how far we could take it, and if anyone else ‘got’ what we were doing then that was great, but if they didn’t, no matter, we’d just keep on doing it anyway… and through taking that approach we’ve made a lot of music which we’re proud of, made a lot of friends who we love, become part of a global musical community which get so much from, and had a lot of great times, with many more to come! And that seems like success to me. So I guess I’d say don’t get hung up on any single idea of what success is; embrace whatever is wonderful in wherever you happen to find yourself, say yes to whatever opportunities open up, and enjoy the ride!


Blows Their Covers

Big Stir Records

Why this album is more than another covers album is that it’s also a tribute to college rock, its roots, and how they inform today's music. It lives on, wonderfully so, on this album.

Every cover on here is great, but there are a few that stand out. Plasticsoul's “Therapy” could be about therapy or drugs. On Madness’s “Michael Caine” the band puts their own spin on the line “I am Michael Caine,” as the actor himself voiced in the original version, by making it the coda. Squeeze’s “Is That Love” is as good as the original. "Griselda,” originally by Michael Hurley and the Unholy Model Rounders, is a lot of fun to hear. Gene Clark’s “So You Say You Lost Your Baby” is better than the original.

But the best is the Soft Boys' “Queen Of Eyes.” The late Matthew Seligman had input before he passed away of Covid last year; now it’s a tribute, and what a tribute it is! With the tempo slightly faster, it packs even more of a punch by kicking the song into overdrive.

If you like college rock and want an update on it, to relive how it was and is, or it’s new to you and you want a starting point, this album is for you.

Andrea Weiss

Saturday, November 20, 2021

 Nick Frater first came to my attention with his first Big Stir release Fast And Loose. That album was a good example of what could be done with Brian Wilson’s work, not so much with the Beach Boys, but his solo masterpiece Smile.Frater's new album Earworms does much the same with bands like ELO, and is a lot of fun to listen.

My thanks to Nick for being kind enough to answer a few questions for me.

Andrea Weiss: Most people know you now, but for those who don't, can you give a short musical history?

Nick Frater: Thanks for asking! I’m Nick Frater, a songwriter/multi-instrumentalist/producer based in Croydon in the south of London, England. I’ve been in countless bands and projects nobody will have heard of, but over the last few years have had a few critically acclaimed albums out. The latest one, Earworms, is my seventh, and features collaborations with several of my musical heroes including Roger Joseph Manning Jr. (Jellyfish) and Darian Sahanaja (Brian Wilson/Wondermints)!

AW: I hear ELO the most in the music on your new album, which is great. Would you say they're an influence?

NF: Jeff Lynne is one of the all time great producers! ELO are obviously excellent, and managed to pay homage to their Beatle influence, but still create something that is recognisably their sound.

However, it’s Lynne’s production work on Traveling Wilburys and the reformed Beatles that shows his skill, both recording-wise (I love "Free As A Bird" and "Real Love!") but also managing to get those projects over the line with the amount of egos and record company people who must have been involved!

AW: I also hear the Beatles, Beach Boys, and Todd Rundgren, which is also good. Would you say they're influences too?

NF: Never heard of them!

Although eagle-eyed/eared listeners will spot a Todd Rundgren reference on pretty much every one of my albums. Sometimes visual, sometimes in the title, sometimes musical.

AW: Your lyrics can be so happy and positive, which I like. Is it hard to write those kinds of songs, since one of the hardest types of songs to write are happy, positive ones that don't sound silly?

NF: Many people have picked up on the positive lyrical themes, which is surprising, as I hadn’t noticed that writing them. A lot of the lyrics tend to have a darker or bittersweet subtext, although there’s no denying I have deliberately tried to fill this album with hooks and melodies. A lot of those are hopefully catchy, which I guess convinces the brain that it’s a happy song! There’s a psychology thesis there somewhere! Earworms opens with "It’s All Rumours," which I think might be the first time I’ve ever written a ‘story song’. Songs just tend to appear in my head often from hearing a turn of phrase used in my day-to-day life, so it’s hard to predict what the next one will be about. However I’d like to try and explore this lyrical approach again.

AW: Or is it easier to write songs about troubled relationships?

NF: I absolutely love listening to and writing songs that break your heart. There is something hugely powerful and almost addictive of an emotional rush from a sad film or song. I guess like listening to the blues, it has a restorative power! Are they easier to write? I’m not sure. For me the process of writing is the most enjoyable, whatever the mood;  that moment when a nugget of hook arrives from the ether and turns into a song is hugely exciting! I tend to just follow wherever that idea is leading…hence the many styles and ideas on last year's bonus lockdown album, 59 vignettes - the world’s first (and probably last) Instagram concept album! (@59vignettes)

AW: What do you think has changed, musically, between your debut and your new album?

NF: Becoming a dad! Which is wonderful, but radically changed the time I have to sit messing about at the piano. So that means my songwriting technique has moved from the piano to my voice/imagination. This has resulted in stronger melodies, or at least ones in a key I have a fighting chance of singing! My earlier albums were all written at the piano; and some songs incredibly complicated harmonically, sometime deliberately seeing how many chords I could possibly squeeze into a song! My newer songs are deceptively simple/more complicated than they sound. Catchy, but nothing ever quite repeats exactly.

AW: Do you hope to tour the US, now that the pandemic is easing?

NF: If I could make it work I would love to tour, or at least do a few shows on the West Coast, the spiritual home of power-pop. Gigging as a solo artist is a fairly new thing for me. Having done thousands of gigs as a sideman, being out front is a whole different game! The music scene, even before Covid, here in London is a tough place for power-pop. It’s only really David Bash’s IPO at The Cavern flying that flag. Pulling a band together for 15 people at The Windmill isn’t really sustainable…although that is always a hugely enjoyable place to play!

AW: Since you had success with your first album, what advice would you give to someone who has had a taste of success musically?

NF: Always follow your heart. Make the music that you love and that you would make whether people are listening or not. If you’re looking for cash, take up plastering!  Music is, or should be, its own reward, but there is no denying that knowing other ears genuinely enjoy your music is a wonderful feeling. Are there ways to make money from it? Maybe, but I’ve not found them yet! 

 Nick Frater


Big Stir Records

The album title is exactly that: really great earworms that will stay in your head long after the album is finished, and lyrics that will make you think about relationships for a while.

The music is roughly equal parts Beatles, Todd Rundgren, and Big Star, but ELO a bit more than the others. As a long-time ELO fan, I like that a lot. As good and as popular as they were and are, they never really got their due as music. While this isn't the first power pop/college rock band to use their style like this, Frater does it about the best.

The lyrics on this album take the dark with the light, nominally positive and happy, but subtly bittersweet and wry-humored up close, which makes the edge even sharper, none more so than the single “Bugging Out,” a happy, but confused, love song.

Power pop and college rock really have fused in recent years, and this album is a great example of that new blend. If you're curious about what college rock sounds like beyond the hit bands like REM, get this album. The same goes for power pop, and just for an album that is good listening experience.

Andrea Weiss

Saturday, November 13, 2021

 The Grip Weeds


JEM Records

The Grip Weeds' newest album is a collection of covers done very well, and in some cases better than the originals. For example, there's more heart, soul, and humanity in their cover of the Velvet Underground's “All Tomorrow's Parties” than that band and Nico got up to.

There also seems to be a message, as several of these songs, like Thunderclap Newman's “Something In The Air,” are about peace, love, and revolution, left wing hippie style. The message is that love, peace, and revolution, respect, and kindness are needed more than ever, so do it.

They include a lot of favorites: the Beatles' “It's Only Love,” the Stones' "Child Of The Moon,” the Zombies' “I Love You,” and the Byrds' “Lady Friend.” All are a lot of fun to hear, and played superbly.

If you like the 60s, want to relive it, or if you were too young to experience it the first time around, then this double album is for you, It comes in both a standard and deluxe version. No matter what era you grew up in, this album is for you, for just good music, period.

Andrea Weiss

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

 Black River Delta

Gun For You (live) video

Sofaburn Records

This video was produced by Westside Music Sweden for Festival Marvin on September 5, 2020, recorded at Pustervik in Gothenburg, Sweden. Black River Delta is a very good Swedish hard blues band, in top form here, doing the latest single from their album Shakin'. The band knows the blues well, and updates 70s hard blues with their own modern take. If you want to see the latest in hard blues, go watch this performance.

Andrea Weiss

Monday, November 8, 2021

 B. Hamilton

Nothing and Nowhere

Sofaburn Records

As the title says, these songs are about urban and suburban decay, dislocation, rootlessness, and on “North San Juan,” the feeling of not belonging anywhere. But they never wallow in all of this, it's just grim reality to them, the best kind of grimness.

The music is mellow, hard rock, almost stoner rock, soothing in its own way, and meaningful. It gives the lyrics more weight, and will make you think.

“45 and Straight,” though, is a bit of departure. It's about a certain kind of Trump supporter, the overlooked, suburban office worker, who listens to right wing talk radio or right wing podcasts in his car on his lunch break. While the band expresses empathy for the character, they make clear that they don't like or endorse his politics, especially on race.

This is very different and good hard rock. I like the way it'll make you think. So much music doesn't. But this does, and you will remember those thoughts and this powerful album long after it's over.

Andrea Weiss

Friday, November 5, 2021

 Jeremy Pinnell

Goodbye L.A.

Sofaburn Records

This is good, hardcore, country rock, as it does rock at times, and other times it steps lively. Pinnell's voice is weathered, he's seen and done some things, but he always keeps his chin up and keeps going.

Lyrically, it's a bit old-fashioned, in a good way. For instance, “Night Time Eagle,” where a musician on tour gets homesick and wishes the tour would end. It's a perfect antidote to songs about how wonderful the road is. Or the title track, where he wants to settle down with one good woman. Nothing wrong with monogamy.

So if you want some country rock that's a bit quirky at times, in a good way, like on “Fighting Man,” and a meaningful good time, this album is for you.

Andrea Weiss

Thursday, November 4, 2021

 Paige Beller

I'll Be Better

Sofaburn Records

It is a relief to hear someone out and proud have neither women's music nor glam rock in their sound. What Beller's music is instead is clear, direct, simple, yet complex, indie rock, and it's wonderful. She is a multi-instrumentalist, who also plays drums, bass, and synths. But to hear an out lesbian play electric guitar, rather than acoustic folk, is great, and makes her different, fresh, and original.

Lyrically a little Kristin Hersh, some Tegan and Sara, but all Beller's own in the end, these songs are mostly about coming up short in relationships, wanting more, knowing there may not be more, but wanting to stay if possible, so you make do with what you have. “So Much Water,” “Brautigan,” and “9:30” are good examples, and also show how good a guitarist she is.

So if you want some good indie rock that puts a fresh spin on lesbian relationships (or relationships period) in a tough, clear-eyed way, this album is for you.

Andrea Weiss

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

 At The Foot Of The Mountain video/single

Eliza Gilkyson

Howling Dog Records

The first single from Gilkyson's upcoming album, Songs From The River Wind, is delightful. The lyrics tell what it's like to live at the foot of a mountain. The music is stunning folk, beautiful and sweet. It was co-written with John Gorkia. The musicans on the track are Don Richmond (acoustic guitar, mandolin, dobro, string bass, drums, electric guitar, violins, harmony vocals), Michael Hearne (harmony vocals), with Gilkyson on acoustic guitar and lead vocals.

It's a lyric video, with the most gorgeous photography of scenes from Taos, NM: a foot of a moutain, canyons, day, night, pueblos, corn, apples, horses.

I've liked everything I've heard by Gilkyson, and this is no exception. You will too, if you give this a chance. I suggest you do, for the fragile, yet beautiful and firm, folk music.

Andrea Weiss

Wednesday, October 27, 2021


45 & Straight video

Sofaburn Records

Shot at Santo Recording Studio by Luke Judd, with cool special effects and lighting that enhance the band perfectly, it's the subject of the song that makes it a good and interesting hard rocker.

It's about the least likely Trump supporter, a nondescript office worker who might eat lunch in his car, with right wing talk radio or right wing political podcasts on, all designed to push his buttons of resentment and rage. The song also gets into how racism plays a part in this too, and makes it clear that while the band empathizes with the worker, they don't like or agree with his politics.

The music is heavy, hard rock, but not thrash; it's slow, but never sludgy, and played so well that it doesn't fatigue you. In other words, great, smart, sensible, powerful, and all designed to make you think. Check it out, and have a thoughtful good time.

Andrea Weiss

Sunday, October 24, 2021

 Howlin' Rain

Alligator Bride video

Sofaburn Presents

This long-running San Francisco band's video originally aired in 2018, and is no less stunning three years later. As much as I like the studio version, the title track of their third album for Silver Current Records, it's even better live.

It's one long jam, very much melodic noise, and a lot of fun to watch and listen to. The lyrics tell the story of how the Alligator Bride came to be. The clip is in black and white, and you don't miss the color. If anything, it being B&W enhances the music, and the fun the band has playing the song shines through.

So if you're into psychedelic music that's reminiscent of Neil Young and Crazy Horse, you will have a good time watching this clip and getting into a great band. The album is really good too.

Andrea Weiss

Friday, October 22, 2021

 For anyone who likes Warren Zevon, like me, this is a new twist on his style, in a power pop context. That's The Airport 77s' sound, and a really good one. Their new single, “Losers Win,” shows this to good effect.

Guitarist Andy Sullivan was kind enough to answer a few questions for me.

Andrea Weiss: Can you give a short history of the band, for those who don't know you?

Andy Sullivan: The Airport 77s came together in 2014 over a shared love of lesser-known power pop nuggets from the late 1970s. We spent the next several years honing our sound at parties, club dates, and Fourth of July parades around the Washington, DC area. Eventually we developed original songs to fit that sound – uptempo, high-energy rock that places the focus on Chuck and Andy’s singing. The 2020 COVID lockdown gave us an opportunity to focus on that material, which we recorded at the late, lamented Inner Ear Studio. We self-released our debut EP, Rotation, in January, which drew the attention of Marty Scott at JEM Records. With the economy opening back up, we are now gigging regularly again and developing new material.

AW: The influences you listed on your site are really good. Who are some of your favorites?

AS: Currently we are all excited about The Shazam, a Nashville power pop band who released a string of brilliant records in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Other big influences include the Paul Collins Beat, 20/20, the Records, the Hold Steady, and Ex Hex.

AW: I like the video to “Losers Win.” It's a sweet love story. Where was it filmed, and is there anything you want to say about it?

AS: The video was filmed at American Legion Post 41 in our hometown of Silver Spring, Maryland. We love playing these veterans’ halls, where the people are friendly and the drinks are cheap. Post 41 in particular is shaping up as a vital grassroots music venue at a time when many other clubs have shut down. We’ve made previous videos by ourselves, and this was the first time we brought in people who actually knew what they were doing: director Mike Kepka, actors Jen Rabbitt Ring and Jonathan Watkins, editor Benno Nelson, casting director Adrienne Nelson. It made a huge difference!

AW: Your lyrics have been compared to Warren Zevon's, which I like, as I liked Warren a lot. What would you say you get from him lyrically?

AS: Balancing detail and ambiguity, and the effectiveness of salty characters like the narrator of “Lawyers, Guns, and Money.” “Losers Win” tells a story, but there’s a lot of blanks in there: is the guy a lovable rogue or a scumbag? Will they find happiness together or is it falling apart again? It’s important not to spell everything out.

AW: To put Zevon together with power pop is cool. Where did the inspiration for that combination come from?

AS: We’re working with sounds that have been around for decades – drums, electric guitars, harmonies – so we have to elevate the lyrics to present something new. A song like “(When You’re Kissing on Me Do You Think of) James McAvoy” takes the jealous-lover trope to absurd lengths. The dude is angry at his girlfriend because she orders the wrong kind of wine on an imaginary date with a movie star.

AW: You dress as airline pilots, which is a good tie-in with the band name. Where did the band name come from?

AS: It’s a mediocre disaster movie from the 1970s. We were kicking around names like “The Towering Infernos,” but this one seemed funnier. We wear all sorts of silly outfits on stage. It seems to give the audience permission to loosen up and have more fun if we’re already making fools of ourselves.

AW: “The Illustrated Book Of Cupid” makes a good B-side, and also could be the thoughts of the characters from “Losers Win.” Is that a fair characterization?

AS: Sure!

AW: What would you tell someone who's just starting out in music?

AS: When a song grabs you, sit down and figure out exactly why. Is it the bass sound? The way the consonants line up in the chorus? The chord changes? Also: don’t be afraid to sing loud.

 Losers Win single and video/The Illustrated Book Of Cupid

The Airport 77s

JEM Records

The video for“Losers Win” is a nice, sweet love story of two lovers who break up, then get back together many years later. The twist is that the lyrics are very like Warren Zevon's, if Zevon had been power pop. Because of that, the lyrics get extra details, and the music extra bite.

As a single, “Losers Win” is nicely rocking, with good overdrive. The B-side, “The Illustrated Book of Cupid,” is just as good and a bit more mellow, but still has plenty of power.

If, like me, you'd like to hear more of them, let's hope they put out a full album, as a whole LP of this would be wonderful and a lot of fun to hear.

Andrea Weiss

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

 TEA-Fund Fundraiser live stream

Various Artists

You Tube/EXF Records

The Texas Equal Access Fund funds abortions in Texas. As funding of any kind for abortions is prohibited in Texas, it's cash only. The fund covers the upper half of the state, helping the diverse population of women, BIPOC for instance, who need this assistance. This You Tube stream with musical guests is a fundraiser for TEA-Fund.

Lung, a Cincinnati band, featuring Kate Wakefield on vocals and electric cello, and Daisy Caplan on drums are as rocking live as they are on their albums, especially their new one, Come Clean Right Now. Wakefield plays the cello like an electric guitar, and expands what you can do on one in the process. The main special effect shows many images superimposed of the duo performing, which adds to the urgency of the music. And Caplan is a great drummer.

Andrea from the Houston band Cool Moon played solo acoustic for the fund raiser. Cool Moon is new to me, but judging from what's here, I think I would like this band a lot. She sounds a bit like Kristin Hersh.

David Combs was next, from the DC band Bad Moves. His solo, acoustic set was nice folk/punk. I think I would like his band too.

The commentator/MC between musical sets was Katy Otto, who was very informative.

Texas Reproductive Justice activist Barbie H. was next, who explained the issues a lot more, and said why this fund was so vital and needed. Donate to this fund if you can (link below).

Ximena, of Interminable and PA, played a vihuela, an acoustic Mexican guitar. Their/His Spanish folk was heartfelt and positive, as was their commentary. And for the last song they played the violin, and did so very well.

The next performer was Brianna Peterson. Her folk/punk was lively and energetic, both her vocals and guitar playing. One cover, Chumbawumba's “Tubthumping,” was great. Her last song featured harmonica, which was also great.

Casie Pierce, Development Director of the TEA Fund, who had explained at the start what the fund is and does, appeared again with an update on donations and more about the abortion ban in Texas. At the time the US Court of Appeals had reinstated the ban, after a US district court judge had halted it. Let's hope the US Supreme Court steps in. Again, if you can donate to the TEA Fund, do so.

Nathan Gray from Delaware performed next, from the band Iron Roses, with Ashley Fontaine singing backup. Their folk/punk was very political, very heartfelt, and good.

Lily Mastrodimos from Longneck, New Jersey was the final performer. She wasn't punk so much as singer/songwriter, and was very good.

Watching all of these performers reminded me that I can be active, even as I can't be out in the streets marching anymore, because of arthritis. But I was a women's health clinic defender back in the day, and marched in 1992 in DC in response to Casey vs Planned Parenthood, where we told the George H. W. Bush administration that if you overturn Roe, you have to answer to us. It was the largest protest in US history until the 2017 women's marches. More than a million marched that day, and that's not hype. That was just one of the many things I did back in the day. So take your cue from these performers, and me: get active, and donate to this fund.

Andrea Weiss


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