Spring is in the air – finally. One of the rainiest winters on record in the Seattle area is finally showing signs of taking it’s leave. Not coincidentally, I’ve had the latest EP from Sunstack Jones on repeat for a while now, summery tunes that have me longing for warmer weather. Hailing from Northern England, I’d imagine the band suffer from the same affliction as I – a desire for the wintry rain to go away. On earlier releases I’ve been transfixed by the band’s ability to work at a convincingly high caliper whilst blending in such disparate elements as folk, pop, shoegaze, & country. Ultimately, I measure a band’s impact by their ability to transport me away from daily life and into their world – on that count, Sunstack Jones succeed wildly. Days Stand Still is the latest offering from the band and it continues their winning streak
It Ain’t Easy sounds like The Byrds meets Ocean Colour Scene and is a standout. A sing-a-long anthem, it hints at despair beneath its breezy tone. “Don’t it seem some things / They just turn to nothing / And I’m barely coping / It ain’t easy”. It is the perfect choice for the single from this release. Days Stand Still has an intricacy to its guitar parts that reminds me of Simon & Garfunkel or Kings of Convenience. Add in those layered harmonies and it is a tune that’ll find repeated plays. Walking in Our Sleep slides into shoegaze territory – a melodic bass line, hushed vocals, and a mix that emphasizes vibe over instrument separation. Always Something Up closes the record on an upbeat, rocking tune that wouldn’t sound out-of-place on a mid period album by The Monkees (the absolute highest praise coming from me).
You can find out more about the band and / or order records here. I highly recommend this album – it has been a soundtrack for an unusual month for me, and its summery tones are capable of providing an escape from drudgery. Keep your eyes open for the latest full length from Sunstack Jones – coming out this summer.
Verdict: Shades of Summer
For Fans of: The Monkees, Mojave 3, Neil Young, Galaxie 500, Teenage Fanclub, The Byrds
- It Ain’t Easy
- Days Stand Still
- Walking In Our Sleep
- Always Something Up
Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.
In late 2013 I saw two very different films in the theaters – The Wolf of Wall Street starring Leonardo DiCaprio and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty starring Ben Stiller. Wolf was an assault on the senses – every form of depravity in all its glory (and pitfalls) in my face for 2 hours plus. I loved every second (as did the critics). Walter Mitty was the follow-up film for me, and I also loved every second for very different reasons. Critics seemed divided, but I think is because there isn’t any sarcasm to be found. It’s just a feel good movie that leaves you feeling inspired at the end. Wolf doesn’t make my top 10 films of all time, while Mitty is entrenched in the 2nd spot (The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou will never budge from #1). Swedish artist José González was tasked with composing music for the film – star Ben Stiller had been a fan of his music and specifically requested his input. Stay Alive was the single from the soundtrack and was a collaboration between González, Ryan Adams, and Teddy Shapiro. I have had it on constant repeat ever since it was released. Plaintive vocals, lyrics that convey doubt & hopefulness – it is imbued with a sense of the Walter Mitty character that Ben Stiller brought to life so wonderfully. The orchestration is lush while the music is a perfectly constructed indie pop song. Lyrically, it is simply perfect. “Sometimes there’s things a man cannot know / Gears won’t turn and the leaves won’t grow”…We’ll do whatever just to stay alive / Well the way I feel is the way I write / It isn’t like the thoughts of the man who lies / There is a truth and it’s on our side”.
We last heard from the Nutopians in early to mid 2015 with the release of their EP, Time. Musically indebted to the post-punk scene of Manchester in the early 80’s, it struck a chord with me that has remained. I felt that the duo’s debut album would be stunning, and – well, I’m not wrong. As a refresher, the Nutopians are made up of a a father and son combo – Ian & Phil Jackson. I quite like the idea of a father and son working together in the arts, it lends the proceedings a gravity that feels different from friends bashing out a record. Personally, the last two weeks of my life have been marked by some unexpected tragedies and I’ve been able to do little but work, engage with friends & family, watch movies, and listen to music (writing has taken a backseat). This album by the Nutopians has been my go to album as I’ve sorted out heavy emotions. What I love about this band is that the lyrics deal in heavy life issues but always offer solutions. Or at least, wistfulness without regret. Musically, think post-punk with a slant towards power pop.
I 1st became aware of the Psychedelic Furs early in my youth as MTV played the hit single Love My Way – it might have been on 120 minutes or even during the regularly scheduled videos of the day, my memory is hazy. I was instantly hooked and began collecting every tape I could find by the band (I hear tapes are making a comeback these days). Along with the 1st Live record and the Pixies, the ‘Furs were my gateway to what they called “alternative music” back in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Although I had 1st heard mid period ‘Furs with their eerie synths and otherworldly vocals, I gravitated towards the earlier records that had edgier guitar work.
The last single from the great SupaJamma with the great Martin “Sugar” Merchant on vocals? Say it ain’t so! Last year Merchant left SupaJamma on friendly terms, leaving the band to carry on with special guest singers. The last recordings with Merchant are being released, with We Run Tings being touted as the last single (surely there is an anthology forthcoming – one can hope and pray). Curiously the band is releasing their strongest song as their final single, which speaks of what a tight unit the lads in SupaJamma are / were. As a recap, the band features Sugar on vox, Simon Collier on bass, Lord Bevs on guitar, Steve Wilson on keys, and Dan Adams on drums. We Run Tings is driven by a killer bass line and Portishead type orchestration. The band is on fire, absolutely everything gels here. The vocals alternate between dancehall toasting and sweetly crooned vocals. Again, during those sweetly sung sections it reminds me just a bit of Portishead in the best possible way. The key line from the song that I keep returning to is “let’s get together / let’s all unite”. An uplifting message and a wonderful song to close out this chapter in the SupaJamma story. A reminder of the power of music and the euphoria it can bring. The single is available at most of the major digital retailers and again is being released by Stereokill Recordings, who are releasing music from some of the finest indie bands out there today. Nice one.
Verdict: Classic Single
For Fans of: Audioweb, The Chameleons, Ian Brown, Bob Marley, Portishead, Gang of Four, PIL
Winters in the Pacific Northwest are a different beast compared to the snowy winters of my youth in Southeast Pennsylvania. The rain lingers, the grey skies seem omnipresent. From mid October until April, the outlook can be a little bleak. For me, I’m counting down the days until the sun returns in fully glory and I can skimboard on Puget Sound and Pacific Ocean beaches again. While I’m dreaming of the sun, I look towards wintry type music, those albums imbued with wistful longing and nostalgia. Boston’s Lay Low Moon fit the bill perfectly.
The Electric Mess hail from New York City and embrace the ethos of honest, in your face Rock ‘n’ Roll. This isn’t a revival – this is music that could have been recorded at any point in the last 45 years or so. The band describes lead singer Esther Crow as “androgynous and dynamic” which is an apt description for her unique affectations. The band also features Dan Crow on lead guitar, Derek Davidson on bass & vocals, Craig Rogers on drums, and Oweinama Biu on keyboards & rhythm guitar. Garage punk mixed with a bit of The Doors? Think along those lines, and you might be getting warm.