Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Higley - Higley CD


Waterslide / Boss Tuneage (2017)

Even though this CD is from Japan, the band isn't.  Higley is comprised of a bunch of punk rock all-stars from bands like G-Whiz, River City High, Fun Size, Pollen and that Bill Stevenson fellow from All and Descendants.  If you want an 'ex members of' band, these guys take the cake.

Considering the people involved, I think I'm a little surprised that it's a similarity to Pollen that I hear the most.  The slick, distorted guitar and slightly gravely vocals mesh well with the steady, mid tempo rhythm section churning the songs along.  By the books pop hooks and chorus melodies pepper throughout the album and you can't deny their potency and effectiveness.  

Sometimes the songs feel a little too polished and somewhat clinical.  I wouldn't mind if things went off the rails a bit more and some of the perfection was traded in for a little chaotic energy.  Also the lyrics do lean towards a sort of confessional travel journal direction.  They can get overly heartfelt at times, particularly on "For A Minute," but the band is powerful enough to keep things from getting too sentimental.  It's a totally solid debut album and worth checking out, particularly if you dig Pollen or G-Whiz.

Higley - Higley:

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Autogramm - Jessica Don't Like Rock 'n' Roll 7"


Snappy Little Numbers (2018)

Snappy Little Numbers came through with another care package of records to review.  I have a couple of others that you'll see in the upcoming weeks, but I wanted to start with the one band I wasn't previously familiar with, Autogramm.

These guys hail from Vancouver and have turned in two synth laced, new wave pop songs that sound like they're straight out of 1979.  Now, there are plenty of times where I could say a sentence like that and go into a pretty negative review.  Typically, nothing sends me running for the hills faster than seeing the worth synth when a band is being described.  But, to their credit, Autogramm has latched on to a particular style of new wave that I have a great fondness for.  Specifically both of these songs remind me a lot of The Cars.

Like The Cars, Autogram have a strong pop structure at the root of both songs.  They build to the chorus with almost robotic precision, and when the hook appears the whole song comes to life.  The synth is used as a decorative flourish here, it's not the defining characteristic of the band or a gimmick that's being leaned on too heavily.  While I can't say this is my favorite Snappy Little Numbers release to come down the pike, it's a solid record and a fun listen.

Autogramm - Jessica Don't Like Rock 'n' Roll 7":

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Nervous Hearts - Falling In Love With... CD EP


Simply Thrilling (2012)

I can say pretty confidently that with this review, this is the longest stretch where I have reviewed a format other than vinyl.  Yeah I had that Blues Brothers 7" last week, but aside from that it's been all CDs this year.  It's mostly an attempt to catch up on all of the Japanese CDs I picked up last year and while I certainly have made a dent in the backlog, I still have a surprising amount left.  That being said, I'm going to start bringing the vinyl back in pretty soon.  I've got a backlog of that brewing as well.

Nervous Hearts is another Japanese band I hadn't heard of prior to my trip to Tokyo last year.  The cover art certainly grabbed me and I was assured that it was power poppy and likely up my alley.  Well, that's the fact, Jack.  Falling In Love With.. contains 6 songs of somewhat mod, slightly Buzzcocks style power pop punk.  Even through they're playing a pretty different style of music, the guitar tone reminds me a lot of early Snuff, though it's used for a much different purpose.

Aside from the opening instrumental (which is quite excellent), each of the songs is a revved up mix of bouncy guitar, tight rhythms and catchy vocal melodies.  It reminds me a lot of the sort of thing you'd expect HoZac to release, when they're feeling more poppy than garagey.  While Nervous Hearts aren't playing the sort of Snuffy Smiles style pop punk that I tend to favor in Japanese bands, they've crafted a slick EP that makes me want to hear more.  Problem is, I think this is the only record they ever released.  If I'm wrong, let me know.

Nervous Hearts - "Loser On The Street" (I could only find a live version online):

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Girlfriend - A Boy's Dream CD EP


Waterslide (2017)

If you look at this CD and recognize the layout as being an homage to the label Mutant Pop records, I think that I can safely say you're probably going to like Girlfriend.  To me, this EP is the perfect thing to write about that combines my desire to finish reviewing more of the Japanese CDs I've let pile up and the high that I still feel from going to the Seattle Pop Punk Festival.  The best of both worlds, if you will.

Girlfriend is pretty straightforward, traditional sounding pop punk.  But they attack it with a passion and energy that sets them apart from the pack.  Like label mates The Hum Hums, Girlfriend excels at stringing together harmonies and addictive hooks.  This is most strongly evident on my favorite track of the bunch, "Be My Girlfriend."  Over a punchy, mid tempo rhythm, Girlfriend builds a catchy, anthemic song with the sort of chorus that you picture everyone shouting along to with their hands in the air.

For a band that is working within the confines of "three chord pop punk" these songs are all surprisingly dynamic.  The chord progressions are unique with lots of layered lead guitar work throughout.  The melodies are infectious and, to me, it's impossible not to get sucked in to these songs.  

Girlfriend - A Boy's Dream:

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Record Store Visit: Singles Going Steady - Seattle, WA - 01/19/18


I went out to Seattle this weekend for the Seattle Pop Punk Festival.  A gathering of some fantastic bands and people in Seattle.  I had the most amazing time seeing some of my very favorite bands and hanging out with some great people.  So before I say anything about my record store visit, let me just say thanks to Ean, Denny & Josh from Sicko - Kevin, Rob, Andrew & Graham from Bum - Jonas for the place to crash - Alan for taking the clock back twenty years - and all of the cool people we met and chatted with during the weekend.  It was one for the ages.

We only ended up being able to get out to one record store while in Seattle.  I had every intention of hitting up more, but once we got there it just wasn't realistic.  Between the limited time and the flat out old man exhaustion from the travel and walking, it wasn't meant to be.  We hit up the one place that was recommended above the others; Singles Going Steady. 

Singles Going Steady was one of the sponsors for the Seattle Pop Punk Festival, so the recommendation to go there certainly carried some weight.  It was a good sized store with a solid mix of stock.  They mostly carry vinyl, but there was a corner of CDs towards the back of the store.  A good amount of new stuff, but also a lot of used, particularly when it came to 7"s.  The selection definitely skews punk rock, though there was plenty of indie rock and a smattering of complete randomness in the used bins.

I enjoyed digging through the 7"s, where there were all sorts of weird things hanging out.  Lots of 90's stock and obscure gems.  It's not every day you run across used Boris The Sprinkler 7"s in 2018, but you will at Singles Going Steady.  I didn't actually pick up anything while we were there, but part of that was due to jet lag/airplane exhaustion and a real lack of focus on the task at hand.  If I were to go back well rested with more time to kill, I'm pretty sure I would have unearthed something.  If I was local, it's definitely the sort of store I could see myself hanging around in.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

The Blues Brothers - Gimme Some Lovin 7" (France)


Atlantic (1980)

First Blues Brothers post of the new year.  Even though when I first started collecting and writing about these 7"s, I was posting them at random, I decided a few weeks ago that what I was going to do was to work my way through each album chronologically.  I finished up all of the Briefcase Full Of Blues singles last year (aside from a few Soul Man variants that I haven't been able to track down yet) and today I'm going to start up the Blues Brothers movie soundtrack singles.  I did write about the US version of the Gimme Some Lovin 7" on blue vinyl at the very beginning of this project, but I'm going to pick up on the rest of them now.

First up is the French version of Gimme Some Lovin.  Music wise it still has "She Caught The Katy" as a B side and these are still two of my absolute favorite Blues Brothers songs ever.  The variance here is in the art work.  Even though they are using the same picture as the US version of the 7", it has been taken into black and white.  The fonts on the text are slightly different and there's also the little French blurb in the bottom right hand corner of the picture.  This picture is also the image used on the cover of the soundtrack as a whole.  Get used to this picture, there's a lot of singles that use a version of it.

The Blues Brothers - "Gimme Some Lovin'":

The Blues Brothers - "She Caught the Katy":

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Her Spectacles - Remain CD EP


Waterslide (2006)

I've really been in a state of constant disbelief lately.  So many of the recent Japanese records that I've been reviewing lately have come out quite a while ago.  This one from Her Spectacles came out all the way back in 2006.  I just don't know how I missed out on all of these.  Well, I have a little bit of an idea for something this old as 2004-2007 was a really down time for buying new records as my job was beating the life out of me and I didn't want to listen to anything.  But still, had I known about a record this good, I would have absolutely made time for it.

This EP by Her Spectacles actually reminds me of something that's kind of in the middle of the last two records I've reviewed on this very site.  They've got the same sort of attention to melody and dynamic guitar work of Does It Float (riyl Three Minute Movie), while at the same time keeping things poppy and catchy like Tin Soldiers (riyl Kevlar, Sugar).  The combination of these two style makes Her Spectacles the most impressive of the bunch as these sounds are combined into energetic and hook filled songs, while still displaying a level of musicianship and song craft that lets you know that these folks really know how to play.

I still can't believe this EP is as old as it is.  Remain sounds so fresh and exciting and all it does is make me want to listen to more by this band.  Sadly, there doesn't appear to be much more out there.  I have the three way split with Skimmer and Peace of Bread and the only other record I can find is a split 7" with Phoenix Foundation.  I'll be keeping my eye out for that, but I just wish there was more.'

Her Spectacles - Remain:

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Tin Soldiers - Boys Love Songs CD EP


Self Released (2010)

Boys Love Songs is another wonderful treasure I picked up while record shopping in Tokyo.  I wasn't familiar with the band, but they were recommended to me, so I grabbed a copy.  This is another one of those records that is so right up my alley, I don't understand how this could have been kicking around since 2010 without me knowing about it.

Tin Soldiers is is from Japan, but they are a far cry from the usual Snuffy Smile leaning punk rock sound that I typically gravitate towards.  Instead, Tin Soldiers keep things much more mid tempo and eschew ferocity for wonderfully crafted guitar pop tunes.  There are times where they remind me of Sugar and other times where they sound a lot like the more poppier leanings of Kevlar.  The band has a gigantic sound for only being a three piece and most impressive is the huge, dynamic guitar work of Daichi Sato.

If the Waterslide records distro is any indication, it looks like Tin Soldiers have another seven song EP and a demo floating around out there (sadly sold out at Waterslide).  If anyone ever sees any other records by this band please let me know, I definitely want to pick them up.  Unfortunately I can't really find any music online by this band apart from a MySpace page that I can't get to play anything.  I'll link it below, just incase you can coax some music out of it that I'm not able to.

Tin Soldiers - "Boy's Song":

Tim Soldiers - "The Hate":

Monday, January 15, 2018

Does It Float - Every Words In Your PS CD


Urban Sleep (2009)

This CD was sent to me by Urban Sleep Discs along with a few others.  I'm trying my best to get all of the Japanese CDs I've acquired in the past year reviewed for this site, so if there seems to be more of them than usual, this is one of the reasons why (Another reason being that very few new albums tend to get released in January, so it's a good time to play catch up with some others).

Does It Float is playing an extremely catchy variant of melodic, emo tinged punk rock.  The thing that stands out to me more than anything else is the impressively complex lead guitar noodling in each song.  It adds a level of depth and musicianship that you don't hear just anywhere, but the band never dives too far into self indulgent guitar wanking.  Every note means something and serves the incessantly catchy hooks that the band manage to sneak into every song.

It actually reminds me a lot of the first few Three Minute Movie songs I heard from their split with Braid and that 3" CD that came out around the same time.  Mix in some Scaries style pop hooks and that's a pretty decent road map to the sounds that Does It Float are working with.  It may not be a brand new release, having come out in 2009.  But it's definitely work backtracking to check out.  

Unfortunately, I'm not able to find any of their songs online to link to, But the band also has a split 7" with Stay Clean Jolene that came out on All In Vinyl some time back that's easier to hear online.  I'm just happy to add more song by these guys to the collection.  

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Thirsty Chords - Kioku No ED CD


Shirafu (2016)

I have three CDs by Thirsty Chords that I acquired last year.  I reviewed one of their full lengths a few months ago and I have another full length of theirs still in the review pile.  I figured I'd go with this seven song EP today.  With this EP, the band is two for two when it comes to putting out releases that I think are pretty great.

As a whole, I feel like this EP is a bit more melodic than the last full length of theirs that I wrote about.  Where their debut album was pretty fast and passionate in a way that reminded me a lot of Minority Blues Band, this time out Thirsty Chords have taken the tempo back a bit and with incredible results.  More than anything, I keep hearing echoes of recent Leatherface, but really only in the guitars.  Leatherface has a very distinct guitar sound with palm muted leads that blossom into frantic chord changes and Thirsty Chords have tapped into this sort of song structure.  It's particularly evident in the first two songs of the album, though the song titles for both are in Japanese so it's difficult to list them here.

That's not to say there aren't a few blasts of energy on this EP.  Both "Middle Class" and "Man Is Said" are full throated rippers with blazing guitar riffs and enough energy to power a small village.  Thirsty Chords is another one of those bands from Japan that I just can't figure out why it took me so long to hear about them.  I'm relieved I finally did as their records are pretty spectacular, but I wonder if there are other bands out there that I'm just not hearing about. 

Thirsty Chords - "エイトセンチメートルランニング":

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Blackender - Demo CD


Self Released (2015)

I have to admit, I don't remember where I got this CD.  I may have picked it up record shopping in Tokyo, though it's equally possible it was recommended to me as part of a mailorder spree from this past year.  No matter how it ended up in the collection, I'm pretty glad it did.  From the looks of the artwork, you'd think that there might be some metal going on here, but fear not.  Blackender is another in the seemingly never ending line of excellent, poppy Japanese punk bands.

There's only two songs on this CD and boy do I wish there were more.  Particularly because of how great the first track, "Try To Find," is.  It seems like such a throwback to the nineties, in the best possible way.  There's a little bit of that Husking Bee pop mastery mixed in with the more punk leaning energy of Blew.  It's an incredible song that I can't say enough good things about.

The second song, "Bravado," doesn't soar quite as high, but it's still a pretty good showing.  The verse is a little darker with slightly fuzzy vocals, but once again the band shows that they know how to write a chorus that's destined to get stuck in your head.  I don't think there's anything else available from these guys, but if there is, someone please let me know where I can get it.

Blackender - "Try To Find":

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Trashmind - Longtime Losers' EP CD


Self Released (2017)

I think this was self released by the band.  There are no markings of a record label and I can't find any information on line, so I'm just going to assume it's self released.  This three song EP from Osaka based Trashmind is outstanding.  It looks like this EP has been about ten years in the making and honestly, it sure seems like it was worth the time and effort to me.

The first comparison that comes to mind is that Trashmind seems to inhabit a space right in the middle of early Green Day and early Pinhead Gunpowder.  It's not quite as slick as Green Day, but it's also not as gruff as Pinhead Gunpowder.  Trashmind somehow sits perfectly in between the two, churning out three incredibly catchy and upbeat songs.  For good measure there's also a hint of the No Idea records sort of group vocal choruses here and there that mix wonderfully with the Lookout records sounds the band is churning out.

My biggest complaint is that there are only three songs on this CD.  I desperately want to hear more.  Trashmind has a bandcamp page with another demo of theirs available to download.   Rest assured I'm going to go grab that immediately.  If anyone in Trashmind reads this, please make more records as soon as you can.  I don't want to wait ten years for the next one.

Trashmind - Longrime Losers' EP:

Monday, January 8, 2018

Without - Westgate No. 5 EP CD


Raft (2017)

Hello and happy new year.  I'm starting off the new year with a goal of finally getting through all of the Japanese CDs that I have piled up over here.  It's amazing that I still have records that I bought in Japan last year that I haven't gotten to.  Couple that with a few spots of mailorder over the past year and I have a pile that has been sorely neglected.

First up for 2018 is this Without EP.  I can't say I know a whole lot about them outside of the three songs on this CD, but I'm sure it was recommended to me as something I'd like.  That recommendation was correct, this is good stuff.  Without have an interesting combination of the sort of Snuffy Smiles Japanese punk rock sound mixed with slightly more melodic (some might say emo) tendencies.  The band has a knack of having explosive verses and catchy choruses, but then you'll come across a really dynamic breakdown or outro.

In particular the ending of the song "Dislike" really reminds me of the sort of thing that you would have heard from the Get Up Kids back when they were good.  You know, on that first CD EP.  The only time the Get Up Kids were really, really good.  Anyway, Without captures those sort of energetic detours and manages to integrate them seamlessly into the rest of their punk rock.  This is a very strong debut EP and I hope it isn't the last I hear from Without.

Without - "Dislike":