Whole lot of catching up to do, and some really fine music. From Memphis-based Star & Micey, to the experimental Inca Ore and Japanese psychedelic band Yura Yura Teikoku, Scottish folk/pop of Frightened Rabbit, and a flashback to the 1980s with Relation and Pylon. Moody pop with Scanners, alt rock of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, and a Motown-inspired chanteuse from New Zealand, Gin Wigmore.

Star & Micey | Inca Ore | Frightened Rabbit | Yura Yura Teikoku | Relation | Pylon | Scanners | Black Rebel Motorcycle Club | Gin Wigmore

Star & Micey

blues, soul, folk, pop/rock

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Memphis-based Star & Micey are: Geoff Smith (bass, vocals, percussion, pump organ, glockenspiel), Joshua Cosby (guitars, lead vocals, kick drum), Nick Redmond (lead guitar, cymbals), and sometimes Doug Walker (organ, keys). Their debut album came out back in October (on Ardent Music), and it features a few guests, including Luther Dickinson (The Black Crowes, North Mississippi Allstars), Jody Stephens (Big Star) and Rick Steff (Lucero, Cat Power). Sometimes rootsy, sometimes soulful, sometimes rocking out. Standout tracks for me are “Salvation Army Clothes” and “So Much Pain” (featuring Luther Dickinson). In the new year, they’ll be touring around the south and midwest.

“So Much Pain” (feat. Luther Dickinson) mp3

Inca Ore

experimental

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Comparing someone’s music to Throbbing Gristle is something you have to be really careful about – pretty heady stuff; not to be tossed about lightly. But this interesting lady definitely delivers. Very, very nice. Inca Ore is the creation of Eva Saelens (Oakland, CA), the experimental, hallucinatory project launched on her 25th birthday in 2004. Her recordings over the years have been released by Weird Forest, Not Not Fun, 5RC, Collective Jyrk, Acuarela, Chocolate Monk and Ruralfaune. Her latest offering is Silver Sea Surfer School, which you can purchase directly via her MySpace page. You can also read her blog, which is as curious as her music.

Frightened Rabbit

pop/Scottish folk

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Frightened Rabbit, from Selkirk, Scotland, has a soul-satisfying sound – indie pop/rock with a strong traditional Scottish folk music influence. Last year’s release was The Midnight Organ Fight – strong, powerful, celebratory (“Fast Blood”); rollicking and folksy (“Old Old Fashioned”), and pretty ballads (“Keep Yourself Warm”, “Poke”, “Floating In The Forth”). Lovely vocals from Scott Hutchinson, joined by Grant Hutchison (drums, vocals), Billy Kennedy (guitar, keyboards, bass), Andy Monaghan (keyboards, guitar, bass) and Gordon Skene (various instruments). The Winter Of Mixed Drinks, their third album, will be released by FatCat Records in March 2010. The first single, “Swim Until You Can’t See Land”/”Fun Stuff” (which is just beautiful – you can listen to it on FatCat’s site) was released earlier this month. They’ll be performing in the UK in March, with a full North American tour to follow. Hutchinson said of the first single, “Swim Until You Can’t See Land”: “I had the song’s title in my mind before I even started writing the album; I was becoming more and more interested in the idea of a rejection of the habits and behavior most people see as normal, and in turn embracing a certain madness. This is not necessarily a geographical journey, as the ‘swim’ can involve any activity in which you can lose yourself. It’s a good introduction to the record as the theme unravels therein.”

Yura Yura Teikoku

psychedelic rock – from Japan

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Yura Yura Teikoku have been immensely popular in Japan for 20 years. They started in 1989 with vocalist/guitarist Shintaro Sakamoto, bassist Chiyo Kamekawa and various others through the years. Drummer Ichiro Shibata joined them in 1997. They incorporate a wide range of classic rock sounds into their music, creating a rather unique persona with Japanese vocals. Their tenth studio album, Hollow Me (DFA Records) is more stripped-down than their earlier works (listen to “Dekinai” below). Hollow Me and the accompanying Beautiful EP were recorded at Nakamura Soichiro’s (White Heaven) Peace Studio, and produced by You Ishihara (also ex-White Heaven).

“Dekinai” mp3

Relation

electro pop

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A little ’80s flashback for you now, starting with the electro-pop of Relation (Oliver Keech and Andrew Leary, from Essex, UK). Their debut, Fear Of Night was released on Urbantorque, and can be streamed here. Their aim, according to Andy, was to “to fuse contemporary electronic music with engaging melodies and lyrics” (see their biography on Urbantorque’s site). The occasionally perform live with former Wayfarers drummer Dave Lealan and Graham Boosey (aka Little Penguin) on laptop/synths. Fear Of Night is available at Amazon and via iTunes.

Pylon

New Wave, dance pop

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The ’80s flashback continues with a bonifide ’80s band. From Athens, Georgia, Pylon were highly regarded for their dance pop, New Wave sound, and were inspirational for many “post-punk” bands. From their beginnings in the late 70s, they performed with the B-52’s, Gang of Four, Mission of Burma, Love Tractor, R.E.M., the Talking Heads, and with U2 on their first U.S. tour. They broke up in 1983, but reunited to join R.E.M. on their “Green” tour. They recorded Chain in 1990, broke up again, and then regrouped in 2004. They made several appearances after that including the Part Time Punks Festival in LA (in 2008), but sadly guitarist Randall Bewley died in February of this year after suffering a heart attack. In 2007, DFA Records reissued their 1980 debut album, Gyrate, and in October of this year, their second album, Chomp More, which is remastered and includes four bonus tracks – a 7″ version of “Crazy”, an alternate version of “Yo-Yo”, a remix of “Gyrate”, and the single “Four Minutes”. DFA recently unearthed the original video for their single “Beep”, shot by the band and their crew on Super-8 and VHS in the early ’80s.

“Beep” mp3 from Chomp More

Scanners

moody alternative/pop

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London-based Scanners (Matt Mole – guitar, vocals, synths; Sarah Daly – vocals, bass, violin; Amina Bates – guitar, keys; and Tom Hutt – drums) will be releasing their second album, Submarine on Dim Mak in February (Dim Mak also released their debut Violence Is Golden in 2006). The new album was produced by Stephen Hague (New Order), and the first single, “Salvation” (listen below) promises very good things – it’s a rich, dark tapestry of swirling synths and harmonies with a lovely, haunting melody. They’ve previously toured with The Horrors, The Wedding Present, The Charlatans, Electric Six, and Juliette & The Licks. U.S. tour dates will be announced soon for the new year.

“Salvation” mp3

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

alternative rock

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Robert Levon Been, Peter Hayes, and new drummer Leah Shapiro of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club have their fifth studio album, Beat The Devil’s Tattoo, coming out on March 9 on their own Abstract Dragon label (in conjunction with Vagrant Records). They’ve been together since 1998, their music inspired by such bands as The Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Jesus and Mary Chain. They have a big world tour kicking off February 26 in Sacramento, CA, not ending until May 26 in Aahurus (that’s in Denmark; I looked it up). Their Boston stop is at the House of Blues on April 3. For now, they just released a 3-disc DVD of concert footage from Berlin, Dublin and Glasgow, including behind-the-scenes footage and a bonus audio CD.

Gin Wigmore

blues, soul, R&B

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If I were to put the above photo on one side of the page, and a batch of voices on the other, you would not in a million years match this 23-year-old Kiwi with the voice that issues forth from her. Gin Wigmore (Auckland-born, now based in Sydney, Australia) channels classic Motown and a long lifetime of experience when she sings with her raspy, seasoned voice, and her songwriting as well suggests someone twice her age. At least. At age 18, she won the International Songwriting Competition with a song she wrote called “Hallelujah”, written for her father who had died of cancer. Since then, she’s toured throughout Australia and New Zealand, and she’s now poised to make her Stateside debut in March 2010 with her first album Holy Smoke (Universal Motown Records). Her band is The Cardinals, who previously backed Ryan Adams. The new album also features Mike Elizondo (Fiona Apple’s Extraordinary Machine) and Joe Chiccarelli (White Stripes’ Icky Thump), producing and mixing. I’m guessing there will be some U.S. dates to coincide with the album’s release.

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