Evans the Death – Expect Delays

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 2)

Expect delays, indeed. Despite having and adoring Evans the Death’s first album for some time, it took me inexplicably long to acquire the second album from the always reliable Slumberland Records. I have rarely been so gratified by a purchase. I love this band.

What I Think of This Album

It’s not that this album is better or weaker than the band’s debut. It’s that they are both of a piece, and I am very tempted to tell you that the best way to listen to each is to play them back-to-back. Evans the Death should be an immersive experience, honoring the strength and beauty of Katherine Whittaker’s swooping vocals and Dan Moss’s intrepid songcraft. 

As with the first album, I feel like it would be insulting to single out individual tracks. Expect Delays is art, and you should experience the flow and the moods and the sonics in one dedicated sitting. Whittaker’s voice is like a moody, recalcitrant magic carpet and you’d be a fool to chop up the thrilling ride into three minute legs. For his part, Moss seems to have a bottomless bag of tricks, and is able to pull from shoegaze, indie-pop, and girl-group with ease and aplomb.

For an album dripping with drama and offering possibly disorienting vistas, it remains solidly grounded and thoroughly satisfying on a molecular level. I have fully and willingly given myself over to this record.

The Best Thing About This Album

How it creates it’s own world.

Release Date

2015

The Cover Art

Utterly horrible.

All Girl Summer Fun Band – All Girl Summer Fun Band

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 1)

Self-criticism, if not self-flagellation, can come far too easily. Even in contexts where performance or achievement isn’t relevant. I probably didn’t even first become aware of Portland’s All Girl Summer Fun Band until maybe 2021 or 2022. And I didn’t listen to a note of their music until 2023, when I saw them live at a Slumberland-adjacent show with the excellent Tony Molina. And in fact, the AGSFB is a big name in the twee scene and has been since about 1998 when they first formed. But I didn’t know anything about them, and while I consider myself fairly knowledgeable about the music I like, this wonderful band was just something I overlooked. There are good reasons for it (parenthood! job! depression!), but there don’t need to be. This shit isn’t a competition and I don’t have to justify why I didn’t happen to know about this band for so long; it really doesn’t matter how conversant I am in some musical subgenre. I am just focusing on how fortunate I feel that I now know about them.

What I Think of This Album

Truer marketing never existed. All girl band? Yep. Summer fun? You betcha. There you have it. Everything you need to know is right there. Of course, that’s hardly the case. While the album title/band name as essence is a reliable shortcut, taking it will mean missing out on other essential scenery. For one, there is the talent at work, as the four musicians swap instruments regularly and all are involved in the songwriting in some way. Also, there is the band’s pedigree, with Jen Sbraglia being one-half of legendary the Softies (with Rose Melberg of Tiger Trap) and Kathy Foster’s simultaneous rise to prominence with the Thermals. And there is the winking manner of the foursome as they pop out their short, sunny songs of innocence.

Somehow, the quartet of Foster, Sbraglia, and cohorts Arirak Douangpanya and founder Kim Baxter (she somehow convinced the other three, none of whom had every met the others, to form the band) manages to walk the line between sincerity and irony without tripping even once. So while the style is borderline frivolous and the presentation approaches archness, there is warmth, gentle humor, and undeniable intelligence to the songs. The four women are here to have fun and they’re going to do it in a way that is fun, and they realize you may think it’s not fun, but that only makes it more fun for them.

As with most twee, you’re either going to like this a lot or not at all. You will appreciate that “Later Operator” is somehow both G-rated and R-rated at the same time, the simple messaging of “Cell Phone,” the implicit humor in “Canadian Boyfriend,” and the fact that the band has a theme song (“Theme Song”), or you won’t. I hope you do, and I dare say you should.

K Records impresario and Beat Happening leader Calvin Johnson recorded the album and contributes memorable vocals to “New In Town.”

The Best Thing About This Album

How it is born of the bravery to do something just for the fun of it, even if most people won’t like it.

Release Date

February, 2002

The Cover Art

The drawing is by Sbraglia, and I like the ‘60s hair salon theme, as well as the stars in the band name (which remind me of the Eugenius album cover for Oomalama).

Evans the Death – Evans the Death

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 1)

I know basically next to nothing about this band. I bought this album during the same Slumberland sale that netted me Cause Co-Motion!, Golden Grrrls, Pants Yell, Lichtenstein, the Gold-Bears, Sleepyhead, and I think Tony Molina and one or both Veronica Falls albums. The band name comes from a Dylan Thomas play (first commissioned for the radio and then adapted for the stage, which is not something I’d ever heard of). This London band formed in 2011 and released three albums before calling it a day in 2017. My understanding is the third album sounds radically different from the first two. I have no independent knowledge of that.

What I Think of This Album

The star of the show here is vocalist/synthesist Katherine Whitaker, whose dramatic vocals power these dozen short songs, though main songwriter/guitarist Dan Moss deserves a lot of credit, too, for his noisy, clattering, moody pieces.

This is an album to be savored as a whole. Sure, the individual songs are great, but the true force of Whitaker’s thrilling voice and the band’s consistently energetic approach is best appreciated over the half-hour or so it takes to get from one end of Evans the Death to the other.

Accordingly, I think it would actually be a disservice to comment on individual songs. Rather, the great pleasure of Evans the Death’s debut is to let Whitaker pierce your soul while the music runs over you like a very large and only slightly out of control lawnmower.

I would have loved to have seen a show with Evans the Death and labelmates Veronica Falls, whose second album was co-produced by Rory Atwell (Test Icicles), who recorded and mixed this one.

The back of the CD enumerates the first six songs accurately, and then each of the next six songs is individually identified as song 7.

The Best Thing About This Album

I am very tempted to honor the song title “A Small Child Punched Me In the Face,” but I am instead going to sing the praises of Katherine Whitaker’s glorious vocals.

Release Date

April, 2012

The Cover Art

The main image is too small – poor use of white space. But the actual image is equally disturbing and mysterious, and I dig it.

Veronica Falls – Veronica Falls

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist

Veronica Falls, a band that released its final album in 2013, is probably among the most contemporary music I listen to. There are a lot of reasons for this, but chief among them is the paradox that as music has become more available, it has become increasingly difficult to find music I like. Certainly, part of it is simply that I lack the energy and time these days to explore; I don’t have the freedom I did in my college years to sit around and do nothing but listen to an album. Something about streaming music also plays a role – the stuff I hear online without having a physical copy rarely registers with me, even when I like it. Even when I shift strategies and try to rely on record labels (that Veronica Falls was on Slumberland certainly helped convince me to give them a listen), I fail to follow through. How many Slumberland emails have I read and then ignored?

What I Think of This Album

Veronica Falls is proudly retro, which I suppose helps explain my love for them. There is a very late ‘80s/early ‘90s sound at work here. The band takes the basic formula of Black Tambourine and adds some of the darkness of the Chills’ “Pink Frost,” and a hint of shoegaze texture, too. The doomed outlook is, of course, timeless already. That said, I don’t find this to be derivative or artificial. It’s very much of a piece with the approach of the first Pains of Being Pure at Heart album (another Slumberland band) in that it gives a loving and respectful nod to the past but undeniably exists in the present.

The clean lead vocals of guitarist Roxanne Clifford are a consistent highlight, as are the backing harmonies (by Clifford, guitarist James Hoare, and drummer Patrick Doyle); the sometimes jangly and sometimes spindly guitar work of Clifford and Hoare should win you over; and the melodies are absolutely wonderful. Beyond that, there is a dark mystique that blankets the entire album (much like the reverb that does the same), from the suicidal “Beachy Head” to the inappropriately sunny “Misery” to the frenetic “Found Love In a Graveyard.”

The pure pop of “Misery” is matched only by the Tommy James-referencing “Come On Over” (which starts out like a Velvet Underground song). The spooky title track will stick in your brain until you are mercifully released from this existence. Throughout, there is a perverse delight in how Clifford prettily – and often cheerily – delivers lines like “Misery / Taking over me ” or “I’ve got a bad feeling / A bad bad feeling / And it’s not going away” (“Bad Feeling”) or “I’m broken-hearted / Dearly departed” (“Found Love In a Graveyard”). The bass line of invitation-to-adultery “Stephen” sounds like it came from the Pixies’ “Debaser” (and later homage “A Good Idea” by Sugar).

It’s unclear to me where this band originated – perhaps Scotland but also perhaps London, or some mix of the two. I am compelled to note that this is the second example in my collection of a title track also being the band name (the other is ”Book of Love” on Book of Love by Book of Love).

The Best Thing About This Album

Everything on here is great, so it feels diminishing to say that the way Clifford and the others stack the melody and harmonies on “I’ve got a bad feeling / A bad bad feeling / And it’s not going away” is my favorite thing.

Release Date

September, 2011

The Cover Art

A+. The font, the spacing, the sepia-ish tone, the branches, the old structure.

Velocity Girl – ¡Simpatico!

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist

This band should call up memories of my high school friend Meetul and my college friend Ben. Instead, it evokes thoughts of a woman I was very into, who once texted me that she had heard Velocity Girl recently and it reminded her of me. I was on a high for the rest of the day . . . because I have no self-esteem and rely on other people to make me feel good. As it turned out, she much later progressed to saying other, more significant things, in person and at moments of great vulnerability and intimacy, that made me feel even better, before revealing just how little I meant to her with the text message equivalent of a form letter, which itself contained additional untruths. To make matters worse, this is not the only music that I associate with her. FML.

What I Think of This Album

Velocity Girl released three albums. No one knows or cares about the third one and everyone loves the first. This is the second, and as far as I am concerned, the best one. Copacetic was ill-served by an emphasis on noise over songwriting, and frankly, Sarah Shannon’s voice sounded thin and weak. The band tightens things up considerably on ¡Simpatico!, at the expense of some of the shoegaze sonics of the first album. Shannon sounds stronger and confident, there are more and better melodies, and guitarist Archie Moore (Black Tambourine) contributes vocals, adding some variety and color to the songs. I suppose some credit has to go to producer John Porter (the Alarm, Billy Bragg, the Smiths).

There is a pleasant fuzziness to “Sorry Again,” which benefits from Moore’s backing vocals. And “There’s Only One Thing Left to Do” boasts a melody the band would’ve buried in pointless noise on the debut, much like the very fine “Drug Girls.” The duet on “I Can’t Stop Smiling” approaches twee pop, with engaging and enjoyable results, including its herky-jerky chorus. Shannon has probably never sung better than she does on the muscular “The All-Consumer” (though honestly, Moore does not do a great job on this one). The band explores a darker sound on the verses of “Rubble,” which it intriguingly and effectively contrasts with brighter sections, before moving to a churning conclusion. The album loses steam a little past the halfway mark – (“Hey You, Get Off My Moon” asks too much of Shannon) – but Velocity Girl reasserts itself with the tough (relatively speaking), Moore-helmed “What You Left Behind” and brief but atmospheric instrumental “Wake Up, I’m Leaving.”

They thank Black Tamourine’s Pam Berry, Belly, Sloan, Small Factory, Stereolab, Superchunk, Mike Schulman (also a Black Tambourine alum and head of Slumberland), Tiger Trap, Velvet Crush, and Bob Weston. This is one of the few Sub Pop releases I own.

Band trivia:  the original vocalist was Bridget Cross, who went on to join Unrest. Drummer Jim Spellman became a correspondent for CNN. The band, which came out of College Park, Maryland in 1989, was named after the classic Primal Scream song (written back when Jim Beattie (Adventures In Stereo) was in the band). Guitarist Brian Nelson was also in Black Tambourine.

The Best Thing About This Album

While a drummer who becomes an international television journalist is difficult to ignore, I think “Drug Girls” deserves more attention.

Release Date

June, 1994

The Cover Art

Terrible. The title font looks awful, the shapes are vaguely disturbing, and the colors are unappealing. Amateurish all around.

Why Popstars Can’t Dance

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist

This is the first compilation I’ve had to address here. It re-raises questions of organization, which I had not previously answered in consistent fashion. Some compilations I had organized by the name of the issuing party (like my Mojo magazine comps, or the Parasol label’s Sweet Sixteen albums). But I also had the Victoria Williams charity album Sweet Relief under the “S”’s, by virtue of its title, and also the Creation comp The Patron Saints of Teenage was filed under “P.” The problem is I don’t really know these albums by their titles. I am more apt to think about “that ska comp from Mojo.” Pushed to make a decision, I think alphabetically by title makes the most sense – and if that forces me to learn the titles, then that’s fine.

What I Think of This Album

I really like the Slumberland label, though I have to say I find this compilation from 1994 a little disappointing. It’s fine, and there is some good (and rare) stuff here, but it doesn’t blow me away like I expected it to. I am not really sure why I keep this – I guess I just like that it’s a document of the scene from the early ‘90s, even if it’s not terribly compelling. There are twelve artists represented, eleven with two songs apiece and poor Jane Pow with just one track. The album is also almost evenly split between American and British acts.

Honeybunch was a Rhode Island band featuring future members of the Magnetic Fields (Claudia Gonson) and Velvet Crush (Jeffrey Underhill/Borchardt). Their offerings are just okay, frankly, but sort of skimp on the melody and with limp tempos. I don’t know anything about the Artisans, who hail from England. “Start Again” is decent, sounding like a mash-up of Heavenly and Velocity Girl. But the gem here is the violin-powered “Tolerance.” Rocketship is a band from Sacramento, or at least in 1994 they were; thereafter, it was basically a vehicle for the work of founder Dustin Reske. An organ, backing “ooohs” and a charming melody bring out the best of “Your New Boyfriend,” though the lengthy, hazy “Like a Dream” suffers from the overbearing organ sounds. The Steamkings have a history back to 1986, but again, this was a new band for me. “Darkest Star” is a ton of fun, refreshing and bright, with some nice guitar work thrown in at the end. “Sad About You,” however, just plods along, and coming so soon after the similarly tedious “Like a Dream,” really hurts the album. Stereolab is the biggest name on the comp; they had roots in the leftist indie band McCarthy. I’ve never been into Stereolab, but “John Cage Bubblegum” is enjoyable, and “Eloge d’Eros” is very cool.

Lorelei is another mystery band, hailing from Arlington, Virginia. “Stop What You’re Doing” is a busy but well-arranged little tune that could’ve used a stronger vocalist singing a better melody; this is 80% of a very good song. The same thin vocals (as well as a too-loud drum sound) plague “Float My Bed,” which is otherwise a decent noise-pop number. Like Slumberland founder (and member of Black Tambourine) Mike Schulman, the Ropers are from Maryland circa 1991, and its main members also spent time in the Lilys. I hope “Blue Sunday” is a New Order joke, but even if not, it’s still a pretty good song. The dark, dense, oceanic “Drive” is a wonderful shoegaze showcase. Singer-songwriter Linda Smith is another discovery. She sounds a bit like Tanya Donnelly (Throwing Muses, Breeders, Belly), breathily cooing over the brittle “The Real Miss Charlotte”; her whispered counting on the track is a highlight. “There’s Nothing You Can Do About It” is a series of short, sharp guitar shocks that could’ve used more effort.

Glo-Worm is the band that Black Tambourine vocalist Pam Berry formed in 1993. They do a winsome turn on the pretty and lush “Stars Above.” There is nothing about “Tilt-A-Whirl” that is deserving of that title, and I find the melody to be quite unpleasant. The story is that Schulman asked San Jose band Silver to change its name quickly, and they came up with Jupiter Sun. Which is definitely a worse name. But “Headlight Beam Reaction” is a fuzzy yet delicate delight, with some surprising and welcome sound effects coming out of the blue as the song winds down. It sounds like we arrive in the middle of “Violet Intertwine,” which reminds me a lot of Ride (due mostly to the backing vocals and powerful drumming) with a daintier guitar sound. Six-piece band Jane Pow is from England with a birth date in 1988, and their sole offering “Reorganize” is what would’ve happened if second-album Stone Roses got really drunk, stole a keyboard, and tried to rewrite “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone.” Not a fan. At one point, I owned a Boyracer album. They came out of Leeds in 1990, and are fairly well-known in the indie-pop world. Neither of their contributions is anything special, though “Speedtrap” is at least listenable.

The Best Thing About This Album

I am choosing the Ropers over Stereolab. Each provided two good songs (Jupiter Sun arguably did too but such is life) but the Ropers get the nod because I hadn’t heard of them before.

Release Date

October, 1994

The Cover Art

It’s neither good nor bad, much like the album itself. I don’t really understand the title (the explanation in the booklet provides the unsatisfactory answer “because guilty feet have got no rhythm”). The color scheme is also mediocre. 

Black Tambourine – Black Tambourine

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist

Excavating the past can be a little embarrassing. Discovering some great band from my youth that was unknown to me at the time sometimes makes me think “why wasn’t I listening to this and what the hell was I listening to instead?” While I am not prone to cutting myself slack, I think I can be forgiving of my absolute ignorance of Black Tambourine, who were a blip on the scene and whose importance was only made apparent later. Formed in Silver Spring, Maryland in 1989, Black Tambourine ended up having an outsized influence on American indie. Guitarist Archie Moore was in Velocity Girl at the same time, and Brian Nelson eventually joined Velocity Girl as well. Band member (drummer?) Mike Schulman founded the influential Slumberland label, and vocalist Pam Berry, who had co-founded the Chickfactor zine, went on to sing for bands like Veronica Lake, Glo-Worm and the Castaway Stones.

What I Think of This Album

Listening to this, you hear the first stirrings of American shoegaze, and the inspiration for scores of domestic indie bands. It’s not hard to draw the line from Black Tambourine to Vivian Girls (“For Ex-Lovers Only”), The Pains of Being Pure At Heart (“We Can’t Be Friends”), or Veronica Falls (“Black Car”). It’s all the more impressive because the band lasted approximately two years and released just nine original songs, one an instrumental (their tenth released song was a Love cover). This album adds two demos and four songs recorded by a reconstituted Black Tambourine in 2009 – those songs date back to the band’s active period and which, while played live, had never been committed to tape. And honestly, the songs are pretty awesome.

The hooky lead bass on the darkly ethereal “Black Car” is magnificent, and the noise pop of rumbly “For Ex-Lovers Only” is timeless. “Pack You Up” is basically the American version of a 4AD single. The cover of Love’s “Can’t Explain” sounds like kids who have learned that adding Jesus and Mary Chain sonics improves most songs by 300%. “Throw Aggi Off the Bridge” is an insular, hilarious, and heartfelt, as well as highly melodic, tumbledown plea to Pastels’ leader Stephen Pastel to dispose of Pastels’ keyboardist Aggi Wright (Shop Assistants) and make room in his heart for the narrator. The drums on this are fantastic; the demo version adds a whammy bar inflection at one point (2:12, to be more or less exact) that will make you stand up and cheer.

Releasing the short instrumental “Pam’s Tan” as the band’s very first single was a weird decision. The nervy “I Was Wrong” and speedy, distortion-laden “We Can’t Be Friends” are delightful. “Drown” is a girl-group number that predicts the 2009 recording of Buddy Holly’s “Heartbeat” and is just okay. There is a calming, deep, foreboding to “By Tomorrow,” with its trance-inducing bass line and waves of distortion.

Kudos to the band for recording the 2009 songs in a way that sounds exactly like the 1990 songs; tracks “Lazy Heart” (with sludgy bass and a xylophone) and double-timed “Tears of Joy” fit in nicely with the original, original songs. That said, the greatest revelation from the more recently recorded tracks is the cover of Suicide’s “Dream Baby Dream,” (more xylophone!) which sounds like a kinder, gentler Spacemen 3 (who also covered Suicide).

“Throw Aggi Off the Bridge” is referenced (along with about 500 other indie pop signifiers) in the classic Tullycraft song, “Fuck Me, I’m Twee.” If you care at all about indie, you need to own this album.

The Best Thing About This Album

“Throw Aggi Off the Bridge” is an indie-pop classic for a reason BUT . . . listen to the scuzzier demo version because it hits different.

Release Date

March, 2010

The Cover Art

Yeah, I like this. Simple and direct, and I am a huge fan of denim jackets. Also, props for adding a glossy texture to the button (or badge, as they would say in the UK).

Cause co-MOTION! – “It’s Time!”

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist

I bought this album because Slumberland was having a massive sale, and they are a label I inherently trust. Not everything I took a risk on that day panned out (sorry, the Saturday People), but I am charmed by this admittedly ridiculous effort. I am not sure if the album title requires quotation marks? What else is unknown here? Well, the liner notes provide no information on the band members’ last names or what instruments they play. A little research reveals that the band was from Brooklyn and this compilation was apparently their only full-length release. They have a history of playing with the Apples In Stereo and the Vivian Girls.

What I Think of This Album

This album is roughly 20 minutes long. Not a single one of the 14 songs here extends past the 1:45 mark. That’s not a problem for me. The sound is fresh, fun, and enthusiastically scrappy. It all sounds sort of thrown together, with a noticeable lack of low end. This is also not a problem for me, as the trebley sound is consistent with the aesthetic these guys are going for.

What aesthetic is that? Well, one of the songs is a cover of the Marine Girls’ 1983 “Falling Again.” Who the fuck are the Marine Girls? Exactly. I am only bragging a little when I say that I am familiar with both the Marine Girls and related spin-off Grab Grab the Haddock, courtesy of a Cherry Red box set I own (all the Cherry Red indie-pop box sets are essential purchases, btw). So if you like deceptively ramshackle, fast, clattery indie-pop, then this is a band for you. The key word there is “deceptively” – at first blush, you would be forgiven in thinking that these kids don’t know how to play their instruments; the amateurish quality is enhanced by Arno’s pitchy voice and the decidedly lo-fi production. But pay careful attention and you’ll hear some skilled playing that only sounds messy, almost certainly intentionally (producer Tim Barnes, an accomplished drummer (Wilco, Silver Jews, Sonic Youth, the Essex Green, Beth Orton), probably knows what he is doing).

This compilation gathers together singles and EPs as of 2005. There is little point in distinguishing between 90 second songs, but “Baby Don’t Do It” has a classic opening riff, nimble bass part, fine drumming, and some great guitar work throughout, including on the bridge; “This Just Won’t Last” is a caffeinated, push-pull blast; “Only Fades Away” has a neat, clean lead line and warm bass playing; Alex’s guitar divebombs menacingly on “Take a Look”; “Don’t You Know?” has wonderful lead lines from Alex (almost getting surf rock for a hot second); and “Who’s Gonna Care” is legit pretty. I don’t know – I like it, but it’s not for everyone.

In case you were wondering, the Marine Girls was Tracey Thorn’s pre-Everything But the Girl band. One of the gents who ended up in Grab Grab the Haddock later joined future Fatboy Slim and past Housemartin Norman Cook in Beats International.

The Best Thing About This Album

My favorite thing is drummer Jock’s crappy cymbal (apparently the only one he owns) that he constantly bashes.

Release Date

October, 2008

The Cover Art

This seems very typical of indie-pop bands from the ‘90s and ‘00s. It’s fine. I can’t recommend it to anyone, but it’s not awful.

Weekend – Sports

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist

I literally know almost nothing about this band, other that they are a trio from San Francisco and have a possibly unhealthy love of the Jesus and Mary Chain. I am almost as certain as I can be that I bought this because it’s on Slumberland and they’re a label I sort of implicitly trust, and I probably listened to a few samples of this on the label website. 

What I Think of This Album

This is essentially comfort food, insofar as a grey sour patch gummy worm can be considered comfort food. There is nothing original here, but it sounds cool. Equal parts Jesus and Mary Chain, Joy Division, and Suicide stylings, Weekend gives you the dark, noisy, atmospheric, textured rock you want when you don’t want to actually think about what you’re listening to. Look, I own it, so I like it, but I also recognize that it’s “good” only in the sense that it’s entertaining, and “not good” in the sense that it’s completely insignificant.

At its best, Weekend imbues these songs with some personality. “Coma Summer” sounds like a chainsaw in a wind tunnel, with a driving rhythm and vocals perfectly buried in the mix, as if vocalist Shaun Durkan is drowning in a sea of bees. “Monday Morning” has a mysterious, looped vocal intro, augmented by bass and guitar (and maybe keyboards? – there is no keyboard in the credits, but there is so much reverb and echo and more, it’s hard to tell what is going on), and developing into a stately quasi-instrumental piece. A decent melody informs feedback-wrapped “Monongah, WV.” There is an understated grace and beauty to “Veil,” despite the intense arrangement (the floor tom hits towards the end are wonderful). “End Times” benefits from a Peter Hook-like bass part.

The Best Thing About This Album

“Coma Summer” seems like the single here.

Release Date

November, 2010

The Cover Art

This is cool. I wish there was only one of the image, but regardless, it fits perfectly with the music and I like the white border on the bottom and the fading in the upper right hand corner (which you can’t see here).

Phil Wilson – God Bless Jim Kennedy

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist

The rare comeback that pleases fans and doesn’t embarrass the artist; you probably could’ve predicted that the humble, intelligent Phil Wilson would be able to pull it off. After the June Brides broke up in 1987, Wilson basically stopped playing music completely. Thank God the Slumberland label thought enough of Wilson to release this fine bit of indie pop. Will it change the world? No, but it will make it a smidge more tolerable.

What I Think of This Album

Named after his grandfather, God Bless finds Phil Wilson looking backwards. The June Brides were somewhat innovative for incorporating a viola and trumpet into their jangly indie pop, and if nothing here is groundbreaking or revelatory, that doesn’t make it any less welcome. There is always room for catchy, well-crafted tunes. Two other former June Brides participate – critically, they are violist Frank Sweeney and trumpeter Jon Hunter – so this is not too far afield from the glory days of the late-’80s.

The music here is bright, smart, and tuneful, and you may think you’ve heard it before, but even so, you still haven’t heard it nearly often enough. To be clear, this isn’t a tired retread – Wilson makes some excellent, energizing music on this album, well worth repeat listens (and owning – obviously). “Always In Trouble” is an amazing nugget, with an arpeggiated guitar and sawing viola, reminding me a bit of the Bats. A jaunty trumpet colors the sunny “Pop Song #32.” A sweeping viola (doubled on trumpet) adds to the feeling of nostalgia on the peppy and sentimental “Small Town.” “I Own It” likewise speeds by as an emphatic statement of purpose. The guitar work on opener “Three Days” is excellent, and “Found a Friend” is an airy, contemplative ballad. The ragged harmonies on the title track are charming, but what sells it is the stuttering rhythm. There is a latter-day Teenage Fanclub sound to “Up to London.”

Among the many people and bands thanked in the liner notes are Pete Astor (the Loft, the Weather Prophets), Bunnygrunt, and the Tyde, all of whom will have their own entries in this absurd blog.

Tissue alert:  Kennedy died at the age of 17, and as Wilson observes “his life was just long enough to give me and my family ours.”

The Best Thing About This Album

“Always in Trouble” is fantastic.

Release Date

November 2010

The Cover Art

It’s difficult to begrudge someone a picture of their grandfather, deceased while still a teenager. But I don’t have to like it.

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