lead me on, lead me on, through the darkness, through the dawn

Let’s be plain: The MoondoggiesTidelands is a damn-fine album. Hailing from the flannel-clad corner of the Pacific Northwest, The Moondoggies offer honest and hearty tunes that draw their energy from the land and the sea and the salt of the earth.

Grand vocal harmonies are often front and center on Tidelands, playing into the sense of the everyman projected by the album. The harmony gives way to a soulful groove on “What Took So Long”, and soars heavenward in the gorgeous bridge found about a minute into the title track.

“Empress of the North” reads like a refined campfire song, and singer Kevin Murphy’s strong, clear voice steers album closer “A Lot of People On My Mind”. Beautiful vocals aren’t all The Moondoggies have to offer, though; little touches like a slide guitar and railway drums transport you right to the moment, to a different place and time.

Tidelands dropped 10.11.10.
Click to download “It’s a Shame, It’s a Pity“.

replace my heart with a machine

Michael Benjamin Lerner’s project, Telekinesis, is hitting the road and bringing a new EP with them. At a little over ten minutes, the band (now comprising Lerner, Jason Narducy [Robert Pollard Band] and Cody Votolato [Blood Brothers]) fleshes out Telekinesis!‘s “Calling All Doctors”, offers up a couple new songs, and covers two more.

“Non-Toxic” has a nice 90s alt feel to it, and “Dirty Thing” is an instant like with its staccato, prancing piano and dreamy guitar. The covers on PSC stay fairly close to the originals. Lerner could have easily penned Guided By Voices’s “Game of Pricks“, and Telekinesis keeps all the punk of Warsaw’s (Joy Division before they were Joy Division) “The Drawback” while pushing the drums even closer to the explosive quality of machine-gun fire.

Parallel Seismic Conspiracies dropped 08.31.10.
Listen to the album at the Merge Records site.

i put my heart and soul into chapter one

San Francisco’s Ocean Beach boasts beautiful views of the Pacific, the infamous Seal Rocks, and the relics of the Camera Obscura and Sutro Baths. The area’s mix of timeless and dated, wilderness and precision also borne Sonny & The Sunsets and their blissed out ode the mid-century pop.

Sonny Smith, along with Kelley Stoltz, Tahlia Harbour, and Ryan Browne, crafts a chilled-out, lo-fi tribute to the sounds of the past, calling to mind everything from “Earth Angel” to The Byrds to Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros’ indie anthem “Home“.

Hand claps, finger snaps, acoustic guitars, and guy/girl vocals give Tomorrow Is Alright a homey feel, letting the listener settle into it at once have them playing along, as it were, a few songs in. Melodies as familiar as a 50s high school dance play out on “Planet of Women” and “Strange Love” – the former ripe with Harbour’s charming deadpan delivery and the latter a piece of perfection with its distorted lead, doowop-ready backup vocals, and cavernous piano.

In addition to Sonny & the Sunsets’ hip-swaying, head-bobbing melodies, the album also contains little lyrical snapshots that catch the mind’s eye, like “strange girl with lipstick smudged / asked me if I’ve ever loved” and “every tear rolling down is a lesson learned” – not particularly weird or striking, but having that certain something that stays with you long after the lights have faded.

Tomorrow Is Alright drops 08.31.10.
Click for the “Too Young to Burn” mp3.
Find out more about Sonny & The Sunsets here.