September 30, 2013

Today's Hotness: Chambermaids, White Laces, The Weaks

Chambermaids -- Whatever Happened Tomorrow (crop)

>> Based on the full-length it just dropped, seemingly out of the sky, long-running Minneapolis-based dream-pop quartet The Chambermaids know exactly what they're doing. Cataloged with the too-clever "post-shoegaze" badge on Bandcamp, and sporting influences like Yo La Tengo and New Zealand indie label powerhouse-turned-all-encompassing-genre-tag Flying Nun, the band's got a firm grip on that dreamy, dreamy sound Clicky Clicky adores, as evidenced by a terrific sophomore full-length issued just last week. The collection, titled Whatever Happened Tomorrow and released by Guilt Ridden Pop Sept. 25, abounds with wonderfully realized dream pop tunes highlighted by its centerpiece, "China Blue." The tune is pushed by a bouncing rhythm built on strident strumming and crash cymbal bashes, over which The Chambermaids layer distorted and reverbed guitar leads. The confection is iced by fronter and co-founder Neil Weir's murmured vocals, with bassist Martha Weir's voice providing a gentle, ethereal foil, playing the Butcher to Mr. Weir's Shields, if you will. There's something to be said for channeling influences as well as The Chambermaids do, but it detracts from the richness of the band's songwriting, and the compelling blend of gloss and rough edges to the sparkling production work here, to belabor the point. The foursome's painstakingly created and strongly presented material (just listen to the sunshiney fun of the catchy cut "Electric Sky") certainly stands up on its own. Whatever Happened Tomorrow is available on limited edition vinyl, CD and as a digital download, all of which can be procured via the act's Bandcamp yert right here. The Chambermaids, now a 10-year-old concern, previously issued a self-titled LP in 2006 and an EP titled Down In The Berries in 2009. -- Dillon Riley

>> Richmond-based minimalist space-pop juggernaut White Laces are poised to release a cassette single via Philadelphia's Treetop Sorbet next week. The hunk of plastic and magnetic tape contains the stellar tunes "Ascend" b/w "Deep Moves," two dynamite tracks that speak to the foursome's admirable focus and composition chops. Guitar lines intertwine around fronter Landis Wine's dreamy, echoing vocals, his lyrics like incantations falling through the characteristically crystalline ambient atmosphere conjured by the band. White Laces, as we previously reported over at Facebook, will begin recording an as-yet-untitled sophomore full-length LP in December in Philadelphia with Jeff Zeigler of Uniform Recording. Mr. Zeigler's production work on records from The War On Drugs and others is well-known, and the pairing of this engineer and the band is something we're unreservedly excited about. If you don't habitually read our Facebook page, then you may have missed our posting last week of a fresh video clip for White Laces' "Incantation," which we certainly continue to recommend to your attention. The cassette single of "Ascend" b/w "Deep Moves" will be released in a limited edition of 100 clear purple chrome tapes by Treetop Sorbet Oct. 7 and you can purchase one for $4.50 right here; it is the final installment in a cassingle series put out by the label that also included released from The Young Sinclairs and Alpine Roses. Stream the whole jawn via the Bandcamp embed below.

>> Speaking of Philadelphia, exciting things are afoot with The Weaks, the long-running and prolific collective helmed by all around cool guy Evan Bernard. One of these exciting things, and perhaps the most exciting of these things, is that The Weaks, heretofore a studio concern only, announced today that it will play a debut live show in its hometown Nov. 7 at the new venue Boot And Saddle. The act is also preparing the release of an EP titled The World Is A Terrible Place & I Hate Myself And Want To Die, and the first track from the 7" collection is already available for streaming. The tune is called "Nietzsche's Harvest Song," and it is filled with all of the elements that make The Weaks great: punk-pop energy, some cock-rock lead guitars, massive emo vocals (the bellowed opening line is "lately I've been having a lot of bad ideas...") and hooks galore. There are some particularly clever, more delicate touches, too, like the classic bridge, and the tinkling, tremeloed guitar in the chorus. The Weaks have felt a bit like a secret for the past year or so that we've known about them, but that should change in a big way once people can turn on to these cats live. The World Is A Terrible Place & I Hate Myself And Want To Die will be self-released by the band Dec. 22, just in time for you to purchase it and throw it in a Christmas stocking. However, it doesn't appear you can buy the 7" just yet, but in the meantime the band is selling rad t-shirts with the art for the single emblazoned on the front. Get into it! And stream "Nietzsche's Harvest Song" via the embed below.

September 25, 2013

20: Seam | The Problem With Me

Seam -- The Problem With Me

We had hoped to publish this on Saturday, the proper 20th anniversary of the release of the record whose album art you see above, but, alas, other things got in the way. But recently we had the good fortune to make the acquaintance of Soo Young Park, a man who once led the stellar '90s slowcore act Seam. Often when we meet persons such as Mr. Park -- that is, a person whose work we have held in high esteem for large stretches of time -- we try to be cool and, well, be cool. Upon meeting Mr. Park, however, we couldn't help but blurt out by way of awkward introduction the name of our favorite Seam number, the closing track to 1993's excellent The Problem With Me, "Autopilot." The tune caps the record, which conveys a singular blend of fiery loudness and frozen introspection. It's Mr. Park's lyrics and singing that, despite the big dynamic moments of cymbals crashing, guitars distorting, rock rocking, has likely led to our impression, a false memory, really, that The Problem With Me is a much quieter record than it actually is. And in fact the opposite is true, with the notable exception of the remarkably still, aforementioned album closer. Listening back to the record now, it certainly feels like a rocker, filled with pretty melodies from precisely layered guitars and bass (check out the final moments of "Road To Madrid," for example) coordinated in precise rhythms that count down to explosions of angst and beauty. It's quite a record, and one whose major anniversary should have been celebrated with something better than this blog post. But we do what we can. As do the fine, relatively anonymous people of the Internet, one of whom put all of The Problem With Me on the YouTubes to stream. Access the stream below. The record, released on Touch And Go under the catalog number TG118 lo those many years ago, is still in print and we recommend you purchase a copy for your off-line music listening right here. Park now plays bass for the very fine international slowcore concern Bored Spies, which played in Boston last month and whose debut single can be streamed at and purchased via Bandcamp right here. We have some vague recollection that Bored Spies are working on a full-length, so we've got that to look forward to. But in the meantime, there's always The Problem With Me, a record that sounds like drifting snow on fire and feels like your face does a minute after it's been slapped.

September 23, 2013

Clicky Clicky Presents A Benefit Show For Community Servings Featuring Earthquake Party!, The Hush Now, Soccer Mom & K. Heasley of LILYS | 3 Nov. | TT The Bear's Place

Clicky Clicky Presents A Benefit Show For Community Servings Featuring Earthquake Party!, The Hush Now, Soccer Mom & K. Heasley of LILYS | 3 Nov. | TT The Bear's Place

[Flyer: Matt Klimas] After months of planning, we are thrilled to announce that Clicky Clicky Music Blog will once again present a bill for the ages, four of Boston's best indie rock acts, performing together for one night only Sunday, November 3, to raise money for one of the worthiest charities in all of the Commonwealth [Facebook event page]. The evening will be headlined by explosive Boston noise-pop makers Earthquake Party!, who are joined by Clicky Clicky favorites all The Hush Now -- yes, you read that correctly, the band is back from a two-year hiatus -- as well as shoegaze goliaths Soccer Mom and the legendary K. Heasley of the transcendant, shape-shifting Lilys. The lineup is amazing, as Earthquake Party!, The Hush Now and Soccer Mom are each finishing up albums that we expect will be career-defining, and K. Heasley of Lilys, well, every record he's made has been career-defining. The bands will perform to help Clicky Clicky raise funds for Community Servings [Link]. The Jamaica Plain-based organization prepares and delivers daily free, nutritious meals to almost 800 acutely ill clients (as well as their caregivers and children) in 17 cities and towns in Massachusetts. If you'll permit us to copy and paste from as we did last year, Community Servings' web site, "meals are prepared with delicious, fresh foods and are packed with the nutrition needed to fight illnesses such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis and lupus. To meet our clients' needs, we cater to their dietary restrictions, providing for 25 special diets."

The goal now is simple: we want tickets to this event to sell out, as soon as possible, so that we can accomplish three things. First, we want to raise a substantial chunk of change for Community Servings to help support them in their mission of feeding those in need. At the same time, we want to convey a strong message that Boston's indie rock community continues to help make a difference in people's lives when the opportunity arises. And our third and final goal is that we can have a night so big, so successful, that the first question everyone asks the next morning is "when can we do it again?"

So click this link and buy your tickets. We promise a show so amazing that people will talk about it for a long time to come (last year there was a blizzard, and the cats from Johnny Foreigner ended their set by doing snow angels on the sidewalk outside Great Scott. That was something). All the bands are playing for free, so all proceeds after the club covers its costs go straight to helping pay for nutritious meals for our chronically ill neighbors and their caregivers and kids. We're also planning raffles or other ways for you to agreeably part with a little more hard-earned money the night of the event. We'll have more details on that as the date of the show approaches. For now, though, here's what you need to do:


That Lineup Again:

Earthquake Party!

The Hush Now

Soccer Mom

K. Heasley of LILYS

September 20, 2013

Review: Guillermo Sexo | Dark Spring

​​Back In Black is AC/DC's eighth record. Moving Pictures is Rush's ninth. Invisible Touch, whatever you might think of it, is Genesis' SEVENTEENTH record. We list these not because of their massive commercial success, but as evidence that the best acts keep getting better, so long as they have what they need to make it work. And as evidence, we suppose, that there was once something called the record industry, and it sometimes engaged in something called artist development. Those days would seem to be long gone, so we're not sure what it is, exactly, that sustains veteran Boston indie rockers Guillermo Sexo, who release a ​mesmerizing full-length titled Dark Spring next week.​ Whatever it is, the quintet's new collection -- its fifth, and first for the venerable Midriff label -- is plainly Guillermo Sexo's magnum opus. It doesn't markedly alter the alchemy that resulted in their fantastic fourth record Secret Wild; instead Dark Spring is simply both bigger and deffer than its predecessor. And with the present ascendancy of Massachusetts indie rock in to the national consciousness, all signs indicate that Guillermo Sexo's time is now.

As did Secret Wild, Dark Spring fully embraces both bewitching, vintage English-styled folk sounds and gigantic, swirling, guitar-pop creations. This year's model, however, benefited from a longer, more thoughtful gestation, as the band told Vanyaland recently. And the results are astonishing. The centerpiece of the collection is the hypnotic and epic exploration "Meow Metal," a seven-minute song stacked with guitars, a prominent synth line, airy vocals and a bash-n-pop rhythm. Perhaps more than any other track, long-time collaborating engineer Justin Pizzoferrato's work here gives listeners the sense that Guillermo Sexo is not just playing their instruments to make the recording, but rather they are using their instruments to play the entire studio space itself. "Meow Metal" leads into the pastoral, serene ballad "Moonlit Sparrows," which in turn points to the bracing anthem "Fall Lens." There is not just stylistic variety among the songs on this record, there's also substantial variance in the length of the compositions across the set. That variance enhances an apparent narrative quality to Dark Spring: it really feels like a journey out of classic literature. That feeling is enhanced by titles such as the Tolkien-referencing, waltz-timed album closer "Shadowfax," but even more so by singer Noell Dorsey's mystical, other-worldly vocal performances and Mr. Bettsak's arrays of guitars that alternately shimmer and lacerate.

Dark Spring is the band's fifth record in seven years, proof that Guillermo Sexo (and specifically guitarist Reuben Bettsak, who issues a steady stream of demos to his Soundcloud and also plays in Future Carnivores, another Boston act) are remarkably prolific​. ​How many Boston indie rock acts have even been around long enough to have written, recorded and released five records? Better question: how many have been good enough to have warranted a catalog five albums deep? We certainly count Guillermo Sexo among that number, particularly in light of this new, next-level effort. Midriff releases Dark Spring Tuesday as a CD and digital download; a vinyl release is to follow shortly. You can pre-order the digital version via ITunes right here. Dark Spring will be feted both with a listening party Sunday night at Zuzu in Cambridge, Mass., and with a heavily anticipated record release show at Middle East Sept. 29, also in Cambridge. Whet your whistle by streaming the entire record via the Soundcloud embed below.

Guillermo Sexo: Facebook | YouTube | Bandcamp

Previous Guillermo Sexo coverage:

Review: Guillermo Sexo | Bring Down Your Arms EP
That Was The Show That Was: Clicky Clicky Community Servings Benefit Show Thank Yous And Wrap-Up
Clicky Clicky Music Presents... N O F U C K I N G W H E R E
Review: Guillermo Sexo | Secret Wild

September 16, 2013

Review: Kal Marks | Life Is Murder

Lately Exploding In Sound Records seems to be exclusively in the business of releasing classics. During a summer that saw Boston's humble scene get hoisted by the collar up into the spotlight -- due in large part to a breakout record from a certain Western Mass.-based former signee -- the Brooklyn-based label was never far from the conversation. We like to think Pile's very rad Dripping LP -- a late 2012 EIS release -- was instrumental in setting the gears in motion for this year's ascendance of Massachusetts indie rock. Now EIS has yet another barnburner on its hands, the sophomore full length (but "proper studio" debut) from Boston punks Kal Marks, titled Life Is Murder. The collection sees the six-year-old trio turning away from the more surfy and jangly vibrations of its 2011 debut Goodbye Horses and doubling down on a darker, grittier sound.

The title of the new record is a bit of a bait-and-switch. Fans looking for a self-serious slog concerning mortality -- and fans unaware that a terrific 2012 Kal Marks cassette was called Piss Of The Century -- will be disappointed. In fact, Life Is Murder may be one of the funniest records you'll hear this year. To whit: in the title cut fronter Carl Shane detachedly sings of self-pleasure from inside a maelstrom of massive, grungy riffing, drily observing that "a reach-around in jail" is better than being alone. Mr. Shane bends and drags his unique, amphibious voice through Life Is Murder's nine tracks, modulating his attack between piercing and poignant in time to the band's shifting arrangement of sinewy guitar, bludgeoning bass and clattering drums. Setting his whip-smart lyrical shenanigans against the trio's borderline sludge establishes a tension that keeps the LP engrossing straight through to the spine-tingling climax of the titanic closer "Out In The Deep." There, Shane's unhinged prophesying "...and you're too busy getting high, all the time... and I will fall from a great height..." manifests as deliberate, emotional gut punches.

While Shane and his cohort have taken a daringly reductive approach to its music, the trio is too smart and inventive to be boring. Indeed, it's hard to track the trajectory of many of these songs, as most end somewhere far from where they start. "Where A River Starts And Ends" presents as a lightly picked lullaby, then fluidly transforms into a grinding, distortion-caked stomper before coming to rest upon a rolling drumbeat that echoes Modest Mouse circa Lonesome Crowded West. Opener "Love Is A Song... Not An Answer" commences with 33 seconds of feedback, piano and ambient noise before launching into a weighty, rhythmic stomp and steadily ascending and descending riffage. Life Is Murder is a split release between three different labels; joining EIS in doing the honors is Sophomore Lounge and Midnight Werewolf. A cut from the record is available for streaming via the Bandcamp embed below, and Life Is Murder can be pre-ordered directly from Kal Marks right here. Finally, the band embarks on an ambitious U.S. tour Thursday: it begins with a show at Bard College and then presses on for an additional three weeks before Kal Marks plays a homecoming show in Cambridge Oct. 12. The full tour dates are at the very bottom of this item. -- Dillon Riley

Kal Marks: Internerds | Facebooks | Bandcamp | Soundcloud

09.19 -- Annandale-on-Hudson, NY -- Bard College
09.20 -- Baltimore, MD -- Club K
09.21 -- Harrisonburg, VA -- Crayola House
09.22 -- Richmond, VA -- BOYZHOUSE
09.23 -- Greensboro, NC -- TYP HAUS
09.24 -- Asheville, NC -- Apothecary
09.25 -- Murfreesboro, TN -- Rack City
09.26 -- Nashville, TN -- Stone Fox Tavern
09.29 -- St. Louis, MO -- CBGB
09.30 -- Chicago, IL -- Wally World
10.01 -- Iowa City, IA -- Trumpet Blossom Cafe
10.02 -- Minneapolis, MN -- Pine Cone Castle
10.03 -- Milwaukee, WI -- Quarters
10.04 -- Chicago, IL -- Observatory
10.05 -- Kalamazoo, MI -- Milhouse
10.06 -- Columbus, OH -- Treebar
10.07 -- Pittsburgh, PA -- TBA
10.08 -- Philadelphia, PA -- Connie's Ric Rac
10.09 -- New Brunswick, NJ -- Cooler Ranch
10.10 -- Brooklyn, NY -- Shea Stadium
10.11 -- Purchase, NY -- SUNY Purchase
10.12 -- Cambridge, MA -- The Elks Lodge

September 14, 2013

Today's Hotness: Potty Mouth, Psapp, Swearin'

Potty Mouth (crop)

>> So we endeavored to deliver some real talk in our review of Potty Mouth's full-length debut, which was published in the fine electronic pages of Vanyaland Friday. We wrote about gender and double-standards and all-female bands, if only because when we came up in the scene decades ago those sorts of discussions were an everyday occurrence. We don't hear them much anymore, which is probably more a function of our spending 1/3 of our life at work, another 1/3 interacting with those under the age of five, and the final 1/3 either asleep or wishing we were asleep, than anything else. If we have one misgiving about the piece it is that it may read as if we felt like the Northampton, Mass.-based foursome needed defending. Nothing could be further from the truth. These women are as capable of staking their place in the world as they are of creating a terrific rock record, which is what they've done with Hell Bent. Sure, the collection does not invent the wheel, and as we stated in our piece, it neither aims to instruct (think Bikini Kill) nor does it get arty (think The Slits). This is the reason we set up the Vanyaland piece by referencing legendary California punk acts JFA and The Descendents. If you take a wide view on the first decade of punk rock, we think California bands more than those of any other scene kept punk fun, playful. Yes, Dead Kennedys brought serious political game, yes, Uniform Choice delivered straightedge rage in spades, and, yes, there are other notable outliers. But California punk's collective determination to keep punk fun, maybe even somewhat innocent, is a notion we feel Potty Mouth shares. We think you'll like Hell Bent, and we encourage you to check out our piece at Vanyaland via the link above. Before you click away, however, check out the two tracks from the record, "The Spins" and "Damage," that we've embedded below. Old Flame releases Hell Bent Tuesday, and you can order it right here.

>> Four years used to seem like a long time... and we suppose it still is in the life of a rock 'n' roll band. That's how long it has been since we've heard a squeak, skronk or ding from UK-based toytronica duo Psapp. We suppose the band is best known for having a song used as the theme to a teevee show in the US, but their records are all enjoyable and quirky in a sort of Tracey Thorn-meets-Tom Waits kind of way. News arrived last week that the duo was back, with a new song in tow and a promise that a new LP is not far off. The new tune "Everything Belongs To The Sun" touts a jagged, percussive groove, which underpins singer Galia Durant's incantatory vocals. It's not nearly as melodic as the powerfully poignant ballads that highlight Psapp's catalog, such as "Tricycle," or the brilliant click-and-cut tour de force "Leaving In Coffins." But "Everything Belongs To The Sun" exudes energy and confidence, and leaves us eager to hear more of the new music the band has promised. We'll keep you updated. In the meantime, stream the new song via the embed below.

>> Philly-based punk-pop superheroes Swearin' announced Friday it will release a sophomore set entitled Surfing Strange later this fall. The quartet's collection, described by some as both heavier and moodier, will be issued by Salinas Records in the US Nov. 5, and via Wichita in the UK the prior day, because that is how the UK rolls. Surfing Strange presents 11 songs, including the preview track "Watered Down," a thumping, mid-tempo strummer sung by Kyle Gilbride. Swearin' are touring the UK in October with its literal sister band Waxahatchee, and then will return to the US for a long strand of dates that stretches from mid-November through mid-December. Swearin's self-titled debut was one of our favorite records of 2012; Wichita is releasing it in the UK next month, meaning two Swearin' releases will be issued in back-to-back months over there, meaning UK music fans should be feeling pretty happy right now. Stream "Watered Down" via the Soundcloud embed below.

September 12, 2013

Crash Safely Multiple Sclerosis Society Benefit Shows featuring The Upper Crust, Parlour Bells, Corin Ashley, The I Want You and many more | Sept. 13-14, 20-21

Crash Safelt

Maybe you are new in town. You'd have to be, at this point, to not be familiar with some of the great things the Boston music community does to help those in need. Anyone living in the area last spring in the aftermath of the marathon bombings will recall the amazing way bands and music people pulled together to raise money for the One Fund and related causes. There's a long history of that here, and this weekend marks the return of one more recent effort, Crash Safely. Now in its third year, the event comprises a series of shows that each aim to raise money for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and raise awareness about the disease, which is commonly diagnosed in those afflicted between the ages of 20 and 40. So, prime rocking ages, right? Not only the event's organizers but also all of the bands involved this year have been touched in some way by the chronic, unpredictable neurological disease that affects the central nervous system. Read more about MS here, if you like.

This year's Crash Safely features four nights of something-for-everyone shows in three different towns. Our compulsive desire to categorize and organize -- and, well, general laziness -- makes us wish all our favorite acts participating were slated to play a single venue on a single night, but hey, that's our baggage. What you should know is that strewn across the four nights and three venues are Clicky Clicky-approved acts including The Upper Crust, Parlour Bells, Corin Ashley, The I Want You and Cotton Candy. A digital comp featuring all the participating acts has been put together by the organization, and you can stream that at the bottom of this piece. But before you dig in, click open the four Facebook event pages into new tabs so you can look over the great bills and consider your rock options (roptions?) while you rock out. Maybe tomorrow, Friday the 13th with The Upper Crust and John Powhida International Airport is your night. Maybe you thrill to the prospect of seeing Corin Ashley and The Unholy III back-to-back at the Midway next week. Whatever your proclivity, there's a show for you. And if there isn't, well, you are a very difficult person, aren't you? Well, difficult people can just click this link and make a donation via one of the event co-founder's bike-a-thon pledge page, and then go back to incinerating ants with a magnifying glass or whatever it is they were doing. As a treat for reading this far, here is a link to The Upper Crust playing their stone-cold classic "Let Them Eat Rock."

Crash Safely Night #1: 9/13/13 at Oberon

Crash Safely Night #2 9/14/13 at Davis Square Theatre

Crash Safely Night #3 9/20/13 at the Midway Café

Crash Safely Night #4 9/21/13 at the Midway Café

September 11, 2013

Today's Hotness: Lady Jane, Natural Velvet

Lady Jane -- Things We Forgot On Vacation (crop)

>> As a somewhat solid editor, Clicky Clicky honcho Jay has developed substantial expertise identifying which artists will be most pleasing for this reviewer to consider. Case in point: The assignment of a track from Things We Forgot on Vacation, the upcoming full-length from the Rennes, France-based psych-rock foursome Lady Jane. As far as we're concerned, the record's alluring preview single "Death of a Dandy" is just what the doctor ordered to accompany the shuffling in of autumn. As evidenced by their already extensive back catalog, Lady Jane are no strangers to mid-'60s psychedelic and classic rock, so "Death of a Dandy" is in keeping with the band's vibe. Here they perfectly capture the mood, structure and insanity of original Floyd fronter Syd Barrett's songwriting circa 1968, without delivering just a carbon copy. The acoustic strums, lazy stream-of-consciousness vocal delivery, and gutbucket slide guitars all recall the promise and innovation propounded by Mr. Barrett before his decline and withdrawal from public life. Lady Jane's song is more structured and straight than Barrett's later solo work, which is often what music fans are most familiar with. Instead, it's like an additional transmission from the lost, hallowed period surrounding the creation of Pink Floyd's second album, A Saucerful of Secrets, and specifically its lone, Syd-penned capstone, the beautifully scrambled "Jugband Blues." The Frenchmen carefully transport that delicate era to our own in crafting a composition that would be perfect for a disorienting evening at a hip, smoky bistro. And so Lady Jane not only make us curious about what other talent may be lurking about France awaiting our ears, but also shows that there's still a lot of great new things that can come of a careful study of less-copied composers. Stream "Death of a Dandy" via the Bandcamp embed below. Things We Forgot On Vacation is available here for pre-order now via the Les Disques Normal imprint; both the CD and vinyl versions are slated to for release Oct. 7. -- Edward Charlton

>> Baltimore noise-pop concern Natural Velvet released a debut EP to the wilds of the Interzizzles over the summer that has kept our attention for some time. Called Salome With The Head of John the Baptist, the relatively new act's five-song collection is notable both for being affecting and for not fitting tidily into one of a contemporary music writer's many little descriptive boxes. It's rare that this reviewer can't connect some dots and peg influences to any band that describes itself as shoegaze, post-punk or noise rock, but Natural Velvet certainly presents a delightful challenge. Natural Velvet pull together strains of metal and gothic post-punk and pair it -- like a well-traveled noise sommelier -- with the dry, brittle production of the '80s underground. Indeed, at first it seems as if Salome With The Head of John the Baptist is a nostalgic release, but that then begs the question: nostalgic for what? It's hard to put a finger on. The collection's standout song "Salome" opens with a spindly chimes 'n' drums intro that imbues the tune with a cool and creepy mysteriousness evocative of Rodan's epic "Tooth-Fairy Retribution Manifesto." The tune then lurches into a steady, but jagged groove. Perhaps it's the dry, hi-hat-heavy drum style, upfront vocals, or that grinding distortion, but the instrumentation has the same sort of concentrated, performance-focused, DIY conviction present on many mid-period SST releases. Singer Corynne Osterman's speak-sing vocals are a pleasant surprise, as well. With so many contemporary female singers either emphasizing their serene ethereality, diva-like bravado, or pixie cuteness, it's refreshing to hear a woman mutter, groan, and sigh forth. Admittedly, there are moments on Salome With The Head of John the Baptist that feel stiff, but even so this is a promising young group, one that presents a singular approach we've not heard elsewhere in the thriving Baltimore scene. Could Natural Velvet be a new recruit to the army of Grass Widow's dark and sensual take on female-fronted rock? Let's hope so. Grab its entire EP as a pay-whutcha-like download via the Bandcamp embed below. -- Edward Charlton

September 9, 2013

Today's Hotness: Joanna Gruesome, Bailterspace

Joanna Gruesome -- Weird Sister (crop)

>> A wise man once said, "All great records remain misunderstood." Take for instance the debut from recent Slumberland Records signatories Joanna Gruesome. The Cardiff, Wales-based quintet's Weird Sister hit finer retail outlets this morning in the wake of substantial buzz. Despite that fanfare this reviewer didn't love Joanna Gruesome at the outset, when the early preview track popped up on Soundcloud. This is admittedly surprising, something we attribute to the fact that lead single "Sugarcrush" at first blush seemed too pale an imitation of the band's influences. Evoking plenty of buzzing C86 groups like The Shop Assistants or The Flatmates, with a pinch of split octave melodies and a notable absonous chord a la MBV's "You Made Me Realise," "Sugarcrush" seemed too calculated an appeal to this hipster's most sacred devices. However, after a listen to the even more aggressive call-to-arms "Secret Surprise," I was convincingly won over and made a point to revisit and reassess "Sugarcrush." Upon further inspection, the song can be seen as an exercise in the group's worthy fascination with coordinated strumming. Guitarists Owen and George achieve such an amazing conglomerated rhythm with their lacerating dual attack that the choppy sounds merge into something like a punky crest. Of course, what becomes very apparent is that Slumberland was right all along: Joanna Gruesome are no amanuensis, but rather the spiritual heirs to at least one bygone SLR standard-bearer, the legendary Henry's Dress. In context, then, the Gruesome's grinding noise-pop represents another mile marker along the road toward Slumberland's inevitable domination of the underground. Weird Sister is available now from the Slumberland store right here. The record is presently streaming here in its entirety for the next week at Pitchfork. Fans may be interested in hearing an earlier version of the aforementioned "Sugarcrush," which is on offer (for free!) from Joanna Grueseome's Bandcamp right here. The vocals of the old iteration are louder, there is some creative stereo panning and overdriven cymbals splash to the fore. However, the older version lacks the great chaotic ending. Why not listen for yourself and judge? Both versions can be streamed via the embeds below. -- Edward Charlton

>> Lazy journos will surely tie the reunion of New Zealand's mighty indie-space-rock trio Bailterspace to the growing list of original ultimate alternative wavers that have famously reunited. It's easy to imagine a statement about how the trio is "following in the footsteps of Pixies and Dinosaur Jr" into a festival-lined sunset. Well, that's baloney. Bailterspace have followed few, if any, since it first formed in the mid '80s. And with their latest album, called trinine and due Sept. 30 via Fire Records, that's still the case. Indeed, like the recently reunited Swervedriver and Lorelei, Bailterspace's return sounds like much more than a victory lap for an aging fan base. Instead, they pick up where they left off and clearly have more to say. The band's progressive, dreamy and dour distortion couldn't be more relevant at this moment in rock and roll music, and the preview single "Films of You" from the forthcoming set is a stark reminder to listeners of the threesome's rarified position within noise-pop. After shaking off the dust with a loose, jammy opening, the tune locks into a mid-range-filling bass and snare groove akin to those that defined Bailterspace's 1995 masterwork Wammo. Not long after, a pleasing tremoloed synth maps out a melodic cadence that is slowly overwhelmed by pings and scrapes across a guitar bridge. Bubbling to the top is Alister Parker's mysterious, accented vocals, which recall the Anglo everyman stylings of fronters from acts such as Mclusky, The Clean or Dead C. At less than two-and-a-half minutes, the number quickly dissipates into its own heavy psychedelic storm, but even so it makes an indelible impression as a potent, sunglasses-at-night fuzz mover. "Films Of You" makes plain that Bailterspace's plan hasn't changed during its thirteen-year caesura. Listen to the tune via the embed below, and click right here to pre-order the collection from Fire on LP or CD. -- Edward Charlton

September 7, 2013

That Was The Show That Was: Porcelain Raft with Avox Blue, Casey Desmond | Great Scott, Boston | 4 Sept.

Porcelain Raft, Avox Blue, Casey Desmond | Great Scott, Boston | 4 Sept.

[PHOTO: Dillon Riley] Brooklyn-based synth-pop outfit Porcelain Raft Wednesday night opened the tour supporting the new set Permanent Signal right here in Boston at Great Scott. I'd been a big fan of the act since the release of its early 2012 debut Strange Weekend, but this would be the first time I was able to experience how Italian-born mastermind Mauro Remiddi and co. render the dense sound of their records in front of a live audience. The crowd vibe was subdued as the trio mounted the stage, live drummer in tow, and sparked the proceedings with "Think Of The Ocean," the first song off Permanent Signal. Right away Mr. Remiddi showcased the key building block of the band's sound, a vast array of vintage keyboards and synthesizers. Porcelain Raft's songs may be self-serious, but Remiddi seemed at ease in front of the crowd, content to not take himself too seriously.

The threesome augmented their live instrumentation with presets and a drum machine, and the blend of played and prompted sounds gave the performance a warmth some might argue is lacking from its recordings. In fact, Porcelain Raft comes off a lot more human on stage than even devotees might expect, and indeed the band Wednesday sounded a lot better in flagranza than what is captured on their LPs. The one-two punch off "Ocean" and "Cluster," with its ringing guitar leads, set a somber and yet startlingly playful tone for the remainder of the set, which we were pleased to note included songs from Strange Weekend as well as many of the highlights from the new record, which was released Aug. 20 by Secretly Canadian. The trio closed with "Drifting In And Out" from the debut, icing on the cake, as the song is a personal favorite.

Throughout, I couldn't shake the feeling that the show was severely under-attended. This is a project that's been boosted by prominent online outlets, and yet there I was up against the stage with plenty of elbow room. But that is, of course, one thing that makes shows like Wednesday's so great, that feeling that you're onto something a lot of people are ignoring or just don't get. Local synth-gaze producer Avoxblue and electropop purveyor Casey Desmond opened, and acquitted themselves well. -- Dillon Riley

Porcelain Raft: Internerds | Facebook | Tumblaaaaaaaahhh

September 5, 2013

Clicky Clicky's Choice: Our Abridged Version Of Samira Winter's Song A Day, And Hey Did You Know That's A Thing?

Samira Winter -- Song A Day (Clicky Clicky's Choice Abridged Version)

It's understandable if you had presumed you'd heard the last of Winter fronter Samira Winter for a while, in the wake of our post about the recent "Alligator" single, which included the news that Ms. Winter was relocating to the West Coast. Well, there is one loose end, something that no one else is telling you, something quite important. Ms. Winter launched an effort over the summer to write a song every day for 30 days running. Clicky Clicky usually takes announcements about such efforts with a grain of salt. Well, no, we usually ignore them. That's because the commitment such an effort requires is huge, and even if the songwriting streak is maintained and the goal is somehow reached, the results more often than not can be largely forgettable/regrettable. But here's the thing: Samira did it, and she did it surprisingly well. Not only are there a lot of really good, dreamy guitar pop songs, but you will find yourself returning to them again and again. The thing actually has an arc, it accelerates, and by the end of the 30 days Ms. Winter was routinely turning out very good songs every 24 hours or so; it's entrancing music, not dissimilar to the output of the band that bears her name, to be sure. But here there's the added excitement of hearing Ms. Winter working things out in sort of real time.

As good as it is, the proposition of listening to 30 songs is likely a bit more than the casual punter will want to commit to, though, right? That's where Clicky Clicky comes in. As we did in June with the voluminous Audio Antihero comp Regal vs. Steamboat, we've abridged Samira's Song A Day down to a Clicky Clicky's Choice of nine, chronologically ordered tracks listed below, a sort of faux album. We've placed the embeds for those songs below, as well. If you like what you hear, and we think you will, click this link and grab the entire 30-song collection. Don't even have the patience for nine songs? Just click on "Pretender" below -- that might be the best jam of the lot. Or maybe it's "Flower Tattoo." What will become of these songs? It's hard to say. Ms. Winter told Vanyaland she intends to continue collaborating with her bandmate Nolan Eley on new music, and there is some sort of planned 2014 release, so we're hopeful that these songs don't get thrown on a shelf and forgotten. Time will tell.

1. My Adoration

2. Parara

3. Like I Do

4. You're My Sound

5. Some Kind Of Surprise

6. Pretender

7. Flower Tattoo

8. Favorite Pretender

9. In My Head

September 2, 2013

All This Stuff Happening With Calories And Its Offshoots Makes Our Head Hurt 'Cause It's A Lot Of Things All At Once, Like This Awesome New Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam Record

The men behind Calories seem to have decided that, like the protagonists at the climax of "Ghostbusters," now may be the appropriate time to cross the streams. There was a time when the criminally unsung Birmingham, England-based noise-pop foursome appeared content to have a go at taking projects in turn. But at the moment four related entities are issuing new music, prepping new releases or, in the case of the completely mega but long defunct rock band Distophia, ramping up for a reunion show. All the moving parts and machinations have tempted us to create diagram of all the various band members and where they fit, but, you know, then we didn't, so we're hoping this round-up will suffice to go beyond these earlier blog posts (1, 2) to clarify who is doing what (frankly, it makes our head ache, and we wish we had a UK correspondent to deal with this, *makes "call me" hand motion*).

Here is where we stand today. There was a band called Distophia, they made all of these awesome songs (1, 2, 3, 4 and so on),and then suddenly about six years ago there was not a band called Distophia. Thereafter Pete Dixon, John Biggs and Tom Whitfield from that band formed Calories, which thankfully still exists. Sometime in the past year the then-still-a-trio decided they did not rule hard enough, so they added producer extraordinaire Dominique James on bass and Mr. Dixon moved to guitar. Along parallel tracks, there has been other action in recent years, namely the establishment of two side projects. First, Mr. Dixon has created a bass-free, noisy wonder called Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam with gentlemen who are called Andrew Bullock and Ralph Morton. Meanwhile, Mssrs. Biggs, Whitfield and James launched a new project of their own, the more moody Burning Alms.

OK, that's the who, here's the what. Calories announced late last month its third long-player is on the way. While no release date or label has been disclosed, the quartet has released to the wilds of the Interpants the strikingly ethereal preview track "Mausoleum." Calories has for some time been drifting from blunt, brief and anthemic post-punk toward a more billowing, spaced-out sound, as evidenced by the looser proceedings of its tremendous sophomore set released in 2010, Basic Nature [review]. But the dream-like "Mausoleum" -- which is pushed along by a high guitar riff we swear appears somewhere in the Modest Mouse oeuvre -- is an exciting step further into more spectral and indefinite spaces; a video for the new song is posted atop this item. "Mausoleum" is not the first new music we've heard from Calories this year: attentive readers will recall the band issued the EP DMT in January.

But wait! There's more. Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam at long last today issued its tremendous, self-titled, debut long-player. The collection -- recorded live to tape at Birmingham's Highbury Studio -- is filled with 11 bracing and noisy guitar pop songs that make a very strong argument against tagging the three-piece as a side project to anything. The sparkling preview track "Ibiza Rocks" -- which moves at a brisk pace, fist-banging through verses to gently pulsing choruses -- made its way online over the summer, and is not too far afield from the big, anthemic guitar music of Calories. Indeed, to a certain extent we feel that Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam, of all of the aforementioned projects including Calories itself, is the one that most resembles the band that made the forthright belters of the first Calories full-length, Adventuring [review]. Just take a listen to the cracking opening triptych of "Sea Chanty," "Orange Grove" and "Sooooooo." Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam is crammed with very strong tracks, from which we have a hard time identifying favorites, although the echoing ballad "Teeth" distinguishes itself, perhaps because it is the first major downshift the collection executes. A very small number of physical copies of Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam will be available at the band's next show, in a bundle that includes one of two shirt concepts, but the majority of us will just have to live with the fact that we're not going to get our mitts on one of those. Fortunately, the record is available as a pay-what-you-like download which you can access via the embed below.

Not to be outdone, a brief note atop the Burning Alms Facebook page promises the band's debut LP will be released this year. Your move, Burning Alms! As if all this activity was not enough activity from which to infer an extreme state of activeness, it was announced last month that Distophia will perform a one-off reunion show Nov. 16 in Birmingham. Could this lead to an official release of the legendary "lost" Distophia record Beat Dysxlexia? Cross all those fingers. Then download the SFL record and take the rest of the day off, that was a lot for you to read on a Monday.