August 31, 2013

Los Campesinos! Fifth Album No Blues Due Oct. 29, Hear Preview Track "What Death Leaves Behind" Now

Los Campesinos! -- No Blues (detail)

As anticipated, Cardiff-based indie heroes Los Campesinos! -- after teasing its title with this video -- disclosed Thursday that indeed its next, fifth long-playing album is titled No Blues, and it will be released next month. Fans are being treated to a free download of the preview track "What Death Leaves Behind" straight away, and we've embedded it below this item for your intense scrutiny and sublime pleasure. No Blues, according to this tumblr post from early July, is the band's darkest, lyrically, to date, "but done with way, way more humour and hooks than Hello Sadness was." "What Death Leaves Behind" launches from a lush, edgeless introduction into a swinging verse built on a dense melodic drone of synth and guitars, and features a lyric seemingly influenced by fronter Gareth Campesinos!' work tending a graveyard. It is classic Los Camp, somewhat in the mode of the last record's preview track, "By Your Hands." The new collection will be the veteran sextet's second release of 2013, as it issued in May the tremendous live set It's A Good Night For A Fist Fight. While that collection featured what may have been the longest Los Campesinos! live set to date (according to some stage chatter therein), No Blues is tidy 10 tracks; the track listing and other information about the LP was unveiled here Thursday. The new record was recorded in June with long-time produced Tom Goodmanson, with guitarist Tom Campesinos! also taking a production credit as well. Pre-orders for No Blues, which is officialy due Oct. 29, have begun; the collection is available on CD, gatefold-sleeved pink vinyl 12" and download along with a number of premiums (hoodies, baseball shirts, pink tie-dyed t-shirts), all of which are laid out for your inspection at the band's Big Cartel dojo here. Los Campesinos! also revealed in July that the aforementioned live record will be released on double cassette for International Cassette Store Day next month. The sextet has nary a weak spot in its catalog; its most recent two full-lengths Hello Sadness and Romance Is Boring were Clicky Clicky's executive editor's top records of 2011 and 2010 respectively. Our hopes are high for No Blues, stream "What Death Leaves Behind" below to find out why.

August 28, 2013

Summer Fades Featuring The New Highway Hymnal, Eldridge Rodriguez, Slowdim | New World Tavern, Plymouth | 1 Sept.

Summer Fades Featuring The New Highway Hymnal, Eldridge Rodriguez, Slowdim | New World Tavern, Plymouth | 1 Sept.

Sure, the last thing we need now is a reminder that summer will leave us, as she always leaves us, packing her stuff into the station wagon, pointing her pony tail north and her car south, and heading out of town. But leave it to our bloggers-in-arms over at The Ash Gray Proclamation to turn the annual indignity into a cause for celebration, an excuse to bring -- for what may be the very first time -- an indie rock show to a place called the New World Tavern in Plymouth, Mass., a tavern which, based on a glance at Google Maps, is pretty much a stone's throw from where this blog's executive editor's umpteen-times-over grandfather bumbled his way into establishing a colony. But that's all ancient history -- the important thing is rock 'n' roll music, and the AGP is bringing that in spades Sunday. We are given to understand the event kicks off with a world premiere of Dark Spring, the terrific, forthcoming full-length from Boston psych-rock veterans Guillermo Sexo. We've heard the record, it slays, you'll want to make sure you get thee to Plymouth to hear it (especially the epic one-two punch of the songs "Carried A Golden Heart" and "Meow Metal"). Thereafter, there will be sets of rock music from a trio of leading Boston rock acts: power-pop champs Slowdim; noise-pop goliaths Eldridge Rodriguez and acid-groove lords The New Highway Hymnal. All of this kicks off early, AGP helmer Bryan Hamill told us last week, with the album premiere beginning around 7PM, so you'll need to find a shirt and your car keys late that afternoon in order to make the scene at a useful hour. All the details are at this Facebook event page.

What of these bands, you may be wondering? Well, topliners The New Highway Hymnal are very close to dropping a new single if these two Facebook updates (1, 2) are to be believed, and the trio has been steadily gigging around town all summer. We touched base with Eldridge Rodriguez for an update, and he told us -- among other things -- that he and his present band (Midriff New York honcho Clayton Keiber, and brothers Dennis and Dave Grabowski) are at work on a new record that will feature "tons of noise, tons of pop." The band will help kick off the week-long TT The Bear's 40th anniversary celebration next month, to boot. We also checked in with Paul Sentz from Slowdim for the latest and greatest. His band delivered a long-awaited, self-titled debut long-player at the front-end of the year [review], a record packed with big ideas and bigger hooks. These days, according to Mr. Sentz, Slowdim is developing new material for a potential EP, and is chewing over an idea for a new slower, washed out take on the album cut "Wishing Well" that will hopefully be realized soon. All of the above suggests to us Sunday night in Plymouth is going to be a winner. So come on, come help AGP chase the season out of town... until next year.

August 27, 2013

Show Us Yours #18: Earthquake Party!

Earthquake Party! practices here -- (bad collage of images shot by Ian Doerr)

[PHOTO CREDITS: Ian Doerr/bad digital collaging by Clicky Clicky] Earthquake Party! is a band so good that we actually willingly use their superfluous punctuation. The Boston-based trio makes frenetic indie pop that is so desperately energetic it comes across as imperative, it needs to happen. The act has released only a handful of songs to date (despite being together for about three years), but the urgent thrill of every one of them makes us think of how a diver feels post-plunge as she anticipates surfacing, anticipates the visceral pleasure of that first deep, clear breath of air. After a chance meeting with guitarist Justin Lally early this summer, wherein we discussed the incredibly ambitious LP the band has been working on, we decided it was time to get a better sense of what makes Earthquake Party! tick. And what better way than to survey where the magic is made? As with scenemates Krill, EqP! actually have a fairly unusual practice space situation. No, not a mansion, but a recording studio located north of Boston called Mystic Steamship. We put some questions to Mr. Lally about what it's like to practice there, and, of course, about the album. Along the way he offered one of the most articulate descriptions of the joy of being in a band united in a creative endeavor. We're grateful to Mr. Lally for his time, and we invite you to read on and, if you are not familiar, check out the music below the interview as well.
Clicky Clicky Music Blog: So why do you use this space? What makes a recording studio a better fit for Earthquake Party! versus, say, a malodorous and poorly lit closet at the Sound Museum in Allston?

Justin Lally: It was less of a cognitive choice and more of an opportunity we stumbled into. We have had many spots in the past... ranging from big, dirty rooms where the end of practices always included inviting friends for impromptu shows, to basements that made our eyes and throats sting after being down there for more than 20 minutes. The Mystic Steamship space is great, and having the ability to record practices and listen back is such a helpful tool... Sometimes you don't hear everything that's going on in the room when everything is turned up and everyone is going full bore, then you listen back and realize, "hey, maybe those riffs don't actually go together" or "that drum fill before the first chorus was perfect, we should keep that"...stuff like that.

CC: I'd imagine practicing in a studio created with acoustics in mind offers some advantages, sonically. Is there an idiosyncrasy or quirk of the space that has affected one of your songs, or even your overall sound?

JL: Having a room that is designed for playing music is helpful, but overall we practice for our live show... which includes turning up real loud and trying to create and troubleshoot things that we would run into at a venue or basement.

CC: Usually we ask bands how their practice space smells in this feature, because we think that gives readers a really visceral idea of what it's like to hang out in there. However, I imagine Mystic Steamship is -- if you'll pardon this turn of phrase -- fairly ship-shape. But you must have practiced in at least one pretty rank place before -- any unpleasant memories you wanna share?

JL: First off, Mystic usually smells great because Ian Doerr (who is producing our upcoming record) is always burning these little incense sticks all around... that and the smell of solder, which i also enjoy. The basement of my current apartment is probably the worst place we have practiced... it's way too cluttered to set up any sort of arrangement that is conducive to being creative, and the air quality is shit. Also, the water heaters have exploded a couple of times and soaked the bottom two inches of all of our gear.

CC: I know from our chat early this summer that Earthquake Party! is in the midst of cutting a very ambitious full-length that aims to cram 28 songs into a little more than a half-hour. But I was surprised to hear you say that the music wasn't entirely written. Are you working with some sort of conceptual roadmap that lets you know you're looking for certain number of songs?

JL: There're 28 song names... We'll see how many survive the maturation process. I've been very into albums lately that utilize -- I guess you could call them interludes -- shorter bits of music that help the overall album have a more cohesive identity, but also allow you to cover more ground without sounding scattered.

CC: You guys seems to be about quality rather than quantity, when it comes to length of your songs. But also in terms of the gross number of songs, too: you've been around for three years, but have only officially released six songs. Potentially packing 28 songs on to the new record goes to the opposite extreme. What brought on the deluge? And is there some sense of relief from just getting so many songs out of your head all at once?

JL: We have done what we were able to in the past, and also what made sense for our band at those moments... and it just makes sense to do this album with Ian now. It's been so easy and fun in the tracking sessions... I've had the chance to use some gear I didn't think I'd ever hold, let alone record with (1960s Vox Phantom XII through an original Electro-Harmonix POG through a Traynor stack with blown 15" speakers... totally bonkers). And beyond that, we are really good friends having fun making a record. We'll drive to the beach just talking about the pros and cons of tambourine vs. sleighbells on a track, or which songs could handle drums completely hard panned... it never feels like we're punching the clock and recording music. We have always been creatures of circumstance, right now it's going pretty well.

CC: You also mentioned to me taking a cue from Guided By Voices when thinking about the new record, its brevity, its ratio of big ideas to short running times. I remember being surprised that you covered "Tractor Rape Chain" in your session for WMBR's Pipeline last year [link], because I thought you guys were coming from more of a C86/agit-twee kind of place. Has Guided By Voices always been an influence? Has the scope of what influences Earthquake Party!, and what Earthquake Party! wants to be, changed since the inception of the band?

JL: I've always been a huge fan of melody, and Robert Pollard has always been someone I've admired. That guy has written thousands of memorable songs that don't boast a great riff or solo, it all comes back to the melody. I don't think the thesis statement of the band has changed much at all... I do think we are trying some things on this record that we were incapable of before, but we are still three people humming and yelping about the delight of living with reckless abandon.

CC: What does the next six months look like for you guys?

JL: Finishing the record. I'm trying to put all my waking thought into this thing first before moving on. But... there's been talk of a Beach Toys(check em out)/Earthquake Party! tour in the fall, stay tuned. And of course we will be playing Boston shows in the coming months.

Previous Show Us Yours episodes:
Shapes And Sizes | Dirty On Purpose | Relay | Mobius Band | Frightened Rabbit | Assembly Now | Meneguar | Okay Paddy | Charmparticles | Calories | Sun Airway | It Hugs Back | Lubec | A Giant Dog | Bent Shapes | Krill | Golden Gurls

August 26, 2013

Today's Hotness: The Superman Revenge Squad Band, Joey Sweeney, Heyward Howkins

The Superman Revenge Squad -- A Funny Thing You Said (detail)

>> The brilliant Ben Parker doesn't owe us a damn thing, of course, but jeepers it is hard to keep up with his various enterprises. Our admittedly weak recollection was Croydon, England-based Mr. Parker had lately been working within the band The Jonbarr Hinge [link] and having his plays produced in various theaters. So imagine our surprise to learn that the assumedly moth-balled Superman Revenge Squad project has over the past year been resuscitated once more, expanded, and rebranded The Superman Revenge Squad Band. The act, which features Parker's brother and former Nosferatu D2 bandmate Adam as well as a host of others, will release via Audio Antihero Oct. 14 a new collection titled There Is Nothing More Frightening Than The Passing Of Time. The eight-song set will be on offer in a limited edition of 140 compact discs, and a promotional track has already made its way to the Internerds. The song is "A Funny Thing You Said," and it is something of a Parker classic, as different versions of the tune were released on Superman Revenge Squad's self-titled 2007 EP (which, actually, we can't prove ever existed -- maybe these were just songs we got off MySpace?) and a bootleg, Live At The Green Dragon, released the same year. While those older iterations of the song were spare and raw, the arrangement of the new version practically bursts with melodic ideas thrumming off of tense accordions and wandering saxophones. In one way it sounds like Parker has gone off the deep end finally, but in another it is pure genius. You may recall we've done things like proclaim Parker England's greatest contemporary lyricist, or characterize him here as "startlingly talented," all of which still holds true. You can pre-order There Is Nothing More Frightening Than The Passing Of Time via SRS's Bandcamp wigwam right here. The official release date for the digital single is Sept. 16, but it is a pay-what-you-like download already at Bandcamp, so why delay? While you're listening, read the rest of this blog post, then read this interview we did with Parker five years ago.

>> In the early days of August we dropped knowledge about the forthcoming solo set coming from Philly indie rock lifer Joey Sweeney. To review, Mr. Sweeney's new collection is titled Long Hair and it will be released this fall by Delaware Water Gap, Penn.-based label La Société Expéditionnaire. We now can add to this knowledge base by sharing with you the first full preview track from Long Hair, a nostalgic, piano-punctuated, mid-tempo ballad called "Kate Moss Hologram." The tune -- which we know will be track two of nine, based on this Facebook post -- kicks off with a tossed-off, funny lift from Elton John (you won't miss it), and its rich reverbs and sway-inducing organ evoke memories of long-gone days at the dusty roller rink in the suburbs. But "Kate Moss Hologram" quickly catches up to a relatively more modern remembrance of watching MTV's "120 Minutes" and wanting to get out of town. The latter sentiment is a fairly universal one for kids, and the former for kids of a certain (approaching middle) age. Sentiment and sentimentality -- fortunately always far shy of schmaltz -- have always played a big role in helping Sweeney land emotional punches with his music. Long-time readers will recall our previous reportage indicating Sweeney previously helmed acts including Barnabys, The Joey Sweeney Rock Band, The Trouble With Sweeney and Arctic Splash. There has still been no release date announced for Long Hair, but we imagine that will be coming along soon. While you sit around waiting, stream the excellent "Kate Moss Hologram" early and often via the Soundcloud embed below. We would be remiss if we did not also mention here Sweeney's former The Trouble With Sweeney bandmate Heyward Howkins, who is preparing the release of a beautifully conceived sophomore set of baroque folk rock titled Be Frank, Furness. While a stream of the record was available for a short amount of time earlier this month, presently the only track publicly available is the gentle pop strummer "Nogales," which we highly recommend to your attention. Howkins' solo debut The Hale & Hearty was issued in June 2012 and we reviewed it right here. Stream the new winner "Nogales" via the second embed below.

August 24, 2013

Today's Hotness: Winter, The Snowy Owls, Krill

Winter -- Alligator (detail)

>> We've been looking forward to the opportunity to put this blog post together because of the obvious parallels between the first two items. So here we have it: two Clicky Clicky faves, bearing wintry names, heading into transitions, while putting out killer summer jams for the discerning indie rock aficionado. Let's start local with the new digital single from Boston dream-pop lumnaries Winter. "Alligator" was unveiled last week and the bittersweet ballad may very well be the charming quartet's strongest to date. It comes, however, in the wake of fronter and namesake Samira Winter's disclosure that she will soon relocate to the west coast. The band -- which includes Infinity Girl's Nolan Eley and Kyle Oppenheimer as well as 28 Degrees Taurus's Ana Karina DaCosta -- played its final Boston shows (for now, anyway) this past week. The good news is Ms. Winter and Mr. Eley intend to continue their collaboration despite the long distance, and based partcularly on the strength of the "Alligator" single (although the rest of their catalog is quite good, as well), we're relieved: theirs is a fertile musical partnership that we'd hate to see scrapped. Interestingly, while the song bears Mr. Eley's increasingly cognizable, atmospheric production, the composition is actually co-written with Cloud's Tyler Taormina and a fellow named David Broyles (with whom we are not familiar), and the song addresses Ms. Winter's feelings about the move west. Attentive readers will recall that Cloud and Winter are both part of the Practice Room Records collective, and Ms. Winter and Mr. Taormina attended university together in Boston. "Alligator" is a lush, melodic ballad featuring Ms. Winter's most confident vocal, and, between the song's pulsing bass line and her voice, we're reminded of Joan Jett's 1981 cover of "Crimson And Clover." It's not a perfect comparison, by any stretch: where Ms. Jett brought her tough edge to the Tommy James and The Shondells classic, it is hard for us to imagine the laid-back Ms. Winter being interested in being any tougher than, say, Oz's Glinda The Good Witch of the South. Anyway, with "Alligator"'s cascading vocal hook in the chorus, easy girl-group bounce and a frenetic guitar solo from Mr. Oppenheimer, the song is one that won't be quick to leave your head. It is the group's second digital single of the summer; we wrote about "The View" right here in early July. Stream "Alligator" via the Bandcamp embed below, and see the band (in trio formation) perform the song during the recent Boston Fuzzstival here. Tangentially, let us also note Cloud's coup this week of having the "Mother Sea" single reviewed in Pantsfork; we wrote about the song here in early July as well.

>> Our second summer offering from a wintry act is The Snowy Owls' terrific new Summer EP. The Richmond shoegaze foursome's short collection was released to the wilds of the Interpants Aug. 13 and features the songs "Feels Like Summer," "What Summer Is for," "All Summer Long," and "Next Summer." We're confident you'll identify the theme here. The music is languidly paced and relatively loose compared to the darker, more formalized and restrained compositions found on the band's 2012 Within Your Reach EP, which we reviewed here. The lazy, estival vibe of Summer does not, however, result in more spare and less urgent music. In fact, the surprise here is that -- despite the sense we get that the new EP came together quickly due to the recent departure of drummer Brandon Martin (formerly of another Clicky Clicky fave, Lubec) -- Summer is bigger, denser, prettier and more anthemic. It gives us the sense that The Snowy Owls are just at the cusp of something very exciting indeed. While all of the EP is delightful and makes us think at times that it is not unlike a Jesus And Mary Chain record slowed down, Summer goes supernova at the close of the second minute of "Next Summer." There the song begins to endlessly reach out in every direction into a reverb that becomes increasingly saturated with technicolor guitar feedback and ringing cymbals. It is a beautiful, beautiful thing, and certainly the high point to date of The Snowy Owls' repertoire. With the EP completed and released, the act is now focused on finishing a full-length record, according to this Facebook status update. In the meantime, the quartet -- now featuring James O'Neill behind the drum kit -- will play Richmond's Fall Line Festival Sept. 6 and then make an appearance the following day at the annual Hopscotch music festival in Raleigh, NC. Listen to Summer via the Bandcamp embed below; you'll be glad you did.

>> While Mr. Riley touched on it briefly in his review of the Bent Shapes album release show, we wanted to expand upon what is up with Jamaica Plain-based bugcore champions Krill. The trio disclosed earlier this month that 1) it recorded a number of new songs at Silent Barn in Brooklyn and 2) founding drummer/gourmet Luke Pyenson is leaving the band to study in London for a year. Mr. Pyenson is playing two final gigs with Krill, the first at Great Scott Friday with Diarrhea Planet and So So Glos, and the second a beach-stravaganza with Speedy Ortiz at The Beachcomber in Wellfleet, Mass. the following night. While Pyenson's departure is no small change for the tight-knit trio, Krill will not be sidelined for even a moment. The band hits the road for an extensive tour throughout September with new drummer Ian Becker, an old friend of Krill guitarist Aaron Ratoff and bassist Jonah Furman who grew up with those gentlemen in the same Chicago suburb; Mssrs. Ratoff and Becker have played together in a band previously. The first date of the vaguely square-shaped Krill tour is Sept. 4 in Philadelphia, and the itinerary includes stops down the east coast, a westerly wandering across the south, determined meandering northward up the midwest, and some spry maneuvering back east. As for the new songs, they are said to be inspired by characters in certain songs of Boston indie rockers Pile (who will play on an awesome bill with Obits this fall). There is a new Krill video you should attend to with your eyes and ears; it features the song "Theme From Krill" from the band's recent tour de force Lucky Leaves and can be experienced by clicking this hypertextual "link." We reviewed Lucky Leaves right here in June.

August 21, 2013

Today's Hotness: Best Friends, Sapphire Mansions, Radstewart

Best Friends -- Happy Anniversary b/w Nosebleeds (detail)

>> Art Is Hard Records continues to command attention, not only for its fine curation and great taste, but also due to brave and unconventional packaging concepts. Perhaps it's because of their singular methods that we sometimes lose sight of the fact that they still function as a tried-and-true label with a steady supply of CDs, tapes and vinyl. Which, of course, brings us to their latest 7", a stunning double A-side for the manic Sheffield, England quartet Best Friends, due Sept. 23rd. One side of the disc, "Happy Anniversary," reveals the scrappy band wearing a bit more production polish that we've heard from them previously, as well as more mature subject matter (their earlier, surf punk-inspired numbers explored such multi-dimensional aspects of the human condition as "Surf Bitches" and "Dude Love"). While there's still plenty of thick, churning guitars, one can't help but notice the way "Happy Anniversary" unfolds – full of space and a crooned vocal. It evidences a band unwilling to adhere to one approach for too long. After its delicate intro, "Happy Anniversary" introduces a descending surf lead and fuzzy flange on the rhythm guitar that each add thoughtful and evocative texture to the band's brand of bash 'n' pop. Best Friends has consistently exhibited a steady hold on the mid-range of their productions, and this thankfully remains true here: the mix is thick and pleasant, the drums splash along, and the chorus follows the guitar line for a great melodic punch. The flip of the single is quick-paced strummer "Nosebleeds," which -- impossibly -- is even more catchy, melodic and direct than "Happy Anniversary." All of which has us wondering: is this the best single of the year? When all is said and done, it will certainly be a contender. Both sides of the cracking single are embedded for streaming below; judge for yourself. Pre-order "Happy Anniversary" b/w "Nosebleeds" -- which comes packaged with a comic drawn by Nai Harvest's Lew Currie, and the option of adding a t-shirt to the deal, as well -- from Art Is Hard right here. -- Edward Charlton

>> We recently noted the head of a certain terrific American indie label recommending to the attention of friends an act called Sapphire Mansions; the label is constantly putting out first-rate stuff, so we thought we'd best have a listen. Brooklyn-based pop upstarts Sapphire Mansions are preparing to self-release Oct. 23 a debut six-song EP (eight songs if you buy the cassette, or even more if you buy a CD-R) titled Over America. Despite its title, the short set's hazy but spare indie pop suggests the influence of decades-old U.K. and even Kiwi acts as much as it does bands closer to home like The Ocean Blue and The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart. Sapphire Mansions distinguishes itself via the unconventional application of mixing EQs and reverbs, something that makes the quartet's EP a compelling listen. Often the tracks feel at arm's length, squeezed and swirled, so that what would otherwise seem conventional production assumes a foreign quality via, for example, the mysterious, hissing treble in fronter Jay Hough's vocals, or the mechanistic whooshes surrounding drummer Josh Feldman's snare beats. The overall flavor is one of slight unease, giving Over America an intriguing tension, even a sense of danger, despite the sturdy pop skeleton underneath. The EP is refreshing and definitely worth pre-ordering, so that blasting it on the hi-fi can become a reality come late October. Be the first kid on your block to own one by pre-ordering it at Bandcamp; click through the embed below to find out how. -- Edward Charlton

>> This reviewer often takes a sharp turn in terms of rock music consumption once summer starts to inevitably wind down. Gone are the gleeful and blissed records that encouraged lazy afternoons. Instead -- as if in preparation for the cold -- the harsh, aggravated noise of detached garage singles and the cool, mechanical precision of post-punk suddenly seem the best aural accompaniment. Our good and perhaps telepathic friends at Alcopop! may be feeling the same way, based on its recent announcement that it has signed and will release an EP in October from the spectacular Cardiff, Wales-based slack-core foursome Radstewart. The year-old act -- part of the aforementioned Art Is Hard's constellation of acts, as well -- is just the kind of band the world needs right now. Mixing a sense of The Fall's humorous and wordy motorik antics, a pinch of the Velvet Underground's taste in chords, and the goofball chemistry of early Pavement (which, we suppose, also comes by way of The Fall), this young Cardiff unit has hit upon the perfect indie cocktail. The promotional single "Beer Swindlers" is a fuzzy, grinding bit of tongue-in-cheek noise-punk. The singer's deep but nasal speak-drawl imbues the recordings with an agreeable and easy character, not unlike that of popular American peers Parquet Courts (who have seen great success with their updated, millennial take on the roots of punk and DIY). "Beer Swindlers" can also be found on the group's superb self-released and about-to-sell-out three-song CD, the last five of which are on offer at the band's Bandcamp here. If that short disc (and this video for the sublime "Hot Dog") is any indication of what Alcopop! has in store for us, be ready for greatness; we advise keeping an eye on the Alcopop! store for the appearance of pre-order details. Radstewart have landed a plumb spot supporting Sky Larkin's fall U.K. tour, the dates of which one can inspect right here. Listen to "Beer Swindlers" via the embed below. -- Edward Charlton

August 20, 2013

That Was The Show That Was: Bent Shapes Feels Weird Release Show With Potty Mouth And Krill

Bent Shapes, photo by Brad Searles of Bradley's Almanac, used with permission courtesy of the photographer

[Photo courtesy of Brad Searles] Shows like Sunday's at Allston landmark Great Scott are the reason why our favorite bands seem to be getting more press in, say, Pitchfork than the Boston media these days. The bill alone speaks volumes for the admirable diversity of our beloved little scene: there were the paranoid insectoid ruminations of Krill, the brash punk stylings of the hotly tipped Potty Mouth, and the whip-smart post-punk jams of Bent Shapes. It was the latter act's release show, and Bent Shapes certainly brought that nebulous "it" live in a big way. Much to our delight, Potty Mouth and Krill also delivered memorable sets.

Bent Shapes took the stage a little after 11 and quickly brought the proverbial house down. The trio's new record Feels Weird -- out today and now streaming at Pitchfork Advance -- is incredible, a hard-earned tour de force from one of the best indie pop band in Boston. They wear their influences proudly, to be sure, but the true appeal to Bent Shapes' fizzing sound is its tight songcraft, a trait that dates back to its early days as Girlfriends. Songs like "Big Machines" and set closer "Behead Yrself Pt. 2" neatly cram melodies and counter-melodies into shiny, breezy post-punk nuggets. None of that gets lost in the act's live show, either. Stripped of some studio polish, the songs register with even more conviction, all strained vocals and loud, crashing cymbals. Out-of-towners might not realize, and the unfamiliar wouldn't know it from the pop euphoria of Feels Weird, but Bent Shapes are veterans of the city's basement scene and were right at home on a small stage like Great Scott's. The show not only felt like a victory lap for the group, but also seemed to celebrate how far the Boston scene in general has come of late, especially this summer. At the end of it all, Bent Shapes had a totally rad encore walk-on moment, too -- not bad for a Sunday night in late August.

First up Sunday were JP's premiere bugcore trio Krill, who not long ago threw a record release show of their own on the very same stage. Dedicated readers of all things Clicky Clicky know we are big fans of that joint, Lucky Leaves. Dare we say it fucking ruled. This is a band that originally intended to release said sophomore set embedded in soft balls of mozzarella, a notion that speaks volumes about the trio's collective, warped persona. That sense of absurdity translates to the stage, as well: within seconds of opening their set, fronter Jonah Furman performed a sight gag for the crowd. Just before lumbering into dub-inflected album standout "Never A Joke," Mr. Furman began pulling what looked like a long roll of toilet paper of his front pocket... to muted applause. The dynamic set that followed offered older tunes, a healthy dose of Lucky Leaves (and we all learned recently that Lucky, indeed, is leaving), and a bit of their newly-written "concept album about wanting to play shows with Pile." Furman's piercing, emotive voice paints him as a natural, if unconventional frontman. Western, Mass pop-punkers Potty Mouth anchored the middle of the bill, delivering a fun-loving, shambolic set pulled largely (if not exclusively) from their pending debut Hell Bent. The catchy brat rock struck a clean, pleasant contrast to Krill's paranoiac parables, even if they had to borrow Aaron Ratoff's guitar. -- Dillon Riley

Bent Shapes: Facebook | Tumblr | Soundcloud

August 18, 2013

Coming To Your Local Bandstand: Golden Gurls/Bored Spies

Golden Gurls + Bored Spies East Coast Tour August 2013

Back in the early days of the blog we'd tell you about tours, you know, the important ones from bands that mattered, like Dirty On Purpose or Relay or Frightened Rabbit-back-when-it-was-a-three-piece or Ringo Deathstarr. We're not sure why we stopped doing the Coming To Your Local Bandstand feature, but there's no better reason to resuscitate it than the pending tour from Baltimore-based guitar-pop heroes Golden Gurls. The trio launch an eight-date circuit of live appearances Thursday night at the Cake Shop in New York, the first night of a tour that travels as far north as Portland, Maine, and as far south and west as Asheville, North Carolina. The Maryland miscreants are touring with the latest project of former Seam fronter Sooyoung Park, Bored Spies. Faithful readers will certainly recall our regular reporting on the goings-on of the double G, but we were also pretty early to the party when it came to reporting on Bored Spies, which issued in January the debut single "Summer 720" b/w "沙鼠E." Bored Spies -- labelmates with Golden Gurls on Damnably in the U.K., incidentally -- were supposed to make their U.S. debut Tuesday in San Francisco, but their appearance has been scuttled by visa issues. We're hopeful that Mr. Park and his cohort get that sorted out at least in time for the band's scheduled Boston date Friday at TT The Bear's Place, when Bored Spies is scheduled to perform with Golden Gurls as well as Boston shoegaze phenoms Soccer Mom and noise-pop stalwarts Reports. That, friends, is what we call a shit-hot rock and roll bill. The tour flyer above lists off all the confirmed dates as of press time, and to get yourself pumped we suggest a refresher on Golden Gurls' best of 2012 set Typo Magic and the aforementioned Bored Spies single, both of which are embedded below. Golden Gurls will almost certainly be previewing material from its planned sophomore collection, and Bored Spies mentioned somewhere months ago doing pre-production on a full-length, so we're hoping to hear lots of new music from them, as well. We'll see you at TT's, nerditos.

August 17, 2013

Review: Bent Shapes | Feels Weird

With this long-awaited debut full-length -- and the years of work it represents -- Boston trio Bent Shapes can lay claim to a place among the nation's preeminent indie pop bands. Although we're hard-pressed to think of a contemporary act whose work is as smart, economical and fizzing with energy, and the effort instead leads us back to the early Feelies catalog or Unrest's Imperial f.f.r.r. for meaningful analogues. Since its early days when it used the name Girlfriends, Bent Shapes has shown it can consistently construct bracing pop nuggets, and this facility has carried over from its singles and cassette releases to Feels Weird (a title, fans may recall, that almost became the band's name). Indeed, the long-player -- out Tuesday on Father/Daughter Records -- touts for its full, ephemeral 27-minute duration the potency and immediacy of a brilliant single. This is little surprise, as the majority of Feels Weird has been issued as a single or b-side or in some prior form. But no matter the reason, the collection is one of the most listenable of the year, a sort of pre-emptive Compact Snap! for one of the city's most promising combos.

​​​For as refreshingly minimalist and pointed as the album is, Bent Shapes exhibit a noteworthy range in terms of timbre and songcraft (particularly for a trio leveraging the traditional guitar/bass/drums configuration). The result is panoply of sounds emphasized by rotating lead vocal duties and variations in tension and intensity. There's the breezy pop of "Check My Vitals," the venomous scene crit of the album highlight "Brat Poison" (previously issued as the b-side to the flexi-single released right after the threesome changed its change), ​the uptempo, hip-shaking jangle of "Big Machines" and "Boys To Men," and the staccato power-pop karate chops of opener "Behead Yourself, Pt. 2." ​Evidence of the band's evolution over time can be found in the thoughtful production choices throughout the record. The nostalgic air of "Hex Maneuvers" is limned by the spectral reverb on the guitars​ in the verse, the fury of "Brat Poison" is made more potent with the application of distortion to the vocals and a storming, scalene rhythm conjured by drummer Andy Sadoway and bassist Supriya Gunda.​

Mr. Potrykus stands out as a particularly clever lyricist even in a wicked smaaaahhht town like Boston; he has an uncanny way with meter and melody that colors observations such as his assurance in the brilliantly arranged "Bites And Scratches" -- which, along with "I Was Here But I Disappear," is a new version of song first released in 2009 on a self-titled Girlfriends cassette -- that "the past, you can trust, will mess you up, but hang on to love, it'll be enough to save you somehow." Of, course, his view is not always as optimistic and congenial; indeed, our favorite moments of the record are Potrykus's biting remonstrations in the aforementioned "Brat Poison."

Father/Daughter releases Feels Weird Tuesday; the set is available as an LP (pressed to traditional sad black or bone and electric blue-colored media), CD or download, and pre-orders are being taken right here. Vinyl orders are packaged with a download code and an 11 x 17 poster. The band fetes the album tomorrow night at Great Scott in Boston with a release show that includes sets from Western Mass.-based indie rockers Potty Mouth and the telepathic fear and loathing of next-level bugcore trio Krill. We speculate this show will sell out, so you'd be wise to take the appropriate measures to ensure your intentions at entertainment are met. There are a number of tracks from Feels Weird available to stream, and we've collected embeds of most of them and posted them below. Finally, in case you missed it, we spoke to all three of the members of Bent Shapes in May to learn a little bit more about where they make the indie pop magic; read that feature right here.

Bent Shapes: Facebook | Tumblr | Soundcloud

August 14, 2013

Today's Hotness: Black Hearted Brother, The Young Leaves, Ancient Babes

Black Hearted Brother -- (I Don't Mean To) Wonder (detail)

>> It's the sound of getting hit full on in the face by a massive, iridescent ocean wave. It's the kind of unbridled sound that Neil Halstead fans have been waiting to hear again since the 1990s, as his musical path in recent years has taken him to more spare, serene and folk-oriented places. It's the new song from Black Hearted Brother, "(I Don't Mean To) Wonder," a dizzying debut track from an ensemble that features not only former Slowdive and Mojave 3 fronter Halstead, but also former Seefeel member, Locust proprietor and Mojave 3 producer Mark Van Hoen and Nick Holton, who has helmed a project called Holton's Opulent Oog and produced Halstead's 2012 solo collection. The three-piece will release Oct. 22 a long-player via the legendary American indie Slumberland titled Stars Are Our Home, and if the murmured attack of "(I Don't Mean To) Wonder" is any indication, it will be an amazing collection. The song's foundation is a simple cycling guitar riff, drenched in reverb and shuddering under wavering tremelo, a riff that comes and goes and forms something of a chorus around a mumbled lyric that radiates with delay and winds itself up into the titular oath, promised again and again and again. Epic is not an overstatement, and, in fact, may be an understatement. Stream the song via the embed below. Slumberland as yet is not taking pre-orders for the full-length, which contains 12 songs, but there is an email sign-up at this page where fans can get on the list to get the information first. So get with that, once you've gotten your head back together. Black Hearted Brother is planning a U.S. tour.

>> Seeing The Young Leaves' relentlessly engaging and Husker Du-channeling live set in May left us incredibly eager to hear what the band would do next, and finally we've been gifted the hook-heavy title track to the Holliston, Mass.-based indie punk trio's forthcoming third LP Alive And Well. Attentive readers will recall the song "Alive And Well" is a fist-banging anthem that was released as a single in 2012, backed with the banger "The Love Song;" the b-side isn't in the track listing for the forthcoming LP, so you're going to want to track that single down, if you haven't already. Also, while we're on the subject, it's not clear to us whether or not the single version of "Alive And Well" from Bandcamp is a different recording than the LP version you can hear via the Soundcloud embed below, but they both rock serious face so you should spend the next several hours A/B-ing them and slam-dancing in your kitchen while your roommates are trying to sleep, because fuck those roommates, right, they need to loosen up and have some fun. Another fuzzed-up rocker from the full-length is available to stream via the YouTube; check out "Drowning Pool" right here. Alive And Well will be released by Baldy Longhair Records Oct. 1 on 12" vinyl and cassette and as a digital download. The vinyl LPs will be offered on media colored "sea blue with beer haze, swamp green with sea blue and bone splatter, swamp green with purple and bone splatter and black," according to an email. The cassette release will also include a six-song demo EP titled Pond, Puppy, Bench Boy Demos. The Young Leaves formed in 2006; in addition to a few singles the trio has also released the full-lengths Big Old Me (2007) and Life Underneath (2010). The Young Leaves open a sick bill Friday night at O'Brien's in Boston that also features I Hate Our Freedom, an act featuring former members of Texas Is The Reason and Thursday, so if you somehow recover from tomorrow night's Whirr / Nothing / Soccer Mom show, that's where you need to be. In the meantime, stream "Alive And Well" until someone in your house throws a punch.

>> Depending on where you are, or where you've been, for a while there it felt like summer had stalled out. But after some less than desirable weather phenomena -- at least proximal to Clicky Clicky's West Coast compound -- summer has reestablished itself, and, yes, we've got a song for that. Try on for size the awesomely titled and echo-laden slow jam "Malcolm X In The Middle" from Vancouver, Canada's Ancient Babes. The brief but cinematic tune establishes a cool, thoughtful electro foothold within a soft dream pop atmosphere. Amid the enveloping reverb on the snare hits and vocals, and tastefully simple guitar lines, reside elements of shoegaze, as well. Chillwave? Maybe. But the arpeggiated synth work and downcast groove evoke a worldly strain of au courant digital popsters -- think French artistes such as M83 (circa Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts) and College. Stepping back from the analysis, we also like that that band doesn't take things too seriously. Aside from the title of this song, there's also the following question at the band's Facebook outpost: "What were the babes like in ancient times?" Damn good question, damn good... The gentle, transporting march of "Malcolm X In The Middle" is well-suited for the delightfully lazy days we're all chasing, if not experiencing; stream or download the song via the embed below. Lastly, while it doesn't reveal much about the band personnel beyond the name Samuel, Ancient Babes' Facebook page does offer a very amusing list of band interests there that we think is worth a glance. -- Edward Charlton

August 11, 2013

Review: Eros And The Eschaton | Home Address For Civil War

Here's a thing that is true: a lot of dream pop is not dream-like; as beautiful and as subdued as certain of it may be, the descriptor often acknowledges an aspiration, not an actuality. There are, however, bands that can jack right into a dream-state from the first note and navigate an entire set with admirable agency, building emerald cities of sound and then tearing them down like Leonardo DiCaprio in "Inception." Which brings us to the rising North Carolina dream-pop concern Eros And The Eschaton, whose debut full-length Home Address For Civil War is due Tuesday from Bar/None. The music on the collection grafts sweet, somnolent melodies to compositions that thrive on a balance of coarse shoegaze textures, palpable ambience and engaging pop intentions. Gently shot through the dreaminess and noise is a unifying pop sensibility that makes the record a satisfying and especially remarkable debut.

Eros And The Eschaton, as we wrote here in June, is Adam Hawkins and Kate Perdoni, although the band is augmented with additional players for shows. The principals met performing in Omaha, cemented their coupledom at some point thereafter, had a child, formed the band in 2012, and then settled in Greensboro. Perhaps the dreaminess of Home Address For Civil War is a result of the pair trying to do a band and raise a small kid at the same time (the record commences with a baby's cry before launching into the endlessly ascending "20 Different Days"). Or perhaps we are just projecting our own exhaustion. But within and throughout their patient, brilliant (and brilliantly mixed) set, Mr. Hawkins and Ms. Perdoni layer wavering organ, guitars, heavily reverbed percussion and murmured vocals to create tracks that are paradoxically as loud as they are intimate. The fixating charmer "You Know I Do" is as much a pastiche of feedback and ambient noise as it is a simple, crushingly poignant affirmation of love. At the beginning of "Over And Over," the pair's chanting of the title sounds like a confession, like an exchange of secrets. Closer "Trust Me I Know" opens with a gently pulse of organ and reverbed, looped guitar,  then slowly decays into a soft, swirling mist that dissipates gently over the span of more than five minutes.

Just releasing this latter song would constitute a triumph, but the record offers a lot more. There's Yo La Tengo-flavored pop candy like "Lately (I've Been Wondering)" and percussive cacophony to be found in "Terence McKenna," a song that recalls the noisier moments in the catalog of dreamy contemporaries Big Deal. Indie rock fans will find there's a lot of Yo La Tengo flavor to Home Address, facilitated in part by the similar approach to vocals taken by Hawkins and Ira Kaplan. That assessment is not meant to limit listeners' ideas of what Eros And The Eschaton is, but rather a signifier of the vast potential Hawkins and Perdoni are sitting on, potential that could enable Eros And The Eschaton to become as smart, incredibly nimble and widely varied act as the legendary New Jersey trio. Home Address For Civil War, we hope, is only a beginning. After playing a hometown festival date late this month, the band leaves home for most of September, when it will perform a series of mid-Atlantic and midwest dates to support the release of the record. Fans can also expect to see a music video soon, as details of a shoot were posted to the band's blog here. Two pre-release singles are available to stream below; pre-order Home Address For Civil War right here.

Eros And The Eschaton: Interwebs | Bandcamp | Facebook | Soundcloud | Tumblr

08/23 -- Greensboro, NC -- The Greenbean
09/05 -- Raleigh, NC -- Slim's
09/10 -- Washington, DC -- The Sunshine District
09/11 -- Baltimore, MD -- Club K
09/12 -- Philadelphia, PA -- PhilaMOCA
09/13 -- New York, NY -- Piano's
09/16 -- Beloit, WI -- The Music House
09/17 -- Chicago, IL -- Big Forever
09/20 -- Minneapolis, MN -- Sound Gallery
09/21 -- Omaha, NE -- Slowdown
09/22 -- Omaha, NE -- DP Muller Studio
09/23 -- Omaha, NE -- Phenom Blues House
09/24 -- Kansas City, MO -- Record Bar
09/25 -- Lincoln, NE -- Vega
09/26 -- Ames, IA -- Maximum

August 8, 2013

Today's Hotness: Edelweiss, Chestnut Road, The Weaks

Edelweiss -- Honduras (detail)

>> Honestly, we were worried about these guys. We turned on to Edelweiss in 2011 and wrote about them here; the band caught our attention not only because the five-piece was making well-articulated, modern post-punk, but also because they were slugging it out in a Northeastern Pennsylvania town we'd been through now and again back in the day. They were also startlingly young (with an average age, at the time, of 16). Sure, Edelweiss' sound was markedly influenced by first-iteration Bloc Party, but it was, well, well-articulated. But just as Bloc Party did after Silent Alarm, Edelweiss after its 2011 EP Pre-Columbians seemed poised to focus on more dance-oriented music (we made this judgment based on some YouTube videos or something; memory fails...). And this concerned us, because, well, we like guitar-pop. So it is with much relief that we can report that Edelweiss is back with a new -- and still guitar-oriented -- EP that is even more compelling than Pre-Columbians. The new collection is titled Honduras, and it features four fresh-feeling dance-punk jams that speak to the quintet's increased focus, experimentalism and confidence as a songwriting unit. The obvious centerpiece of the set is "Withering Heights," a version of which was previously released on a Japan-only self-titled LP Edelweiss released via the Bullion label in 2012. The song alternates loping and lightning-fast guitar licks laid over airy synths and a consistent, gauzy barrage of hi-hat and crash cymbal. It is perhaps the most conventional track on the EP, and the EP's most exciting tune isn't even listed. Indeed, Honduras includes a hidden track attached to the tail of closer "Midas;" the acoustic ballad suggests Edelweiss is open to even broader influences (such as classic English folk) that point to more exciting possibilities. We're loathe to emphasize again the relative youth of the guys in Edelweiss, because it should not matter (as we said two years ago), but the band clearly has both a lot of potential and a lot of time to do something with it. We'll be listening. Stream all of Honduras via the Bandcamp embed below.

>> When we last left Toulouse, France-based Chestnut Road, the punk-pop notables had populated the flip of a recent split with Varsity Drag with some cracking numbers including a cover of Lemonheads' "Falling." We wrote about that split here in January, and we saw some Facebook photos recently suggesting that a supply of the record has finally made its way to the States. In the meantime, Chestnut Road has kept busy putting together yet another split single due out Aug. 26, this one with Birmingham, England-based post-hardcore outfit New Alaska. One of Chestnut Road's contributions to that new split, a pummelling rocker called "Trust," pleasantly echoes the energy and emotion and big friggin' guitars of '90s feel-bad geniuses Jawbreaker and Garden Variety (particularly this one). In addition to "Trust," Chestnut Road's side includes the number "Shell;" New Alaska's side contains the cuts "Caustic," "White Walls" and "Black Bones." The split is being sold in a limited edition of 300 vinyl 7" discs. The songs are being pressed into translucent red media, and these will be available in one of four different-colored sleeves (black, blue, green, red). Brassneck Records will issue the disc exclusively in a green sleeve, while Speedowax Records will use a blue sleeve. It's anybody's guess what a red or black sleeve means or who might be selling them (could it be...), but just go ahead and pre-order the thing from Brassneck right here, why don't you? Then stream "Trust" -- which is not a 7 Seconds or The Cure cover, we should point out -- via the Bandcamp embed below.

>> While you were sitting around watching "Sharknado" off your DVR again, Evan Bernard and his shape-shifting The Weaks project turned out more melodic indie gold in the form of the 85-second gem "Hey Karma." For this digital single the Philadelphia-based concern finds Mr. Bernard abetted by Chris Baglivo (guitar, vocals), Nick Fanelli (drums), Tim Jordan (bass) and Cat Park (vocals). The number perpetuates a power-pop bounce beneath neatly harmonized vocals, and leaves just enough room after a bridge and in the final 10 seconds for a second concise (but rocking) guitar solo that takes the song right into a proverbial brick wall. As admirable as the song is for its brevity, it is what IS here that makes the song so easy to listen to over and over (in that way, as well as with the flowing melodies and upbeat vibe, the tune reminds us a lot of Philly's Radiator Hospital). Indeed, The Weaks get an impressive amount of stuff done in the short space of time, and we're eager for the next installment the long-running project will offer (whatever it is). Most recently, The Weaks appeared on Clicky Clicky's Lilys tribute compilation And I Forgot A Long Time Ago How You Feel, which you can stream and download and whatever right here. Stream or download "Hey Karma" via the Bandcamp embed below.

August 3, 2013

Today's Hotness: Joey Sweeney, White Reaper, Sky Larkin

>> Delaware Water Gap, Penn.-based label La Société Expéditionnaire disclosed late last month it will release new music from Philadelphia indie rock legend Joey Sweeney later this year. The label, home also to Clicky Clicky faves Arc In Round, will issue Mr. Sweeney's Long Hair, a collection that was recorded earlier this year with input from multiple producers; a video trailer for the album -- featuring what we suspect is the collection's title track -- is posted atop this item. There is a very nicely produced live video featuring another new song, "When You Say My Name," that you can watch right here. Over the last 20 years Sweeney fronted such notable concerns as Barnabys, The Trouble With Sweeney, The Joey Sweeney Rock Band and, most recently, the bar band Arctic Splash. A show celebrating Sweeney's two decades in rock was held in Philadelphia last fall, and a career-spanning digital compilation Joey Sweeney Your Life Is Calling was released around the same time. The comp is packed with classic jams aplenty, including "Losers From Rodman Street," "Tiny Ships," "My Name Is Rich" and "The Snitch," as well as some newer acoustic tracks recorded with Kurt Heasley on an island in 2010. While we bemoan the absence of brilliant tracks such as "Gargamel," "The Lever" and "Park Slope" from the set, we recommend you make time for the entire jawn, which you can stream via the Bandcamp embed below. No specific date for the release of Long Hair has been made public yet, nor is there a pre-order presently in place, but we'll certainly bring you that news in due time.

>> You will learn just how well your head is bolted on to your body after just the first 10 seconds of Louisville duo White Reaper's new A-side "Conspirator." Basically, if the head-bolting folks did a good job, you'll still have your head after the verse explodes into your ears. The tune's raucous guitar cacophony and infectious, classic UK-style punk energy charge out of the gates and never let up, an impressive feat as the song approaches four minutes in length. The guitar tracks are distorted to the point of crumbling, the spirited drumming bashes holes through the near white-out onslaught, and fronter Anthony Esposito guides the melody with shouty sloganeering. It's gut-level, immediate rock and roll, tougher and grittier than other popular pairs of the contemporary indie era such as Japandroids or England's Playlounge, but just as appealing to the senses. "Conspirator" is backed by the equally energetic, albeit mildly psychedelic B-side "The Cut;" both tunes were recorded in February at Louisville's Tree House Audio. The single is available Monday via Earthbound Records on black or limited-edition, translucent blue vinyl 7" vinyl (although Earthbound's Facebook indicates the single was available in late May if you knew where to look). White Reaper previously released an EP titled White Aura last October, and it is now available as a name-your-price download at Bandcamp right here. White Reaper is planning to release a forthcoming full-length via Karlsruhe, Germany's Red Lounge Records, but there are no other details about the release available presently. Stream "Conspirator" and "The Cut" via the Bandcamp embed below. And, while we're on the subject, we think you will find this video for "Conspirator" quite enjoyable, as it looks like it was both filmed and edited via a shoulder-mount S-VHS camcorder in 1991.

>> Big news last week out of Sky Larkin's camp, as the Leeds-based indie rock quartet announced it will release later this year a new long-layer titled Motto. Wichita Recordings will do the honors in the UK, and the release date is Sept. 16. The new record, Sky Larkin's third and first since 2010's fantastic Kaleide which we wrote about here, is being promoted with a cracking, but brief new single "Loom," which will be released a week prior to the full length. The title track to "Motto" was unveiled in late spring, and you can still hear the dense and tense rocker right here. Stream "Loom" via the Soundcloud embed below. Pre-orders for Motto -- which was recorded in Seattle with John Goodmanson -- are being taken now; the set is available as a clear vinyl LP in gatefold sleeve with CD, as a CD only, and of course digital download, which includes an as-yet unidentified bonus track. Sky Larkin will tour the UK for two weeks in late September, starting with a London date on the 17th; we advise North Americans to keep their fingers crossed for U.S. dates.

August 1, 2013

Today's Hotness: Whirr, Honey Radar, Lurve

Whirr -- Around (detail)

>> Bay Area shoegaze goliath Whirr accomplished more than its name suggests with the 2012 debut full-length Pipe Dreams. Rather than embrace a controlled spin, the sextet charted a course for sweet oblivion, aided by metallic riffing, barely whispered vocals and destructive, tom-heavy drumming. The result was one of the best shoegaze albums of the year and, likely, the decade. Consequently, Pipe Dreams set the bar high for future efforts from Whirr, and everyone else for that matter, but with the recently issued Around EP that challenge has been roundly met. Released July 9 on Graveface Records -- a label that issued certain of the group's work pre-Pipe Dreams -- the EP presents four songs including the single "Swoon." The song's epic scope encompasses pummeling chords, serene, nearly-ambient drop outs and everything in between. After a cymbal-heavy crash of over-reverberated drums and what sounds like thirteen individual guitars playing one note, a rhythm guitar sets off a marvelous cycle of dripping-wet, almost water-colored structures. While still decidedly Whirr, the more sprawling, glassy and gothic tones of Around emphasize that Whirr is not interested in simply recreating Pipe Dreams; much credit should be parceled off for Whirr's drummer, whose dynamic performances often are what makes these four songs particularly dramatic. By hammering a harder edge on styles made prominent by legends such as My Bloody Valentine, Ride and Slowdive, Whirr have established a singularly beautiful sound with Around, one that thrives on pillowed delay, exploratory tempos and profoundly affecting chord changes. The EP is available for purchase from Graveface as an LP, CD, cassette or download right here. Stream "Swoon" via the Soundcloud embed below. Whirr plays Great Scott in Boston Aug. 15, with support from hotly-tipped Philadelphians Nothing and local noise-pop heroes Soccer Mom. The date is part of a tour that commenced Tuesday; full details on the Boston appearance are right here. -- Edward Charlton

>> Strolling through the world of underground DIY cassette releases seems similar to what this reviewer imagines an indie record store must have been like before the Internet [Oh, you young people smh -- Ed.]: crates of bands, tapes and labels, linked mostly by scene and bubbling up based on word of mouth. Many tapes of the contemporary era can only be obtained through stock sheets collected from bedroom imprints, and often only 100 copies are made before the work dissolves into the ether and collective memory of friends and devotees. And so the current cassette culture requires buy-in from both ends, of course, and perhaps that is why discovering a really stellar tape is such a uniquely rewarding experience nowadays. Which explains why we were stoked to receive in the mail Western Plum Musket by Honey Radar, a tape out now on Philadelphia's Tree Top Sorbet label. Honey Radar, a shadowy lo-fi concern from Indiana that appears to have been in operation for several years, trades in the sort "sudden epiphany rock" of contemporaries like Guided By Voices and Times New Viking. While the dashed-off production values and singer Jason Henn's strange word associations do evoke Bob Pollard or Syd Barrett, the breezier songwriting and softer singing come across as contemplative and wistful. Western Plum Musket, an EP of sorts, offers several very strong songs. The opening one-two-punch of "Roughing Up The Painter" [video] and "Mason Neck," highlight Honey Radar's quirky strengths. The former tune offers a prickly warble and wins over the listener with a charmingly out of tune bass pattern and automated frequency adjustments. It is "Mason Neck," however, that is the real treasure. A pretty, yet shambling, psychedelic strummer, the song sounds like a lost garage-folk 7" from the mid-'60s. The warm and crispy production gives the number a hint of a modern, updated sense, and the tumbling rhythms and wispy voice recall the twelve-string stunners of mid-period Lilys. The band works through a couple of short noise numbers on the cassette as well, which capture the spontaneity seemingly intrinsic to the format. The contrast between these experiments and Mary Plum Musket's more serene moments limns both with a flash of gratifying unpredictability, just the sort of magic one hopes to find on a cassette. Get your copy of the limited-edition Mary Plum Musket right here while you can, and stream the entire deal via the embed below. -- Edward Charlton

>> In our online pseudoworld of limitless (and increasingly meaningless) genre fusions, vertiginous taste-making and purportedly new approaches to making the heart of rock and roll beat, sometimes you just want the straight stuff with a capital R. Brooklyn's Lurve are happy to oblige with "Wires," one of two numbers the band posted to its Bandcamp earlier this year. "Wires" is a driving, tightly realized and deftly disguised power-pop song that erupts with a basement-show exuberance, one that makes the song seem significantly shorter than its four-minute-ish runtime. After some distorted opening guitar chords, "Wires" presents its best side –- a thirty-second breakdown of punky guitar figures that interrupt each softly sung verse. Eventually the song latches onto a fixed-note groove that delivers it to a squalling end. The smeared noise, sudden minor chords, and rough-hewn production try, but fail, to mask somne keen pop songcraft. And speaking of "smeared," this song is remarkably evocative of Canadian power-pop juggernaut Sloan's overlooked 1992 grunge-noise statement Smeared, and songs like "I Am The Cancer," or even contemporaries Superdrag, and their crushing early tune "Senorita." Sure, the underground remains subject to Eric Bachmann's prescient mid-'90s lament, but Lurve hit upon a memorable pop formulation that they can hopefully continue to shape into their own. "Wires" and "Simple Syrup" show much promise, and we are optimistic that Lurve's planned full-length -- recorded by Roomrunner's Dan Frome and slated for release this month on Cincinnati's Broken Circles Records -- will follow suit in offering up something fresh via that which is already tried and true. Stream both tunes via the Bandcamp embed below. -- Edward Charlton