December 30, 2014

Clicky Clicky Music Blog's Top Songs of 2014: Dillon Edition

Clicky Clicky Music Blog's Top Songs Of 2014 -- Dillon Edition

[PHOTO: Quinn Banford] This was the first year I can remember in which the sheer volume of incredible music actually overwhelmed me. This is not a complaint, mind you, 'cause you know, there are things far worse than falling behind on the hype cycle merry-go-round. But it certainly made reassessing the highs a more trying process. In all honesty, 100 tracks might not be enough to fully detail how deep this year's roster of shit-hot tracks was, but the 10 below perhaps shine brightest.

Note that a concerted effort was made in compiling my list to exclude tracks that will be represented among my top albums, barring one (slight) exception. This limitation was imposed with an aim to both challenge myself and expose (or re-expose) you, dear reader, to as wide a universe of music as possible. I'd like also to highlight four tracks that just missed the cut and that warrant mention. Those are, in no particular order, Whirr's towering nü-gaze specimen "Ease," Kal Marks' queasy, existential stomper "It Was A Very Hard Year," Soft Fangs' buzzing lo-fi stunner "You're The Best," and Playlounge's powerful emo-gaze anthem "Zero." Thanks again to Jay and Eddie for making my writing look so good by association, and to all of you for reading. Here's to next year's list being even harder to concoct than this one.
1. Ovlov -- "The Great Crocodile" -- Little Big League/Ovlov Split EP [buy]

In our review of this split, we mused about this track potentially becoming Ovlov's defining statement. It's now safe to say it's the year's defining statement as well. A ridiculous 6-minute scorcher, "Crocodile" often feels like an HD scan of one's favorite Dinosaur Jr. tune circa You're Living All Over Me, but fronter Steve Hartlett’s high-register yearnings are crystal clear and as a result perhaps even more emotionally potent than Mr. Mascis' mumble. Plus, the bass is turned up far louder than J would ever allow.

"'s in your way to walk around beneath your sound."

2. Beach Slang – "Get Lost" -- Why Would You Ever Want Anything So Broken? EP [buy]

In our most humble opinion, no band dealt in wide-eyed nostalgia better than Philly's Beach Slang in 2014, and "Get Lost" is perhaps their high watermark thus far [arguably -- Ed.]. Retelling stories of nights spent at basement shows with a figurative voice heavy on descriptors but light on specifics, the song does an unbelievably good job of replicating that time in an indie kid's life where every chord change feels crucial. It's a situation certain of the CC staff still lives out on a weekly basis.

"...who called the cops?"

3. Charly Bliss – "Urge To Purge" – Soft Serve EP [buy]

We've had our ears tuned into NYC power-pop concern Charly Bliss for a bit now; we're like two degrees separated, in a sense. And we reckon it won't be long before everyone is tuned in, 'cause they have all the proverbial goods. The three-song sampler the act issued this year was a winning combo of sweetly-sung melodies and crunch-y, exacting guitars. It's precisely the kind of a thing that demands repeated listens, especially this second tune, which features some nifty boy-girl harmonies and a killer fuzz-bassline that bounces around like a Super Ball.

"...I cannot help you/I never wanted to..."

4. Krill – "Unbounded Nameless Future" – Steve Hear Pile in Malden and Bursts Into Tears EP [buy]

Jay’s albums list poured plenty of praise on Krill's interpretation and usage of academia within their churning, post-punk attack, so let's instead unpack the sonics that made Steve Hears [review] such a vital release. Namely, the completely bonkers drum work the now-departed and Brunched Luke Pyenson unleashed at the tail end of this, the EP's penultimate track. Beginning around 3:30 Pysenson delivers easily the most stunning drum fill of the calendar year, a backwards roll across the kit that kicks the song's pained final chorus in the ass, hard. The new dude they got is pretty damn good, too, incidentally.

"...I only got two months in..."

5. Ava Luna – “Sears Roebuck M&Ms” – Electric Balloon [buy]

Speaking of Jay's list, he also ripped/riffed on the misnomer that is art-funk, which I'm inclined to agree with. Either way, Ava Luna's Electric Balloon [review] was an absolute stunner of a record, capable of interpolating seemingly divergent styles of music with ease and grace. The thing could also rock out, as evidenced by "Sears Roebuck M&Ms," a track that rests some utterly bat-shit stream of consciousness lyricism on a restless, body-heaving groove that refuses to quit. The tune is a live staple that we were lucky enough to take in more than once this year, including a particularly memorable iteration in a house in JP some months back.

"...Everybody says we’re talking about the new sweet thing WOOOO."

6. Chumped – “Hot 97 Summer Jam” – Teenage Retirement [buy]

We were a little late to the party vis a vis this Brooklyn quartet, having missed out on some previous EPs. But buzz towards the end of the year surrounding the release of Teenage Retirement piqued our interest, and it was "Hot 97 Summer Jam" that solidified Chumped's need-to-know status. A perfect approximation of everything great and fun about pop-punk, and done right, the song presents two-and-a-half minutes of unmitigated fuzz-rock hooks. The longing, hummed-out backed vocals on that chorus get lodged in your skull almost immediately.

"...I would wait for you all summer."

7. Cayetana – “Hot Dad Calendar” – Nervous Like Me [buy]

This year saw a number of insanely satisfying debut records, but perhaps none were more satisfying than Cayetana's. The Philly trio do the punky pop thing damn good, regularly packing hook after tuneful hook into three-minute bursts of charm. "Hot Dad Calendar" rocks hard, with its relatively clean guitar strums and hi-hat skitter setting the backdrop for what is ostensibly a self-actualizing anthem.

"...Kid you'll be ok/you’ll get better with age..."

8. IAN – "I Don’t Care" – IAN EP [buy]

Formerly local trio IAN’s self-titled EP was easily our favorite release of the year from local party-starters BUFU Records. A full-band interpretation of the lo-fi downers Berklee kid Jillian Medford started putting out late last year, the EP takes those folky asides and jolts them forward with abandon. Ms. Medford's jangly tone and idiosyncratic vocal squeaks steal the show, especially on "I Don't Care," the EP's centerpiece.

9. Dæphne – "Driving Down A Country Highway Blasting Weezer" – Family Vacation demo [buy]

Dæphne are somewhat of an unknown quantity even around Boston thus far. As far as we know, few of the reputable local publications picked up on the short, mystical Family Vacation demo the act issued earlier in the year, perhaps due to the fact that its physical release was handled by Texas-based Funeral Sounds. No matter, the demo, and the tune "Driving Down A Country Highway Blasting Weezer" in particular, is an excellent slice of lo-fi dream-pop. That it delivers the kind of math-y and sharp dynamic twists and turns characteristic of contemporary emo only sweetens the deal.

10. Coaches – "amisarewaswere" – digital single [buy]

The imminent sound of something very important, this is. Recently minted Boston shoegaze collective Coaches had a relatively quiet 2014, only loosing to the indiesphere a two-sided digital single, with one of said sides being an instrumental. However, "amisarewaswere" is a gargantuan tune, one capable of establishing a formidable reputation. Boston lost two of its great noisy compatriots this year in Soccer Mom and Young Adults, but Coaches appear poised to step into those large, empty sets of 'gazey shoes.

"...Massachusetts summer nights..."

December 24, 2014

Clicky Clicky Music Blog's Top Albums Of 2014: Jay Edition

Clicky Clicky Music Blog Top Albums Of 2014 -- Jay Edition

It can feel anti-climactic, writing the intro blurb to the year-end list. The choices are made, the listening, the re-listening, the consideration all put to bed. But here's the thing: just listen again and the records spring to life -- and particularly these records: their greatness is re-greatened, just add water, and volume, the more the better. We revealed our top songs of the year here last week, and that list certainly was a strong indicator of what you'll find below. Namely: the best of the best, our favorite 10 records of 2014. Every year with a new Johnny Foreigner release is a great year, our position on that has been clear for the better part of the last decade. But there were plenty of things that were revelatory when we first heard them this year. We expected the Lubec record to be great, but did anyone expect it to overachieve so much? Certain street-level Ava Luna or Perfect Pussy fans might have expected those records to rule as hard as they did, but we were blown away. Ditto for Cookies, Literature and the mighty, mighty shoegaze concern She Sir, whose LP Go Guitars probably logged the most spins on our turntable this year of any new release. So below we break it all down (and maybe you already heard us talk it out with KoomDogg during one of the last three episodes of the Completely Conspicuous podcast). Our default position on indie rock and electronic music and the various permutations of same that we champion is decidedly optimistic. 2014 only strengthened that belief, and so we are totally stoked for 2015, which already looks like it will be brilliant based on the early notices of forthcoming LPs from Pile, Krill, Speedy Ortiz and Colleen (and maybe even The Replacements), as well as possible reissues from Lilys. Bet you can't eat just one. We humbly thank you for reading the blog in 2014.
1. Johnny Foreigner -- You Can Do Better -- Alcopop!/Lame-O

The Birmingham, England-based noise pop titans are not only amazingly prolific, but also remarkably consistent. Pessimists can sit around prognosticating a slump, but Johnny Foreigner gives no indication of obliging, even in the wake of releasing a sprawling masterwork, its third LP Johnny Foreigner vs. Everything. As we summed up here in March, the successor album "You Can Do Better is a powerful, diabolically catchy set, a compact firecracker of a record that ably and convincingly delivers the band's intelligent brand of bash and pop. The music is as dramatic and as emotionally vital as ever. The Brummies have stared down the challenge of its own album title." The lean and mean record touts potent ballads and brawlers and somehow, remarkably, was as strong as any prior release from the act. Johnny Foreigner will mark its official 10th anniversary next year, and we know fronter Alexei Berrow has already set to work on new songs for the next LP, and we couldn't be more stoked about what comes next whenever it gets here. Stream the set via the embed below, and buy it from Lame-O right here.

2. Lubec -- The Thrall -- Like Young

Oh how we waited and waited, but when Lubec's proper-ish full-length debut The Thrall finally arrived, it surpassed every expectation. The Portland dreampop unit's debut is like an ideal mate, both really smart and super pretty/handsome, and while the set didn't necessarily breach the overground, the magnificent guitar pop speaks for itself. As we said here in our review in September, "The Thrall is, simply put, a revelation, a fully realized and kaleidoscopic guitar-pop masterpiece that presents the band's striking songcraft and bright optimism within a shifting aural landscape that brilliantly balances clean, jagged leads, crystalline reverbs and thunderous percussion and fuzz." The band has already been writing new material and has studio time booked early next year, so there is more where that came from. Still, one could understand if Lubec rested on its laurels just a bit more, given the remarkable accomplishment this LP represents. Stream the set via the embed below, and buy it on cassette from Like Young right here.

3. Cookies -- Music For Touching -- Self-Released

Cookies' terrific full-length debut was preceded by a series of four 10" EPs packed with immaculate pop tracks, but even so Music For Touching was surprisingly excellent. The set synthesizes fronter Ben Sterling's affinity for contemporary pop and yen for engaging experimentalism, and the album's tracks hit the mark across the board, from the boundless groove of "Go Back" to the electrified euphoria of "1,000 Breakfasts With You." While the icy cool in meditative closer "The Dream" echoes certain tunes from Mr. Sterling's increasingly remote former life as part of the dynamite act Mobius Band, the path forward for Mr. Sterling's present project feels extremely ripe for exploration. Hopefully a new record isn't as long in coming as this one was; we reviewed Music For Touching here. Stream it via the embed below, and buy the set from the band right here.

4. Krill -- Steve Hears Pile In Malden And Bursts Into Tears -- Exploding In Sound

The smartest, most intellectually challenging act in contemporary indie rock this year scored big with an EP highlighted by a song in which the fronter imagines he is a literal piece of shit. Indeed, the tension between Krill's academic, "high art" idea/ls and visceral everyman narratives is perhaps the act's most potent calling card, but the band's very relatable humor and inclination toward rock songs that rock make Krill's work connect no matter the level at which the listener (or reviewer) chooses to engage. Steve Hears Pile In Malden And Bursts Into Tears was a triumph, and we are expecting big things from the band's next LP, A Distant Fist Unclenching, as well. The forthcoming collection is slated for release in February; buy Steve from Exploding In Sound right here.

5. Perfect Pussy -- Say Yes To Love -- Captured Tracks

The meteoric rise of Perfect Pussy in 2014 created a platform for the band's fiery, progressive politics, and set the stage for a planned 2015 solo set from brilliant fronter Meredith Graves. But, more importantly for us, the Syracuse noise-punk quintet's dynamite Say Yes To Love placed hardcore-influenced music center stage -- at least in the underground, which as we all know is the only 'ground that matters. The exhilarating record is arguably the best melodic hardcore collection since Fucked Up's David Comes To Life. We spent a lot of time listening to straightedge hardcore at the turn of the '90s, so Perfect Pussy's ferocious collection felt a bit like coming home, and a bit like sticking one's head out the window of a car at 60 miles per hour. The future feels bright for the act, and we're hopeful that its pronounced stances on social issues might also spur a revival of the liberal politics of two decades ago in independent rock music. Dillon Riley reviewed Say Yes To Love for Clicky Clicky right here in March. Buy the record from Captured Tracks right here.

6. She Sir -- Go Guitars -- Shelflife

Oh how we waited and waited and waited for this one, too. After all, She Sir's triumphant preceding set Who Can't Say Yes was released seven years -- an Internet lifetime -- ago. What we finally got in 2014 was the year's most lush and pristine dream-pop record. As strong as label Shelflife's roster is, and as focused as its aesthetic is, we were still overjoyed when the Portland-based enterprise announced it had signed the Austin quartet, as the pairing seemed ideal. Senior Writer Edward Charlton deemed Go Guitars, which he reviewed here in February, a "tour de force of sunny, spectral and shimmering rock" music. The Clicky Clicky Brain Trust expected it would be one of the year's best, and the Clicky Clicky Brain Trust was right. Buy Go Guitars from Shelflife right here, and stream it via the embed below.

7. Ava Luna -- Electric Balloon -- Western Vinyl

Something about the phrase "art-funk" really bothers us -- it's the built-in presumption that there isn't any art there unless you make sure to tag it on the front end (same deal with the phrase "art-pop"). Our personal hang-ups aside, the aforementioned descriptor is perfectly fitting for Ava Luna's ridiculously smart and tight LP Electric Balloon. We've seen the band live a couple times over the last couple years and their shows are mesmerizing. But the music on the LP is somehow even tighter, slightly frenetic, and rich and soulful despite a claustrophobic punk edge. We suppose it's that edge that translates more directly on the record as opposed to the stage. But, either way, it's a curious party record with a head on its shoulders. And it's one of the best records of the year. Stream Electric Balloon via the embed below, and purchase the set from Western Vinyl right here.

8. Literature -- Chorus -- Slumberland

Big, fizzing melodies and fuzzy guitars are a hallmark of the Slumberland sound, and Literature's diabolically catchy LP Chorus delivered perfectly on the Bay area label's pleasing proposition. We were surprised to learn Literature was operating out of Philadelphia, as we like to think we have a good idea of what is going on back in our former hometown. But it was a most welcome surprise, of course, and this record in particular did us a lot of good during some long and grueling stretches of work. We recall at least a couple days during which we listened to Chorus on repeat for a good five or six hours -- it's just that good, and what more could you want from a guitar-pop record? Like an ideal piece of chewing gum, the set stays fresh and flavorful for hours on end, and we look forward to hearing more from these pop savants. Buy Chorus from Slumberland right here.

9. Soccer Mom -- Soccer Mom -- 100m

Dark, beautiful and majestic, Soccer Mom's long-anticipated self-titled debut arrived and burned brightly, but the combustion was apparently too much for the act, which by the end of the summer had already announced that it was decommissioning the battle station and going into mothballs. Five-year-old Soccer Mom's record reigned in the band's overwhelming live sound, and in doing so illuminated the elegance, passion and pathos that make its songs so powerful. We highly recommend picking up the vinyl of this one, as finally hearing it on a proper turntable after listening to digital files and early mixes for about a year revealed a low-end punch we had not previously appreciated. Soccer Mom is a huge record, and sadly, is also now a monumental reminder. Will Scales and Dan Parlin recently announced they have formed a new act called Gold Muse with Young Adults' Chris Villon, Earthquake Party!'s Justin Lally and musical journeywoman Deb Warfield, and we are very excited about the possibilities there. Buy Soccer Mom -- which we premiered here in April -- from 100m Records right here.

10. Radiator Hospital -- Torch Songs -- Salinas

Sam Cook-Parrott's facility crafting catchy indie pop approaches awe-inspiring, and -- as good as Radiator Hospital's sophomore LP Torch Songs was -- there were signs that his estimable talents were seeping into more experimental territory. But his proverbial bread and butter, hook-laden power-pop anthems and poignant downer ballads, were still well-represented. The prolific songwriter's scrappy, fizzing anthems brim with emotion on this distinctly summery record. Staff Writer Dillon Riley reviewed Radiator Hospital's Torch Songs here in July. Stream the set via the embed below, and purchase it from Salinas right here.

December 21, 2014

That Was The Show That Was: Modern Baseball with Somos, Foxing, Knuckle Puck, Crying | Paradise | 14 Dec.

That Was The Show That Was: Modern Baseball, Somos, Foxing, Knuckle Puck, Crying | Paradise Rock Club | 14 Dec., photo by Dillon Riley

[PHOTO: Dillon Riley] No shade to Topshelf Records -- which we continue to rep daily, and which recently announced it was moving its base if operations to San Diego -- but one thing we're thankful for this holiday season is that Run For Cover remains situated within our city limits. 2014 was a big year for the powerhouse indie rock label, and we emitted a few pages of digital ink to prove it. We were particularly jazzed to take in sets from RFC affiliates Modern Baseball and Crying a week ago on a five(!)-band bill at the Paradise. Regrettably, circumstances were such that we missed Crying's likely thrilling set, but there are still plenty of high highs to recount from the evening.

It speaks to the infectious strength of their songcraft that a band as young as Philadelphia's Modern Baseball could headline a North American tour with four acts of their choosing supporting them each night. You're Gonna Miss It All, which was released in February, was that strong of record, though. Sunday's headlining set struck a chord with the under- and overground by pairing Modern Baseball's outré genre stylings with entirely relatable lyricism evoking the kind of purely millennial social jargon its fans use themselves. Joined on stage by Cameron Boucher of Sorority Noise supplying auxiliary guitar and vocals, the tunes off You're Gonna Miss It All assumed a crunchier, more powerful guise. The added dramatic instrumental effect played smartly against the band’s jovial stage presence and well-practiced in-jokes. For its one-song encore the band unsheathed a furious cover of The Killers' radio hit "When You Were Young," a rendering that subtly shifted from half-serious irony to full-throated homage by its finish. Kinda sorta exactly like the plights of the characters that populate Modern Baseball's songs.

Too few local publications have noted Boston emo quartet Somos' exemplary rock sounds, but that lack of notice doesn't seem to have diminished the act's allure with its young fan base. Playing selections from its Tiny Engines debut LP Temple Of Plenty as part of last Sunday's show, the act connected firmly with the all-ages crowd. Clearly grateful to be back on home turf for the tail end of a lengthy tour, the band executed swift, dynamic shifts in songs like "Lives of Others." A clear highlight, "Familiar Theme," spurred the crowd to shout back to the stage nearly every one of fronter Michael Fiorentino's words. Temple Of Plenty was released in March and is already in its second pressing.

St. Louis post-hardcore troupe Foxing batted third and drew just as warm a response. During its set a first crop of crowdsurfers popped up, incited by fronter Conor Murphy's exaggerated, cathartic mannerisms. From what we gathered, Foxing as a live entity doesn't deal explicitly in traditional song structure so much as rise and fall with heaving, powerful bursts of noise and emotion. To add additional dimension, Mr. Murphy occasionally steps back only slightly from the mic to deliver trumpet blasts that do a remarkable job of mimicking his shattering vocal style. Shouty Chicago pop-punk quintet Knuckle Puck played fourth. -- Dillon Riley

December 18, 2014

I WILL WRITE A MYSTERY FOR YOU TO SOLVE: An Oral History of Lilys' Astonishing Eccsame The Photon Band

Lilys - Eccsame The Photon Band

|| by EDWARD CHARLTON || [updated] This month marks the 20th anniversary of the release of Lilys' powerful and mysterious Eccsame The Photon Band, a unique collection even among the oeuvre of Kurt Heasley, the band's notably restless songwriter and only constant member. For our money, it is certainly one of the most engaging -- if underheard -- indie rock albums of the '90s. Like a lot of great music, the album's creation owes a debt to that rare and singular cocktail of youth: chance, environment and a positive open-mindedness shared among the four men who created it. "Behold and open to the light," translates the title -- a sentiment that seems to have guided the principals behind it from the foursome's very first minute together.

As we listened to Mr. Heasley, drummer Harry Evans and producer Rich Costey tell the story of the album, we found that Eccsame The Photon Band was a roughly month-long flash of exhaustive inspiration -- a gnawing, melodic, experimental expression that sprang into being so suddenly it felt as if it were over nearly as soon as it had begun. Despite that, the music and production contained therein has continued to resonate with those involved, as well as with a fanatical cult following attracted to its atypical dream-pop charms. Among those, cryptic lyrics, crestfallen textures, occasional moments of loud guitar and a spiritual and devastating silence all continue to stun. To mark the aforementioned anniversary, Clicky Clicky spoke with Mssrs. Heasley, Evans and Costey about the summer of 1994, discussing a wide-range of topics including the philosophies, drum sounds and even the studio weeping that birthed a rare and unique aural document.

"I can't deviate out of the moment -- you get into the game of expectations, then you get into the game of disappointment," Heasley tells Clicky Clicky from his present home in Los Angeles. The sentiment arrives early in our conversation about the album, and it quickly becomes apparent that Eccsame was (and is) something of a mission statement for just that mentality.

The genesis of that notion came two years prior to the creation of Eccsame, spurred by some of the negative reception to Lilys' magnificent and now-legendary 1992 shoegaze debut full-length, In The Presence of Nothing. "I had no idea people would listen to this," he says of that collection, "Much less feel so strongly [about it]. It was ultimately just a group of friends making something in a basement for a few hours. I took it as the most extreme feelings [from some in the scene] of being left out of their own party."

Disappointed, but confident in the power of his on-the-fly approach, Heasley began to see how the band's process might function in the face of more standard and predictable musical norms.

In the wake of the flawless, power-pop injected A Brief History of Amazing Letdowns EP that was released the next year, Heasley made some life changes that would further create the conditions for an experiment like Eccsame. "I had new urban experiences because I had moved from Lancaster [Pennsylvania] into Philadelphia proper, living with some incredible people," he said, "Joey Sweeney let me sleep on his girlfriend's couch for weeks. It was just this ongoing live/work/play space and the amount of literature, cinema and old records that I was being turned on to for the first time was great. There, I had the feeling of going from 22 to 23, and the prevailing wisdom that 23 is the best worst year of your life. Slowly, there were responsibilities creeping in and the realization that 'this is not a dress rehearsal.'"

At the same time, the alternative/grunge zeitgeist of the prior several years was beginning to breed bad vibes. Not only did Kurt Cobain's death in the spring of '94 mark a dramatic shift in the mood of rock culture, but recent records by Talk Talk's Mark Hollis and Pale Saint's Ian Masters alerted Heasley to the loss of fidelity and subtlety in those buzzing times. "Those gated drums in '92," he exclaimed with a sigh. A trip to a Broadway production later that year would also make an impression on him. "Listening to what a five-piece pit orchestra could do literally blew me apart. Working from that level where everyone plays their part and has mastered themselves revealed a new world."

In the winter following the release of A Brief History Of Amazing Letdowns, Heasley began sketching out some fresh ideas. Those recordings would ultimately be released on 2000's Tigerstyle Records split with Aspera Ad Astra. As a historical document, the four songs reveal a remarkably clear vision of the minimal, dreamy sound that would ultimately define Eccsame -- what Stylus Magazine writer Andrew Unterberger described as "Not influenced by shoegazing as a genre, but rather as a principle."

It was time to enter the studio.

That summer, spinART Records agreed to provide five weeks of time at Studio .45, a converted turn-of-the-century Colt firearms factory in Hartford, Connecticut. It was also at that point that Harry Evans of power-pop standouts Poole and producer Rich Costey entered the picture.

Evans had known Heasley for a few years by '94, and had played on every Lilys release beginning with Presence. The two first met due to being physically larger guys in the scene who looked similar and both showed up at the same music store. "I was shopping there and somebody called me (Kurt's nickname) 'Wally' and I was like, 'no, I'm Harry!'" Evan says, laughing, "We happened to be at the store at the same time eventually and recognized each other due to that mix up. We started hanging out and eventually he asked me if I wanted to play drums for him. He played me "February Fourteenth" and I was like 'What the hell! Of course!'"

Following the release of A Brief History and the subsequent shows for that record, Heasley approached him with an idea. "Kurt was like, 'I want to make a record, and I want it to just be you and me.' He booked a lot of time. I hadn't heard any of the material, but he said we could learn it in the studio. Having faith in anything Kurt does, I agreed immediately," Evans reflects. That summer, the two loaded up a van with gear and made the trek to Hartford. There, they met producer Costey and engineer Mike Deming. Costey had been chosen based on work he had done with scene compatriots The Swirlies.

"I was doing a few records for spinART around that time, and at some point I ended up on a phone call with Kurt," Costey remembers, “He was an interesting character on the phone, and I still remember my first phone call with him -- rambling on and on whilst puffing on cigarettes the whole time. We must have connected somewhat. I liked the psychedelic aspect to [Lilys'] music a lot, based only on the album they had out the year before, and given the general monochromatic, conservative landscape of American grunge at that time, Kurt's music struck me as being a total technicolor garden. I had worked with The Swirlies, whom I think he begrudgingly respected, but those two bands were actually quite different in approach. The Swirlies were fighting their own limitations whereas Kurt never saw or felt any limitations at all... [He] was inventing his own landscape."

Setting up on the first day, Heasley and Evans filled out Studio .45's large, single-room with their instruments. Beginning at dusk, the duo at first had a hard time connecting. "On the first day we set everything up, Kurt was going to guide me through the songs," said Evans, "We started recording really late, but it was just not clicking. The first song we were working on was "FBI And Their Toronto Transmitters." Eventually I got super frustrated. While I had told myself initially that I was going to be really sober and work as hard as possible during the session, we ultimately took a break and I got REALLY high. We went back in and nailed it in the first take. I was like, "Aw, this is really disappointing (chuckles)."

"For the first 10 days Costey probably didn't think they were songs!," Heasley added.

After these initial hurdles, the duo settled into a groove, with Evans adapting to Heasley's ideas and advice regarding drumming. "There was a methodical thought to the way that the fills were put together. He really helped me to curb my ego, and I was willing to say 'I will listen to your ideas.' Ultimately, they proved to be great ideas. I had to be open," Evans remembered.

The songs gradually came together over the ensuing weeks, and many of the album's iconic textures began to take focus -- specifically, the massive, roomy drum sound that many Eccsame cultists rave about.

Costey recited the technical details for accomplishing this with aplomb. "The drum sound was a combination of several things: the hard, open space that the live room at Studio .45 presented; a precisely placed AKG 414 placed in between the kick and snare drums, aimed at the floor... heavily compressed with a Spectrasonics 610 compressor; and also the minimal and incredibly powerful, tasteful playing of Harry Evans. Listening to it today, it seems a study in how a drummer should play to the sound presented to him or her, as opposed to the other way around."

Mike Deming is also credited by the other three as being instrumental to the presentation. "I’ve got to credit him for that drum sound. He was a twisted, evil audio genius. He was crazy and so into what he did on a micro level," said Evans, referencing at least obliquely the album's often overwhelming negative space, best heard in the long, faraway intro and subsequent eruption of focus on "The Turtle Which Died Before Knowing."

Other subtle, genius moments were entirely due to chance. On some songs, different takes were mixed together and the resulting edits created things that thrilled everyone in the control room. "A couple of those moments where the vibrato on the guitar shifts patterns -- we couldn't have planned that, but that's the thing! We were open not necessarily to it being correct, but to it being right for what it was," Heasley said.

Other moments betrayed the quieter vibe with sheer power. "The Hermit Crab," "Kodiak (Reprise)" and "Radiotricity" all rock in places, despite being composed mostly with clean, bass string strums. Costey explains that the amping of the guitars went a long way in lending huge power to a quiet source, "One simple thing Kurt was doing with his guitar sounds at the time was to run two different tremolo pedals into two different amps," he said, "It's really simple, of course, but it made for an off-kilter, drunken, gurgling guitar sound that completely shaped the feel of the record."

Elsewhere, such as on the down-tempo lullaby-pop of "Day Of The Monkey," Costey sampled Evans' drums to create a hypnotic loop, later adding room recordings of him playing along to himself to add to the overall sonic fantasia.

The collaborative aspect between the four also played a key role in the shape of the album. "He had done Swirlies records," said Heasley of Costey, "So I was like 'throw me whatever note you think should be in this melody.' I think you can only do so many records where that special and fun ability exists."

As the sessions wrapped up, it was also clear that the process of achieving the album's menthol-cool psychedelia had thoroughly exhausted Heasley. Much of the tracking came down to the wire, and many of his vocal parts had to be recorded at the end in a prolonged series of takes.

"I spent the final 18 hours of tracking in the vocal booth," Heasley recalled, "By the time we were working on "Hubble" I was completely drained by the process, from all these different drives that went into the album. You can hear me crying at one point. I couldn't even stand, I was propped in a chair." Costey, aware of the strain and the reality of the moment, let the tape run. What followed was personal, uncomfortable and brilliant.

It's apparent when Heasley talks about "Hubble" that the song is special to him, referring to it as the closing sequence of the booster of the space shuttle falling to Earth. More importantly, it's a fitting end to the hyper-productive sessions that produced a collection of songs that were not only spacey-sounding, but physically so. Costey took the tapes to Water Studios in Hoboken, New Jersey and Philip Glass' The Looking Glass studio in New York for the rest of the post-production. There, he added many of the synth textures and final mixing details. SpinART had the album out by the end of the year.

And then... it was over.

"Kurt moved to California, I believe, shortly after we made the record," said Evan. "I feel like nobody really got it, understood it or appreciated it when it came out." No shows were played to support the release, which somehow makes the recording all the more mythical.

Within a year, Heasley transformed Lilys into the mod-rock powerhouse that would define the next phase of the group, with songs like "Nanny In Manhattan" (a version of which was recorded during the Eccsame sessions but lost with the master tapes) broadening the exposure of the band and leading to a record deal with Sire. Evans would continue a successful run as the frontman of indie pop savants Poole, an act that also recorded for spinART. Lastly, Costey would use his resume with bands from the East Coast dream-pop and 'gaze scene to begin work in Los Angeles, eventually engineering and producing a seemingly endless list of big-name musical personalities including Sigur Ros, Fiona Apple, Nine Inch Nails, Muse, Foo Fighters and self-professed Swirlies fans Mew, among many others.

Despite the very abrupt end to the Eccsame phase of Lilys, and the scattering of its participants, it is apparent that the three remember the time in the studio fondly, and all have an unshakable faith in the final product.

"I felt pretty good about the album when we had finished it," Costey adds, "It seemed fresh, inventive, and colorful. Kurt's writing isn't miles away from Syd Barrett territory, but as opposed to Syd, Kurt's lyrics were open and personal. I had hoped that it would be recognized a bit more for what I felt was something pretty unique at that time: Psychedelic indie with heavy fuzz, samplers, and 808s -- but it seemed to never really get the attention it deserved. Kurt went straight to The Kinks' Muswell Hillbillies [as the template] for his next album and finally had his talent recognized, but in the process it had always felt to me that Eccsame was just overlooked."

Most importantly though, the sense of trust between the album's principals appears to be the most defining and memorable part of the era. Listening to Evans and Heasley, in particular, speak of their relationship during that time illuminates a connection between kindred souls, a pair determined to create and build as a unit.

"I could never have that kind of naive trust again. You basically get [it] once." Heasley added somberly.

At times during this reflection, it shows that both might harbor some desire to work together again. In the age of '90s dream-pop band reunions, with acts including Slowdive, Medicine, Ride and My Bloody Valentine thrilling audiences once more, it wouldn't be seem that unusual for an influential lineup of Lilys to get back together, hopefully even for new music.

"He knows that I'm willing to work with him anywhere, anytime. At the drop of a hat, I'm in," Evans proclaimed, ever the dedicated bandmate, ignoring the thousands of miles between them.

That possibility is a dream for this blog, at least, and it is dreaming big that brought together those men in 1994 -- hedging their bets on chance and understanding. But big dreams can live on in unusual ways, and funny enough, it is because of the Lilys that this scribe first spoke to this editor at Clicky Clicky some five years ago. And, because of all of that, it has ultimately brought you, dear reader, to what may not yet be the final chapter in the story of a very special and evolving piece of art.

"Behold and open to the light."

Currently, Eccsame The Photon Band is out of print (spinART folded in 2007), and both CD and vinyl copies command steep prices in the collectors' market. Heasley has been negotiating the reissue of In The Presence Of Nothing and two other unspecified titles, and also the release of new music, according to news we reported here in March. Through the murky magic of the Internet, you can listen to selections from Eccsame via the YouTube playlist posted below. -- Edward Charlton

In Bloom: Lilys Poised For Massive Resurgence; New Music, Reissues And Live Performances Planned
That Was The Show That Was: Lilys with Prefab Messiahs | Lilypad | 15 June
That Was The Show That Was: Lilys | Lilypad | 25 May
A N D I F O R G O T A L O N G T I M E A G O H O W Y O U F E E L : ten now acts perform selections from the early recordings of Lilys, 1991-1995
20: Lilys | In The Presence Of Nothing
Today's Hotness: Lilys
YouTube Rodeo: Lilys' Amazing "YCJCYAQFTD," "A Nanny In Manhattan," "Baby's A Dealer"
Footage: Lorelei Cover Lilys' "February 14th" | Slumberland 20th Anniversary
Today's Hotness: Lilys
Today's Hotness: Lilys
750 Times The Same Song: It's All About The Lilys

December 17, 2014

Clicky Clicky Music Blog's Top Songs of 2014 (Jay Edition)

Clicky Clicky Music Blog Top Songs Of 2014 -- Jay Edition

Another year. And one in which, frankly, we didn't get to spend nearly as much time enjoying music, experiencing it live and interacting with the cool people who make it, as we would have liked. There was a lot of life lived in 2014, a fair amount of crap to deal with. But all of it made the music we did listen to all the more precious to us. Listed below are the songs we carried in our head through long hours of work and all-too-fleeting hours of leisure, sometimes just during a dark 6AM walk or a, well, dark 5PM trot to the parking garage from the office. Oh sure, there were other massive tunes and tunes of note: who can forget Johnny Foreigner's insanely great cover of The Wannadies' legendary single "Hit?" Playlounge's fuzz-ball anthem "Zero?" The War On Drugs' entrancing "Under The Pressure?" Or basically all of She Sir's phenomenal Go Guitars? But, as we said introducing last year's list, the 10 songs listed below were the songs we sang to ourselves most throughout the year, and the songs we consumed most often according to a messy pastiche of ITunes playcounts and Last.FM scrobbles or whatever. Sure, there was no shortage of incredible songs this year, and our aim here is to make sure you hear at least these 10. But before you dive in, we'd like to acknowledge the crucial contributions to Clicky Clicky of Senior Writer Edward Charlton and Staff Writer Dillon Riley. When we are in our busy spells such as the one we're swirling in presently, these guys ARE the blog, they ARE the brand, and we sleep soundly at HQ knowing they are out there in the trenches of indie rock when we can't be. So thanks to them, and thanks to you for reading the blog this year. Expect to see a year-end list or two from Mr. Riley, as well as our own year-end albums list, before Christmas rolls around. We leave you with a quote from the immortal Homer J: "No, no, no, don't stop a'rockin'."
1. Johnny Foreigner -- "Le Schwing" -- You Can Do Better [buy]

This is a classic Johnny Foreigner ripper, sort of in the vein of "The End Is The Beginning" from way back in the demo days, but better, because somehow this band keeps getting better even 10 years on into its existence. It's also sort of a throwback to the sort of tunes that the band was writing for Grace And The Bigger Picture, songs about touring the world and messing up relationships at home. It certainly doesn't hurt that the band released a tremendous video to go along with the tune to coincide its recent South African tour. All of the Birmingham, England noise-pop titans' 2014 long-player You Can Do Better [review] is terrific, and we suppose we could just have easily have chosen "Shipping" or "Stop Talking About Ghosts" -- whose defenestrating chorus "the hardest part is letting go" may be the biggest chorus on the album. But there is something so comforting about this one. Cross those fingers that somehow -- with all of the personal stuff going on in the lives of the bandmates next year -- we get Johnny Foreigner back on U.S. soil for a tour in 2015 to support Lame-O's domestic release of the set. Devestator....

"...flew into America looking for a revelation, ended up in Washington, got our shit stolen..."

2. Krill -- "Turd" -- Steven Hears Pile In Malden And Bursts Into Tears [buy]

Honestly, sometimes we think "Fresh Pond" is the better song. Hell, even the title track from Krill's 2014 EP Steve Hears Pile In Malden And Bursts Into Tears is incredible. But there is something perfect about the central metaphor of "Turd," and how its coarseness plays against the bright but tangled intellectual exercises fronter Jonah Furman is working through with his lyrics. Over and above that, it is the stirringly honest sentiment -- so uncommon among the set-piece artifices of rock music -- that makes the tune so special. As we said in our non-review [non-review] of the EP, if you'll permit us to quote ourselves: "The more we listen to Steve the more the narrative recedes, and the more we just hear the line from "Turd" over and over: "If I could just keep a commitment, maybe I'd be happier?" Real talk. What a song. What a record. We can't wait to hear Krill's next LP, which will be issued in February.

"...if I could just keep a commitment, maybe I'd be happier..."

3. Lubec -- "Sunburn!" -- The Thrall [buy]

Spoiler alert: Lubec's The Thrall is in our year-end album's list, too, and that's because all of the record is as strong as this incredible song. But let's just focus on this one for now. The production is beautifully dreamy, the vocal lines breathy and somnolent and referencing the classic Heasley/Sorrentino sounds from the earliest Lilys recordings. But there's also tremendous guitar playing here, vocals that reference Classical mythology, superlative melodies that cascade around the listener as every element in the arrangement seems to dance gracefully around where the song leads us, like birds coaxing the listener to follow. So much is happening on "Sunburn!" Why the exclamation point? We don't know. But "Sunburn!" teaches us to not question the process, because the results are so amazing. We reviewed The Thrall here in September.

"...what comes next when nothing is enough..."

4. Beach Slang -- "American Girls And French Kisses" -- Cheap Thrills On A Dead End Street EP [buy]

At first we actually thought this number was a bit corny. But it is just so outrageously catchy, the pace and energy so invigorating, the stutter at the chorus, and the forthright emotion driving it all so wildly engaging. Dare we say it recalls the great Jawbreaker, as does the rest of the terrific Cheap Thrills On A Dead End Street EP. Simple hooks, straightforward emo punk: even here there can be magic. It's exceptional songs like "American Girls And French Kisses" that reward the optimism of the serious music fan. The real headscratcher is why Beach Slang tucked this tune away as track three on this EP. But one listen will certainly lead to 30, maybe even 50, and then an hour or so trolling YouTube for live clips (there are some good ones, too). More songs like the four on this EP and we fear Beach Slang will become so successful that we'll get sick of them. But sick of this song? Probably never.

"...I hope when I die I feel this alive..."

5. Benjamin Shaw -- "You & Me" -- Goodbye, Cagoule World [buy]

Here's another tune sort of hidden away -- track six on Benjamin Shaw's wonderful seven-song set Goodbye, Cagoule World. But Clicky Clicky, as we've trumpeted many times before, will not be thwarted when it comes to finding the best jams, no matter where bands try to hide them. Label Audio Antihero made an uncharacteristically brilliant move in October, re-releasing the tune as the lead track on an EP alongside some truly stunning covers of same from other acts in the AAH stable, and we highly recommend that release to your attention. And each cover version underscores what a terrific song Mr. Shaw has here in "You & Me," from the charmingly comedic and sardonic lyrics to the affecting melody. Not content to just make a remarkable pop confection, of course, Mr. Shaw also richly appoints the tune with fine touches, like the tremeloed organ tucked into the right channel. Shaw is a treasure, and we hope he takes half as much satisfaction from his work as we get from it, and that he continues for a long, long time to come.

" a decade for a new leaf, and a hostile reception, for you and me..."

6. Pile -- "Special Snowflakes" -- "Special Snowflake" b/w "Mama's Lipstick" [buy, only three left]

Oh God the weight, the endlessly cool heaviness, the crooked and explosive mega-blues of Pile's "Special Snowflakes." Seeing Pile play this one live at the completely INSANE Mean Creek record release show last spring might be our live highlight of the entire year. The songcraft of Rick Maguire is stunning, and perhaps never more so than on this single, an almost-suite filled with metal parts, whipsmart dynamic, wildly inventive drumming, and Mr. Maguire's limber, stentorian vocals, whose contortions illuminate his dark lyrical imagery. But, oh God the weight. Pile. PILE.

" it's too tough to tell if ever he was real..."

7. Speedy Ortiz -- "American Horror" -- Real Hair EP [buy]

It continues to be Speedy Ortiz's world, and we're all just living in it, and the band's towering 2014 EP Real Hair certainly made us feel fortunate about it. The lead track from the short set, "American Horror," offers generous helpings of scraping guitar greatness, with textures and melodies reminiscent of the big rock sounds of Pavement's Brighten The Corners or a heavier reading from the book of Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain. Fronter Sadie DuPuis' narrative of dealing with a loved one's struggles is gripping, and how she modulates her voice from the song's final chorus to its final moment is one of our favorite things about 2014, period. We've been singing this one in our head all year, and we don't really see that stopping any time soon.

" ya feel so crazy, you keep me up for a whole week..."

8. Soccer Mom -- "It's Probably Not Your Fault" -- Soccer Mom [buy]

"Probably." Leave's some room, doesn't it? Soccer Mom and its self-titled LP should have been the biggest story in the Boston scene in 2014; unfortunately the act has already called it a day. If it's any consolation, we've still got their amazing record. Ironically, "It's Probably Not Your Fault" deals a bit with consoling, seemingly with coping with powerful loss. Co-fronter Dan Parlin's singing is gripping, and the melodies in the song are very engaging. But it is the bludgeoning, excoriating ending that provides the tune's most exciting and dangerous moments.

"...hopefully can replay what's left on my mind, it takes all day..."

9. The Weaks -- "How To Put An Audience To Sleep In Under Two Minutes" -- The World Is A Terrible Place & I Hate Myself And Want To Die EP [buy]

The best thing about this song is that it is actually more than two minutes long. Well, OK, that's not the best thing, but it makes us laugh every time we listen. The Weaks, emo's little band that could, decisively delivers on this kinetic belter. Massive choruses, pick slides, crushing drumming and clobbering bass playing render "How To Put An Audience To Sleep In Under Two Minutes" undeniable. Co-fronter Evan Bernard's lyrics ring so true, his singing is so unassailably so heartfelt, that it's hard to believe The Weaks haven't made a mint on just this song alone.

"...Dreams ending in white picket fences, dreams ending, the world isn't quite so big..."

10. White Laces -- "Skate Or Die" -- Trance [buy]

On an album that captures the sound of a band almost literally growing, this track in particular presents Richmond futurepop goliaths White Laces just totally going for it. Powerful rhythm tracks propel the song, furnishing a foundation for the tune's ricocheting, chiming melodies. Fronter Landis Wine's vocal become increasingly desperate and exercised as "Skate Or Die" rockets to its thrilling conclusion. Then, quietly, the song's final moments quietly shudder, reiterating its opening seconds, a twitching, winking film of oil shifting on a membrane that provides a subtle indication that the tune is a Jeff Zeigler production. "Skate Or Die" is ripe with huge moments, the kinds of moments that make it among the best songs of 2014.

" say it's fine, you won't come down, you want the lights, but hate the sound..."

December 11, 2014

That Was The Show That Was: Big Ups with Krill, Washer, Kal Marks | O’Brien’s Pub | Dec 3

That Was The Show That Was: Big Ups at O'Brien's Pub, photo by Dillon Riley

[PHOTO: Big Ups by Dillon Riley] Even in a year brimming with killer split single releases, the Big Ups/Washer 7" from last month looms very large. Big Ups' side of said media is particularly hot, the sound of an act embossing an exclamation point on a breakout year. The New York band's debut LP Eighteen Hours Of Static, issued by Dead Labor/Tough Love at the beginning of 2014, was a howling mass of seething post-hardcore rage that drew wide-eyed attention from Clicky Clicky HQ. But for whatever reason the act doesn't frequent these parts often, so last week we dropped our pencils and vintage X-Puck 'zines to take in Big Ups' outsized rock sounds at O'Brien's in Allston Rock City.

As a frontman, Big Ups' Joe Galarraga cuts a particularly compelling figure. He preens and struts in the manner of Jagger, and is prone to wrapping the mic cord around his neck during instrumental bits like Iggy. He wields a remarkably emotive voice, one as likely to deliver low, gravelly tones as it is lacerating screams; Big Ups' best tunes utilize both. Its side of the aforementioned 7" was aired during the act's set that Friday night, as well as a particularly brutal take on "Justice" from Eighteen Hours Of Static [link], and a few tunes teasing a likely forthcoming record were especially engaging. One of these newer jams illuminated a looser end of the band's sound, unwinding its focused attack a touch while incorporating nifty slide guitar.

Big Ups' strong set was but one highlight of the evening's absurdly stacked bill. Boston downercore heavyweights Kal Marks opened the night, proffering a few numbers from its own recently released Just A Lonely Fart EP, along with a steady helping of of songs from their still-stirring Life Is Murder long-player. Kal Marks have graced these electronic pages many times, and deservedly so. The act's sludge-y channeling of America indie when experienced in the figurative flesh makes for a particularly visceral experience, felt in the body via the sympathetic nervous system as much as it is down in the ear canals. Last week's set -- and the subsequent release show that transpired at a Lower Allston house over the weekend -- were among the best we've witnessed from the trio. It's new songs hit hard, and the band clearly is cresting a big wave as artists at the moment.

Boston bugcore titans Krill headlined. As is now public information, the act's new record A Distant Fist Unclenching [boing] will be released in February on Exploding In Sound. We've seen at least half the record performed live over the last six months or so, and, of course, the act purportedly played the thing front-to-back in August on Boston's fabled Pipeline live, local radio show -- but even so, we are totally stoked to hear the recorded realization of these tunes. The release of a new Krill record is an event the likes of which our (sub-)culture seems to not celebrate as much as in years past. In the meantime and here and now, Krill the live band is just as potent as ever, with regular moments of transcendence. Fronter Jonah Furman sheepishly copped to last week's show being their first in a month, a long gap for a band as active as Krill, but there were no figurative cobwebs to perceive. Dipping into more than a few numbers from Lucky Leaves [review] -- a relatively rare treat in light of the band's more recent setlists -- as well as some previews from the forthcoming Fist, Krill continues to prove to be the jewel of Boston's exceeding excellent music scene.

New York post-punkers Washer performed second, and the set featured an iteration of the previously mentioned split's tune "Rot," which is the duo's finest work to date. As a live entity, Washer present a convincing tossed-off charm, with occasional notes flubbed and between-song banter brief and often bitingly funny. They are indeed an excellent addition to the ever-growing Exploding In Sound family, to whom we wish, in the spirit of the season, much continued health and success. -- Dillon Riley