January 28, 2015

Today's Hotness: Weed, Samira Winter, Diet Cig

Weed -- Thousand Pounds

>> Lefse Records has unveiled a real blinder from Vancouver three-piece Weed in the form of "Thousand Pounds," the first single taken from the band's forthcoming sophomore set Running Back. "Thousand Pounds" bursts open with a two-chord curtain composed of distorted guitar and white-out cymbal crashes, which enshrouds a relatively serene, slap-backed vocal from fronter Will Anderson that ultimately leads the song to an uneasy, clanging denouement. The flipside, a tune called "Turret," is a "super old b-side" taken from the band's first-ever studio session. For context, Weed issued its debut long-player Deserve in September 2013 on Couple Skate, and also has an EP and another single under its collective belt. Lefse will release "Thousand Pounds" b/w "Turret" as a vinyl 7" and digital download Feb. 24, and pre-orders are being taken right here. Running Back is a 10-song set slated for release April 7, with a limited run of vinyl being pressed to bright pink media. These LPs will come packaged with a lyric sheet and large newsprint poster, and -- magically -- they, too, are also available for pre-order. Stream "Thousand Pounds" via the Soundcloud embed below. Weed embark on a brief West Coast tour Feb. 5 -- its first since 2013 -- and all the dates are listed at the act's Bandcamp right here.

>> The original inspiration for Clicky Clicky's sorta neglected Regolith songwriting challenge feature, Samira Winter, is back at it, hammering away at a song-a-week project that is producing terrific results. Ms. Winter's latest entry, the eleventh in the present series, is the hazy dream-pop gem "She Said No." The tune is a collaboration with a producer/engineer named Scott Barber, and its power is in its simplicity: while it is of average length, the entire thing feels like one long, affecting chorus. The actual chorus is a knockout, pairing a rich, descending guitar melody with Winter's arresting voice -- backed, presumably, by Mr. Barber's -- insistently repeating "all because she said no." Ms. Winter recently soft-announced the sophomore set from her full-band project Winter -- the first recorded with her more recent left-coast lineup -- which will be called Supreme Blue Dream. The set will be issued by LA's Lolipop Records, according to this article in LA Weekly, but there is no official word yet on formats or a release date (although our recollection is Lolipop favors cassette releases). We've heard the record and expect fans will be very pleased to hear what is coming. The band Winter has been gigging very regularly since relocating to California about a year ago; it is on a hot bill next week supporting Dead Meadow at the Continental Room in Fullerton. We previously wrote about Samira Winter's first song-a-day thing right here in September 2013, and have a written a bunch of other stuff, like this piece about Winter's "Alligator" single here, and we premiered the video for "Bedroom Philosophies" right here. Considering how strikingly strong the material from the current songwriting challenge is, we would be very surprised if some of it didn't end up on a forthcoming Winter record, especially as -- although we don't want to give too much away -- certain tunes from her first songwriting challenge will appear on Supreme Blue Dream. All of that, of course, remains to be seen. But we highly recommend "She Said No," which you can stream and download via the embed below, to your attention.

>> From the same fertile scene that brought the indie rock world What Moon Things comes the fresh new indie punk duo Diet Cig. Fronter Alex Luciano and drummer Noah Bowman ably conjure the sort of scruffy charm that made Tiger Trap records so listenable, oh, a 100 years ago. Which, if you don't know from Tiger Trap, means strong pop fundamentals, substantial vim and appealing rough edges, with occasional inbursts of classic girl group reverie ("Scene Sick"). It's a sound that places Diet Cig in the good company of contemporary acts like Swearin' and Radiator Hospital. Diet Cig are debuting with an almost absurdly strong five-song EP called Over Easy, which will be released by Father/Daughter on cassette and as a digital download Feb. 24. The short set is already drawing raves, and it is easy to hear why: we've listened to the thing on repeat for hours at a time and Over Easy has yet to feel stale. Stream the scathing rocker "Harvard," with its defiant chorus "fuck your Ivy League sweater," and the aforementioned, concise and more introspective (but similarly fuck-filled, radio programmers be warned) ballad "Scene Sick" via the embeds below. Pre-order Over Easy from Father/Daughter right here, it's the right thing to do and the tasty way to do it.

January 23, 2015

Today's Hotness: Sister Palace, Twerps

Sister Palace - Count Yr Blessings

>> Few bands have enticed this reviewer in his hometown of Portland, Oregon as much as emergent, dreamy rock act Sister Palace. Comiing along in the wake of its mid-2014, sold out The Purple Tape EP is the act’s towering first full-length, Count Yr Blessings. The set will be self-released Feb. 1, at the conclusion of a West Coast tour that kicked off Friday night in San Francisco. The new set has taken much of the scene by surprise, as few local acts have as ably harnessed the sounds of well-aged '90s indie touchstones and channeled that inspiration into something as pristine and powerful as Count Yr Blessings’ lead single "Corporeality." The tune opens with a simple, picked refrain and the lead singer's straightforward, soft vocals. And then there's that thing -- you’ll hear it: a mighty, powerful wordless chorus that not only calls to mind the finer aspects of those Steve Albini-recorded Breeders records, but also packs a melody so honest and serene that listeners will be able to do nothing but listen and nod along in abject pleasure. Maybe it's the great harmony that haunts the passage, or maybe it's the clear, open production capturing Mac Pogue’s drumming, but there’s a timelessness to the tune that suggests great things for this young band’s future. Add to that a creeping harmonic bridge that recalls guitar-band greats like Helium, Come, and the aforementioned Breeders, and you have a recipe for success that also adds something special and original to the Northwestern DIY rock scene. We would be remiss if we did not report that the balance of Count Yr Blessings is equally strong, and that we expect listeners will be hitting repeat on the mesmerizing ballad "Sister Vincent" as well as the understatedly brilliant "Fuck The Nation," which brings back the effective, simple vocal harmonies of "Corporeality." Oh, there's also a surprise '90s alt.rock cover tagged to the end of the set, which is nicely done, and puts a twee spin on something you've heard a million times before. But we don't wanna say too much. Pre-order Count Yr Blessings right here, or grab one from Sister Palace at one of the stops on its present tour -- we’ve listed the remaining dates below along with the album embed, which we highly recommend to your attention. -- Edward Charlton

01/24 -- Santa Cruz, CA -- SubRosa w/ Burnt Palms
01/25 -- Santa Barbara, CA -- Funzone w/ Spring, Waxer
01/28 -- Los Angeles, CA -- Redwoods w/ Badlands
01/29 -- San Luis Obispo, CA -- TBA
01/30 -- Oakland, CA -- TBA w/ Watercolor Paintings
01/31 -- Cottage Grove, OR -- Axe & Fiddle
02/01 -- Portland, OR -- The Know w/ Lubec

>> It's no surprise, Merge Records having a winner on its hands, as that is sort of their "thing" (have you seen its spring release schedule?). But we feel like the forthcoming sophomore LP from Aussie indie pop act Twerps is getting a bit lost in the shuffle, and, well, it shouldn't, as it has all the makings of a classic album (and the band is already influencing a new wave of English outfits, to boot). The Melbourne-based foursome's new set is titled Range Anxiety; it was preceded by a self-titled debut in 2011 and the Merge-issued 2014 EP Underlay. Range Anxiety is replete with inexhaustible melodies, jangly guitars and a beguiling blend of pep and melancholy that recalls the finest work of notable antipodean acts such as The Go-Betweens. Indeed, Range Anxiety nearly comes across as a hits collection, its track listing is so strong. The uptempo strummer "Simple Feelings" recasts The Feelies' mellow and resigned "Only Life" as a jittery pop gem, while the preview track "I Don't Mind" plays it cool from within a quiet cloud of, uh, something? Is that feedback? Backwards masked ride cymbal? Whatever it is, it's nifty, and plays well against the chorus's clean jangle and the tremeloed leads in the verse. Deep album cut "Cheap Education" goes back to the Feelies well again for its firmly cycled three-chord verse, but thrums with a caffeinated intensity that points relentlessly forward. Merge will release Range Anxiety Tuesday, and you can purchase it right here. Stream the aforementioned "I Don't Mind" and the entirely charming weirdo "Shoulders" (which reminds us of a more hi-fi take on the Glo-worm sound) via the Soundcloud embeds below.

January 20, 2015

Review: Swings | Detergent Hymns

Historically speaking, indie rock has never put a huge premium on articulation. Indeed, the music many of us cut our teeth on largely got by on feeling alone, not specificity. Swings, a relatively new, slowcore-indebted concern from the fertile DC scene, proffers a unpredictable, shifting sound that neatly situates the band within independent music's collection of indefinite expressionists. Fronter Jamie Finucane possesses a remarkably emotive voice that one could deem marble-mouthed. For all the moods and motifs conveyed across the threesome’s oft-thrilling debut LP Detergent Hymns, pointing to a particularly gratifying lyrical couplet is an exercise in futility. This renders the record no less moving, however.

If anything, Mr. Finucane’s syrupy, meandering enunciations present a worthy foil to the uneasy tension established by the trio’s deft, imaginative playing. Swings' songs routinely fall in and out of rhythm, an approach that on the surface comports with the mopey preoccupation ascribed to like-minded bands. However, over multiple listens, the haphazard cadences prove well-calculated, perhaps cribbed from jazz or influenced by the late DJ Rashad. And so Swings' ability to sound equal parts improbably loose and delightfully concise emerges as a key element of the band's aesthetic.

Detergent Hymns commences with "Pale Trinity," a composition cast from slow, plodding guitar lines that establish a narcotic pacem albeit one spangled by jazz-y drum fills that materialize seemingly at random. Musically, the vibe suggests a maniacal reimagining of the palpable haze sonic forebears Galaxie 500 conjured with its LP On Fire. It's also a thoughtful extension of the tone set by last year's "Champagne" single. It's worth noting here that Swings was once an entirely different, and -- as the group would likely admit -- more pedestrian project oeprating under the moniker Anchor 3. With that context, Detergent Hymns represents a complete rebirth. The transition certainly bodes well for the young group, considering the boundless possibilities seemingly afforded by the fresh direction.

The graceful, pulsating "Heavy Manner," as well as the record's closing statement "Calling It," were pushed as preview tracks, but the highlight of Detergent Hymns may well be "Phlegm." The tune's uninviting title does little to detract from its winsome, rise-and-fall, dynamic appeal. That said, it's difficult to single out specific tracks, as the entire record is strong, and works well as a cohesive piece. Swings wrapped a short strand of live dates Saturday in Harrisonburg, VA, and -- as noted on its social media platforms -- the trio already has another record in the proverbial bag and ready for mixing. We feel comfortable opining that if the planned successor set maintains the beguiling personality of Detergent Hymns, we foresee yet more success for Swings. Detergent Hymns is out now on cassette via Quiet Year Records in an apparent limited edition of 65 pieces, and we're given to understand that few remain in stock; try and grab one here. Or, grab a digital copy direct from the band right here. -- Dillon Riley

Swings: Bandcamp | Facebook

January 17, 2015

Today's Hotness: Ringo Deathstarr, Seeds Of Doubt, Boom Said Thunder

Ringo Deathstarr - Big Bopper

>> Austin-based shoegaze heroes Ringo Deathstarr yesterday unveiled "Big Bopper," the cracking first new song from a planned third full-length. The tune, as older fans may know, takes its name from the tragic Texas proto-rocker Jiles Perry Richardson, Jr., whose nickname was The Big Bopper. Mr. Richardson perished in the same plane crash that took the life of legends Ritchie Valens and Buddy Holly, all of which was memorialized by that loathesome Don McLean song, you know the one. But enough of the history lesson. Ringo Deathstarr's "Big Bopper" is an MBV-indebted mind-scrambler that blasts distorted guitars through a rich reverb and over a danceable beat, to which fronter Elliot Frazier applies a cyclical chant that may or may not have to do with losing a bet and boarding a doomed aircraft. The song was posted to the Soundcloud of the Deathstarr's Japanese label, Tokyo-based Vinyl Junkie Recordings, which suggests to us that the new record will certainly be released in Japan, and perhaps released to that market first, as was the case with Ringo Deathstarr's last EP, God's Dream. Based on this Facebook post from fewer than three weeks ago, we're guessing the bulk of the new record has yet to be recorded, and of course there is as yet no album title or release information. But it makes us feel good knowing that there is new Deathstarr in the offing for 2015. God's Dream was released in March 2014, and we reviewed it right here. Stream "Big Bopper" via the Soundcloud embed below.

>> London indie pop foursome Seeds Of Doubt Monday will issue a terrifically titled new EP, its third, Audible Human Repellent. The short stack, despite the moniker, is actually quite listenable, and contains four songs that were apparently recorded in a single day in November. The undeniable highlight of the short set is the peppy tune "Shelf Life," whose agile, Feelies-styled jangle supports light lead guitar work that punctuates a pretty, ascending melody in the chorus. Here fronter Chris Hopkins pleads, memorably, "help me help myself, because I don't want to end up on the shelf." Lead track "Know Your Limits" proffers a more subdued attack punctuated by a somewhat adenoidal vocal, but the song really leaves the ground around the midpoint when nimble lead guitar guides the song through a tense bridge and into a ripping guitar solo. The band earlier this week loosed to the wilds of the Internet this concise, cat-filled video for the slack yet agitated second track, "Others Pay," whose chorus repeatedly warns "others pay for our leisure." We last spoke with Seeds Of Doubt here in May, around the time of the release of its DCP EP. Audible Human Repellent is being issued by London imprint Life Dunk International on limited-run cassette or digital download (both of which purportedly come with a b-side alternately described as a "special luxury surprise" and "magnificently decadent;" the mind reels at the possibilities). Stream the collection via the Bandcamp embed below, and click through to purchase now, ahead of the release Monday.

>> Formerly Boston-based rock trio Boom Said Thunder, which now reps the 718, at long last figuratively returns Monday with a strongly vibing new digital single that boasts the threesome's best -- and longest -- songs to date, "Summer Twin" b/w "Carnivore". The latter track clocks in at more than six minutes, during which the act conjures a cloud of fuzz from persistently applied crash cymbal (or a ride bashed like a crash) and distorted bass, establishing a dark firmament into which fronter Abby Bickel casts an ominous, reverbed incantation. Taken all together, the number suggests the mystical atmospherics of early Jane's Addiction. "Summer Twin" touts a brighter melody and a more fluid groove utilizing the act's characteristic recipe of bass, drums and voice. While John Magnifico's bass burbles and pulses, Ms. Bickel's vocal -- which here echoes somewhat the strong alto of Sinead O'Connor -- remains calm and centered well into the fourth minute, which adds to the song's mesmerizing affect. Although the vibe steadily intensifies and Bickel's voice ultimately soars, its most poignant and dramatic moment is the repetition of the simple, chilling lyric "I grow old, you stay the same." The brace of tunes was recorded in Brooklyn this fall during sessions underwritten by a popular footwear brand, and later mastered by local good guy Richard Marr, who also recently mastered Pile's forthcoming You're Better Than This. Boom Said Thunder play a relatively rare local date Friday at Great Scott, on a bill that also features Velah and Burial Sound. We expect hearing these new tunes performed live will really be something special. Clicky Clicky last wrote about the trio here in March 2013, around the time of the release of its debut LP Exist. Stream and download "Summer Twin" and "Carnivore" via the embed below.

January 14, 2015

Today's Hotness: Pile, Leapling, Odessey & Oracle

Pile - You're Better Than This (detail)

>> Oh, hey, we're back. We missed you, too. How's your mom? Are you working the same place? Your hair got long...

>> Happy new year, and happy new Pile. Stereofork got the nod yesterday for an exclusive on the Boston grunge titans' terrific new track "#2 Hit Single" -- taken from the forthcoming set You're Better Than This (let's just let that title hang there meaningfully for a second... maybe a second more...) -- and in doing so perpetuated the irritating trend of large music publications being more about firsties than journalism. Had Pantsgum bothered to do 10 minutes of research (we get it, music writing is hard, guys), it could have told you that the reason the preview tune is called "#2 Hit Single" is because the title "Number One Hit Single" was already used. Indeed, that tune appeared on Pile's wonderful 2010 LP Magic Isn't Real; you can hear it right here or at the embed below. "#2 Hit Single" -- also embedded below -- echoes the slashing rhythm of the earlier tune's opening guitar riff, but inverts the melodic elements as it introduces a call-and-response between fronter Rick Maguire's vocal and the annihilating instrumentation of the verse. The aggressive jam abruptly ends after 145 seconds, and then is gone into the proverbial night like a deranged mugger. Pile's new record You're Better Than This will be issued March 3 as part of a Exploding In Sound's exceptionally strong first quarter release schedule, which also includes bugcore heroes Krill's powerful A Distant Fist Unclenching. Pile's newest was recorded in Omaha and features electrifying and hyper-roomy production that recalls the biting sound of early Jon Spencer Blues Explosion records, and we think Clicky Clicky readers are going to find a lot to like on it, particularly the wild, rootsier sound of tunes like "Fuck The Police" and the ambitious, awe-inspiring closer "Appendicitis." Pre-order You're Better Than This on vinyl, CD or cassette via Pile's Bandcamp wigwam right here.

>> December seems like a bad time to promote an album. Not only is there an endless round of "Best of 2014" lists and year-end nostalgia, but nearly everyone is on vacation and not listening to some great new indie rock. In jeopardy of being lost in the late-year shuffle were certain late-season singles from Brooklyn four-piece guitar poppers Leapling, whose album Vacant Page is seeing a February 10th vinyl co-release via Inflated Records and the mighty, aforementioned Exploding In Sound. Big news, right? The second single "Silent Stone," released around the holidays, is a stone-cold killer cut of spacey, free-jazz guitar rock. "What have I been told? / Leave me in the cold" sings guitarist Dan Arnes in a soft, plain-spoken, everyman voice that brings to mind Death Cab For Cutie, albeit sans the excessive verbiage. That confused sense of resolution wraps itself around the song, guiding what are at first surfy guitar lines that mutate into bum-note guitar solos and pick scrapes that dance around tight, trained hi-hat work. Best of all is a breakdown at the two-minute mark, where the bassist has a chance to shine with oblong chops. The lead guitar channels Wilco's avant string mangling circa A Ghost Is Born, while the complex, steady chords ground the exposition. Perhaps best of all, Leapling is a hard band to define, and that’s what makes them special. Consider the act a crucial addition to EIS' stable. The first 150 copies of the vinyl edition of Vacant Page come on colored splatter vinyl, so don't sleep on this promising album. Pre-order the set from Inflated Records right here. -- Edward Charlton

>> Man, how this writer digs indie rock ambition. Take, for instance, the recent inbox find of France's Odessey & Oracle, a baroque-pop unit whose namesake is The Zombies' 1968 masterwork (the misspelled "odyssey" is also an homage, to the poor grammar of The Zombies' original album art artist). The French outfit's latest album Odessey & Oracle and the Casiotone Orchestra is a lofty, lo-fi love letter to the over achieving '60s pop scene, one that (thankfully) pays tribute without the wholesale recycling of old sounds. Out on vinyl and CD via Carton Records, the album is a technicolor trip that highlights the arrangement genius of those original bands while guiding the sound somewhere new. "I'll be floating far into dreams" they sing on opener "2016," which shapes ukulele strums into a progressive dream-pop track. While the cheesy-sounding synths may startle at first, they ultimately add to a pleasant home-grown vibe -- inadvertently recalling the playful, Casiotone genius of The Unicorns in the process. Album cut "Esprit Du Ciel" applies the band's native tongue to lush male vocal harmonies, while "Alphabet" and "Fixing The World" tone things down via gentle female that defuse the more complex and classical analog synth work of tracks including "Invention #7." Wide-eyed, accomplished, orchestrated and in love with an era that deserves the attention, Odessey & Oracle and the Casiotone Orchestra is not only a fun addition to the baroque-pop canon, but a great reminder of what made that scene so special. Order the album right here. -- Edward Charlton