November 15, 2016

Notes From The Underground: Aüva's Day Two in The Studio at Mad Oak with Benny Grotto

Notes From The Underground: Aüva's Day Two in The Studio at Mad Oak with Benny Grotto

Here we are with the day two reportage from Boston indie pop sextet Aüva's foray into Mad Oak Studio. The band was there Friday, Saturday and Sunday this past weekend with producer extraordinaire Benny Grotto on the dime of an anonymous donor and friend of Clicky Clicky, and the plan is to track and mix three new songs. Yesterday we posted singer and keyboardist Miette Hope's impressions of the first day, but tangentially we'll note that Aüva's Friday didn't stop when that session was over. The band played a show at Make Out Point Friday, Clicky Clicky operatives were there, and we're told Aüva played one new song, and a bunch from this year's LP including "Better" (whose video was also shot in part at the Point) and closing the set with the dreamy pop gem "Into Place." Mixing on the three new tunes is slated to transpire later this month. For now, check out drummer Michael Piccoli's thoughts on the second day of the sessions.
Day 2 in the studio was devoted to tracking guitar, keys and bass. We arrived at noon and started out by listening to all the drum takes from day one with fresh ears before recording other instruments. We were all glad to hear that the drum takes were solid so we were ready to move on. Andy did a great job nailing down the bass parts, and it only took about an hour for him to play all three songs. Benny had different ideas for each song and sent the bass through different combinations of amplifiers and compressors depending on what he thought the song needed. After recording bass we moved onto rhythm guitar which we used a similar approach for. Benny had a few different Reverend guitars in the studio that he let us play on the different songs in order to achieve the best sound for each tune. He also had some ideas for what Jake was playing and we got to use one of his 12-strings to double one of the lead lines and it gave the sound a very vintage mid-'60s sound, reminiscent of The Byrds, which we were all excited about. Moving onto keys, we used our Yamaha MX49 keyboard and created sounds by blending two different instruments and adjusting the sound envelope. We also tracked acoustic piano on a couple of the songs and used two mics behind the piano and one room mic. Overall it was a great day in the studio and tomorrow we plan to move onto vocals, lead guitar, and percussion. -- Michael
Aüva: Bandcamp | Facebook | Internerds

Related coverage:
Notes From The Underground: Aüva's Day One in The Studio at Mad Oak with Benny Grotto
Hey This Weird Thing Happened Where Someone Gave Us Studio Time To Give Away So We Gave It To Aüva And Let's See What Happens, Shall We?
Footage: Aüva's Swaying Surf-Pop Gem "Better"
Together Again: Clicky Clicky Presents Two Nights of Adventurous Electronics And Under-Pop May 18+19

November 14, 2016

Notes From The Underground: Aüva's Day One in The Studio at Mad Oak with Benny Grotto

Notes From The Underground: Aüva's Day One in The Studio at Mad Oak with Benny Grotto

Aloha readers. If you caught our post a few weeks back about sending Aüva into the studio in a mystery donor's dime, and even if you didn't, well it's time for an update. The young and talented Boston indie pop sextet entered the hallowed halls of Mad Oak Studios with esteemed producer Benny Grotto Friday to record new music, and we've got a report from singer and keyboard player Miette. It turns out the band and the studio are neighbors, so Aüva was able to literally just push its gear down the street to make the session, which seems like something The Monkees would have done, so we like it. Anyway, we'll have additional notes from the band in the coming days. For now, read Miette's take on day one.
Our first day in the studio, we pushed all of our gear over in a shopping cart from our house which is actually right down the road. Making our way to the studio we were surprised at how well it was disguised in what looked like a garage from the front right around the corner from the tattoo shop and venues we have all been to before. When we met Benny he was super nice and made us feel very comfortable right off the bat. His conversation was casual but professional and we didn't waste any time in getting right down to business discussing our instrumentation and process. The studio itself was amazing, with gorgeously warm toned wood floors and panels surrounding. The monitors and mixing board were super nice and there were so many different compressors and preamp options throughout the mixing room.

We all took a seat on a black leather couch at the back of the room that was placed perfectly in front of the monitors and talked about our recording plans for the day. After some conversation we collectively decided that it would be best to play through all three of our songs live and focus on getting the best drum takes. We sang the vocals in the mixing room in front of the window in between the live room and mixing room so we could see the rest of the band and they could see us. Benny is also a drummer so he had some cool suggestions for Michael in order to get the best possible drum sound. We played one of the songs without a click to really get the feeling of the way we are used to playing it and it ended up going really well. Another really cool thing about this studio is that the lights in the mixing room had color changing capabilities so we were able to have the room be whatever color we wanted which really helped us get into the feeling of the music a little more. Overall, the first day was very productive and we had such a good time working with Benny and in that space. Can't wait for tomorrow [Saturday -- Ed.], we'll be tracking bass, guitar, and keys. -- Miette
Aüva: Bandcamp | Facebook | Internerds

Related coverage:
Hey This Weird Thing Happened Where Someone Gave Us Studio Time To Give Away So We Gave It To Aüva And Let's See What Happens, Shall We?
Footage: Aüva's Swaying Surf-Pop Gem "Better"
Together Again: Clicky Clicky Presents Two Nights of Adventurous Electronics And Under-Pop May 18+19

October 24, 2016

Hey This Weird Thing Happened Where Someone Gave Us Studio Time To Give Away So We Gave It To Aüva And Let's See What Happens, Shall We?

Hey This Weird Thing Happened Where Someone Gave Us Studio Time To Give Away So We're Giving It To Aüva And Let's See What Happens, Shall We?

[PHOTO: Evan Xiner Hong] So, in case you haven't noticed, we're fans of rising Boston indie pop sextet Aüva. We put the act on a bill for this year's Together fest, wrote about its video clip earlier in July, and have enjoyed listening to its 2016 self-titled LP. And so, when an old friend from the Boston music scene in April presented us with a very intriguing opportunity, we were compelled to think of Aüva yet one more time. Said (very kind) friend provided us with a substantial chunk of studio time in one of the city's top studios -- and with a Boston Music Award-winning engineer nominated yet again this year -- for us to give away (just give away, just like that, like it was a beer or an extra crew neck sweater) to a deserving band. There were a couple caveats we were happy to countenance, the upshot of which was we needed to identify a young, able band that had never recorded in a proper studio before. As Aüva's prior EPs and aforementioned LP were self-recorded, they hit Clicky Clicky's short list quickly, and were the last act standing after the Clicky Clicky Brain Trust's deliberations were complete in mid-summer.

So, here's what's going to happen: next month, Aüva will enter the recently re-everythinged Mad Oak Studios in Allston Rock City for five days to record new music with the great Benny Grotto. The band has graciously agreed to document the recording sessions, which we will share with you, dear reader, in as close to real time as we can manage. What can we expect? 28-minute prog odyssey? A passel of sticky, deafening stoner-rock jams? Probably not. But the point is we don't know, and it will be exciting to find out. After a successful summer tour including a date playing adjacent to Brian Wilson in New Hampshire, Aüva has been primarily woodshedding, but area fans can catch them performing live Nov. 11 at Make Out Point; the bill also includes Amherst, Mass.' Calico Blue. Those unfamiliar with the venue would do well to consult a punk. While we wait for the show and new recordings to roll around, how about taking another listen to Aüva?

Aüva: Bandcamp | Facebook | Internerds

Related coverage:
Footage: Aüva's Swaying Surf-Pop Gem "Better"
Together Again: Clicky Clicky Presents Two Nights of Adventurous Electronics And Under-Pop May 18+19

October 13, 2016

Today's Hotness: White Laces, Real Numbers

White Laces -- No Floor (detail)

>> Richmond future-pop leading lights White Laces roll into town tomorrow at the tail end of a week-long east coast tour supporting its long-germinating third album No Floor, which hit new release bins late last month. With its latest and third record, White Laces ventures further into an aesthetic marked by dramatic electronics and vast reverbs that at times eschews live instrumentation almost entirely. The stark contrast between the guitar-centered and relatively angular sound of White Laces' early years and the boundless atmospheres it has conjured for itself more recently is no more apparent than when contrasting a recently released compilation of remastered early track, Sick Of Summer, with No Floor. No Floor is announced by the swirling faux strings and bashing electro beat of "Youth Vote," with fronter Landis Wine dropping the en medias res line "I figured I'd take a ride" as a invocation. Album preview tracks "Dots" and "Cheese" follow with increasingly greater electronic flourishes that deepen the divide between the White Laces of today and the more conventional approach of the band's early years. Indeed, as the chiming opening of "Cheese" -- whose melody echoes faintly the verse of P.I.L.'s "Rise" -- transitions to its own serene verse, it is difficult to identify any non-electronic sounds. Even so, the music never feels synthetic, in large part because Mr. Wine's soulful vocals on No Floor are the most emotionally direct of the band's entire oeuvre. In a departure from prior practice, No Floor was recorded primarily at home, with additional vocal tracking at a studio in Richmond, and it was mixed by Philadelphia hitmaker Jeff Zeigler (Mr. Zeigler had previously tracked White Laces 2014 sophomore set Trance, which we reviewed right here). White Laces performs a Boston-area show Friday night at Trixie's Palace, a non-traditional venue whose coordinates can be ascertained by consulting a knowledgeable punk rock enthusiast. Also on the bill are Jroy Divorbison, We Can All Be Sorry, Jarva Land and The Owens. Richmond-based Egghunt Records released No Floor September 30 on CD, as a digital download, and in a hyper limited edition of 50 vinyl long-playing records; purchase the set in an of its physical manifestations and in various bundles (which can include the aforementioned remaster of Sick Of Summer as well as a pretty bitchin' t-shirt) directly from the label right here.

>> With two particularly hot releases rocketing from its city limits this month, rock fans can only hope that the underpop sounds of Minneapolis are set for a renewed campaign for stylistic supremacy. Private Interests' power-pop revelation, its Only For A Moment EP, hits new release bins at the end of next week. But just tomorrow indie-pop four-piece Real Numbers releases a hotly anticipated and long-awaited full-length debut, despite having toiled in the figurative salt mines of international indie for as long as a decade. The jangle commandos' new C86-indebted collection, Wordless Wonder, is thronged with instant classics touting big melodies, scritchy guitars and maximum pep. Opener "Frank Infatuation" is timeless, and makes for an auspicious start to this high-quality release. The tune is all fuzzy strums, plunky bass, and surfy leads, delivered at a carefree, upbeat tempo, and, sure, there's a formula at work, but when the formula is this fun and well-executed, no ones cares. If you dig "Frank Infatuation" -- and it is undeniable -- make sure to check out this earlier version Real Numbers released as a digital single in 2014. Wordless Wonder's barn-storming "Just So Far Away" is even more potent, hitting hard with a chorus first before blitzkrieging through short verses and right back to the chorus again. The album truly is all killer and no filler, and will likely be featured in a number of year-end lists before 2016 is through. Eternal it-label Slumberland Records releases Wordless Wonder tomorrow on CD, as a digital download, and on white or black vinyl. Purchase your copy of the set in any or all of these formats via Slumberland right here. The record was preceded by a number of 12" EPs, cassette tracks and digital singles, all of which appear to be on offer via the Real Numbers bandcamp dojo right here. Stream the aforementioned "Frank Infatuation" and the equally fun "New Boy" via the Soundcloud embed below.

October 12, 2016

That Was The Show That Was: Japanese Breakfast with Porches, Rivergazer | The Sinclair | 5 Oct.

[PHOTOS: Tiffany Law for Clicky Clicky Music Blog] The reverbed keys and dense shoegazey guitars on Psychopomp, Michelle Zauner's full-length debut with her latest project Japanese Breakfast, represented a sharp stylistic pivot away from the music of her beloved and much-Clicky Clicky'd Philly indie combo Little Big League. That and the fact that Psychopomp was largely inspired by the loss of Ms. Zauner's mother to cancer provided ready-made narratives ahead of the long-player's release. But the big story for Psychopomp, which was issued last spring, has to be its superlative songwriting, which couches concise hooks and earworm choruses within expansive production. It is one of the year's more arresting releases.

Last Wednesday night at Cambridge, Mass.'s Sinclair the band ran through a tight live reworking of the record, while mixing in a number of affirmative nods to certain key influences. Among the live set's highlights were performances of widely heralded album preview tracks. Japanese Breakfast's cover of Birthday Girls' "Everybody Wants To Love You," whose sprightly indie pop guitar leads -- admittedly something of a tonal outlier on record -- practically blossomed in a live setting. Better still was the band's sparkling rendition of "In Heaven," a track that doubles as Psychopomp's thesis statement, and one that felt particularly cathartic presented on stage. Multi-instrumentalist Nick Hawley-Garner flipped between guitar and keys throughout the set, working to animate Psychopomp's lush and at times Smashing Pumpkins-indebted arrangements.

Even so, and aside from a gorgeous cover of The Cranberries' eternal teen-pop smash "Dreams," the night's biggest moment was Japanese Breakfast's set-closer, an as yet-untitled new tune touting bubbly synth and auto-tune styled vocals from Zauner. For this, she abandoned her guitar and bounced around the stage, underscoring this reviewer's hunch that the band may be heading in a poppier, and perhaps thrillingly experimental, direction. Following its show at The Sinclair, Japanese Breakfast played two sold-out "hometown" shows in Brooklyn and Philadelphia; next week the act heads across the ocean for a three-week tour of the UK and Western Europe. Stream all of Psychopomp via the Bandcamp embed below and click through to purchase the set on vinyl, cassette or as a digital download.

Popular New York group Porches headlined the night, proffering plenty of cuts from its moody, swaying Domino Records debut Pool. Bandleader Aaron Maine has grabbed headlines for taking his project in a bolder direction away from its earlier downer folk-rock. He now leads a much looser live outfit, and has become something of an enigmatic focal point: video clips now depict his slightly off-kilter delivery and dance moves. There are few indie groups out there with as strong a stage chemistry, which likely accounts for the incredible live takes on Pool highlights "Car," "Mood," and "Braid." New York alt R&B outfit Rivergazer, whose Kevin Farrant also plays guitar in the Porches live band, opened the night with tasteful numbers from its recent Only 4 U EP. -- Dillon Riley

Japanese Breakfast: Bandcamp | Facebook

Related Coverage:
Review: Little Big League/Ovlov | "Year Of The Sunhouse," "Pure Bliss Choices" b/w "The Great Crocodile"
That Was The Show That Was: Little Big League with Paws, Idiot Genes | Great Scott | 14 Nov.
Today's Hotness: Little Big League

October 7, 2016

Nofuckingwhere Alums Occurrence Release The Past Will Last Forever, First Live Show Tomorrow In New York

Nofuckingwhere Alums Occurrence Release The Past Will Last Forever, First Live Show Tomorrow In New York

New York-based polymath Ken Urban delivered today the latest LP from his shape-shifting musical vehicle Occurrence. The new set, The Past Will Live Forever, marks a return to the dark, dramatic and brooding material of the Occurrence oeuvre of what we can now call the B.W.S.F. [that is, before Wayne S. Feldman] era. Indeed, while the 2013 LP Decks (which we premiered here) and an attendant EP created primarily in partnership with Mr. Feldman were notably bouyant and relatively bright, with his dysphoric new collection Mr. Urban -- along with another former schoolmate, current collaborator Cat Hollyer -- has seemingly retrenched, embracing once more the tension and psychodrama of earlier Occurrence collections. Longtime readers likely recall being first introduced to Occurrence via the act's appearance on our Ride tribute compilation, Nofuckingwhere, for which Mr. Urban crafted an anxious and stinging re-imagining of Nowhere's title cut.

The Past Will Last Forever is at its most agile on the early preview track "My Days And Nights Belong To You," which strings together sharp rhythm patterns and pairs them with bleeping and ambient synth backing, while Ms. Hollyer eerily harmonizes with herself via multitracked vocals. But as with much of Urban's work (which includes scads of very well received plays), the greatest excitement comes from odd and surreal moments and sensibilities. "A Bruised Ivy Grad" opens with quavering, almost unhinged vocals in verses built over a hard beat; sampled voices occasionally intercede, a crumbling sound momentarily intrudes, but the wobbly falsetto always returns. Album highlight "Ghost Free Home" feints with the feigned ease of vibrato cowboy guitar leads, but harsh, monolithic verses serially interject before a remarkable ambient passage takes root in the middle of the song and spreads out in every direction and consumes the balance of its six minutes. Urban, Hollyer and collaborator Johnny Hager perform cuts from The Past Will Last Forever tomorrow night at Rockwood Music Hall in Manhattan, an event that marks six-year-old Occurrence's very first live performance. It's a 7PM show, and to the best of our knowledge tickets remain available, so why not make a night of it? The Past Will Last Forever is available now as a digital download and in a very limited edition of 150 vinyl long-players, all of which can be procured via the Occurrence Bandcamp page right here. Stream the album via the embed below.

Occurrence: Bandcamp | Facebook | Soundcloud

October 3, 2016

Premiere: Emerald Comets | Explore Your Dreams

Premiere: Emerald Comets | Explore Your Dreams

Boston lost one of its most prolific songwriters when Guillermo Sexo and Emerald Comets mastermind Reuben Bettsak decamped for the American South this summer. True to form, he remained productive right up until the end of his local residency; what has since been deemed the final Guillermo Sexo album, the space-rock triumph Eclipse [review], was released in April, and two preview tracks for a forthcoming Emerald Comets set were released to the wilds of the Internerds in August. Today we are pleased to premiere for you the entirety of that set, titled Explore Your Dreams, the first and final Emerald Comets long-player to have been recorded in Massachusetts with Hub-based collaborators Jason Layne, Kristy Foye, and Steve Rowe and with help from Western Mass. hitmaker Justin Pizzoferrato.

It being a solo vehicle, Emerald Comets' music touts a different flavor than that of the better-known Guillermo Sexo. The former has typically been quieter, rawer, and more subdued, but fans will recognize certain stylistic hallmarks, such as the pastoral psychedelia of Explore Your Dreams's placid opener "Monochrome." More so than any other Emerald Comets release to date, Explore Your Dreams feels fully realized. This is perhaps due as much to the set's relatively long gestation period as it is to the efforts of the aforementioned collaborators. The dynamic feel of upbeat early preview single "Fortress" is substantially enhanced by Mr. Pizzoferrato's drumming, and Ms. Foye's cello rests eerily but on point in the center of the mix, at times applying a swaying melodicism, at others boosting the rhythm with bowed chops.

The set ends very strong with back-to-back album highlights "Explore Your Dreams" and "Cornflakes And Stout." The former fizzes with the rough-hewn vim of a Guided By Voices track, while the latter is a gentler, more melodic, and folk rock-tinged strummer in the vein of Ultimate Painting, the quality UK combo whose delightful LP Dusk was released by Trouble In Mind Friday. Longtime readers will recognize Emerald Comets' "Lost In Our Land" and "Revolutionary Earthworms," earlier versions of which came into being as part of our inaugural Regolith songwriting challenge, which of course was undertaken by the indefatigable Bettsak and resulted in the EP Inside Dream Room (still available for free here).

Explore Your Dreams is available now via Bandcamp, and you can stream the entire collection via the embed below. While we expect it will take Mr. Bettsak some time to find collaborators in his new environs, fans in the Greater Hotlanta should certainly keep their eyes on the club listings: we'd wager it won't be too long before Bettsak brings the rock to the denizens of his new home town. We previously premiered Emerald Comets' self-titled EP here in 2014.

Emerald Comets: Bandcamp | Facebook

Previous Coverage:
Review: Guillermo Sexo | Eclipse
That Was The Show That Was: Infinity Girl, Lubec, Guillermo Sexo, Havania Whaal | Great Scott | 9 July
Regolith A1E3: Reuben Bettsak Presents Emerald Comets' Inside Dream Room
Premiere: Emerald Comets | Emerald Comets EP
Review: Guillermo Sexo | Dark Spring
Review: Guillermo Sexo | Bring Down Your Arms EP
That Was The Show That Was: Guillermo Sexo Record Release Show with Soccermom, Night Fruit and Young Adults
Review: Guillermo Sexo | Secret Wild

September 27, 2016

Review: Lubec | Cosmic Debt

Dreamy underpop heroes Lubec return this week with a compelling sophomore sinfonietta, a collection that sees the Portland, Ore. trio table some of the widescreen optimism of its titanic 2014 full-length The Thrall to engage darker, more domestic themes. Although the relatively concise new set Cosmic Debt doesn't sprawl in the same attractively bohemian manner as The Thrall, it nonetheless presents arresting, figurative diversions into rawer emotion and almost provocatively dense production, as well as somewhat more literal diversions in the form of interstitial instrumentals that enhance the set's quasi-narrative arc. The true surprise of Cosmic Debt is not that it expands Lubec's already expansive view of guitar pop, not its beauty, sophistication or ready appeal, but rather that the whipsmart threesome does so many new things despite the record's smaller scale.

Cosmic Debt succeeds at being much more than a transitional effort, but is largely focused on difficult interpersonal transitions. It commences as if waking from a dream, with the steady, serene fade-in of "(high blood pressure)." The composition includes a pastiche of disembodied voices, including a decontextualized remark about the '90s that recalls the opening of Mogwai's classic "CODY." It's a transporting beginning, whose full potency is realized by the segue into "Clipped Wings." While that tune's title echoes somewhat the Icarus imagery from The Thrall's sparkling "Sunburn!," it also announces certain stylistic hallmarks of the album: a nearly saturated stereo field, Caroline Jackson's weighty and distorted piano, dueling and harmonized vocals, and thoughtful guitar playing. The most distinguishing element of Lubec's sonic arsenal, Ms. Jackson's booming, distorted piano, works in tandem with Matt Dressen's tasteful drumming to power the compositions, while fronter Eddie Charlton guitar playing applies more delicate textures. Dylan Wall's big, full production is most apparent in the ambient thrum that populates the space between the instruments and supplies substantial heft to Lubec's songs. Indeed, big reverbs magnify the restlessly creative trio's playing to such an extent it sounds as if it could blanket a large theater; fans can only hope Lubec's fortunes afford it that opportunity.

Lead single "Hard Potential" touts a driving rhythm and breathy vocals from Mr. Charlton, both lures difficult to resist, but the percussive bridge and cheese-grater, bending harmonics suggest the unease of Pac Northwest fellows Modest Mouse. The heretofore uncharacteristic angst on Cosmic Debt rings most true in the thrilling title track, whose serene but truncated verses give way to Charlton and Jackson confessing a seemingly generational bewilderment -- in what may be the band's most punk moment -- "I feel my cosmic debt, I don't know what it is!" Closer "Embers" -- shared with the universe by our friends at Post-Trash Monday -- stands particularly tall. While the tune deals with a particularly meaningful parting, in true Lubec fashion the song focuses on aftermath without dour mourning. Sure: the figurative and titular embers may not provide salvation, but damnation and purgatory are not Lubec's style. Here and elsewhere Cosmic Debt addresses the chasm between youthful optimism and idealism and the sometimes cold reality and necessary pragmatism that come part and parcel with maturity, but the band's resolve for positivity remains.

Cosmic Debt feels like an important step toward Lubec establishing a national profile, and certainly underscores that Lubec casually sips beers from a cooler at the vanguard of American guitar pop. Cosmic Debt will be released Sept. 30 by the Boston-based now label Disposable America; the set is available for pre-order now in a preposterously limited edition of 100 mustard yellow cassettes and will also be on offer as a digital download. An all-ages release show is slated for Saturday, Oct. 1, at Black Water in Portland, with support from fellow scenemakers Two Moons, Talkative, Dog Thieves and Radler. Stream the aforementioned "Hard Potential" via the embed below, and click through to pre-order your copy of Cosmic Debt. We are hearing chatter about an east coast tour this winter, so watch this space for all of your latest and greatest Lubec news.

Lubec: Bandcamp | Faceblorp

Related Coverage:
Today's Hotness: Lubec
That Was The Show That Was: Infinity Girl, Lubec, Guillermo Sexo, Havania Whaal | Great Scott | 9 July
Review: Lubec | The Thrall
Today's Hotness: Lubec
Today's Hotness: Lubec
Review: Lubec | Wilderness Days
Today's Hotness: Lubec
Today's Hotness: Lubec
Be Prepared: Lubec | Nothing Is Enough EP Teaser "Cherry Adair"
Show Us Yours #13: Lubec

September 21, 2016

That Was The Show That Was: Cymbals Eat Guitars with Wildhoney and Field Mouse | Sept. 16 | Great Scott

That Was The Show That Was: Cymbals Eat Guitars with Wildhoney and Field Mouse | Sept. 16 | Great Scott

[PHOTO: Dillon Riley] Indie rock leading lights Cymbals Eat Guitars are established Clicky Clicky favorites, and its latest LP has only burnished our esteem for the east coast troupe. We last caught them opening for the legendary Bob Mould in 2014, when the fourtet dispensed gorgeous takes on tunes from that year's triumphant Lose -- a record considered, at the time at least, a pronounced "classic rock" pivot away from the band's math-ier earlier efforts. Critics fawned over the set, while sales of the Barsuk-released album were, in a word, underwhelming; some less than stellar touring ensued. Last Friday, however, we witnessed the group in high spirits at a thronged Great Scott on the release night of what should be Cymbals Eat Guitars' true pop breakthrough, Pretty Years.

Cymbals Eat Guitars presented a brilliant night of live rock sounds, including several selections off the already-life-affirming Pretty Years (out now on Sinderlyn). Well-regarded album tasters "July 4th," "Wish," and "Have A Heart" all shone brightly. But a clear highlight was the performance of "Close," the most winsome of the new collection's 10 tunes, whose a massive and charging earworm chorus was thrilling live and ranks among the best you'll hear in 2016. Stream "July 4th," "Wish," and "Have A Heart" via the Soundcloud embed below.

The band also offered a healthy sampling of tracks off the aforementioned Lose, including a towering, noise-addled, and set-ending take on that record's woozy centerpiece "Laramie." The sole concession to the group's earlier records was a midset "...And The Hazy Sea," the Why There Are Mountains opener, which somehow manages to fit in the band's sets despite its gangly pace. In spite of relative commercial indifference, Cymbals Eat Guitars' work continues to place it among the elite song shapers in American indie rock. Whether or not Pretty Years achieves the success it rightfully deserves, we can state with complete confidence that the group has become a crucial live act, a belief Friday's performance only reinforced.

Highly touted Baltimore dream-pop quintet Wildhoney opened the evening with its customary savoir faire. While its first EP for hitmakers Topshelf Records, Your Face Sideways, is a neat primer for the group's preternatural melodic gifts, the combo's greatest composition to date came just this summer via Slumberland's tour de force compilation Continental Drift. "Horror Movie," one of Wildhoney's two glorious offerings on Drift, is pop perfection from the grooves, but its live airing Friday evening presented a sharper edge, with the group's dueling guitars cutting across the mix like sabers.

Another of Topshelf's great indie pop concerns, Field Mouse, batted second in the lineup, fresh off the release of their own fantastic new record Episodic. Field Mouse's Rachel Browne (who recently penned a must-read essay for The Talkhouse about touring with a serious illness) is a collected fronter and perfect foil to lead guitarist Andrew Futral's unmic'd and consistently stoked spokesman. Episodic doesn't stray far sonically from the combo's debut Hold Still Life: short, punchy, and compact pop numbers are the rule on both. The complexity of Field Mouse's songs are even more apparent in a live setting: bright keyboard shades from Browne's sister Robin no longer hide in the background din, and the interplay between the two (and sometimes three) guitars is often thrillingly loud and nearly abrasive. It's a good look for a band whose songs sometimes underplay an inherent turmoil. -- Dillon Riley

Cymbals Eat Guitars: Facebook | Internerds

Related Coverage:
That Was The Show That Was: Cymbals Eat Guitars with Bob Mould | Paradise Rock Club | 12 Sept.

September 17, 2016

Review: Preoccupations | Preoccupations

Preoccupations' 2015 debut (under its previous, controversial nom de post-punk Viet Cong) felt like a New Order-esque re-set following the untimely passing of guitarist Chris Reimer of Women -- the brilliant late-aughts band that first brought Preoccupations' Matt Flegel and Mike Wallace (joined here by Danny Christiansen and Scott Munro) to international (underground) acclaim. On its new eponymous sophomore set the band takes another unpredictable stylistic swerve, possibly in response to widespread criticism concerning the cultural insensitivity of its previous name. The rebrand provided a renewed opportunity for the foursome to reconsider its practice, and Preoccupations capitalized strongly by injecting Preoccupations with a dash of New Wave exuberance and structure that reveals another shade of the dark and classic post-punk sound it has explored since 2008.

Opener "Anxiety" churns upon itself in an extended ambient intro before dark synths and fuzzy textures begin to revolve mechanically around Mr. Flegel's low voice. Bright synth notes, entering at the minute-and-a-half mark, illuminate the proceedings and somewhat betray the cold and direct lyrics. Successor "Monotony" takes the approach one step further with billowing and reverberant melody lines and major keys that plot against the bleary song title. The pairing of heavily chorused rhythm guitar -- lurking in the right channel -- and Flegel's considered croon suggests his quartet may be aiming for the morose stateliness of the even-now-underrated The Psychedelic Furs circa Talk Talk Talk. Indeed, at times Flegel's breathless growl is a dead ringer for that of the legendary Richard Butler.

Album centerpiece and highlight "Memory" tackles more dynamic rhythms in its first frame -- a la Viet Cong highlight "Death"-- and also features a super nifty key change at its midpoint; here the band steps back to reveal a modulating synth tone that twists the song up into a falsetto-led groove, further convincing this reviewer that Preoccupations are embracing a subtly more positive and revelatory stance in key moments. The song's ambient outro wisely doubles back to remind the listener that the band have not forgotten their more characteristically pensive contemplation amidst the relative euphoria.

Lead single "Degraded" most closely hearkens back to the massive drum production and propulsive force of the group's first album, but still accommodates its contemporary penchant for single-note, high pitched guitar overdubs in the process. "Sense" uses simple organ and fizzing sound effects for a brief and well-placed change of pace, while "Forbidden" carries on the ambiance into the next track but adds percussion and whirling, carnival-like melodies for another surprising detour that declares the B-side of the record to be just as crucial.

As with every Flegel and Wallace-related release, the closer is always important. On Preoccupations, the band forgoes guitars almost completely for a retro-futuristic pop song that cements the post-Bowie New Wave connection. It's not until a Robert Fripp-styled guitar solo that the instrument even makes an appearance, and there it's in mostly wistful and epic celebration, rather than the morose gloom that had so previously defined this band. This, once more, underscores that Preoccupations has transformed the hurdles that have peppered its path into opportunities to push its boundaries, and as a result the band remains one of the more structurally original and stylistic daring indie rock bands of the day. Preoccupations was released by Jagjaguwar Friday. Purchase it on CD, LP or in a great bundle right here. Preoccupations play The Sinclair in Cambridge, Mass. October 12, and is basically on tour through the end of November. View complete tour dates at the band's web dojo right here. -- Edward Charlton

Preoccupations: Bandcamp | Interpants | Facebook

Related Coverage:
That Was The Show That Was: Viet Cong with TV Ghost, Alosi Den | Great Scott, Boston | 13 July

August 25, 2016

Today's Hotness: Strange Passage, Snowball ii, Mendez

Strange Passage -- Shine And Scatter EP (detail)

>> Our music fandom is reborn with each great surprise, as when the unexpected find flips up against our thumbs in the record bin, or when a sound we love appears out of the blue right in the blog's backyard. This latter circumstance is what has us jazzed lately, said jazz having been sparked when friend-of-the-blog Jeff Breeze sent us a link to a smashing new debut EP from upstart Somerville, Mass. four Strange Passage. The quartet's Shine And Scatter EP echoes the melodic, guitar-centered sound of the turn-of-the-'90s UK with surprising competence and confidence. Indeed, the short set's four songs echo The House of Love and the early RIDE EPs, and -- more contemporaneously -- are startlingly reminiscent of the massively underrated and short-lived aughts combo The Boyfriends. While there is a thread of shoegaze shot through Strange Passage's alluring brand of guitar pop, and Boston continues to have a strong share of contemporary 'gaze practitioners, Strange Passage's music still feels somewhat delightfully off-trend. There are just not a lot of acts out there right now trying to write the next "Chelsea Girl" or "Shine On," are there? Shine And Scatter also boasts some production choices that make the EP feel particularly mature for a debut, including putting an understated, even-keeled vocal up front in the mix. It's a confident, but not showy, move. And so it almost feels as if Strange Passage has foregone the trials and travails of writing a first and second EP, and have just jumped in with a terrific third. Each song is dynamite, but the uptempo rager "Viaducts Burning Down" stands out with its urgent intensity, and the repeated feeling of resolution that comes with each recitation of the title in the chorus. Shine And Scatter was recorded through the late spring and early summer with hit-maker Will Killingsworth at Dead Air Studios in Western Mass. and self-released via Bandcamp Aug. 16. As impressive as its EP is, Strange Passage has yet to play a show; its first live outing is slated for Sept. 30 at The Democracy Center in Cambridge, Mass., where they will be joined by Amherst, Mass. noisemakers Dirt Devil and -- we're told -- others. We're torn about urging everyone out to the show, as every band deserves a chance to get its collective feet under them before being subjected to scrutiny. But all the same, we feel like it's going to be exciting seeing Strange Passage blossom, so, you know, you should probably go. Stream all of Shine And Scatter via the Bandcamp embed below.

>> That LA dream-pop concern Snowball ii jumps styles with its new album and latest single "I Doughnut Want To Live" is little surprise, given band mastermind Jackson Wargo may consider notable shape-shifter Kurt Heasley's long-running, magical Lilys one of his lodestars. Snowball ii's clever February 2016 debut long-player ? was often a devoutly shoegaze affair, and its most recent music prior to "I Doughnut Want To Live" were spooky, ethereal covers of Lilys' "Black Carpet Magic" and "Day Of The Monkey" for Colorful Acts: In The Presence of Lilys, a Lilys-themed compilation issued by The Blog That Celebrates Itself over the summer (for short-tenure Clicky Clicky readers, if the prospect of a Lilys comp excites, you should also check out our own). And while much of the Snowball ii's forthcoming sophomore set feels influenced by Sufjan Stevens, the appealing ballad "I Doughnut Want To Live" stands apart in the new collection. The deceptively serene song is built up from patient acoustic guitar strums and glistening leads in the verse whose optimism plays against Mr. Wargo's somber confession in the chorus ("'cause I don't think I can love her like I did before."). "I Doughnut Want To Live" is the first taste of Snowball ii's long-player Doughnut Holes, which the band recorded and produced at its own The Doughnut Shop studio and will released via its own Doughnut Records Sept. 16 (sense a theme? -- Ed.). Snowball ii celebrates the record with a release show the same day; a third Snowball ii LP is slated for 2016 release as well. Stream "I Doughnut Want To Live" via the Soundcloud embed below.

>> Singer and songwriter Gregory Mendez has made a bunch of music over the years, and a fair amount of it with input from The Superweaks' Evan Bernard, among others. Projects including Airport and Getting Sick eventually led to a well-received singer-songwriter thing under his own name, perhaps out of a desire to simplify. That presumed yen is manifested both in Mr. Mendez's new moniker and music; his latest effort Phone Records is attributed to the yet-more-concise Mendez, and the self-released collection features nine tunes tracked to a smartphone app. We mention the means of production here not to encourage folks to start sending us an avalanche of crap they made on their phones, but to underscore that it is still novel to encounter a recording made on a phone that is this good. The trick, of course, is to start with great songs or song ideas, as Mendez does. Phone Records presents what may be an unanswerable chicken and egg question: is the intimacy of these recordings enhanced by capturing the bedroom sessions on a phone's tiny microphone? More likely the production is just a side-effect of making do, but there is substantial charm to the feeling of "being there" as Mendez plies his trade. Songs including "Try" and "Control" firmly echo the balladry of early Elliot Smith (although the latter tune cleverly incorporates the synth melody from Soft Cell's iteration of "Tainted Love"), but Phone Records' more dynamic tunes, such as the shuffling, early Yo La Tengo-styled "Stained Glass Boys" and "Gum Trash," are its strongest. Album closer "The Drug Trafficker's Daughter" feels demo-ish in the way one would expect a phone recording to be, but that's the other side of the "hey-this-was-recorded-with-a-phone!" coin: some stuff feels like an idea waiting for fuller treatment. But the bulk of Phone Records feels accomplished, evidence that while Mendez may be seeking simplicity, his songcraft remains robust. Stream the entire thing via the Bandcamp embed below; the cassette-inclined will be pleased to know they can get a limited edition physical artifact from Houston-based Some Weird Sin Records right here.

August 17, 2016

Review: Happy Diving | Electric Soul Unity

San Francisco power-rock five Happy Diving return this week with a stirring long-player whose mutability and periodic lightness leaven the act's heady mix of bracing power and ready melody. In terms of sonic development, the progress feels fairly conventional for a second album, but just because the path is well-trodden does not diminish the act's cracking songwriting. Indeed, Electric Soul Unity collects 12 tunes ripe with gritty, fuzz-caked power chords, tastefully bummer vocals, and newfound nuance that expands the quintet's domain in welcome ways.

Opener "Bigger World" both references the title of the band's 2014 debut on Father/Daughter Records [review] and assures fans that Happy Diving very much understands a formula that has worked so well for them. Commencing with a blast of mid-range guitar feedback that abruptly tosses the listener into the take, "Bigger World" descends into a finessed, palm-muted chug that emphasizes the heavy low end that made Big World such a favorite in the underpop underground. "Don't Be Afraid of Love" follows and makes plain that Happy Diving has no intention of softening its sound or increasing the clarity of production. As with its earlier material, the band's noisy sonic signature feels well-designed to transport listeners to some ideal house show environment, where shuddering amps and the thump of the kick drum reverberate from concrete walls and ratty rugs.

It's not until fifth track and highlight "Head Spell" that the band deviates from its tried and true. Here strummy and clean grunge chord progressions and dynamic blasts of distortion echo second-wave '90s alt.rockers Cracker and, well, Everclear with carefully considered, beautiful sadness. The relatively spare approach offers just enough space within the production to reveal more tenderness than the Bay Area bombers' usual two-minute fuzz blasts typically allow. "Head Spell" proffers a big-tent take on the '90s-rock revival that embraces the cheesier songwriting of the more commercial end of the era. Why not?

The back half of Electric Soul Unity features still more surprises that make it the stronger side. "The Call, It Thunders" features some of Happy Diving's best lead guitar hooks, while "Pain Country" takes another run at the quieter electric style of "Head Spell." "Unknown Feeling," a 104-second acoustic (!) solo number, is the album's biggest surprise, and stands in stark relief sonically while suggesting an affinity for aspects of Lou Barlow's catalog. To close the proverbial circle, the riffage resurfaces with closer “River Will Flow” (whose opening suggests Dinosaur Jr. interpreting "Don't Fear the Reaper"). The final cut offers another welcome addition to the mix, some slight dual-singer harmony that modulates the album's otherwise monochromatic vocals.

Speaking of, a monochrome feel represents Electric Soul Unity's sole Achilles' heel. Despite the efforts to vary the album's feel and flow, the persistently pounding Blue Album rock guitars can dominate to such an extent that some of the nifty songwriting on this Jack Shirley-produced set is obscured. Still, Happy Diving's successful revision of classic '80s and '90s indie rock not only reframes great moments of the era, but also presents fans broader opportunities to connect with the band. When in doubt, just play the thing real loud: it's rock and roll. Electric Soul Unity is slated for release Friday on black, white, or coke bottle clear vinyl, CD, cassette or digital download; pre-order the collection in any format right here from our friends at Topshelf Records (which also released Happy Diving's terrific "So Bunted" 7" last year). Happy Diving is in the final leg of a lengthy U.S. tour, and the dates for the final two weeks are posted below. Get to the gig. -- Edward Charlton

Happy Diving: Bandcamp | Facebook

08.17 -- Bloomington, IN -- Jan's Rooms
08.18 -- Eau Claire, WI -- Vivian House Concerts
08.20 -- Minneapolis, MN -- Dead Media Records
08.21 -- Sioux Falls, SD -- Total Drag Records
08.24 -- Calgary, AB -- Tubby Dog
08.26 -- Vancouver, BC -- Antisocial Skate Shop
08.28 -- Seattle, WA -- Neumo's
08.29 -- Portland, OR -- The Know
08.30 -- San Francisco, CA -- Bottom Of The Hill

Related Coverage:
Today's Hotness: Happy Diving
Review: Happy Diving | Big World
Today's Hotness: Happy Diving

July 24, 2016

Today's Hotness: Ski Saigon, Urusei Yatsura, Mincer Ray

Ski Saigon -- Brings The Storm Cloud (detail)

>> One of the more mysterious and evocative projects we've followed here at Clicky Clicky in recent years has been Mooncreatures. Although the music and premise of its final long-player was exciting, we were disappointed when the London band and the LP's fictive narrative intersected in reality, and Mooncreatures announced (sort of?) it was no more. Anyway, band mastermind Rhys Griffiths has returned with the even higher-concept project Ski Saigon, whose debut release Brings The Storm Cloud is due toward the end of the summer. The six-song set is inspired by '60s Cambodian pop music and concerns a fictional historical (wait, what?) narrative about French soldiers tiring of the tropical climate of Cambodia in the mid-20th century and setting about creating indoor snow skiing facilities in Saigon and Phnom Penh. Really, you just read that. Brings The Storm Cloud opens with a short, shimmering audio approximation of those blurry scene transitions in film and TV that suggests the commencement of a flashback. As soon as listeners have oriented themselves to the tune, "Wintergarden," it vanishes, and then the EP begins in earnest with the ensuing, fully realized "Sweet Dreams In The Botanics." The mid-tempo swayer rides a steady canned beat, above which sustained synth and simple guitar chords and a pleasantly lazy lead guitar obscure hushed lyrics. The tune's escapist fantasia is amplified by a 45-second coda wherein the aforementioned synth chords give way to an insectoid drone and -- curiously -- the sound of water (although we expect it is easier to present the sound of water than snow). Art Is Hard Records issues Brings The Storm Cloud Aug. 26 in a limited edition of 100 32-page book/CD bundles, as well as a digital download. Pre-order the book here, and click through the embed below to acquire the digital files. The demise of Mooncreatures felt very premature, and we're quite excited by the possibilities presented by Ski Saigon, either as an ongoing project or at least as a sign that Mr. Griffiths has no intention of quitting music any time. Stream the aforementioned "Wintergarden" and "Sweet Dreams In The Botanics" via the Bandcamp embed below.

>> We've been holding out hope for a good six years that the mighty Glaswegian indie rock combo Projekt A-Ko would return to us. Imagine our surprise when we received word in our inbox earlier this spring that not Projeckt A-Ko, but the trio's notable, '90s-spawned (and we suppose better-known) precursor Urusei Yatsura, would beat the three to the new release bin in September. Well, technically, it's old music, but it is nonetheless exciting. On Sept. 2, the choicest cuts from Urusei Yatsura's highly regarded BBC recordings (which included, among others, five sessions for John Peel and three for Steve Lamacq) will be released as an LP via London's Rocketgirl. The press materials accompanying the announcement speak, with the benefit of distance and hindsight, of Urusei Yatsura's music shining particularly bright when recorded under the constraints radio sessions necessarily present. And it is hard to argue with the results. Fans can hear a particularly fizzing iteration of the rocking 1996 A-side "Phasers On Stun" below. Rocketgirl will release You Are My Urusei Yatsura on 12" vinyl, CD and as a digital download Sept. 2. The LPs are pressed to snappy neon pink media and available in a very limited edition of 300 pieces, so you had better get to pre-ordering if you want this. To be fair to Urusei Yatsura/Projekt A-ko's Fergus Lawrie, he has produced new music over the last seven years, including some engaging "haloed guitar" guitar noise pieces with his project Angel of Everyone Murder. But given the blinding excellence of Projekt A-Ko's sole LP, 2009's Yoyodyne [hypertext!], we remain hopeful that that...erm... project will also be resuscitated. In the meantime, we've the Urusei Yatsura collection to look forward to: stream the aforementioned "Phasers On Stun," recorded for the BBC Evening Session May 8, 1996, via the Soundcloud embed below. Speaking of, fans should pay VERY close attention to the UY Soundcloud, as it features a trove of material, including some cuts found too late to be considered for inclusion on You Are My Urusei Yatsura, like this magical acoustic take on "Burriko Girl."

>> The charm of lo-fi, and particularly '90s lo-fi, is that it characteristically sounds thrown together, but still sometimes fumbles its way to transcendence. Sometimes that's just the sound (the example we think of it this Perfect Pussy interview that describes recording clean basic tracks and then layering noise), and sometimes things are actually, you know, thrown together (see every live thing Crazy Horse did with Neil Young). Although we've previously deemed the act mid-fi, Mincer Ray's delightful, be-flanneled recent digital EP Early Morning Am Moritz firmly falls within the latter category. A brief note at the Berlin-based act's Soundcloud reports the short stack of songs was "[c]onceived & recorded to cassette in 3 hours & 47 minutes (more or less)." The collection commences strongly with the yearning, mid-tempo, and alt.-countrified strummer "Everything Is Green," a should-be hit whose straightforward presentation can't hold down the sweeping melody of the big, lovelorn verse. With almost no warning the verse become its chorus, which points to an anthemic, ripping guitar solo that aspires towards David Pajo's amazing face-melter from Palace Brothers' epic "Horses." The balance of Early Morning Am Moritz isn't quite as memorable, although the concise basher "Ned Norris" is bracing to the point of infectious and the loose and gritty "Dine" wouldn't feel entirely out of place on Viva Last Blues. Mincer Ray's EP hit the Internerds in late June, and you can stream the entire thing via the Soundcloud embed below (click through to download all five numbers as .wav files). The set is also now available on cassette via the Chicago and Berlin-based Shaky Tooth Tapes. We last wrote about Mincer Ray right here in 2014.

July 21, 2016

Footage: Aüva's Swaying Surf-Pop Gem "Better"

We've had our figurative eye on Boston indie pop upstarts Aüva for a year or so, ever since turning on to the genteel, large-ensemble sound captured on its 2015 EP Light Years. The young act hit a steady stride straightaway and remained busy and gigging on the regular into 2016, when it settled in to self-record a full-length debut. "Better" is the first single from the sextet's eponymous long-player, and you can check out the video supra. The tune is a swaying, surf-pop gem built up from skittering drums and an insistent bass line, over which clean guitar leads, rhythm-guitar jangle and tasteful, vibrato synth embellishments gently make their case.

The video dabbles with a romantic concept that pairs up co-fronter and keyboard player Miette Hope with the other members of the ensemble, but the real charm is in the faux performance shots, wherein Aüva posse waver between goofing around and playing it earnest. The external shots are particularly compelling, including a dreamy shot of trees, a pastiche in which the band members are lined up against a wall and then shuffled, and a shot of a beer bottle getting smashed in a firepit around which we suspect a number of Clicky Clicky readers (and at least one Senior Writer) have consumed adult beverages. The clip was primarily filmed and edited by Aüva guitarist Jake LeVine, with the help of friend-of-the-band Evan Xiner Hong. Mr. LeVine would seem to wear a lot of hats, as he also mixed the forthcoming record, and pitched in on songwriting and arranging with the rest of the groups's six members.

The single and indeed the entire aforementioned 10-song debut Aüva was primarily recorded in the Boston Conservatory's dance studios; both the single and LP will be available as free downloads Aug. 6. Aüva's intention was to have had a quiet summer, but fortunately for fans things have not gone precisely as planned. Earlier this month a truncated line-up of the band jumped in at the last-minute for an appearance on WMBR's crucial local music program Pipeline (hosted by the inimitable Jeff Breeze). On Aug. 13, the band embarks on a two-week tour that will take it down to Florida and all the way back up to New Hampshire. There, on the 28th, it will play on a beer-branded second stage prior to a performance by the legendary Brian Wilson. Mr. Wilson, in case you don't know, is out playing Beach Boys' Pet Sounds to celebrate the album's 50th anniversary. So, not a bad gig for an indie pop band that formed only 18 months or so ago, yeah? Aüva will be available via Bandcamp, Sporkify, ITunes and Apple Music; whet that appetite with repeat viewings of "Better" and mark down the tour stops below in your daily planner.

Aüva: Bandcamp | Facebook | Internerds

08.13 -- O'Brien's Pub -- Boston, MA
08.14 -- The Gateway -- Brooklyn, NY
08.20 -- The Bends -- St. Petersburg, FL
08.24 -- The London District -- Asheville, NC
08.25 -- Joe Squared -- Baltimore, MD
08.26 -- Firehouse 13 -- Providence RI

Related coverage:
Together Again: Clicky Clicky Presents Two Nights of Adventurous Electronics And Under-Pop May 18+19
Review: The Beach Boys | Pet Sounds [40th Anniversary Reissue]

July 18, 2016

Today's Hotness: Night Dew Call, Katie Dey, TV Wonder

Night Dew Call -- Citizen (detail)

>> We love encountering evidence of the universality of indie pop, identifying acts from around the world mining the sounds of Anglophilic '80s guitar pop. That the "cause" side of the equation has traveled far and wide perhaps shouldn't be surprising any longer in our Internet-connected age, but the "effects" thrill us nonetheless. The very location of a band can seep into its interpretation of the form, and in sometimes subtle and effervescent ways complement the timeless aspects of the little genre-that-could. Be it in sound, language, spirit or even general enthusiasm, when it is good it is icing on the cake. Which is why recent digital singles from young Ukrainians Night Dew Call have caught our collective ear. Straight outta Pobho, the dreamy and twee four-piece craft dancey, clean and crisp singalongs for late night bar crawls amidst the open-collared breeze, as in its tune "Someday." "You'll see me around someday" promises a pleasant mid-range singer (in perfect English, we suppose it is worth adding for our lyrically fixated readers). The bending "ohs" and the earworm guitar line that opens the tune recall touchstone acts like The Smiths to some degree, but the brisk pacing and relaxed but confident guitar solos suggest that this band needs no help understanding how to execute an effective entrance into a three-and-a-half minute sleeper anthem. And so bring on the Globalism, we say. Download "Someday" for any price right here; that number as well as two other digital singles from this year, "Citizen" and "Schedryk," can be streamed via the embed below. -- Edward Charlton, At Large

>> We were quite entranced by Melbourne, Australia-based electro-acoustic sound manipulator extraordinaire Katie Dey's 2015 full-length debut, asdfasdf, taking note of her stunning and original twists of melody and sound. The songs were fairly singular, offering modernist, post-pop tones and pitch-shifted vocals that sounded painstakingly crafted. Just about a year later we now have the first fruits from Ms. Dey's follow up, flood network. Due Aug. 12 via Texas-based Joy Void Recordings, the album is heralded by a brace of preview tracks: "Fear o The Light" and "Only to Trip and Fall Down Again." The tunes indicate a slightly more rockist approach when compared against last year's model, with steady drums grounding impressive and unique EQ artistry and fuzz. Still, dubbing the tunes conventional, however, stretches the definition of that word toward the breaking point. "Fear o The Light" -- seemingly a counterpoint to asdfasdf's "Fear o The Dark" -- marries white-noise beauty to a steady, acoustic guitar-led folk-rock structure before Ms. Dey sets to work shifting her lovely vocals into hyper oblivion. The tune "Only to Trip and Fall Down Again" aspires toward blooping electronica that pleasingly echoes Clicky Clicky-faves The Books at times (that's an extreme compliment from this publication, don't you know), although the rhythm tracks' organic feel is more exotica than futuristic. This reviewer is expecting the majority of music press to adore Dey's inventive release: if only the overground was routinely this exciting. Joy Void is releasing the set on Pink/Blue/Yellow/Clear, Blue/Pink or Blue/Yellow splatter vinyl, color combinations that perhaps come close to approximating the amazing and original talent cut into the grooves. Pre-order flood network right here. -- Edward Charlton, At Large

>> This writer was absolutely in love with TV Wonder's Bird Sounds EP, which was released last year by the routinely excellent Faux Discx. The short set was a highlight of a pretty cracking year, and the Dutch quartet appear to have made the most of it, garnering slots performing with American indie heavy-hitters such as Viet Cong (now Preoccupations), dream-pop delighters DIIV and the mighty Detroit four Protomartyr. On top of this, the band has recorded two new songs for a cassette Geertruida Records issued late last month. "Glazed" and "Fixed Aesthetic" continue in the vein of the Sonic Youth-inspired jams of the aforementioned EP, but incorporate a pinch of additional clarity and studio punch. "Glazed" opens with a surprisingly major-key garage shuffle before introducing the more dissonant guitar interplay characteristic of the band's music. At the eighty-second mark, the band reacquaints listeners with its post-punk gloom and tension, and it is a delight to hear once more. From there TV Wonder locks into a groove so sinister that when the song's care-free opening chords return, they're run over flat by detuned anti-solos that capture the youthful anxiety and explosiveness this band expresses so well. It's just a great steamroller of a song that makes the most of its few, simpler parts. "Fixed Aesthetic" sticks more to the gloom side of the TV Wonder coin, but, again, the combo switches gears midway to a new part that captures a dreaminess and dread reminiscent of the late, great Women, while also still having its own stark and minimalist European voice. TV Wonder are on a roll, let us all pray they don't stop. Boston fans familiar with the shoe-brand cross-marketing phenomenon Converse Rubber Tracks will be interested to know TV Wonder recorded these two tunes in a single day as part of Converse Rubber Tracks Amsterdam. Order "Glazed" / "Fixed Aesthetic" on cassette right here, or click through the embed below to acquire the digital files. -- Edward Charlton, At Large

July 10, 2016

Review: Johnny Foreigner | Mono No Aware

In the key scene of the 1997 film that takes its name from the quote, Jack Nicholson's Melvin Udall remarks to fellow patients populating the purgatory of his psychiatrist's waiting room, "What if this is as good as it gets?" It is an unsettling and even disorienting idea, that what you have and what you are, your construction of your self, are unlikely to ever again change for the better. But (thankfully, as it makes this painfully protracted metaphor work) Mr. Udall does change, and grow, spurred by renewed self-awareness and a revitalized sense of self. Far from being a condemnation to a static, flat existence, a revelation such as Udall's can be freeing. That weightless feeling of revelation-fueled freedom powers the tremendous new long-player from Birmingham, England guitar-pop titans Johnny Foreigner.

Johnny Foreigner, of course, was at nothing like Udall's dead-end prior to the release of Mono No Aware, its fifth album. Quite to the contrary, we've often referred to the four as England's greatest band, and it has created one of the most enviable catalogs in independent rock music, ever. But -- as co-founder and guitarist Alexei Berrow told Upset Magazine here earlier this year -- the veteran act has had to come to terms with its station within the pop music firmament, and now eschews focusing on negative externals and orients itself toward simply being the best band it can be for a frothing fan base cultivated with great care over the last decade.

Call it real life (births, deaths and near-deaths), call it maturity (marriage, parenthood): whatever "it" is, it has caught up with Johnny Foreigner, but none of it has blunted the legendary band's fire and passion [excised refutation of Neil Young's tired binary]. Indeed, the quartet's new set is invigorated by and celebrates the stuff of life, from Mr. Berrow's opening incantation/confession/deep insidery reference -- the Udall moment, if you will -- "it stings to admit, I can't foresee a day when we buy speedboats from this," to the ensuing recitation of his recent brush with mortality ("literally centimetres away from death," he told Upset) in the instant classic "Undevestator" (which, as we noted here, would seem to present the inverse of "Devestator," the closing number of the band's triumphant fourth LP You Can Do Better) and onward through the collection's 11 songs. Chief songwriter Berrow doubles down on incorporating -- deftly, pellucidly -- autobiography into the music ("'s lucky sadness triggers the songs..."), making the stuff of life part and parcel of the band's capital A Art using a mature lens whose poignancy springs from the album's titular concept.

There is an astonishing amount of detail packed into its briskly paced 35 minutes, yet Mono No Aware succeeds in every direction. There are the blitzkrieging singles and should-be singles that are Johnny Foreigner's stock-in-trade, such as the brilliant rager "If You Can't Be Honest, Be Awesome" and fiery "The X and the O," respectively. Other successes are perhaps more subtle but substantially more exciting. Even 10 years on the band continues to best itself in terms of songcraft, adding progressive flair to a genre which -- let's be honest -- too often gets to coast on the right chords, the correct pedals. The brightly burning centerpiece of the record is the wild, vivid and deconstructed anthem "Our Lifestyles Incandescent," whose verses feature thrilling vocal arrangements structured around the voice of Chicago polymath Nnamdi Ogbonnaya. Indeed, impressive vocal arrangements are a hallmark of the set.

Johnny Foreigner even weaves intricate and beautiful sonic detail into its bangers on Mono No Aware, as in the final, orchestral section of the aforementioned "If You Can't Be Honest" (which touts strings and horns arranged by the great Nick Cox, formerly of Sheffield, England progressive pop luminaries Screaming Maldini and now out under his own shingle as a composer/producer/arranger). Mono No Aware closes with a sublime fade-out, largely along a sustained low D before the chord progression resolves, a terrifically smart echo of the delicate notes of the aforementioned "Mounts Everest." The effect, for the put-it-on-Spotify-and-put-it-on-repeat generation anyway, is of a dream starting over every time the crushing, sparkling ballad "Decants The Atlantic" -- which is among the greatest (and most self-aware) songs in a Johnny Foreigner oeuvre rife with sublime album closers -- slips beneath the proverbial waves and is reborn with "Mounts Everest." It's magical sequencing compounding brilliant songwriting.

Despite having a decade under its collective belt, not to mention four long-players and a dizzying number of singles and EPs, Mono No Aware is completely devoid of complacence, and perhaps this is why Johnny Foreigner could never find itself in Udall's tight spot in the first place (remember Udall, from the first paragraph?). Instead, the record celebrates perseverence and a career staked out largely on the band's own terms (especially when it mattered). The album was released Friday by the venerable Alcopop! Records in the UK and in the U.S. by Philadelphia's Lame-O Records. The domestic LP is pressed to pink media and is available in a limited edition of 300 pieces, which can be purchased right here. UK fans or dedicated fans willing to shell out for jazzy imports have a broader array of purchase options. In addition to a traditional compact disc of vinyl 12", bundles are available which deliver the music alongside your choice of a t-shirt, posters by guitarist Lewes Herriot and Irene Zafra, some sort of movie script dealie, badges, and yet more posters (there are 10 posters relating to songs on the album, and true heads flush with cash can get the 10-poster Royale With Cheese bundle right here). UK vinyl is an edition of 200 blue pieces and 500 orange pieces, and by the time you read these words the blue may have sold out. That's what you get for ignoring our advice Friday morning. Stream Mono No Aware via the Sporkify embed below.

Johnny Foreigner: Bandcamp | Facebook | Internerds

Prior Johnny Foreigner Coverage:
Postscript: Johnny Foreigner's "Stop Talking About Ghosts" Review: Johnny Foreigner | You Can Do Better Review: Johnny Foreigner | Names EP
Review: Johnny Foreigner | Johnny Foreigner Vs. Everything
Cut The Rope And Jump Off: Johnny Foreigner On Alternate Timelines, Optimism And Everything
Review: Johnny Foreigner | Certain Songs Are Cursed EP
Review: Johnny Foreigner | You Thought You Saw A Shooting Star But Yr Eyes Were Blurred With Tears And That Lighthouse Can Be Pretty Deceiving...
Review: Johnny Foreigner | Grace And The Bigger Picture
Review: Johnny Foreigner | WeLeftYouSleepingAndGoneNow
Review: Johnny Foreigner | Waited Up 'Til It Was Light
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July 6, 2016

Premierage/Previewage: Wheat Heralds Sixth Set With "Hey Eugenio," Gigs With Eldridge Rodriguez Saturday

Wheat with Eldridge Rodriguez | Middle East Upstairs | 9 July

[Photo: Paul Chiera / remixed by Clicky Clicky] The rituals of summer are nice, but it is bittersweet seeing them come and go after looking forward to them for so long (said the guy who just got back from an annual beach jaunt -- Ed.). And maybe this is how fans of area indie rock veterans Wheat feel: without delving into any hard analysis, drummer Brendan Harney agrees with our observation, that it seems like the band -- makers of shoulda-been hits including 1999's "No One Ever Told Me" or the even older, heart-punching ballad "Soft Polluted Blacks" -- typically plays shows in the summer and then largely uses the cooler months to hole up and write songs, or play Sudoku, or do whatever it is rock luminaries do. Summer inevitably fades, and only the promise that another one's coming makes that kinda OK. So, yeah, Wheat is playing a show this Saturday in Cambridge, Mass. (more on that below), but what can they offer as a salve once the show is but a memory?

Cheer up, Francis: it just so happens the act is closing in on the completion of Blazed, the sixth full-length of a 20-year career during which it has made records with Small Factory's Dave Auchenbach and renowned knob-twiddler and Mercury Rev guy Dave Fridmann and perhaps even another Dave, who knows? The forthcoming set has been under construction for about a year, and Mr. Harney reports the band is "getting into the final stages of getting the vocals down right, and making sure everything is nip and tuck." A final track listing won't be set until the songs are all complete, but two tunes destined for the forthcoming collection are already in the wild. What's more, we're pleased to premiere for you today a third that is said to have made the proverbial cut, namely the little pop wonder "Hey Eugenio," which you can stream via the topmost Soundcloud embed below.

To recap the recent moves, the band released the subdued bouncer "Walking Song" to fans back in February, and followed it up with "Stay Up Late" in May. Newcomer "Hey Eugenio" is a charming and detailed miniature, a simple love song, according to Harney. The deconstructed number's lyrics pour out like sweet and thick syrup among playful electric piano, tastefully understated guitar licks, canned percussion and a rising firmament of synth. Will the band play it and/or other new tunes at the aforementioned rock show? Oh yeah, about that: pay attention. It's this Saturday at the fabled Middle East Rock Club, and it is an early show, with doors at 7 and Wheat performing at 9. So don't show up at the usual time and be caught flat-footed, unrocked and likely mocked. Hitmakers Eldridge Rodriguez will open the show with a full-band set, and we strongly suggest arriving in time to see that foursome turn in what is typically a fiery performance. Perhaps Cam's fabled white suit will even make an appearance? We make no promises. Either way you should get yourself a ticket right now, arrange an Uber, weed your garden, trump your towers, whatever it takes to ensure that you will be at the rock show. Rock show.

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