May 30, 2016

Review: Elvis Depressedly | Holo Pleasures / California Dreamin'

Some three years on from its original release, revered Boston label Run For Cover Records is reissuing the EP that first brought mid-fi hitmakers Elvis Depressedly to the blogosphere's attention. This go-round the short set Holo Pleasures is packaged with California Dreamin', a second EP of music written almost contemporaneously with the first whose half-dozen numbers are only now getting their first pressing to wax. The resulting quasi-long player is remarkably consistent given it was pasted together ex post facto, and will appeal to both new and old fans.

While it would be two additional years until Elvis Depressedly broke through with its seventh LP New Alhambra, the release of Holo Pleasures in 2014 garnered some buzz upon its initial release; it still holds up as a fine collection of pop songs, each one melting with a woozy melancholy. Opener "Okay" underscores band mastermind Mat Cothran's affinity for a gloomy lyric, as he sings of "true love [turning] to sickness." Tropes of isolation, love gone wrong and death recur, lending the set a pleasing -- albeit dark -- consistency. "Inside You" perhaps best encapsulates the now-trio's aesthetic, as Mr. Cothran sings of the track's subject being "loved to death." Here Elvis Depressedly combines its morbid streak with a fascination with fated love. Both suit the act's bedroom pop sound (what else is there to do but morbidly fantasize when in one's room?). Elsewhere "Pepsi/ Coke Suicide" echoes the weighted strumming of My Bloody Valentine's "Sometimes," and marries those off to glacial synths befitting mid-period The Radio Dept. And highlight "Weird Honey" carries the feel of a Flying Nun oddity, and then clipped vocals and a jaunty arcade theme that sees the song out. It's all fabulously bleak and equates to an elongated, metaphoric stroll through the drizzle.

Considering the quality of Holo Pleasures, one might reasonably question the necessity of tacking on California Dreamin' to the proceedings, or if their inclusion devalues the original set of songs. But there's real continuity to the two sets of songs -- reinforced by the tasteful melancholy -- that makes a strong argument in favor of the new package. The succession of the latter's opener "Angel Cum Clean" following Holo Pleasures' closer "Thinning Out" feels seamless. The lyrics to "Angel Come Clean" mine fairly dark territory, an account of drug use while listening to bands named after drugs, which is recounted over atop the wasted elegance of a woozy synthesizer. "Thinning Out" arrives in a similar state of forlorn dreaminess; although its lyrics aren't as intelligible, it also ends with a sound reminiscent of a toy keyboard melting. Granted, the two tracks use different hues and tones to arrive at roughly the same color, and this is the case throughout. "Up In The Air" ends the collection with its vaguely trance-esque keys reverberating in a manner suggesting loneliness. As Cothran sings "everything I knew is up in the air," one feels the uncertainty of "Okay" all over again, unaltered by any intervening epiphanies. Sure, the new release's decidedly depressing tone -- and one's enjoyment of it -- rests upon one's taste for such a gloomy reverie, especially given that summer is just about upon us. Although chances are, if you enjoyed Holo Pleasures, then you'll find little at fault with its new home alongside sister tracks. Run For Cover issues Holo Pleasures / California Dreamin' June 3 in a limited edition of 3,000 vinyl LPs pressed to baby blue in bone, half oxblood/half olive and green with grey splatter media. The release will also be available as a CD, cassette tape and digital download; all formats can be pre-ordered right here. -- Theo Gorst

Elvis Depressedly: Bandcamp | Facebook | Tumblahhh

May 27, 2016

Today's Hotness: Fennesz/O'Rourke, Cold Pumas, Sneeze, Flout

Christian Fennesz and Jim O'Rourke -- It's Hard For Me To Say I'm Sorry (crop)

>> This reviewer is an expert on neither the vast, sprawling output of Tokyo-based Jim O'Rourke (long a mainstay of both Chicago and New York's experimental and avante garde scenes) nor the stirring oeuvre of Vienna's electronic sound sculptor Christian Fennesz, but he is certain of one thing: these artists deservedly command massive respect from a devoted global following. But even novitiates will find appealing the melodic warp and textured weft of the duo's forthcoming Editions Mego set, It's Hard For Me To Say I'm Sorry. The two-track collection, due June 24, spans an LP and captures the familiar signatures of each composers as the sides unfold. Based on the preview excerpt -- a generous six minutes extracted from the amorous "I Just Want You To Stay" -- the unfolding occurs at a slow, Steve Reich-ian pace. The tune's soft churning reveals endlessly delayed melody lines, otherworldly, convulsing synthesizers and a guitar sound that resembles industrial sawing. The sum of the parts calls to mind peers in the contemporary ambient electronic artists such as Tim Hecker, particularly his Virgins album, as well as the gifted stable of artists that annually populates Kompakt's compelling Pop Ambient series. "I Just Want You To Stay" largely floats throughout the excerpt, a whorl of melodies cinematic and futuristic. At least for O'Rourke, the song could signal exciting new territory for the endlessly restless and creative compositional mind to explore. Editions Mego is offering It's Hard For Me To Say I'm Sorry as a vinyl LP, CD or digital download; pre-orders are already available right here. Stream the excerpt of "I Just Want You To Stay" via the embed below. -- Edward Charlton

>> Despite having been released four years ago, love for Brighton, England quartet Cold Pumas' debut long-player Persistent Malaise endures, and quite strongly in certain strata of the American undercosm. This reviewer has noted the continued inclusion of Malaise shoulda-been hits "Fog Cutter" and "Sherry Island" on late-night Portland house party playlists, alongside related efforts of Cold Pumas fronter Dan Reeves and his label Faux Discx. It was heartening to learn earlier this spring that the band are still at it, apparently further tweaking its mechanized noise-pop for a pending Faux Discx and Gringo Records release The Hanging Valley. Due July 1, the set includes nine new tracks; based on two fetching preview tunes, the group remains faithful to its favored motorik rhythms and wistful bummer-pop. Leading preview single "A Change of Course" is strikingly more dense and melodic than what we've come to expect from the band; it takes the two-chord pull formula of earlier tunes such as "Sherry Island" and compacts it to fit a sub-three-minute pop framework that echoes the more shoegazey side of early Deerhunter. It may very well be the best thing the Brighton combo has released (to date). Second single "Fugue States" stretches into a longer runtime, and employs open, ringing chords alongside a rambling, Ian Curtis-styled deadpan that reminds listeners that Cold Pumas know their classic gloomy post-punk inside and out. Based on these two rich samples, Clicky Clicky can only expect that the forthcoming The Hanging Valley will be as timeless and tasteful as its predecessor. Faux Discx is offering the record in a limited edition of 1,000 vinyl LPs (half of them black, half of them an undisclosed color), as well on CDs and as a digital download. Pre-order the set right here, and stream both preview tracks via the embeds below. -- Edward Charlton

>> Sneeze effectively predicted the au courant grunge-rock house-show wave currently gripping swathes of the American underground with its releases dating back to 2011, and now the celebrated Boston power trio stands at the ready to cement its O.G. status with a forthcoming new EP, Rot. The short set arrives this fall -- yes, way off in the distance on September 23 -- via Glory Kid Records, which also released the three's excoriating slay-fest Wilt in 2014. Rot's lead single "Food" doesn't deviate far from the act's established, thrashy punk-pop template, but its more lively feel and chunky, bristling distortion and feedback connects its efforts at least spiritually with those of some of the genre's current DIY stars, including Oakland's mighty Happy Diving. Indeed, the humid, overdriven guitar production and ever-crashing cymbals that are the hallmark of Happy Diving producer Jack Shirley and his Atomic Garden studio are prominent here, although for Sneeze the sound was realized by Western Mass.-based, hit-making engineer Justin Pizzoferrato -- known for his work with everyone from Dinosaur Jr. to Parquet Courts to Kindling. So the vim, hooks and production of "Food" makes it a pit-ready bomb of a tune that packs enough smarts and chugging melodrama in its brief minutes to drive the crowd to the merch table, where they'll hopefully be lucky enough to get their hands on one of the only 300 LPs being pressed (200 to traditional black media and another 100 to transparent black; the set will also be available as a digital download). Pre-order Rot from Glory Kid right here. -- Edward Charlton

>> When we last wrote of Warwick, New York home recorder Flout last year, we noted mastermind John DeRosso's skillful embrace of atypical production techniques and the way they enhanced the lo-fi project's charm. That same charm marks his recently released collection Norman Doors, a terrific and understated set that surreptitiously slipped onto Bandcamp with eleven more tracks of beautiful, and beautifully intimate, indie pop. Amazingly, Norman Doors was recorded throughout DeRosso's parent's house on an iPhone 6, yet the songs sound as great as ever, and feature as many overdubs and coincidental quirks as Flout's fantastic 2014 debut, Gims. Early track "Safelight" opens with present and confident vocal lines -- the first intriguing line is "I want a broken windshield" -- before masterful harmony lines shepherd a brief, electric sunshine-pop section replete with a toy synth line that soon collapses under its own communion. Like many of DeRosso's compositions, the success of the piece often rests in its ability to hold back, never outstaying its welcome. "Seven*Five" charts an opposite course, allowing itself time to open up with warm electric palm muting, drums and the laments of an unfolding relationship. "17M" further limns what DeRosso does so well. Beginning with fragile acoustic guitar and soft vocals and with the hiss of the room in the background, the song inevitably erupts into a Guided By Voices-inspired rocker that marries thick and chunky power chords with a simple, flute-like synth and dueling leads. Vibrant closer and set highlight "R.E.A." further illuminates DeRosso's range -- the blazing tambourine, ringing acoustics and smooth, watery vocals prove that Flout needs nothing more than a $100 device and an affordable carrier to capture his minimal pop world in the magic of his bedroom. Norman Doors is available to download for any price right here, and we highly recommend it. -- Edward Charlton

May 24, 2016

Previewage: A Giant Dog, Black Beach, Zip-Tie Handcuffs, The Dazies | O'Brien's Pub | 25 May

A Giant Dog, Black Beach, Zip-Tie Handcuffs, The Dazies | O'Brien's Pub | 25 May

People have a lot of good things to say about the bombastic live show put on by Austin's A Giant Dog, and for good reason, so obviously attending tomorrow night's show at O'Brien's in Allston Rock City is the best idea you've had in a while. Fewer people (it feels like) seem to be talking about the garagey quintet's flagrantly fun new long-player Pile, released May 6 on Merge, and that warrants redress. A Giant Dog's greatest strength -- it's magic, in a sense, because we're not sure how they do it -- is that it makes all the trite tropes of rock and roll feel fun again. It did so on its similarly monosyllabic 2013 debut Bone, and it does so again -- with apparent ease -- on the new platter. Big hooks like those spangling the tune "Sex & Drugs" certainly help, as does the winking, but not cutesy, self-awareness in fronter Sabrina Ellis' lyrics. The latter gives the songs greater dimension than one might expect on paper. Better still, the new songs are unrelenting and anthemic. Tales of excess set to fuzzy guitars, popping rhythms and pounding piano are the order of the day, and there's just enough weirdness -- like, how do they make that constantly stumbling snare cadence work within the big-swinging rhythm of "& Rock & Roll" -- to give Pile a singular sound even as the band figuratively wraps its collective arms around glam, punk and garage signifiers and draws them close for a big, sweaty hug.

While the touring top-liners are certainly noteworthy, the slate of supporting acts is nothing to sneeze at (what the fuck does that even mean?). Fuzz-blasting now-band Black Beaches, punk mainstays Zip-Tie Handcuffs and power-pop purveyors The Dazies lead the charge, perhaps even in that order, and we suggest arriving early, staying late, hoovering the Uber, videoing the whole thing with your video cassette recorder on the Super Long Play setting, or whatever it is that the kids do these days. The A Giant Dog juggernaut rolls through the American Southeast through June 3, and the band also has additional festival dates on the books; the full list of shows of which we are aware is below. Below that, make sure to hit the embeds to hear the delicious rock sounds of all four bands performing tomorrow night. Longtime readers will recall we spoke to A Giant Dog back in 2013 for our stop-and-go Show Us Yours feature about band practice spaces. Check the band out in episode 14 right here.

05.26 -- New York, NY –- Cake Shop
05.27 -- Brooklyn, NY –- Our Wicked Lady
05.29 -- Richmond, VA –- Strange Matter
05.31 -- Chapel Hill, NC -– Local 506
06.01 -- Atlanta, GA –- The Earl
06.02 -- Nashville, TN -– Queen Ave
06.03 -- Memphis, TN –- Hi Tone
06.11 -- New Braunfels, TX -– Dia De Los Toadies
07.09 -- Columbus, OH –- 4th & 4th Fest
09.08 -- Raleigh, NC –- Hopscotch Music Festival

A Giant Dog: Bandcamp | Faceblorp
Black Beach: Bandcamp | Faceblorp
Zip-Tie Handcuffs: Bandcamp | Faceblorp
The Dazies: Bandcamp | Faceblorp

May 21, 2016

That Was The Show That Was: Eagulls | Islington Assembly Hall, London | 19 May

That Was The Show That Was: Eagulls | Islington Assembly Hall, London | 19 May

Hotly tipped UK five Eagulls took the stage at London's Islington Academy Halls Thursday night looking every bit a part of Britain's noteworthy post-punk lineage. Fronter George Mitchell had outfitted his gaunt frame in black slacks and tucked white shirt; sonically, the Leeds-spawned act's performance felt similarly lacking in color. Roughly splitting the set list between 2014's stirring eponymous long player and this year's moodier and more atmospheric Ullages, Eagulls presented various interpretations of the hopelessness peddled by forebears including The Cure some three decades ago. While the Cure comparison intrigues, such comparisons carry expectations, and Eagulls seem to still be working out whether to embrace or elude these expectations as it seeeks its place in the canon.

On opener "Lemontrees," Mr. Mitchell's vocals were a curiosity, and echoed the anguished yelp of Robert Smith. Yet later, when the quintet covered Human League's "Seconds," Mitchell struggled to achieve the expected nuance. Even so, he did make for an engaging focal point, bopping around the stage like a drunkard staggering home from the pub. This did little to distract from a problematic live mix, however. His vocal melodies often rhythmically followed the lead guitar lines, but the sound was so muddy the standout track "Euphoria" was largely indistinguishable from its neighbor on Ullages, "My Life In Rewind." On big choruses, Mitchell sounded overwrought, sometimes jarring. Elsewhere his slurred syllables were as blurred as the grainy visuals projected behind the band.

On its recordings, Eagulls deliver well-honed dynamics, but Thursday the band presented a persistent wall of sound that swallowed up some of the music's depth and texture. At best, the constant chug of guitars -– recalling now and again The Smiths' colossal anthem "How Soon Is Now" –- served to glamorize the despair that is a post-punk band's stock-in-trade, but the lack of dynamics weighed down the performance, particularly as Eagulls hit a succession of mid-tempo tracks mid-set. Tunes from the band's first LP fared much better, particularly the fevered "Yellow Eyes." As Mitchell sang "I can't see it," fans must have been inclined to believe him, as he wended his head around, eyes shut tightly. The rocker "Possessed" from the first LP is an ever-reliable set closer and Thursday night was no different, with Mitchell snarling the title atop guitars that buzzed and shimmered. Its impact on the crowd was clear, and the song's amplified ferocity was a reminder of what a fine live act Eagulls can be when it play to its strengths. Traams and 99 Watts opened. -- Theo Gorst, Special Correspondent

Eagulls: Facebook | Internets

May 11, 2016

Together Again: Clicky Clicky Presents Two Nights of Adventurous Electronics And Under-Pop May 18+19

Together Again: Clicky Clicky Presents Two Nights of Adventurous Electronics and Under-Pop May 18+19

Hey, remember a year ago when we did this thing? It was a righteous time, orchestrated by indefatigable Clicky Clicky Staff Writer and Producer of Clicky Clicky Presents Dillon Riley in partnership with the fine people of Boston's Together Festival. Well, this Sunday Together launches its latest annual run, its seventh and vastest yet, they've agreed to have us back, and we're delighted. Mr. Riley has been hard at work orchestrating another ambitious two-night stand featuring a range of decidedly forward-thinking electronic and under-pop sounds. First up: next Wednesday, May 18, Clicky Clicky presents a solo performance from nü-romantic electropop standout St. Nothing, the refracted folk rock of All Talk, and vibrant indie pop from the Berklee-spawned ensemble Aüva. That will assuredly be a very good time, but the energy doesn't let up the following night. Thursday, May 19, we present for your sensual pleasure a special performance from heroic dreamers Strange Mangers, who will be reinterpreting their sighing guitar band sound via various electronic means. Equally as exciting will be strong vibes from techno producer and selector Lychee and a set of kaleidoscopic electro-spazz from Cyberbully (one of the many musical guises of Elizabeth Colour Wheel's Alec Jackson). Inman Square's proverbial living room, the great Lilypad, hosts both nights.

We'd like to advise you not to fuck this up and leave it at that. But we can do you one better and direct you to music embedded below from each of the artists performing. If you want to get down to brass tacks with key tracks, here's four to get you started: (1) Cyberbully's protracted enigma "Descent|Pts1-3," which takes an "everything plus the kitchen sink" approach but remains focused, sometimes to the point of claustrophobia, not to mention paranoia; (2) St. Nothing's big, throw-back synth-pop ballad "Align," a song so hook-heavy you could scrap it for parts and make an entire Depeche Mode AND Thompson Twins album; (3) Lychee's recent set at Cambridge, Mass.' legendary Middlesex Lounge goes deep on chill, but stick around for the return of the boom bap when Søren Nordström's "Transmission IV" hits the mix; (4) it sounds like Aüva will have new music for fans this year, but with spring kicking into gear for reals it is hard to stop listening to its infectious confection "Into Place," the opener to last year's Light Years EP. For more detailed details on either night -- and to pledge your allegiance to one or both -- hit the relevant Faceblorp pages: Night One; Night Two. We're looking forward to being with you. Do be sure to check out all that Together has offer -- just make sure to not wipe yourself out before our shows roll around. Ringo peace signs.



May 8, 2016

Today's Hotness: Hellier Ulysses, Lacing

Hellier Ulysses -- Prime Example (detail)

>> This reviewer thought that this day might come, when an indie rock release would cross his path and defy all efforts to categorize or "name" it (well, not _all_ efforts. -- Ed.). It arrived earlier this spring: Prime Example, the sophomore set from Atlanta's Hellier Ulysses, is exactly that. Issued on cassette in mid-March via Brooklyn's OSR label, the set offers up seven jazzy, minute-long post-punk cubist head-scratchers that nevertheless remain catchy and pack enough ideas to power an hour-long double album. Comprised of musicians "Advantage Fire, Humidity Ott, Pit Moder and San Forest," the Georgia quartet operates at the frontier of imagination and musicianship. During preview track and collection highlight "Genesis Is Dispersion" the group funks through a tough, Stax-styled guitar intro before sidelining into a brief, country-fried blues verse and a helium-voiced response, before the sweetly sung hook "I just can't let go" floats over three breezy chords. The warm, vintage-sounding and playfully overdubbed words and effects that pepper this tape call to mind '60s pop experimentalists like Godz, The Mothers of Invention and The Velvet Underground at their most unhinged and quirky -- a rarely employed inspiration within more conventional indie rock that works great here as deployed with mathematical precision by Hellier Ulysses. "Eat the Police," another highlight, balances clattering No Wave dissonance with bizarre time-signature fret runs and a hip-shaking disco beat. Really. In an age where so much new art seems to build upon the past, it is striking how much fresh humor, expression, originality and economy these four musicians conjure seemingly out of thin air. Prediction: in 40 years, a group of kids at the vanguard of 2060's youth culture will name-check Prime Example, and the world will have finally caught up to Hellier Ulysses' level of invention and hyperactivity. Get in on the ground floor now: order the cassette or grab the digital files from OSR right here. Hellier Ulysses' debut collection Hellier Ulysses was self-released by the band in 2013 and issued on cassette by Egg Paper Factory a year later. According to a statement at its web site, nine-year-old OSR is winding down operation in 2016; the outfit's commitment to releasing innovative music is commendable, and we hope the label's proprietors will remain involved with identifying and exposing talent in some fashion going forward. Stream Prime Example via the embed below. -- Edward Charlton

>> Whispered, mysterious, bruised and grinding: that's the way we prefer our classic shoegaze, and Chattanooga's Lacing seem to have -- in some sort of "Weird Science"-esque scenario -- taken those qualities and used them to create a pristine swimsuit model version of the sound. This, folks, is the stuff. On the quartet's four-track, self-released debut cassette Honey Glow, Lacing assaults the senses with tidal waves of distorted and treated guitar, crashing drums and barely-there vocals, creating crescendos of impressionistic melody all along the way. Ever since the twinned landmark albums of 1992 -- The Ecstasy of Saint Theresa's Susurrate and Lilys' earth-shaking In The Presence of Nothing -- this reviewer has pined for similarly hushed and alluringly veiled music that retains a live, practice-room exuberance. Honey Glow deliciously scratches that very specific itch. A lone, flanged guitar ignites opener "Gloom" (a guitar effect rarely pulled off tastefully, we might add) before the figurative skies figuratively open up and thunder and rain flood the stereo field. The drumming, in particular, gives these songs a spirited immediacy, and echoes the sturdy gallop of post-'gaze groups like Hum. Collection highlight "Needle" switches primarily between two sections in the style of My Bloody Valentine, but does so with such manic fervor that its three minutes feel like one. And, after three short and pounding doses of noise-pop perfection, Lacing closes its abbreviated set with an epic title track. The tune offers 11 minutes of glistening sheets of suspended-animation guitar notes that accumulate into sense of time-traveling curiosity. Everything about Honey Glow leaves the listener wanting more; in our modern age of over-sharing and lack of subtlety, the EP offers a powerful and addicting experience and marks Lacing as one of the most vital concerns of 2016. Buy the cassette now from their Bandcamp wigwam here -- at press time only seven of these gems remained. To circle back on the Lilys record briefly: Frontier Records strongly hinted here in March that it will reissue In The Presence Of Nothing this fall. Keep your fingers crossed. -- Edward Charlton

May 7, 2016

That Was The Show That Was: Waking Windows Night 1 with Hop Along, Speedy Ortiz and Chain & The Gang

That Was The Show That Was: Waking Windows Night 1 with Hop Along, Speedy Ortiz and Chain and The Gang

[PHOTO: Dillon Riley] Hey! We we sent intrepid Staff Writer Dillon Riley to this weekend's Waking Windows music festival in Winooski, VT! He's filing reports! Even though today's his birthday! This is the first one! Exclamation points!

>>Hop Along, Outside Stage, 8 PM

Philly phenoms Hop Along were the second act we took in on the first night of Waking Windows, and the quartet easily impressed with a crowd-pleasing set culled mostly from the towering 2015 Saddle Creek release Painted Shut, one of Clicky Clicky's favorite records of last year. While the set was plagued early on with gear issues -- namely a blown bass head that left the band soldiering on as a trio for the vast majority of the incredible "Waitress" while Tyler Long scrambled to borrow a new unit -- the performance was otherwise thrilling. Bigger bangers like "Waitress," "Powerful Man" and the opener "Texas Funeral" were given strong, punchy and fuzz-fueled workouts, the group's earlier material also shined brightly. "Tibetan Pop Stars," the band's breakthrough track from its un-eff-withable 2012 debut Get Disowned and arguably [we might argue the point -- Ed.] the quartet's strongest song to date, persists as an electrifying reminder of how Hop Along had its shit together long before the wide success of Painted Shut.

>> Speedy Ortiz, Outside Stage, 9 PM

As fronter and guitarist Sadie Dupuis announced between songs on Friday night, last night's performance was Speedy Ortiz's third at Waking Windows, albeit the indie juggernaut's first as a main stage headliner. It's safe to say a lot has changed for the foursome in the span of time those three appearances represent. After opening with "Tiger Tank," a stand-out tune from the band's 2013 LP Major Arcana [review] and as good a candidate as any for the office of Band Sonic Calling Card -– Speedy whipped through a heroic, comprehensive set that spanned a majority of the act's vital oeuvre. Alongside stirring recitations of material from 2015’s fantastic sophomore set Foil Deer were heavy, fantastically erratic versions of early singles including "Taylor Swift" and its flip-side "Swim Fan." While already known as a singular and formidable lyrical and music talent from her recordings, Dupuis' idiosyncratic tics are particularly captivating on stage, where she enlarges and drags certain melodies, often leading into vast choruses or diving straight into sharp vocal pivots. This can be dizzying or even slightly chilling, as she fearlessly veers toward destroying the pace of certain songs before sliding into their massive hooks. "Indoor Soccer," one of the foursome's earliest and most cryptic gems was delivered as a final salvo, and the song's crushing and silly final admission served as an almost cruel reminder of how much Speedy Ortiz will be missed in Boston area now that Ms. Dupuis has moved south.

>> Chain & The Gang, The Monkey House, 12:10 AM Give Or Take

Chain & The Gang, the long-running, eclectic rock outfit fronted by former Nation Of Ulysses singer, D.C. scene legend and noted raconteur Ian Svenonious, seized the stage after midnight in matching pin striped suits. After a brief introduction from a festival representative and an impressive high kick they were off, loosing cuts from their late aughts run of full lengths. Interspersed between fast and loose versions of tunes like of "Detroit Music" and "Free Will" were wide-eyed and incorrigible dispatches from Svenonius. Preaching the importance of discretion, he at one point brought the cheers down and asked the crowd to not share the news of their set with anyone outside the Monkey House. Antics aside, the band ran through some particularly sharp takes from 2012's In Cool Blood, especially "Certain Kinds of Trash." That number, concerned with finding comfort in the old ways of doing things, feels like an apt anthem for a band that bends classicist influences to fit its own warped worldview. -- Dillon Riley

Hop Along: Bandcamp | Facebook
Speedy Ortiz: Bandcamp | Facebook | Internerds
Chain and The Gang: Bandcamp | Facebook

May 6, 2016

30: The Cure's Standing On A Beach - The Singles

30: The Cure's Standing On A Beach - The Singles

One of the larger milestones celebrated in the music press this week was the 27th anniversary of the release of The Cure's epochal classic Disintegration. A remarkable record, to be sure, and deserving of great praise. But we'd be remiss if we didn't mark in these electronic pages a different milestone, the release of the first The Cure record we ever owned, issued this day 30 years ago, a record that can rightfully be said to have played a part in spawning this publication. Wikipedia provides inconsistent information regarding its release date, stating in different places May 6 and May 19. As the former was actually a Tuesday, the then-traditional day of the week for new releases in the States, we're going with May 6. So happy anniversary, Standing On A Beach - The Singles.

The facts of our first exposure to The Cure are increasingly remote, but we distinctly recall seeing the video for "Let's Go To Bed" in our grandparents' basement (they had one of those old-ass cable boxes with the three tiers of oblong buttons that was attached to the teevee with a cord like an astronaut to spacecraft). The catchy, curious song was blessed with steady MTV rotation, likely as much because of director Tim Pope's intriguing, egg-smashing, back-painting video as the fine pop song-craft. We suppose MTV might have played other singles between LGTB's release in '82 and that of the singles and b-sides compilation Standing On A Beach in early May of '86, but we can't recall seeing another Cure video until the re-release of the titanic indie pop tune "Boys Don't Cry" as a single to herald the issuance of said hits comp. Not that we were really looking. Until Diamond Dave left Van Halen in mid-'85, our focus was very, very heavily tilted toward metal.

Yes, we understand that a singles-and-b-sides comp doesn't qualify under certain purist definitions of a proper record. To a certain extent we even share in that bias. But the record. Oh, how the record blew our mind when a cherished childhood friend popped the Standing On A Beach cassette into a Sony Sports Boombox (remember the yellow jawn with the rubberized, sand-proof buttons?) during a trip that spring and pushed play. It was during a camping-type outing, and there was plenty of fun to be had, but all we wanted to do all day was get back to the tape deck and press play again and again. At the time in '86, at the tender age of 12, we knew not of the terms "indie rock," maybe not even "college rock," so we recall the aforementioned friend arguing that The Cure could be lumped under the dubious descriptor "soft hardcore." Which sounds ridiculous now, as even then we had some understanding of contemporary punk and new wave, but that should give a sense of how the breadth and depth of Standing On A Beach left us awe-struck and grasping for ways to describe it.

With the release of Standing On A Beach, The Cure became the band that first fired the synapses that still fuel our music obsession. The record was a revelation: setting aside all of the singles that didn't crack MTV, let alone garner commercial radio airplay (for the latter, that was pretty much all of them), listening to Standing On A Beach triggered a tantalizing, even troubling thought: if all of these b-sides are so excellent, then what else is MTV, commercial radio, Rolling Stone and Spin keeping from us? What else were the gatekeepers -- the lamestream media, if you will -- not telling us about? The answer, as we're certain all of this blog's readers know, was quite a lot. And so we began searching, digging more deeply, and in the process became the music fan we are today.

It's worth noting that Standing On A Beach was released in a number of configurations across as many formats, and that the cassette was the greatest of them all, as it contained all of the b-sides and certain exclusive mixes. Wikipedia does a good job of breaking all of that down, but the greater point is that those b-sides were exceptionally hard to track down in the pre-Internet era for those of us who wore out the tape. Might an announcement be in the offing, of a double-LP reissue of Standing On A Beach? Frankly, we expected that for Record Store Day, and were disappointed that it didn't materialize. And we expect that was the last meaningful window for the release of such a thing. At the next five-divisible anniversary, Gen X-ers that comprise much of the likely market for such a trinket will be that much further removed, the present vinyl resurgence may have vaporized. Sure, the Join The Dots compilation largely obviated the need for such a reissue, but the comp is sort of overkill, innit? And, of course, not on vinyl. In all of its iterations, Standing On A Beach was manageable, the discrete era it addressed particularly meaningful, and it's our feeling that a vinyl reissue of the original cassette version of Standing On A Beach would be splendid. But it seems like it will not be.

Let's have an upbeat ending to this overlong celebration, though. The Cure are touring this summer, 33 shows in 26 North American cities as well as festival dates and a show in New Zealand. The legendary act plays a long-sold out show in Boston June 16. Might they perform the compilation on the tour? Not likely. But either way we have the music, and we've posted YouTube videos below for you to enjoy which recreate Standing On A Beach. Try to hear it all like it's May of '86 again. Thanks for reading.

The Cure: Facebook | Internerds

May 1, 2016

Today's Hotness: Close Lobsters, Today Junior, Fog Lake

Close Lobsters -- Under London Skies (detail)

>> The work of Scottish indie pop four Close Lobsters had largely eluded our attention until recently beyond a certain key comp appearance, but the band's recent releases count among our favorite finds of 2016. The act emerged with the C86 scene (literally) and enjoyed a dynamite run through the remaining '80s, sharing bills with bands including Primal Scream back when you had no idea who the Primals were. They then initially yanked their cords sometime in the '90s. Fortunately, Close Lobsters were drawn close once more several years ago, and have been releasing new music just as vital and delightful as that of decades past. Increasingly crucial U.S. label Shelflife will issue a new EP from the quartet later this spring titled Desire & Signs, which includes two dynamite tunes, "Under London Skies" b/w "Wander Epic Part II." The splendid A-side features keen hooks and wonderfully world-weary vocals that mourn a London gone by ("...this is the London of The Clash..."). Guitars sparkle and tambourines crack within an arresting wall of sound, while singer Andrew Burnett drawls his observations of '81, '84, '87, '88 and so forth. The slightly longer "Wander Epic Part II" patiently bops along to wood block strikes through the first verse, but its determined fidelity to the mid-tempo beat conjures a mesmerizing groove just as the chorus's pretty chord changes hit. Burnett pleads "baby come on" into a breakdown, and then the song sparks back to life with a swell of sizzling cymbal that heralds a long denouement that slowly cycles lead guitar lines. Shelflife releases Desire & Signs in a limited edition of 500 gold-colored 7" vinyl singles and digital download June 3, and you can pre-order the set directly from the label right here. This is not the first time the label and band have worked together. Shelflife previously released Close Lobsters' praiseworthy Kunstwerk In Spacetime single in May 2015; the set includes the numbers "Now Time" b/w "New York City In Space" and remains available for purchase from the label right here. Fire Records released last year Firestation Towers, a 3-LP set compiling the band's towering output from '86-'89; this can be purchased directly from Close Lobsters' Bandcamp yert right here. Close Lobsters play a long, long in the works gig at London's 100 Club next month, and you'd be dumb not to go if you are able. Stream "Under London Skies" via the Soundcloud embed below.

>> Clicky Clicky was quite taken with the debut LP from Boston's Today Junior last summer, and we've eagerly anticipated new music ever since. The Allston Rock City-based indie trio finally obliged in recent weeks with a pair of appealing new tunes, "Leaving Easy" and "Blunt Breath," released as free-to-you, standalone digital singles with "Beavis and Butt-Head"-inspired art. The threesome led with the latter song, but it is the uptempo and melodious "Leaving Easy" that has sunken its hooks more deeply into our consciousness. The song rocks from within knee-deep, surfy, and nostalgia-inspiring reverb; from there the threesome bash 'n' pops through an arresting down-and-up chord sequence at speed and toward a bright guitar solo that memorably percolates through the song's third minute. "Blunt Breath" is fuzzier, more rough-hewn but equally peppy, and features a vocal riff that is pretty much the indie rock version of yodeling courtesy of fronter Harry O'Toole. Today Junior has already had a busy spring of shows; its next gigs are an all-ages soiree at Jamaica Plains' Midway Cafe May 8 and an appearance the following Sunday as part of the rescheduled Harvard Square Mayfair. Get yourself appropriately pumped by streaming "Leaving Easy" and "Blunt Breath" via the Bandcamp embeds below; click through to download the tracks. Flesh Records reissued the band's debut Ride The Surf on blue cassette last month; snag a copy right here.

>> We've been wanting to tell you this for so long: Clicky Clicky faves Fog Lake returned in late March with a brace of tunes to tease a forthcoming, fourth long-player slated for release on Orchid Tapes in the fall. De facto A-side "Rattlesnake" sadly waltzes in a manner reminiscent of the great Benjamin Shaw, but St. John, Newfoundland-based Fog Lake here achieves an appreciable swing -- largely via tasteful drumming -- for a band that typically operates in a wispy realm of beautiful, breathy understatement. Some of that dynamism can likely be ascribed to the contributions of Kenney Purchase, Nick Hopkins and Cory Linehan, as at least Mr. Purchase has been (and may presently be) part of a more recent live configuration of Fog Lake. There seems to be an increased focus on lyricism, as well, as band mastermind Aaron Powell seems particularly voluble, fatalistically promising "I"ll make you see it, all the ways you snuck into my head, tearing holes in my sense till the good part of me died, and the trembling stopped from your rattlesnake bite and it all went dark." In an email, Mr. Powell characterized the figurative flip-side "Strung Back Around" as a demo, and promises a version of the track will appear on the planned long-player, but there is no noticeable decline in the songwriting or sound quality here -- if anything the song is stronger, and could easily have led this digital two-fer. Distant piano chimes from within Powell's stirring, gossamer layers of reverbed guitars, and indeed the ambient wash almost entirely consumes the song's relatively jaunty rhythm. Powell's high tenor cuts through the mix, ever regretting, trying to give shape to that which cannot be shrugged off. Fog Lake released one of our favorite records of 2015, its third albumVictoria Park, also through Orchid Tapes. No title or release date for LP4 have been made public. Stream "Rattlesnake" and "Strung Back Around" via the Bandcamp embed below.