August 29, 2015

Review: Infinity Girl | Harm

Reverent adherence to a musical aesthetic in the absence of terrific songwriting makes for forgettable music. It's a truism that separates the propped-up sounds of otherwise accomplished stylists from music on ephiphany-inducing records such as Harm, the towering sophomore LP from Brooklyn shoegaze titans Infinity Girl. The erstwhile Boston quartet has in the past remarkably conjured sounds reflecting a deep respect for the holy trinity of shoegaze, but were it not for Infinity Girl's inspired songcraft and the emotional immediacy of its songs, no one would be listening, and we certainly wouldn't be (figuratively) talking. However, it is not just the great songwriting that distinguishes Harm, but also the act's willingness to shed certain of shoegaze's characteristic sonic skin and experiment with weirder, harder and more compact sounds. The result is a breakout record, a modern classic.

Harm's 11 songs evidence the band's ability to make expansive, urbane music, while incorporating a classic punk urbanness and economy. Inspired at least in part by the band's shift in fits and starts southward, the record is darker, grappling with alienation and anxiety along with the expected heartache ("I'm kind of an introvert and find that I have a difficult relationship with the world and people that are close to me," fronter and guitarist Nolan Eley told Interview earlier this summer). The bending, fuzz-bass-fueled opener "Hesse" gives the album a feeling of beginning en medias res, which perhaps approximates the feeling of arriving in Brooklyn during the gestation of the record. While the sound and vibe is definitely darker, the record is certainly not all doom and gloom. The colossal -- colossal -- hit "Dirty Sun" is an addicting, upbeat rocker, despite its recitation of love gone wrong ("...navigate your arms, they are crossed, like they always are..."). And there is joy in the quick pulse and subsequent stilted thrash of "Heavy." Another important piece of Harm is the growing role of lead guitarist Kyle Oppenheimer as a songwriter and vocalist; his arresting and sweet "Young," in particular, teeters at the edge of an innocence lost, his desperate, broken-winged vocal in the final 40 seconds will raise the hair on the back of one's neck.

Giving the record the headphones treatment quickly brings into focus that the delays and reverbs that are the stock in trade of the classic shoegaze sound have been significantly tamped down. The meaner, more sculpted textures Infinity Girl presents make Harm its most sophisticated record to date, and this is perhaps nowhere more apparent than on the amazing "Locklaun." After a stuttering opening, the tune's huge sonic surges recall Nine Inch Nails' brutalist excoriation "Wish" or even certain ridiculously loud Jon Spencer guitar solos. Sebastian Modak's drumming here and across the record is caffeinated to the point of punchy, emphasizing the post-punk heart beating here. And so Harm is a next-level record that has literally taken the band to the next level. The band revealed in late spring that it had signed with San Diego-based emo powerhouse Topshelf Records for the release, which streeted Friday. With Harm, Infinity Girl has released not only a truly great record, but a defining noise-pop record, on par with monumental releases from its original Boston base of operations including Swirlies' Blonder Tongue Audio Baton and Drop Nineteens' epochal Delaware.

Harm is available on black, grey marble and clear with "black smoke" 12" vinyl -- available a la carte or as a 3-LP bundle -- and digital download; order your copy from Topshelf Records right here. Infinity Girl fête the release of Harm with two big, big rock shows, including one Sept. 5 in Boston at Great Scott with psych-rockers The New Highway Hymnal, Fiddlehead, and the highly touted Gold Muse, who we believe will be at long last making their live debut. For those of you keeping score at home, Gold Muse consists of former members of Soccer Mom, Justin Lally from pop savants Earthquake Party! (whose long, long anticipated debut long-player seems to have finally been completed), and Deb Warfield, who has logged time with scad of acts including the aforementioned Swirlies and Broken River Prophet. Additional Infinity Girl shows include the Brooklyn release show at Shea Stadium Wednesday and a date Sept. 29 at Palisades, also in Brooklyn. We've heard chatter that there will be a formal tour before the end of the year, so keep your eyes trained to the trusty Internet, where all things will be revealed unto you. Stream three preview singles from Harm via the SoundCloud embeds below, or click here to stream the whole banana over at Billbored.

Infinity Girl: Bandcamp | Facebook | Internerds | Soundcloud







Prior Infinity Girl Coverage:
That Was The Show That Was: Infinity Girl, Lubec, Guillermo Sexo, Havania Whaal | Great Scott | 9 July
Topshelf Signs Infinity Girl, Titanic Sophomore LP Harm Due Aug. 28, Hear First Single "Firehead" Now
Clicky Clicky Music Blog's Top Albums Of 2012: Jay Edition
That Was The Show That Was: Infinity Girl EP Release Show With New Highway Hymnal, Speedy Ortiz and Soccer Mom | TT The Bear's | 5 Dec.
That Was The Show That Was: Clicky Clicky Community Servings Benefit Show Thank Yous And Wrap-Up
Today's Hotness: Infinity Girl
Review: Infinity Girl | Just Like Lovers EP
Forever Now: The Infinity Girl Interview
Review: Infinity Girl | Stop Being On My Side

August 21, 2015

Show Us Yours #28: Mutes



It's been some time since we've checked in on 'gazey indie punks Mutes. Time was the Birmingham, England-based act was a project propelled by just one dude, erstwhile and surnameless Johnny Foreigner guitar tech James, and its music was the stuff of gauzy dreams. That approach yielded captivating results and resulted in a couple EPs and digital singles over the last two years, many if not all of which were scrutinized in these electronic pages. Mutes' first EP as a quartet and on a proper label dropped earlier this summer, bearing a familiar name -- Starvation Age -- but a notably expanded sound. The short set presents five tracks, including new iterations of two of Mutes' more placid earlier guitar reveries, and builds to a roaring finish via an agitated, propulsive title track. With such dynamic growth on display, we thought it high time that we check in with James to learn about where the present, enlarged iteration of Mutes makes its magic, and what the rising band has in store for the future.

And an over-large tangent: our truest readers will note that this episode of Show Us Yours is not the first to feature a spacemate of Clicky Clicky faves Johnny Foreigner: way back in January 2009 in Show Us Yours 10 we featured hitmakers Calories, who at the time shared a different space with Johnny Foreigner. We suppose this is an example of high-quality acts tending to gravitate toward one another; we're told that Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam -- perhaps the most visible heir to Calories -- still practices near Johnny Foreigner (and Mutes) even now. We're grateful to James for taking the time to show us around the spot and for giving us an update on all things Mutes. Read our full exchange below.
Clicky Clicky: So why do you use this practice space? What is it about the space that makes it the best place for Mutes right now? Did you have to change spaces once Mutes became a full-band project, or are you still in the same spot?

James: We use it because we share it with Johnny Foreigner (who [drummer] Jr [also drums for]) so it's convenient and more spacious (having two kits in one room is not preferable). And it's run by a couple of really cool guys, Matt and Nigel, who rent out the rooms at an incredibly good price. There's always cold beers in the fridge, it's 24hr access and, most importantly for Josh and I, we can leave our gear there and use our own amps. If I ever have to so much look at a Laney valvestate head perched upon a generic Marshall 4x12 again I will shoot myself. I never had a space when I was doing it solo -- I'd rent the hourly room there for £5 an hour, which is super cheap.

CC: Is there an idiosyncrasy or quirk to the space that has affected the sound of one of your songs, or even the overall Mutes sound?

J: Mmm, I'm not sure. I think the general energy of the place -- the ease of access and the laid-back atmosphere -- allows you to chill the fuck out when rehearsing, which lends itself to creativity more than "we have two hours here and we still need to find some breakables." We're gonna record more with our 8-track in there hopefully -- then we'll see!

CC: You walk into your rehearsal space. What's the first thing that you smell?

J: Stale smoke and sweat.

CC: Was there some question in your mind that led you to fill out the band with additional members? And if so, what was that question?

J: I never intended to 'go solo,' it just sort of happened as a by-product of that first EP. I figured it would be a waste to put it out and sit around, so I got the sampler, watched a lot of Grimes live videos, and went for it. It just so happens that the next batch of songs I wrote needed real drums, although when I recorded Starvation Age I was still the only member of Mutes. But I always wanted to be in a band with other people. Playing solo can be a depressing and expensive experience, especially when you aren't exactly cranking out hits.

CC: Do you think that whatever we can agree to call the indie rock scene has progressed to the point where there is less bias against one-man bedroom pop bands? Do you find that folks like radio programmers and club promoters take Mutes more seriously now that it is more of the standard many-dudes-with-guitars formation?

J: I think promoters are more reluctant to book solo acts because simply put you have 1/4 the pulling potential of a full band. I played a few more solo shows when we were going through a lineup change and it reaffirmed why I stopped them in the first place -- it's a pain keeping an eye on your gear, you can't split any costs, and you rarely get paid because you don't have the manpower (i.e. Jr) of a full band. So yeah, being a full band has absolutely aided us in terms of getting shows and stuff.

CC: We spoke off-line about this, but we thought we'd raise it here as well. One thing that confused us about your terrific recent EP Starvation Age was that you recycled the title from a two-song digital release you did in 2013. Which we suppose is no worse than Weezer putting out multiple self-titled albums. But what about the title speaks to you so much that you wanted to use it twice?

J: I think I used it back in 2013 because it sounded nice, and those two songs ended up going on this full EP. But the title definitely has relevance to the release and its lyrical content. I think I came up with the title when I was going through a bit of a horrible phase of food-avoidance and just generally feeling like I was lacking as a human being. Plus I took down that 2-song thing before this was announced and I didn't really think anyone would notice (you were the only online site who covered that first release, ha).

[At this point the interview had gone somewhere unexpected. We were concerned by James' frank statement regarding his troubled relationship with food, concerned for him personally, but didn't want to delve more deeply into his private life than this interview, supposedly about his band's practice space and music, warranted. We talked this over with James, who was comfortable expanding on his remarks for publication. -- Ed.]

J: This was around 2 years ago, and it's better now. I think anxiety and a persistent uneasiness in my stomach, on top of issues I had with my own body image, all contributed towards it. I have a somewhat stressful relationship with eating, but not to the extent that I'm worried about it. I've certainly been in close quarters with people who do have more serious issues, and I wouldn't wish it on anyone. I love food and I hate food, too. I've put myself in positions where my appetite has been dictated by guilt rather than nutritional need and that can be particularly stressful on people you're close to. It's important to recognise these problems, I feel fortunate to be in a position mentally where I've never succumbed to it fully, but I would urge anyone who needs help, or even just advice, to speak openly about it as soon and as much as possible. Disordered eating is complex and can be hard to admit to yourself. It requires support and understanding, no matter how trivial it might seem if you're not going through it.

[Before continuing on, we wanted to amplify James' sentiment that those struggling with their relationship with food should seek help. These are real issues; food avoidance was classified as a medical condition under the latest revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, the DSM-5, in 2013. If you or someone you know needs help, we urge you to contact a health professional. Now. And now, back to our regularly scheduled interview... -- Ed.]

CC: One of my all-time favorite bands did a non-comeback comeback record, and the last song leads with this awesome line "I have to finish this song, or the world will remember me wrong." You made a crack on the Mutes Facebook about releasing the new tune "Knotting Off The Vein" because "Death could be around the corner," and it made us wonder whether you actually, you know, consider things like mortality and a legacy and all that. Maybe you were just taking the piss (is that still a phrase people use?...)

J: I was half-taking the piss! I think when you're a band as small as we are, and unable to play as much as we'd like due to real adult life, the only thing you can do is write and release as much as possible to fill that activity-void. I also have become recently acutely aware of my own mortality, it keeps me up, so that's definitely on my mind a lot recently. I do think music, and art in general, is the closest you can come to ensuring your own immortality, provided what you're doing doesn't get forgotten with you. But it's an over-saturated space, and we're all baying for attention, so I don't know how successful anyone but the most influential of us will be in actually 'living forever through art' or something. But at least we're all immortalised on the Internet!

CC: What does the rest of the year look like for Mutes?

J: Hopefully more shows here and there, and lots more writing. We've got about 13 songs that ned finishing up, and more will be rearing their heads in the interim, so hopefully we'll be able to record again sometime soon! And sign that mega 360 deal we've all been holding out for.

Mutes plays a killer show Oct. 9 in Oxford, England with Sauna Youth (responsible for this rager earlier this summer), Poledo and Telegrapher, and the Birmingham act is also on a bill *TOMORROW* supporting Jimmy Whispers that locals should certainly turn out for. The Starvation Age EP is available now as a digital download and limited edition cassette; stream the release via the Bandcamp embed below, and click through to purchase. Also streaming below is the aforementioned, newer track "Knotting Off The Vein," taken from a very good comp recently issued by London club promoter Fools Paradise.

Mutes: Bandcamp | Facebook





Previous Mutes Coverage:
Today's Hotness: Mutes
Today's Hotness: Mutes
Today's Hotness: Mutes

Previous Show Us Yours episodes:
Shapes And Sizes | Dirty On Purpose | Relay | Mobius Band | Frightened Rabbit | Assembly Now | Meneguar | Okay Paddy | Charmparticles | Calories | Sun Airway | It Hugs Back | Lubec | A Giant Dog | Bent Shapes | Krill | Golden Gurls | Earthquake Party! | Hallelujah The Hills | Seeds Of Doubt | The Cherry Wave | Coaches | Night Mechanic | Kindling | Julius Earthling | Hideous Towns | Mittenfields

August 20, 2015

No, Thank YOU: Exploding In Sound Commemorates Protracted Awesomeness With Long Weekend Of Shows In Boston, That Other Place

No, Thank YOU: Exploding In Sound Commemorates Protracted Awesomeness With Weekend Of Shows In Boston, That Other Place (detail)

Anyone with a passing interest in this publication probably has some understanding as to the awesome might of Brooklyn's Exploding In Sound Records. Originally a Boston-based concern, the Empire State label powerhouse is home to arguably the greatest active roster in indie rock, a kudo likely to be burnished further by the recent signings of DC's elastic slowcore trio Swings and extremely curious New York indie four Palm. History lessons aside, the folks over at EIS do it good, and they do it righteously, which is definitely something worth celebrating. And what better way to do so than with a long weekend of shit-hot rock shows across two states, a couple cities and a half-dozen venues? To sweeten the deal, said rock shows are not only highlighting the formidable EIS stable, but also bring under the big tent certain extended and notable family and friends. The festivities are already underway this evening at Baby's All Right in Brooklyn, with the traveling circus not hitting Boston until Saturday. Below we look under the hood of those local bills, running down the sights and sounds of what's being called The Exploding In Sound Presents: "Thank You For Being A Friend" Extended Weekend. So read the good news and spread it wide, readers.

SATURDAY AUGUST 22nd | The Sinclair | Cambridge, MA | All Ages
Palehound, Stove, LVL UP, Big Ups, Krill

The first night of the Boston leg of the extended weekend takes place at what we believe is the biggest venue in the series, Harvard Square's opulent The Sinclair. Although our proposed review got somewhat lost in the shuffle of paperwork, music work, and real work, Palehound’s stunning debut LP Dry Food may very well be Boston's record of the year. An eight-song collection of inventive lyrical, and musical twists and turns, Ellen Kempner and co.'s work stands strong among her labelmates and neighbors, and -- as proven by last Sunday’s opening slot at the Royale -- Palehound proves to be an increasingly formidable live act as well, and we expect their time on stage Saturday will be particularly memorable. Also playing the big, big rock show Saturday is Steve Hartlett’s post-Ovlov (RIP) project Stove, which we gathered last time they were in town also includes other members, both former or otherwise, from hit-makers like Ovlov (duh), Sneeze, Bedroom Eyes, Kal Marks, and Big Mess. We promise we will die happy the day we get to see Stove play the Lemonheads classic "Stove" live, so, you know, keep an eye on us. New Yorkers LVL UP and Big Ups are also on the agenda for Saturday, and both groups have wowed us in the past with their live presentments. Clicky Clicky faves Krill plays last, most likely to little or no fanfare wink wink nudge nudge. Tickets and other info can be found right here.





SUNDAY AUGUST 23RD (Afternoon) | O’Brien’s Pub | Allston, MA | 18+
Coaches, Great Deceivers, Zula, Lady Bones, Swings, Washer, Vundabar

Sunday's slate on the far side of the river features not one, but two stacked rock shows in Allston at two of the city's most popular rock halls. The afternoon plays host to an eclectic bill featuring the talents of some out-of-town friends, some city-bred rising talent, and some new-comers to the fold. Vundabar's set is sure to stand out, as its recently self-released sophomore LP Gawk is chock-full of weird, slippery instrumental turns and expertly crafted phrases. The record is a huge leap beyond their still-pretty-great debut Antics. Other performers toiling in the daylight hours include local noisy rock outfit Lady Bones, formerly local heirs to Boston's shoegaze throne Coaches (whose likely forthcoming EP is like whoa, and whose drum stool for the afternoon we believe will be occupied by Infinity Girl's Sebastian Modak), New Yorkers Washer and Zula, Chicago-based math-punks Great Deceivers and the aforementioned jazzy DC slowcore heroes Swings. We’re given to understand there will be free pizza for those who show early. We repeat: FREE PIZZA. As if all the great rock sounds we’re enough incentive to roll out of bed around noon. Tickets and other info can be found right here.





SUNDAY AUGUST 23RD (Night) | Great Scott | Allston, MA | 18+
Bunny's A Swine, Leapling, Gnarwhal, Kal Marks, Pile

The finale of Sunday's double-header marks what we believe is the Boston debut of New York's Leapling, whose EIS debut Vacant Page caught the attention of our own Edward Charlton a ways back. The set presented a breezier, reverb-ier affair than we're generally used to from the Exploding camp, and yet another winner in a year full of unreasonably great records from the label. It is one that most definitely has us primed for a proper introduction to the indie pop group. Sunday night also boasts the talents of Nashville math-rock duo Gnarwhal and long-running Northampton fuzz-rock crew Bunny's A Swine. Eternal Clicky Clicky faves Kal Marks (!!!!!!!!!!) and the kings of the Boston underground Pile will bat cleanup at the joint, which presumably will be the final gig ever to take place at America's Living Room (a/k/a Great Scott) after the stage inevitably succumbs to all the heavy rock power. Tickets and other info can be found here. -- Dillon Riley



August 18, 2015

That Was The Show That Was: Basement, Adventures, LVL UP, Palehound | Royale, Boston | 16 Aug.

LVL UP by Dillon Riley for Clicky Clicky Music Blog (detail)

[PHOTO CREDIT: Dillon Riley] Let us now take the measure of the fairly meteoric rise of Purchase, NY-spawned indie rock troupe LVL UP. While a known quantity 'round these parts for some time, the Exploding In Sound-affiliated group recently gained the attention of another perennial hit-maker in Boston's Run For Cover Records. RFC signed on to co-release the Empire State act's forthcoming, Fugazi-ly titled Three Songs 7" with EIS' Double Double Whammy imprint. The short set features, unsurprisingly, three songs, is slated for release Sept. 11, and -- based on the readily available stream -- sounds like another winner in what's shaping up to be a stellar discography for the band. LVL UP put its aural gold on full display Sunday, when it performed on one of the summer's hottest rock bills, and certainly the hottest for host venue Royale in recent memory. Not unlike Clicky Clicky eternal favorites Teenage Fanclub (or, we suppose, any three quarters of power-pop lifers Sloan), LVL UP presents the charms of three legitimate songwriting talents, adding a layer of anticipation to its already hotly anticipated performances.

LVL UP labelmates Palehound opened the show, promoting the release of its potentially world-conquering debut LP Dry Food. Although the boundless charm of Palehound's first releases does not seem to dim with age, it's clear that the more assured and nuanced Dry Food is a huge leap forward. Sunday evening fronter Ellen Kempner's cutting guitar work and graceful lyricism shone during a set highlighted by the start-stop dynamics of "Cushioned Caging" and the jaunty, psych-tinged guitar leads on "Cinnamon." The latter also served to emphasize Ms. Kempner's even-tempered, yet commanding stage presence. Her brief but pointed condemnation of aggressive harassment at a past show on Palehound's current tour underscored Kempner's growing comfort wielding her voice as a "public person," something raised in the uniformly glowing press surrounding the release of Dry Food, issued by Exploding In Sound just last week. While its big-sister band Speedy Ortiz has set the most recent and obvious precedent for a big Boston break-out, Palehound may have in its stellar LP just the munitions necessary for a similar assault on the overground.

Pittsburgh-based power-pop quintet Adventures batted third for the night, bringing to the stage an armful of tunes from its still-hot Run For Cover debut Supersonic Home. Much of the early buzz surrounding the group centered around its affiliation with the hardcore group Code Orange, with whom Adventures share three members. But Adventures more than stands on its own right. The fivesome trades in the sort of big-riff vulnerability favored by the standouts on Detroit's Salinas Records, yet with even bigger guitars and a fuller sound. All of which is set off by frontwoman Reba Meyers' otherworldly voice, one capable of chilling harmonies and show-stopping solo turns. The wholly captivating Supersonic Home was released by Run For Cover in February.

UK post-hardcore heroes (at least to the all-ages set -- Ed.) Basement closed out the night with a wide-ranging set that dipped into all three of its Run For Cover releases. While Colourmeinkindness remains as natural a document of RFC's formidable influence as any, it was the tunes off their most recent Further Sky EP that drew the most cheers from our camp. "Summer's Colour," the Failure-tastic lead track from the EP, proved a critical component of Basement's live set, as the pretty, ascending melodies in the chorus offered a brief, yet potent respite from the thrash. The Boston show was the penultimate night of Basement's three-week U.S. tour; it closed out the strand of dates last night in New York's Gramercy Theater. -- Dillon Riley

Basement: Facebook | Tumblaaaaaahh
Adventures: Facebook | Tumblaaaaah
LVL UP: Bandcamp | Facebook
Palehound: Bandcamp | Facebook









August 12, 2015

Today's Hotness: Plums, Princess Reason, Flout

Plums -- Jen (detail)

>> Sudbury, Mass. guitar-pop act Plums was an unknown quantity here at Clicky Clicky HQ until earlier this summer, but the quartet's strong, seven-song debut Jen quickly and most satisfactorily remedied that. The set is rife with the kind of sparkling, fluorescent and classicist pop jams of which we can all always use more. The foursome's springy, delayed guitars and crisp vocals conjure something reminiscent of Philadelphia indie pop luminaries Literature's fantastic Chorus album from last year, if there were actually, well... more chorus, and a yet stronger '60s-indebted dream-pop vibe. After Jen's bouncy opener "Parking Lots," Plums drop "Julia Gloria," a brilliant, Beatles-esque acoustic strummer that sees the Sudburians achieve a certain spectral beauty amidst washes of sound and electric-guitar crescendos. Though the campfire acoustics in each channel persist, the band incorporates sufficient dynamics to maintain the riveting beauty of "Julia Gloria." Follow-up "Lounger" takes that instrumental set-up to its logical conclusion, before "Fine Madeline" reintroduces the Captured Tracks-inspired, rainy-day guitars and the loopy bass work first established with "Parking Lots." Instrumental pieces such as the title track and the trippy, backwards "They Love Me They Love Me" further posit a notion that this young band could be an American response to neo-psychers Tame Impala. Perhaps better, though, than placing heaps of expectation on Plums, it would be best to instead consider this young act one to watch, as such attention will be rewarded so long as the act continues its gorgeous pop experimentation. Jen was released by Minneapolis-based Forged Artifacts July 14 in a limited edition of 100 goldenrod-colored cassettes (only six remain as of last week) and as a digital download. Stream the entire set below, and click here to purchase it in one of the available formats. -- Edward Charlton



>> Baltimore-based indie pop concern Princess Reason are one of those acts we watch that comes 'round with fair regularity, scatters a few strummy lo-fi gems about the proverbial place, and then walks out the door toward the next waiting heartache. Each new release presents an opportunity to take a deep breath, clear one's head and meditate (ruminate?) upon the act's uniquely bummed but capably wrought music. Last month the trio disclosed it had teamed up with Nebraskan Coast records for the imprint's inaugural release, which will be a three-song 7" from Princess Reason titled Your Divorce, which is due Aug. 14 and available for pre-order now. Princess Reason has consistently traded in a certain scrappy subtlety, tucking analog suspense into the edges of its recordings' stereo fields, so we imagine that much-talked-about vinyl warmth will translate well for the trio. The aforementioned single's lightly chugging A-side does, too, while presenting a decidedly more electric, full-band sound than much of the material we are familiar with. "Your Divorce" vamps on a hiccupping melody and full, persistent bass that sounds to this reviewer like Pavement at their twangy, podunk best, although thankfully devoid of Stephen Malkmus' detached irony. The song is instead shot through with some very real and direct sentiments regarding (presumably) a parent's frayed marriage. Following the clenched-throat breakdown in the song's midsection, the rhythm section falls back in to groove during that devastating refrain – "I can't wait for you to leave New York, I can’t wait for you to get divorced." Sure, disappointment looms large on the mind of Princess Reason, but at no point does it fail to enrich such quality homespun pop as this. Pre-order your copy of the Your Divorce single directly from the band right here. -- Edward Charlton



>> We discussed last April here in these electronic pages Flout's charming Gims full-length, noting that the Art Is Hard-issued collection was a subdued and tasteful lo-fi cassette release from the mind of Weymouth, New York's John DeRosso. Full of fractured pop gems, the collection felt worn-in and welcoming, purveying a vibe that is just as appealing during the recent searing summer days as it was during spring’s first bloom. We were pleased to stumble upon a new standalone tune, "Sinker," on Soundcloud in recent weeks. Though tagged as a demo, the introverted and intimate recording would fit well on Gims, as it stays true to that album’s piecemeal song structures and chilled-out fuzz passages with aplomb. Opening with a frail, acoustic guitar lament set against DeRosso's steady and true vocals, the piece reminds of how Flout (much like Princess Reason,discussed supra) uses lo-fi methods to cut to the core emotion of the narrator and tune, rather than the more typical approach of using noisy recordings to mask them. It works wonders, as the production figuratively transports the listener right there into the bedroom, where the distorted guitar and thin, faux-strings from the synth likely sound yet more impactful, even devastating. This reviewer looks forward to LP2, but for now you can stream "Sinker" via the Soundcloud embed below. -- Edward Charlton

August 5, 2015

Today's Hotness: Today Junior, Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam, Under Electric Light

Today Junior -- Ride The Surf (detail)

>> We're starting to wonder if there will be music coming out of Norwood, Massachusett's Hanging Horse Studios that we DON'T like. The latest set birthed there to traverse our proverbial desk is a very rewarding debut long-player from Allston indie-pop upstarts Today Junior. The trio is comprised of brothers Mike and Harry O'Toole, who execute drumming and guitaring duties for the outfit respectively, along with bassist Anthony Ambrose, who may or may not be someone's brother. Today Junior's new LP Ride The Surf touts uptempo tunes that work bright, recognizable motifs in ways that don't sound tired or trite, gliding all the while through a steady, sock-deep reverb. What sets Today Junior's music apart from that of other acts chasing a sun 'n 'surf-inspired sound is the passionate singing and mindful breakdowns and grooves that the Allstonians work into their concise pop nuggets. The band's music is less noir and melancholy than that of presumably defunct Chicagoans Distractions, who put out one of our favorite records of 2010, but the bands are similar in that they twist the familiar into something memorable. And there are many, many memorable numbers on Ride The Surf, including its cracking, well-calculated title track, which, incidentally, plays host to a really hot guitar solo. One song that memorably checks both the "breakdowns" and "grooves" boxes is the deeper album cut "Daydrifter." The waning moments of the terrific strummer "What I Said" show the act minds the p's and q's of songcraft; there perfect, classically California-sounding vocal harmonies manifest as cool "oooh la la las" and point to Harry O'Toole's final, passionately delivered vocal, which rolls off punctuating guitar chords and onto a fading trickle of stick clicks. Ride The Surf was recorded between May 2014 and May 2015 at the aforementioned studio, which has also generated recordings we like a lot by hitmakers Julius Earthling and Soft Fangs. Today Junior fêted the release of Ride The Surf Monday night at Cambridge, Mass.'s Middle East Rock club, and we presume additional live engagements are forthcoming. For now, get your ears around the record while its summery sounds can properly contextualize this golden summer. Stream the entire set via the Bandcamp embed below, and click through the purchase it as a digital download.



>> Indie rock luminaries Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam returned this past weekend with a new EP and a tantalizing promise of yet more new music to come before the year is out. The Birmingham, England trio's Neighbours EP boasts three rockers spanning fewer than nine minutes, boisterous bar anthems all that bash and pop from within folds of reverb and slapback. The title track initiates the proceedings by cycling two towering chords, and the guitars buzz and feedback into the corners of the mix during a dynamic pre-chorus. When the massive, shout-along chorus of "Neighbors" -- which gets a dazzling video treatment here -- hits, it is characteristically huge and grand, and recalls a revved up take on precursor band Calories' stein-swinging "Let's Pretend That We're Older." What's that? You don't recall Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam's impressive lineage? The act sprang from the desperately great Calories, which itself was begat by the dissolution of Birmingham legends Distophia, something we've recounted in these electronic pages regularly. Neighbours' two additional numbers are similarly stirring: the belter "New Womb" throbs under the weight of its own crumbling distortion, driven by a straight-ahead beat and a staccato, descending guitar melody, while "Part Time Butcher" ratchets up the syncopation and conjures yet larger clouds of crash cymbal to buffet its ragged, but bold, vocal. The EP comes relatively hot on the heels of a digital single released in June featuring the tunes "Paradise Telephone" b/w/ "Real Romantix," and based on this Facebook post, it would seem we are entering a period of renewed activity for the wildly under-rated trio. Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam's next gig is Aug. 15 at The Wagon And Horses in Digbeth, Birmingham, and the band has also snagged a choice slot opening for highly regarded noisemakers Metz in Birmingham Oct. 30. We don't have any inside information, but we'd lay strong money that there is more new music from SFL around that time of that Metz show (as that would pretty much epitomize striking while the iron is hot). In the meantime, stream all of Neighbours via the Bandcamp embed below, and click through the acquire the set as a paywhutchyalike digital download. More bulletins as events warrant.



>> Veteran Montreal 'gaze project Under Electric Light first hit our radar with its stirring 2011 rocker "Waiting For The Rain To Fall," whose big melodic sound band founder Danny Provencher ascribed to his love of the Beach Boys and classic shoegaze records. None of us, Mr. Provencher included, could have known then that four years on we'd be living in an age where My Bloody Valentine, RIDE, Slowdive and Swervedriver are once again active. Which we suppose is neither here nor there, but it is amazing to consider how far we've come, and in some ways how much the future looks and sounds like our cherished past. For his part, Provencher (along with vocalist/lyricist Marie-Eve Bouchard) seems no less enamored of the aforementioned classic shoegaze sounds and big melodies in 2015, based on much time spent with Under Electric Light's recently self-released EP Never Lose Another Day. To be sure, the beat-driven and guitar-drenched opener "Pieces Of Me" is the collection's most immediate (if a bit by-the-numbers) song. However, it is the EP's solemn closer "Runaway Sun" that is the real stunner. Gentle and subdued, the track builds up from a bed of synth and acoustic and e-bowed guitars into an ethereal fog, recalling at times the more melancholy tunes of The Ocean Blue (whose first three records, incidentally, will be released by Shelflife on vinyl for the first time ever in November). Stream all of Never Lose Another Day via the Bandcamp embed below, and click through to purchase the set. Under Electric Light recently contributed a cover of the RIDE rarity "King Bullshit" to the digital compilation Leave Them All Behind, which was issued by The Blog That Celebrates Itself in March; check it out here. It is worth noting that Liverpool's Hail Hail Records has since taken on Never Lose Another Day, and is offering it for sale via its own digital storefront right here.

July 18, 2015

Today's Hotness: Benjamin Shaw, Funeral Advantage

Benjamin Shaw -- Guppy (crop)

>> Benjamin Shaw is a favorite of this blog, and longtime readers will recall that the Londoner's music can be dark and challenging, as well as stunningly beautiful. Mr. Shaw's latest release, his fifth long-player by one count, is amusingly titled Guppy, a name that suggests something cute and inconsequential, adjectives that reasonable minds will never apply to Shaw's music. Guppy presents a series of contemplative, textural compositions and recalls his two most experimental releases, 2010's sinister wonder Rumfucker and 2013's increasingly abstract Summer In The Box Room [review]. The set opens with the gloomy, doomy dirge "Pride Of Canada," a side-long wink at Shaw's Canadian roots; the feedback and throbbing parts momentarily for a couplet from Shaw, resumes, then recedes for more sly lyrics and an unsteady denouement. "Good Arrows" patiently thrums a bass line out into eternity -- through occasional clouds of spectral voices and implied, supporting chords -- and echoes the work of classic Louisville post-rockers The For Carnation. Despite Guppy's ominous opening, there are moments of uncharacteristic serenity (the first in the catalogue to our memory) in the poignant, affecting "Fishing With Dad (No Dad)." The number asserts itself mildly via impulses of piano, pizzicato strings and streaks of field recordings that conjure reveries of a long-gone dawn in a perhaps never-was great outdoors. The collection ends very strongly with the beautiful, almost benevolent droner "Not Today, Satan," whose persistent density makes for a neat bookend to a fairly magical record. Tokyo-based microlabel Kirigirisu released Guppy July 13 in a limited edition of 72 compact discs and as a digital download; the CDs are hand-numbered, packaged in a paper sleeve, and come with two stickers, which we recall is the standard deal with Kirigirisu releases. Purchase Guppy in either format right here, and stream the entire collection via the Bandcamp embed below. We feel compelled to remind readers that Shaw's There's Always Hope, There's Always Cabernet, released by Audio Antihero, was our third favorite record of 2011 [list]. Also worthy of note in these electronic pages is another Kirigirisu release issued July 13, Nathan Derr's Abscessant. Mr. Derr hails from Portland, Ore., home of our beloved Lubec among, of course, many others, and his new collection of nine ambient compositions is perfect for late night zones or leisurely days at the library. Abscessent is available in a limited edition of 50 CDs and you can stream the entire set via the second embed below.





>> If you don't yet know the name Funeral Advantage, and you are a reader of this blog, well, that's pretty weird. But -- to the extent they exist now that the band has been championed in the normo-o-sphere -- the young band's days of relative anonymity are numbered and grow short, as the dazzling debut long-player Body Is Dead from the dream-pop act masterminded by Tyler Kershaw is poised to break big this summer. The collection is heralded by two terrifically appealing preview tracks, "Sisters" and "Gardensong." The former is a forthright and uptempo pop gem with whispered vocals and gently stuttering guitars in the verse that blends youth and longing right there with the lightning in the proverbial bottle; its timeless chorus breathes over linear guitar leads and burbling synths, and really could go on forever with nary a complaint from the Clicky Clicky mindhive. Despite its (Cure-esque) title, "Gardensong" is less precious, but no less affecting. The dashing tune is led by bright guitars and a sturdy drum track into a palpable mist of clean reverbs. Both numbers are undeniable hits, and at the moment there is no record we are more exited to hear this year. Body Is Dead was performed, written and recorded by Mr. Kershaw, and features additional vocals from Chelsea Figuerido. The 10-song set -- which takes its name from its 10-minute-long closer -- will be released on 12" vinyl, cassette and as a digital download Aug. 28. The vinyl will be available in a limited edition of 300 pieces (200 pressed to black media, 100 pressed to "dirt maroon") from the New York-based label Native Sound; a domestic cassette release (limited to 100 pieces, 80 "red glare" and 20 "darcia?") is being handled by Boston's own Disposable America, and a cassette version will also be available in Japan via Miles Apart. Funeral Advantage previously released a number of EPs and split singles with Caténine and Former Ghost, and completists will be pleased to learn that The Native Sound has packaged all of this up into special "Starter Packs" that can be ordered in tandem with Body Is Dead right here. For those who want to try before they buy, there is a fair amount to listen to at the act's Soundcloud page right here. Stream "Sisters" and "Gardensong" via the embeds below. Watch a fairly devastating video directed by Wooden Grain Films for "Sisters" from the new record right here.