June 24, 2015

Show Us Yours #27: Mittenfields



We just recorded our mid-year review for CompCon with KoomDogg (here's part one), and we've been figuratively kicking ourselves because we failed to mention a terrific rock record from Washington, D.C. quintet Mittenfields. The band's long-player Optimists was released in late April and it has since become one of those go-to records for us, the kind of thing -- along with Beeef's tremendous Beeef EP, and Colleen's Captain Of None, and a couple others -- that we put on when we want to take a break for the hamster wheel of reviewing things and simply enjoy a listening experience. Optimists is big guitars and wall-to-wall hooks, and it is fraught with terrifically affecting, impassioned vocals the elongated vowels of which echo those of David Byrne. It's not really accurate to call Optimists an emo record, but the more we listen to it, the more appropriate the tag (meant to connote the modern, non-mallpunk sense of the term "emo") seems. But the thing that attracted us to Mittenfields' music is it can't really be pigeon-holed, and we especially love how it doesn't present overt "D.C.-ness." It's just a big rock record with tons of great melodies (driven home by the act's three-guitar attack), and is probably more like Built To Spill's Perfect From Now On than any release bearing the Dischord or DeSoto imprints. Pressed for additional RIYLs, we'd offer Dark Blue and The Boyfriends. But Optimists deserves to be met on its own terms, and we recommend heading directly to the album highlight "Telepathic Windows" -- and its heartbreaking, repeated assertion "you're never gonna get what you want" -- as a great introduction to the band.

Despite having just pushed out its full-length LP, Mittenfields has been around for seven years, its earliest germ springing from a Craigslist ad posted by bassist and singer Dave Mann. The lineup shifted for a couple years, but the act's three-guitar attack -- inspired by a particularly compelling Broken Social Scene show -- gelled around 2010, and now includes guitarists Sam Sherwood, Donald Seale and Michael Ball, as well as longtime drummer Brian Moran. After living with Optimists for several weeks we decided it was high time to get in touch with the band to learn more about how they do what they do and where they do it as part of our long, long suffering featurette Show Us Yours. All of the Mittenfields guys were super gracious with their time, so there's a lot of interesting stuff here, about gentrification, pie, and some upcoming tour dates. Oh, did we forget to mention that dudes practice in the back of a pie shop? Yeah, you read that right. Our advice? Click on the embed at the foot of the post, scroll back up here, and dig in.
Clicky Clicky: So why do you use this practice space? What makes a pie shop -- let me say that again for any readers who were like "wait, what?" -- a pie shop the best space for Mittenfields to practice in right now? This makes me wonder about the noise-dampening qualities of pie...

Sam Sherwood: One of the (many) side effects of the gentrification of so much of DC is that it's pretty tough to find a practice space at all: every commercial or industrial space in town is just waiting to become another small plates restaurant, and bands can't really compete with that rent-wise. And practicing in a house or apartment at the volume level we play at is a non-starter if you don't want your neighbors calling the cops every week.

Dangerously Delicious Pies has a solid rock and roll pedigree -- it was started in Baltimore over a decade ago by Rodney Henry, the frontman for the Glenmont Popes. They opened their first DC outpost a few years back on H Street NE (pretty much ground zero for the aforementioned gentrification), but the building was bigger than they really needed. Somebody had the excellent idea of putting up some soundproofing in the back rooms, setting up some PAs, and running the extra space as a full-time rehearsal studio. Pie Shop Studios pretty much checks all the boxes: good gear, plenty of nearby bars for pre/post-practice "band meetings", and sweet, sweet (or savory) pie.

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

SS: The space itself is pretty straightforward -- we wish we had a story about how some weird reverb property of the room inspired the backwards guitar effect on "Doctor! Doctor!" but that would be a lie (I think). Sonically, the most notable feature is the presence of Supreme Commander, who've practiced in the same time slot as us pretty much the whole time we've been there. This is a major bonus. First, they're excellent guys. But also, we can get pretty bogged down in the minutiae of arranging parts for three guitars. When that gets frustrating, it's nice to step outside the room and hear the roar of Supreme Commander down the hall, just kicking ass and not arguing about major 7th voicings.

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

Brian Moran: I do wish I could say delicious pies baking and just waiting to be eaten. Unfortunately, it's not quite so glamorous. The place is very well ventilated for a practice space, and the other bands are respectful, but sometimes you can't shake the smell of sweat from the walls. The load-in area is also in an alley, right next to some big dumpsters, so that smells don't make their way inside the space, [but] can still hang out for a while in your nostrils. But no pies. I think the baking is done in the morning anyways.

CC: I see you've got dates in Arlington, VA this month and next month -- and then a show somewhat randomly in Atlantic City, NJ in Aug. I think that is the first time I've heard of an indie rock show in Atlantic City. Have you played there before? Is there a scene there?

BM: My first show with Dave and Sam was actually in Atlantic City. I'm guessing at the very same venue that we're playing coming up. We had the name Mittenfields, but instead of Mike and Donald, we had a keyboardist and a trumpet player. It was a rather different time. But like many leads we get through Dave, I usually never get much of a grasp on how we gained this contact in Atlantic City. We're playing some sort of festival over there -- from what I understand, the guy runs two festivals a year or so. The shows aren't held in the champagne-of-beers casinos of Atlantic City, but in tiny little bars, just like everywhere else. From what I remember about the Atlantic City show 5 years ago, there was a strong sense of community. I think bands came from all over to play there, but everyone was real cool to each other. I imagine someone's gotta live and play music there though?

CC: We're a very big fan of Optimists here at the blog. The thing that I find curious about it is that there is nothing about it that very overtly screams "THIS IS A D.C. BAND!" While it is definitely noise-pop of a certain stripe, the music on Optimists doesn't betray a huge Dischord, DeSoto or Slumberland influence. Was that a conscious decision at some point, to not sound like "a D.C. band," and to sound more like, say, contemporary hitmakers Dark Blue or The Boyfriends or whatever?

Donald Seale: We didn't really set out to get away from or try to honor the classic DC sound. It's more that it isn't relevant to what we are doing. We all have a few points of musical intersection but we have fairly disparate tastes. We are more worried about the parts fitting together in a way that satisfies us than just following genre conventions. Genre is kind of nebulous anyway. We just want to make memorable music that will have an emotional impact and hopefully be of value to somebody. If we played a more traditional or regional kind of music then the indigenous styles would be more valuable reference points. I personally grew up on punk rock and have a soft spot for all of that stuff, but it was created by a bunch of pissed off kids almost thirty years ago. While we (or more accurately I) am still pissed off, we aren't kids who for some reason are adamant about not ever getting laid or having a drink or just giving it a fucking rest for a minute. That said, the DIY spirit is alive and well in the world of Mittenfields. We do just about everything in-house which allows us the luxury of doing things exactly how we want. In that sense there is a real influence. So I guess philosophically that spirit is alive and well even if isn't immediately, musically apparent. Although, there are still a few spots where banging out some barre chords at an absurdly fast speed speed is really the only viable option. If you listen you'll catch it. Also, I'm still just looking for an excuse to shove a Doc Marten up someone's ass. Maybe we need a more adversarial audience to bring out the punk rock spirit.

CC: We suppose it would be really fun here if your response to that last question was hurt disappointment, like, "Damn it, we were REALLY trying to sound like Nation Of Ulysses!"

DS: Sorry to disappoint you.

CC: So what does the rest of the year look like for Mittenfields?

Michael Ball: More shows, more music. We've got a few local dates lined up, and plan to head up to Atlantic City in early August for an indie rock festival. We are also putting together some dates in the south -- Raleigh, Atlanta, Oxford, MS, and Chattanooga -- in mid-September. Beyond that, there are a few other shows here and there we hope to pick up, but nothing firm just yet. We're already working on some new tunes and trying to keep the creative juices flowing. Don't want to go four years between releases again.
Optimists is available now in a limited edition of 300 vinyl LPs, as well as on CD or as a digital download, all of which one can avail one's self of right here at the Mittenfields Bandcamp. Stream the entire LP via the embed below. As noted above, Mittenfields have two pending live engagements, and details of those dates are noted below as well. Our thanks to all of the Mittenfields guys for playing along and making Show Us Yours 27 a pretty darn good one.

Mittenfields: Bandcamp | Facebook



07.11 -- IOTA Club -- Arlington, VA
08.08 -- The Boneyard -- Atlantic City, NJ

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

June 22, 2015

That Was The Show That Was: Viet Cong, Girl Band, Palehound | The Sinclair | 16 June

That Was The Show That Was: Viet Cong, Girl Band, Palehoud | The Sinclair | 16 June

[PHOTO: Dillon Riley] Attentive readers will recall that we were captivated by the initial offerings from then-shadowy Canadian collective Viet Cong. The buzzed-about foursome sprung from the ashes of brotherly outfit Women, but the music on its demo collection-turned-debut Cassette went to significantly darker places than those mapped by the erstwhile act. Exactly one more massive LP -- and, it should be noted, one less-massive tempest in a teapot -- later, and the band's proverbial stock has risen rapidly to a rarified place marked by high-profile festival slots and, if last Tuesday’s show in Cambridge, Mass. is any indication, packed and frantic club tours.

That rapid ascent does not mean the quartet hasn't put in the time. Indeed, Viet Cong has already logged an insane amount of miles on the road, and was in Boston less than a year ago. While the choice of ordering its live set in chronological release order might suggest tedious performance by rote to someone who didn't actually see last week's show, the band played as if free from any long-standing road weariness when it took to the improbably tall stage at the Sinclair in Harvard Square. There Viet Cong breathed vibrancy into tracks off the aforementioned Cassette and its thrilling, self-titled collection released in January. Early highlights "Throw It Away" and "Unconscious Melody" were as elastic and catchy as ever, even as the tunes remain somewhat defined by their influences.

But the set's most gratifying moments arrived when the band dipped into its most recent material. Viet Cong endeavors to bend accepted post-punk templates to its own idiosyncratic vision in the music of its self-titled long player, and the dense sonic world they created there gets stretched to its very limits when presented live. While tunes including "Bunker Buster" that could loosely be described as, well, loose were rendered as taut, danceable salvos at Sinclair, Viet Cong refused to be confined by its compositions. And so the krautrock-y keyboard lead intro to "March Of Progress" was extended into a marathon jam, and the already transcendent, 12-minute long "Death" sprawled into a nearly 20-minute, start-stop noise epic during which guitar strings were literally pulled from frets. This was decidedly NOT the sight and sound of a band bored with a relatively limited oeuvre, and we cannot wait to see what they do with the next batch of songs they tour into oblivion.

Hotly tipped Irish four-piece Girl Band provided touring support, delivering new tunes from a planned debut LP to be released this fall whose fury and creative anti-virtuosity matched the vibe of their singles and EPs. And Clicky Clicky faves Palehound opened with tunes off their now-officially forthcoming debut LP Dry Food, which is due Aug. 14 via hit factory Exploding In Sound. Viet Cong is out now via Jagjaguwar and it is available for purchase right here. Stream cuts from the record, as well as the new Palehound joint "Molly," below. -- Dillon Riley

Viet Cong: Bandcamp | Facebook

Girl Band: Bandcamp | Facebook | Internerds

Palehound: Bandcamp | Facebook



June 20, 2015

Today's Hotness: Treasures Of Mexico, Hisoft, Tadoma

The Treasures Of Mexico -- Holding Pattern(crop)

>> The folks at Shelflife Records can certainly pick a single, which are words we feel like we've written here before, but if that's true it only underscores that the label knows when it hears a hit. The most recent example is "Stars," the masterful and endlessly delightful preview track from the recently issued debut set Holding Pattern from The Treasures Of Mexico. The Chatham, England-based band is the songwriting vehicle of Mark Matthews, who is joined in The Treasures Of Mexico with his former The Dentists bandmate Bob Collins as well as drummer Russ Baxter (who, incidentally, also serves time detonating the cans for an act called Secret Affair). "Stars" is a Grade A guitar-pop gem with subtle vocal harmonies and tasteful synth support that will certainly strike a chord (ha) with fans of things excellent such as Teenage Fanclub's "Star Sign" (speaking of stars) or RIDE's "Taste." While the closing section of the song is all "yeah yeah yeahs" and bashes in an exhilarating way, The Treasures Of Mexico sound is perhaps not quite as aggressive and saturated as those aforementioned tunes, and all of the trio's Holding Pattern harkens, sonically, back to pre-grunge dynamics -- meaning the aggression never gets too aggressive, the distortions never completely white out the aural field. That more subdued dynamic is present across Holding Pattern -- even the uptempo, sugary rush of "Stars" is a bit of an outlier on the set -- but that allows the songs on the record to breathe in a very pleasing way that recalls The House Of Love or The Connells. Or, you know, The Dentists. The press materials from Shelflife indicate all of the former Dentists guys have new projects and collaborate in various combinations and to certain extents, so there is a lot of activity for fans to track. More germane to this conversation is the fact that a follow-up to Holding Pattern is already in the offing. For those unfamiliar, The Dentists were '80s greats responsible for such bangers as "Eyes" and the terrific LPs If All The Flies Were One Fly and Some People Are On The Pitch They Think It's All Over It Is Now. Holding Pattern was released by Shelflife June 2 as a digital download, which you can purchase right here.



>> We are compelled to recount the story of The Low Numbers and Hisoft on the rare occasion that there is a new (or sad) development, but those occasions have been exceedingly rare in the last decade, so let's re-cap. Back in the later '90s when we lived in Philadelphia, we were minding our own business one evening at a rock show at the then-relatively-new Balcony, which was and remains upstairs at The Trocadero. Opening or in the middle of a bill was a band that blew us away, a band that was having a perfect night, The Low Numbers, who had these incredible new wave-damaged, Tuetonic songs and a strong look. Information about the band was hard to come by, and then we moved away, and only through the magic of the Internets and a kind soul on MySpace were we able to eventually get our hands on some tracks and learn more about the band. Some of what we learned: members of The Low Numbers had a new combo called Hisoft, and that certain of these members had been in an iteration of our beloved Lilys in the early '00s, and then Hisoft released its awesome Amateur EP in 2006. And then... nothing. Nothing, that is, until now. A tip Thursday pointed us to the new Hisoft jam "State Police," which is embedded below, and which was posted to Soundcloud earlier this week. "State Police" carries all the trademarks of a great Hisoft jam: enticing melodies, smoothed-out vibes and fronter Gerhardt Koerner's even vocals. But the song is also a touch noisier and dense than the tunes on the band's aforementioned EP, with distorted guitar lurking deep in the mix, underneath waves of spiraling lead that undulate like light through water. We're very hopeful "State Police" is a harbinger of another release from Hisoft, as we think nine years is plenty long to wait between releases, yeah? We shall keep you apprised. Stream the new tune via the Soundcloud embed below and stream Amateur via Spotify right here.



>> Sticking with Philadelphia, we were very pleased to get a ping about a new collection of recordings from visionary electronic producer Joe Patitucci, who operates under the nomme de guerre Tadoma and also co-founded the next-level digital label Data Garden. It's been two years since we last heard from Tadoma, but out of the blue Tuesday Bandcamp hipped us to the existence of a new set titled Journeys Through Time. The four-song, 30-ish minute collection is comprised of songs improvised and recorded live in August 2012 at Philadelphia's scene-making Johnny Brenda's venue. According to Mr. Patitucci, the live performance was inspired by a meditation tape titled Journeys Through Time that he received from his Data Garden co-founder -- and former Diagram bandmate -- Alex Tyson. "All tracks were performed on-the-fly, without pre-programmed sequences or beats." The music is engrossing, blending thick and airy synth tones, spare beats, found audio, and analog and digital delays into a compelling soundworld that begins and ends much more quickly than the half-hour run time would have you believe. Fans of the popular Boards Of Canada records will find a lot to like here, but frankly we are equally impressed by the fact that the music was improvised as we are with the music itself. Journeys Through Time is available as a paywhutchyalike download from Bandcamp right here. Tadoma's prior release, unleashed in 2013, was the terrific demos collection Nascent Zones, which remains available at Bandcamp and which we wrote about right here. Stream all of Journeys Through Time via the embed below.



June 14, 2015

Today's Hotness: Katie Dey, Yr Friends, Ultimate Painting

Katie Dey -- asdfasdf

>> What is this thing, this beautiful and singular thing that is weird like The Phenomenological Boys but twinkles and creaks and bleeps like Rounds-era Four Tet? It's the new (and perhaps debut?) full-length from Melbourne, Australia producer Katie Dey, that's what, and its curious, dizzying blend of electronic and acoustic sounds makes for remarkably rich and textural compositions. The inspired seven-song collection, titled asdfasdf, was released by Brooklyn's Orchid Tapes June 11 as a cassette and (paywhutchyalike) digital download. Opener "Don't Be Scared" comes on like the old J Mascis rarity "A Little Ethnic Song," but spectral, high pseudo vocals, slippery tones and disjointed rhythms assemble and dissemble across the stereo field and take the song to unexpected places quickly. The biggest hooks on the set come in the relatively (relatively) conventional uptempo waltzer "Unkillable," an 80-second burst of pure sunshine. "H o e" is denser and ups the guitar quotient, but instead of seeming yet more conventional, the track underscores the amazing breadth of sounds, structures and styles Ms. Dey employs on her truly remarkable collection. The first pressing of 140 pale green cassettes already sold out in basically a day and a second (color: violet) is already on offer from the label for USD $7.50 right here. The cassettes come packaged with a stamped tea bag, guava candy, a sticker, and a handwritten thank you note, so the choice for the discerning listener here is obvious (assuming you have access to a working tape deck). Orchid Tapes has also released music from other hitmakers of the day including Alex G and The Bilinda Butchers. Stream all of asdfasdf via the Bandcamp embed below; it was originally self-released April 28.



>> We've been remiss in pointing out that there is a terrific new Yr Friends EP out in the wilds. Indeed, the five-song set was issued last month and is titled Over You, and it presents another serving of the decidedly subdued jams that songwriter Alexei Berrow -- best known as the fronter of Birmingham, England indie goliaths Johnny Foreigner, don’t ya know -- typically reserves for his solo releases. Over You opens with two delicate and downcast ruminations, "Cities Without Libraries" and "Tom Doesn't Work Here Anymore," which draw listeners in with their pretty melodies, strong vibes, and Mr. Berrow's earnest, relatable verbal portraiture. "Five More Years" marks a turn outward, as Berrow takes a chance to tastefully condemn the recent re-election of the Tory government in the U.K. The tune has a similar feel to the classic Johnny Foreigner b-side "For The Chains." The highlight of Over You is the actually quite funny "New Placebo Is Shit." It is tenderly sung, despite the humorous skewering of said new Placebo, and the overall sentiment feels akin to that of Nosferatu D2's peerless ode to disappointment in one's favorite bands, "A Footnote." Over You is available as a digital download via the Yr Friends Bandcamp right here, and you can stream the entire thing via the embed below. Yr Friends recently pieced together a short strand of rare live dates, more or less to support the release of Over You, but the dates have run their course and there is no telling when the project will pop back in to focus. Fortunately, Berrow has other fish to fry: Johnny Foreigner have been practicing and playing shows, and there was some social media chatter earlier in the spring about the progress being made on the forthcoming, fifth Johnny Foreigner LP. The quartet's triumphant prior set, You Can Do Better [review], was released in March 2014 in the UK and into the domestic market via Lame-O Records later that same year. There was never a proper U.S. tour despite the Lame-O issue, so here's hoping Johnny Foreigner will return to America before too long... perhaps go on tour with The Weaks, do something like that... that'd be awesome, right?



>> We're big fans of Ultimate Painting, the fruitful collaboration of Veronica Falls' James Hoare and Jack Cooper of Mazes that issued a studied and cool self-titled debut long-player last year. Covering the rollout of singles from that release in these electronic pages was a pleasure, as each new tune felt like a rediscovered slice of AM radio gold. We're pleased to report here that only six months after that first outing, the London duo has announced a new LP and propounded a great new teaser track to boot. "Break The Chain" is the first track from Green Lanes, the aforementioned follow-up LP due Aug. 7th via Trouble In Mind, which also released Ultimate Painting. The LP takes its title from the neighborhood where Mr. Hoare has a home studio, which is where the set was recorded to one-inch tape; Mazes drummer Neil Robinson plied his rhythmic trade on the recordings. As with everything the band has released to date, the tune is a warm, analog pop dream: clean guitars calmly strum along to a loping drum cadence complemented by sweet, everyman vocals within a precise, mid-heavy mix. Ultimate Painting notably breaks from traditional verse-chorus architecture after the first minute-and-a-half of sweetheart guitars, halting the song to spotlight a piano that beefs up the tune's tender, "Penny Lane"-esque groove. Perhaps acknowledging the song's increased strength due to the addition of the piano, the band sticks to a series of refrains about "chain smoke breaks," suggesting the lyrics concern addiction, although gentle concessions elsewhere alert the listener to the fact that Ultimate Painting would accept them regardless. As yet, pre-orders are not being taken for Green Lanes, but keep an eye on this page at the band's digital storefront for the inevitable availability. Ultimate Painting return to the Boston area Sept 19, when it will play an 18+ show at Cambridge, Mass. Middle East Rock Club's upstairs room. Full event details, such as they are this far out, are available here. Stream "Break The Chain" via the Soundcloud embed below. -- Edward Charlton

June 11, 2015

That Was The Show That Was: Eternal Summers | Great Scott | 2 June

That Was The Show That Was: Eternal Summers | Great Scott | 2 June

[PHOTO: Dillon Riley] Eternal Summers boast a bright, airy sound that's familiar yet distinct, but they are particularly beguiling live, so the fact that the Roanoke, VA-based dream-pop trio played an expanded set last week at Boston's Great Scott rock club was a welcome surprise. The set -- actually more like a set-and-a-break-and-then-a-half-set -- drew heavily from the band's recently issued collection Gold And Stone, the fourth Eternal Summers platter issued by indie mainstay Kanine Records (which has also brought you now-sounds from luminaries Grooms, Pinact and Young Prisms, among others). The Great Scott gig served as a sort-of release party for the new record, as it was issued that very day, and unsurprisingly the evening's program leaned heavily on the crystalline yet urgent material from Gold And Stone.

Eternal Summers' shimmery, reverbed songs hint at some sort of sublimated, inner darkness, but the band seems to uncoil live, and the effect on the already-affecting music is revelatory, as emotions captured in the songwriting are pushed to the fore. Fronter and guitarist Nicole Yun wields a truly underrated voice, one comfortable corralling songs in with lilting coos, but also capable of commanding shouts, too. The trio's sound is led by Ms. Yun's big, clean guitars, but its secret weapon may very well be the adventurous work of drummer Daniel Cundiff. With a playing style that struck us as akin to a slightly reeled-in Jayson Gerycz from Cloud Nothings, Mr. Cundiff often snuck quick floor tom hits between his snare beats. The band routinely bested the recorded renditions of its songs on stage, especially in the case of many of the still-fresh new numbers.

Kanine released Gold And Stone June 2, and one may acquire the collection as an LP, CD or digital download directly from the label right here. Stream the romantic rocker "Together Or Alone" at Soundcloud right here, and the title track to Gold And Stone via the embed below; a video for "Gold And Stone" was unveiled last week and can be seen here. Eternal Summers' current tour wraps June 19 in Harrisonburg, VA, but the band is on the road for much of the (we suppose not-quite-eternal) summer, and all currently scheduled live engagements are listed at the threesome's web dojo right here. -- Dillon Riley

Eternal Summers: Bandcamp | Facebook | Interzizzles



June 9, 2015

Premiere: School Shoes' Alluring Summer Tape 2015

Premiere: School Shoes' Sunny Summer Tape 2015

We are very pleased to premiere today two new tunes from Boston dream-pop concern School Shoes, a collective centered around the songwriting of Ty Ueda. Attentive readers will recall School Shoes made a mighty splash with its beautiful and 'gazey strummer "Cults" back in late 2013, which we wrote about right here. The act -- which in its live manifestation can include TJ Fredia, Brian Nogueira, Lina Tullgren, Zane McDaniel and Adam Taylor Young -- is intently focused on the "quality" side of the old quality vs. quantity duality, as besides "Cults," its thrilling b-side "Dress," and a darker, grittier demo titled "Animal Sex" released in Sept. 2014, there has been no new music to satisfy the yen of fans. That all changes today, as Mr. Ueda -- freshly back from a semester in Central Europe -- is self-releasing Summer Tape 2015, which touts two tunes, the new guitar-pop gem "Jerry," and an alternate version of the aforementioned 2013 A-side titled "Cults (Demo Take 2)."

Both songs were recorded by Ueda: "Cults" last winter on a reel-to-reel machine in Boston's Jamaica Plain neighborhood, and "Jerry" more recently, partially in JP but primarily in the Czech Republic. Commencing with slap-suck hi-hat and delicious snare cracks, "Jerry" features the act's quickest tempo and most forthright attack to date. However, as the song blossoms within waist-deep reverb, Ueda's echoing murmur and clean, picked guitar notes signal that School Shoes has not dramatically changed up its reliable dream-pop recipe. The choice to revisit "Cults" is interesting, as the previous version feels about perfect, weightless yet urgent. But Ueda cops to a bit of a perfectionist bent, which we expect is one reason for the band's limited output to date, and also perhaps a reason why he wanted to present a different perspective on a tremendous song. Summer Tape 2015 -- as was "Animal Sex" -- is billed as demos for a forthcoming full length release, and the collective is said to be at work this very month on the long-planned LP. Stream "Jerry" b/w "Cults (Demo Take 2)" via the Soundcloud embed below, and click through this link to purchase your very own tangible copy on cassette tape (cassettes will ship on or before July 1, and will also be available at shows). With Ueda back from his travels, we expect Boston fans will begin seeing School Shoes popping up on local bills, so vigilantly traffic the various listed social media outlets.

School Shoes: Bandcamp | Facebook | Soundcloud | Tumblahhhhh



June 8, 2015

Review: O-Face | Mint

There can be an auspicious power inherent in bands comprised of longtime friends (not to mention siblings, although there are the obvious, constantly warring exceptions). When two or more band members have known each other for years, the energies from that bond can trickle through the sound in singular ways. Which certainly seems to be the case with Annandale-On-Hudson, New York’s O-FACE, an act whose guitarist/vocalists Seth Sobottka and Preston Ossman grew up together in Washington before heading to Bard College and expanding their extant bedroom pop project into a full-on rock band. The pair became a quintet, and its new five-song EP Mint is so chock full of ideas, personality and idiosyncratic humor that it really is deserving of its own stylistic descriptor; the group humbly offer the not-quite-big-enough-sounding "G-folk." Presenting with a live, house-show feel, thoughtful guitar histrionics of the sort propounded by erstwhile Philadelphia greats Algernon Cadwallader (notably, Algernon's Joe Reinhart produces this short set), quirky lo-fi synth flourishes, unapologetic and unabashed pop harmonies and rave-ups, O-FACE manage to cram an album's worth of ideas into this short, sweet set.

Opener and highlight "740 Turbo" is bookended with delicate and mesmerizing guitar passages; at the fore are urgent vocals asserting that the singer's car is "a luxury station wagon," inciting listeners to "take the wheel!" The desperate, dual vocals -- which play against the somewhat comical lines of the chorus -- bring into focus the humor and unique logic of O-FACE (the tune, incidentally, is sonically quite similar to the work of Portland, Maine greats Endless Jags -- Ed.), and drives the tune to a electrifying crescendo and hard stop. Despite their tongue-in-cheek nature, the ruminations on the adventurous potential of a Volvo scan as critically important in the context of the youthful moment being memorialized. "When You Assume..." flips the script, beginning as a breezy, straightforward waltz set against quick, dramatic synth-string breakdowns and "doot doot" backing vocals -- it's reminiscent of the too-often-overlooked The Ocean Blue, and with different production it could have been released on Sire in 1988. The bright, wiry guitars of lead single "Yolanda" makes perhaps the strongest case for the band's Algernon fandom -- the song effectively cycles between busy, post-hardcore hammer-ons and a palm-muted, Police-style verse and touts a flowing, nearly tropical melody. A sturdy, shouted outro and lovely guitar architecture (guitarchitecture?) in the bridge recall the opening of "740 Turbo." Closer "Torres" surprises by dropping vocals entirely and instead pursuing a neat, tidy post-rock instrumental. Here props must be given to secret-weapon Dash Flach (what a name!) on synth, who manages to create standout chording and figures that never have to fight for space with the dual guitars.

Mint is being released just as the band is graduating from Bard (the name references the color of their university squat and practice space). But more importantly it evinces a dynamic friend unit with a hyperactive wealth of ideas in which to explore and inhabit moving forward. Like the most academically prepared adults, the five never lose focus or themselves during this experimentation, and that's what makes the EP such a promising and exciting collection. Mint was issued last week as co-release of Father/Daughter Records and Miscreant Records, and it can be procured via either enterprises' Bandcamp on cassette or as a digital download here or here. O-FACE previously released an LP, Taste, in September 2014, and another EP, Shrug Life, in late 2012. Both of those older sets are available via O-FACE's Bandcamp right here. O-FACE head out on a long summer tour Saturday with labelmates Pupppy, and all of the dates are posted below the embed. The band plays O'Brien's in Allston Rock City July 24, and that will surely be a hot rock and roll show. -- Edward Charlton

O-Face: Bandcamp | Facebook



06.13 -- Brooklyn, NY -- Palisades (Miscreant Records Northside Showcase)
06.14 -- Philadelphia, PA -- TBA
06.15 -- Washington, DC -- Above The Bayou
06.16 -- Richmond, VA -- Gallery 5
06.17 -- Columbia, SC -- Foxfield Bar and Grille
06.18 -- Atlanta, GA -- The Mammal Gallery
06.20 -- Nashville, TN -- Exponent Manor
06.21 -- Birmingham, AL -- The Hive
06.22 -- New Orleans, LA -- House Show
06.23 -- Houston, TX -- TBA
06.24 -- Austin, TX -- Beerland
06.25 -- Austin, TX -- Trailer Space
06.28 -- Phoenix, AZ -- The Trunk Space
06.29 -- San Diego, CA -- Soda Bar
07.01 -- San Francisco, CA -- The Knockout
07.03 -- Portland, OR -- Analog Cafe & Theater
07.04 -- Seattle, WA -- Werewolf Vacation
07.05 -- Bellingham, WA -- MAKE.SHIFT
07.06 -- Whidbey Island, WA -- Whidbey Children's Theater
07.08 -- Olympia, WA -- Deadbeat Olympia
07.09 -- Spokane, WA -- Checkerboard Bar
07.10 -- Missoula, MT -- The Real Lounge
07.11 -- Salt Lake City, UT -- Dawg Pound Tavern
07.12 -- Denver, CO -- TBA
07.13 -- Omaha, NE -- Lookout Lounge
07.14 -- Des Moines, IA -- Des Moines Social Club
07.15 -- Minneapolis, MN -- Kitty Kat Club
07.17 -- Chicago, IL -- TBA
07.18 -- Lansing, MI -- The Avenue/The Green House
07.19 -- Athens, OH -- The Creampuff
07.20 -- Oberlin, OH -- Seed House
07.21 -- Pittsburgh, PA -- Bates Hardcore Gym
07.22 -- Philadelphia, PA -- TBA
07.23 -- West Haven, CT -- Crunch House
07.24 -- Boston, MA -- O'Brien's Pub
07.26 -- Brooklyn, NY -- Silent Barn