October 18, 2012

Today's Hotness: Sun Airway, Johnny Foreigner, Occurrence

Sun Airway -- Soft Fall

>> Writing to the word count, man... it can result in a sort of thrilling verbal economy, but other times it forces you to leave out crucial stuff. And we feel like the latter was the case in our recent review for The Boston Phoenix of Sun Airway's bewitching electropop long-player Soft Fall. The record is the band's second, but to a certain extent we felt like we were introducing Phoenix readers to the band, so we went with the lede "One of the more remarkable evolutions in the contemporary musical underground may be Jon Barthmus's decade-long peregrination from hardcore punk to the ambitious electro-pop of Sun Airway." Due to the space constraints, we weren't able to back this up with our observation that the quantum evolution in Mr. Barthmus' composing and arranging springs from the period between the two records by The A-Sides, Barthmus' excellent pre-Sun Airway outfit, which existed between the hardcore outfit Go Time and his current lush and kaleidoscopic project. The first A-Sides record, the excellent Hello, Hello -- issued in 2005 -- offered impressive hooks and harmonies wrapped in jaunty mod clothing, but the songs were still lean and crisp. It was on the A-Sides' long-delayed follow-up Silver Storms where Barthmusi began to stretch and twist the boundaries of his songs. The single "Diamonds" contained a protracted crescendo underpinned by simple organ chords, a crescendo that gave way to pulsing horns and layered vocals. The deft and sweet string arrangements on Silver Storms' "Sinking With The Ship," appropriately the final song on the final album released by The A-Sides, is perhaps an even more obvious precursor to the beautiful electropop music of Sun Airway, a point we would have liked to have driven home for Phoenix readers. But alas. We highly recommend Soft Fall; read our entire Phoenix review here. The record's two singles are embedded below.

>> OHMAGERD NEW JOHNNY FOREIGNER TRACK! The Birmingham, England-based noise pop titans -- who will make their Boston debut early next month when they play our benefit show Nov. 7 [details! tickets!] -- leaked yesterday a tune from the band's forthcoming fifth EP, Names. The short set will be released Oct. 27, it contains four tracks, and it is being issued both by long-time UK label Alcopop! and by new American label Swerp, as we wrote here earlier this month. The leaked song is titled "3 Hearts" and it is a crushing rocker with scrappy production. Fronter Alexei Berrow's guitar finger-tapping ushers in a series of hook-strewn parts all vying to be a chorus, to such an extent that determining what is the chorus stops mattering. There's shout-along lyrics, there's a spoken-word break-down, the whole thing is just massive and sophisticated, and is perhaps as big a step forward for the band as the leap in craftsmanship made between Johnny Foreigner's first two singles and the devastating third single, "Our Bipolar Friends" b/w "The House Party Scene Is Killing Us," released way back in 2008. Stream and download "3 Hearts" via the embed below. Johnny Foreigner's biggest U.S. conquest to date commences Oct. 30, and you can review all of the tour dates right here. Massachusetts fans will have two chances to win, as the band plays Boston Nov. 7 and then the Sierra Grille in Northampton on Nov. 8. Awesometown.

>> Cambridge-based electronic music concern Occurrence this week issued its first music since expanding to a duo, the very compelling The Cotton Floppy EP. The set continues the band's recent turn away from psychodrama toward bigger beats and more sophisticated textures. But The Cotton Floppy also touts a new density that can be attributed to the recently conscripted Wayne S. Feldman, whose collection of found cassettes surely sourced a broad swathe of the collection's spoken-word samples. Perhaps also due to Feldman's influence, the music on The Cotton Floppy evokes a fresh sense of play, even fun, that stands in stark contrast to the early, emotionally charged Occurrence records. The EP's title track skates along an almost giddy, slightly flatulent groove, while "We Are Bicycle Death, Jan" patiently arranges crisp rhythm tracks, synth doodles and samples into a pleasant, carefree meandering. But the highlight of the EP is "Philip's Emotional Cards," a tune that blends the cool posture of Cold Cave with the decidedly less contemporary but pleasantly cheery ambient pop style of the now apparently defunct Darla Records act Sweet Trip. We've embedded the entirety of The Cotton Floppy below; we highly recommend you click through to download the whole thing for free.

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