February 24, 2013
Today's Hotness: Hallelujah The Hills, Au.Ra, Foxes In Fiction + Benoit Pioulard
>> We had hoped to have had these remarks about Hallelujah The Hills' tremendous new single prepared in time for our coverage of last weeks' The Unfolding Synchronistic Improbable event, but doing it this way will have to do. The Boston-area indie rock institution led by Ryan Walsh on Valentine's Day released "The Three Minute Mark" b/w "Meet Me In The Car," with the A-side streaming at the act's Bandcamp dojo, where we've listened to it repeatedly for days and days and days. The single is available on limited edition, hand-made CD for five American dollars, and we'd say the A-side alone is worth your Abraham Lincoln. "The Three Minute Mark" -- which actually eclipses that total by about a half-minute -- deftly builds from a tense and quiet initial verse that rises from a cyclical bass line and a single acoustic guitar chord into a shuffling chorus. That shuffle is emphasized by a nifty, tight echo on the snare; by the time that becomes apparent Mr. Walsh is erecting a house of cards from the repeated line "I'll need about three minutes to explain just how I feel for you now" and layered horns, and indeed by the three-minute mark the song is cooking. To paraphrase the famous cigarette jingle, there's a lot to like; stream the tune via the Bandcamp embed below and click through to get your paws on the limited edition, physical article. According to the band, neither "The Three Minute Mark" nor "Meet Me In The Car" will feature on the next Hallelujah The Hills full-length. Hallelujah The Hills' most recent long-player was its third, titled No One Knows What Will Happen Next. It was released last May and featured excellent tunes including "Call Off Your Horses," the awesome video for which you can watch right here. The band, now in its eighth year of rockulescence, tonight wraps a short strand of live dates with a performance at The Rock Shop in Brooklyn, although we can assure you that if you are just learning this now there's little chance you'll make it to the show in time. So there's that. Stream "The Three Minute Mark" below.
>> Remember our post last summer about Exeter, England-based Art Is Hard Records and their "Pizza Club" singles series? Well, that series wrapped up last year, but the clever label is back with another series for 2013. No, it's not more pizza boxes (alas). Instead, for one pound, lucky adherents receive an individualized, band-created postcard conveying a new digital single from the series every three weeks. The first installment, released ON DATE WHAT?, featured the bobbing dream-rock stunner "Morning" by Au.Ra. The Sydney, Australia-based band -- a two piece comprised of Tom Crandles and Tim Jenkins -- score with a slow-burning indie rocker built on a steadily enlarging pile of smooth and silky guitar loops. Previous singles from Au.Ra focused more on melodic electronic elements that echoed work by contemporaries Sun Glitters, or even Starslinger in terms of the instrumentation. But "Morning" evidences a more analog approach to Au.Ra's evolving soundscapes. After some delayed glide guitar in the opening, the band introduces a solid eighth-note bass line that recalls Kim Deal's influence. With this sensual rhythmic drive, the guitarist tastefully goes pedal-crazy on top with blasts of distortion, echoes that plop and fizz, clean strums, and circular melody lines that pile up into an extremely over-driven music box by the tune's close. The song shifts subtly throughout, the singer's vowel-heavy vocals sighing through verse and chorus. What makes the song so pleasing is its own forward groove and how everything within it shuffles. A cursory glance at the Art Is Hard roster should be enough to induce anyone to partake in the "Postcard Singles" club; a second single, from Manchester, England's Sorry, No, has already been revealed, but we’d venture it is still not too late to get in on the action. In a time of declining emphasis on the value of physical media within music, Art Is Hard (along with like-minded peers including, specifically, Alcopop!) deserves all the attention it can get, not just for its solutions to the conundrum facing the recorded music industry, but also for approaching the problem with impeccable taste. Order a "Morning" postcard here and stream the song via the Soundcloud embed below. -- Edward Charlton
>> Thanks to the work of stalwart wide-angle outlets like The Wire, local Boston outlet Anti-Gravity Bunny and even Tiny Mix Tapes, artists branded with unpopular identifiers such as "ambient," "experimental," and "drone" receive a not insignificant amount of attention in this here Internet age -- perhaps not on par with that of today or tomorrow’s Pitchfork darling, but certainly greater than non-pop-oriented-or-derived artists received in the era of paper-only publishing. Or so it seems. The jury is out as to whether the greater exposure has translated into more artists working in these areas of specialization, but a swelling tide of tonal recordings rises to the ears of interested, aware listeners these days. One recent effort from Warren Hildebrand, a/k/a Foxes In Fiction, and Thomas Meluch, known better by his nom de music Benoit Pioulard (who will soon release his latest album Hymnal on Kranky), has captured our attention. "Ground Glass" is the A-side of a forthcoming single the pair will release next week via Wool Recordings, and it suggests a drifting, scraping shell of half-remembered dream-pop in the best way. Opening with a distant synth patch and a scratchy sample of a woman's confusion, the song abruptly blasts into a swirling, directionless fuzz. Anchored by a reverberated strum and a gorgeous, deep-voiced vocal, "Ground Glass" modulates infrequently, but even so beckons listeners to get lost in the rich tones and a carefully concocted floating effect. The bold, churning motion of the distortion as it decays and collapses is another remarkable element that makes the piece so enjoyable. In sum, the number suggests to this writer what might result were Austinites She, Sir to take a stab at the drum-less, gothic work of the groundbreaking lovesliescrushing. "Ground Glass" b/w "Etalon" will be released Feb. 28; you can stream the A-side below and pre-order the vinyl here. Speaking of both Benoit Pioulard and Anti-Gravity Bunny, the latter recently celebrated its five year anniversary with a free digital comp featuring a cracking collection of droney stuff including an apparently exclusive jam from Benoit Pioulard; grab that comp right here. -- Edward Charlton