May 10, 2013

Today's Hotness: Mahogany, Snowden, Teardrop Factory

Mahogany -- Phase Break (detail)

>> Like Tom Waits, art-pop concern Mahogany keep getting weirder while staying the same (to whit, Wikipedia describes the once-octet thusly: "an electric music-based multidisciplinary media ensemble currently working in Philadelphia, New York, Chicago, and other locations"). After only faint rumors and dead-ends in regards to the follow-up to their massive, brilliant and still misunderstood 2006 album Connectivity!, the band has finally released a new song. And it's a doozy, too. "Phase Break" is an eight-minute cycle of beats, choruses, and synths that incorporates elements of house music and disco into Mahogany's purposefully modernist, architectural dream-pop. As with "Leo Ryan (Our Pharoah's Slave)" by this blog's beloved Lilys, Mahogany synthesize myriad ideas and carefully constructed sounds into a full-blown mini-suite that plays as much as a mediation and art project regarding a beloved form as it does a coherent piece of music. That, however, is exactly what will likely please patient fans of the Mahogany cult; arguably anyone that fully understands where this band is coming from will appreciate the continued and pronounced proclivity for pop eccentricity. The group -- here just the duo of Jaclyn Slimm and founder Andrew Prinz -- fuses elements of Cocteau Twins bass-chord groove with every manner of analog drum patches, pristine cello work and Ms. Slimm's elegant vocals. At the two-minute mark, the song takes the first of many turns as a funk bass line enters; later, Mr. Prinz's familiar vocals announce the delightful "phase break" chorus. Additional playful twists ensue and exhaust in due course their saturated and crafty intentions, allowing "Phase Break" to meet the lofty expectations of fans who've been waiting on a sign from Mahogany. Incorporating elements of dance music will hopefully win Mahogany an even larger share of fans, although it is the complicated joys of its non-traditional compositions that should really wow admirers. We are eager to hear and see what magic the band conjures next. -- Edward Charlton

>> For many twenty-somethings, the post-punk and garage-rock renaissance in the early years of the new millennium served as an introduction to the wider world of indie music and its antecedents. Sure, those Interpol and Franz Ferdinand albums may have gotten less play once those early dorm parties were over and listeners found, say, PiL and This Heat, but one never forgets their first true loves. Another memorable band of the last decade for many was Atlanta's Snowden, fronted by Jordan Jeffares. The act hasn't released a new full length since 2006's potent debut Anti-Anti on Jade Tree. But come May 14 that all changes, when Serpents And Snakes releases No One In Control, the act's long-anticipated sophomore full-length. Much has changed in the musical landscape over the past seven years, but Snowden's vision remains pleasantly consistent. Indeed, the new collection is a fitting successor to Anti-Anti, and combines moody distorted synth and bass textures with spindly guitar riffs and clean, almost tribal drumming. While the grungy "Hiss" and new-wavey "The Beat Comes" keep the pace up like prior repertoire highlights "Anti-Anti" and "Kill The Power," much of No One In Control abides in a slower tempo that makes the band's dream pop all the dreamier. The synthetic 12-string acoustic atmosphere of "Anemone Arms" echoes '80s alt. acts like Crowded House or The Church; it's an unexpected but well-reasoned reach that works well for Snowden. The opening title track of the new collection even evokes the choral elements of a band like Ride, relying on singer Jordan Jeffares’ syrupy voice, which is glossy and tuneful throughout despite his monotone delivery. Snowden resoundingly delivers the goods on No One In Control, leading one to wonder why Jeffares waited seven years between long players (although, it should be noted there were EPs in 2007 and 2010). Regardless, like an old college friend, it's great to hear from him once again. Snowden embarks on a month-long U.S. tour May 30, and will play a Boston date at Great Scott June 26; full tour dates are posted right here. -- Edward Charlton

Stream all of No One In Control at Soundcloud right here.

>> England’s Faux Discx has been steadily inching up our list of 2013's record labels to watch, given that, as our executive editor so succinctly stated recentky, "it seems to be building a nice little universe of stuff." We first encountered the concern in 2012 when it issued Cold Pumas' excellent post-punk platter Persistent Malaise. On May 27 it will release Brighton, England lo-fi rockers Teardrop Factory's debut, the Topshop EP, in a limited edition of 300 vinyl 7" records. As with the other label signatories (including the brilliantly monikered Sauna Youth as well as Vision Fortune, among others), Teardrop Factory effortlessly combine messy, youthful energy with fully-realized songwriting and rich, analog (sounding) production. The band dares to keep their cards close, and so we're left with colorful intrigue and only one member's first name -- Andy. "Vanity Unfair," the preview track from the EP, is sadly not a cover of the classic single from The Ocean Blue. But it is nonetheless a brief, but gratifying, stormy two-chord rocker. Riding the groove, the singer (presumably Andy) offers a quick spoke-sung verse before his distaff counterpart steers the tune into a relaxed, brooding chorus. Distorted bass chug and reverbed drums (dig that massive wave of washed crash and ride cymbals), lend the tune the flavor of a frenzied live performance. The downcast energy recalls O.G. downer-pop Anglos like Eternal, Secret Shine or Jesus & Mary Chain. The production on "Vanity Unfair" touts a perfectly proportioned blend of hi-fi direction and the full-frequency onslaught of the best lo-fi (which, truly, makes us wish indie groups would ditch the fake "digi-studios" or completely lazy indifference and make stuff like this). The Topshop EP is another winner for Faux Discx, a label that is proving it knows where it's at when it comes to rich, analog guitar pop packaged with a little bit of mystery, a little brashness, and a whole lot of understated class. Pre-order here, and stream "Vanity Unfair" via the Bandcamp embed below. -- Edward Charlton

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