>> Vanyaland Friday afternoon posted our review of this summer's "it" record, Speedy Ortiz's terrific debut long-player Major Arcana. In the piece we bemoaned the lack of critical engagement with Speedy's music, and specifically the crush of lazy writing that reduced discussion of the Western Mass.-based quartet's many talents to formulaic comparisons to classic '90s bands. Are those comparisons valid, or useful? Sure, sometimes they are. But we felt that they were the only story being told, and that writers -- we're guessing the young ones that weren't a witness to the amazing sounds of the early '90s in the first place -- were spending more time coming up with purported referents than they were actually describing what Speedy Ortiz does when it picks up its instruments. One angle we ultimately cut from the piece was -- and this is pure conjecture -- how such reductive thinking about the Northampton quartet was potentially a big disappointment to Speedy fronter Sadie Dupuis. It's no secret that she spends a good portion of her non-rock band time in a creative writing MFA program, and our undergraduate experience allows us to assume with a high degree of confidence that Ms. Dupuis therefore probably spends a lot of her academic time analyzing and interpreting creative works. In that context, we'd expect it'd be a pretty big bummer to have something to which one devotes a large amount of creative energy given what appears to be minimal mental consideration. We dunno, maybe Dupuis' attitude is it's only rock 'n' roll, yadda yadda. We'll ask her about it sometime. In the meantime, head over to Vanyaland to read our review of Major Arcana. It's a tremendous indie rock record, and one that is going to stick with people for a very long time. Major Arcana has been streaming at NPR's First Listen for the past week, but that stream will go dark in the next few days, so instead check out the three singles from the record via the Soundcloud embeds below.
>> We made a brief reference to this at our Facebook page Tuesday, but we want to circle back around to the terrific digital single issued this week by upstart Boston dream-pop foursome Winter. The act, fronted by Samira Winter and featuring also Nolan Eley and Kyle Oppenheimer from local shoegaze heroes Infinity Girl and Ana Karina DaCosta from power-pop leading lights Slowdim, haven't released new music since its late 2012 entry, the Daydreaming EP, which we wrote about here in January. There is an immediately perceptible difference to the new Winter single, which is titled "The View." Namely, it sounds as if the lead vocal -- while it is obscured under the band's characteristic sonic gauze -- is largely being handled by Mr. Eley. Ms. Winter is also credited, and listeners can find her voice tucked into one of the many layers of sound within Eley's production. "The View" is held aloft by a clean, twinkling lead guitar melody, which serves as clothespins to fix in place billowing layers of processed guitar, cello and violin and Mr. Oppenheimer's bass work. Somewhere in all of the silky proceedings you will hear the suggestion -- just the faintest suggestion -- of the "James Bond" theme, making the soft-focus jam just slightly mysterious. It's a grand single, and we're hopeful the band is already writing for another larger set of songs (at the same time, we're also hoping Infinity Girl is looking toward the return of drummer Sebastian Modek, who has been out of the country since the beginning of the year). Winter released its first video, for Daydreaming's "Bedroom Philosophies," in May, and at that time expected to be making a return to local stages sometime this month. According to the band's tumblr, its next local gig is actually not until early Autumn, when it will perform at the Allston Street Fair. However, we'll keep an eye out for additional dates. In the meantime, stream "The View" via the embed below, and click through for the download.
>> We were sorry to hear about the dissolution of local slow-core luminaries Travels, who we've followed pretty closely here at the blog. In the wake of the break we've enjoyed the few tunes we've heard from Mona Elliot, and we see now that they have been gathered together along with a fourth and packaged as the River Song EP, which we highly recommend to your attention. However, it wasn't until early this week that we had heard anything new from the other principal member of Travels, Anar Badalov. Mr. Badalov -- who our most devoted readers will recall first came across our radar in 2006 when he was performing as part of the Baltimore duo Metal Hearts -- now has a solo project called New Dog. New Dog is preparing to release a full-length later this year tentatively titled Lost Weekend, and there are already a few demos available to stream on the Internerds. "Smoking In The Living Room" weaves finger-picked guitar, a simple metronomic beat and tinkling piano into a soft tapestry of sounds that dissipates as quickly as it takes shape. "Slow Drifting" bounces around a pokey rhythm with a playing style more attuned to acoustic blues before coalescing around some big melodic chords in the song's final minute. The three tunes together evidence that Badalov still possesses great facility in building music centered around an entrancing, meditative core, and we look forward to hearing Lost Weekend in its entirety. Stream the demos via the Bandcamp embed below.