August 21, 2013

Today's Hotness: Best Friends, Sapphire Mansions, Radstewart

Best Friends -- Happy Anniversary b/w Nosebleeds (detail)

>> Art Is Hard Records continues to command attention, not only for its fine curation and great taste, but also due to brave and unconventional packaging concepts. Perhaps it's because of their singular methods that we sometimes lose sight of the fact that they still function as a tried-and-true label with a steady supply of CDs, tapes and vinyl. Which, of course, brings us to their latest 7", a stunning double A-side for the manic Sheffield, England quartet Best Friends, due Sept. 23rd. One side of the disc, "Happy Anniversary," reveals the scrappy band wearing a bit more production polish that we've heard from them previously, as well as more mature subject matter (their earlier, surf punk-inspired numbers explored such multi-dimensional aspects of the human condition as "Surf Bitches" and "Dude Love"). While there's still plenty of thick, churning guitars, one can't help but notice the way "Happy Anniversary" unfolds – full of space and a crooned vocal. It evidences a band unwilling to adhere to one approach for too long. After its delicate intro, "Happy Anniversary" introduces a descending surf lead and fuzzy flange on the rhythm guitar that each add thoughtful and evocative texture to the band's brand of bash 'n' pop. Best Friends has consistently exhibited a steady hold on the mid-range of their productions, and this thankfully remains true here: the mix is thick and pleasant, the drums splash along, and the chorus follows the guitar line for a great melodic punch. The flip of the single is quick-paced strummer "Nosebleeds," which -- impossibly -- is even more catchy, melodic and direct than "Happy Anniversary." All of which has us wondering: is this the best single of the year? When all is said and done, it will certainly be a contender. Both sides of the cracking single are embedded for streaming below; judge for yourself. Pre-order "Happy Anniversary" b/w "Nosebleeds" -- which comes packaged with a comic drawn by Nai Harvest's Lew Currie, and the option of adding a t-shirt to the deal, as well -- from Art Is Hard right here. -- Edward Charlton

>> We recently noted the head of a certain terrific American indie label recommending to the attention of friends an act called Sapphire Mansions; the label is constantly putting out first-rate stuff, so we thought we'd best have a listen. Brooklyn-based pop upstarts Sapphire Mansions are preparing to self-release Oct. 23 a debut six-song EP (eight songs if you buy the cassette, or even more if you buy a CD-R) titled Over America. Despite its title, the short set's hazy but spare indie pop suggests the influence of decades-old U.K. and even Kiwi acts as much as it does bands closer to home like The Ocean Blue and The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart. Sapphire Mansions distinguishes itself via the unconventional application of mixing EQs and reverbs, something that makes the quartet's EP a compelling listen. Often the tracks feel at arm's length, squeezed and swirled, so that what would otherwise seem conventional production assumes a foreign quality via, for example, the mysterious, hissing treble in fronter Jay Hough's vocals, or the mechanistic whooshes surrounding drummer Josh Feldman's snare beats. The overall flavor is one of slight unease, giving Over America an intriguing tension, even a sense of danger, despite the sturdy pop skeleton underneath. The EP is refreshing and definitely worth pre-ordering, so that blasting it on the hi-fi can become a reality come late October. Be the first kid on your block to own one by pre-ordering it at Bandcamp; click through the embed below to find out how. -- Edward Charlton

>> This reviewer often takes a sharp turn in terms of rock music consumption once summer starts to inevitably wind down. Gone are the gleeful and blissed records that encouraged lazy afternoons. Instead -- as if in preparation for the cold -- the harsh, aggravated noise of detached garage singles and the cool, mechanical precision of post-punk suddenly seem the best aural accompaniment. Our good and perhaps telepathic friends at Alcopop! may be feeling the same way, based on its recent announcement that it has signed and will release an EP in October from the spectacular Cardiff, Wales-based slack-core foursome Radstewart. The year-old act -- part of the aforementioned Art Is Hard's constellation of acts, as well -- is just the kind of band the world needs right now. Mixing a sense of The Fall's humorous and wordy motorik antics, a pinch of the Velvet Underground's taste in chords, and the goofball chemistry of early Pavement (which, we suppose, also comes by way of The Fall), this young Cardiff unit has hit upon the perfect indie cocktail. The promotional single "Beer Swindlers" is a fuzzy, grinding bit of tongue-in-cheek noise-punk. The singer's deep but nasal speak-drawl imbues the recordings with an agreeable and easy character, not unlike that of popular American peers Parquet Courts (who have seen great success with their updated, millennial take on the roots of punk and DIY). "Beer Swindlers" can also be found on the group's superb self-released and about-to-sell-out three-song CD, the last five of which are on offer at the band's Bandcamp here. If that short disc (and this video for the sublime "Hot Dog") is any indication of what Alcopop! has in store for us, be ready for greatness; we advise keeping an eye on the Alcopop! store for the appearance of pre-order details. Radstewart have landed a plumb spot supporting Sky Larkin's fall U.K. tour, the dates of which one can inspect right here. Listen to "Beer Swindlers" via the embed below. -- Edward Charlton

No comments: