August 14, 2013
Today's Hotness: Black Hearted Brother, The Young Leaves, Ancient Babes
>> It's the sound of getting hit full on in the face by a massive, iridescent ocean wave. It's the kind of unbridled sound that Neil Halstead fans have been waiting to hear again since the 1990s, as his musical path in recent years has taken him to more spare, serene and folk-oriented places. It's the new song from Black Hearted Brother, "(I Don't Mean To) Wonder," a dizzying debut track from an ensemble that features not only former Slowdive and Mojave 3 fronter Halstead, but also former Seefeel member, Locust proprietor and Mojave 3 producer Mark Van Hoen and Nick Holton, who has helmed a project called Holton's Opulent Oog and produced Halstead's 2012 solo collection. The three-piece will release Oct. 22 a long-player via the legendary American indie Slumberland titled Stars Are Our Home, and if the murmured attack of "(I Don't Mean To) Wonder" is any indication, it will be an amazing collection. The song's foundation is a simple cycling guitar riff, drenched in reverb and shuddering under wavering tremelo, a riff that comes and goes and forms something of a chorus around a mumbled lyric that radiates with delay and winds itself up into the titular oath, promised again and again and again. Epic is not an overstatement, and, in fact, may be an understatement. Stream the song via the embed below. Slumberland as yet is not taking pre-orders for the full-length, which contains 12 songs, but there is an email sign-up at this page where fans can get on the list to get the information first. So get with that, once you've gotten your head back together. Black Hearted Brother is planning a U.S. tour.
>> Seeing The Young Leaves' relentlessly engaging and Husker Du-channeling live set in May left us incredibly eager to hear what the band would do next, and finally we've been gifted the hook-heavy title track to the Holliston, Mass.-based indie punk trio's forthcoming third LP Alive And Well. Attentive readers will recall the song "Alive And Well" is a fist-banging anthem that was released as a single in 2012, backed with the banger "The Love Song;" the b-side isn't in the track listing for the forthcoming LP, so you're going to want to track that single down, if you haven't already. Also, while we're on the subject, it's not clear to us whether or not the single version of "Alive And Well" from Bandcamp is a different recording than the LP version you can hear via the Soundcloud embed below, but they both rock serious face so you should spend the next several hours A/B-ing them and slam-dancing in your kitchen while your roommates are trying to sleep, because fuck those roommates, right, they need to loosen up and have some fun. Another fuzzed-up rocker from the full-length is available to stream via the YouTube; check out "Drowning Pool" right here. Alive And Well will be released by Baldy Longhair Records Oct. 1 on 12" vinyl and cassette and as a digital download. The vinyl LPs will be offered on media colored "sea blue with beer haze, swamp green with sea blue and bone splatter, swamp green with purple and bone splatter and black," according to an email. The cassette release will also include a six-song demo EP titled Pond, Puppy, Bench Boy Demos. The Young Leaves formed in 2006; in addition to a few singles the trio has also released the full-lengths Big Old Me (2007) and Life Underneath (2010). The Young Leaves open a sick bill Friday night at O'Brien's in Boston that also features I Hate Our Freedom, an act featuring former members of Texas Is The Reason and Thursday, so if you somehow recover from tomorrow night's Whirr / Nothing / Soccer Mom show, that's where you need to be. In the meantime, stream "Alive And Well" until someone in your house throws a punch.
>> Depending on where you are, or where you've been, for a while there it felt like summer had stalled out. But after some less than desirable weather phenomena -- at least proximal to Clicky Clicky's West Coast compound -- summer has reestablished itself, and, yes, we've got a song for that. Try on for size the awesomely titled and echo-laden slow jam "Malcolm X In The Middle" from Vancouver, Canada's Ancient Babes. The brief but cinematic tune establishes a cool, thoughtful electro foothold within a soft dream pop atmosphere. Amid the enveloping reverb on the snare hits and vocals, and tastefully simple guitar lines, reside elements of shoegaze, as well. Chillwave? Maybe. But the arpeggiated synth work and downcast groove evoke a worldly strain of au courant digital popsters -- think French artistes such as M83 (circa Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts) and College. Stepping back from the analysis, we also like that that band doesn't take things too seriously. Aside from the title of this song, there's also the following question at the band's Facebook outpost: "What were the babes like in ancient times?" Damn good question, damn good... The gentle, transporting march of "Malcolm X In The Middle" is well-suited for the delightfully lazy days we're all chasing, if not experiencing; stream or download the song via the embed below. Lastly, while it doesn't reveal much about the band personnel beyond the name Samuel, Ancient Babes' Facebook page does offer a very amusing list of band interests there that we think is worth a glance. -- Edward Charlton