June 3, 2014

Today's Hotness: French Leisure, Dark Blue, Fury Things

French Leisure -- #2 (detail)

>> Following great bands pays dividends in a number of ways, and one of these is getting turned on, by association, to excellent record labels or other bands. Case in point is the French label Beko, which we first encountered sometime in the past year because of its releases by Mooncreatures and The Bilinda Butchers [zing! pow!]. Indeed, the label has been mining some serious quality recently, and thanks to the almighty push notifications of the indispensable Bandcamp we know that one of its latest releases is among its most thrilling to date. We speak of the single #2 from French indie rock trio French Leisure. Band principals Laurent, Elsa and Gaƫl previously played in the long-running and influential Parisian indie rock concern Acetate Zero, which split in 2011. The trio rotate instruments on the regular, apparently, and hail from various cities -- or have together moved around quite a bit -- as their brief bio notes the act is from "Paris, Nice, Brest, Montpellier, wherever... whatever." The A-side of #2 is the mid-tempo, crisp guitar-driven ballad "Curtains," which calls to mind the patient and melodic indie rock masterpieces of Bettie Serveert or Karl Hendricks Trio. The flip side is the peppy, seemingly Versus-inspired rocker "Inner Shark." It's no stretch to surmise that French Leisure derives a fair amount of influence from classic American indie rock: in a recent interview, the trio reports that its favorite albums include Pedro The Lion's Control, Bedhead's Transaction De Novo and the epochal What's Up Matador? comp from 1997. It is little surprise that French Leisure's first single was titled #1, but what is more surprising is that it was released by Beko only a month ago. Although the band bemoaned in the interview linked supra the slow pace at which they are able to complete material (or at least we think they do -- our command of the French language is abominable), it would seem they are working pretty rapidly to bring the rock music to the people. Beko released #2 May 28; both of its singles for French Leisure are download-only and are available for free, meaning there is really no reason for them to not be in your life. Don't be a dumbass.

>> There's a side of Philly that's never been kinder and gentler, that prides itself on never having been kinder and gentler. And although it is important to note that it is not its only side, perhaps nothing embodied that in the music scene of the City of Brotherly Love in the last decade more than provocative punks Clockcleaner. Confrontational, loved and loathed equally, the band -- which Wikipedia claims was named after a nasty batch of heroin -- nevertheless blazed a wide path over the course of a relatively prolific, six-year career that ended with mercurial fronter John Sharkey reportedly splitting for Australia unexpectedly in 2008. All of that feels long ago and far away, even more so now that Mr. Sharkey has returned with a thrilling new trio called Dark Blue, which appears to have sprung from the ashes of another project called Puerto Rico Flowers. Dark Blue is set to release via Jade Tree July 15 a terrific, sophomore single that is surprisingly reverent to certain postpunk sounds. The waste-of-breath shorthand we've seen on the band so far focuses on Sharkey's baritone and lazily compares it to that of Ian Curtis. But if we're going to make lazy comparisons, folks, let's at least come correct: Dark Blue sounds a hell of a lot like a tougher version of the excellent, Morrissey-approved but sadly defunct UK guitar pop combo The Boyfriends (ploing!), which released its only full-length in 2006. Dark Blue's Jade Tree single features the anthemic, midtempo basher "Just Another Night With The Boys" on the A-side, and a riveting cover of John Cale's "Hungry For Love" on the flip. Both tunes were recorded by Philadelphia's Jeff Zeigler, who seems to have touched every excellent sound recording that has come out of the city for the last few years; a full-length Dark Blue LP is planned, and we're hopeful that Mr. Zeigler's name will appear on the back of that one as well. You can stream both cuts from the single below; we highly recommend that you do. Pre-order "Just Another Night With The Boys" b/w "Hungry For Love" from Jade Tree as a 7" vinyl single or digital download right here. Dark Blue's debut single was issued by the Brooklyn-based label Katorga Works and it can be downloaded gratis right here.

>> Minneapolis-based fuzz-pop dynamos Fury Things have a gift for crafting big, glossy melodies (and also, apparently, covering Hole songs). On its new, three-song release simply titled 7", Fury Things make a dense and gloriously glossy racket. Shoegazy guitars on opener "Leave Winter Behind" shimmer and bend along the crest of a sturdy, tambourine-studded beat. The tune is equal parts sugar and crunch, and it gentle vocal harmonies -- which recall the cracking melodicism of Scottish indie heroes Teenage Fanclub -- work to accent the former. The tempo and energy level steadily increase across Fury Things' three tracks, such that closer "Follow" feels almost out of control, given its peppy pace. Despite the short set's title, we can find no information about a pending vinyl release of the three songs, which are all new. With hooks this sharp, a vinyl issue would certainly seem to be a solid idea, but presently the music is on offer only as a digital download. The aforementioned 7" is not Fury Things' first release: the threesome issued a demo EP in late 2012, and followed it up quickly with a second, self-recorded short stack several months later simply titled EP 2. We'll keep our eyes open for additional information about 7", but don't let the question of its availability keep you from its glorious bash 'n' dazzle: stream the entire deal via the Bandcamp embed below. Fury Things play St. Paul's Amsterdam Bar and Hall June 15 before heading across the border to Calgary for a few dates surrounding the 2014 Sled Island music festival.

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