July 15, 2014

Today's Hotness: Parakeet, The Shalfonts

Parakeet -- Pink Noise EP (detail)

>> Yuck's 2013 sophomore album Glow And Behold signaled the '90s revivalists would be fine, thank you very much, in the wake of the shock departure of founding fronter Daniel Blumberg. But well before that release Yuck bassist Mariko Doi was busy staking out her own place in the proverbial indie rock sun with her sparkling dream-pop project Parakeet, which we first wrote about here in April 2012. The band, a collaboration with The History Of Apple Pie drummer James Llewellyn Thomas, debuted with a single that month, and then issued the very enjoyable Shonen Hearts EP at the end of 2012, which we wrote about right here. After apparently devoting her time to Glow And Behold during 2013, Ms. Doi has returned in a big way with Parakeet's best slate of songs to date on a new EP titled Pink Noise. The short set, which was released June 26 via Marshall Teller Records, never lets up, offering quick, lush and snappy dreamers that accentuate Doi's clear pipes and guitarist Jon Jackson's compelling, delay-heavy moves. The expansive, colorful opener "Paper Town" echoes the reverberated heartache of the first Best Coast album, while also carrying in its chording and composition elements of Best Coast's second, more country-inflected set. Doi's singing is strong throughout, such that one might be tempted to argue that her voice has been sorely under-used in Yuck; she typically enters a verse more subtly and then goes for a full-throated falsetto in the chorus. This is best employed on "Running and Running," which contrasts brightly strummed acoustic guitars with thick drumming. The highlight of the four-song collection is "Pink Noise," a commanding title track offering fluorescent, neon flourishes and power-pop guitar leads, along with even more great acoustic strum. Buy the Pink Noise EP here. A full-length Parakeet release is contemplated for release in 2015, and we are expecting great things given the increasingly compelling music coming from the band. -- Edward Charlton

>> We were surprised to learn earlier this month that the dizzying constellation of Distophia-associated bands is slightly larger than we had previously thought. As it happens, Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam drummer Ralph Morton is also party to a long-running but heretofore-unknown-to-us act called The Shalfonts (you'll recall from our overlong explanation here that Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam includes former Distophia guy Pete Dixon). The Shalfonts are primarily a virtual band/recording project centered around the songwriting duo of Mr. Morton and Bryn Bowen, with as many as seven contributors based in either Birmingham, England or Bergen, Norway collaborating on tracks shared through the Internet. The group has crafted a steady stream of digital releases, including a couple full-lengths and various EPs and singles, and its most recent set Grant Mansions was released to the wilds of the Internerds earlier this month. The shambling new collection touts a number of solid, acoustic-led rockers that echo a particular early '90s, Sebadoh-adjacent freak-folk sound. Indeed, there is a strange vintage Western Mass. flavor across the entire set, despite the decades and thousands of miles betwixt. The highlight of Grant Mansions may well be the relatively up-tempo strummer "A Long Straight Cue," which materializes at the tail-end of the set. The song rises up over a clattering rhythm with a light, ascending melody sprung from layered acoustic guitars, and a burbling stream of lyrics bouys the song to its odd, but not-quite-jarring final exclamation: "my curls all fall out." Other notable tunes include the relatively tense and swirling preview single "Netman + Bird" and the patient, pastoral rumination "MudHeart." Grant Mansions was released as a compact disc or digital download by the awesomely monikered label Giant Manilow July 7; the CD is available in a limited edition of 100 with packaging designed by The Shalfonts' own Lloyd Bowen. Listen to the entire set via the Bandcamp embed below, and click through to purchase the CD or download.

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