March 5, 2015

Today's Hotness: Nic Hessler, Swervedriver, Shores

>> Brooklyn label Captured Tracks is known for a stable of artists that methodically appropriate the sounds of a certain era and imbue them with modern sensibilities. Until this point, the analogue in question has predominately been late-'80s British alternative rock, a proclivity apparent in the watery shimmer of notable CT bands including Wild Nothing, Blouse, Beach Fossils and DIIV. We're now five years on from those acts' first releases, and it seems that Captured Tracks' aesthetic center has moved commensurately forward in time as well. Enter recent signatory Nic Hessler, a solo artist whose upcoming album Soft Connections streets March 17. Mr. Hessler actually first signed with the label as a teenager in 2009 under the name Catwalk, but he was apparently waylaid by illness not long after and was less active until more recently. Nevertheless, the spirit of mid-'90s power-pop looms large in Hessler’s bright and light preview single "Hearts, Repeating." The tune opens with crisp acoustic guitar chased by a meandering 12-string lead, conjuring a sound the echoes backdated major label pop perfectionists such as Del Amitri and Matthew Sweet. A second preview track, "I Feel Again," boasts an even bigger, '90s modern rock radio sound. The dry, up-front presentation even recalls production work of the period, Butch Vig-inspired studio practices that many of the aforementioned acts gravitated toward. Hessler applies a wistfulness and dreamy style to both tunes that makes them of a piece with the work of his Captured Tracks peers, so the label's stamp of quality persists. It is interesting to observe that the indie world now includes a generation of artists as removed from -- yet inspired by -- the early to mid-'90s as the groups that ushered in the post-punk revival roughly a decade ago were removed from the sounds that turned them on. We eagerly await the "post-punk revival revival" if it means we'll hear more songs as considered and well-constructed as "Hearts, Repeating" and "I Feel Again." Pre-order Soft Connections on CD, LP and cassette right here. -- Edward Charlton

>> Man, remember a month ago? February 4, 2015 will go down as the day that this reviewer finally decided to appreciate at least certain aspects of rock band reunions. Maybe it's the history degree on the wall, or maybe it's just having seen too many legacy-blighting cash-ins (*cough*Pixies*cough*) to think such enterprises ever do justice to the original, youthful identity of the project. But, back to Feb. 4th. Diehard shoegaze enthusiasts and readers of this blog might remember that day as when Swervedriver's "Autodidact," the second single from the resuscitated act's comeback effort I Wasn't Born To Lose You, first hit the Interwebs. The ultimate take-away from that fateful Wednesday was this: we may age, but Swervedriver do not. Or at least they seem to have not -- changing hairstyles aside. The song (along with previous single "Setting Sun") sounds as if it could be from the Mezcal Head sessions of 1993, which were overseen by legendary producer Alan Moulder. And that, dear reader, is a very good thing. Opening with a nifty, two-chord riff that switches from a major to minor key, "Autodidact" is strong evidence the band has lost not one iota of its expertise with layering guitars and initiating dazzling guitar interplay. The tune launches a couple of serene verses before shifting into a separate instrumental groove, coupling a steady beat with synthetic feedback squalling effects that build and build before the opening riff returns and births the song anew. Structurally, it is not far removed from "Duel," arguably the band's biggest hit from the first run. But rather than reiterating any previous glory, "Autodidact" feels like a natural addition to the Swervedriver's laudable canon, despite the band's 17-year pause. And that's the best part of "Autodidact" -- it's what fans wanted. There is no watered-down, over-polished production, they haven’t lost the excitement with their youthful noise, and Adam Franklin's vocals still sound as assured, crisp and American-drag-racer cool as they did in those earlier, dreadlocked days. They simply don't mess with the formula, perhaps mindful of exactly what earned them their fans and wise enough to be unafraid to stare it head on. I Wasn’t Born To Lose You was released this week via Cobraside Distribution, and you should purchase a copy right here. The band is out on tour in the U.S. of A. now and we've pasted all the remaining dates below; Swervedriver launch an 11-date tour of the UK in May, if it ever comes. Stream "Autodidact" and "Setting Sun" via the embeds below. -- Edward Charlton

03.06 -- San Francisco, CA -- Great American Music Hall
03.08 -- Seattle, WA -- Neumo's Crystal Ball
03.09 -- Portland, OR -- Doug Fir Lounge
03.12 -- St. Paul, MN -- Turf Club
03.13 -- Madison, WI -- High Noon Saloon
03.14 -- Chicago, IL -- TBA
03.15 -- Grand Rapids, MI -- Pyramid Scheme
03.16 -- Cincinnati, OH -- The Woodward Theater
03.17 -- St. Louis, MO -- The Duck Room @ Blueberry
03.19 -- Dallas, TX -- Club Dada
03.20-21 -- Austin, TX -- SXSW
03.23 -- Atlanta, GA -- Terminal West
03.24 -- Durham, NC -- Motorco
03.25 -- Washington, DC -- Rock & Roll Hotel
03.27 -- Brooklyn, NY -- Music Hall of Williamsburg
03.28 -- Cambridge, MA -- The Sinclair
03.29 -- Philadelphia, PA -- Union Transfer

>> We last caught up with Michigan-based slowcore stalwarts Shores (a what is now shocking to us five years ago) in 2010, when the prolific act's debut Coup De Grace surprised us by coming out on the punk-inclined and entirely legendary Florida label No Idea. It was a captivating thought at the time, as it suggested a universe where Shores' Red House Painters-styled introspection and sparse post-rock moves might coexist with hardcore. Fast-forward five years and multiple albums, EPs and singles, and we now hear Precedents, the slowcore shredders' sorta-new (it was recorded in 2012) self-released set. Featuring seven songs, with the majority over the six minute mark, the album recalls the best moments from bands like Codeine and the aforementioned Painters, but with a little more of a masculine element at times in the steadier, slow-burning squalls. The collection is highlighted by the steadily simmering "Angola," which crests wave upon wave of crash cymbal as a steady undertow of feedback grips at fronter Brian Przybylski's icy, subdued vocals. A video was created for the opening track "Litany," which features some beautiful scenery intercut with a bunch of shots of bearded dudes smokin'. You can look at the video right here. "Litany" works as a fine representation of what Shores does best. After commencing with delicately strummed electric guitars, Przybylski's steady, mournful vocals join in, entering in tandem with an open, solid drum march. After some quick words, the drummer switches to warmly recorded cymbals that parallel a towering bass distortion. The second time around during this B-section bassist Billy Bartholomew achieves the perfect sustain on the pedal to create some interesting oscillation with certain notes -- just one of the little sonic details revealed throughout Precedents, making the release a great comedown piece after listening to something aggressive. And with that observation, No Idea's logic five years ago begins to make perfect sense, although sadly the label doesn't have its stamp on this new collection. Precedents was released on Valentine's Day, and you can stream the entire thing via the Bandcamp embed below. Buy the album for any price right here. Shores are set to wrap recording sessions for a planned fifth full-length, which the band aims to press to vinyl and release later in 2015. -- Edward Charlton

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