August 5, 2015
Today's Hotness: Today Junior, Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam, Under Electric Light
>> We're starting to wonder if there will be music coming out of Norwood, Massachusett's Hanging Horse Studios that we DON'T like. The latest set birthed there to traverse our proverbial desk is a very rewarding debut long-player from Allston indie-pop upstarts Today Junior. The trio is comprised of brothers Mike and Harry O'Toole, who execute drumming and guitaring duties for the outfit respectively, along with bassist Anthony Ambrose, who may or may not be someone's brother. Today Junior's new LP Ride The Surf touts uptempo tunes that work bright, recognizable motifs in ways that don't sound tired or trite, gliding all the while through a steady, sock-deep reverb. What sets Today Junior's music apart from that of other acts chasing a sun 'n 'surf-inspired sound is the passionate singing and mindful breakdowns and grooves that the Allstonians work into their concise pop nuggets. The band's music is less noir and melancholy than that of presumably defunct Chicagoans Distractions, who put out one of our favorite records of 2010, but the bands are similar in that they twist the familiar into something memorable. And there are many, many memorable numbers on Ride The Surf, including its cracking, well-calculated title track, which, incidentally, plays host to a really hot guitar solo. One song that memorably checks both the "breakdowns" and "grooves" boxes is the deeper album cut "Daydrifter." The waning moments of the terrific strummer "What I Said" show the act minds the p's and q's of songcraft; there perfect, classically California-sounding vocal harmonies manifest as cool "oooh la la las" and point to Harry O'Toole's final, passionately delivered vocal, which rolls off punctuating guitar chords and onto a fading trickle of stick clicks. Ride The Surf was recorded between May 2014 and May 2015 at the aforementioned studio, which has also generated recordings we like a lot by hitmakers Julius Earthling and Soft Fangs. Today Junior fêted the release of Ride The Surf Monday night at Cambridge, Mass.'s Middle East Rock club, and we presume additional live engagements are forthcoming. For now, get your ears around the record while its summery sounds can properly contextualize this golden summer. Stream the entire set via the Bandcamp embed below, and click through the purchase it as a digital download.
>> Indie rock luminaries Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam returned this past weekend with a new EP and a tantalizing promise of yet more new music to come before the year is out. The Birmingham, England trio's Neighbours EP boasts three rockers spanning fewer than nine minutes, boisterous bar anthems all that bash and pop from within folds of reverb and slapback. The title track initiates the proceedings by cycling two towering chords, and the guitars buzz and feedback into the corners of the mix during a dynamic pre-chorus. When the massive, shout-along chorus of "Neighbors" -- which gets a dazzling video treatment here -- hits, it is characteristically huge and grand, and recalls a revved up take on precursor band Calories' stein-swinging "Let's Pretend That We're Older." What's that? You don't recall Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam's impressive lineage? The act sprang from the desperately great Calories, which itself was begat by the dissolution of Birmingham legends Distophia, something we've recounted in these electronic pages regularly. Neighbours' two additional numbers are similarly stirring: the belter "New Womb" throbs under the weight of its own crumbling distortion, driven by a straight-ahead beat and a staccato, descending guitar melody, while "Part Time Butcher" ratchets up the syncopation and conjures yet larger clouds of crash cymbal to buffet its ragged, but bold, vocal. The EP comes relatively hot on the heels of a digital single released in June featuring the tunes "Paradise Telephone" b/w/ "Real Romantix," and based on this Facebook post, it would seem we are entering a period of renewed activity for the wildly under-rated trio. Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam's next gig is Aug. 15 at The Wagon And Horses in Digbeth, Birmingham, and the band has also snagged a choice slot opening for highly regarded noisemakers Metz in Birmingham Oct. 30. We don't have any inside information, but we'd lay strong money that there is more new music from SFL around that time of that Metz show (as that would pretty much epitomize striking while the iron is hot). In the meantime, stream all of Neighbours via the Bandcamp embed below, and click through the acquire the set as a paywhutchyalike digital download. More bulletins as events warrant.
>> Veteran Montreal 'gaze project Under Electric Light first hit our radar with its stirring 2011 rocker "Waiting For The Rain To Fall," whose big melodic sound band founder Danny Provencher ascribed to his love of the Beach Boys and classic shoegaze records. None of us, Mr. Provencher included, could have known then that four years on we'd be living in an age where My Bloody Valentine, RIDE, Slowdive and Swervedriver are once again active. Which we suppose is neither here nor there, but it is amazing to consider how far we've come, and in some ways how much the future looks and sounds like our cherished past. For his part, Provencher (along with vocalist/lyricist Marie-Eve Bouchard) seems no less enamored of the aforementioned classic shoegaze sounds and big melodies in 2015, based on much time spent with Under Electric Light's recently self-released EP Never Lose Another Day. To be sure, the beat-driven and guitar-drenched opener "Pieces Of Me" is the collection's most immediate (if a bit by-the-numbers) song. However, it is the EP's solemn closer "Runaway Sun" that is the real stunner. Gentle and subdued, the track builds up from a bed of synth and acoustic and e-bowed guitars into an ethereal fog, recalling at times the more melancholy tunes of The Ocean Blue (whose first three records, incidentally, will be released by Shelflife on vinyl for the first time ever in November). Stream all of Never Lose Another Day via the Bandcamp embed below, and click through to purchase the set. Under Electric Light recently contributed a cover of the RIDE rarity "King Bullshit" to the digital compilation Leave Them All Behind, which was issued by The Blog That Celebrates Itself in March; check it out here. It is worth noting that Liverpool's Hail Hail Records has since taken on Never Lose Another Day, and is offering it for sale via its own digital storefront right here.