September 13, 2015

Today's Hotness: Funeral Advantage, Her Magic Wand, Break Up Flowers

Funeral Advantage by Chris McKenna, 2015 (detail)

>> We've persistently loved our idea of what M83 could be more than we actually loved M83 itself. The France-spawned but now LA-based project helmed by Anthony Gonzalez edged close to some sort of New Order-ish ideal (of an electropop band that irresistibly incorporated guitars into a dreamy sound) with its 2008 breakthrough Saturdays = Youth, and particularly its arresting single "Graveyard Girl." But Gonzalez had and has his own desires and agenda, and while these led him to great success with his succeeding albums, they never quite intersected with what we wanted the band to be. This continually crossed our mind in recent weeks as we listened obsessively to the flawless debut long-player from Boston dream-pop gigantes Funeral Advantage. The 10-song set Body Is Dead would seem to take "Graveyard Girl" as a stylistic jumping-off point to a certain extent, and the results are perfection. We discussed two preview singles, "Sisters" and "Gardensong," here in July. But the entire record is replete with dramatic and melancholy dream-pop the likes of which aptly soundtracked certain of our John Hughes-accompanied youths. Body Is Dead opens with the sparkling, perhaps Bloc Party-inspired "Equine," which whispers its secrets into delays and reverbs while a crisp beat propels the proceedings. "Should Have Just" similarly murmurs sweet nothings a la Mr. Okereke, but the tune is spangled by steady tambourine and clean, mesopheric guitar leads. The 10-minute-plus title track warrants special notice because it takes the rhythmic and melodic elements of the rest of the record -- not to mention the serene romance -- to a logical compositional terminus, successfully applying same to create a protracted, steadily spiraling composition of pop ambience worthy of the Kompakt series (someone please commission Axel Wilner for a 20-minute remix of same). Body Is Dead will rate high in our annual year-end list of best albums. The collection is available now on LP and as a digital download from The Native Sound here, and in a limited edition of 100 cassettes from Disposable America right here. Stream the entire, stellar collection via the Bandcamp embed below.

>> When we last wrote about Parisian dream-pop project Her Magic Wand here in these electronic pages in late 2014, the act had just issued "Everything At Once," a single from a planned LP. And while that LP has not yet materialized, the act is set to release later this month its Blossom EP. The short set leads with "Everything At Once," but perhaps more notably the A-side also features a remix of same executed by Grandaddy's Jason Lytle. Somewhat coincidentally, just hours after receiving an email about Blossom from Her Magic Wand mastermind Charles Braud, the Grandaddy reunion was announced; timing! Mr. Lytle's thoughtful and balanced deconstruction of the tune layers in a thin harmony vocal, a recognizable proclivity from the ol' Grandaddy tool set, and elsewhere erects tall walls of dense guitars in the mix. The final minute of the remix swells and burbles with electronic tones, elegantly interrupting the lock-step 4/4 of the original version to create something more nuanced and expansive. The b-side to Blossom features two tunes, "Draw A Line" and "Love Letters," and the entire collection will be released via Darla on 10" vinyl and as a digital download Sept. 18 in the USA (the EP will also be released in Japan and Europe via two other labels). Mr. Braud tells us a full-length is still in the offing, and will arrive Jan. 29. In the meantime, listen to both versions of "Everything At Once" via the Soundcloud embed below, and click here to purchase the collection from Darla.

>> While many in Portland hipster circles continue to champion slick "PBR&B" [Oh my god is that a thing. -- Ed.] acts and clean-cut rock outfits, the city’s DIY scene flourishes unabated in the underground. There a wealth of inventive and expressive guitar pop bands are peaking, achieving a fever-pitch of output, and drawing deserved attention within and without the scene. And there near the fore is the trio Break Up Flowers, whose seven-song, limited-edition cassette Man Made Path streeted Aug. 11 via Brooklyn's strong Mirror Universe Tapes. The matter-of-fact jam "Take Hints" was the preview single from the collection; its spare, gritty guitar and bass lines grind against a steady, tom-heavy beat as fronter Beth Wooten's calm vocals coolly warn "just give me my two cents, just take my some of my hints." Ms. Wooten's singing recalls that marking '90s greats such as Tsunami and the many projects of Mary Timony, as well as modern practitioners such as the mighty Speedy Ortiz – groups literate and thoughtful with a subtle temper and aggression that provide ready inspiration for young women rockers (and, at least in the instant case, by design: Ms. Wooten also heads Portland’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp For Girls). Further, Mac Pogue's laissez-faire production work situates listeners in the cassette's earspace like the best of the no-nonsense, realist gurus including Steve Albini. The result? Not only a promising debut from the kind of band we'd like to see more of, but also a hopeful sign of things to come as the reach of the underground extends toward the overground. Man Made Path is available from Mirror Universe now, and you can stream "Take Hints" via the embed below. -- Edward Charlton

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