October 4, 2015

Today's Hotness: Lilys, Frog, Happy You

Lilys -- Eccsame The Photon Band (1994)

>> Frontier Records announced late Friday that it will release on Halloween (!) the long- and hotly anticipated reissue of Lilys' mid-'90s classic Eccsame The Photon Band (!). Pre-orders for the record, whose original 1994 pressing is extraordinarily rare and has been out of print for 20 years, will begin Tuesday, according to a post on the Frontier Facebook page. Devoted Clicky Clicky readers are quite familiar with the import of Eccsame The Photon Band, in no small part because of Senior Writer Edward Charlton's incredible oral history piece published last December. According to the label, the new pressing of the record features an expanded dynamic range and will be available on "a ghostly shade of pale" vinyl; a "super-limited mail order version" will be pressed to "seafoam splatter" media. We expect we'll have a better idea of the number of pieces of each pressing Tuesday. The track sequence has also been altered in order to better balance the program on each side of the disc, which allowed for a more optimal cut of the master that resulted in the improved dynamic range. Eccsame The Photon Band is Lilys' second LP and last recorded for Spin-Art Records; it was preceded by the equally estimable debut In The Presence Of Nothing and EP A Brief History Of Amazing Letdowns, as well as some singles. We reported here in March 2014 that Lilys mastermind Kurt Heasley intended to reissue those first three recordings; at the time Heasley said he was negotiating with Slumberland Records to release certain records, so the deal with Frontier is a bit of a surprise (although Slumberland *not* reissuing something is not without recent precedent: a very welcome planned reissue of Rocketship's sublime A Certain Smile, A Certain Sadness, originally issued by Slumberland, was at one point said to be coming out via another prominent label, but Rocketship told Exclaim! in August that it will self-release via a Kickstarter campaign the reissue in late 2015 or early 2016). Lilys, in case you don't know, are slated to play selections from its earlier recordings at three amazing east coast shows this week, two at Brooklyn's Baby's All Right and one at Philly's Lithuanian Music Hall. The first two shows are already sold out, and we hope that show of support from fans convinces Heasley to plot additional shows. Los Angeles-based Frontier is a storied punk and indie rock label founded 35 years ago; its catalog includes releases by American Music Club, Circle Jerks and Young Fresh Fellows. Stream all of the original version of Eccsame The Photon Band via the squished YouTube embed below.

>> It's quite satisfying when challenging and worthy music gets rediscovered and reissued. Better still are the times when something is so good that its rise from the deep underground transpires in a matter of months or a few short years. It reinforces a music fan's belief in meritocracy, that something can be so special that no amount of bad luck or insufficient networking can keep it down. All of which calls to mind Audio Antihero's reissue last week of the eponymous debut EP by New York City-based duo Frog. Originally released in January 2013 by the Monkfish label, the EP is gaining exposure to new audiences via London-based (for a little while longer, anyway) Audio Antihero; the label previously released the group's terrific, sepia-toned Kind Of Blah LP in May [boing!]. Appraising the adventurous EP in the context of that long-player limns why the imprint signed them in the first place. Frog's raw and emotional music in places and spaces between seems to have no clear precedent. Indeed, Frog is singular in its presentation and production, having arrived seemingly fully formed like Athena from the head of Zeus. The ringing guitar strings of second track "Arkansas" are like a siren's call, and the song glows with hissy reverb. Later, the tune's pounding stop-start dynamics hit so viscerally that one can nearly see the sound waves bouncing off of the concrete walls in the negative space. Dan Bateman's vocals hit at a base level, his croaks, yelps and shrieks echoing those of folk and blues musicians of a bygone era. Frog's music seems to draw from a shared universal subconsciousness, but touts a modern sense of humor and irony. Further, the looping, detuned acoustic guitar and Tom White's percussion place an avant-garde frame around the songs, suggesting a more manic, deranged millennial John Fahey. Taken all together, the appeal is perhaps hard to define, but that makes it perhaps even more appealing. And that, ultimately, is what makes Frog so important. The epic "Nancy Kerrigan" goes one step further in hammering straight to the heart. "Choked down a Claritin / thought back to Oregon / where she wore her cardigan / just like Nancy Kerrigan / when they broke her legs / over your frosted flakes," sings Bateman as sweetly as he can muster. Such observations, as devastating as they are surreal, provide a great glimpse into the shifting, magical world of Frog. There everything is blurry, and the range of human experiences accretes to some sum of elated confusion. Order the EP on cassette (a limited edition of 50 green cassettes) or as a digital download from the band right here, and stream the entire short set via the embed below. -- Edward Charlton

>> We last covered New York-based dream-pop septet Happy You about a year ago, noting that its debut Giggle delivered key tracks whose pitch-perfect melodies were "mainlined via breathy vocals, ample fuzz and ethereal feedback." The crafty, upbeat exuberance of the self-released collection was a welcome surprise, and we're pleased to see the band return so quickly with similarly appealing music on EP1; the short set was issued as a digital download early last month and is now available for any price via the act's Bandcamp. The three-song collection evidences Happy You readily embracing the more downbeat, melancholy aspects of its sound. On each track, the band establishes a singular melodic environment that plays host well-timed earworms that strike during the choruses. Middle track "Unlucky" commences with a nifty, jaunty Brit-pop chord progression chased by simple, string-bent falsettos that tug at listeners' heartstrings. "We Could Be Friends" lurches with distorted, chugging palm mutes and spare snare hits but is lifted up by the titular plea in the chorus; textured fuzz effects course through the stereo channels. Subtle standout "Not Worried" leads the EP and succeeds via soft whispers and spiraling, clean guitar arpeggios that find Happy You ably setting off mood and atmosphere in a manner consistent with slowcore masters Low (whose own new record is stirring) and Bedhead. Here, Happy You's quiet verses -- with vocals that recall Elliot Smith at his most starry-eyed -– precipitate a chorus so lilting and quick one can almost miss it. The ironic ache during the last word of the line "It's okay I'm not worried anymore," not only illuminates another dimension of the act's promising songwriting, but suggests a satisfying variety of output continues to be a calling card for the rock combo. Download EP1 for any price here, and stream the entire EP via the embed below. -- Edward Charlton

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