May 1, 2016

Today's Hotness: Close Lobsters, Today Junior, Fog Lake

Close Lobsters -- Under London Skies (detail)

>> The work of Scottish indie pop four Close Lobsters had largely eluded our attention until recently beyond a certain key comp appearance, but the band's recent releases count among our favorite finds of 2016. The act emerged with the C86 scene (literally) and enjoyed a dynamite run through the remaining '80s, sharing bills with bands including Primal Scream back when you had no idea who the Primals were. They then initially yanked their cords sometime in the '90s. Fortunately, Close Lobsters were drawn close once more several years ago, and have been releasing new music just as vital and delightful as that of decades past. Increasingly crucial U.S. label Shelflife will issue a new EP from the quartet later this spring titled Desire & Signs, which includes two dynamite tunes, "Under London Skies" b/w "Wander Epic Part II." The splendid A-side features keen hooks and wonderfully world-weary vocals that mourn a London gone by ("...this is the London of The Clash..."). Guitars sparkle and tambourines crack within an arresting wall of sound, while singer Andrew Burnett drawls his observations of '81, '84, '87, '88 and so forth. The slightly longer "Wander Epic Part II" patiently bops along to wood block strikes through the first verse, but its determined fidelity to the mid-tempo beat conjures a mesmerizing groove just as the chorus's pretty chord changes hit. Burnett pleads "baby come on" into a breakdown, and then the song sparks back to life with a swell of sizzling cymbal that heralds a long denouement that slowly cycles lead guitar lines. Shelflife releases Desire & Signs in a limited edition of 500 gold-colored 7" vinyl singles and digital download June 3, and you can pre-order the set directly from the label right here. This is not the first time the label and band have worked together. Shelflife previously released Close Lobsters' praiseworthy Kunstwerk In Spacetime single in May 2015; the set includes the numbers "Now Time" b/w "New York City In Space" and remains available for purchase from the label right here. Fire Records released last year Firestation Towers, a 3-LP set compiling the band's towering output from '86-'89; this can be purchased directly from Close Lobsters' Bandcamp yert right here. Close Lobsters play a long, long in the works gig at London's 100 Club next month, and you'd be dumb not to go if you are able. Stream "Under London Skies" via the Soundcloud embed below.

>> Clicky Clicky was quite taken with the debut LP from Boston's Today Junior last summer, and we've eagerly anticipated new music ever since. The Allston Rock City-based indie trio finally obliged in recent weeks with a pair of appealing new tunes, "Leaving Easy" and "Blunt Breath," released as free-to-you, standalone digital singles with "Beavis and Butt-Head"-inspired art. The threesome led with the latter song, but it is the uptempo and melodious "Leaving Easy" that has sunken its hooks more deeply into our consciousness. The song rocks from within knee-deep, surfy, and nostalgia-inspiring reverb; from there the threesome bash 'n' pops through an arresting down-and-up chord sequence at speed and toward a bright guitar solo that memorably percolates through the song's third minute. "Blunt Breath" is fuzzier, more rough-hewn but equally peppy, and features a vocal riff that is pretty much the indie rock version of yodeling courtesy of fronter Harry O'Toole. Today Junior has already had a busy spring of shows; its next gigs are an all-ages soiree at Jamaica Plains' Midway Cafe May 8 and an appearance the following Sunday as part of the rescheduled Harvard Square Mayfair. Get yourself appropriately pumped by streaming "Leaving Easy" and "Blunt Breath" via the Bandcamp embeds below; click through to download the tracks. Flesh Records reissued the band's debut Ride The Surf on blue cassette last month; snag a copy right here.

>> We've been wanting to tell you this for so long: Clicky Clicky faves Fog Lake returned in late March with a brace of tunes to tease a forthcoming, fourth long-player slated for release on Orchid Tapes in the fall. De facto A-side "Rattlesnake" sadly waltzes in a manner reminiscent of the great Benjamin Shaw, but St. John, Newfoundland-based Fog Lake here achieves an appreciable swing -- largely via tasteful drumming -- for a band that typically operates in a wispy realm of beautiful, breathy understatement. Some of that dynamism can likely be ascribed to the contributions of Kenney Purchase, Nick Hopkins and Cory Linehan, as at least Mr. Purchase has been (and may presently be) part of a more recent live configuration of Fog Lake. There seems to be an increased focus on lyricism, as well, as band mastermind Aaron Powell seems particularly voluble, fatalistically promising "I"ll make you see it, all the ways you snuck into my head, tearing holes in my sense till the good part of me died, and the trembling stopped from your rattlesnake bite and it all went dark." In an email, Mr. Powell characterized the figurative flip-side "Strung Back Around" as a demo, and promises a version of the track will appear on the planned long-player, but there is no noticeable decline in the songwriting or sound quality here -- if anything the song is stronger, and could easily have led this digital two-fer. Distant piano chimes from within Powell's stirring, gossamer layers of reverbed guitars, and indeed the ambient wash almost entirely consumes the song's relatively jaunty rhythm. Powell's high tenor cuts through the mix, ever regretting, trying to give shape to that which cannot be shrugged off. Fog Lake released one of our favorite records of 2015, its third albumVictoria Park, also through Orchid Tapes. No title or release date for LP4 have been made public. Stream "Rattlesnake" and "Strung Back Around" via the Bandcamp embed below.

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