September 30, 2011

Be Prepared: Benjamin Shaw | There's Always Hope, There's Always Cabernet | 21 Nov.

Benjamin Shaw -- There's Always Hope, There's Always Cabernet
Hopelessly beautiful, crumbling chamber pop masterpiece from charming London-based wretch Benjamin Shaw. There's Always Hope, There's Always Cabernet is sometimes like a blinky star you can't always see directly, and other times like a skeleton in a bridal gown that disintegrates in your arms as you gently waltz it into the surf while the packets of rat poison are kicking in. It's a majestic thing, this record, and each and every one of its songs. There's Always Hope, There's Always Cabernet is the sound of a man smashed to bits by a hammer and haphazardly reconstructed with clear tape, a mostly-ghost anchored in place by an enlarged heart and necrotic liver thought-bubbling songs so deeply sad you can drop pebbles down in them and wait and wait and never hear the splash. Spectral vocals condense and then decompose between the headphones, static unexplains itself in the foreground, violin patiently loses its mind, guitar and piano and synth take turns at half-heartedly asserting traditional structures.

The record is Mr. Shaw's first full-length, and (as we mentioned here in July) it will be released in the UK by the unwillingly brilliant Audio Antihero label Nov. 21. The collection will be preceded by the laughably un-pop single "Somewhere Over The M6," which Audio Antihero dubs "accidental shoegaze;" it is slated to hit digital storefronts Oct. 17. "Somewhere Over The M6," a stream of which is embedded below, is tied to a rhythm sample that sounds like a boat creaking, or a proto-iron lung wheezing under a cloudy chorus of slowly turning chords. But it is the paralyzingly beautiful "Home" that may be the most stunning song of the collection, a mournful lament that slowly builds a cocoon of noise and melody around itself, twice. Pre-order There's Always Hope, There's Always Cabernet from Audio Antihero right here. Audio Antihero previously released Shaw's EPs I Got The Pox, The Pox Is What I Got in 2009 and the sinister Rumfucker in 2010; the latter EP is currently available as a pay-what-you-want download here and we can't recommend it highly enough. But not quite as highly as Cabernet, which by rights should dot year-end best-of lists you'll be seeing in the coming months.

September 28, 2011

Be Prepared: Ringo Deathstarr | Shadow EP | 7 November

Ringo Deathstarr -- Shadow EP
Chaotic and brilliant umpteenth EP from Austin, Texas-based punk/shoegaze cyborgs Ringo Deathstarr, perhaps the most dangerous band in American indie rock these days. The title track to Shadow features guest hollering from ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead's Jason Reece (as we reported here earlier this month) paired with bassist Alex Gehring's always affecting, breathy murmur. "Shadow" touts heavier mechanical rhythm tracks as well, and in tandem with Reece's gut-punching vocals the tune may be the most delightfully heavy thing the Texas trio has recorded. Three additional songs comprise the rest of the EP, including the stunningly ethereal "Prisms" and a cover of "Just You" from the massively excellent '90s television series "Twin Peaks." We're not making this up. Shadow will be released in the UK by Club AC30 Nov. 7 and pre-orders will ship a week early; there is as yet no North American release information. The EP is being pressed to 10" Japanese Cherry Blossom scented pink and purple swirly vinyl in what is described as a "very limited edition." Every 10" will be packaged with a card containing instructions for accessing "lots of" extra remixes of "Shadows." Nylon got the exclusive on the Soundcloud stream of the EP so RUN DON'T WALK over to this hyperlinked uniform resource locator and bliss out to the sounds. As if all of that wasn't excitement enough for a late Wednesday night, Club AC30 reports that the EP is a harbinger of a sophomore full length from The Deathstarr to be released in February 2012. Meaning your life has improved dramatically just over the small amount of time it took you to read this paragraph. We reviewed Ringo Deathstarr's July performance in Boston right here, and we reviewed the band's long-awaited full-length debut Colour Trip right here in May. Pre-order Shadow from Club AC30 right here.

September 27, 2011

Today's Hotness: Fanzine, Yuck, Whirr, Saint Solitude

>> Fat Possum is doubling down on UK guitar bands, as it disclosed today it will release the debut single from Fanzine, an act vigorously touted by London-based indie phenoms Yuck earlier this year. Yuck, of course, issued its debut self-titled LP via Fat Possum early in 2011. On Nov. 22 Fat Possum will deliver Fanzine's double A-side single "Roman Holiday" b/w "My Stupid Brain" in a limited edition of 500. The single will be available as a traditional vinyl 7" as well as a CD-R packaged with -- surprise, surprise -- an illustrated fanzine. Fanzine's previous self-released EP1 similarly packaged music in a 'zine, although that was distributed as a PDF with an embedded URL pointing to MP3s. "Roman Holiday" has higher production values than the music on EP1, but continues to rely on fuzzy vocals, big guitars and bigger melodic hooks, not unlike the aforementioned Yuck. In case you didn't get a chance to download EP1, it looks like this link is still live. And speaking of Yuck, the quartet continues to ride high on the success of its self-titled debut, and last week launched yet another in a rapid succession of U.S. tours with a stirring performance at TT The Bear's in Cambridge, MA. Yuck has gone over so well that Fat Possum is issuing a special double-CD/vinyl version of the collection whose second disc contains a half-dozen B-sides, including "Soothe Me." The band put the song, recorded a few months ago in London when the band had some down time, up on its Soundcloud earlier this week. Stream the mid-tempo space ballad via the embed below.

Roman Holiday by Fanzine

Soothe Me by Yuck

>> Hat tip to Sonic Masala for bringing to our attention with this item that Northern California-based shoegaze sextet Whirl has re-branded itself as Whirr. The change was apparently due to some sort of legal issue having to do with the use of the name. But more importantly, Whirr has a new single, June, out today on New York-based Tee Pee Records and it is AMAZING. The song "Junebouvier" from the single was premiered elsewhere earlier this summer and we missed it, but we've dropped a Soundcloud embed below so you can bask in the swirling, guitar-y gloriousness. June is available in a limited edition of 250 Coke-bottle green vinyl 7"s, and the single sets the stage for a full-length that Whirr was scheduled to begin recording last month. Back when the band was known as Whirl, it self-released the EP Distressor in 2010, which we wrote about right here. June sounds like a big step beyond Distressor, and we are commensurately beyond-excited to hear the planned full-length; there's no word yet as to when it will be issued.

Whirr-Junebouvier by Not Enough Recognition

>> Today is a big new release day, in case you didn't know. In addition to the Whirr single mentioned supra, The Hush Now's sparkling third record Memos is officially out. Also now available is folk-rock (now-)foursome Saint Solitude's enjoyably breezy sophomore set By Some Great Storm. Think early, more acoustic-oriented Small Factory and you are in the ballpark. Asheville, NC-based Saint Solitude mastermind and one-time sole proprietor Dup Crosson has galvanized a band around him, and, based on a couple listens, it sounds like Mr. Crosson is letting the dynamic of the band take a central role, as opposed to adding sonic flourishes and overdubs like those that filled out 2009's Journal Of Retreat. Crosson mentioned somewhere recently that he'd been feeling a Smashing Pumpkins vibe of late, and we hoped that influence would find its way into By Some Great Storm. The new rocker "Lifted" certainly does lay on the Corgan guitar fuzz and its drums hit a little harder than Crosson's typical jams, but by and large the new record continues Saint Solitude's mapping of rootsier indie pop. Buy By Some Great Storm from Alive And Well Records here or Bandcamp here, and get out to support the band when it comes to your town on tour next month. We wrote about the Saint Solitude's standalone single "Deliverance" right here last month.

September 26, 2011

Clicky Clicky Radio: the Inevitable R.E.M. Tribute | 9.22.11

Last Thursday's edition of Clicky Clicky Radio was the Inevitable R.E.M. Tribute! Stream the archive below, (or download it!). Read Jay's tribute, while yer at it.

The playlist:
The Feelies - Slipping (Into Something) - The Good Earth (2010 Remaster) - Produced by Peter Buck

R. E. M. - Green Grow The Rushes (demo) - Fables of The Reconstruction (2010 Deluxe Edition)

Mission of Burma - Academy Fight Song - Signals Calls and Marches (1980)

Oxford Collapse - The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight - Stereogum Presents: DRIVE XV: A Tribute to
Automatic For The People (free download here) (2007)

The Baseball Project - 1976 - Vol. 2: High and Inside  (2011) - Peter Buck on guitar

Drivin' n' Cryin' - Honeysuckle Blue (demo) - Archives Vol. 2: Mystery Road Demos - (c. 1990) Produced by Peter Buck

Kevn Kinney - MacDougal Blues - MacDougal Blues (1990)- Produced by Peter Buck, who plays multiple instruments

Michael Stipe - Everything's Come Undone - Ciao My Shining Star: The Songs of Mark Mulcahy (2009)

Pavement - Camera - Cut Your Hair (single) (1994)

Pavement - The Unseen Power of the Picket Fence - No Alternative (1993)

fIREHOSE - For The Singer of R.E.M. - If'n (1987)

King Missile - Get Up - Surprise Your Pig: A Tribute to R.E.M. (1992)

Hindu Love Gods - Raspberry Beret - Hindu Love Gods (1990) - Warren Zevon with Buck, Mills, and Berry

R.E.M. - Burning Down - Dead Letter Office (1987)

Pylon - Crazy - Chomp (1983) - Athens contemporaries

Old 97's - Driver 8 - Mimeograph EP

Robyn Hitchcock & The Egyptians - Dark Green Energy - Ultra Unbelievable Love (single) (1991) - with Stipe and Buck

Jawbox - Low - Surprise Your Pig: A Tribute to R.E.M. (1992)

The Replacements - Radio Free Europe - The Shit Hits The Fans (1985)

13111 - My Bible Is The Latest TV Guide - 13111 12" single (1989) - solo single by Bill Berry

Tesco Vee's Hate Police - Losing My Religion - Surprise Your Pig: A Tribute to R.E.M. (1992)

Peter Buck - (Untitled Track 5) - Dinner With Friends (2001) - Buck scored this play and released a few tracks for it on the R.E.M. website. Only slightly more info here.

R.E.M. - New Test Leper - New Adventures in Hi-Fi (1996)

Uncle Tupelo - Shaky Ground - March 16-20 1992 (1992) - Produced by Peter Buck

Bill Janovitz - Wendell Gee - Cover of the Week (2009) - Download it here.

Vic Chestnutt - It's The End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine) - Surprise Your Pig: A Tribute to R.E.M. (1992)

Vic Chestnutt - Guilty By Association - Is The Actor Happy? (1995) - with Michael Stipe

Billy Bragg - You Woke Up My Neighborhood - Don't Try This At Home (1991) - with Buck and Stipe

Mr. T Experience - Can't Get There From Here - Surprise Your Pig: A Tribute to R.E.M. (1992)

R.E.M. - ÜBerlin - Collapse Into Now (2011)

Listen to Clicky Clicky Radio live on Thursdays from 8-10 pm eastern on Boston Free Radio or saunter on over to the archives and check out a recent show!

-Michael Piantigini

September 25, 2011

That Was The Show That Was: Soccer Mom Record Release Show | TT The Bear's Place, Cambridge, MA | Sept. 23

The few inconsequential hiccups during Soccer Mom's striking live set for its You Are Not Going To Heaven EP release show -- a broken string, a false start here and there -- are entirely understandable within the context of the Boston quartet's now reliably cataclysmic live performances. At any given moment Friday evening guitarist/singers Dan Parlin and William Scales were doing all they could to keep their respective streams of colliding positrons blasting from their amps from crossing, which theoretically would have vaporized all of TT The Bear's, as well as much of the northern end of Brookline Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts. That the mass of humanity present for the show (which show included attendant sets by Autochrome, Marconi and Emergency Music) survived intact, and were treated to Soccer Mom's astonishing serial delivery of squalling noise rock anthems to boot, well, that's just icing, baby. Soccer Mom's performance was highlighted by the increasingly familiar, lights-out bludgeoning of "Southern Bells," the retro-Youth buzzsaw of the Scales-sung "(A) Natural History" and Mr. Parlin's bending, existential wailers "Celebrity Unrest" and "American Shirt (Eagle Flag 911)." The band's energy level was high, and despite its meandering path in the general direction of becoming one of Boston's most-buzzed about bands, it was hard not to feel like Soccer Mom is reaping hard-fought rewards. You Are Not Going To Heaven resolutely establishes Soccer Mom as the real deal, not bad for a foursome whose only other release is a single. The band has another record release show booked for New York Oct. 8 at Party XPO (XPO 929) in Brooklyn, and makes a return to Boston stages Oct. 22 at Precinct in Somerville, MA.

September 21, 2011

Reach Out For Me, And Hold Me Tight, Hold That Memory: On R.E.M. Being Important

detail from the album cover of R.E.M.'s Document
Others will no doubt write more more eloquently and more passionately elsewhere about the demise of R.E.M., the band that pretty much defined "college rock," back when that was a term of art. But we didn't feel right letting this day pass without some remarks about the importance, at least to this blog's executive editor, of R.E.M. in the Grand Scheme Of Things. There are countless Important Records, but we all have those "formative" (to borrow a term from Mr. Searles) records, and along with The Cure's Standing On A Beach cassette and The Smiths' Strangeways Here We Come, R.E.M.'s Document stands out as one of those. It was a record that not only opened our ears to new sounds, but that also was a flag jabbed in the bloated gut-flab of classic rock that said to other music fans, "this is who I am." Document was an important parameter that cordoned off our subset of a subset; it situated us -- you and me, because, let's face it... right? -- in a place. Sure, we were skeptical at first of Green, R.E.M.'s first major label release, but we loved it soon enough, and it still sounds like stifling hot early August nights with nothing to do, particularly "You Are The Everything" and "The Wrong Child." And we went to the record store the day Out Of Time was released, during lunch period. And Automatic For The People was so monumentally good, it was one of the first things we agreed on with our roommate college freshman year, and we played the record every night on our four-speakered monster stereo when we'd turn in.

In the very good A/V Club interview with members of Wild Flag last week, Carrie Brownstein offers the most succinct and elegant example of something we've struggled to describe for some time, namely one's changing relationship to music over the course of one's lifetime. Ms. Brownstein said, in part, "The reason [a new band one encounters is] not The Clash is not necessarily because they’re not The Clash, but because I don’t need them as much as I needed Joe Strummer in 1990." We're probably doing a shitty job of explaining this, and of setting up Brownstein's comment to explain how we feel about R.E.M. But what we think is important to note is that no matter how an R.E.M. fan feels about everything that happened after Automatic For The People, that can't dilute the staggering importance of the right records at the right time. Our older friends can and do inevitably point to earlier R.E.M. records, but coming of age with Document, Green, Out Of Time and Automatic For The People as the soundtrack was a pretty fucking fortunate thing to be able to do. Thanks R.E.M.

Go to Bradley's Almanac and grab the recording of R.E.M.'s final area performance, June 13, 2008.

September 19, 2011

Rock Over Boston: Big Dipper | Lizard Lounge | 9.17.2011

[Big Dipper with The Vivs and Count Zero at the Lizard Lounge, Cambridge, MA 9/17/2011. Photos by Michael Piantigini.]

Big Dipper has an album pretty much in the can. Will someone please put it out so I can get it? Thank you.

-Michael Piantigini

Big Dipper: Facebook | Twitter
The Vivs: Intertubes | Facebook (their new EP, Why So Dark?, is good stuff!)
Count Zero: Intertubes | Facebook

September 17, 2011

Today's Hotness: It Hugs Back, Snakes Say Hisss, Edelweiss

It Hugs Back
>> Kent, England-based indie rock phenoms It Hugs Back have returned to action and are poised to issue a sophomore set. The title and release date have not yet been disclosed, but in an email to the dreamy quartet's mailing list It Hugs Back announced a two-week tour and said its live set would not only include material from the planned sophomore release, but also a couple songs currently slated for a third, we-presume-yet-to-be-recorded full-length. Formed in 2006, It Hugs Back has previously issued the debut full-length Inside Your Guitar -- featuring the undeniable pop tune "Work Day" -- as well as a compilation of earlier EPs titled The Record Room. The band was also kind enough to submit for questioning for our late, lamented Show Us Yours feature, which we hope to resuscitate some day. We also hope to have details about It Hugs Back's sophomore set as soon as they are available. Stream "Now + Again" from Inside Your Guitar below.

now + again by it hugs back

>> The name Snakes Say Hisss was something of a footnote to us when 20-year-old Sam Skarstad generated some acclaim upon the release of a solo set in 2007. Folks may not remember, but Mr. Skarstad released that year a fairly compelling full-length called Serkus, which got noticed by Clicky Clicky here and Said The Gramophone here, among others. And so it was Skarstad's name that raised our antennae when we got an email about Snakes Say Hisss last week, as the Philly-born-but-now-predictably-Brooklyn-based synth-pop duo only got passing mention in our own review and quickly faded from our mind. As the pair's instrumentation and rhythm tracks are primarily if not entirely synth-based, SSS's tunes are not generally in what we'd consider Clicky Clicky's wheelhouse. But the arranging, dynamics and melodic sense of the duo -- which also includes Jamie Ayers -- make the single "Right Behind You" and its flip-side "Comes And Goes" easy on the ears. Stream the A-side via the Soundcloud embed below, and "Comes And Goes" at RCRDLBL right here. The single was released in a limited edition of 300, and half of those are already gone, according to the Famous Class label web site. Snakes Say Hisss previously released the full-length (packaged with 'zine) I'll Be Lovin' You in 2007.

Snakes Say Hisss - Right Behind You by yvynyl

>> We hate to latch on to the incredibly young age of the Stroudsberg, PA-based quartet Edelweiss (because, really, the fact that they are from Stroudsberg is almost as unlikely), because that is usually the sort of thing we'd argue does not matter. But the band's new EP Pre-Columbians is remarkably accomplished, so the fact its members' average age -- average -- is 16 is kind of mind-blowing. Perhaps moreso because Edelweiss traffics in '80s-tinged, UK-styled guitar pop, a sound and era that it is mathematically impossible for guitarist Niko Porlier, drummer Coby Porlier, bassist Tommy Vitale and guitarist Tony Young to have experienced firsthand. So we hate to latch on to it, but there, we did it. These guys are young, and their music is great (albeit not overly original). Pre-Columbians presents songs that sound as if they draw from greats such as Bloc Party and The House Of Love. The song "(No)" is its most potent calling card, an uptempo toe-tapper appointed with cascading and noodly guitar leads and shouty backing vocals that sounds capable of starting a sensation for the quartet. Hit the stream below to hear for yourself. Pre-Columbians was self-released Sept. 13 and you can buy it from Edelweiss at its Bandcamp page right here. The upstart act has a handful of gigs lined up into the fall, check them out below.

09.23 -- Starlight Ballroom -- Philadelphia, PA
09.27 -- Arlene's Grocery -- New York, NY
10.18 -- The Studio at Webster Hall -- New York, NY
10.22 -- Lit Lounge -- New York, NY
10.28 -- Planet Trog Entertainment Complex -- Whitehall, PA

September 16, 2011

That Was The Show That Was: Walter Schreifels | Great Scott, Boston | 14 Sept.

Walter Schreifels, Great Scott, Boston, Sept. 14, 2011
We're surprised as you to say that, after all these years and all these bands, Wednesday night was the first time we had ever seen Walter Schreifels, who has been affiliated with more awesome bands than the average American owns records, perform live. Mr. Schreifels founded and has been the primary songwriter in New York Hardcore luminaries Gorilla Biscuits, as well as post-hardcore giants Quicksand and Rival Schools, among other things. After more than two decades in so-called alternative music, Schreifels finally released in 2010 a solo record under his own name. Titled An Open Letter To The Scene, the more rootsy collection was astonishingly good [review here], and we named it our second favorite record of 2010 right here. Needless to say, we were tremendously amped for Wednesday's solo show.

And we were not disappointed. With apologies to our favorite musicians, there likely is no more charming a man in indie rock than Schreifels, who delivered his set from atop a stool via single-pick-up Gibson hollow body and occasional harmonica. We expected him to simply stand and play and then stop playing. But the extremely affable Schreifels spent a fair amount of time speaking as well, occasionally in the middle of songs such as "Arthur Lee's Lullabye." He gave incredibly funny accounts of driving his "champagne"-colored Toyota Camry, watching pro wrestling and dreaming about meeting Sammy Hagar in a room entirely filled by an out-sized hot tub. It's not an overstatement to say the easy-going Schreifels -- who drove himself to the show and carried and set up his own gear and manned his own merch table and interacted graciously to fans-- likely could have entertained the eager crowd simply by telling stories all night. But as it was, he delivered a sonically spare but terrifically enjoyable set of old and new material wedged between the thrilling (and substantially louder) melodic hardcore of locals Daltonic and scene veterans Samiam.

From An Open Letter To The Scene, Schreifels played "She Is To Me" (which was apparently written in Boston, and about which he quipped "it's a fuckin' wicked awesome song"), "Arthur Lee's Lullabye" and the title track. It was particularly thrilling to hear him dip back into the his repertoire for a reinterpretation of Quicksand's absolutely crushing "Too Official" (from that band's 1993 collection Slip) and Gorilla Biscuits' "Forgotten." Interspered throughout were some covers and snippets, including a bit of Boston hardcore legends' DYS's "City By City." After a hysterical bit of musing about what Ian Mackaye must think of a new pro wrestler who affects a Straightedge persona, Schreifels churned out a folksy rendition of the Minor Threat shouter "In My Eyes."

It was refreshing to see Schreifels not taking things too seriously, not putting his songs up on the same pedestal as fans. Instead, he would change up vocal melodies and timing, play a song in a different tuning (leading to a very funny explanation of drop-D), occasionally tune in the middle of a song, or -- as was the case with "Arthur Lee's Lullabye" -- stop mid-song to insert the recollection of the dream about hanging out with Mr. Hagar. All of this was done without dampening the emotional punch of the material, from the wistful la-da-da-das of "She Is To Me" to the angst of "Too Official." "An Open Letter To The Scene," dedicated to deceased Warzone singer Raybeez (from whom some of the words of the chorus to "Open Letter" were borrowed), closed out the night. Bostonians won't be without Schreifels too long. He returns to Boston, in fact to the very same nightclub, with the post-hardcore foursome Rival Schools Oct. 24. We can't wait.

Walter Schreifels: Internerds | Tumblr | Facebook | YouTube

07 Arthur Lee's Lullaby by Dine Alone Records

Walter Schreifels - Open Letter To The Scene by bsmrocks

09.17 -- Otto Bar -- Baltimore, MD
09.18 -- Strange Matter -- Richmond, VA
09.20 -- Smiling Moose -- Pittsburgh, PA
09.21 -- Horseshoe Tavern -- Toronto, ON
09.22 -- Katacombes -- Montreal, PQ
09.23 -- Mohawk Place -- Buffalo, NY

Soccermom Record Release Show | TT The Bear's | 23 Sept

Soccermom Record Release Show With Emergency Music, Marconi and Autochrome
One week from tonight, it's the big, big Soccermom record release show for the band's dynamite EP You Are Not Going To Heaven. It's going to be the bomb. Emergency Music, Autochrome and Marconi also playing. Tickets right here.

September 13, 2011

Today's Hotness: Cookies, The Swimmers

Cookies' Wilderness Tips b/w The Dream
>> We find it hard to believe we haven't written about Brooklyn-based electropop duo Cookies for almost a year, especially because of its wonderful second single which was released late this past spring, but there you go. The duo of former Mobius Band guitarist Ben Sterling and singer Melissa Metrick has just dropped its genius third single, the apparently digital-only pairing of "Wilderness Tips" b/w "The Dream." The thumping A-side is deftly composed, an arresting mid-tempo hand-clapper that croons and thumps. The flip, "The Dream," is perhaps even more remarkable, as spare and soulful vocals float over rhythm tracks that echo certain of the best German electropop acts of the last decade. Mr. Sterling's loose, Frisell-esque guitar lead at the tail end of the track is life-affirming, and Ms. Metrick's layered backing vocal here is pleasantly reminiscent of that of the chorus to Zero 7's "In The Waiting Line," which you likely first heard on the 2004 soundtrack to the Zach Braff vehicle Garden State. Two previous Cookies singles, last year's "Summer Jam" b/w "Throw A Parade" and "Boycrazy" b/w "1,000 Breakfasts With You," were released on 10" vinyl. For the physical media-impaired, you can download MP3s of all three singles at the Cookies Internet Home Page right here, and we highly recommend you do. One thing we didn't know is that Mr. Sterling also devotes a fair amount of time to composing for hire, and you can sample some of his "professional work" right here. Cookies also has a Tumblr, because, you know, why not? Check out "Wilderness Tips" via the Soundcloud embed below and then go download all that stuff, it's wonderful.

Cookies' "Wilderness Tips" by clicky clicky music blog

>> Philadelphia-based indie rockers The Swimmers make a long-awaited return to the stage Sept. 24 at Kung-Fu Necktie in its hometown; we haven't heard from the band since its unsettling but superlative 2009 sophomore set People Are Soft [review here]. An email from the quartet promises the show will contain material from The Swimmers' wonderful debut Fighting Trees as well as "some new surprises," so hopefully we'll be hearing more from the act soon. Fighting Trees was one of our favorite records of 2008. If you'd care to have your face rocked off, why not watch this video of "Drug Party," filmed at Piano's in New York in Nov. 2009. The tune was the highlight of People Are Soft.

September 12, 2011

Review: The Hush Now | Memos

The irony of The Hush Now's outstanding third long-player is that while the brilliantly crafted collection completely redefines the band, Memos leaves critics with little tidy shorthand with which to bullet-point the Boston-based quintet. No longer are tags like "indie pop" or "shoegaze" -- useful in summarizing The Hush Now's first couple records and recent, triumphant live shows, respectively -- remotely sufficient. We've mentioned previously here in these electronic pages the impressive mastery of various styles present on the mighty Memos. The combination of the band firing on all cylinders writing and performing with the very able production and mixing of Mad Oak Studios' Benny Grotto makes Memos The Hush Now's most confident and intense album to date.

The record conclusively establishes founder Noel Kelly and company as master craftsmen of guitar pop. Memos thrives on the increasingly crucial songwriting collaborations among the band members; in conversation Mr. Kelly is just as likely to attribute a lyric or guitar part to drummer and secret weapon Barry Marino, or a vocal to lead guitarist Adam Quane, for example, than himself. It speaks volumes about The Hush Now's confidence in the sparkling results that, for the first time, the quintet will not be giving away its new record for free (as was the practice with The Hush Now and both iterations of Constellations). Memos of course contains a fair amount of uptempo guitar pop that can be considered classic Hush Now. The banger "Rooftops" in particular reverently recreates the style of the band's self-titled debut. A pulsing bass line and syncopated drumming coils "Clouds" tightly before the song explodes into each chorus, Kelly's voice rocketing an octave as distorted guitar engulfs the stereo field.

But there is so much more going on on Memos. Strip the prominent lead synth line from the fore of "Cameraphone" and what's left is a convincingly great glam stomper during which Kelly's verse alternates with lead guitarist Adam Quane's best approximation of a J. Mascis vocal. "The Glow" is the next in a series of The Hush Now's made-for-the-dancefloor groovers, filled with overbiting, vamping bass and guitar lines. Where the Bostonians impress most with this collection, however, is the sentimental material; Kelly and his cohort characteristically concern themselves with affairs of the heart, and Memos is no different. Every review of the record could rightly begin and end with a discussion of the wistful bar-room ballad "Sitting On A Slow Clock," a tune with significant songwriting contributions from Mr. Marino. We can speak from experience (playing the song at a DJ night in August) that "Slow Clock" stops listeners in their tracks. It's got a simple plodding rhythm, mostly brushes and hi-hat, and a beautiful piano melody complemented by occasional, understated trumpet leads delivered by Kelly, doing his best Chet Baker.

The Hush Now self-release Memos Sept. 27. Stream the first single and lead track from the record, the yearning rocker "Arkansas" (wherein the band references its dance-floor banger "Vietnam Giraffe" with a wink, because why the hell not?), via the Soundcloud embed below. After a soon-to-be-announced, RSL Blog-hosted record release show Sept. 23, the quintet launches a tour of the eastern U.S. Oct. 6 and full tour dates are listed below. Clicky Clicky Music and our chums at The Ash Gray Proclamation will host The Hush Now's tour homecoming show at Precinct in Somerville, Mass. Saturday, Oct. 22. It's going to be a really special night; details TBA. Speaking of AGP, Executive Editor Bryan Hamill today publishes an in-depth interview with Noel Kelly that you can read right here.

Arkansas by thehushnow

The Hush Now: Internerds | Facebook | Soundcloud | YouTube

Memos Tour
10.06 -- Rochester, NY -- The Bug Jar
10.07 -- Cleveland, OH -- Roc Bar
10.08 -- Chicago, IL -- Miskas
10.09 -- Minneapolis, MN -- Acadia café
10.11 -- Milwaukee, WI -- Frank's Powerplant
10.12 -- Indianapolis, IN -- Melody Inn
10.13 -- Knoxville, TN -- Preservation Pub
10.15 -- Asheville, NC -- Fred's Speakeasy
10.16 -- Nashville, TN -- The Muse
10.17 -- Lexington, KY -- Cosmic Charlies
10.18 -- Columbus, OH -- Skully's
10.19 -- Pittsburgh, PA -- Arsenal Lanes
10.20 -- Philadelphia, PA -- The Fire
10.21 -- New York, NY -- Sullivan Hall
10.22 -- Somerville, MA -- Precinct

Selected Previous Hush Now Coverage:
The Hush Now Play The Pill | Great Scott, Boston | 12 August
Be Prepared: The Hush Now | Memos | 27 Sept.
Catching Up With Depeche Clicky: Hush Now Piece In The Boston Phoenix
The Hush Now Prep Memos, Remastered Constellations Due June 14
That Was The Show That Was: The Hush Now | Great Scott | 2 August
Review: The Hush Now| Constellations
YouTube Rodeo: The Hush Now's "Constellations"
Today's Hotness: The Hush Now
Back To Now: The Hush Now Interview With Noel Kelly
In The Studio With... The Hush Now
Review: The Hush Now | The Hush Now

Rock Over Boston: Tommy Keene and Doug Gillard | Church | 9.11.11

[Tommy Keene and Doug Gillard at Church, Boston, MA 9/11/11. Photos by Michael Piantigini.]

September 11, 2011

Rock Over Boston: Jeff Mangum | 9.9 - 9.10.2011

Jeff Mangum
[Jeff Mangum at Sanders Theater, Cambridge, MA, 9/9/11, Photo by Michael Piantigini. A few more here.]

It took some post-show YouTubery on my part to remember what a raucous and explosive live act Neutral Milk Hotel were (like in this one). In The Aeroplane Over The Sea was one of the last great front-to-back albums before the fragmentation of our listening experience via our love-hate relationships with our iPods - one of those albums that you develop a personal relationship with. This is prime "personal listening" era material: Jeff Mangum's deceptively simple music under precise imagery delivered by that powerful voice has a way of working its way through your headphones, down your ear canals, into your brain, and infecting your soul. So even then, seeing the band live was slightly disorienting to me. The transformation of Aeroplane's carefully arranged bedroom symphonies to a hippie rock juggernaut was unexpected.

But, just like that, it was all over. Neutral Milk Hotel's guiding visionary dropped out of sight, the meager rumors on the still sort-of nascent internet about his physical health, geographic location, and state of mind only added to his legend. His legacy secured by that last, perfect album not unlike Kevin Shields and My Bloody Valentine's Loveless. Like that other iconic recluse (reclusive, at least, from alt-rock eyes), and after a seemingly corresponding amount of time, Mangum's recent re-emergence is a welcome surprise.

Unlike Shields and My Bloody Valentine, who have yet again postponed the re-release of their classics, Mangum has it together enough to release an elaborate box set of NMH's two full lengths, a few singles, a bunch of unreleased material, and a couple of posters (details here). The advance promotion of this set may or may not be the impetus of this current spate of Mangum activity, but I, along with the rest of the sold out crowds at his Cambridge and Boston shows this weekend will gladly take it either way.

As I say above, Neutral Milk Hotel shows were a fairly spastic affair. Not better or worse than the albums, but certainly different. I thought these solo shows would bring these songs and their imagery back into focus when stripped of ornamentation and youthful exuberance. On the other hand, would there be too much lost in the distance between the performer and the songs - and the audience and the songs - leaving too much room for nostalgia to take over?

The answer over the two nights was a perfect balance of yes and no. The short, 55 minute sets were similar both nights - there are, after all, only two albums and a few singles to draw from - and Aeroplane unsurprisingly got the slight edge. "Oh Comely" opened both shows and provided an immediate transport to another place and time.

Mangum was greeted at Friday's show at Harvard's Sanders Theater with rapturous glee from an audience that transcended age and hipness. Mangum seemed humbled, but having fun. It still always feels weird to see this sort of pop idolatry directed at an artist such as him. People cheered, people cried, and at least one woman - hearing the opening chords of "Holland, 1945" - lept from her seat and danced, having the presence of mind to move away from the front row and into a corner to stay out of everyone's way. AND it was weird to hear such exuberant sing-alongs of these sometimes dark songs. I don't want to be presumptuous, but this doesn't seem like a crowd that regularly sings the words "I love you Jesus Christ" on a regular basis.

These old, ornate halls seemed like the perfect venues. Not in terms of status, but just that the precise acoustics of these theaters that were originally designed for an era before PA systems seemed ideal for Mangum's powerful voice and haunting songs. The Sanders show had some audio problems, however - apparently managing that space WITH a PA presented some challenges. So the brief microphone failure that led to Mangum crouched at the foot of the stage singing On Avery Island's "Where You'll Find Me Now" was one of those magic moments.

Saturday's show at New England Conservatory's Jordan Hall was maybe 5% less rapturous, and it felt like Mangum got down to business more. That slight distance I felt between him and those songs on Friday maybe dissipated a little bit and it felt a little more like he was channeling them again. The cover slot, filled by Roky Erickson's "I Love The Living You" on Friday, was given over to an amazing reading of Daniel Johnston's legendary "True Love Will Find You In The End," both perfect A&R matches.

On both nights, we witnessed something rare in the wild: an honest-to-goodness encore. Mangum came out for the one song encore of the single "Engine," and left. The house lights came on, the PA playing exit music, but it had been too long (and the show to short) to let him go so easily. After about 10 minutes of standing ovation, Mangum returned in disbelief and sat at the foot of the stage (this time on a chair) and played the hey-wait-a-minute-I-can't-believe-he-didn't-already-play-this-tonight favorite "Two-Headed Boy." He seemed to try to head off the second encore on night two by playing BOTH songs in his first encore, but nuh-uh. House lights. PA. Exit music. 10 minutes: "Ferris Wheel On Fire."

The utter lack of new material seems to reinforce reports that Mangum just has no interest in it. And that's fine. He's given us plenty.

- Michael Piantigini

Neutral Milk Hotel: intertubes | Fan site

September 10, 2011

Thursday's Hotness: Los Campesinos!, Ringo Deathstarr

>> We're a few days behind, but you can be absolutely certain that the big news 72 hours ago was the release of a video and free download for Los Campesinos!' "By Your Hand." The song is the opening number on the septet's forthcoming long-player Hello Sadness, which we first wrote about here last week. Los Camp! also unveiled a short stack of tour dates which will see the Cardiff-based indie rock goliaths visiting the U.S. mid-Atlantic, as well as Tokyo and five cities in the UK; full dates are listed below (and we are holding out hope for the addition of a Boston date, yeh?). You can download "By Your Hand" by clicking this link, and you can view some nifty art and handwritten lyrics at Los Campesinos!' web site right here. As for "By Your Hand," it's a decidedly mid-tempo clapper with a cracking sing-a-long chorus that we imagine fans had already committed to memory some 71-and-a-half hours ago. Longtime producer John Goodmanson's production is wonderfully bright, and the arrangement and orchestration are sophisticated without coming across overly dense. There's some nifty brass appointments, plonky synth and the tom work in the opening section will make you think you're about to get something on the order of The Clash's "Straight To Hell," which is a bonus (and, of course, completely untrue, ultimately). Watch the video, and then snatch the download. Hello Sadness will be released Nov. 14 by Wichita in the UK and Arts & Crafts in North America. Los Camp's previous album Romance Is Boring was our favorite record of 2010.

11.09 -– CARDIFF -- THE GLOBE (16+)
11.10 -– GLASGOW -- ORAN MOR
11.16 -– NEW YORK, NY -- BOWERY BALLROOM (18+)
11.19 -– WASHINGTON, DC -- BLACK CAT (16+)

>> There's a nice little nugget of information in Dom Gourlay's very good DrownedInSound interview with Ringo Deathstarr bassist and singer Alex Gehring. Namely that the Austin-based shoegaze titans have recorded a new single called "Shadow" that features guest vocals from Jason Reece of ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead (also, conveniently as it turns out, based in Austin). Apparently when doing scratch vocals for the recording, Gehring and Ringo Deathstarr founder Elliot Frazier agreed the vocals sounded similar to something Reece would do. Later the two bands were playing shows together and Frazier asked Reece to sing on the track and he agreed. We hope at that point Frazier quoted Hannibal Smith and said, "I love it when a plan comes together." From our recollection there's no indication in the interview of when "Shadow" might be released, but we are very excited to hear this one. We review Ringo Deathstarr's July performance in Boston right here, and we reviewed the band's long-awaited full-length debut Colour Trip right here in May.

>> Just a brief programming note: we've added a link in the sidebar over there to the new Clicky Clicky Radio tumblr, where you can look at playlists and download or stream Michael P's Thursday night radio shows. You want this. Click the link, access the rock, feel your heart grow. And we have to believe you've noticed the link to the Clicky Clicky Music Blog Facebook page up there, too, yeah? We're posting stuff there all the time, 90% of which never makes it here. Maybe 95%. But either way, you can't afford to miss all the Cheap Trick, Orange 9MM and Johnny Foreigner videos we're always posting there, and all the Clicky Clicky-Approved blurbs that typically focus on indie rock singles from the '90s. Not a liker? Be a liker.

September 5, 2011

Today's Hotness: Scud Mountain Boys, Oh Look Out, The Field

Scud Mountain Boys, that's a good band, yeh?
>> You likely saw the news a couple weeks back that during Joe Pernice's recent tour stop in Cambridge 75% of his revered, '90s alt-country unit Scud Mountain Boys appeared on stage for the first time this century. And you probably read that the band intends to play a few shows before the end of the year. Now comes news that Pernice's label Ashmont Records will reissue two "effectively out of print" Scud Mountain Boys records, The Pine Box and Dance The Night Away "either separately, or together... as they were, with no new material." Both records were originally released on Chunk Records in 1995 prior to the absolutely phenomenal 1996 Sub Pop full length Massachusetts, and the two were collected into the single disc The Early Year by Sub Pop in 1997. Ashmont will also issue a newly compiled rarities compilation, and all of these records will be available by the time the reunion shows transpire in December. Three shows are contemplated, one each in Northampton, Boston and New York. There is, of course, also a new Pernice Brothers record in the offing, although details about that are sketchy, but include the names of some collaborators including former New Radiant Storm King guy Peyton Pinkerton, the fact that the collection is being mixed by T.W. Walsh and that the collection is, according to our intrepid Managing Editor, to be titled Spread The Feeling. While we all sit around and wait for December, why not have another look at our review of the Cambridge Pernice show from last month?

>> One of the most enjoyable surprises we've come across of late is Oh Look Out's Alright Alright Alright Alright Alright, a freely available nine-song set of sharp, spikey synth-pop (whose title we have to believe is some sort of response to Spoon's stellar 2007 set Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga). Oh Look Out principal and pop savant J.P. Pfertner also plays in Austin-based synth-pop foursome Built By Snow, which impressed us in January 2009 with the full-length MEGA. MEGA featured two particularly strong tracks, "All The Weird Kids Know" and the Tokyo Police Club-esque "A-Beta," and Alright Alright Alright Alright Alright for the most part echoes the same fizzing tension (although the ballad "Implode Alright" makes us think of Daniel Johnston). The latest songs continue to sound like chunky, lo-fi Cars or Ric Ocasek demos, and that is a very good thing. In fact, we'd venture that the recent Cars reunion effort would have been much better had they used some of Mr. Pfertner's songs. Alright Alright Alright Alright Alright is officially released Sept. 27, and it will cost you zero dollars, and it looks like you don't even have to wait that long, so, really, you have no excuse not to obtain this. Stream or download the whole cabbage via the Soundcloud embed below. Pfertner apparently already has two more records in the works, and we expect it won't be long before you start hearing more about Oh Look Out.

Alright Alright Alright Alright Alright by ohlookout

>> We've been remiss in reporting the forthcoming release of Stockholm-based The Field's sophomore full-length, Looping State Of Mind. The new collection will be released by un-eff-with-able German techno label Kompakt Oct. 10, and Drowned In Sound has tracked down a song from Looping State Of Mind called "Then It's White" on Soundcloud (how have we lived this long without following Kompakt on Soundcloud? Astonishing.) "Then It's White" is an achingly beautiful, slowly spinning amalgamation of piano chords, electro beats, convincingly-real-sounding upright bass and glacial synth. It is desperately wonderful, and we expect we will spend most of the next 24 hours listening to it. Check it out at the Soundcloud embed below. We saw a very rare Boston show by The Field in June 2008 and reviewed the performance right here.

The Field - Then It's White by Kompakt

September 3, 2011

Today's Hotness: Fighting Kites/Broken Shoulder, Moody Gowns

Fighting Kites/Broken Shoulder -- Split
>> London-based record label dynamo Audio Antihero ("...we are the best at records.") has a big autumn on tap, not the least of which is the forthcoming full-length from Benjamin Shaw, which will be released in November. But devotees need not wait so long for new music: Audio Antihero's latest money-burning scheme is to release Oct. 10 a split EP featuring tasteful post-rock instrumentalists Fighting Kites and ambient waver Broken Shoulder (which, incidentally, is the solo vehicle of Fighting Kites founder Neil Debenham). Fans may recall the latter act's sublime sorta self-titled effort Broken Shoulderrr from early this year, an undulating box of tone and light to which we listened often while regularly commuting by plane across time zones. Broken Shoulder's half of Split is a bit more tense: while the collection is no less hypnotic, the push and pull of melody and dissonance offers less resolution in the first two songs. "Exciting Times" is cinematically creepy, rhythmically wheezing and drags drones like heavy links of chain. "Organomegaly" is similarly uneasy, but more subdued. The eight-minute reverie "Shark Island" is more of a piece with the music from Broken Shoulderrr, and relies on a determined cycle of guitar notes charting a more optimistic melody across a series of shuddering ripples.

For its part, Fighting Kites defies post-rock convention by not making heavy dynamics the focal point of its compositions (an observation also contained in the press materials for the release; validation!). The North London-based quartet, which formed in 2009, makes music that very well could have lyrics tacked on, but it doesn't lack for their absence either. Fighting Kites has self-released two previous demos, making this split the band's first official release: welcome to the machine, lads! Stream and pre-order the entire EP -- which is being released in a limited edition of 200 -- via the Bandcamp embed below; Fighting Kites' "Wojtek The Bear" and Broken Shoulder's "Organomegaly" are avails for free download should you be inspired to engage in some minimal clicking of the mouse. Fighting Kites will be in session for Resonance FM on Sept. 17. Broken Shoulder will be opening Audio Antihero's Birthday/Benjamin Shaw's album launch on November 25th at The Miller in London Bridge.

>> Sometimes in our doddering dotage we simply lose sight of the email. Which is why we're only now getting around to telling you about Leeds-based indie pop quintet Moody Gowns and their cracking single "Nelson Skills," which was issued July 18. The song, as best as we can tell, has something to do with a cat and a vacation; more importantly, it's got a prickly groove, sweet melodies, murmured verses, shiny guitar chunks and cozy xylophone or something that sounds like xylophone. The sum total communicates like some magical mean of Talking Heads and Style Council, which we think you will agree is a victory for everyone. "Nelson Skills" was released as a free digital download and on a very limited edition CD along with two additional demos, "Warringtonian Heroes" and "Treat Me As You Treat Your Wife," available for two pounds including home delivery to local patrons. Beat that, AmazAppleHMVBestBuy! Moody Gowns was formed in 2008 and its discography also includes two EPs Snakes And Horses and Sincerely Yours, as well as a single "Mr. Money." If Moody Gowns has more like this sitting about, we are quite eager to hear it.

Nelson Skills by MoodyGowns

September 2, 2011

YouTube Rodeo: Big Deal's Transcendent "Chair"

[via TLOBF exclusive] Cracking track from new-ish London duo Big Deal's debut full length Lights Out, which will be released by Mute Monday in the UK. The tension between Kacey Underwood and Alice Costelloe in this performance video -- the furtive glances between lines through skewed bangs -- is almost too delicious to actually be real, but either way it perfectly complements the song's confusion and hurt ("only want me for my lungs / only want me for the songs I write about you, about how I like you..."), or a hybrid of the two that in hindsight seems to be a hallmark of young love. As we reported here in June, the album was initially intended for release Oct. 11, but for some reason it was moved up more than a month to Sept. 5, and we can't say as we aren't pleased to get at the collection early. Underwood and Costelloe arrived on the scene last fall with the desperately beautiful and delicate acoustic single "Homework," released by Records Records Records, which we wrote about right here. The new, 12-song long-player was co-produced by Mr. Underwood and a fellow named Dean Reid. You can stream "Chair" via the Soundcloud embed below.

Big Deal - Chair by Big Deal

September 1, 2011

Johnny Foreigner's Johnny Foreigner vs. Everything Due Nov. 7, Sticker-Single "(Don't) Show Us Your Fangs" Out Sept. 12

Johnny Foreigner -- Johnny Foreigner vs. Everything
Birmingham, England-based noise pop titans Johnny Foreigner have at long last announced the release of the trio's hotly anticipated third full-length. As first reported here, the self-produced collection -- the band's first full-length since joining Alcopop! Records -- is indeed titled Johnny Foreigner vs. Everything, it is a stunning 18 songs long, and it will be released Nov. 7. The new set was recorded over the course of five months with long-time recording-of-things guy Dom James (as we wrote here in March), he of the erstwhile Brum act Sunset Cinema Club with whom JoFo released a split single some 10,000 years ago in the year 2007.

Johnny Foreigner vs. Everything, according to this fresh blog post from guitarist and singer Alexei Berrow, "sounds like a huge expansive sprawling ambitious and personal version of us." According to the same blog post, the image above is not the official album art, but rather there will be two versions of the final sleeve; an explanation is promised later (we assume by, you know, Nov. 7). Lex also said this: "We made this in Birmingham, in a warehouse under the arches and Dom's parents' spare room. we've never had this much control over recording, or been able to take so long, or had a producer that grew up with us buying the same records at the same time and whose mother constantly fed us square and balanced meals."

The album -- perhaps double album? -- is preceded Sept. 12 by the digital-plus single "(Don't) Show Us Your Fangs" b/w "The Hand That Slaps You Back;" streams embedded below, download "Fangs" here! In typically ingenious fashion, Alcopop! is releasing the single in a limited edition of 500 via a "dual skateboard sticker pack" for the super-cheap price of 1 pound 50, including worldwide shipping. The sticker-single -- nay, STINGLE! -- comes in a set of two stickers with URLs printed on the back where the songs can be downloaded. The band is offering a contest in connection with the stickers: slap them up somewhere clever and email a photo of same to the band's Hotmail address, and at least one winner will receive "some signed exclusive awesome art prints and a super deluxe album pack to give away (it's too early for details, but trust us, they're going to be amazing and sell out)." If you can't wait for the stickers to arrive in your mail, apparently you can include any URL to an image of some fantastic animal with your order and Alcopop! honcho Jack Pop will email you the files. Service!

But BUT AND AND AND. There is also finally a brand new band web site right here, and a new YouTube outpost a little more official than MovingAlexei (or even this, thanks Nettwurkzzzzz, way to go!) where there is also the first of many promised weird visual missives from our heroes. Johnny Foreigner will be celebrating the album and single by headlining the Alcopop! stage at Southsea Fest Sept. 17, and the trio intends to announce more shows soon. We've already seen news that Johnny Foreigner will return to France with brilliant Alcopop! labelmates Screaming Maldini in November. Dear Supreme Being That May Not Exist But For The Sake Of Argument Yadda Yadda, send these jokers to America forthwith.

Let us step back for a moment and think about what a top fucking achievement it is that the new record will include 18 songs. While this is the band's first full-length since the mind-blowing Grace And The Bigger Picture in 2009, in the intervening two years Johnny Foreigner has released some 21 new songs, depending on how you count, and we're sure we're counting wrong, but still -- let's ballpark it at 40 songs in two years' time including the new record and single, yeah? Stunning achievement. Stunning. We couldn't cheer harder for these guys if we tried. Oh, right, the single, it's below, start streaming!

(don't) show us your fangs by johnny foreigner

the hand that slaps you back by johnny foreigner