December 21, 2012

New Music Night DJ Sets | River Gods | 20/21 Dec.

New Music Night 8, River Gods, Cambridge, Dec. 20/21, 2012
[Photo: R.L. Mathews] Here are the songs we played whilst manning the figurative decks tonight/right now/last night in the booth at the fabulous River Gods in Cambridge, Massachusetts. We're technically on vacation right now, so we're not going to have the playlist all nice and hyperlinked for you tonight, but check back after Christmas and we promise it'll be all prettied up for you by the end of the year; if you have any questions or want to know more, hit us on Twitter or drop a comment. We may or may not do Spotify playlists of these sets in the coming days and post links here; watch this space. Also, please click over to Bradley's Almanac and check out Brad's playlists for the 9PM and 11PM hours, which we expect will be posted imminently, or at least sometime. Sometime's good, right?

Set 2/10PM/Jay

1. It Hugs Back -- "Snow Angel" -- Happy Christmas 2012
2. Crushing Blows -- "The People You Will Never Meet" -- (from Soundcloud)
3. Mic Raygun -- "Try Me" -- Eating The Timid
4. Occurrence -- "Philip's Emotion Cards" -- The Cotton Floppy EP
5. Black Seas -- "Black Seas" -- (from Soundcloud)
6. The Cherry Wave -- "Dropped" -- The Cherry Wave EP
7. Los Campesinos! -- "A Doe To A Deer" -- digital single
8. Pacific Strings -- "Do You Love Me?" -- Woodgate valley
9. Bear Cavalry -- "Aubrey Plaza (Shields Remix)" -- (from Soundcloud)
10. Dark Warble -- "Serious Dread" -- Moon Is Trouble EP
11. Dead Mellotron -- "Weird Dreams" -- (is it) EP
12. Charlotte Rose -- "When The Transient Happens" -- (from Soundcloud)
13. Greatwaves -- "Into The Blue" -- (from Soundcloud)
14. Heyward Howkins -- "Praline County" -- digital single
15. Arctic Splash -- "Don't Kill Yourself This Christmas" -- WXPN The Key Session
16. Screaming Maldini -- "The Winter Stars" -- Winter Stars EP
17. The Hush Now -- "I'm Always Broke In December" -- digital single
18. Ted Billings -- "Rotten World" -- American Bedrooms

Set 4/12AM/Jay

1. Johnny Foreigner -- "Killing In The Name" -- Names EP
2. Playlounge -- "Sweet Tooth" -- digital promo
3. Projekt A-ko -- "Phosphorine" -- Mailing list bonus track
4. Calories -- "Summer's Not" -- Album 3 Promo Track
5. Ringo Deathstarr -- "Slack" -- Mauve
6. Soccer Mom -- "A Canoe Shy" -- "Brides" b/w "A Canoe Shy"
7. The Snowy Owls -- "Fortunate Isles" -- Within Yr Reach EP
8. Endless Jags -- "Sound Drivers" -- Endless Jags EP
9. The Weaks -- "Alone In Tokyo" -- from forthcoming cassette comp
10. Dot Dash -- "La La Land" -- Winter Garden Light
11. Teen Mom -- "Say My Name" -- Mean Tom
12. Screaming Maldini -- "Summer, Somewhere (Fridge Poetry Remix)" -- Summer, Somewhere single
13. Cold Pumas -- "Fog Cutter" -- Persistent Malaise
14. Run, Forever -- "Maritime States" -- Settling
15. The Spinto Band -- "Shake It Off" -- Cool Cocoon
16. Elias Krantz -- "Melting Point" -- Night Ice

December 19, 2012

Clicky Clicky Music Blog's Top Albums Of 2012: Jay Edition

Clicky Clicky Music Blog Top Albums Of 2012 -- Jay Edition

Man, what a thrilling year of music we had. So many surprises, and so many favorite bands making some of the best music of their careers. It was gratifying to sit and listen to it all go by, to see and feel the shows we were able to make it out to see. But there can only be 10 favorites in our list below, and we're super pleased to be able to share them with you below. We'll reiterate our position: music is important. This thing we all share, the fandom, the making, the considering, the camaraderie of being out in the clubs: you get to a point in your life where you realize how important that is. It's inherently optimistic, in a way, our collective pursuit -- whether that be a pursuit of artistic perfection or the hedonistic thrill of having the music just wash over you -- innit? We thank all of the bands we wrote about this year for inspiring us, and we thank all of you readers for sharing our passion for it all. We're more excited than ever for the future, and as difficult as recent events have been for so many, let's remember: the potential for greater things is always sitting out there. The bands whose albums are below certainly chased that and made good. Take a few minutes to reflect with us upon the best 2012 had to offer.

1. Karl Hendricks Trio -- The Adult Section -- Comedy Minus One

Was anyone expecting a new record from Karl Hendricks Trio back when the calendar flipped to January? Was anyone expecting it to be this great? We're betting for most of us the answer to those questions are no. While we weren't looking, Mr. Hendricks was slowly writing rock hits in his beloved home town of Pittsburgh, at the pace of a few a year by his own reckoning, and retrofitting his Rock Band back to its original Trio configuration. Gone -- obliterated under the delightfully excoriating guitars of "The Men's Room At The Airport" -- are the lighter touch and looser feel of 2007's The World Says, which is a fine record indeed [review], but it didn't contain the sort of mint condition Hendricks losercore found on the Trio's classic records. Does that make The Adult Section a "return to form," a phrase we loathe? Whatever it is, it resulted in a collection of fiery rockers and thoughtful ballads, a collection that was our favorite of 2012. Stream "The Men's Room At The Airport" via the embed below or stream the entire record via Spotify via this link. We were pleased to be able to publish a comprehensive interview with Hendricks in July that you can read right here.

2. Golden Gurls -- Typo Magic -- Self-Released

Ever since Baltimore-based Golden Gurls' record was brought to our attention we have written about it early and often, so it should surprise precisely no one to find it firmly lodged here in the upper echelon of our year-end list. Along with the above-referenced The Adult Section, Typo Negative was among the first things we grabbed (well, you know, digitally grabbed, "grabbed") whenever we had some mental headspace and music-listening downtime, meaning it was the thing we listened to a lot because we WANTED to, not because it was sitting in our queue awaiting our critical attention. The tune "I Can See The City From Here" was one of our favorite songs of the year, but song-for-song Typo Magic is remarkably strong all the way across the record, from the delicately burbling ballad "Cars On Mars" to the cracking anthem "Excited." We reviewed Typo Magic here in May, and published an interview with Golden Gurls' fronter Andrew Mabry right here in September. Stream the whole thing via the Bandcamp embed below.

3. Ringo Deathstarr - Mauve -- Sonic Unyon

Because of a successful PledgeMusic campaign mounted by the band to fund it, Ringo Deathstarr's sophomore set Mauve didn't enjoy the element of surprise as did Typo Magic, which dropped out of nowhere upon on us, but nonetheless the record's length and depth made it incredibly enjoyable. We spun the Austin-based trio's LP constantly during the waning days of summer and into the early fall, side one for days and then side two for days because our turntable is a real pain in the ass to access to rock the flip. No matter. Mauve is bursting with lysergic stargazing rockers ("Slack," "Waste") and dance-inflected, moody groovers ("Brightest Star," "Drag"), and the Deathstarr sounds almost eerily at ease working within its various idioms. Perhaps it is the greater emphasis on ambience and atmosphere that distinguishes much of the music on Mauve from the band's prior releases, but truly nothing seems out of the band's grasp on the record. As such, we're eager to hear where Elliot Frazier and his cohort take the band next. Stream "Rip" via the Soundcloud embed below, or listen to all of Mauve at Spotify via this link.

4. Infinity Girl -- Stop Being On My Side -- Self-Released

What else is there left to say about Infinity Girl? The young Boston band's star has burned very brightly over the course of the last six months on the strength of this record and the band's impassioned live shows. In light of the news that the band is entering a hibernation of indeterminate length, Stop Being On My Side (and the recently issued, sparkling Just Like Lovers EP) takes on even greater importance as a document of a great shoegaze band. It's all about the songs, of course, and readers already saw us name "Please Forget" as one of our favorite tracks of 2012 here. But the record is filled with great music from front to back, until the final moments of "Cannons" fade out. Seeing the band close its EP release show earlier this month with a crushing iteration of that tune was the perfect way for Infinity Girl to close this chapter. Until another one begins, we've got this record, which we reviewed right here in June. We were privileged to publish a long-form interview with fronter Nolan Eley and drummer Sebastian Modak right here in July.

5. Johnny Foreigner -- Names EP -- Alcopop Records

Just having the Birmingham, England-based noise-pop titans come to America would have been enough. That they played our benefit show in Boston early last month was completely unreal and awesome. But to top it off by dropping a sterling EP this fall as well? Johnny Foreigner have always been the band that kept on giving, but despite not releasing a full-length this year we can't help but feel lucky as a fan. The four songs released on Names (three each in the U.S. and the U.K., although one title was exclusive to each territory) are all electric, fist-banging rockers of the first order, and the EP -- the band's fifth -- is another in an impressively lengthy strand of brilliant releases. We reviewed Names right here last month. Stream the whole dealy via the Bandcamp embed below.

6. Big Science -- Difficulty -- Self-Released

It's a very compelling transformation, that evolution of San Diego-based The North Atlantic's post-hardcore/Archers alloy into the brilliant, crystalline, reggae-influenced space pop of Chicago's Big Science. The quartet released in May its debut full length Difficulty, and it is a slow-burning, certified indie rock classic. Drawing from the band's strengths as first mapped on the excellent 2008 EP The Coast Of Nowhere, Difficulty captures the band's music in full, dewy bloom. Opening with the spectral ballad "All Of The Heat Has Escaped" and climaxing with the spine-tingling, wide-screened guitar anthem "Subliminal," Big Science's record was a jaw-dropper at every turn. With its lush sonics and sturdy rhythms, the record is an embarrassment of riches, and certainly one worthy of wider attention and critical kudos. Stream all of Difficulty via the Bandcamp embed below.

7. Swearin' -- Swearin' -- Self-Released

Sometimes we think this record is almost cheating, the way Brooklyn quartet Swearin's self-titled debut LP gives us exactly what we want: great melodies, punky attitude, raw production. And so maybe Swearin' is doing us two great services: not only is it giving us music we love, that reminds us of The Breeders and early Built To Spill, but also it's a reminder that maybe the seriousness with which we typically focus our critical ear upon music can sometimes cause us to miss the point. That point being that great music can also be fun. Not to discredit any of the brilliant songwriting here, or the propulsive energy with which Ms. Allison Crutchfield and her band of merry persons deliver these twelve numbers. For much of the year Swearin' was available as a free download, but it was subsequently released by Salinas Records and is available as an LP or CD right here. It's a crucial record, it includes one of our favorite songs of the year, and you should buy it. In the meantime catch the stream via the Bandcamp embed below.

8. Hospitality -- Hospitality -- Merge

It seems like every year there is one pure indie pop record that comes along and wins our heart outright. And while it was a tight battle for that distinction between this and Allo Darlin's Europe, the ITunes playcounts don't lie, and Brooklyn-based Hospitality's delicious self-titled debut full-length takes the prize. From the odd disco of "The Birthday" to the nostalgic, pretty strummer "Betty Wang," from the shimmering wall of sound in "Argonaut" to the relatively rocking album highlight "The Right Profession," Hospitality boasts gems at every turn that only gained more luster as we listened repeatedly in recent months. Listen to "Friends Of Friends" via the Soundcloud embed below or stream the entire thing via Spotify right here.

9. Ted Billings -- American Bedrooms -- Self-released

Ted Billings' first solo full length is the most recent entry into our list, a feat made possible by the collection's forthright hooks, near-palpable energy and rich narrative. That Boston rocker Mr. Billings was able to turn this set around in only one year after his band Age Rings' epic 2011 release Black Honey -- which was made available as both a double album to Kickstarter backers and an abridged, single disc set released by Midriff Records -- is a remarkable feat. Perhaps the short window of time to work in helped inspire Billings. No matter what incited it, the well-sequenced American Bedrooms is an eminently listenable record, eight tightly composed power-pop songs that inexorably proceed to a startling conclusion in the sweet and dour ballad "Rotten World." Highly recommended. Stream the entire record via the Bandcamp embed below.

10. Everyone Everywhere -- Everyone Everywhere (2012) -- Self-released

Philly-based emo heroes certainly seem to go about things in their own way, be it the clever blog tour that promoted their first self-titled set a few years ago or the fact that its most recent record -- also excellent -- was self-released on the band's own imprint and promoted with a huge UK and European tour months ago, but will only see a local record release show next month (Jan. 19 at The Barbary in Philadelphia). Indeed, Everyone Everywhere has already sold out of its first pressing, and the band hasn't even celebrated the thing in its hometown yet. It's certainly worth the fuss, as the album showcases the band taking its big guitars and punchy rhythms and using them to make a record dealing with markedly more mature issues. Album highlight "No Furniture" was among our favorite songs of the year, and we reviewed Everyone Everywhere [2012] in September right here. Stream the entire thing via the Bandcamp embed below.

December 18, 2012

New Music Night 8 with DJs Brad Almanac + Jay Clicky Clicky | River Gods | 20 Dec.

New Music Night 8 Cosmonauts On Kitteh Faces Mountain
Well, the weather outside is frightful... Up on the housetop reindeer paws... I saw mommy kissing Santa Claus, because she thought the world was ending... GET A HOLD OF YOURSELF, MAN! New Music Night returns for its eighth manifestation Thursday, Dec. 20, at River Gods in Cambridge, Mass. It's our first DJ night to be held during a scheduled apocalypse, and we've got very high hopes for one or the other. Your faithful aural tour guides de rock continue to be Brad of Bradley's Almanac and Jay of Clicky Clicky, and it all happens from 9PM-1AM. So it's not just the place to be, it's the place to listen. Also, beer. For a sense of what you're getting into, check out Brad's playlist from the September event, or our very own. Solid. Sold? Thinking about it? Here's the Facebook event page, why not click on over and pledge your allegiance? We've had most of the fall off and our digital rucksacks are overflowing with exquisite, high-value, new and newer music, so come hear the best of what indie rock has had to offer during the last few months, as well as a handful of the best new Christmas nuggets from some of our favorite Christmas nugget purveyors. You better not pout, I'm telling you why .

River Gods
125 River Street
Cambridge, MA

Accessible via Red Line at Central Square.

December 16, 2012

Clicky Clicky's Top Songs Of 2012: Jay Edition

Clicky Clicky Music Blog Top Songs Of 2012 -- Jay Edition

2012 provided another year of incredible music, from both Boston bands and the wider world. Music continued to transport us, to provide opportunities for celebration and for solace. Our simple mantra, that "music is important," drove us to engage with it in more and deeper ways, and -- not coincidentally -- our care and attention consistently was rewarded by bands finding new methods of knocking our proverbial socks off. And so we arrive at the end of the year, where we cast a long look back, we take stock of our ITunes playcounts, we think about the songs that occupied our mind and heart. The fruits of that examination are below, where we present our 10 favorite songs of 2012. Frankly, there are certain songs we are surprised not to see there (Karl Hendricks Trio's "The Men's Room At The Airport" immediately jumped to mind). But what did make the cut are tunes that moved us and continue to move us many months on. Expect to see our top albums list later this week, and perhaps lists from Michael and Edward before the year is out -- or before the new year has off-gassed a substantial amount of its newness -- as well. For now, we wish you and yours a peaceful and hopefully joyful balance of the year. If the songs below are not yet in your life, take some time and get into it.

1. Sun Airway -- "Close" -- Soft Fall

We try to stay sort of scientific with our top picks of the year, relying largely on data (basically, ITunes play counts). But there is also something to be said for the aggregate amount of time one spends singing a song to himself, something you will see us reference over and over below, and Sun Airway's "Close" ranks highest for us in 2012 based on that metric. The lovelorn lyric "I tried to get close to you," delivered by Sun Airway fronter Jon Barthmus, is among the most affecting of any this year, simple though it may be. The composition and arrangement on this brilliant single is anything but simple, however, with technicolor melodies and layered guitar and synths steadily spiraling around a stuttering rhythmic axis. Listen in via the embed below, and check out the amazing video right here. We reviewed the record for The Boston Phoenix in October right here.

2. Golden Gurls -- "I Can See The City" -- Typo Magic

A jaunty rhythm, big dense guitars modeled on Dinosaur Jr.'s Bug record, and a series of great melodies: what more can an indie rock fan ask for? "I Can See The City" is but one highlight of the Baltimore trio's exceptional debut full-length. From the undeniable, gestural guitar riff to the light, bouncing melody that complements it, to the peanut butter-thick guitars in the bridge, this is an understated piece of genius from one of the most thoughtful songwriters we've encountered in recent years. We're terrifically excited for Golden Gurls' planned sophomore set, but the band has set an extremely high bar for itself with Typo Magic and brilliant songs like "I Can See The City." We reviewed Typo Magic right here in May.

3. Everyone Everywhere -- "No Furniture" -- Everyone Everywhere (2012)

Although it opens with chugging fuzz bass and pummeling drums, Everyone Everywhere's "No Furniture" eventually exposes the still, desolate heart of the Philly punk heroes' second self-titled full-length, which the band self-released in 2012. The lyric describes the dismantling of a domestic situation, and at the tail of its second minute, the drums drop out momentarily, parting the composition like clouds to reveal the line "spare me the car ride home..." -- an indignity the apparently jilted just can't face. It's the receding water line chasing the final surrender of a narrator who's been worn down. And that moment of stillness that sets it off, it's also a momentary fissure in the fourth wall wherein our hero unburdens himself to us. In contrast to the quartet's prior two releases, Everyone Everywhere (2012) is substantially more mature, more emotionally weighty, as "No Furniture" perhaps best illustrates. We reviewed the record in September right here.

4. Swearin' -- "Movie Star" -- Swearin'

There were a number of excellent, excellent records in 2012 that we just didn't have the time to turn our critical ear upon, but that doesn't mean we enjoyed them any less. And so it was with Swearin's self-titled effort. The songs from the collection merged everything we love about pre-Warners Built To Spill -- you know, the brevity, the fizz and melodic sense -- with everything we love about The Breeders -- you know, the spunk and hooks... so pretty much the same thing, right? Chief among the songs on Swearin' in our cold little heart is the album closer "Movie Star." It's got insistent and scritchy guitar and bass, a patient pace, and the cheerfully self-effacing line "no one likes you when you're as old as we are." While we never got around to reviewing this record, we did play "Movie Star" during the September iteration of New Music Night and dozens and dozens of other times as well. Swearin' is an act we expect to hear a lot from for years to come, so if you do not yet know the name, mark it well. Dig the embed below.

5. Infinity Girl -- "Please Forget" -- Stop Being On My Side

This tune explodes out of the gate, even more so when the Boston quartet plays it live, and we never got tired of spinning it this year. In fact, we don't envision getting tired of spinning it any time soon, although the tunes on Infinity Girl's brand new Just Like Lovers EP certainly give this one a run for its money. If it had money, you know, which it doesn't, 'cause it's a song. What were we talking about? Oh, right: "Please Forget," the uptempo, visceral and blurry highlight of Infinity Girl's powerful full-length debut that we reviewed here in June. It's a tidal wave of melody, noise and sentiment.

6. Hop Along -- "Lament" -- Get Disowned

It was really a toss up, which tune to choose from Philly's Hop Along. The promo track "Tibetan Pop Stars" is an unabashed, high-octane, big-statement rocker with a killer hooks and a barely contained rage. But the deeper album cut "Lament" surpasses even that excellent number on the strength of a percolating, addictive vocal melody in the chorus and the greater degree of sophistication in the arrangement. We suppose it helps that the chorus has shouty vocals apparently abetted by at least one of the dudes in the late, lamented Algernon Cadwallader, whose label Hot Green Records released Get Disowned -- a windows-wide-open-to-the-gathering-heat, coffee-cup-in-hand kinda record -- last summer. And every time we listened, when fronter Frances Quinlan hit the line "the one on the left said to the one on the right," we couldn't keep from singing along. A brilliant, brilliant song.

7. Speedy Ortiz -- "Taylor Swift" -- "Taylor Swift" b/w "Swim Fan"

At the top of this piece we referenced singing songs to ourself, and Speedy Ortiz's very catchy single "Taylor Swift" was another we found ourselves absent-mindedly singing a lot. Which made us laugh. And so we made that the hook to a brief piece we wrote for The Boston Phoenix last spring. What's funny is the chorus, "I've got a boy in a hardcore band..." certainly doesn't apply to us, but that didn't make us sing it any less. Speedy Ortiz is a band destined for a national profile, and its facility for pop hooks paired with muscled compositions boasting big guitar parts is the reason why. Years from now, fans will probably remember this single as the thing that started the whole train rolling. It's certainly unforgettable. Dig "Taylor Swift" via the embed below.

8. Dikembe -- "Not Today, Angel" -- Broad Shoulders

Apparently one never outgrows an affinity for the beautiful, brooding ballad, as Florida-based emo heroes Dikembe's "Not Today, Angel" echoes the sort of heart-rending slow burners we loved in the early '90s from bands like Codeine and Seam. We've marveled for month and months at the understated, left-field production on this number: the odd clattering percussion, the guitars just slightly feeding back to fill the ambient space, gathering like a thick, quick fog shifting around the cycling melody. The tune isn't wholly representative of the rest of the music on Dikembe's amazing full-length, Broad Shoulders, but it also isn't completely out of character either. It's a beautiful, slow-spinning center of a collection of songs bristling with energy, edge and promise, and we listened to it a hell of a lot of times, reflecting on things so remote now that they might as well have happened to completely different people.

9. Los Campesinos! -- "Tiptoe Through The True Bits" -- Hello Sadness outtake

So it's a non-album track from an album released last year, but Cardiff-based indie rock giants Los Campesinos! gave "Tiptoe Through The True Bits" an unofficial release via its blog earlier this year and the patient, pretty song permanently burrowed its way into our subconscious not long there after. Fronter Gareth Campesinos! explained that while the tune was his favorite from the sessions for the band's excellent 2011 collection Hello Sadness, the band all agreed that it didn't sit well within the context of the rest of the songs on the album. The song is amazing and soulful, but -- more importantly for us -- it speaks to our fixation on bands' unreleased material. If Los Camp! had never put this song on its blog, few of us would ever have known about it and how awesome it is. What other gems does the band, or others, have laying around? That's the sort of thing we think about a lot. Perhaps almost as much as we sang the chorus "I've been waking on your side of the bed..." to ourself this past year. Download the song here, or stream it via the embed below.

10. Johnny Foreigner -- "3 Hearts" -- Names EP

As prolific as Birmingham, England's noise pop titans Johnny Foreigner are, for some reason we were surprised when the quartet released an EP this fall. Given how monumental the task of creating and promoting 2011's epic Johnny Foreigner vs. Everything must have been, we just didn't think the band would have much in the tank. But happily we were wrong, and Johnny Foreigner in late October released its brilliant Names EP, which we reviewed here last month. The short set was released both in the US and in the UK, with each territory having one exclusive track. But it is the EP closer "3 Hearts" that sticks in our head most. The tune memorably repurposes the line from Talking Heads' "Girlfriend Is Better" to power a characteristically overdriven, exasperated tale from the quartet. The tune provides a series of huge moments that make us very, very excited about what the band will do next, an excitement that has stuck with us for going on about six years now.

December 13, 2012

Review: Ted Billings | American Bedrooms

It's safe to assume that no one is more relieved by the release of American Bedrooms than Ted Billings himself. Not only is the amazing and potent new collection being issued little more than a year after the most recent long-player from Mr. Billings' mothballed rock outfit (this is no small victory, as Age Rings' Black Honey -- one of Clicky Clicky's favorite records of 2011 -- somewhat infamously took four years to complete). But also the release of American Bedrooms likely serves at least in some small part as an exorcism of the feelings related to the events described therein. Most everyone has a story about where they were when the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 occurred; Mr. Billings' American Bedrooms jumps off from that horrific day ("I was starting school when the planes hit," he sings in the opener "Freedom") to explore the songwriter's struggle toward peace of mind in the decade that followed.

While a substantial part of the ambitious, Townshendian narrative is fiction -- particularly the record's climax, "Rotten World" -- it's pretty heavy. Still, it doesn't weigh down the proceedings in the least: American Bedrooms is first and foremost a great rock and roll record whose eight anthemic songs comprise a concise psychodrama punctuated by brilliant, punchy power-pop. Perhaps because of its relatively short gestation period, perhaps not, American Bedrooms is a leaner, more lucid set of tunes than those on Black Honey. Where the prior record was rife with tunes marked by the surrealism of fever dreams, American Bedrooms feels refreshingly straightforward, almost literal. Musically, the record rides high on an undercurrent of vital punk mania; fuzzed guitars rule the day. The set's narrative arc spans both a slow-boiling, post-millennial confusion and disillusionment and a dark twist on conventional salvation (love, here not quite requited and complicated by a hostage situation...) that culminates in the dark ballad that closes the record.

The aforementioned "Freedom" is a tight, buoyant composition commencing with a choppy guitar riff touting Telekinesis-styled fuzz. The fuzz deepens and seeps into the vocal on "House On Fire," a tune that broadens the scope of the record to implicate the collapse of the domestic housing market ("I live in a house on fire, a foreclosure the price was right, we all choose how we're gonna die..."). The guitar part in the title track's verse echoes a bit of Bryan Adams' "Run To You." Thumping, relentless quarter notes from the drum kit anchor the slithering six-string part, but pointedly evaporate at the spine-tingling first chorus, which is ushered in over a solemn, ecclesiastical organ lick. The beat returns, as does the narrator's simple prayer for a facsimile of the American dream ("...all I want to do is to share an American bedroom with you..."). The narrator's misguided hopes of ameliorating his disillusionment and frustration via a romantic conquest, well, that doesn't go as planned ("... I thought you'd learn..."), but it certainly makes for a beautiful finale for American Bedrooms; the stunned admission "didn't see that coming" in "Rotten World" -- delivered amid a pretty cascade of synths -- is terrifically poignant.

Billings self-releases American Bedrooms digitally tomorrow; it is already available for streaming and purchase via the Bandcamp embed below. It is certainly among the best records released this year, although given its late entry it likely won't be recognized as such, sadly. The record will be feted tomorrow evening at The Middle East Rock Club in Cambridge with a record release show featuring a stellar bill. Not only will Mr. Billings and band perform, but also Midriff Records' flagship act, Boston post-punk titans The Beatings, will play, as will the acclaimed Dear Leader and Marconi.

Ted Billings: Internet | Facebook | Bandcamp

December 10, 2012

Footage: Future Carnivores' "What's Unbelievable"

We keep watching this video: it's got drama, it's got understated humor, and it's for a great song we listened to a lot this year. And this is a pretty "old dude" thing to say, but most of all, it makes us miss the golden age of MTV, when there were videos like this, and this, and this. Stuff that was fun, quirky, and incorporated the band, hopefully performing, maybe not. Future Carnivore's terrific clip is akin to the sort of televisual stuff we gorged ourselves on heavily from about 1981 (starting with HBO's "Video Jukebox") until we hit driving age in 1990. "What's Unbelievable" is a highlight of the band's very strong self-titled set ("a delicious anomaly that listeners will return to again and again"), which was released early this year and which we reviewed right here. The video for the tune was directed by Future Carnivores/Guillermo Sexo guitarist Reuben Bettsak and features performances by Ryan Lee Crosby, Mariam Saleh of the very hotly tipped Fat Creeps and Alana Sacks of Poor Everybodys. After you've gotten your fill of the clip for "What's Unbelievable," click through those other videos we linked at the top of the piece and note some similarities: apparently some aspects of great video making never change.

Future Carnivores: Internerds | Facebook | Bandcamp

December 9, 2012

Today's Hotness: The Hush Now, The Spinto Band

The Hush now -- I'm Always Broke In December

>> Well, the Christmas tree went up at Clicky Clicky HQ this afternoon, so we're ready now to turn our attention to the music of the season. A reliable pleasure for the last few years has been a holiday offering from Boston dream pop giants The Hush Now, and we were pleased to receive recently the slow, serene rumination "I'm Always Broke In December." It's the first Hush Now Christmas jam to feature a lead vocal from drummer and polymath Barry Marino. The title communicates the sentiment aptly, but it is the band's patient, nuanced delivery that sells "I'm Always Broke" and distinguishes these guys -- again -- as consummate pros. From founder and guitarist Noel Kelly's barely there vocal harmonies and gentle horn solo, to lead guitarist Adam Quane's spectral, mildly dissonant sonics shading the chorus, to keyboardist Jon Rosen's brilliantly subtle layers of organ that commence at about 2:30 in the tune and ride it out, The Hush Now's latest holiday offering is a perfect case study of the band's formidable songcraft and pop chops. The band is midway into the recording of a planned fourth full-length, which we reckon you will see in 2013 barring unforeseen circumstances; "I'm Always Broke In December" makes us that much more eager to here what the band has up its 10 sleeves. Dig the tune via the Bandcamp embed below, and click through to download the thing to have for your very own -- for free, the guys know you're tapped out. The Hush Now's last long-player Memos was one of our favorite records of 2011.

>> Just nine months in the wake of this year's well-conceived Shy Pursuit, Delaware institution The Spinto Band make a breathless return with yet another album of high-quality, upbeat indie pop. Titled Cool Cocoon, this new set is out digitally (presumably also physically) Feb. 5th on the band's own Spintonic Recordings. The band's efficient release schedule and tight, catchy songwriting both stand as evidence the quintet continues its present stretch of focused, independent work. "Shake It Off" is a solid choice for the first single from Cool Cocoon, with its instantly memorable vocal melody and stark, yet full piano and drum production. For a band that once made use of a dizzying number of different electric guitar lines, Spinto Band's recent efforts are notable for utilizing the instrument less. Instead, we get satisfyingly over-driven organ stabs (in the chorus) and deceptively funky snare cadences along with the group’s characteristic, classy vocal harmonies and subtle key changes. The slick production and classic-pop touches echoes certain work by Philadelphia's Dr. Dog or tunes from The Apples In Stereo's New Magnetic Wonder. This writer especially enjoys the twisted opening effects and the very short, unresolved verse melody. The Spinto Band are certainly on a hot streak, with productions that sound even more realized than when other labels were footing the bill. Consider them statesmen of the latest, computer-assisted DIY renaissance. If you're lucky enough, catch them at one of their upcoming French shows listed here. Stream or download (in exchange for your email address, a worth-while trade) "Shake It Off" via the embedded widget dealie below. -- Edward Charlton

December 7, 2012

Today's Hotness: Lemonheads, She, Sir

Lemonheads -- Mallo Cup

>> We didn't expect to be learning stuff last Saturday night when we took in the big Varsity Drag show at Midway Cafe, so when fronter (and Lemonheads co-founder) Ben Deily laid out a surprising little history lesson for us, we were caught a bit off guard. We followed up this week with Mr. Deily who graciously reiterated his tale, which concerns one of our favorite Lemonheads songs, "Mallo Cup." When Evan Dando originally brought the song to the band, it bore the title "If Only You Were Dead," the arrangement lacked the metal vamp in the middle, and the chorus had entirely different words. In place of the familiar section that begins "I never will forget," the words instead were "If only you were dead, I'd walk on home, if only you were dead, I'd know I was alone." While Mr. Deily is a big fan of the popular, well-known version of the song, he and Varsity Drag tore through the original version at Midway Cafe Saturday, blowing both our 38-year-old mind as well as what remains lurking within of the mind of the 16-year-old kid who cut the lawn hundreds of times listening to Lemonheads' Lick on cassette. Earlier this fall -- in the wake of news that Deily and Dando were reuniting to create a new Lemonheads record along with Juliana Hatfield and Ryan Adams -- London-based Fire Records announced it will reissue in 2013 that record as well as Lemonheads' debut full-length Hate Your Friends and Creator, which along with Lick are the three records made during Deily's original tenure with Lemonheads. What's more -- and this is where we tie things together, people -- Fire Records issued "Mallo Cup" b/w "Mallo Cup (Live on VPRO 1989)" on "super-limited" edition 7" vinyl Nov. 26 (buy link). That live version is the one found on the tail end of Creator, as fans will likely recognize. It turns out "Mallo Cup" isn't the first Lemonheads single Fire has released; the label, through its Roughneck Records subsidiary, released a single for "Different Drum" in 1990. And that single, incidentally, contains our very favorite Lemonheads b-side "Paint," which was released domestically as part of the Favorite Spanish Dishes EP. While you twiddle your thumbs waiting for those album reissues, why not stream "Mallo Cup" via the embed below?

>> Just as our hunger for new She, Sir jams was rumbling again in the wake of the delicious digital single "You Could Be Tiger" [coverage here], the Austin-based dream pop heroes have announced they will finally release the long-anticipated Go Guitars full length early in 2013 on Japan's Happy Prince Records; the band continues to look for a suitable domestic label situation for the record. But clearly the season of giving is upon us, as the group is also sharing the first single from the planned album, "Condensedindents." The new tune confirms that the act continues its delicate revisions to the tape-saturated noise-pop which first captured our hearts with the brilliant, brilliant 2006 mini-album Who Can’t Say Yes. "Condensedindents" stands apart immediately, as it is marked by She, Sir's signature timeless sonics and composition, but also appropriates signifiers hence unheard. Specifically, there's a smooth, '70s-funk-inspired bass line that mingles with the delay pedals. That single instrument imbues the song with a playful, relaxed bounce that transports She, Sir's dream-pop to the yacht club. Add to this the brief yet effective and creamy guitar strums in the breakdown, and you've got all the makings of another classic from collaborators Russell Karloff and M. Grusha. The duo now works with a steady slate of members including lead guitarist Jeremy Cantrell and drummer David Nathan, both of whom seem to fit seamlessly into the band's aesthetic. She, Sir fans have had to be patient while the band simmered in the studio and practice space in recent years, but the release of Go Guitars is looking and sounding like it will be fine reward for all the good boys and girls that kept the faith. For now, enjoy "Condensedindents" via the embed below. -- Edward Charlton

December 6, 2012

That Was The Show That Was: Infinity Girl EP Release Show With New Highway Hymnal, Speedy Ortiz and Soccer Mom | TT The Bear's | 5 Dec.

In what seems to be a trend in Boston of late, Wednesday night at TT The Bear's featured a killer lineup worthy of a weekend slot. The occasion was an EP release show for Boston shoegaze quartet Infinity Girl's new Just Like Lovers EP [review]. It was an espcially important show for the band, as its future is presently up in the air, with at least half of the band soon to take up residency outside of Boston's friendly confines. The bill also featured crackling sets from scenemates Soccer Mom, grungy post-punk from Northampton's Speedy Ortiz and Boston-based The New Highway Hymnal's narcotic psych-blues.

Soccer Mom opened the show a little after 9 with a set that included unrecorded material, both "sides" of the foursome's recent digital single, and selections from the band's killer 2011 EP You Are Not Going To Heaven. While their music certainly doesn't shy away from heavy use of noise, it's worth noting that Soccer Mom are particularly loud live. Dan Parlin and William Scales' guitars and their attendant feedback regularly collide and then cut out, leaving an opening for vocals to penetrate the live mix. The 'Mom's newer songs retain the chaotic atmosphere of their older material. The foursome ended its set with songs from their digital single "Brides" b/w "A Canoe Shy;" the latter track and its soaring chorus was particularly impressive.

Speedy Ortiz jumped right into a slew of new songs slated to appear on the band's planned full-length debut; the quartet finished recording the set with Justin Pizzoferrato at his studio Sonelab in Easthampton, Mass. just last week, according to fronter and guitarist Sadie Dupuis. She noted from the stage that certain of the songs in the set were being given their live debut last night. These new tunes fit well within the band's established sound -- sarcastic, awkward verses that give way to big choruses punctuated by dynamic blasts of feedback and heavy drum fills. Speedy Ortiz's lone selection from this year's excellent Sports EP was "Silver Spring," and the live iteration -- complete with a song-ending noise section -- was a highlight of the band's remarkably tight and engaging set. The set closed with a new number touting an extended outro which provided the band an opportunity to nearly destroy their equipment as they ran mic stands and pedals up against their guitars. Wednesday's show is apparently Speedy's last in Boston for a while; the band soon embarks on a short tour with notable Western, Mass. resident Thurston Moore.

Infinity Girl released its triumphant Just Like Lovers EP just past midnight Wednesday morning, but even so it opened its powerful performance with "Please Forget," its typical opening number and a highlight of their full-length debut Stop Being On My Side [review]. Gear issues plagued the opening number, as Mitch Stewart’s bass died almost immediately. Fortunately, Darl from Speedy Ortiz stepped up with a loaner bass and the show went on. Infinity Girl played selections from both Side and Lovers after announcing from the stage that the show was in fact their last for a while, and the set felt like a sort of farewell by the end. The quartet closed with an earth-shaking, nine-minute version of Stop Being On My Side's "Cannons." In its final minutes the song shed its languid groove and climaxed into a titanic cavalcade of noise and feedback, with drummer Sebastian Modak driving the tempo faster and faster as Mr. Stewart stabbed at his bass and fronter Nolan Eley pogoed as he exorcised feedback from his guitar, ultimately sliding his guitar back and forth across the stage by its strap. The players embraced after the cacaphony subsided.

The New Highway Hymnal had the unenviable task of following that set, but made short work of seizing the crowd's attention with its focused, harrowing live renderings of songs from the recently released long-player Whispers. Between the hypnotic groove of the trio's formidable rhythm section, fronter Hadden Stemp's possessed stage persona and spine-tingling yelps, and the shifting psychedelic light show, The New Highway Hymnal was able to skillfully transport the crowd at TT's with its dark, hip-shaking tunes. -- Dillon Riley, Correspondent

December 4, 2012

Review: Infinity Girl | Just Like Lovers EP

[UPDATED] Boston shoegaze behemoth Infinity Girl with its latest EP of cacaphonous dream pop puts a big exclamation point on a break-out year for the quartet. It's easy to forget that a year ago the band was just getting off the ground, and as recently as seven months ago few even knew who these guys were. But with the unexpected materialization of its brilliant full-length debut Stop Being On My Side last spring, Infinity Girl began a meteoric rise into the vanguard of the city's guitar bands. Just Like Lovers, given the relatively short time it germinated and how closely it comes in the wake of that long-player (although most if not all of its songs are already live staples), is a surprisingly large and well-defined step forward for Infinity Girl, one that suggests the band may only be beginning to tap a great potential.

Opener "Untitled (July)" commences with a My Bloody Valentine-esque swirl of guitars and a stuttering beat. Lush, effected guitars drape over everything, burying the drum kit and threatening to levitate up off the rhythm tracks altogether as they sensuously shift across one another like layers of diaphanous tulle. "Taking Nothing" touts gentle vocals that recall Brooklyn's late, great Dirty On Purpose, but the most compelling aspect of the tune is the crushing loud-quiet dynamics that move drummer Sebastian Modak's steady work behind the kit to the fore as he powers tidal waves of drop-tuned guitars spangled by guitarist Kyle Oppenheimer's helical leads. EP closer "Not My Hang," featuring what we believe to be the first recorded lead vocal by Mr. Oppenheimer, is blurry, bending and beautiful, and perhaps I-Girl's most sophisticated composition to date. The song's final moments when rendered live are cataclysmic; the mayhem is necessarily reigned in on the recorded version to non-ear-bleeding levels, but nonetheless is both quite affecting and a suitable end to a collection of songs.

Like the first Ringo Deathstarr EP, Just Like Lovers is so very enjoyable and brief you will just play the thing over and over, until the songs just play over and over in your head. Just Like Lovers captures the sound of Infinity Girl reaching farther, with more crystalline production highlighting arrays of guitars deftly arranged around soft or spectral vocals. With the impressive progress the band has logged in such a short period, fans can only hope that its development won't be arrested by the temporary departure of Mr. Modak, who will be out of the drum stool for much of 2013 while he pursues other interests. Infinity Girl self-releases Just Like Lovers tomorrow; our friends at premiered it in its entirety earlier this evening. The EP is being feted tomorrow night with a killer show at TT The Bear's that includes sets from the mighty Soccer Mom, Speedy Ortiz and The New Highway Hymnal; all the details are at the Facebook event page right here.

Selected Previous Infinity Girl Coverage:
And Then This Happened: Infinity Girl, Young Adults Blitzkrieg TT The Bear's
Forever Now: The Infinity Girl Interview
Review: Infinity Girl | Stop Being On My Side

Infinity Girl: Internets | Facebook | Bandcamp | YouTube

December 2, 2012

On Giving

Giving -- 2012

It's folly to even attempt to make a comprehensive accounting of all the good, as in altruistic, things people are doing to help others within and without the Boston music scene right now. While it isn't played up so much as to be in your face, and while we have very mixed feelings about awards shows, even tonight's Boston Music Awards serves a charitable function: proceeds from the event go to a local car salesman's Music Drives Us Foundation, which provides funding for music education programs. Music education: that's certainly something we feel is worth-while, something that pays dividends for kids long into the future (and something we support through an annual gift, in honor of our aunt, to the Chester Children's Chorus). The Boston Music Awards is a big, high-profile production with lots of media support, but there are smaller efforts here in Boston as well. Take the grassroots effort to help Cambridge-based electronic music luminary Andre Obin get back up and running after an electrical fire at his apartment left him homeless and without a lot of his gear. Vanya Records is selling an 18-song comp, a tidy documentation of a slice of the scene here in Boston, with all proceeds going directly to Mr. Obin; stream the comp Friends Of Andre via the embed below, and click through the purchase. Another local effort is Sleepover Shows' annual charity auction, that ends today, making our reference to it here something of a "day-late-dollar-short" situation. But theirs is an *annual* charity auction, so remember to look for what they've got on offer when next year rolls around.

There's Boston Band Crush's Holiday Spectacular, which plays host to four bands Dec. 14 at Brighton Music Hall. The event includes a toy drive being run by Boston Emissions' Anngelle Wood. As the esteemed Richard Bouchard of BBC states here, "[The toy drive's] biggest need is presents for teens, so gift cards, music, stuff like that, and they serve people of all ages, so toys and games are good too. Please, if you can, bring a new, unwrapped gift to the merch table, Anngelle will get it where it needs to go." So, instead of buying that extra round of drinks this week or next, why not put the money toward a toy that will give a kid looking at the prospect of a sub-optimal Christmas a reason to smile. Here's the Facebook event page for the Boston Band Crush Holiday Spectacular.

As we mentioned supra, good deeds are being done everywhere, you needn't look hard, although perhaps you'd have to look a little further afield to find this one. Turn your focus for a moment, if you will, to our friends at the classy disaster of a record label Audio Antihero. We will bet you whatever you'd like to bet that the proprietor of the esteemed London-based indie label has donated over the last few years 10 times more money to the various charities he supports than the label has taken in as revenues. This year proprietor Jamie Halliday has put together a compilation titled The Hüsker Doo​-​wop EP. The short set is available here for a limited time only and features exclusive and rare music from the Audio Antihero stable of artists. Proceeds from the sale of this collection go toward Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. The comp opens with Nosferatu D2's Ben Parker talking about eating glass and pissing the bed, and it gets even better from there. The EP also includes a creaking freak-out from the equally genius Benjamin Shaw (whose record There's Always Hope, There's Always Cabernet was our second favorite album of 2011), as well as a throbbing rocker from Watford, England-based grunge messiahs Wartgore Hellsnicker. Stream the entire EP via the embed below. And while you're doing that, take some time to think about what you might be able to do this winter to help people in your community who are struggling to get by. Whatever you do or don't do, our larger point is this: if you've got the gumption, you don't have to look far to find opportunities to help out while getting your rock fix this year. So come on.

November 29, 2012

Varsity Drag, The Suicide Dolls, Unholy III and The I Want You | Midway Cafe, JP | 1 Dec.

Detail from AC/DC's Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap LP

Rock fans, lend us your ears. Yes, yes, we stole the image above, for you young people that there is a detail of the cover art from AC/DC's brilliant 1976 set Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap. But that's not why we've called you here. You are no doubt aware of the big, big rock show tomorrow evening, that being the apparently not-yet-sold-out Dinosaur Jr. bill at The Paradise, a show that will most certainly sell out now that The Sinclair has had to postpone the competing Titus Andronicus bill. But perhaps you are less familiar with your options for Saturday? This will not stand, because there is a mighty, mighty show occurring down in Jamaica Plain at Midway Cafe Saturday night.

Top-lining the evening are indie punk stalwarts Varsity Drag, Clicky Clicky faves who many readers likely saw early this month delivering a dominating set -- basically spur-of-the-moment -- at the big Clicky Clicky Community Servings Benefit Show. We heard two new numbers from Ben Deily and his henchpersons that night, and the band is promising to play some other newies this weekend to boot. Varsity Drag has recently gone back into the studio with storied producer Tom Hamilton, so it would seem the beast is stirring once more. Speaking of things beastly, that brings us to the main support for the night, Connecticut's own stoner punks The Suicide Dolls, who impressed us greatly -- particularly their totally sick drummer -- at the Tiger Mountain show in September. Also performing Saturday are The Unholy III, which features punk lifer Kevin Stephenson formerly of The Shods and et cetera, as well as garagey Boston upstarts The I Want You, whose recent video for the tune "Three Short Days" kept us amused for easily about that long a few weeks ago. Let us not belabor the point. This is going to be a hot one. Hit the embeds below for a taste of what you've got coming to you, then click over to the Facebook event page to digest the deets and pledge your allegiance.

November 28, 2012

Today's Hotness: Hush Delirium, Infinity Girl

Hush Delirium -- Taster LP

>> While certain indie rock elder statesperson are content to mount nostalgic (and sometimes quite lucrative) reunion shows, Mark Gardener of early 90's British shoegaze titans Ride has taken an interesting alternate route. After an "exile" from music following the dissolution of Ride, and with only sporadic forays since, Mr. Gardener has returned -- not with a band, however, but rather as co-curator of a music and art collective called Hush Delirium. The cohort's aptly titled debut The Taster is a self-released effort (and for a limited time, free to download here) bearing a nifty premise. Musicians within the collective each compose an atmospheric piece that is then used as inspiration for a painting. The result is a multimedia installation that tours galleries bringing shoegaze-inspired aural headspace to arts patrons, and presumably anyone else who walks through the door. Among others, the collective features the art of Hush Delirium founder Simon Welford, whose artwork is likely familiar to Ride fans. Other participating musicians include Adam Franklin of Swervedriver, Aziz Ibrahim of The Stone Roses and Dean Garcia of Curve, making this elite new club one of the swirliest and psychedelic currently going. Gardener's own piece on The Taster, "3rd Floor Elevation," grooves on a Brian Jonestown Massacre-styled, heroin-cool groove, while Mr. Ibrahim's "Heavens Rain" is a meditative sitar instrumental that echoes the wanderings of The Rolling Stones circa Their Satanic Majesties Request. The Cult of Dom Keller and SPC ECO (a moniker used by the aforementioned Mr. Garcia) turn in more traditional songs. One of the real gems on this set, however, is Jaq Gallier's rainy, female-led "Wild Is The Wind." Opening with ambient vocal sibilance and lilting background hums, the brief, almost-folksy tune works marvels with a gentle minimalism. Overall, The Taster is a great introduction to a hopefully thriving multimedia enterprise from an exciting community of artists merging their influences and styles as a means of looking forward instead of back. -- Edward Charlton

>> Boston-based shoegaze giants Infinity Girl today revealed details about a forthcoming EP. The quartet will self-release next week the short collection Just Like Lovers, which includes five songs and is the band's second official release of the year; the quartet issued its brilliant full-length debut Stop Being On My Side in May [review]. The new set (whose cover art you can inspect here) includes the tunes "Untitled (July)," "Taking Nothing," "Read Yr Mind," "Summer Gold" and "Not My Hang," and it will be feted with a sure-to-be-tremendous release show next week featuring Boston(-area) scene luminaries including power blues drone lords The New Highway Hymnal, noise rock behemoths Soccer Mom and the brilliant guitar wranglers Speedy Ortiz, who Monday celebrated the anniversary of the band's very first show. The release show next week at TT The Bear's Place in Cambridge, Mass., may be one of the few remaining times we'll see Infinity Girl before drummer Sebastian Modak leaves the country for an extended period, so all the more reason to get out and see this ridiculously great slate of bands. Full details of the show are at this Facebook event page, so click over and pledge your allegiance. We are given to understand that Just Like Lovers will be mastered between now and next week, and we hope to have some sort of music to share with you before too long. In the meantime, there's always Stop Being On My Side, which we encourage you to revisit via the embed below.

November 27, 2012

Rock Over Boston: Ted Leo With Bent Shapes | 26 Nov.

[Ted Leo and Bent Shapes at a house show in Brighton, MA to benefit 826 Boston on 11/26/2012. Photos by Michael Piantigini.]

November 26, 2012

Reviewed: Big Dipper, Banquet Hall

Big Dipper Crashes On The Platinum Planets' second track should have been its first. It's a lament, but also a prayer of sorts to activate the muse for this, the first new Big Dipper album in over 20 years (sort of) - hoping for "voices that guide a rising chorus that opens wide!" So goes Gary Waleik's "Robert Pollard," which worries that a classic era of songwriters like namechecked Paul McCartney, Brian Wilson, Jagger-Richards, and Newmans both Randy and Colin, is coming to end and all hope lies with Guided By Voices oracle Robert Pollard (who also created the album's cover art) may be the last man standing to carry the torch. The merits of that argument are called into question by its very existence as "Robert Pollard" is catchy as hell.

But maybe not as catchy as "Princess Warrior," drummer Jeff Oliphant's highly hummable tribute to cancer recovery. The refrain's plead "help me get back on my knees, I'm begging you, begging you please" is as big a hook as they make 'em. The album covers some wider ground too: Goffrier's "Joke Outfit" has biting guitar and smiting lyrics, and his "Hurricane Bill," "Pitbull Cruiser," and "Happy New Year" are grand, smooth pop. Waleik's "Sarah and Monica" recalls Dipper's longtime (and perhaps over-estimated) association with scientific and extra-terrestrial imagery (c.f. "Lunar Module," among others), but is as much a memory of summers past spent under "constellations in summer skies," though it does ask "is memory matter, in that it can be destroyed?"

Big Dipper Crashes On The Platinum Planet is everything we'd hoped it would be. Full of catchy hooks, idiosyncratic playful guitar jousting, and that essential silliness that make the band what it is. That latter bit may be the most important. Whether it's oddball characters called Lord Scrumptious, or the way Bill Goffrier hesitates while reaching for a high note in your face, or the way his guitar jabs in response to Gary Waleik's, Big Dipper continues to remind us that this whole music thing is supposed to be fun.

The self-recorded album out this week (very limited blue vinyl available here and signed CDs here) is their first since their 1990 major label debut (and finale) and their 1992 breakup. This reunion run started in 2008, when Merge, doing a great public service, reissued the band's Homestead catalog (an EP and two nearly perfect albums), along with a revelatory collection of an album's worth of material recorded but never released after the band's very short major label tenure. That collection, and the band's joyous reunion shows, hinted at what they were still capable of. Now we know for sure.

This is just the latest in a great classic Boston rock renaissance that I've talked a lot about in this space. These last few weeks alone have seen reunions of legends Human Sexual Response (who played literally every song they released in their short 80's run) and 90's indie pop favorites Fuzzy, who played a birthday show for one of their guitarist-singers, along with Tanya Donnelly playing a few Belly hits with Buffalo Tom as her backing band, along with the latter running through a few of their biggies as well.

This isn't just about reunions, though. I always closely associated Big Dipper with their contemporaries The Cavedogs as they trod the same boards around town and were in the same rough neighborhood of 'pop,' but the latter with their own bent and a bigger rock sound and more 12-string jangle. Like Big Dipper, the Cavedogs had their own flirt with the majors that led to their downfall. Their guitarist, Todd Spahr, spent the 90's leading greats Merang and then The Gravy before pulling up stakes and moving to Los Angeles. Save a couple of Cavedogs reunions (like this one a couple of summers ago), we haven't heard from him in awhile.

He finally resurfaces as a member of Banquet Hall, along with a couple of other Boston transplants. Rick Shaw, a criminally under-appreciated songwriter that some called the Godfather of the Northern Worcester County post-punk scene (by 'some' I mean I called him that) when he fronted his early band, Navy Blue Nuns (grab their great compilation here) before leading a couple of quality Boston bands like The Meltaways and Krebstar, handles the other guitar and Paula Kelly, who cut her teeth in cult legends Drop Nineteens and remained a prominent scene figure throughout the late 90's and early aughts, plays the bass and does some arranging as well.

After grinding it out in L.A. clubs for a few years now, the band has just released their debut album, What Could Possibly Go Wrong?, which is the sum of its great parts. Right off the top of it feels so great to hear Spahr's playful jittery guitar chords on leadoff track "Stars After Stars" and Shaw's pop classicist approach to "Puppets," with warm lounge harmonies from the Watson Twins. Later, Spahr's "Urban Renewal" betrays an Elvis Costello influence wrapped in a cozy acoustic guitar, Shaw's "Bells On" is the kind of heart-on-your-sleeve pop song that Boston songwriters (like, say, Buffalo Tom) seem to do so well, and the band resurrects an old Merang single to great effect with lost classic "Drunk and Quartered."

Here, have a listen:

-Michael Piantigini

Big Dipper: Facebook | Twitter 
Banquet Hall: Facebook | Bandcamp

November 25, 2012

20: Lilys | In The Presence Of Nothing

Lilys -- In The Presence Of Nothing

[UPDATED] Lilys' In The Presence Of Nothing is a hugely important record for us at Clicky Clicky HQ, one that features some of our favorite songs of all time. Foremost among these is the album closer "Claire Hates Me," but we also strongly favor the icy, narcotic stunner "Elizabeth Colour Wheel" and even the epic instrumental vibe-out "The Way Snowflakes Fall." Truth be told we had grander plans of memorializing the album's 20th anniversary, but the big-deal (to us) piece we had hoped to publish hasn't yet been delivered, so que sera sera. As we have another "20" feature slated to roll early next month, we wanted to make at least some remarks about In The Presence Of Nothing, the colossal full-length debut of the constantly shape-shifting Lilys, before 2012 gets away from us altogether.

In The Presence Of Nothing is a stone-cold shoegaze classic, one so good that, paradoxically, its brilliant execution may have earned it as much dismissal -- due to its strong, unmistakable and unapologetic My Bloody Valentine influence -- as acclaim. It was co-released in September 1992 by two storied labels, the still quite prominent Slumberland and the now sadly defunct Spin-Art, and it bore the dual catalog number DRYL 020 / Spin-Art 2. Band mastermind Kurt Heasley -- who, as regular readers know, continues to occasionally release Lilys records even now -- regularly changes the personnel of Lilys, but for In The Presence Of Nothing he was abetted by members of Velocity Girl, The Ropers and Suddenly Tammy!, as Wikipedia helpfully points out here. The record is long, long out of print, but we are hoping that some sane individual or group of individuals will one day rectify that. In the meantime, copies pop up on EBay now and again, and we were dumbfounded to see today that one completely INSANE individual is currently selling copy number 1 of the first edition of 500 In The Presence Of Nothing LPs, which affords us the opportunity to show you what the vinyl art and package (as opposed to the CD art above) looks like. Image 1. Image 2. Image 3. Image 4. [NOTE: as KF points out in the comments, all 500 copies of the original LP pressing were labeled "1 of 500," so we are slightly less dumbfounded by the above, but still...]

Enumerating the many reasons this record is special to us seems to straddle the line between pointless and self-indulgent, so we'll avoid getting too deep in to the underbrush in that regard. But we will say Lilys' full-length debut is among the records that changed our relationship to music forever, by showing us that excellent music wasn't only made by people you'd never meet in places you could never go. Music could be learned, amazing records could be made in places like Lancaster, PA -- as In The Presence Of Nothing was -- and not just in sterile, thousand-dollar-an-hour studios in New York, Los Angeles or London. That a more-than-reasonable fascimile of the sound on Loveless could be created for what has been rumored to be a tiny fraction of the budget of MBV's magnum opus, by dudes that you could go see play in local clubs: that was a mental game-changer for us. It brought it all home. It gave us the gumption to pick up a guitar, to have a much deeper relationship with music than we had previously. So happy belated 20th birthday, In The Presence Of Nothing. And goddammit, nobody outbid us for that number 1 LP, okay? Download two tunes from the album below courtesy of the very cool people at Slumberland Records.

Lilys -- "Tone Bender" -- In The Presence Of Nothing
Lilys -- "Claire Hates Me" -- In The Presence Of Nothing

November 22, 2012

Midriff Residency Night X: Home for Little Wanders Benefit With Soccer Mom, Eldridge Rodriguez, Ex-Planets, Relations

Midriff Residency Night X: Home for Little Wanders Benefit Show With Soccer Mom, Eldridge Rodriguez, Ex-Planets, Relations

We're grateful. You're grateful. It's Thanksgiving. Let's keep that feeling (sans the awful stomach pain we have right now) alive for a few days, long enough for you to drag your weary, overstuffed frame to Radio Saturday night for the latest installment of Midriff Records' year-long residency. This particular event is the 10th of its kind, but it is a special kind of special in that it serves both as a memorial of sorts for a friend dear to the Midriff camp who recently died, as well as a benefit for a cause close to that friend's heart, Boston's Home For Little Wanderers. Allow us to crib from The Home's web site for a moment: "The Home for Little Wanderers provides a seamless continuum of vital programs and services for every stage of child and family development. For more than 200 years, we’ve earned a reputation for doing whatever it takes to strengthen vulnerable families and keep children safe in their own communities, even when they don’t have family support. Serving children and youth from birth to 21, The Home makes a positive impact on over 7,000 lives each year through a network of services including behavioral health, therapeutic residential and special education, adoption and foster care. In addition, a number of innovative programs provide specialized assistance to youth transitioning to adulthood from state systems of care."

That's real shit. Important shit. Those things alone should be enough of an inducement to guarantee your patronage Saturday, but on top of it being a benefit for a good cause in honor of a righteous dude, you will also be rocked by Clicky Clicky faves Soccer Mom and Eldridge Rodriguez along with Ex-Planets and The 'Mom's 100m Records labelmates Relations. E.R. will be performing hits from his repertoire of The Beatings, Eldridge Rodriguez and No Love songs accompanied on the piano by Mel Lederman, also of the No Love cohort and formerly of Victory At Sea.

These Midriff residency nights have been, as our friend BRD has been known to say, something other than else. If you missed the Halloween show last month (as admittedly we did), you missed E.R. and friends including The Beatings' Erin Dalbec and Soccer Mom's William Scales doing a cracking set of Pavement covers. Fortunately, some enterprising individual recorded the set, and you can hear the entire thing via the Soundcloud embed below. We're also posting streams of Soccer Mom's recent cataclysmic single "A Canoe Shy" b/w "Brides," which is 31 flavors of awesome and which can be purchased via 100m Records right here. So chew on that along with your leftover turkey for the next 44 hours or so. Then get yourself to Radio Saturday night. Here's the Facebook event page, too, wherein you can pledge your allegiance.