February 21, 2012

Today's Hotness: Fire Island Pines, MaoTzu, High Heels

Fire Island Pines -- Rickie Lee Jones EP
>> The delicate and charming Cornwall, England-based indie pop concern Fire Island Pines, of whom we first wrote here last April, returns next week with a tidy 7" EP. Rickie Lee Jones' four songs combine clean, ringing guitars with sincere, spoke-sung vocals that suggest a more leisurely Morrissey as much as they do a far more youthful Tindersticks. It's certainly a sound under-represented among the louder and more psychedelic devastations that have dominated indie music recently. The EP is available in a limited edition of 150 black vinyl discs packaged with a postcard that carries a link to download digital versions of the songs. It's worth noting Fire Island Pines takes its name from a small beach resort town near Long Island that has earned a reputation for lavish, drug-fueled boardwalk celebrations in the summer months. And really, there couldn't be better imagery than that for a song like "I Was A Runaway." Starting with a faraway reverb serenade, the song builds to the moment a wayward character would enter an amazing party, swept in the spectacle of tan faces and beautiful nightlife. As the march continues, the snare locks in and bright melodies dance around lines like "Where was your elegance?," and "tripping over your shoes, and falling into your car." This is indie rock for the cocktail party, and all the things that make such parties memorable, awkward, and out of time. Stream all of the Rickie Lee Jones EP below, and preorder right here. -- Edward Charlton

>> MaoTzu is enigmatic Chicago songwriter Jamarcus Drake, perhaps the latest notable torchbearer for the Syd Barrett School Of Effortless Whimsy. Mr. Drake's third and latest MaoTzu release, Doodles, is brimming with bedroom charm and enlivened by commensurate audio fidelity. While certain tracks seem more realized than others, the entire collection is unified by a never-ending sense of inspiration (several songs refer to anime, video games and TV shows). The serene strummer "Howl's Moving Castle" transverses the same hazy space mapped by the sweet spot in Pink Floyd's catalogue, the weird post-Barrett, pre-Darkside Of The Moon records. "Case Closed" takes a dreamier route than much of the rest of Doodles, but the choppy guitar, hand-clap breaks, and the amazing guitar solo that closes out the tune mark it as another album highlight. Drake logs time with a number of Chicago-area bands including Martin, King Of Yale and Forestcousin, but we're hopeful he continues to mine MaoTzu for its substantial and quirky gold. Stream "Howl's Moving Castle" below. -- Edward Charlton

>> The High Heels cohort counts among its number conspirators including members of Wussy and Why?, but it is helmed by Austin Brown, a man who seems to be in touch with the finer points of '90s indie rock. The second and latest High Heels long player, On Square Waves, is rife with fuzzy, down-tuned guitar pounders and short kitchen-sink instrumentals laced together into a seamless fever dream of music. "Tracers Emblazoned" is a yearning, melodic anthem in 108-second miniature that touts spectral guitar leads and complementary stream-of-consciousness lyrics bolstered by simple vocal harmonies. "Unspooled Coil" sets out a steady gallop of twinkly, tremolo plinks and fat bass. Brown tastefully indulges in some free-associative imagery that recalls Kim Gordon at times and the overall vibe is not unlike Yo La Tengo at their most Electr-O-Pura-fied. Thick and delightful stuff. On Square Waves was released via Bandcamp earlier this month; check out the embed of "Unspooled Coil" below and grab the entire collection right here. -- Edward Charlton

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