May 29, 2012

Speedy Ortiz EP Release Show With Grass Is Green, Young Adults, Arvid Noe | O'Brien's | 30 May

Insanely Excellent Rock Bill Is Insanely Excellent: Young Adults, Speedy Ortiz, Grass Is Green, Arvid Noe

We'll tolerate the coronation of certain music as "summer jams," but we generally find the practice a bit distasteful because it misses the point: such a jam is inherently awesome, summer has nothing to do with it. Unless this is your song. Or this. Or this. But our ultimately pointless preface aside, we think it is very safe to wager that the indieground will be rocking steadfastly to Speedy Ortiz's brilliant EP Sports during these next hot months. Sports, due June 5 and available for pre-order on 10" vinyl, limited-edition tapes or digitally via Bandcamp right now, is being feted with a release show tomorrow night featuring one of those epic Boston bills that have become increasingly more common in recent months. Speedy Ortiz, a quartet operating out of Northampton led by Sadie Dupuis (formerly of Quilty) that we first wrote about here in March, will be joined by devastating smartpunkers Young Adults, progressive indie luminaries Grass Is Green and the beautifully spazzed Arvid Noe, whose recent radio set for Pipeline! blew us away. So, totally sick bill, right? Here's the Facebook event dealy, join the movement.

So what about that EP then? We can report it is rife with well-composed, more-than-a-little angular guitar anthems ("Angular motherfucker! ANG! U! LAR!") supporting Ms. Dupuis' affecting alto. Those Polvo and Helium references you may have encountered are earned, but Speedy Ortiz's vibrant edge, the product of a propulsive rhythm section, unexpected guitar lines and refined dynamics, keeps the band from sounding nostalgia-bent. The verse of opener "Basketball" somehow slinks and skitters at the same time, before dense, driving verses clear a path for some pretty vocal harmonies and subtle handclaps. "Indoor Soccer" has a creeping rhythm that backs listeners into a corner before pummeling them in the chorus. "Silver Spring," which is available for free download and to stream via the embed below, is the most overtly melodic and anthemic cut of the batch, but it still flouts convention by eschewing chords in the verse in favor of the band's characteristic guitar slither. Sports is being released by Exploding In Sound Records; the EP was recorded in Philadelphia at Sex Dungeon Studios and mixed by Justin Pizzoferrato in Northampton. Speedy Ortiz play the Heirloom Arts Theater in Danbury, CT June 1 and Shea Stadium in Brooklyn June 2.

May 28, 2012

That Was The Show That Was: Hospitality | Bunk Bar, Portland | 25 May

Hospitality, Bunk Bar, Portland, Oregon, May 25

In the wake of its recent self-titled debut, the subject of a significant amount of praise [review], hotly tipped Brooklyn pop combo Hospitality graced Bunk Bar Friday night with a short, tight set for its Portland tour stop with Here We Go Magic. The foursome has demonstrably honed its live show into a razor-wire indie-pop tour de force.

Taking the makeshift stage at Bunk Bar -- a venue that normally operates as a fantastic sandwich shop but which features acts like Japandroids and Cloud Nothings weekly -- Hospitality took fans by surprise by shooting right into their set after only a quick thanks. Most patrons assumed the band was sound checking, and most of the room had gone outside to watch fireworks from the yearly city fair. But once fronter Amber Papini's first strums and singing on "The Birthday" led into a loud and thick rhythm, the crowd poured inside. While Bunk Bar may seem an odd choice of venue for bigger indie artists, it is clear why they keep coming here: it's operated by true fans who keep ticket prices reasonable and the space is outfitted with a sound system that does the best job possible in the large and dark concrete room. "Enthusiasm" is the word of the day here.

Perhaps the group read this scribe's review, or maybe it's a common sentiment, but either way, Hospitality played only their faster songs from the aforementioned long-player, as well as a few new tunes that rocked even more. Single "Friends of Friends" visibly inspired a third of the crowd to dance along, and "Betty Wang" and "Eighth Avenue" here had their best moments intensified with an electrified punch. Without the kitchen-sink arsenal deployed on record, the band used amplification and Nathan Michael's wide array of clicking and spewing guitar effects to fill the space, to great effect. Papini's voice was as strong and multi-dimensional as on their album, though infused with a bit more tossed-off recklessness that lent a bit of danger to her delivery.

The true stunner though, was the performance of bassist and backing singer Brian Betancourt. It was he who weaved a distinct, jazzy bunny hop in and out of the proceedings (not something this reviewer usually associates with praise, but here a true feat). His deft touch not only locked in with the drums so expertly, but was delivered in a such a non-traditional manner that it was exciting to watch. The odd, single note fills he would place during stops in the middle of a song were as psychedelic as anything a wayward six stringer might attempt. Mr. Betancourt this night was truly the sharpened knife at Papini's side.

Before closing their set, the band played a quick and furious new number that began and ended with a quickly strummed exposition that sounded like Hospitality's take on The Strokes. This proved not only to be a very interesting and unexpected angle, but it also fueled the best song of the night. It suggests that what comes next from Hospitality may not be simply refinement of its songwriting, but a metamorphosis into an impossibly tight rock unit with an acoustic-pop past, a well-oiled sleeper that can rev up at all the right moments. -- Edward Charlton

Hospitality: Bandcamp | Facebook | Twitter | Youtube

May 25, 2012

YouTube Rodeo: Screaming Maldini's "Life In Glorious Stereo"

Electrifying video for the lead single to Screaming Maldini's full-length debut. The long-player apparently will be self-titled, at least the version that will be issued for the Sheffield, England pop maximalists' French label Hip!Hip!Hip!; Screaming Maldini is signed to the fabulous Alcopop! Records for the UK. Anyway, youth of today, meet your summer indie pop jam. The single for "Life In Glorious Stereo" is available digitally from 18 June. Screaming Maldini will apparently be issued come Autumn; we expect it will be among the very best records released this year.

New Music Night DJ Sets | River Gods | 24/25 May

New Music Night 6, River Gods, Cambridge, May 25/26, 2012
Looks like we'll end a few minutes short due to our fabulous mixing skills. 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. Avail yourself of all the relevant linkage; 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.

Set Two/Jay -- 10PM

1.Golden Gurls -- "I Can See The City" -- Typo Magic
[review / download / buy]
2.Alta Mira -- "Good Enough" -- I Am The Salt
[blogged / download / buy / playing Radio June 20 with The Hush Now]
3. Soft Pyramids -- "Vaalbara" -- AS BUILT PResents BOSTON & Beyond <> SXSW 2012
[download the whole comp for free]
4. Sneeze -- "Brainage Pipe" -- AS BUILT PResents BOSTON & Beyond <> SXSW 2012
[download the whole comp for free]
5. Benchwarmers -- "Finn Riggins" -- AS BUILT PResents BOSTON & Beyond <> SXSW 2012
[download the whole comp for free]
6. Lubec -- "Holiday Traffic" -- Wilderness Days
[blogged / download / pre-order / vinyl comp due this summer on The Acme Thunderer]
7. Heyward Howkins -- "Plume And Orange" -- The Hale & Hearty
[pre-order / full-length from former The Trouble With Sweeney guitarist due June 26]
8. Screaming Maldini -- "Life In Glorious Stereo"
[blogged / forthcoming single from Sheffield, England's maximalist pop savants due June 18]
9. The Spinto Band -- "Take It" -- Shy Pursuit
[blogged / buy]
10. Cookies -- "Crybaby (A)" -- digital single
[blogged / download]
11. Statikluft Recordings -- "Call To Arms"
[download / next-level stuff from the man behind Faculties]
12. LE Yikes SURF CLUB -- "Nights & Days" -- LE Yikes SURF CLUB
[pre-order / EP due June 6]
13. Amanda Palmer & The Grand Theft Orchestra -- "Do It With A Rockstar" -- digital single
[download, assuming you are not one of the 10 billion extant Kickstarter backers]
14. New Highway Hymnal -- "Blackened Hands" -- AS BUILT PResents BOSTON & Beyond <> SXSW 2012
[download the whole comp for free]
15. Chandeliers -- "CreepWolf" -- Bigshot Weekend EP
[blogged / download / buy]
16. Crash Of Rhinos -- "Wide Awake" -- Distal
[stream / buy]
17. Eldridge Rodriguez -- "Vapour Trail (Spanish)" -- NOFUCKINGWHERE Outtake
[blogged / this version exclusive to the Midriff Records blog]
18. Bedroom Eyes -- "In A Different Place" -- NOFUCKINGWHERE
[blogged / download this and all of NOFUCKINGWHERE for free right here]

Set Four/Jay -- 12AM

1. Turing Machine -- "Sex Ghost" -- What Is The Meaning Of What
2. *AM Stereo -- "Any Enemy" -- When You Wish Upon A Bar
[blogged / buy]
3. English Singles -- "Finer Points" -- Backstreet Pages EP
[download / buy]
4. Auntie Mary -- "Tenterhooks"
[stream / front end of Swedish double-shot]
5. Television Keeps Us Apart -- "Is It Really True?"
6. Hallelujah The Hills -- "Call Off Your Horses" -- No One Knows What Happens Next
[blogged / buy]
7. Age Rings -- "Think Myself Sick" -- AM/PM EP
[blogged / available at Saturday's record release show at Radio and beyond]
8. Ringo Deathstarr -- "Elf Forest"
[free download for PledgeMusic-funded album two supporters]
9. Work Drugs -- "Lisbon Teeth"
10. Cookies -- "Crybaby (B)" -- digital single
[blogged / download]
11. Lower Dens -- "Candy" -- Nootropics
[blogged / download / buy]
12. I Am Dive -- "A Morning Walk" --
[blogged / buy]
13. Mooncreatures -- "Coasting" -- Mooncreatures EP
[stream / buy]
14. Dead Mellotron -- "Dying" -- Glitter
[blogged / buy]
15. Andre Obin -- "Monochrome Rainbow"
[stream / buy]
16. Lightships -- "Two Lines (Raf Daddy Remix)"
[stream / download]
17. White Laces -- "Stoked On The Chill"
[stream / download]

May 23, 2012

Be Prepared: The Karl Hendricks Trio | The Adult Section | 17 July

The Karl Hendricks Trio | The Adult Section | July 17

Veteran indie rock concern The Karl Hendricks Trio will release its 10th long-player, The Adult Section, July 17 on the Comedy Minus One record label. The nine-song collection, said to be "dialed-in," "brisk" and "focused," is available in a limited edition of 500 LPs that come packaged with a CD for the convenience of today's modern listener. Pre-orders have already begun, and the first 25 such orders will be bundled with a 7" single "Thank God We Have Limes" b/w "Say Hi To The Girls," released by a preceding iteration of Mr. Hendricks' band, The Karl Hendricks Rock Band. As an added bonus, pre-orders are promised to be posted as much as a month ahead of the new collection's street date.

The Karl Hendricks Trio, if you are unfamiliar with the Pittsburgh-based act, has over the past 20 years released an impressively consistent catalogue of often loud, occasionially humorous, sometimes sad and sometimes powerfully vitriolic rock music. To fans, and we count ourselves among their number, songs like "Stupidhead," "Foolish Words Of A Woman In Love," "The Scoffer's Reply," "Flowers Avenue," "Somewhere A Weekend Of Sin" and "The Summer Of Warm Beer" are massively important girders underpinning the firmament of indie rock. A stunning preview track from The Adult Section has already been made available via the blog for the Low Times podcast, "The Men's Room At The Airport." The song's searing, dense guitar attack and characteristically understated vocal indicate that Mr. Hendricks' powers of rock remain formidable and impressive. Check out the new song via the embed below, and, if you like what you hear, head over to Low Times for the download and then proceed over to Comedy Minus One to pre-order the entire collection. If you pass Go, collect $200.

Longtime readers may recall that Comedy Minus One digitally reissued Karl Hendricks Trio's debut Buick Electra in 2007 [link] and the band's classic 1995 conflagration A Gesture Of Kindness in 2008 [link]. Speaking of Low Times, the excellent podcast devoted a portion of episode seven to an interview with Mr Hendricks that we highly recommend to your attention. Less recently, readers may recall Mr. Hendricks' 2011 appearance for Draw Us Line's Echo Chamber series, performing stirring renditions of "You're A Bigger Jerk Than Me" and "Dreams Ha" after hours in a gallery at Pittsburgh's Children's Museum. We reviewed The Karl Hendricks Rock Band's The World Says here a disturbingly remote five years ago. Bring on July.

May 21, 2012

Radio Ensuring You Will Be Rocked Almost Beyond Reason This Weekend: Acts Include Future Carnivores, Travels, Varsity Drag, Age Rings, Eldridge Rodriguez

BirdsMakeBirds, Peter Buzzelle & the Soul Clinic Bible School, Varsity Drag, Black Fortress of Opium | Radio | 25 May

You know who owns you for the front half of Memorial Day weekend -- and will be largely responsible for your inability to do anything the second half -- assuming you are unable to escape the gravitational pull of the greater Boston/Cambridge/Somerville triangle? No, not this guy. Radio in Somerville, that's who. Starting on Thursday (and we're assuming you are still banned for life from River Gods, because, you know, this), the new-ish little club that could is just killing it with non-stop rock 'n roll. It all kicks off with an evening of rock headlined by pop adventurists Future Carnivores and featuring support from slow-core stalwarts Travels. We've weighed in on recent releases by both acts, calling Future Carnivores' self-titled debut "the first refreshing surprise of 2012" here, and we reviewed Travels' most recent maxi-single here last October. Also performing Thursday are Dirty Virgins and The Wrong Shapes. The latter act features Future Carnivores' Bo Barringer along with Rachel Arnold on cello and vocals; the pair parleys sensuous pop that will please fans of same. More deets at the Facebook event page yonder.

Clicky Clicky faves Varsity Drag occupy the center square Friday night in their first performance in who knows how long. Too long. According to legend, if the trio doesn't play its hit "Summertime," we're all doomed to another six weeks of this treacherous spring we've been having (oh, it's actually been kinda nice...?), so let's keep our fingers crossed. As an added treat, 'Drag drummer Josh Pickering is also banging the cans strapping on a guitar and crushing out chords as part of power-pop purveyors Peter Buzzelle & the Soul Clinic Bible School's set, making a characteristically sweaty evening for Mr. Pickering doubly so. Unless it is, like, weirdly cold that night? Not gonna happen, right? The evening is rounded out by a set from BirdsMakeBirds, whose name proposition seems air-tight, and another from Black Fortress of Opium. Here's the Facebook event page; join the army.

You will hopefully have something remaining in your proverbial gas tank for a huge Saturday night at Radio, as that is the latest entry in Midriff Records' reliably awesome monthly residency. This month's event features a set from recent Midriff signatories Age Rings, who will be feting the release of their upbeat new Midriff EP AM/PM (which we wrote about here earlier). Also on the bill is one of the label's flagship acts, Eldridge Rodriguez, who are fresh from a much-discussed appearance on Clicky Clicky's own NOFUCKINGWHERE compilation (download here), as well as guitar pop act Cooling Towers and a tandem performance from Midriff-friendly Sarah Borges and Midriff's own Greg Lyon. Mr. Lyon, of course, among other things is also a notable solo artist on Midriff as well as the latest addition to the label's legendary founders, The Beatings. And those other things: Lyon's ethereal re-imagining of RIDE's "Paralyzed" graced the aforementioned NOFUCKINGWHERE, which compilation's art and layout were also executed by Mr. Lyon. Let's just go ahead and say it: renaissance man. And how about one more Facebook event page?

All that stuff above? All that is happening over the course of three consecutive nights this weekend at Radio. It's mind-blowing. Get into it. We're dropping some song embeds below so you can limber up your ears. Dig.

May 20, 2012

New Music Night 6 with DJs Brad Almanac + Jay Clicky Clicky | River Gods | 24 May

New Music Night 6 Space Kitten
New Music Night returns for its sixth iteration this very Thursday, May 24, at River Gods in Cambridge, Mass. Your DJs are Brad of Bradley's Almanac and Jay of Clicky Clicky. Cumquat fall plum feet glooms, strum jaw must Disneys, it all happens from 9PM-1AM Thursday. 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 January event (he was sick for the March event, hence the especially old play list), or our March playlists. Sold? Thinking about it? Here's the Facebook event page. What can you expect from us this time around? We're looking at our playlist now, and it seems characteristically packed with recent, new, forthcoming and under-appreciated sounds from Boston, Philly, England and everywhere. It's how we roll, as you know by now. Come on by Thursday, you know you ain't getting anything done at the office Friday.

River Gods
125 River Street
Cambridge, MA

Accessible via Red Line at Central Square.

May 19, 2012

Today's Hotness: Age Rings, Manorlady, Tungs/Heavy Midgets

Age Rings -- AM/PM EP

>> Boston institution Midriff Records will release next week Age Rings' AM/PM EP, a companion piece to last year's best-of-2011 long-player Black Honey. The EP is comprised of songs resected from the Boston-based indie rockers' original, two-disc version of the acclaimed long-player it issued to Kickstarter backers a year ago. Midriff's release of AM/PM is no surprise, as it had been the label's plan since releasing its one-disc iteration of Black Honey last November [review] to release the songs it had excised at a later date. And that later date is May 25, when Age Rings plays a release show for the EP on the occasion of this month's installment of the very successful Midriff Records residency at Radio in Somerville, MA -- but more about that early next week. In a sense, AM/PM is a bin of spare arms and legs. But while the EP doesn't explicitly illuminate any heretofore unrevealed aspect of Black Honey (or vice versa), that perhaps speaks to the deftness of Midriff's curation of the portfolio of songs comprising the original, double-disc Black Honey such that the releases are self-contained collections complete in and of themselves. Indeed, the EP is populated with understated but brilliant rock songs showcasing Age Rings fronter Ted Billings' reedy tenor and wry outlook. Standout cuts include the noisier, heavier fist-pumper "Dreaming Forever" and the characteristically uptempo-but-down-in-the-mouth shuffler "Think Myself Sick." It's hard to know what to make of last week's news that Mr. Billings has converted the ongoing sessions for Age Rings' follow-up to Black Honey into sessions for a solo record Billings characterizes as "a bit of a departure from AR." After all, we like Age Rings a lot. But time will tell. In the mean time, rest assured in the knowledge that AM/PM is a known quantity, six tracks of lean, rootsy indie rock.

>> We were feeling a bit of a darkwave trend coming on when we last heard from Charlottesville, VA's Manorlady. We're not sure that has been borne out, particularly due to the apparent dissolution of the Lehigh Valley's best calling card in years, Soars, whose wonderful self-titled set seemed like another important focal point for the misperceived trendlet. But Manorlady soldiers on, thrives even, and the trio's latest collection Ego Oppressor will be self-released by the band June 18. Ego Oppressor will be issued as a CD/DVD combination; the DVD features an album-length, beat-synched video track to accompany the music on the CD. We don't think this will surprise anyone, but according to Manorlady fronter Aaron Baily, "[i]t's really, really, really trippy." The album remains true to the mid-fi and dark recordings from the band's last record, but the intensity level has increased. More aggressive tunes like the first preview track "Lines In The Corner Of Your Face" rock a little harder, while the dreamier, more subdued songs such as the pensive and nearly still "Sea Beast" -- check the Soundcloud embed below -- are more tightly focused. "Sea Beast," in particular, is exceptionally well-composed and the trio's skillful layering of guitar and synth (and even vocal parts) here hints at wide-open songwriting territory the band will find very fertile. Ego Oppressor will eventually be for sale right here, so keep checking back. We reviewed the trio's prior full-length Home a year ago here.

>> We think it is interesting that the term lo-fi has its heaviest associations bound to Guided By Voices' and Sebadoh's respective brands, while things like early Black Flag and Bad Brains recordings don't get discussed the same way (or at least not anymore). From a production standpoint, Richmond-based quartet Tungs has more in common with the Spot school of audio fidelity, at least based on the band's cracking new split release with scenemates Heavy Midgets, Sisters. There is something like a perfect balance to the overdriven productions contained therein; the split was released on vinyl and cassette by Bad Grrrl Records May 13. The music is boxy-sounding, post-punk that bleeds sizzling cymbals, high-hat and red-lined bass fuzz. The recordings practically throw off sparks due to the barely contained energy of the performances, and the rough edges don't detract from the experience; indeed the gritty power of the music on Sisters is the perfect antidote to the hyperclean, antiseptic recordings from the current crop of popular, smooth-pop guitar bands gracing the pages of a lot of music rags these days. But it's not just the everyman production values that make Tungs and Heavy Midgets stand apart: it's that the bands propound songs with character and imagination. Tungs' "Yossarian's Blues" warrants kudos for its vibrant, bristling take on Joy Division-derived punk. But that song seems almost conventional in comparison to "NewDiety," which touts ghostly, under-fi horns and Alice In Chains-indebted vocal yowling, or the pleasantly dubby wandering of "Bad Information." For its part, Heavy Midgets strike gold with its yearning ballad "Oh Susanna," which ends strong with a vast, feedback-flaring guitar lead, and the stuttering pop of anti-anthem "Come Get Me High," each strong enough to anchor a single in their own rights. Buy Sisters from Bad Grrrl right here or buy the digital version right here. Try before you buy via the Bandcamp embeds below.

May 16, 2012

Footage: Earthquake Party's Totally Thermonuclear "Pretty Little Hand"

Boston indie pop sensations Earthquake Party premiered the video embedded above for its cataclysmic hit "Pretty Little Hand" over at the Boston Phoenix's On The Download blog earlier tonight. As you can see, it is a monster. A deceptively simple performance clip comprised of tight shots that shudder under the pressure of the band's tightly compacted and euphoric pop. There are additional insights from the clip's director over at On The Download. We last wrote about Earthquake Party here in February on the eve of the band's first tour, and in the wake of a superlative radio session on WMBR's Pipeline! in which the trio ably covered both Black Tambourine and Guided By Voices. Earthquake Party's sole release at this point is the Vs. Pizza cassingle, upon which "Pretty Little Hand" first appeared. Vs. Pizza was first issued in November before a second edition was created earlier this year due to demand. We remain eager to hear more from the threesome, whose next area performance is at Middlesex Lounge in Cambridge May 30 with Thunders and two DJ sets.

May 14, 2012

Today's Hotness: Dinosaur Jr, Lefty's Deceiver, Eldridge Rodriguez, Screaming Maldini

Dinosaur Jr -- Bug: Live

>> Remember earlier this spring when we reviewed the DVD "Dinosaur Jr. Bug Live at 9:30 Club, In The Hands Of The Fans?" Well, it happened; here's the link. But in case you were having trouble getting that DVD to play on your turntable, new label Outer Battery, which also released the album from the old J Mascis side-project Heavy Blanket, is releasing July 10 the audio of the show on limited edition vinyl under the title Bug: Live. 200 copies of the record are being pressed to purple vinyl, and pre-orders are being taken right here. The content and character of the collection is self-self-explanatory. We hear the LP, exclusively mastered for release on vinyl of course, includes the entire show save for some of the cataclysmic closer "Don't," which was edited to get the show to fit on a single disc. And what about new music from Dinosaur? According to this recent report at SPIN, a new record from the legendary indie rock trio is tentatively set for release by Jagjaguwar in August. If you've been watching bassist Lou Barlow's Twitter feed, you know the record is recorded and mixed; there will be two Lou songs on the record and another used as a b-side; and recording and mixing ended last week after 85 days (although not all 85 of those days were days worked on the album, Barlow points out). So two things Dinosaur-related to look forward to.

>> Faithful fans of Philly-based post-punk goliath Lefty's Deceiver received a bolt from the blue yesterday in the form of this brief Facebook status: "Mixing demos of the new songs as we prepare to record a new record! #LD2012" Of course, there's nothing explicit here about WHEN such a record is going to be finished and released, but isn't it some comfort to know that the gears are turning? Any new album would be the first since Lefty's Deceivers' triumphant third full-length Cheats, which we reviewed for Junkmedia right here in 2003. There's no word whether the new collection would be released on the now-mothballed My Pal God label, which along with Cheats also released the electrifying Process Jr. EP in 2001. But if any of the new material comes even close to approximating the cataclysmic triumph of this recent live version of "Iselin," some label boss somewhere is going to be very, very happy. And, you know, fans. Stream selections from the band's catalogue via the embed below, which features music from a digital comp, LD 101, the band put together recently.

>> If you are not yet into the habit of checking into the Midriff Records blog, let's correct that right now. Particularly because today Midriff is offering an exclusive download of Eldridge Rodriguez covering RIDE's "Vapour Trail" ... wait for it... in SPANISH. An outtake from Clicky Clicky's NOFUCKINGWHERE compilation released two weeks ago today, the Spanish "Vapour Trail" touts the same brilliant instrumental work topped by an alternate vocal take. You want this, and you can get it right here, lodged among some verbiage that Midriff asked me to write to contextualize the song for its blog readers. All of NOFUCKINGWHERE is still available for free download right here.

>> If the scamps in Oxford, England-based futurepop sextet Screaming Maldini can be believed, the band's debut full length, not title yet disclosed, will be issued by Alcopop! Records June 18. Or maybe that is the release date for a new single to support the release of said LP. We don't know! Write more specific Facebook statuses, everyone!

May 11, 2012

And Then Some Days We Get Awesome Mail 12

And Then Some Days We Get Awesome Mail 12: Chandeliers' Bigshot Weekend EP

Boston indie rock fans familiar with what exactly "it" is know that Chandeliers has been bringing "it" regularly since the trio popped onto the scene a year-and-a-half ago. And just last week the fearsome threesome released the rather handsome cassette pictured above, the Bigshot Weekend EP. The cassette itself touts dazzling gold foil the likes of which you have not seen since the last time you laid eyes upon your dawg C3P0. But the important things here are the tunes: the recently issued demo "Age Sex Location," which we wrote about here, is joined by four cracking new additions to the Chandeliers catalogue: the barely-able-to-be-contained basher "Creepwolf;" the stuttering and slippery bummer "First Thing/Teeth Out;" the steady chugger "Bigshot Weekend;" and the deliciously melodic tangle of "You're The Dream Team."

The collection -- capably self-recorded in Chandeliers' Brighton practice space -- is a big step forward for the band whose desperate and busy nightmare music is long on ideas and continues to impress with a singular combination of precise guitar leads and a storming rhythm section. Chandeliers play in Boston at O'Brien's tomorrow night, and appears to have monthly gigs in Chicago starting next week and going through July; we expect more local dates will pop up. But in the meantime, you should get over to the act's Bandcamp yert and try on for size Bigshot Weekend, we think it will suit your liking. We've embedded the entire thing below if you. Just. Can't. Bring. Yourself. To. Etc. And, of course, it is worth noting that Chandeliers turned in a shattering version of RIDE's "Here And Now" for Clicky Clicky's recent NOFUCKINGWHERE compilation, which is still available for free download right here.

Today's Hotness: Cookies, Johnny Foreigner, Doctrines

Cookies -- Crybaby

>> Brooklyn electropop trio Cookies self-released last month a new single featuring two versions of a song "Crybaby." Both sides of the single are available as a free download from the Cookies web dojo right here; a small number of these were packaged with a very limited edition, hand-sewn Crybaby pillowcase, because, you know, why not? The A-side version of "Crybaby" is surprisingly funky and leans hard on a short, ascending bass line and crispy hand-claps. The b-side is spookier, down-tempo and imaginatively contrasts some vintage rhythm and blues-styled shouting with a creepy falsetto that recalls Peter Gabriel's "Games Without Frontiers." Both renderings of "Crybaby" feature blazing saxophone performances from a fellow named Colin Stetson, a touring member of Arcade Fire and Bon Iver whose Wikipedia page makes it sound like he's played with everyone cool for the last decade. While Cookies dubbed "Crybaby" as their "4th (and final)" single, have no fear that the act is tossing itself in the dustbin. The original plan, according to a quick email exchange with fronter Ben Sterling, was always to issue four singles, and now the band has to decide what to do next. A full-length album is not out of the question. Mr. Sterling, if you don't recall, is formerly of defunct Clicky Clicky faves Mobius Band, whose career we followed closely. While we're all standing around waiting to see what comes next from Cookies, have a listen to two different flavors of "Crybaby" below.

>> The hotly anticipated double-12" version of Johnny Foreigner's epic third full-length Johnny Foreigner vs. Everything will be released June 25, ThisIsFakeDIY revealed today here. The 17-song collection, which we reviewed here in November, topped our best albums of 2012 list. Alcopop! Records will naturally be doing the honors. Given prior statements from the the Birmingham, England-based noisepop titans (now a four-piece, yeh?) and Alcopop!'s mastery at packaging music in imaginative and compelling manners, we expect that the double-12" Johnny Foreigner vs. Everything will be especially special. Will each one come with 17 kittens? We'll have to wait and see, more bulletins as events warrant.

>> It should be emphasized again (because we don't emphasize it enough) that Alcopop! is not solely in the business of releasing Johnny Foreigner records. And in fact the Oxford, England-based operation has been signing superlative new talent of late, not the least of which is Mancunian emo quartet Doctrines. The year-old band's forthcoming EP ZE is its second, but the first to be released by Alcopop! An early taster track "Climbing Yggdrasil" fuses the desperate delivery of Titus Andronicus to the tunefullness and focus of Algernon Cadwallader. Another thing the quartet have in common with the aforementioned Titus Andronicus, apparently, is appreciation for the big concept. ZE, which Alcopop! will issue in late June, is a 17-minute concept piece in four parts inspired by an interest in science fiction. Have a listen to the bracing "Climbing Yggdrasil" below. For those of you keeping score at home, the song was also featured on the recent (and excellent) Big Scary Monsters digital compilation Making Music's For Pussies, which also features songs from stellar acts Tall Ships, Bear Cavalry and Crash of Rhinos among others.

May 10, 2012

Review: Golden Gurls | Typo Magic

Have you heard that awesome record that came out last week from that band from Baltimore? The album that should warrant consideration as one of the best of the year once 2012 burns itself out? No, not that one -- this one: Typo Magic, the debut long player from Charm City indie rockers Golden Gurls. The surname-less threesome (Andy on guitar and vocals; Donald on drums; Jesse on bass) have crafted a record that is to date the most satisfying and pure indie rock collection of the year. It's all killer, no filler, packed from front to back with stirring, bigmuff superfuzz guitar anthems.

Typo Magic is also something of a throwback to records of decades past, in that it eschews faddish gimcrackery  -- indeed, it even eschews guitar solos -- in favor of elements that have fortified the underground since the best albums were coming out on Homestead or SST: songwriting, sentiment and bountiful guitar distortion. Golden Gurls employ alternately snarling and whispering guitars to articulate well-developed melodies and to overdrive soaring crescendos; it's the attack of Dinosaur Jr. paired with the pop sensibility of Normal Years-era Built To Spill. Vocals throughout ride under the swell of the guitars, and Gurls fronter Andy murmurs in a manner that recalls the reserve of Seam's Soo Young Park or Notwist's Markus Acher.

Typo Magic features songs front-loaded with hooks, from the gentle strumming that opens the album ("Kid Tested") to the percolating bounce of the verses to "I Can See The City From Here." The record is not all fireball guitars, as there is a fair amount of texture evidenced by weightless, tremeloed guitar in the verse of the downtempo "Cars On Mars," or the spiraling harmonics in "Tidal" (which harmonics, incidentally, echo what is arguably The Wrens' finest moment). Highlights abound, but it's worth pointing out one of the strongest tracks, the yearning rocker "Excited," is tucked away toward the end of the set. The tune -- which sounds like a slightly milder restating of Projekt A-ko's "Xavier" -- lays on thick guitar swirl and features a particularly delicate vocal that play counterpoint to strident snare cracks. The proceedings close with "Shasta Masta" and its almost archetypal indie rock lyric -- no less poignant as delivered here -- "just when I thought I had it all figured out... for once..."

While Typo Magic is almost disappointingly concise, Golden Gurls' brevity gives the record a substantial degree of punch. The album features six songs lasting fewer than three minutes and only one surpassing four. Compact compositions captured via energetic performances give the record a palpable electricity and immediacy of the type that inspires repeated listens. And one further note: we think it says something about how perfect a fit Golden Gurls' music is for this blog that two musicians we respect from completely different U.S. cities took time out to recommend Typo Magic to us before it was even released. Maybe we're just that predictable, but we know what we like and we like this record a lot. Typo Magic would seem to open a portal to a period in late-'80s/early '90s indie rock that we hope never closes. The album was self-released by the band May 1; order the collection right here.

Golden Gurls: Banditocamp | Facebook | YouTube

May 7, 2012

Substance Is Style: The Clicky Clicky Interview With Slumberland Records' Mike Schulman

A Certain Smile, A Certain Sadness: The Clicky Clicky Interview With Slumberland Records' Mike Schulman

Many readers of Clicky Clicky's back pages require little introduction to the labors of love of Mike Schulman, owner and operator of venerated indie label Slumberland Records. Those same readers have likely been wearing out the grooves on releases Mr. Schulman has been associated with for more than two decades. The best part? Schulman and the label are going strong, and 2012 already appears as remarkable a year as any in the imprint's history. More on that later; first, let us absurdly condense more than two decades of history into three paragraphs.

In 1989, Schulman and friends commissioned Slumberland Records to release their own music, as few if any other independent labels at that time in the D.C.-area shared the friends' love of music from overseas operations such as Creation, Rough Trade, Flying Nun, and Sarah. Sure, the D.C. hardcore scene had its own flagship operation in the locally-focused Dischord Records, but Schulman and his cohort were more interested in the romantic and experimental takes on pop and punk that had crept across the ocean from England during the prior decade.

And so Slumberland began with the initial releases by the founders' own bands, Black Tambourine, Whorl and Velocity Girl, before moving on to issue music from like-minded artists including Stereolab, Lilys, Lorelei and Small Factory (many of these acts appeared on the bar-setting comp ...One Last Kiss, which spawned carbon copies from scene-centric indie startups far and wide). Eventually, control of Slumberland fell entirely into Schulman's hands, and, following a move to San Francisco, he continued to issue superlative releases from acts including Rocketship and The Aisler's Set. There was a brief hiatus at the turn of the century, but not long after Slumberland resumed operations. In the new millennium, Schulman turned his attention to issuing music from bands including The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Frankie Rose, Crystal Stilts and Big Troubles, earning accolades from underground/overground approval-embossers Pitchfork, Stereogum and Rolling Stone along the way.

Earlier this year, Schulman's legendary, C86-inspired indie pop combo Black Tambourine made headlines when it reformed to play a series of special reunion shows to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the Chickfactor 'zine, a Slumberland ally. Clicky Clicky's Edward Charlton scored at a chance to chat with Mr. Schulman about all of the above last week, and, delightfully, the label head proved to be thoughtful, gracious and positive about his experiences and the label at large.

Clicky Clicky: You just played a series of Black Tambourine reunion dates. How was performing again with the band after 20 years away? What are your thoughts on experiencing a project of yours becoming part of a larger cultural history?

Mike Schulman: Well, it was weird. (Laughs) Really, the answer to both questions is "it's weird." Playing the shows was a lot of fun. The idea of doing some shows together came up when we put the compilation out in 2010. But, we just thought it was too complicated logistically with two of the guys on the East Coast, myself on the West Coast, and our singer Pam living in London. She's also extremely adverse to flying. So, it seemed difficult to make it work, and we kind of let the idea go. Yet, we were kind of two minds about it. I think one of the things that people like about Black Tambourine was the mystery of it. Like, nobody ever saw us play, except for a group of our friends, and certainly most of the people that went on to enjoy the music and be influenced by it, almost none of them could possibly have seen us play because they were probably like ten years old!

So you know, there was some hesitation to dispel the mystery about it, but I also found that kind of appealing, for people to see what we were like. Because the records are dreamy, and people know them as "shoegaze," though I don't. Live we were much more redolent of The Flatmates, The Rosehips, Shop Assistants; a Ramones-ish kind of punk band. So I thought it was kind of fun for people to see that side of it. Plus, I looked forward to playing with the guys and Pam again. Ultimately, I don't want to be too precious about it, because it makes it seem more important than it really was.

Chickfactor was really important to that scene in the '90s, Pam was obviously one of the founders, and a good friend of ours, so it seemed like the best of reasons to reunite.

In regards to the second part of the question, you know, it's always surprising that those recordings have had the legacy that they have. Black Tambourine was a side-project for all of us really, except for Pam who wasn't in any other band. Brian Nelson and I were in Whorl, and we were very active, playing several shows a month in the area, and Archie was in Velocity Girl who were getting going as well. Black Tambourine was very much a side-project. Still, I think we're all very happy with how those recordings came out, and I really value that experience. Those are still my favorite records that I played on, and came the closest to how the music sounded in my head.

So when it turned out that 10 or (laughs) 15 years later that people were taking influence from us or finding it in the same set of things that inspired Black Tambourine -- Phil Spector, girl groups, The Ramones, The Jesus and Mary Chain -- that stuff was pretty evergreen, it's not like we invented it or anything. Still, learning that the way we put it all together struck a chord in people is very gratifying. I'll never say no to people telling us that they like our music! I'm all for it.

CC: I'm sure it's funny at this point, that you're probably seeing cycles of influence and style...

MS: Yeah, what's interesting and what's easy to forget is that most of our influences were pretty current for us. When we started doing our thing, Psychocandy was only a few years old, the Shop Assistants record had just come out. It was very current for us, it was on our turntables, just what we listened to. It's like today if a band set out to sound like, I don't know, a Captured Tracks band. I just read an interview with Blouse, where they basically said that they formed to sound like a band on Captured Tracks. That's basically what we were doing, not to emulate the sounds of the bands we liked, but to be down with it all.

CC: It's a love letter as much as an original project?

MS: Yes, exactly. I mean, maybe we were lucky that we were such primitive players, because we were incapable of closely emulating the things we like, we were all still learning how to play our instruments. I think that's part of the magic of Black Tambourine.

CC: Are there any more plans for Black Tambourine following the release of the Ramones covers EP?

MS: You know, I don't think so really. We've kind of talked about it. When we did the Ramones thing, we were planning on doing 5 or 6 songs, and we started working on one that we didn't finish. There was some talk of maybe finishing that off, but I don't know if there will be the motivation since the record is going to be out in a couple weeks. There's some bits and pieces floating around, we have some people working on remixes for us, and those will be out eventually. But, you know, I think we all satisfied our curiosity about playing live and what it would be like. It's a little difficult for me to imagine doing it again.

CC: I think most fans were happy just to have the reunion and anything new after such a hiatus was icing on the cake.

MS: I hope people were pleased. I haven't heard a lot of negative stuff. I hope people were entertained by it, it wasn't just an experience of "oh my god, I'm seeing Black Tambourine," but they could just enjoy the live music for what it was. What was really exciting about those shows (Chickfactor) was seeing Small Factory again. The music still sounded incredible, and to see The Aisler's Set again was a great reminder of just what great bands those were. How exciting. My enjoyment of that stuff is invariably going to be with a bit of nostalgia, but it's just good music, and it speaks for itself.

CC: We've been super thrilled with the latest batch of releases on Slumberland this year (Frankie Rose, the Veronica Falls 7", upcoming Violens full-length, True), what's the rest of 2012 looking like for the label, to the extent that you want or can talk about it?

MS: I can't talk about it. (laughs)

CC: Top Secret?

MS: (Laughs) Yeah, but the Allo Darlin' and Evans The Death records are both out today (May 1st). They are great, and I'm proud of them. Very exciting. It's also great because Allo Darlin' are out on tour and I get to see them in a couple of weeks. Also, the Violens album is out May 15, which I can't wait for, it's an amazing record.

CC: We're really excited about the Violens too, as we've been listening to the pre-released tracks a lot. Bit of a change from their previous record. What led to you becoming involved with them?

MS: Yeah, this new record is just, like, a quantum leap. It's really just so solid, consistent and thought through. Sonically, there's so much going on, and the vocal harmonies are incredible. Those '60s Curt Boettcher-influenced vocals just blow me away. It kind of ties it in with Veronica Falls for me, whose harmonies remind me of The Mamas and Papas.

CC: I always wonder why more indie rock bands don't try to cultivate that harmony-heavy aesthetic.

MS: I think it's because it's really hard to do. You have to really be a good singer, and have an ear for vocal arrangements, and, simply, not everyone can do that. This conception of a sort of baroque soundscape. People who can hear music like that, I hate them (laughs), because all I can do is bang away in my band, but I'm so in awe. Devon Williams is a Slumberland artist who I think can do this so well, think of the larger picture.

It was him, in fact, who turned me on to the Violens. Devon kept saying, "you got to listen to Jorge's stuff." They had been friends for some time. Eventually, he sent me a bunch of their discography, things like the songs from their 2011 Internet singles run, and some of the demos for this new record. It killed me. I get a lot of demos, a lot of stuff that comes through, and I try to listen to all of it, but sometimes it's hard to go through 20 or 30 songs a day. For Violens, it just jumped out to me, and I thought "you gotta do this." I think people are really going to enjoy that record, we've leaked a fair amount of it out already, but when you hear it as a full piece, it's just really powerful.

CC: What, for you, comprises the "total package" that gets you excited about a group and want to work with them?

MS: I don't know what it is. I like a lot of stuff that I don't put out. It's not always necessarily an issue of "quality." I like good songwriting, good arranging, good sounds. There's just some stuff where I think, "yes!"

It doesn't have to be "hi-fi" or "lo-fi." If the songs are great, then that is what jumps out. I like to think that I value substance over the style of things. I don't necessarily keep up with the latest trends, it doesn't result in the records that I want to listen to five or ten years from now. That's what I aim to do, release records that I'll still want to listen to way down the line. Sometimes that intersects with what is hip and cool, sometimes it takes a decade for the taste-makers to warm up to something. I don't concern myself with it that much. What belongs on Slumberland? It's an X factor, really.

CC: We imagine you aim to do better than break even with every record. Have there been any releases that you loved so much that you just said "what the hell" and released them without any concern at all for covering costs?

MS: (Laughs) Most of them! You know, I have to think about it a little bit. I have a family, and it's not just a hobby. I prefer not to lose money on stuff, but it's not my primary consideration. I can't ever see myself putting out something because I think I can make money on it. Because, invariably, you'll be wrong if you chase that kind of idea. I go into it accepting that any release could get a few crappy reviews, and it might not recoup costs, but that's just the risk of doing what I do.

I think that anything we put out will undoubtedly eventually find an audience, and that's the value of operating the label for as long as we have. There's a certain kind of record and music fan that will pay attention to what we're doing, because of our track record. The main issue is getting the right record to the right person, and that's how you don't lose money.

CC: Are there any bands that "got away" that you wished you could have signed?

MS: Hmm...I got some demos from Moonshake at one point. It would have been between the Creation record and the Too Pure singles. We kind of arranged for it but it fell through. I had talked to McCarthy about doing stuff, but they broke up, and that's how we ended up putting out the Stereolab releases in the first place, through that connection. It would have been super cool to release a McCarthy record.

I also actually kind of met Stuart Murdoch before Belle and Sebastian. I had talked to him about music, and he came and played some songs on my then-girlfriend/now-wife's radio show. He sent me Tigermilk when it came out, and I didn't fully connect with it at the time. I was one of the first U.S. labels to hear that, and I guess the opportunity was there, I don't really know.

I don't trip out about that sort of thing too much. I'm always happy to go out an buy a record I really like. Sometimes I'll think "why didn't I put this out?" But fact of the matter is, I have to turn down putting out records I really like anyway, so I don't mind going out and buying someone's record. In today's day and age, that's the best show of support for an artist, is for anybody to go out and just buy a record.

CC: Any current labels out there that you really admire these days?

MS: That's a hard one. You know, I don't actually consume that much indie rock, I like a lot of other styles of music just as much. My favorite label is probably Honest Jon's, I like their old stuff and their new stuff. They've put out a really interesting angle on dub step. Their reissues are immaculate. I'd consider them a slightly less populist Soul Jazz, perhaps a little more tightly curated. Also, of course Soul Jazz.

It's weird, I feel a bit of a kinship with a lot of the U.K. reissue labels, for some reason. They plough their own furrows. They're not interested in capital "I" indie. Just doing their own thing regardless. That really inspires me.

I used to be a techno DJ, playing a lot of jungle. I had a record store that specialized in that stuff in the '90s. I loved the super independent nature of it. People had their own labels, and their own distributors, it was a totally stand-alone thing.

CC: For you, how much of your local scene do you attempt to document versus national and international releases?

MS: I have to admit, I don't give this aspect of the label much consideration at all. I just put out what I like and don't worry too much about where the bands are from.

CC: Right. Okay, time for me to expose my true fanboy intentions. We really enjoyed the 20th Anniversary disc that you put together of unreleased tracks by artists over the course of your history. Are there any more unheard documents? After the recent success of Black Tambourine, are there any moves to reissue more of the back catalog? I should mention, it's widely known that two of the biggest "spirit songs" of this blog are "Claire Hates Me" by Lilys, and "Maybe It's Better" by Whorl. Our editor Jay writes, "LILYS LILYS LILYS GIVE US LILYS!"

MS: HAHA, that's awesome. I would say "yes" and "yes" to both of those questions. We're definitely working on more reissue stuff. There's some really good things coming up. Some of them are just straight reissues of records on vinyl that have been out of print for a long time. And then, some of them are going to be multi-album omnibus compilations. Whether Lilys are involved, I can't say at this point.

We've always been talking a bit about doing a Whorl comp. There's tons and tons of stuff. There's studio sessions we did with Wharton Tiers in New York that have never been released. I think that a lot of that will eventually see the light of day. Matt from Lorelei has been saying for years "I will finance whatever you want to put out! Make it a multi-LP box set, with DVDs, blah blah blah..." I'm not sure if the Whorl legacy requires such an elaborate package.

But it would be fun, I was just sitting upstairs in my office looking at the old master tapes, I have them for all of that stuff, the actual recordings, not the mixes. I was thinking it might be cool to try to remix some of it. When we recorded with Wharton Tiers, we didn't know what we were doing, at all. We didn't even know about overdubs, we recorded it all live. He didn't get in our way, but he also didn't educate us. He just thought we were weird. We drove up from D.C. with our funny little practice amps, we didn't even have real amplifiers. I think he thought we were cute. We went to him because he had worked with Sonic Youth, Pussy Galore, and Swans, all this stuff we were really into, and we wanted to sound like that. Needless to say, the source material wasn't there for him to do it. But I could see someone remixing it and kind of toughening it out, without losing too much from the original performances. So, we might do that at some point, for you and Jay, and the other five people who might be into it. It would be fun, I have no reticence about that stuff being heard again.

CC: I think it's pretty timeless.

MS: Well, gee, thanks. Like what we were saying about Black Tambourine, I think there's some value in not really knowing what you're doing. I wonder if we were more seasoned musicians, what would those records have sounded like? They might have sounded more of their time, and therefore maybe not be as interesting now.

CC: Naivety can be a real asset. I think that's why a lot of the '60s garage bands on the Nuggets box sets are so great. They all wanted to be the Rolling Stones, but it's the ways that they failed in that endeavor that make them stand out now.

MS: Totally. I think that's what makes a band like Beat Happening so electrifying. I never get tired of listening to their first records. It's unbelievable really, it could have been made in 1966, 1976, or 1986! You can't even tell. If you played that for somebody who hadn't listened to it before, I bet they wouldn't know. That is an incredible thing to achieve.

CC: Well on that note, thanks Mike for chatting with us.

MS: Nice talking to you, too. It's refreshing to speak with someone who is well aware of the history of the label, but not just assuming that it's all retreads of the past. I'm often shocked at how much press about the label comes from the insane, accepted notion that we're totally twee (ha ha!) and retro.

May 6, 2012

That Was The Show That Was: Brian Jonestown Massacre | Wonder Ballroom, Portland, Ore. | 4 May

That Was The Show That Was:  Brian Jonestown Massacre | Wonder Ballroom, Portland, Ore. | 4 May

What began for Clicky Clicky as an excursion of curiosity turned out to be one of the most surprisingly rich rock and roll performances of recent memory.  Brian Jonestown Massacre, ever a shifting fixture of the Pacific Northwest indie scene, played last night to a VERY appreciative and virtually sold-out crowd in Portland in support of their latest full-length, Aufheben.

Contemplating the entrance line encircling the block emphasized the mystery as to why the storied act's popularlity thrives to such a degree in this part of the country. It's certainly not the '90s anymore, and the band's output since their famous implosion (immortalized in the 2004 documentary Dig!), can safely be summarized as "scattershot." So, while Clicky Clicky has treasured the act's 1995 debut, Methodrone -- a monument to '60s-stung shoegaze -- the balance of their discography has felt flat, lost in a drowsy, opiated state. These perceptions, it turned out, were due to a lack of understanding that Brian Jonestown Massacre is a band whose work must be experienced, not mediated through iTunes playlist or poor car stereo. Its live presentation is what makes the act exceptional.

The crowd crowding the Wonder Ballroom surprisingly appeared to consist mostly of fans too young to have witnessed the band a decade before. Its anticipation gathered while presumably band-chosen music pumped through the massive PA at a volume larger than most other concerts: Spacemen 3, trance, Psychocandy and Songs About Fucking, set the mood for those awaiting Anton Newcombe and company.

As the Massacre took to the stage, audible surprise was heard among the crowd. Newcombe was accompanied at this show by notable old bandmates and foils: the floaty Matt Hollywood and seemingly real-life cartoon character Joel Gion. Gion in particular was fascinating to observe, as he was in Dig! with his too-far mod haircut and oversized glasses. At Wonder Ballroom he affected the appearance of a 1950s beatnik dock worker, one thinking "I guess I'll try out this newfangled rock music." Truly, a spectacle to behold -- if he is acting, give Gion an Oscar. To add to the sleazy rock god image that Brian Jonestown Massacre has so cooly concocted, the roady doubled as Newcombe's valet, removing Anton's jacket periodically while minding the refreshments; straight Jack Daniel's. All this before the band had even played a note.

The Wonder Ballroom is notable for its slightly awkward, high school gymnasium-styled layout. However, the strange space is rendered irrelevant by the tremendously loud and clear sound board manned by someone who earns their pay. As BJM launched into the first batch of tunes, its four guitarists could be heard distinctly. Newcombe's vocals, sounding as stoned and dethroned as on record, were mixed just below the surface and the bass, drums, and Gion's tambourine smacked in the gut. Despite the panning of instruments in what seemed like a hundred different directions, nothing was sacrificed in brute force. Each individual amongst the mass assemblage of musicians played just slightly differently from the next, creating a rich, woven quilt of reverberant chords and subtle, single-note leads. One guitarist doubled everything Newcombe played, but with a completely over-fuzzed 12-string. What had sometimes seemed crowded and unnecessary on record was now crucial to the entire experience, the complete nostalgic idea.

For the first half of the set, the group focused mainly on songs from Aufheben. "Stairway To The Best Party" continued the slow, laconic angle achieved by their best downtempo numbers. "Seven Kinds of Wonderful" and "Clouds Are Lies" both used wailing, distorted and circular guitar figures to create just the right swaying hypnosis. The best track of the new bunch? "Viholliseni Maalla" was awesome, with Hollywood taking the lead vocal, his unique, soft voice perfect fit for it. Though Newcombe would probably scoff at the idea, the tune indeed parlayed a sort of filial respect for Deerhunter at their most pop.

After a middle break, the group played a small batch of songs from their vast back catalog. Methodrone tracks "She Made Me" and the grinding garage classic "That Girl Suicide" each elicited huge responses from the audience. Up-tempo songs like "Not If You Were The Last Dandy On Earth" and a faster "Vacuum Boots" incited the entire Ballroom to dance, though songs like that never came along quite enough.

Even so, Brian Jonestown Massacre proved last night that a more-traditional rock experience can still be surprising, vital and complex. After a tight set, the band closed without an encore. Instead, it was a 10-minute power jam, with all four guitarists soloing individually, each echoing lead bearing a perfect imprint of some lost era of popular music. As the men departed, guitars against the amps in a feedback chorus, the allure of the group was made plain.

The band completes a West Coast tour May 12 (full dates here) before embarking on an eight-day tour of Australia with Raveonettes followed by a month in Europe and yet another spin around the U.S. beginning Aug. 16. -- Edward Charlton

Brian Jonestown Massacre: Internerds | Facebook | YouTube

May 5, 2012

Today's Hotness: Hop Along, Lubec

Hop Along -- Get Disowned

>> What if '90s indie rock footnotes Monsterland traveled through time to 2006 and hooked up with Canadian alt-country luminary Kathleen Edwards? How awesome would that be? Well, through the miracle of modern indie rock we now have an answer: it would be exactly as awesome as up-and-coming Philly indie rockers Hop Along. Or at least one of the trio's wonderful songs. The digital single "Tibetan Pop Star," touts both riff and rhythm not unlike that of Monsterland's epic and glorious "Your Touch Is Uncomfortable To Me," coupled with Hop Along fronter Frances Quinlan's arresting vocal rasp which recalls that of Ms. Edwards. "Tibetan Pop Stars" is taken from Hop Along's full-length debut Get Disowned, which was recorded and produced by Joe Reinhart of Philly indie-punk goliaths Algernon Cadwallader. The record is being released tomorrow on Hot Green Records, the imprint of the aforementioned Algernon Cadwallader, and you can order it straight from Hot Green for $12, presumably postage paid, but what do we know; the first 50 pre-orders (already gone, so don't get your hopes up) were packaged with a cassette featuring "an old, beloved b-side." Get Disowned will be feted June 1 at a record release show to be held at Philadelphia's fabled DIY space at the First Unitarian Church. You know what would be an amazing touring bill? Hop Along and Massachusetts' own Speedy Ortiz -- someone get on that. In the meantime, you get on the embed of "Tibetan Pop Stars" below, because the song kills. And because nobody deserves you the way that I do.

>> Portland, Ore.-based guitar pop champions Lubec announced this week it will issue this summer Wilderness Days, a full-length album compiling songs from the band's previously issued (and excellent) EP Nothing Is Enough! alongside previously unreleased tracks. Wilderness Days is being released on 12" vinyl in a limited edition of 300 pieces on or around July 17. The compilation -- available for pre-order now right here -- apparently comes packaged with unspecified Nothing Is Enough! clothing and accessories, poetry by Robert Laurence Binyon (never heard of 'm), and complete lyric and chord charts for all the songs.  All of which we think you will agree is an embarrassment of riches, considering Lubec is already giving you hits like "Cherry Adair" and "Gang Knife Battles" on vinyl. And while fans will be ecstatic about Wilderness Days, we expect they will be even more excited to learn Lubec is recording its first proper full-length album, which purports to be a concept album. No word on when that will be completed, but we're excited all the same, as the Portland iteration of the band sounds great, based on the recently posted KBOO radio session with which we've been spending a lot of time. Below you can stream a delicious, new-to-us tune, "Holiday Traffic," which will appear on Wilderness Days.

>> Have you heard about this compilation of 11 Boston bands performing RIDE's 1990 classic Nowhere album in its entirety? It's called N O F U C K I N G W H E R E, I hear it's excellent, and you can download it right here.

May 3, 2012

Today's Hotness: Johnny Foreigner, Veronica Falls, Hallelujah The Hills

Johnny Foreigner's Arcs Across The City

>> In a surprise announcement Sunday, Birmingham, England-based noise-pop titans Johnny Foreigner announced it has expanded its core group to a quartet, and that longtime collaborating visual artist and sometime accompanist Lewes Herriot is now an official member of the band. Mr. Herriot's art has graced every Johnny Foreigner release since its stunning debut EP Arcs Across The City [review] was issued in November 2007. There's no news as to how Mr. Herriot will make his first musical mark with the band on a recording, but Johnny Foreigner's best of 2011 full-length Johnny Foreigner vs. Everything [review] is poised for re-release as a double LP this summer and Mr. Herriot will certainly appear with the band during touring that will coincide with that release. Of course, musical collaboration between the former trio and Herriot is not without precedent: devoted fans will recall video footage of Lewes performing the second guitar part to the show-stopping conclusion to the crowd-pleaser "Salt, Pepa and Spindarella" (the YouTube of which, of course, we can't find now). We know you haven't uncrossed your fingers since we requested you do same about a year ago, but keep those digits twisted in hopes the mighty Johnny Foreigner will make it to America for some live dates once the double LP is out. In the meantime, how about you stream "The House Party Scene Is Killing You?" It's the b-side to "Our Bipolar Friends," which was the first single whose art Lewes designed, yeh?

>> After a delightful Slumberland debut last year, Veronica Falls are back with a new 7" on the storied label this month. Like most everything else this band has concocted to date, "My Heart Beats" [no embed available, so click that] is a great slice of revivalist indie-pop, original in its composition, yet evocative of classic influences. The London-based four-piece are presumably at work on a follow-up to the self-titled 2011 debut, and the new A-side suggests a move away from the Velvet Underground-inspired strumming of songs like "Come On Over" and across the noise-pop spectrum to the sounds of mid-'80s My Bloody Valentine. Happily, Veronica Falls hit the nail on the head, with a a great take on the sugary, all-too-rare, uptempo MBV songs that directly preceded Isn't Anything (think "Thorn" or "Drive It All Over Me"). They wisely bring the vocals up a bit in the mix to maintain the tune's momentum, while showcasing satisfying co-ed counter melodies in the chorus. Add to this a few superlative guitar breakdowns during the intro and bridge, both reminiscent of the simple, yet effective note bending of Methodrone-era Brian Jonestown Massacre. Could we ask for anything more? Veronica Falls have succeeded in creating a pleasant, collectible release that will tide over fans that await the next LP. Purchase the single here. -- Edward Charlton

>> Mark your calenders. Come May 22nd, the world shall receive the third full-length from Boston's Hallelujah The Hills, No One Knows What Happens Next; the set is already available for pre-order on the group's bandcamp page via Discrete Pageantry Records. We've previously gushed about the septet here, and have listened along as the act earned treasured-band status among many. The pre-released single "Get Me In A Room" expands the legacy and lays a firm foundation for the forthcoming collection. This clear and crisp production opens with a choice four-note bass line that lurches into a strong tom-driven groove appointed with sharp, downbeat guitar notes backed by trebly piano. Later there's a guitar solo the way a solo should be; rough and piercing, with plectrum plucks audibly emphasizing the song's desperation and release. The clarity and purposefulness of each hit and string reminds this reviewer of scenemates Age Rings and their focused musical ruminations on a musician's lifestyle enshrined in beasts like "Rock and Roll Is Dead." Atop Hallelujah The Hills' impressive instrumental work rests Ryan Walsh's speak-sing vocals, which succesfully forge attractive and slightly absurd lyrical combinations. "Get Me In A Room" showcases a degree of craftsmanship that not only results in a sincere and personal whole but also ensures that the forthcoming album will have lasting replay value. Catch the band on one of their East Coast tour dates listed here. -- Edward Charlton