November 25, 2013

PREMIERE: Occurrence | Decks [album stream]

Occurrence -- Decks

It's pretty safe to say that few among us are like Ken Urban. Mr. Urban is many things, first and foremost an accomplished playwright and academic, but his singularity lies in a perverse world view (as well as an admirable drive to explore it). He carries over a flair for drama and skull-grinding tension into the electronic musical project Occurrence, which came online in 2010 after many years dabbling with music within and without the context of his stage productions. As we wrote here in late 2012, Occurrence has in the past two years rapidly mutated in exciting ways, evolving from a vehicle for psychodramatic and almost confrontational confessionals to a platform for densely layered, excitingly textured and more overtly rhythmic music. The addition of Wayne S. Feldman (formerly of high-concept experimental unit therefore) in 2012 to the permanent roster injected a significant degree of nuance into the music of Occurrence, whose songs now are just as likely to reveal (or revel in) a looser, The Books-styled absurdity as they are the peculiar darkness that is Mr. Urban's calling card. The particularly attentive will recall Occurrence closed out the 2012 Clicky Clicky Ride tribute comp Nofuckingwhere with a claustrophobic and noisy iteration of the song "Nowhere." But it was with the release last fall of the brilliant The Cotton Floppy EP that Occurrence sounded almost reborn. This week we finally hear the full promise of that EP delivered via the digital issuance of the now Cambridge- and New York-based duo's formidable new full length Decks.

Recorded over 18 months and sprawling over 15 songs and 55 minutes, the collection ebbs and flows and encompasses elements of hip hop ("Awesome Jean Jacket," featuring a next-level rhyme set from not-infrequent collaborator Jeff Stern) as well as turn-of-the-'90s, Consolidated-style sampletronic ("DTMLNJ"). The front end of the record is highlighted by compelling sequential tracks that encapsulate the darkness/lightness yin and yang of Occurrence in 2013. "Sleep Forager" melds guttural and raw no-wave guitar to a punishing, rudimentary jungle beat which buoys a nefarious-sounding chant by Urban. The bad vibes there are quickly neutralized by the wide-eyed reverie of "Little Junior Skagscroft" [video], which is colored substantially by Mr. Feldman's found-sound spoken-word recording of an apparently infatuated boy (who giggles a bit like Suzanne Somers circa "Three's Company"). The chirping voice is appended to a surprisingly pleasant synth melody and propulsive yet light rhythm tracks; fans may recognize the song as a new iteration of the Cotton Floppy highlight "Philip's Emotion Cards," because, well, that's what it is. The EP's "We Were The Future, Now We're Past" also made the cut for the full-length, but there is a whole lot of new and exciting stuff on Decks as well. There are even a few surprises, including a stunning vocal performance by the shadowy fronter of the turn-of-the-century project And Joseph, Mike RobbGrieco, who sings the Urban-penned album closer "Never Alone." The album version layers in some backing vocals by Urban and various electronic adornments, but a "naked" version of the track is available on Soundcloud and is even more spine-tingling. Decks will be released digitally to subscribers of Occurrence's mailing list later this week on Thanksgiving (remember Urban's perverse world view referenced supra?), with a physical release arriving Jan. 7. We are thrilled to be able to premiere for Clicky Clicky readers the entire record, which you can stream via the Soundcloud embed below. If you like what you hear, it's not too late for you to subscribe and get the whole shebang in your inbox at the end of the week.

Occurrence: Internets | Facebook | Bandcamp | Soundcloud

November 22, 2013

New Music Night 13 DJ Sets | River Gods | 21/22 Nov.

New Music Night 13, River Gods, Cambridge, Nov. 21/22, 2013

Hey there, ho there, heigh ho, heigh ho. Friday Friday Friday! We're trying to pump ourself up because we are super-tired. Fascinating and rare blogger insight, right? Anyway, that's not why you called. Here are the songs what we played whilst manning the figurative decks last night and into this morning in the booth at the fabulous River Gods in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Mr. 'Nac and I spun the new sounds for the people, quite a crowd, unusual in that there were only a couple familiar faces. Who are all these other random people who like the new music? No matter, our playlist is below; if you have any questions or want to know more about the songs below, hit us on Twitter or drop a comment. Also, please click over to Bradley's Almanac and check out Brad's playlists for the 9PM and 11PM hours once he gets them online. #NewMusicNight 14 will come at you in 2014, which we totally planned (not really) because we are geniuses (really). Ready for more new in the oh-one-four? Sure you are.

Set 2 / 10PM / Jay
01. Calories -- "Tropics" -- III
[epic closer of superlative third record from Birmingham, England legends / download]
02. The Derevolutions -- "We Found That Beat"
[addictive lo-fi bouncer from Western Mass. / download]
03. School Shoes -- "Cults" -- digital single
[brilliant lo-fi dream-pop from upstart Boston sole practitioner / download]
04. The Fireworks -- "Runaround" -- Runaround 7"
[superfuzz / blogged / stream]
05. Winter -- "Find Me" -- Creechers
[Creech Records comp / download]
06. Pony Bones -- "3" -- Pony Bones
[can't even remember where we got this]
07. Mote -- "Pull Me Apart" -- "Dirty Water" b/w "Pull Me Apart"
[tremendous single from new Louisville guitar-pop act / stream]
08. Mean Creek -- "Johnny Allen" -- Local Losers
[local kids continue to make good with LP out in Jan.]
09. Matt Pryor -- "Kinda Go To Pieces" -- Wrist Slitter
[Get Up Kids guy goes solo, Alcopop! is releasing in the UK Dec. 2 / stream]
10. Butterknife -- "Goodnight, Goodbye" -- Attractions
[fresh Boston emo / download]
11. No Other -- "Destruction Song" -- I Believe In Werner Herzog EP
[bracing post-punk from new Philly consortium / blogged / stream]
12. Idiot Genes -- "Soaked Pillow" -- Lousey
[face-scraping fuzz delight from the Boston underground / download]
13. Work Drugs -- "Chemical Burns" -- digital single
['80s-soaked pop gem from Philadelphia outfit / download]
14. Gondoliers -- "Mackerel Hill" -- Tonight's Whispering
[just downright spooky / blogged / stream]
15. Lamps -- "Cooscoos" -- Alpine digital single
[minimal electronic bliss-out / blogged / download]
Set 4 / 12AM / Jay

01. Mutes -- "Memory Serves" -- Starvation Age
[return of the Birmingham, England ambient pop project / download]
02. New Dog -- "I'm Your Man" -- Lost Weekend
[great cover from a captivating record out at the end of the month / pre-order]
03. School Shoes -- "Dress" -- digital single
04. Joey Fourr -- "Luv Is In The Morning" -- Luv Is In The Morning EP
[back to the quirky lo-fi pop for the former Tubelord guy / download]
05. Warm Brains -- "Happy Accidents" -- digital single
[of-the-moment UK guitar-band producer Rory Atwell's own project resurfaces / download]
06. Gum -- "Sinking" -- 100 Club Series, Vol. 1
[first of a trio of excellent tracks from recent Oddbox singles / stream]
07. Martha -- "Sycamore" -- 100 Club Series, Vol. 1
[second of a trio of excellent tracks from recent Oddbox singles / stream]
08. Flowers -- "Joanna" -- 100 Club Series, Vol. 1
[third of a trio of excellent tracks from recent Oddbox singles / stream]
09. Black Seas -- "Counting Colours"
[mysterious project's latest is its best, highly recommended / download]
10. Future Wife -- "Leg Day" -- Hot Singles In Your Area
[more ambient perfection from Birmingham / download]
11. Dosh -- "We Are The Worst" -- Milk Money
[delightful / stream]

November 21, 2013

That Was The Show That Was: Cut Copy | House Of Blues, Boston | 16 Nov.

[PHOTO CREDIT: Alex Sugg, special to Clicky Clicky] The Clicky Clicky brand doesn't exactly connote dance music, but every now and then the ol' dancing shoes get broken out for another hurrah. Such was the case last Saturday night, when Aussie dance crew Cut Copy boogied into Boston for an early show at the House Of Blues. Fun ensued.

Touring in support of their expansive new record Free Your Mind, the quartet delivered on their shape-shifting sound in the live forum in a big way, deftly sliding between warm-hearted indie-pop and full-on euphoric house grooves from song to song. In a dramatic display of showmanship, the band was presented behind a large transparent screen as the opening synth stabs from Free Your Mind blared through the front of house speakers. While the timing was slightly off, Cut Copy's emergence from behind the screen as the opening bass tone of the title track dropped was still a thrilling bit of rock star theater. It was also a fitting entrance for Cut Copy, a band perhaps more attuned to getting a party going than agonizing over the implications of their stage show moves (the screen shtick notwithstanding).

The band's hour-and-a-half-long set, which drew heavily from the new record, was a pitch-perfect display of festival-friendly dance-pop, all flailing limbs and eyes-closed sing-a-longs. The foursome's secret weapon lies in the hands of bassist Ben Browning. While never eclipsing the other instruments in the mix -- which, by the way, was pristine -- Mr. Browning's tones routinely enlarged songs to mammoth proportions, filling the space with room-shaking bounce. 'Twas impressive stuff for a band whose records typically lean more heavily toward the front end (and narrow end) of the term dance-pop.

While proclaiming affinity for whatever city you're performing in on a given night is a time-honored and somewhat patronizing bit for touring acts, it's especially fun to be a tour stop the band actually loves to play in. In this case, Cut Copy were really psyched to be in Boston, a fact the assembled crowd could certainly feel. Call it naiveté, but we seriously doubt they'll play a single show on this tour better than the one they threw down on Saturday. -- Dillon Riley

Cut Copy: Internet | Facebook | Tumblr

November 19, 2013

New Music Night 13 with DJs Brad Almanac + Jay Clicky Clicky | River Gods | 21 Nov.

New Music Night 13 with DJs Brad Almanac + Jay Clicky Clicky

It's New Music Night 13, the baker's dozen, the triskaidekaphobic's delight, the big kahuna, the tallest Tom Collins, the BEST JERRY, the BEST. On this night, Nov. 21, 2013, Brad de la 'Nac and Jay of Clicky Clicky Music Blog will electrically coax music from the lightboxes and hoozywhatzits in the DJ booth at River Gods. In fact, it will be nothing but new or not yet new or even pupal/larval indie music, primarily carrying the rock stripe, but making the occasional foray into ambient or electronic-sounding sounds. It will help you slide into the holiday season, as we'll be a week out from American Thanksgiving, and perhaps you'll be able to keep that slide going, Pete Rose-stylee, straight through to New Year's. We'll try to soundtrack the auspicious beginning of that thing you'll do, with the best in new music. All of this happens that particular Thursday within the friendly confines of Cambridge's finest neighborhood pub. For a sense of what you're getting into, check out Brad's playlist from the October 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?

River Gods
125 River Street
Cambridge, MA

Accessible via Red Line at Central Square.

November 17, 2013

Today's Hotness: Gondoliers, No Other, Lamps

Detail of the art from Gondoliers' Tonight's Whispering

>> It has already been one of Midriff Records' busiest years, but the little label that just might is not quite through with you yet. Next week the Boston- and New York-based enterprise issues the latest long-player from veteran Boston noise rockers Gondoliers. The album, Gondoliers' third and second of 2013, is titled Tonight's Whispering, and it is filled with the trio's characteristic sinister and off-kilter Sturm und Drang, a singular sound that situates the band along a strange, fantastical axis running between The Fall and Jesus Lizard. The album's titular whispering is elusive, but the album cut "Mackerel Hill" comes closest, and is a rare spot of calm within the otherwise convulsive and electrifying set. The song stutters along within intermittent gravity, shepherded by minimal percussion, a slow, staccato series of jarring and bending guitar chords, and plonking, round synth tones. Above the measured din, fronter John Manson proffers a Slint-styled spoken word incantation. The pace and posture of the song make it stand out among the rest of the music comprising Tonight's Whispering, which Midriff releases Tuesday as a digital download and vinyl LP (the vinyl is a co-release with 100% Records). You can not yet order the record, presumably because the Midriff people are still trying to, like Gary and Wyatt from "Weird Science," hook up the doll. But we think if you go to Midriff's Internet Home Page by mid-week, you should be able to find a buy link there. Fans would be well advised to mark down Nov. 25 in their date books, as that is when Gondoliers will play a record release show at Charlie's Kitchen in Harvard Square; there are more details about the show right here. Gondoliers only recently returned to Massachusetts after what sounded like a very successful campaign touring Europe, bringing the evil robot basement grooves to the people. All of Tonight's Whispering is streaming at Soundcloud here; we've embedded the creepy "Mackerel Hill" below to give just a little bit of the taste of the bass for you as you get up and dance at the LQ.

>> If you are launching a new band and have to pick a sonic square one at which to start, we think you could do far worse than staking your claim to a piece of the scene by emulating Wild Flag. Which is pretty much where we find the fledgling Philly-based indie rock trio No Other, at least at times, on its nimble debut EP, I Believe In Werner Herzog. The outfit, fronted by notable jill-of-all-trades (guitar girl, DJ, show promoter) Maria T, takes its name from an obscure Gene Clark LP. But instead of the indulgent excess of the Byrds co-founder's career-derailing album, No Other trades in stylishly lean post-punk. That Maria T's voice can be favorably compared to that of Velocity Girl's Sarah Shannon (and, yes, Mary Timony's) makes the Philadelphia act's EP particularly easy on the ears. The collection was recorded at Sex Dungeon in Philly, which indiescenti will recall is the facility responsible for awesome records from Fat History Month, Pile and Speedy Ortiz. Included in the No Other offering are three songs, which are available for free to those willing to give over their email address. The promo track "Destruction Song" makes for a tidy statement of intent. Plenty of fuzz on the guitar, ample fizz from behind the drum kit, and burly bass conspire to give the song substantial magnitude and direction, although the vocal interplay in the pre-chorus really makes "Destruction Song" take off. EP opener "Break Away" thrives via a long skein of fuzz bass that goes Hulk during the song's dense choruses, and the final track "DSSN" propounds the set's most danceable beat. In sum, it's a very fine start for a very promising act, and we're eager to hear more. Stream "Destruction Song" via the Soundcloud embed below.

>> Minimal electronic music: we feel like our inbox should be filled with it, a new full inbox every day. Not because our appetite for it is vast, but because 10 years ago we were listening to scads of compelling European electronic stuff, and it seemed like it was going to become a "thing." And we suppose it did, although largely the sort of excellent music that arrives in America on labels like Kompakt and Morr, well, still comes from overseas, and the present wave of American EDM that has supposedly gone mainstream, well, it still seems too removed from indie rock blogs like this one. This is in part because what we typically encounter seems descended from house and techno, so dance music as opposed to head music. And the electronic music we favor, to paraphrase something Mr. Riley wrote last week, aims directly for the head. Which is a long way of introducing Lamps, the nom de guerre of Chicago-based electronic producer, mixer and engineer Keith J. Nelson. What may or may not be his debut offering under this particular moniker is a fine pair of pulsing, droning compositions, "Alpines" and "Cooscoos." The tunes are quietly kaleidoscopic, at peace with their own shifting layers of synth tones, drones, acoustic guitars and beats. For all of its focus on texture and depth, Lamps' songs are notable for their deceptively intricate rhythms. "Alpines" breaks its reverie just before it enters its final minute, hitting a full stop before resuming its hurried waltz time and augmenting it with fat electronic snare cracks and kick drum. "Cooscoos" is suspended along a mesh of time signatures that coalesce under a modulating, mid-range hum and some high and lonesome melodica. If indeed this is Lamps' debut, it is an auspicious one, and even if it is not, it is well worth you time and attention. Both songs are available as a paywhutchalike download via the Bandcamp embed below. Mr. Nelson's musical CV shows he has worn a lot of musical hats (not literal musical hats, although that would be cool, too) in Boston prior to heading out to Chicago, including serving as one part of a duo that ran the now apparently defunct concern Bedroom Singles.

November 16, 2013

That Was The Show That Was: Little Big League with Paws, Idiot Genes | Great Scott | 14 Nov.

That Was The Show That Was: Little Big League with Paws, Idiot Genes | Great Scott | 14 Nov.

We've expended plenty of words over the past year talking about the impossibly fertile music scene in Philadelphia right now, so we won't reiterate that again here. What we will tell you is that among the many top-shelf acts currently operating out of our executive editor's former hometown is Clicky Clicky faves Little Big League. We were pleased to be able to catch the hotly tipped indie-punk foursome Thursday at Great Scott, on a stacked bill sandwiched between rising Allston scuzz-punks Idiot Genes and present tourmates Paws, and, oh boy, was it a doozy.

The Philly quartet's expansive emo sound takes on a harder edge when the band presents it live. Guitars sliced through the front of house mix, gliding along to the cadence set by the rhythm section. Leading lady Michelle Zauner's dynamic vocals became strained as she pushed her voice above the buzz of crashing cymbals. This is not a knock on Little Big League in the least; rather, it shows a dimension of the band different from that represented by the (relatively) controlled performances on its thrilling debut long player These Are Good People, which was released by Tiny Engines in August. If anything, we dug the live versions even more than their recorded counterparts, no mean feat considering how hard we fell for Good People. For a relatively young band, Little Big League boasts a wealth of good tunes, and they ran through a pile of them Thursday with gusto. The patient and yearning rocker "Lindsey," easily one of the better album openers of 2013, was particularly triumphant, with short bursts of ringing distortion punctuating the tune's soaring chorus

Scottish garage punks Paws headlined, and their melodic, sloppy and gear-destroying jams capped a great night. Having seen the trio at Great Scott previously when they were out supporting their debut Cokefloat!, we had some familiarity with Paws' live look and sound, and it's a beautiful thing. Sure, they flub a few notes here and there amidst frequent drum malfunctions, and a guitar pedal, or two, or three, shuts down... but that's rock 'n' roll, baby. Thursday these great Scots [see what we did there? -- Ed.] composed their set almost exclusively from their forthcoming "Adventure Time"-inspired sophomore LP Youth Culture Forever, and, based on what we witnessed, you all will be psyched to hear it when it comes out. Indeed, few of the new songs are downright fierce. In a touching moment of tour camaraderie, LBL sent up a little gift to Paws, a Finn The Human action figure from the aforementioned "Adventure Time," an animated series that is also a favorite of this writer. Go figure. The Paws/Little Big League tour closes tonight in Chicago, after which the bands go their separate ways. Paws heads to the west coast while Little Big League winds their way back to Philadelphia via Boston yet one more time: the quartet headlines O'Brien's in Allston Rock City Nov. 22. Stream all of These Are Good People via the Soundcloud embed below, and buy the record from Tiny Engines right here. -- Dillon Riley

Little Big League: Bandcamp | Facebook | Tumblr

November 12, 2013

Today's Hotness: National Park Service, Francisco Franco, Spectre Folk

Filtered detail of the art from The National Park Service's I Was Flying

>> Not since the early days of file sharing or the rugged heyday of affordable used-record stores has this reviewer experienced so much adventure. Adventure with what, you ask? The contemporary, underground cassette culture, that's what. It's no news that the tape scene is experiencing a renaissance, as the present disheveled state of the music industry has encouraged artists and consumers to reconsider the medium. The colorful, home-grown masterpieces one can find when navigating the wide-open possibilities of plastic cases and spooled reels both delight and abound. Take, for instance, our happenstance discovery of The National Park Service, an anonymous, Cleveland-based experimental artist (not to be confused with the LA- based Americana concern) whose soundscapes dazzle the ear. The outfit's first publicly issued cassette I Was Flying, released via the lovely Lily Tapes and Discs label last month, presents a tastefully pastoral twist on dream-pop and ambient music. NPS here employs many of the methods of loud shoegaze, including feedback washes, loops and backwards guitar tracks, but manages to temper its aural explorations into sculpted instrumental pieces that suggest autumnal introspection as opposed to delirium. "Community Sunburn" inserts the listener among field recordings of what sounds like a seaside marketplace; one can almost feel the crisp coastal air biting at woolen sweaters as looped guitar erects a motif of knotty whirring and distant booming. NPS proves a master of the greatest tool of the ambient artist: the fade-in. One is employed to great effect on "Road Dog," a piece that transitions effortlessly from a collage of pitch-shifted mumbles, distant percussion and stray noise to a front-porch acoustic guitar exercise and then again to trippy, reverse-guitar dive bombing. The set's twangy acoustic guitar work provides some of the most arresting moments on I Was Flying. On "1993," "Stormwatchers," and the absolute highlight "Quick, Before It Rains," the instrument's rural timbre shines when set against the electronic textures. It has not been since Van Dyke Parks' 1968 masterpiece Song Cycle that this reviewer has felt the resonant power of this very particular and category-defying fusion of the Antebellum and psychedelic. "Put it in your Walkman and take it for a walk through the park with a cup of coffee," urges Lily Tapes and Discs, and we couldn't agree more. This is modern outdoor music, as attached to a sense of place as it is to its own joy and wonder. Stream all of I Was Flying via the Bandcamp embed below, and buy the tape here before the limited edition of 50 cassettes sells out. -- Edward Charlton

>> Another subtle and powerful instrumental group has held our attention at Clicky Clicky HQ lately, the Philadelphia-based trio Francisco Franco. The pre-released single from the act's self-titled album that was released today on New Images Limited is a cool and moody analog stunner. Called "Three Cushion Champs," the tune is a masterful almagamation of crisp, minimal post-punk and steady surf rock. Francisco Franco -- a duo comprising principals Rob Francisco and Matt Franco -- utilize simple bass and deftly layered guitar loops like fellow instrumentalists El Ten Eleven, but the Philadelphians bring to bear more of a 1960s Factory-scene vibe that would seem an appropriate soundtrack to modern-day Fishtown gatherings. After establishing a dreamy, two-chord strum, the song cycles through several tasteful changes, transitioning from reverberated, single-note leads to a tasteful bass solo (!). The entire proceedings are swaddled in warm, vintage-sounding production but are still able to concoct a breezy, pensive atmosphere. Perhaps it's the sparse drum machine, or the brittle tone to the strings, but Francisco Franco remind this reviewer of many of the early '80s Martin Hannett-produced artists that weren't afraid to reveal some bruises within their rock maximalism. A video for "Three Cushion Champs" can be seen right here; it appears to feature a bunch of footage shot along the commuter rail lines stretching out from Philadelphia into our beloved Philly suburbs. Purchase Francisco Franco from New Images Limited right here. -- Edward Charlton

>> Ah, serendipity. While perusing the New Images Limited web site for info about the aforementioned Francisco Franco, we encountered the surprisingly little-discussed news that just last week the label released a new 7" from Spectre Folk. Spectre who?, you reply. Well, the act is the long-time concern of Magik Markers drummer Pete Nolan, and also happens to be a heavy-hitting NYC indie supergroup featuring both Pavement bassist Mark Ibold and Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley, the latter of whom we assume has some more time on his hands following the much-lamented end of his iconic band. The A-side of the new Spectre Folk single, "Mothership," is a heady slice of wah-wah infused psych rock. While not expressing the more experimental bent that some of the members' other projects are known for, the veteran status and skill of all involved manifests itself in tasteful and vital jamming that never grows tiresome. Starting out with a loose classic rock jam, the song eventually showcases Mr. Nolan's reedy vocals; these anchor the structure with some lucid, groaning melodies. After some short incantations from Nolan, the song blossoms into eight minutes of saturated, neon guitar soloing and feedback. The superstar rhythm section shines, as Ibold's rich bass melodies and Shelley's ever-evolving snare vivify the frayed guitar shredding, which echoes the majesty of Ron Asheton's boneheaded six-string genius on the first two Stooges albums. "Mothership" is late 1960s Eastern-U.S. guitar rock of the purest, most undiluted grade, from a group of seasoned players that are not only enjoying themselves, but also reminding the psychedelic tastemakers of today where most of the contemporary trends originated. New Images Limited is clearly on a roll; support the label and snap up this great piece of wax right here. "Mothership" can be streamed via the Soundcloud embed below, and we recommend you do just that. -- Edward Charlton

November 11, 2013

That Was The Show That Was: Built To Spill | Paradise Rock Club, Boston | 8 Nov.

That Was The Show That Was: Built To Spill | Paradise Rock Club | 8 Nov.

A Built To Spill concert is a practice in mutually respectful attentiveness. Not to put the band in a bad light, but one gets the feeling the Boise-bred unit methodically delivers the same set whether the room is half empty or a sell-out, as the Paradise Rock Club in Boston was on Friday. Which is totally fine, 'cause Friday night ruled. Led by indie rock lifer Doug Martsch, the act has for decades now wrought thoughtful, measured guitar music that aims straight for the head. As a songwriter, Martsch is at his best when he's stuck in his own mind, fabricating tangible dreamscapes that swoon and rock. A Built To Spill record -- or show, for that matter -- doesn't incite dancing, but more of a gentle, eyes-closed sway in time to the beat.

After impressive opening sets from The Warm, Parasol, and Slam Dunk, Martsch and Co. quietly took the stage and opened with a number from 2006's You In Reverse [review]. What followed was a set that leaned heavily on Reverse and 2009's There Is No Enemy. While those records aren't entirely indicative of the sound the band built its name on, the guitar heroics and jam-band vibe of the songs from that era shine just as brightly onstage as anything in Built To Spill oeuvre.

The band thankfully didn't ignore its older material altogether, and it may be that the songs they played off 1994's titanic indie pop effort There's Nothing Wrong With Love were the most warmly received. However, the set's biggest surprise may have been "Else" off Keep It Like A Secret. The tune's rolling high-hat stutter tranfixed the crowd, setting the stage perfectly for the first set's closer, "Carry The Zero." If the former song was all silent disbelief from the assembled mass, "Carry The Zero" was a downright sing-along by comparison, one that had the crowd hanging tightly with Martsch's high, inflected tenor to the end.

As is customary, Built To Spill closed out its set with impressive covers; this night the band proffered versions of Dinosaur Jr.'s fuzz-rock classic "Sludgefeast" and The Smiths' "How Soon Is Now." The evening ended with Built To Spill's own bona fide classic, "Car," an apropos closer, and a gentle suggestion that Martsch legitimately owns a berth among those indie elites. Built To Spill's current fall tour kicked off almost a month ago and runs all the way up to the night before Thanksgiving; the remaining dates -- including some post-Christmas multi-night stands -- are listed below. -- Dillon Riley

Built To Spill: Internerds | Facebook

11.12 -- Grog Shop -- Cleveland Heights, OH
11.13 -- St. Andrews Hall -- Detroit, MI
11.14 -- Metro -- Chicago, IL
11.15 -- Turner Hall Ballroom -- Milwaukee, WI
11.16 -- Barrymore Theatre -- Madison, WI
11.17 -- First Avenue -- Minneapolis, MN
11.18 -- Blue Moose Tap House -- Iowa City, IA
11.20 -- The Rev Room -- Little Rock, AR
11.21 -- Granada Theater -- Dallas, TX
11.22 -- Fitzgerald's -- Houston, TX
11.23 -- Stubb's Amphitheatre -- Austin, TX
11.24 -- Tricky Falls -- El Paso, TX
11.25 -- Club Congress -- Tuscon, AZ
11.26 -- Vinyl -- Las Vegas, NV
11.27 -- Urban Lounge -- Salt Lake City, UT

Prior Built To Spill coverage:
YouTube Rodeo: Built To Spill's "You Were Right"
That Was The Show That Was: Built To Spill, Dinosaur Jr, Meat Puppets
Review: Built To Spill | You In Reverse
Built To Spill/Treepeople: Tour News And Gratuitous '90s Flashback

November 9, 2013

Review: Los Campesinos! | No Blues

Attentive readers will notice that, for all the plaudits we've bestowed upon what we'll call the modern Los Campesinos! catalog, we've not actually reviewed said records. That lack of critical attention is inversely related to the great esteem in which we hold the records in question. Part of our absence of engagement with the long players Hello Sadness and Romance Is Boring -- each among our favorite records of 2011 and 2010, respectively -- is certainly related to lack of time, to be sure. But there is a larger reason: the aforementioned albums, as well as the we-refuse-to-call-it-an-album album We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed, represent a sort of critical absolute; to a certain extent, if not flat-out perfection, they are certainly a benchmark against which all other records released in those years are measured. The Cardiff-based indie rock act's clever orchestration, terrifically sophisticated lyrics, impassioned performances, sweeping dynamics and powerful and palpable emotional impact, well, very few do it as well, and it would be hard to convince us that anyone does it better.

Even so, while it is a remarkable and bracing collection worthy of similar consideration and accolades, none of the above is the first thing we think of when we listen to Los Campesinos!' latest collection No Blues. What we think about most often is that we can't believe the record almost didn't get made. Indeed, tucked into the band bio distributed to the press is the startling revelation that Los Campesinos! nearly called it a day prior to the making of No Blues. To whit, here's a quote attributed to guitarist Tom Campesinos!: "We'd spent a lot of time in the months leading up to recording deciding if we should continue with the band at all." This is a bottomless bummer, as it underscores that a day will come when there is no band called Los Campesinos! Not a surprise, sure, bands come and go, but the realization provides an additional slant to the lyrics "we all know we're gonna die, we're a speck of dust..." from the chanted chorus of the No Blues album cut "A Portrait Of The Trequartista As A Young Man." Of course, that lyric is probably about some English footballer, which is another reason we've historically been reluctant to analyze Gareth Campesinos!' lyrics in the "modern" era, as interviews repeatedly indicate -- and the aforementioned band bio emphasizes -- that his lyrics are just as likely to be about sport (OMG did MTV really use the phrase "bro down" in relation to Los Camp... ugh -- Ed.) than affairs of the heart. Indeed, the swaying ballad "Glue Me" includes the line "I'm diving into headers, put this pretty face where the boots are flying in," and, of course, "we connected like a Yeboah volley."

But -- quite obviously, yes -- what makes Los Campesinos!' music succeed is what makes all music succeed: how it is perceived and received by the listener (whether or not that listener knows who Tony Yeboah is). They just happen to succeed more readily, as they stand head and shoulders above the majority of their contemporaries. Despite operating at that elevated level and making "serious albums" -- whatever that means -- for the last five years, the sextet remains remarkably deft at crafting singles as potent as the fizzing, lighter fare with which it made its mark. No Blues' singles are the undeniable anthem "Avocado, Baby" and the bubbling, mid-tempo gem "What Death Leaves Behind." Many songs could claim highlight status on No Blues, as strong as it is, but perhaps the most obvious single would have been "Cemetery Gaits," which both puns on a Smiths classic and builds a droning, synth-spangled verse from a guitar part that recalls The Cure's absolutely crushing "To Wish Impossible Things." The album closes with the fittingly final-sounding "Selling Rope (Swan Dive To Estuary)," an uptempo confessional that is remarkably bright and cheery given the events described and the troubling, irksome possibility: might this be the last recorded song we hear from Los Campesinos? In terms of theme, it reminds of Frightened Rabbit's devastating "Floating In The Forth," with its imagery of flinging one's self into a body of water to end things. "Selling Rope" seems to describe a suicide ignored: "there's no ticker-tape, no golden gate, no carnival and no parade, just one, one for sorrow." We're hopeful that the excellence of No Blues gains whatever recognition and success is necessary to ensure that Los Campesinos! doesn't slip from our figurative grasp, and into a sea whose bottom is already littered with the wrecks of countless rock bands. Because losing Los Campesinos! would hurt to a degree not inverse to the deep joy its music has brought us.

Los Campesinos!: Tumblr | Facebook | Soundcloud

U.S. Tour Dates:
01.21 -- Boston, MA -- Paradise Rock Club (w/SPEEDY ORTIZ for fuck's sake)
01.22 -- New York, NY -- Irving Plaza (w/ SPEEDY AGAIN, egads)
01.23 -- Washington, D.C. -- 9:30 Club
01.25 -- Chicago, IL -- Metro

Selected Prior Los Campesinos! Coverage:
Los Campesinos! Fifth Album No Blues Due Oct. 29
Be Prepared: Los Campesinos! | Hello Sadness | 14 Nov.
Los Campesinos!/Johnny Foreigner 2010 US Tour Announcement
YouTube Rodeo: Johnny Foreigner, Gareth "In The Bullring"
Today's Hotness: Los Campesinos!

November 6, 2013

Today's Hotness: All Dogs, Idiot Genes, Soft Focus

Filtered detail of the art from All Dogs' self-titled debut single, out now on Salinas

>> You are going to start hearing Columbus, OH-based indie-punkers All Dogs' name quite often. The young, female-led trio is signed to Salinas Records, a label the music cognoscenti have come to know well for releasing the crucial indie rock platters from Swearin', Waxahatchee and Radiator Hospital over the last two years. Indeed, All Dogs' music neatly fits into the label's aesthetic: the threesome's four-four rockers burst with energy even at the mid-tempo that characterizes the opening pair of tunes from the very enjoyable self-titled, debut 7" that Salinas released last week. The rudimentary instrumentation leaves a lot of space for fronter Maryn Jones' clear and evocative voice to take a starring role, and hers (which recalls that of Bettie Serveert fronter Carol Van Dijk at times) is particularly affecting during the doleful closing cut "Say," certainly a highlight even among this very strong four-song collection. The All Dogs 7" is available via mail order now, and easily worth double the $5 asking price, so click this link to get yours from Salinas before the first run is gone, 'cause these are gonna go fast. All Dogs don't have any shows booked until next month, but Boston fans should take note now that further out in the future the band will be at Great Scott Jan. 21 supporting their very, very hotly tipped labelmates Waxahatchee, who just finished a triumphant strand of UK dates. We expect that will be a show everyone will talk about all through the late winter and into the spring, and we advise you to get tickets ASAP because the buzz is only going to get louder. And that may or may not be your tinnitus talking. What? I can't hear you, the phone keeps ringing. What? Stream the exquisite All Dogs single via the Bandcamp embed below. All Dogs are already at work on songs for a full-length, and previously issued a very fine split tape with Slouch.

>> You thrilled the sandpaper-across-the-face vibes of its self-titled EP at the beginning of the year, which included the bouncy shouter "The Charles Mansion," and now Allston Rock City fuzz-pop standouts Idiot Genes are back with another eight-pack of beery, big-muff anthems. Idiot Genes come by all of their bashing and feedback and sludge honestly: the new collection, titled Lousey, was recorded in the quartet's practice space earlier this fall. The set is thronged with throaty belters including the breakneck bomp of opener "Regular" and the more moderately paced "Soaked Pillow." The latter's lyrics evoke an easy smile, particularly the closing chant "WHEN I DREAM I DROOL! WHEN I DREAM I DROOL!" It's tempting to employ the word "primitive" here to try to capture the essence of the foursome's collective appeal, but that word would not do justice to the way Idiot Genes' music will infiltrate your consciousness. Lousey was released via Bandcamp on Hallowe'en; stream it via the embed below and then click and paywhutchalike to acquire the digital files for your personal use. Idiot Genes are playing on a ridiculously good bill (presented by Allston Pudding) Nov. 14 top-lined by UK-based indie sensations Paws and Philadelphia nu-emo stars Little Big League, who rule. We featured Idiot Genes' "The Charles Mansion" during New Music Night 10 last spring.

>> There was little actual use of soft focus employed by Soft Focus, the scrappy, youthful Cambridge, Mass.-based indie pop group whose music we have been enjoying lately, and who, sadly, have apparently already called it a day. But perhaps the threesome's name evinces itself in other ways. Soft Focus gradually resolved over the past year with a couple of singles, and now comes the posthumous Day EP, which showcases well the band's bashing, gleeful style. Jangly, sometimes angular guitar lines announce each of the four songs here, and the ensuing performances and production suggest that the trio's music is an apt soundtrack for a swinging basement show. One can almost see (smell? -- Ed.) the beer stains, smiling faces and taped-up Christmas lights as tunes like the yearning, head-bobbing opener "POG" ply their charms. Drummer Garren Orr keeps the snare tight and fast, while lead singer Joe Holcomb delivers emotional, punk-braised vocals -- which incidentally, recall those of Shout Out Louds fronter Adam Olenius -- without clouding the carefree character of the tunes. On EP highlight "Summer Sin" the band executes perfectly. Crisp lead guitar proclaims a bright melody and presents 12-string resonance, which in sum reminds this reviewer of George Harrison's work on "Nowhere Man." While that influence is likely not front of mind for Soft Focus, their listing of Bloc Party as an inspiration frames the Day EP in an interesting light. It's evidence of a younger generation of DIY musicians taking decade-old references and reshaping them into part of their own musical identity. It is hard to know whether such influences would have continued to guide the band's music, as this EP and one other referenced at Bandcamp would seem to be the final transmissions from Soft Focus (two of its principals have apparently gone to the west coast). Even if that next EP fails to materialize, the Day EP is a fine way to go out. It was released to the wilds of the Internerds Oct. 2 and is available as a pay-what-you-choose download; stream it below and then click through to make it your very, very own. -- Edward Charlton

November 5, 2013

That Was The Show That Was: Clicky Clicky Community Servings Benefit Show Thank Yous And Wrap-Up

Clicky Clicky Community Servings Benefit Show Thank Yous And Wrap-Up

Well that was quite a night, wasn't it? I mean, the Pats scored like 55 points! Oh wait, right, the rock show. THE ROCK SHOW. The rock show was tremendous! Not only were punters treated to four Clicky Clicky faves delivering impassioned performances, but we raised a tidy sum for a great cause, Community Servings, whose various services we have detailed here often, and include providing nutritious meals to the critically ill and their caregivers.

The show kicked off with an entrancing solo set from the magical K. Heasley, a/k/a Kurt Heasley, the visionary behind the long-running, shape-shifting indie rock enigma Lilys. Kurt, accompanied only by an acoustic guitar and seated on a wide stool he carried into the club with him, played mesmerizing versions of "Ginger" and "YCJCYAQFTJ" from the towering A Brief History Of Amazing Letdowns EP; "Cambridge, CA" from the LP Better Can't Make Your Life Better; "Will My Lord Be Gardening?" from Precollections; and "Claire Hates Me," the transcendent closing number from Lilys' full-length debut In The Presence Of Nothing. While Mr. Heasley complained of some sniffles whatever effect they might have had on his transcendent performance were imperceptible. A more tender version of "Will My Lord Be Gardening?" you will, in almost all likelihood, never hear again. Here's a similar version from 2009.

Local shoegaze titans Soccer Mom grabbed the proverbial baton from Kurt and launched into an intense set heavy on the foursome's desperate and dense noize-gaze sounds. Bassist Danielle Deveau was playing fairly fresh from having pieces of metal extracted from her ankle, but she executed with nary a wince from between Will Scales and Dan Parlin. The lads traded off good cop/bad cop style on their very loud, dynamic and textured tunes, and highlights of their set included the single "Canoe" and several new tracks from the foursome's pending 2014 collection, which we could not be more amped to hear.

The Hush Now burst from the proverbial carbonite of a two-year hiatus with a leaner formation (gone are the keyboards that colored the band's last LP, 2011's Memos) and more tricks. The band played about eight songs, all of them brand new and likely to appear on their own planned 2014 set. The opening salvo was an Adam Quane-sung number titled "Pandas," and a clear highlight was a subdued and sad new one sung by guitarist Noel Kelly called "Manchester UK." Earthquake Party! delivered on its youthful, shambolic promise, exploding like a bomb each time it blasted through a selction from its repertoire of compact, fizzing power-pop. Highlights of the set included convulsing versions of "Little Pet" and "One More Night Could Ruin Us," each from last year's Let's Rock, OK? cassette. Surprisingly, the trio pared down to a duo for an uncharacteristically moderately paced cover of "Stephanie Says," a sweet nod to the late October death of punk pioneer Lou Reed. And with that appropriate close, the night was done.

There are many, many people who helped make this event the success it was, not the least of which are Sadie Dupuis, who took a break from an insanely busy life to DJ between sets, and Joe Turner, who washed the stage with dazzling visuals throughout the night. And while we are certain we will forget a name or two, our feeling has always been it's better to try to acknowledge everyone and fail rather than to not acknowledge anyone at all. So here we go. A huge Clicky Clicky thank you goes out to not only Sadie and Joe, but also Tim Leahy, Nick Lorenzen, Richard Bouchard, Barry the totally relaxed and affable sound guy, Carl Lavin, Wayne S. Feldman, Christian Housh, Kurt Heasley, Will Scales and Soccer Mom, Justin Lally and Earthquake Party!, Noel Kelly, Barry Marino and the rest of The Hush Now, Jeff Breeze, Jed Gottlieb, Michael Marotta, Anngelle Wood, Adam XII, Jonathan Donaldson, Bryan Hamill, Perry Eaton, Jay Kumar, Lisa Deily, Kristin Bishop And Rook, Ilya Sitnikov and all of the folks who came out to support the cause. We are excited to do it again next year, bigger and better. Stay awesome, Boston.

OH! If you would like another opportunity to support the great work that Community Servings does, you can buy a pie, right now, from my good friend Nick. All of the details are right here, but the long and the short is you give them $25, they use that $25 to feed a critically ill client for a week, and in return you get a pie in time for Thanksgiving. I believe that is called a win-win. Do it now.