January 28, 2014

Today's Hotness: Pop Ambient 2014, Cloud Nothings

Pop Ambient 2014

>> The transient and shifting nature of popular music, and the ideas that drive it, is in fact one of its most important traits. Certainly there's a lot to be said for consistency as well, which we imagine is why Pink Floyd's The Dark Side Of The Moon held a place in the album sales charts for 741 consecutive weeks, from 1973 to 1988 (and one can speculate that string might have persisted had Pink Floyd not cannibalized potential sales of Dark Side when it released A Momentary Lapse Of Reason in September 1987; the latter record would ultimately go quadruple platinum in 2001. BUT WE DIGRESS.). There are, of course, myriad examples in contemporary music of consistency (or more to the point, of consistent excellence), something of which Kompakt Records reminded us this week. The esteemed Cologne-based electronic label Monday issued the latest annual installment of its Pop Ambient series, Pop Ambient 2014. The compilation series has presented the best in ambient electronic music each year since 2001. That every last collection has been rife with contemplative beauty and dazzling texture is a testament to the stable of artists Kompakt has cultivated. Many artists -- including The Field, label co-owner Wolfgang Voigt and Thomas Fehlmann -- contribute tracks year upon year. Others come and go: making a return after a six-year absence is Ulf Lohmann, whose glacially stuttering composition "Kristall" was a highlight of Pop Ambient 2008. As was the case with its predecessors, Pop Ambient 2014 is a timeless set of thoughtful dreamscapes, and one we expect will stay with us for years to come. Stream samples of the entire album via the Soundcloud embed below; in particular we recommend Mr. Fehlmann's placidly rippling exploration "Treatment," as well as Marsen Jules' "The Philosophers Trap," which is being promoted with this very compelling music video. Somewhat criminally, we last wrote about the series here in 2008. Purchase Pop Ambient 2014 on LP, CD or as a digital download from Amazon (which will save you the cost of importing from Cologne) right here.

>> The meteoric rise of Cleveland trio Cloud Nothings persists. What began as a lo-fi bedroom concern now stands as a legitimately big-font indie rock act, in large part due to the fact that its sophomore album-as-mission-statement (we don't count Turning On, as it was essentially an anthology) was a behemoth. Drawing equally from the urgent post-hardcore of Drive Like Jehu and the slick indie pop sounds upon which fronter Dylan Baldi built his fame, Attack On Memory dotted many best-of-2012 lists. It helped that Cloud Nothings toured the tar out of the set, making a few stops in Boston along the way. Fast-forward a year-and-change and the band has since downsized to a trio, but you wouldn't know based on "I'm Not Part Of Me," the act's latest anthem of dissatisfaction, and the first taste of the newly announced third long-player Here And Nowhere Else. We're particularly drawn to the way Baldi drawls the "youuuuuuu" in the song's undeniable chorus, a nice echo of the slight vocal tics Baldi would affect on newer tunes as the touring cycle for Memory wore on. The adolescent angst is dialed back slightly -- slightly -- on "I'm Not Part Of Me," but even so the track may yet shape up to be the new record's "Stay Useless": the (relatively) poppy anomaly among a slate of guitar rave-ups. Here And Nowhere Else, which touts eight tracks, will be released domestically by Carpark and Mom + Pop April 1 as an LP, CD and digital download; it is also being released into the UK, EU, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, Hong Kong and China -- not bad for some regular dudes from Ohio, yeah? Stream "I'm Not Part Of Me" via the embed below, and pre-order the whole set via ITunes here or Mom+Pop right here. -- Dillon Riley

January 27, 2014

Review: Heavy Midgets | Super King

We've witnessed countless record promotion tactics over the years,* but none is as pleasurable for fans presently as what could be construed as anti-promotion: the sudden and unannounced album drop. It's been famously done recently by Beyoncé and, a year ago, by My Bloody Valentine, among many others. With almost every aspect of our largely mundane lives memorialized in the infinite sea of data soup that is the Internet, these days real surprises -- hell, even real experiences -- are hard to come by. Richmond quartet Heavy Midgets made life a little more real early this month when it delivered a tingly eureka moment of its own in the form of their stellar first full length Super King. The set was posted to Bandcamp without warning, and the songs contained therein just as abruptly emerged from the foursome's former furrow of lo-fi haze into sharp resolution, carrying with them a renewed and impressive ethos expressed in terms of complex, DIY guitar pop.

The beautifully realized collection impresses with its range and routinely inspired songwriting, which seems to draw from influences as disparate as Aftermath-era Rolling Stones and modern San Francisco art-punk. Super King leads with its best pop song, "Nothing New," a showcase for Heavy Midgets' signature sour guitar dynamics, skittish rhythms, and rich, driving vocal work from one of the band's four singers. Charlanne McCarthy's wonderful vocals echo the affecting, lower-register of Stereolab's Laetitia Sadier, but do so with a bracing punk vigor. The song abandons its verse-chorus structure after introducing a bristling bridge of serrated guitars whose experimental edge will sound familiar to fans of Deerhoof or math-mod rockers Welcome. The dazzle of "Nothing New" persists with notable guitar interplay and, eventually, theremin. "Daylight Savings" follows, and brings with it some surf-punk charm and the telling lyric "some of us won't even survive daylight savings."

Thereafter, the album showcases in turn each of the singers and songwriters within Heavy Midgets. The male voices propound harder-edged approaches within shorter, faster frameworks. "Furry Thing" touts a darker, more reverberated menace, while "Wedding/Bedding" alternates spoken passages and sweetly sung melodies alongside inventive and engaging xylophone. The heaviest impression is left by the sunny pop moves of "Dynasty;" indeed, one might consider it the "Divine Hammer" of Super King -- a bubbling, carefree track that closes with a loud, distorted power chord section and guitar solos that call to mind vintage Weezer and Built To Spill.

With Super King, Heavy Midgets deliver one of 2014's first truly interesting guitar records. Every song transcends their familiar elements to reveal creative and singular compositions welling with both grit and clarity in satisfying proportions. Richmond has made its name in recent years on creative guitar bands, and this crew, as well as the folks at Bad Grrrl Records, can be considered among the vanguard. Super King is available as a digital download now, and will be issued on cassette by Bad Grrrl Jan. 30. That same day Heavy Midgets play a release show at Richmond's Gallery 5, with support from New Turks, Spandrel and Malatese; full deets here. Bad Girl released in 2012 Heavy Midgets' previous effort, a split with scenemates Tungs that we wrote about right here. -- Edward Charlton

Heavy Midgets: Bandcamp | Facebook | Soundcloud

*This discussion always calls to mind Fat Wreck Chords or Epitaph sending an inflatable sex sheep to WESU in the mid-'90s. Yes, we just typed the words "inflatable sex sheep."

January 24, 2014

New Music Night 14 DJ Sets | River Gods | 23/24 Jan.

New Music Night 14, River Gods, Cambridge, Jan. 23/24, 2013

New music! We played it! And we got older as it happened. BUT. But it made us feel younger, because awesome rock music is like that. It's what those guys were looking for in Florida. Not this guy. These guys. Anyway, that's not why you called. Here are the songs what we played whilst manning the figurative decks last night and into this birthday early morn 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, a nice surprise considering the epic bill at Great Scott with which we were coincident. 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, which have already been sitting on the Interzizzles for hours awaiting your curious eyes and twitchy fingaz. #NewMusicNight 15 will come at you, uh, sometime? Probably in March? Ready for more new in the oh-one-four? Sure you are.

SET TWO / 10PM / Jay
01. Speedy Ortiz -- "American Horror" -- Real Hair EP
[lead track to Real Hair EP due Feb. 11 / blogged / buy / stream]
02. Johnny Foreigner -- "Le Sigh" -- You Can Do Better
[first preview from epic fourth LP from noise-pop titans due March 10 / blogged / stream]
03. Happy Diving -- "As You Were" -- Happy Diving
[stellar SF losercore released Jan. 14 / blogged / stream+buy]
04. Ted Nguyent -- "Forever Growing Greasier" -- Don't Vote
[next-level Philly punk/chubstep released Jan. 19 / stream+buy]
05. Golden Gurls -- "Come On Over" -- After The Storm comp
[GG LP2 preview taken from Damnably typhoon benefit comp / stream+donate]
06. Lubec -- "The Thrall" -- The Thrall
[world premiere; this record is going to amaze.]
07. Goddam Nobody -- "Cut And Paste To Waste" -- Art Is Hard Pizza Club 2014
[blogged / stream+subscribe]
08. Dios Mio -- "Proto" -- Proto
[lovely dream-pop that bubbled up late last year from this surprisingly Wartgore Hellsnicker-related project / stream+download]
09. Grass Is Green -- "Another Song Called Supersoaker" -- Vacation Vinny
[released Jan. 14 / release show tomorrow night / review / stream+buy]
10. Legs -- "Tonight" -- Just A Bit More Legs
[highlight from an odds 'n' sods thingo issued Jan. 21 / download]
11. White Laces -- (secret surprise song from recently completed LP2)
[world premiere numero dos!]
12. Guillermo Sexo -- "Long Lines" -- Mobtown Session B-side
13. Bill Janovitz -- "Lost Against The Twilight"
[posted Jan. 6 / Bill's back in the bunker, seemingly on a New Order binge / download]
14. Emerald Comets -- "Arctic Matchsticks" -- Emerald Comets EP
[issued Jan. 18 / blogged / download]
15. Benjamin Shaw-- "Goodbye Cajoule World" -- Goodbye Cajoule World
[third world premiere found in this set of music? probably / watch this space]
16. Krill -- "Fresh Pond" -- Steve Hears Pile In Malden And Bursts Into Tears EP
[due Feb. 18 / the only thing I can remember about this theater is seeing the extended version of "The Exorcist" there and Linda Blair turned into a spider or some crazy shizz and people laughed / release show / buy]
SET FOUR / 12 AM / Jay
01. Sock Puppets -- "Cute Boys Are Cute" -- The 100 Club Series Vol. 2
[48 seconds of euphoria from Odd Box comp due Feb. 10 / subscribe]
02. Happy Diving -- "Complacent" -- Happy Diving
[from an EP so nice we dipped in twice / stream+buy]
03. Protomartyr -- "Scum Rise" -- Under Color Of Official Right
[dark Detroit sounds from album due April 8 / blogged / stream]
04. The Weaks -- "Instantaneous Vertical Speed" -- The World Is A Terrible Place & I Hate Myself And I Want To Die
[Philly pop-punk faves deliver mightily on debut one-sided 12" coming Feb. 11 / pre-order]
05. Brawlers -- "Instagram Famous"
[the latest sensation from Alcopop! nation / download]
06. Ava Luna -- "Daydream" -- Electric Balloon
[futurepop delight from the guys who recorded all your favorites, LP due March 4 / download]
07. The New Mendicants -- "Shouting Match" -- Into The Lime
[this record is out Tuesday and is enjoyable through and through / buy it]
08. Princess Reason -- "History Major"
[new bedroom pop from new bedroom pop song-maker, issued Jan. 19 / download]
09. 55 BPM -- "Someday"
[folksier new direction for this act, unveiled Jan. 21 / download]
10. Heyward Howkins -- "Cuttlefish Blues" -- IPhone demo
[speaking of folk, a relatively fresh one from Mr. Howkins, posted in late Dec. / download]
11. Capers Avenue -- "I Love When I Can See My Heartbeat Through My Chest"
[props to EB for turning us on to this engaging bit of quirk, which popped up Nov. 21 / download]
12. Steiner -- "I Seem To Glimpse You In Every Window (II)" -- At Or From A Distance
[blogged / pre-order from Jan. 31 / stream]

January 22, 2014

Today's Hotness: Nothing, Seeds Of Doubt, Ancient Babes

Nothing -- Guilty Of Everything

>> The Whirr/Nothing/Soccer Mom show we saw last summer was the most extraordinarily loud thing we've ever witnessed, and we've been lots of loud places. We suppose there are different qualities to loudness, but what we'll always remember about this show was that at one point the extreme volume actually made our brain vibrate inside our skull, which was a completely insane feeling. Philly-based shoegaze titans Nothing return to Boston this week at long last, ahead of the release of a hotly anticipated debut full-length titled Guilty Of Everything. The mind-blowing second preview track from the collection, the sinisterly titled "Bent Nail," is a blistering number with remarkable sonic depth. It's interesting to observe here how the band aims to translate the visceral loudness of its music to the controlled parameters of a sound recording. Bands like Dinosaur Jr. and My Bloody Valentine, two acts renowned for their aural assault, at least these days make very clean and contained recordings, ones that respect the limits of the media that hold them. This in contrast to the grinding, paint-peeling sounds of something like, oh, you know, Dinosaur's "Don't" or the so-called "holocaust section" MBV famously inserts into its live performances of the song "You Made Me Realize." On its new track "Bent Nail," Nothing submerges its massive wall of guitars, bet-everything drumming and subdued vocals neck-deep in a consistent and even reverb, the effect of which approximates well how Nothing's sound cocoons fans in a small rock club. It also emphasizes the softer, dreamy quality that lurks just below the danger and noise inherent in Nothing's music, a yin/yang relationship that echoes the tension between the beauty and the turmoil in the band's songwriting. The Jeff Zeigler-produced Guilty Of Everything will be released by Relapse March 4 on LP, CD and as a digital download. Pre-order the set right here, and then hit the embed of "Bent Nail" below to dream away your evening. Nothing, whose previous release was the 2012 EP Downward Years To Come, reunite with Boston's mighty Soccer Mom tomorrow when they anchor an epic bill at Great Scott toplined by dreampop luminaries Weekend.

>> Despite the clean lead guitar lines and upbeat tempos, it is apparently the skateboard and not the surfboard that occupies the hive mind of rising London quartet Seeds Of Doubt. Or at least the band's music has been used to score skate videos published by an international athletic shoe brand; for all we know Seeds Of Doubt hates skating. But we can be sure that what it does like is strong, hooky indie pop, which is what the band delivers on "There You Go," a compact and uptempo strummer with a sing-alongable chorus and neat little guitar leads dug into a watery, lo-fi mix. The tune features on the just-issued DCP EP, a five-song cassette available now from the always-quality Italian Beach Babes label. DCP is the first recording to feature the new four-headed iteration of Seeds Of Doubt; a previously released 12-song cassette was issued by founding member Matt as a solo endeavor. We don't know what the weather is like in London right now, but the light, summery sound of "There You Go" is a potent (if temporary, as all pop must be) antidote to the deep freeze currently gripping Boston and the surrounding environs. Somewhat surprisingly, we didn't write about Italian Beach Babes in all of 2013. That is just as likely an oversight on our part as it is any indication of what the label accomplished last year; they certainly seemed to come on strong in 2012 with splendid releases from Mooncreatures and Cold Pumas. Anyhoo, stream the breezey rocker "There You Go" via the Soundcloud embed below, and hit this link to purchase the tape from IBB. £5 plus shipping gets you the cassette and a download code.

>> When we last checked in on Vancouver-based electronic producer Ancient Babes last summer, it had just posted the '80s-echoing chillwave delight "Malcolm X In The Middle" to Soundcloud. The tune sounded like the lost track to a John Hughes teen dramedy, and in the ensuing months the man behind Ancient Babes, Sam King, continued quietly dropping tracks over at Soundcloud. Last week the best of these were bundled up into Futuristic Demon, a debut EP featuring three previously posted tracks and the compelling new cut "Occult Commando." The new tune closes the four-song taster in grand fashion, big wet snare cracks punching holes in a dreamy cycle of synth tones and small smears of guitar as Mr. King murmurs what could be the sweetest nothings or the dreamiest death threats into the middle of the mix. Sonically and compositionally "Occult Commando" is a strong step forward for Ancient Babes; the only miscalculation might be the tune didn't get the first slot on the EP, which you can stream via the embed below. Click through to download Futuristic Demon in exchange for as much or as little money as you can spare.

January 21, 2014

New Music Night 14 with DJs Brad Almanac + Jay Clicky Clicky | River Gods | 23 Jan.

New Music Night 14 with DJs Brad Almanac + Jay Clicky Clicky

It's New Music Night 14! On this night, Jan. 23, 2014, Brad de la 'Nac and Jay of Clicky Clicky Music Blog will introduce you to the newest of new, and nothing but new or even not yet new music, primarily carrying the rock stripe, but making the occasional foray into ambient or electronic-sounding sounds. Jay Clicky Clicky for his part will be world premiering tunes from records that won't be out until late this year. But we got that shit now. Why? 'Cause it rules, and we asked nicely, and we're apparently convincing when we ask politely. So yeah, all of this happens Thursday within the friendly confines of Cambridge's finest neighborhood pub. We would be remiss if we did not indicate here that when the clock strikes midnight, Jay will turn 40. He'll be standing in a DJ booth at that point, though, so, you know, don't feel like it's a thing. Take it more as an indication of just how good this music is, that he'd stand by himself in what amounts to a closet just so he can hear it nice and loud at River Gods. For a sense of what you're getting into, check out Brad's playlist from the November 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.

January 19, 2014

Premiere: Emerald Comets | Emerald Comets EP

Emerald Comets -- Emerald Comets EP

Only last week we made a sidelong reference to how remarkably prolific a songwriter is Reuben Bettsak, who Clicky Clicky readers know well as a guitarist and singer in Boston psych-pop quintet Guillermo Sexo, as well as a member of nu-New Romantic collective Future Carnivores. Reflecting upon that assessment now, we realize it wasn't the first time we've noted it in these electronic pages; indeed, we said as much in our review of Guillermo Sexo's best-of-2013 long-player Dark Spring. We also mentioned in that review the steady stream of solo demos Mr. Bettsak posts online, and we are pleased to bring you certain select fruits of his solo endeavors. Today marks the release of a self-titled EP from Emerald Comets, the name Bettsak has bestowed upon his solo work (or at least this solo work). The name, incidentally, comes from this totally raging Guillermo Sexo song that was used as part of last year's Allston Pudding One Fund benefit comp.

The four-song collection is a more stripped-down affair, and it rests more firmly on acoustic guitar than much of Guillermo Sexo's work. Not that this is in anyway stereotypical coffeehouse singer-songwriter crap. Far from it: the floating vibe, psychedelic imagery and tight arrangements fans are familiar with are all here on the opening cut, "Bronze Feathers." And Mr. Bettsak is not swinging in the breeze by his lonesome here: along for the ride are associate Ryan Lee Crosby on second guitar and backing vocals; Guillermo Sexo/Hallelujah The Hills drummer Ryan Connelly; and Future Carnivores' Bo Barringer on bass guitar. Emerald Comets was recorded at the home of Mr. Crosby on his eight-track machine, and it is the second track, the EP highlight "Ghost Slides," where we first start to get a distinctly different flavor from this combo, as the tune touts a folksy bounce and, by way of percussion, a clattering tambourine to serve as rhythmic parameters. The song is terrifically catchy and light. The ensuing cut "Suitcase Of Ashes" is looser, moodier and more dense, and nods affirmatively toward the mystical English folk influences that crop up now and again in Guillermo Sexo's work. The tune nicely sets up the closer "Arctic Matchsticks," which is perhaps the most conventionally rocking of those on Emerald Comets, as it is driven by cracking snare hits, layered with acoustic and electric guitars, briskly paced and compactly structured.

If there is a revelation here, it is that Emerald Comets is yet further evidence of the very giving muse that sparks Bettsak's creativity. While it necessarily has to take a backseat to continuing to play shows to support the release of Dark Spring with Guillermo Sexo, Bettsak intends to play more shows under the Emerald Comets banner, potentially with the lineup that recorded this first EP. He also aims to record additional EPs and seek out additional collaborators. But for now let's let the guy catch his breath for a second; go download Emerald Comets for free via the embed below. Emerald Comets: Bandcamp

January 18, 2014

Be Prepared: Johnny Foreigner | You Can Do Better | 10 March

Johnny Foreigner -- You Can Do Better

Forthcoming fourth LP from legendary Birmingham, England-based noise-pop titans. Pre-orders will begin in the near future, the release will come via Alcopop! Records (still no sign that Merge will release it in the USA). Track listing, tour dates (which as we pointed out, are sort of sitting in plain sight on the Interpants already...) and other details to be announced next week, according to recent tumblage from the storied quartet.

January 17, 2014

Today's Hotness: Steiner, Protomartyr, Goddam Nobody

Steiner -- At Or From A Distance (detail)

>> The placidly spiraling first label release from self-styled "non-guitarist with a guitar" Steiner, the nom de guerre of Belgian Stijn Hüwels, is a captivating collection of ambient compositions. The set, titled At Or From A Distance, will be issued Feb. 17 via London-based experimental label Glass Reservoir in a limited edition of 50 handmade CDs or as a digital download. Each of the seven tracks contained therein gorgeously swell with gently modulating guitar samples that cycle in and out of perception like so many ocean waves. The compositions are virtually edgeless and form a lush, connected suite that would play perfectly as a score to emotional scenes from a futuristic sci-fi romance. Opener "Topography/Hiro (I)" emerges from atypically utilized white noise and distant whispers, but before long Steiner throws the switch on a looping and smooth long-form delay melody that repeats as echoes from a field recording construct an aural atmosphere to house it. "Unsettling (Evening Before Bedtime) (VII)" patiently strides along long ambient drones, while a melody fighting the monotone underneath powers the piece's great push-and-pull motion. This builds in intensity and volume until the four-minute mark, where the piece suddenly embraces a complex strum that ultimately brakes up, evaporating into dead air. "The Opposite Of Now (VI)" is a distinct highlight, perhaps Steiner's "pop song" of sorts. The composition wanders peacefully but eventually locks into a motif that is both uplifting and elegiac; its repetition is as entrancing as it is catchy, and reinforces the cinematic charm of the entire collection. Stream the set's "I Seem To Glimpse You In Every Window (II)" via the Soundcloud embed below. Pre-orders for At Or From A Distance -- surely another unqualified victory for Glass Reservoir -- will be taken (here, in all likelihood) beginning Jan. 31. -- Edward Charlton

>> Detroit post-punk unit Protomartyr will April 8 issue what promises to be a cracking sophomore long-player, Under Color Of Official Right, via Sub Pop-offshoot Hardly Art. The first preview track from the quartet's forthcoming, 14-song set is the anxious and menacing exhortation "Scum, Rise!" The track exudes the sort of early post-industrial nihilism and defeat whose roots clutch late-'70s England, where acts like Joy Division and Gang Of Four internalized and then memorialized the physical and spiritual decay of Manchester and Leeds respectively. The members of Protomartyr likely need not look for inspiration -- or, indeed, whatever the opposite of inspiration is -- outside the confines of their native Detroit (the metropolis is presently bankrupt, although its art holdings were recently saved from liquidation by $330 million in donations). Perhaps as a result of the strife in their environs, perhaps not, "Scum, Rise!" seethes within its atmosphere of boxy reverb. Discordant guitar notes pulse in the space between fuzzy floods of stinging chords and hungry cymbal crashes, while fronter Joey Casey drawls verses through gritted teeth. The tune is as bracing as it is harrowing, particularly as Mr. Casey warns "there's nothing you can do, nothing you can do, nothing you can do, nothing you can do..." While it is harder and darker than the earlier tunes posted to Soundcloud, "Scum, Rise!" throbs with vitality and will certainly keen the interest of post-punk adherents. Pre-orders for Under Color Of Official Right are not yet being taken, but watch this space. Stream "Scum, Rise!" via the Soundcloud embed below. Protomartyr's prior label Urinal Cake reported here earlier this week that it has sold out of a second pressing of the Detroit act's 2012 debut LP No Passion All Technique; the first pressing sold out in less than two months.

>> Let's leap from Hardly Art to Art Is Hard, because life should be mildly confusing but filled with indie rock and exciting verbs. Exeter-based Art Is Hard is relaunching its rock-solid Pizza Club single series for 2014 (they spent 2013 away from pizza boxes but engaged in a similar enterprise via postcard). Every other Friday this year Art Is Hard will reveal an exclusive single for free download, and then sells only four (that's right, four) hard copies; the hard copies come on a 5" CD stuffed into a 7" pizza box (hence the series' moniker). In 2012, these hard copies were snatched up in seconds, so if you are a physical media completist with an ear for great indie pop, prepare for routine, crushing disappointment -- but also regularly dispensed bits of indie pop delight. The price for the singles series ranges from free to a mind-boggling ₤125, but sadly, that deluxe top tier (which included a pizza date with the label proprietors) is completely sold out; read all the other pricing details right here. The first single of 2014 is a lovely and blurry pop strummer from Falmouth bedroom-pop concern Goddam Nobody, the brainchild of one Matthew Oliver. Mr. Oliver's tune is called "Cut And Paste To Waste," and it evokes images of crushed wet leaves in the gutter and rain streaking across the windows of a train car. After a solemn introduction of backwards guitar, lo-fi production and cloudy reverbs crowd layers of wistful vocals, pretty, chorus-pedaled guitar and steady drumming. It's Phil Spector's wall of sound gone haywire, an aquarium whose water needed to be changed months ago, but the noise does not thwart the composition but instead strikes a balance that, ultimately, imbues the shiny pop beneath with a warm glow. "Cut And Paste To Waste" is an exception to Art Is Hard's practice of only releasing exclusive material, as the tune was the title cut to a Golden Oldies-influenced EP self-released in late 2013. So, to review: Pizza Club is back for 2014, stream "Cut And Paste To Waste" via the embed below.

January 15, 2014

Today's Hotness: Happy Diving, Bully, Johnny Foreigner

Happy Diving (detail)

>> If you missed the tight swell of hype last fall, then Father/Daughter's quiet release this week of a blistering and delicious EP from San Francisco sludge-pop upstarts Happy Diving comes as a revelation. The new East Bay quartet's four-song set, which was tracked live in October at San Francisco's The Atomic Garden, was issued digitally Tuesday but will be available on cassette Feb. 18 (according to this Facebook post there are some designs on releasing the thing on vinyl, as well). Desperate, distorted and melodic, Happy Diving's tunes certainly have a sonic contemporary in those of Connecticut phenoms Ovlov, and like the 'lov the California band employs a tried-and-true template first forged by Dinosaur Jr. on You're Living All Over Me and reiterated by the highlight of Weezer's spotty career, "Tired Of Sex." The self-titled collection blossoms out of 10 seconds of feedback and then energetically chugs through 11 minutes of massive hooks encased in a formidable aural crust (think cobbler, not crème brûlée). Amid spindles of feedback, the slowly grinding chords and bass of "Sincere" lay the foundation for a surprisingly light, somewhat detached vocal. "Complacent" is a rager in the vein of Dinosaur's "Raisans," albeit a little spookier given the reverb Happy Diving cloaks the lead guitar in. All four songs are remarkably strong and none surpasses 200 seconds in length. Happy Diving presently have three local dates (local being San Francisco) booked: Jan. 24 at Bottom of the Hill; Feb. 1 at The Fortress; and March 21 at The Rickshaw Stop (with the white-hot Perfect Pussy top-lining). Those of us not based on the west coast will have to make do streaming Happy Diving via the embed below over and over and over while we wait for something else to happen; a music video for closer "Never Been" is apparently in the can, so we'll keep an eye out for that.

>> ​​Nashville-based guitar-pop newcomers Bully this week began selling a second pressing of its winning self-titled debut 7" EP. The original issue of Bully was self-released in October, sold out quickly, and earned spots on a mess of best-of-2013 lists. And it's easy to hear why, as the band's peppy guitar pop recalls the youthful rockage of The Juliana Hatfield Three or even '90s Philly indie pop heroes Moped. Opener "Brainfreeze" crushes it right from the start, with a hip-shaking groove and rubbery guitar progression grounding fronter Alicia Bognanno's malleable alto. "Sharktooth" layers in more guitars and backing vocals to set off dense choruses from contemplative verses. Ms. Bognanno charmingly stutters into a giant chorus in the hook-heavy strummer "Poetic Trash" that closes the short stack. The new edition of Bully, available in a mere 100 units, contains the same four snappy rockers as the original, is pressed to seafoam-colored vinyl and housed in a fold-over sleeve. Bully plans to sell the seafoam spinners during a slate of tour dates supporting Those Darlins later this month, but it appears it can also be purchased by through the bands Bandcamp right here. Despite performing its first show less than a year ago, Bully has already supported a number of hotly tipped guitar-pop bands. This Facebook status suggests the band was already mixing some new music (unless it remixed Bully for its second pressing? That seems unlikely) before Christmas, so hopefully it won't be long before we here more from these talented young'ns. Bully will play this year's annual SXSW music confabulation, so if the band is not coming to you in the next couple weeks, perhaps you can go to them, should you be fortunate enough to have the wherewithal to get thee to Austin come March.

>> Birmingham, England-based noise-pop titans Johnny Foreigner disclosed Sunday its long-awaited fourth long-player will be issued in March. The set, the title of which has not yet been publicized, will be released by longtime label partner Alcopop! on LP and CD in the UK, and in Japan by Tokyo-based Vinyl Junkie. There will apparently also be some sort of fantastical deluxe edition ("we created an entirely probably fictional city for the whole mess to live in."), which we will of course buy, because Johnny Foreigner is awesome. There are more details at the tumblr post linked supra, which also suggests the collection contains 10 tracks and a bonus track. UK tour dates like these (which we assume are proximal to the aforementioned LPs release date, and most of which include support from nu-slackers Radstewart) are already starting to pop up online, although the quartet's official itinerary has not yet been announced formally. Johnny Foreigner also intends to visit Japan, Europe and its beloved South Africa later in 2014, and South African video-keytar ninja Ben Rausch will join the band for some or all of the pending UK and European shows. It's literally been years since we've been in full-on gonzo Johnny Foreigner hype mode, and, frankly, it feels good to be back. Will we resuscitate KeepingSomeDarkSecrets.net? Uh, no. But will we bring you all the pertinent info and then some on this most important of releases? You bet your bippy. While we wait around for the news to trickle out in dribs and drags, why not revisit this primo comp of b-sides collected from the years 2008-2010? It's a fine way to spend some time.

January 14, 2014

Guillermo Sexo, Slowdim, Lindsey Starr and Confessions | Great Scott | 15 Jan.

Guillermo Sexo, Slowdim, Lindsey Starr, Confessions | Great Scott | 15 Jan.

Just look at this bill. Just look at it. We'll give you a minute.

This is what an average Wednesday night in Boston looks like (or, more to the point, sounds like) these days, folks. But just because the scene is vibrant and strong and delivers hot bills like this with heartbeat regularity (to whit, Thursday's show with Earthquake Party and the re-Modaked Infinity Girl and Chandeliers, and let's not even start talking about next week yet, hot damn) doesn't mean we shouldn't heed the call of the rock and roll music tomorrow. Particularly what with Clicky Clicky faves Guillermo Sexo and Slowdim appearing on the same bill -- indeed, it may be an unprecedented pairing (we'll have our imaginary intern run that down. ARVIN!). Both acts featured on our lists of 2013 superlatives (!, !). The social media scuttlebutt is that Slowdim may premiere a new song, and given the furious pace with which Guillermo Sexo's Reuben Bettsak writes songs (more about that next week), we can only imagine that combo will also have something new up its proverbial sleeve.

What of the balance of the bill? It's been months since electropop duo Confessions unveiled its debut EP on Vanya Records, which we wrote about here, so we'll be interested to hear whether they've got something new in store as well. Lindsey Starr is a relatively unknown quantity to us here at Clicky Clicky HQ, but there are ample rock sounds present in this digital single released in early 2013, and folks will recognize certain names among her cohort, including former Protokoll bandmates Danny O'Neil (bass, now of Young Adults) and Ben Greenspan (guitar, engineer for hot rock bands like Young Adults). Whatever Great Scott is charging Wednesday is likely a BAH-GIN. We just checked -- 8 bucks! -- it is, indeed. In short, going to this show is like paying yourself a salary of rock music. All the details are at this Facebook event page right here. Whilst you sit back and reflect upon the good fortune that brought you to this bright moment in your life, why not stream some songs via the embeds below?

January 13, 2014

Review: Grass Is Green | Vacation Vinny

There's a line in the 1984 baseball flick "The Natural" where assistant coach Red Blow says of spaghetti, "Can't spell it, but it eats pretty good, don't it?" Something similar could be said of the music propounded by Boston math-punk behemoth Grass Is Green. The act's first three releases collect about 30 good-to-great-to-unfuckingbelievable tunes, but this reviewer can't tell you what a single one is about. That's no knock against the mighty quartet: their musical derring-do is routinely more thrilling than it is confusing, and confusion is simply endemic to Grass Is Green's songwriting. Fans will be pleased to find the act remains true to its characteristically manic style on Vacation Vinny, their fourth long player and second for white-hot Brooklyn label Exploding In Sound.

A Grass Is Green song rarely plots a linear course. Instead, off-kilter blasts of feedback and clattering drums typically burst out from compressed pauses, songs that barely eclipse the three-minute mark often employ just as many time signatures. Lyrically, the band continues to be exuberantly unrestrained. Turns-of-phrase dart out like malevolent desk drawers, and they typically scan like disparate thoughts, random data, ingredients labels. It's a well-reasoned approach that mirrors the foursome's agitated instrumentals.

While sonically there is much that fans will find familiar about Vacation Vinny, its music is presented on a grander scale. Call it an indie rock upgrade from standard resolution to HD, albeit not in the sense of heightened production quality (Grass Is Green's prior recording, Ronson, still sounds sweet to these ears). It's more an issue of increased potency. The whipsaw turnarounds approach vertigo-inducing levels of vim, the rhythms rock even more crisply, the guitars run tighter circles around one another, and the melodies are inescapable. The record's opening triad -- the slow-burning "Sammy So-Sick" through the grungey "Big Dog Tee Shirt Birthday Weekend" -- is arguably the band's strongest run to date in terms of songs AND song titles. Vacation Vinny is a legend-making record.

The band is presently touring with BFFs Speedy Ortiz; the remaining dates, as well as others already on the docket, are listed below. These additional engagements include a release show at the Elks Lodge in Cambridge, MA, Jan. 25, a bill that also offers Boston sludge-peddlers Trespasser and EIS labelmates Krill, Ovlov and Palehound (info here). In the meantime, order Vacation Vinny vinyl (a limited number of which is pressed to "beer-colored" media) right here. -- Dillon Riley

Grass Is Green: Facebook | Bandcamp

ON TOUR w/ Speedy Ortiz:

01.13 -- Birmingham, AL -- Seasick Records
01.14 -- Nashville, TN -- The Stone Fox
01.15 -- Asheville, NC -- Toy Boat
01.16 -- Charlottesville, VA -- Tea Bazaar
01.17 -- Washington, DC -- The Dougout
01.18 -- New Brunswick, NJ -- Cooler Ranch


01.25 -- Cambridge, MA -- Elks Lodge (w/ Ovlov, Krill, Palehound and Trespasser)
01.31 -- Brooklyn, NY -- Silent Barn (w/ Frankie Cosmos and more)
02.06 -- Portsmouth, NH -- Red Door
02.21 -- Allston, MA -- O'Brien's Pub

Today's Hotness: Dec. 2013
Today's Hotness: Feb. 2012
Today's Hotness: April 2011

January 9, 2014

Today's Hotness: Joey Fourr, Poledo, Owls, Speedy Ortiz

Art Reeks (detail, Radstewart cover)

>> Loyal Clicky Clicky readers last year no doubt noticed our regular coverage of the releases from Exeter, England-based Art Is Hard Records, a little label that had a terrific 2013. The concern Wednesday announced its latest endeavor, an ambitious split 12" to be issued in tandem with Glasgow imprint Reeks Of Effort. The LP -- the existence of which was first tipped in the NME in early December -- is cheekily titled Art Reeks, and it features songs from rising UK noise-pop heroes all Radstewart, Joey Fourr, Pinact and Poledo. Each of the four bands has a pair of songs on the 12", and two tunes, Joey Fourr's "Born Slippery" and Oxford-based Poledo's "King Of Cool," are available to stream now ahead of a March 3 street date for the set. We've followed the meandering musical path of Joey Fourr pretty closely around these parts, and while a recent very grungy release felt a little hollow, the yearning strummer "Born Slippery" featured on Art Reeks is understatedly urgent and wholly affecting, touting a simple, danceable beat and some tidy harmonies. Poledo's preview track is a guitar-heavy and shouty blazer that, despite the band's Dinosaur Jr.-referencing name, seems to instead take a page from the Superchunk playbook. Which we think everyone agrees is a good thing. Reeks Of Effort, for those not in the know, is a small indie run by members of the white-hot noise-pop combo Joanna Gruesome; that act's Weird Sister LP was among Clicky Clicky's favorite releases of 2013. Incidentally, Joanna Gruesome also contributed two tunes to Art Is Hard's first quad-split, the Family Portrait 7" issued in June 2012 (which also featured Playlounge, Gum and Keel Her). Art Reeks will be pressed to white vinyl in a limited edition of 300 relatively flat circles and placed in hand-numbered sleeves. Pre-order the set via this link, and stream "Born Slippery" and "King Of Cool" via the embeds below, and sit back wait to see what voodoo Art Is Hard comes up with next.

>> The debut LP from Owls was really the last time we kept close tabs on the brothers Kinsella and basically the entire Cap'n Jazz cohort save for Davey von Bohlen, whose tuneful bands Maritime and the defunct The Promise Ring are unceasingly delightful. We were as surprised as the next guy when it was disclosed two years ago that Owls had re-formed, although we suppose nothing should have surprised us after the Cap'n Jazz reunion shows of 2010. So maybe we're just stupid and/or short-sighted. Whatever our problem might be aside, Owls have finally disclosed it will issue a second long-player, simply titled Two, via Polyvinyl March 25th. Two will be issued on all the currently acceptable media, including vinyl and cassette, and pre-orders -- including a number of compelling bundle options -- are being taken right here. The first 800 copies of Two sold will be pressed to orange vinyl, which around Clicky Clicky HQ is actually a pretty enticing product feature; some additional quantity of records will be available at retail on light blue vinyl. The original Owls LP - which was reissued on vinyl a couple years ago -- is a beautifully jagged collection of post-punk, and one we listened to constantly throughout the early 2000s. Hopes for the new collection are high, and the preview track "I'm Surprised..." is quite promising. The tune feels slightly restrained, in the sense that it is more formal and less loose than the free-wheeling and beautiful weirdness that was the hallmark of the self-titled collection. Fronter Tim Kinsella is reliably odd, but keeps his characteristic caterwauling in check, taking a more contemplative tack and pushing out syllables largely in-time to the chugging bass line. A swell of feedback balloons toward the close of "I'm Surprised," but it politely fails to overtake the proceedings. Even if there is no more explosive fare on Two, it's still a delight to have these guys (or rather, this particular combination of these guys) back. Stream "I'm Surprised..." via the embed below.

>> Honestly, we were going to try to ignore for the time being the release of "American Horror," the second "single" -- which these days is apparently a term equivalent to "promotional track," the latter being a term we prefer here at HQ, because a single to us is a thing you can buy, a thing that carries a catalog number, like FAC-13 or DRYL 11, not just a thing you can hear on the Internet, but we digress, see how we digressed? -- from Speedy Ortiz' forthcoming Real Hair EP, which is due next month on Carpark. We wanted to ignore "American Horror" temporarily because we're weeks away from drafting a complete review of the brilliant quartet's four-song EP, but this song is just so massive we can't help but engage with it at least superficially now. Indeed, we're compulsively listening to the thing over and over. And over. "American Horror," which leads Real Hair, is an explosive and noisy (and, we should say, radio-ready) gem, shot through with unforgettable melodies. The lyrics deal with watching a loved one struggle with mental health issues, and despite the seriousness of the subject matter fronter Sadie Dupuis is still able to forge perhaps her most undeniably sing-alongable chorus since the "Taylor Swift" single, no small feat. "...BABY YOU FEEL SO CRA-ZEEEE..." See? Stream the track via the Soundcloud embed below. And if you still haven't pre-ordered Real Hair, Jiminy Crickets, what the hell is wrong with you? Pre-order right here (more orange vinyl!). Speedy Ortiz is out on tour now and pretty much forever; we look forward to seeing them open up for Los Campesinos! Jan. 21 here in Boston at the Paradise Rock Club.

January 5, 2014

Review: New Dog | Lost Weekend

Beautiful and barely there, the recently issued full-length debut from New Dog is spectral and mesmerizing. The project is the latest from Anar Badalov, he formerly of Boston's defunct Travels as well as erstwhile Baltimore slowcore duo Metal Hearts. Lost Weekend is quiet but markedly restless, tense but delicate. The title Lost Weekend suggests to students of rock music a blurry bacchanal (the phrase was used by John Lennon to describe a messy period, although the legend has since been dialed back), but that's not what we have here. One could speculate that the fact that Mr. Badalov now practices his craft under his own shingle (as opposed to working with a partner) inspired the title (or, for that matter, the name New Dog). Whatever the motivation, the collection is profoundly evocative and artistically quite successful, evidence that Badalov's skill as a songwriter has only strengthened since going it alone.

The imaginatively rendered music regularly deviates from traditional pop structure, and instead uses Badalov's light, almost avian guitar work -- at times minimal and others kaleidoscopic -- as an anchor around which snatches of traditional melodies, minimalist repetition and folk structures confidently assert themselves, as in the album highlight "Shyness." Occasional piano lines twinkle and burn out like dead stars, persisting just long enough to hint at blues and Classical forms before drifting out of certain compositions like so many ghost ships. Opener "Smoking In The Living Room" almost defiantly hovers, held aloft by busy ripples of finger-picked guitar and then neatly pulled into the abyss by a cycled strand of notes from a piano. The clean guitar tones and broad expanses of space within "TV Islands" recalls the quiet beauty of The Softies' 1995 LP It's Love. When they appear at all, electronic beats convey unease, as do the crumbling electronic kicks and crashes in "Dog Bite." A spidery, noir cover of Richard Hell & The Voidoids' "I'm Your Man" bobs and whispers, excising the original's laddish bravado and specifically the chorus's bouncy, bar-room chant. Instead, when Badalov quietly repeats and repeats the title, he is coming from a darker, almost threatening place; the jaunty piano solo is doubly creepy given the context. There is nothing creepy, however, about the sincere, sweet and sad album closer, "Leave Nothing For Tomorrow." The poignant and understated ballad's air of finality makes it a powerful close to Lost Weekend, which, incidentally, we first wrote about here in July.

New Dog makes its live debut next week at Act Cube, a space in MIT's List Visual Arts Center, when it plays a record release show Jan. 9 as part of the Institute's Ampersand concert series. The event is open to the public and tickets are cheap; click this link to purchases or consume more information, and here is a Faceook event page. Badalov takes New Dog to Europe next month, charting a circuitous tour around the continent that begins and ends in Belgium and includes a number of stops in France, Germany, Czech Republic and Switzerland; peruse the full itinerary right here. For the live dates, Badalov will get an assist from guitarist and keyboardist James Lynch, which should allow a lot of the important textures of Lost Weekend to be recreated for the audience. The record is presently available as a CD and digital download; stream selections from the album via the Bandcamp embed below and then click through to purchase. Not to put too fine a point on it, but if we had done a Top 20 albums list instead of a Top 10 for 2013, Lost Weekend certainly would have made the list.

New Dog: Internerds | Bandcamp | Facebook

January 3, 2014

Mahogany with Autodrone | Great Scott, Boston | 6 Jan.

Mahogany with Autodrone | Great Scott, Boston | 6 Jan.

It's shocking to us, now that we look and think about it, but shoegaze futurists and railway obsessives Mahogany last released a full-length collection some seven years ago, back when there were things called Friendster and Virb and newspapers (almost equally shocking was the revelation from the Clicky Clicky archives that The Big Sleep's/former Haywood guitarist Danny Barria also logged time with Mahogany). We reviewed Connectivity! here way back when, and between then and now there's been a fair amount of nothing. The 2006 set is immaculate, and touts icy, space-aged beauties such as the entrancing instrumental "Windmill International A" and the oddly Belle And Sebastian-esque "Neo Plastic Boogie-Woogie" [video]. Over the years the former octet has reduced to a duo comprised by Andrew Prinz and Jaclyn Slimm. It hasn't been total silence in the interim, however: the pair's most recent release was the Homeric single "Phase Break," which our own Edward Charlton wrote about here in May. Might 2014 be the year we finally get a new long-playing album from Mahogany? This BrooklynVegan piece from October indicates the answer to that question is a resounding, well, maybe. Either way, Monday's show is a rare chance to catch the brilliant act live, so plan accordingly -- tickets are available right here (New Yorkers can catch the band at Mercury Lounge Sunday night). And while you're doing so, listen again to the marvel that is "Phase Break" via the embed below.

Mahogany: Last.FM | Internerds | Facebook | Bandcamp