February 27, 2014

That Was The Show That Was: The Inter-Galactic Sun Ra Astro-Infinity Myth Equation Commemorative Arkestra | Berklee Performance Center | 20 Feb.

The Inter-Galactic Sun Ra Astro-Infinity Myth Equation Commemorative Arkestra | Berklee Performance Center | 20 Feb.

[It is a great pleasure to welcome back to this blog's electronic pages the incisive writing of Jeff Breeze. Mr. Breeze previously wrote pieces about Small Factory and Cave, among others, for Clicky Clicky. -- Ed.]

[PHOTO CREDIT: Jeff Breeze] I've spent too much of this winter fretting over how I'm supposed to pay for the oil to keep my apartment warm. Last year, I was on my own most of the time and was able to ride on the power of a space heater by keeping myself confined, but this year there are two more people who are actually present. The best times have come when I go to my parents' house and am able to combat the vortex with a more simple solution: the wood stove. If you know how to build a fire and keep it stoked, things warm up better than any other means. But the thing is that you can't just throw all of the wood in there and light a match. First you need to start with some newspaper, and then set up a network of kindling for it to ignite, and then maybe a branch or more porous log that will get that fire to really catch. Only after all of that is done can you start putting the real logs in and getting warmth to emanate.

Someone at Berklee seems to understand the principle of the wood stove. When they invited the public to help celebrate the 100th anniversary of Herman Blount's arrival on planet Earth, they were comfortable with letting things simmer for a spell. And so Blount, who died in 1993 and is more commonly know by the name he gave himself, Sun Ra, was feted last week by a gaggle of Berklee professors operating under the moniker The Inter-Galactic Sun Ra Astro-Infinity Myth Equation Commemorative Arkestra during a show auspiciously titled the Sun Ra Cosmic Centenary. Bedecked in audacious costumes that approximated the look of astronaut pharaohs at a rave, the band spent much of the set focusing on the earliest music from Sun Ra's career.

While many are quick to dismiss Sun Ra as being mere free jazz, this Berklee-based Arkestra worked hard to honor the notes on the score. When they reached the tune "Future" at the midpoint of their set, it was striking not for the freedom of the sound, but how much the tune just sounded like a fun riff on Dizzy Gillespie's "Salt Peanuts." It was these be-bop and big band elements of Sun Ra's compositions that came to the fore, with only occasional interludes filled with wild African percussion that made nods toward later music that Sun Ra had influenced like Pharoah Sanders' more open explorations on "Thembi."

After the faculty played a solid, devotional set of Sun Ra material, it finally got around to tossing the real logs on the fire, bringing out three saxophonists who had each spent decades working with the real Arkestra. Charles Davis, Danny Ray Thompson, and the 89-year-old Marshall Allen took the stage in sparkling rhinestone capes, and their playing threatened to torch the Berklee Performance Center to the ground. With the band providing a sturdy harmonic foundation, the front row of the assembled throng of musicians became a phalanx of saxes allowing from which each member of the trio stepped up and ventured into wild solos.

The most unlikely wrench in the works came as Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and his sister joined the band on stage between tracks. Their father, Pat Patrick, had been the original saxophone player when Sun Ra first set out on his own in Chicago in the 1950s, and on this night Thompson bestowed the title of honorary Arkestra member for life on the two of them. Rhonda Patrick-Sigh joked that while getting to witness this was quite spectacular, it was a far smaller band than the one that Sun Ra played with when she had toured with the Arkestra in 1978. The Berklee band then broke into an unprogrammed performance of a song that Davis had co-written with Patrick.

With the Governor back among the crowd, this Arkestra closed the evening with Sun Ra's magnum opus "Space is the Place." This intergalactic spectacular gave everyone involved a chance to spark a musical inferno. Thompson stepped out front and ignited the band, blaring the 9-note passage that underlies the song on his baritone sax. While the Berklee folks each had fun with their place in the track, it was when Allen arose and broke into an unhinged tenor solo that something magical transpired. Thompson recognized the gauntlet had been laid down and stepped up, heck, even stepped forward parading back and forth across the front of the stage with a commanding presence that was only matched by his playing. Not to be outdone, Allen stepped back up, this time using a EVI (Elecric Valve Instrument – imagine if a clarinet were a Moog) that seemed to set the whole stage ablaze. By the time he sat back down, everyone knew there was nothing left, and the night wrapped up with the lights coming up on the crowd, extinguishing the performance as people recessed out into the cold of the night. -- Jeff Breeze

February 25, 2014

Review: The Notwist | Close To The Glass

If the devil is in the details, as the saying goes, then The Notwist are rife with demons. Not only has the band navigated a quarter-century career via perfectly synthesized and processed sounds within every second of its music, but the attention to detail, the craftsmanship, would seem to now extend even to their release schedule. Since 2002, the German electropop concern have delivered a finely wrought album like clockwork, every six years. That may not seem like a lot, and it is certainly a long time for a band of a certain caliber to go between releases, but we've never heard anyone complain once the product is out there. And once again, today with Close To The Glass, the cycle continues.

Building upon the tremendous 2008 long-player The Devil, You + Me, the new collection -- which is released in the U.S. on Sub Pop -- both fuses together and samples from among the group's disparate styles. Indeed, this reviewer likely would now recommend Close To The Glass to a new listener first, as it offers a little something for everyone, diverse textures packaged in economically sized songs. "Signals" commences the album with electronic bleepery, forthright choppy bass, brief verses and an atmospheric outro draped with the band's trademark dusty and avant garde aural effects. With just this first song, The Notwist make plain their mastery of EQ and production, at least for those fans who have not seen the incredible making-of film "On | Off The Record," which captures among other things the painstaking creation of the band's watershed 2002 release Neon Golden. On Close To The Glass, even the most incidental-sounding pop of static feels remarkably full.

Make no mistake, this is a headphones record. Using the clipped, sampled source sounds in the bass, the title track establishes an urgent, robotic rhythm, reflecting The Notwist's affinity for IDM. The result is as tantalizing to the mind as it is a commanding, alien dance song. The bright strummer "Kong" follows, injecting a bolus of hope and humanity into the proceedings that is as disorienting as it is welcome (the tune, incidentally, sounds as if it could have featured on erstwhile Philly act Mazarin's brilliant 2000 set Watch It Happen). And here, too, The Notwist showcases yet another talent: the first-rate production on their guitars and strings. "Kong" capitalizes on the three-dimensional quality of this aspect of the group via an opening riff that is at the same time overdriven and clean: while loud, every delicate pick of the strings is seemingly in the ear of the listener as well. As the bass and drums align to form a Teutonic groove, fronter Marcus Acher's gentle vocals communicate weighty pathos and perspective -- always nestled on top of the rush of guitars, phasers and string melodies.

The balance of Close To The Glass follows the forms of the first third of the record while presenting additional sonic left turns. "Casino" is an acoustic slow-burner that is melodically pure and deeply sad. "From One Wrong Place To The Next" samples fingers sliding across acoustic guitar strings and prints other found sounds over a moody dance track. Album highlight "7-Hour Drive" is a surprising twist for The Notwist, offering the band's take on a classic shoegaze style. There's woozy string bending, curious clipped notes and a cycling chord progression that nods at the My Bloody Valentine titanic "When You Sleep."

In sum, Close To The Glass presents a compact primer on the legendary German act, one that not only expands upon the band's legacy, but also offers the most immediate gateway to their beautiful, moving and detailed universe. The collection is proof that The Notwist have both conquered their sound, and reached a state where they can still push boundaries while satisfying even its adventurous fanbase. It's a wonderful place to be. Buy Close To The Glass from Sub Pop as a double LP or CD right here. The band will play a short strand of shows in June, but unfortunately no Boston date; full dates are below, as are embeds of "Close To The Glass" and "Kong" for your enjoyment. Clicky Clicky is of the opinion that The Notwist is one of the most accomplished and powerful live acts of the day, and this thrilling video from January is strong support for our assertion. -- Edward Charlton

06.09 -- New York, NY -- Webster Hall
06.10 -- Philadelphia, PA -- Theatre of Living Arts
06.11 -- Montreal, Quebec -- Société Des Arts Technologiques
06.12 -- Toronto, Ontario -- Lee's Palace
06.13 -- Chicago, IL -- House of Blues
06.14 -- San Francisco, CA -- The Regency Ballroom
06.15 -- Los Angeles, CA -- The Fonda Theatre
07.04 -- George, WA -- Sasquatch Festival

Prior Notwist Coverage:
That Was The Show That Was: The Notwist with Dosh At The Roxy
Reader Rewards: Win The New Notwist Single, Boston Tickets
Today's Hotness: The Notwist
Review: Tied + Tickled Trio | Aelita
Review: The Notwist | "On | Off The Record" DVD

February 24, 2014

Regolith A1E1: Reuben Bettsak Is A Songwriter

Regolith -- Reuben Bettsak, Part 1

Our inaugural songwriter for the Regolith series is Boston indie scene mainstay Reuben Bettsak. Mr. Bettsak lives in town and has been party to the local music scene here for more than a decade, during which time he has performed in acts including The Nationale Blue and Big Bear. He presently plays in noted psych-pop outfit Guillermo Sexo, performs and releases music under the name Emerald Comets, and is part of the spectral New Romantic revivalists Future Carnivores. As a songwriter, Bettsak is as prolific as they come, and if you think it is just a coincidence that we chose to kick off Regolith with such an efficient and deadly songwriting machine as Bettsak, you are wrong. Regolith is not for the faint of heart. Or at least that is what we assume -- Bettsak is the first to go through the process with us, during which he is writing and recording completely new music under a Clicky Clicky-imposed 30-day deadline. In our intake interview below we dig into the basics and background of who Bettsak is, what he does, and how he works. The sands from the Regolith 30-day hourglass began falling Feb. 15. As noted in our introductory piece last week, we will check in with Bettsak midway into his month of work, and at the end we'll wrap up the project with a post mortem on his work, and with a premiere of the results on our Bandcamp page. Giddy up. -- L. Tiburon Pacifico
Clicky Clicky: What is happening with all of the bands you are involved with right now?

Rueben Bettsak: Guillermo Sexo is definitely keeping busy per usual. We have a Brooklyn show with Relations April 4 at Shea Stadium, an Illegally Blind show in Boston in May at Middle East up with Blackstone Rangers, Ghost Modern and Wakes. It's likely there will be other shows before these, but we are also working on new songs and are bringing back some old favorites from past albums. We want to change up our set list a bit ... [and] continue spreading the word on Dark Spring. We believe in this album. We want you to believe in the UFOs of Dark Spring...

I've been playing a few Emerald Comet shows here and there to support the free EP (performing solo, but possibly also with the gang that performed on the EP in the future).

Future Carnivores has a March show coming up at Charlie's Kitchen, which should be cool. We have a whole album's worth of stuff recorded, but most of it is in the early stages of recording. We'll see when we can get that out there this year.

CC: What instruments do you play? When did you start playing them?

RB: My principal instrument has been guitar. I started playing when I was... 15 years old. I also played a bit of drums growing up. It's so much fun playing drums, but I rarely rock it these days. I did a lot of the live drums on the first Future Carnivores record, though.

CC: How long have you been writing music?

RB: I've always wanted to write music. I think I knew this when I was 7 years old listening to Julio Iglesias or watching Quiet Riot videos on MTV in Panama. When I started playing guitar, I knew that songwriting would be my main focus. Back when I was 15 years old, I loved Eddie Van Halen, but I was never interested in playing the way he played. Writing music for me is one of the most beautiful, rewarding things in life. It's taken me a while to get to a place where I'm more confident with the songs I write... closer to the vision. But then again the vision always changes a bit, and that's part of what makes it exciting, right?

CC: What are your songwriting influences? Do you feel like there's an influence on these songs that is obvious to you but might not be necessarily apparent to a listener?

RB: I think this is a great question. I feel like there are definitely influences that pop up in the songs I write, and in the sounds my band(s) make. I really do approach songwriting with a completely open slate, meaning I don't try to sit down and write a certain type of song that sounds like any person or band in particular. But there are patterns that creep up that are part of my MO. I love catchy psych-rock songs from bands like The Kinks, Zombies, Guided by Voices and some current bands. I love the depth and beauty that bands like Spiritualized or My Bloody Valentine create. I love the studio experimentation of Sonic Youth, Stereolab, Broadcast and Olivia Tremor Control. So... these things seep in to what I do. And that is rock 'n' roll. I can say that I feel like I really have developed a songwriting voice of my own. I am thankful for this, but I'm always trying to grow and improve as a songwriter.

With this project an influence that might not be apparent to the listener is maybe some classical music. No specific composers, but just trying to create a little bedroom symphony. Although, it is too early to tell. This project could end up sounding like death metal by the end. We'll see.

CC: How would you describe your songwriting process. Are the songs conceived of first, or planned out? Is the process more organic, with single chords or melodies developing into parts, which then develop into songs? Do you have a back catalog of riffs, parts or progressions that you mix and match until they find a home?

RB: A lot of songs are written on acoustic guitar at home. I write a few guitar parts and develop the melodies right away, or I record the music and then develop melodies and maybe record line by line. It's definitely more of an organic process. Some Guillermo Sexo songs I bring to the fold are pretty fleshed out, but the band definitely shapes the way they end up sounding. There are also a bunch of Guillermo Sexo songs that are developed organically at the practice space. We just develop an idea/riff together as a band, and develop it until we have a song. I have a large back catalog of songs. My fear is that some of the really good ones in the back catalog will never be released and then I'll completely forget about them. I try to keep track of everything, but stuff gets lost. That's one reason I'm releasing stuff under Emerald Comets. There is no way Guillermo Sexo can tackle all these songs. It gets overwhelming. I send my band members and (producer) Justin Pizzoferrato so many demos, and they are like "Reuben... chill."

The Future Carnivores process is different. The first two albums were written by recording parts completely made up on the spot, with Bo and I switching turns. I'd lay down a beat, Bo would lay down bass line, I'd record a weird guitar loop, and so on.

CC: Will this project change the way you typically write?

RB: I'm used to writing alone, but I am trying to make this project sound different. It's a good excuse to create a standalone type of album or mini album that has an overall vibe to it. That's cool, because I usually have so many types of songs I bring to the fold. With Regolith, I'm looking to have an overall focus and feel throughout.

CC: Where will you be doing your writing and recording throughout this project?

RB: I will be writing and recording this project at home. I will be doing it with a simple Pro-Tools setup, which is nicer than what I use for my demos.

CC: Lastly, what are your goals/aspirations for this project?

RB: 1. I'm hoping to create some great songs. 2. It's always gratifying to share music with listeners. I look forward to sharing this music. 3. I want Jay and Will to give me a hug and say, "Hey Reuben, these songs don't suck." 4. One of my goals is to not get too carried away with layering. If this happens, I may end up turning in one song at the end of this project. (Note to self: Reuben, don't get carried away with layers. Try to keep it simple!)

CC: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us and devote 30 days of your life to Regolith. We eagerly await our mid-session check-in with you in a couple of weeks to see how it's going, and of course, hearing the finished results.
Related Coverage:
Premiere: Emerald Comets | Emerald Comets EP
Review: Guillermo Sexo | Dark Spring
Today's Hotness: Future Carnivores
Clicky Clicky Music Presents... N O F U C K I N G W H E R E : 11 Boston Bands Perform Ride's Classic 1990 Album
Review: Future Carnivores | Future Carnivores
Review: Guillermo Sexo | Secret Wild

February 23, 2014

Today's Hotness: Bleeding Rainbow, Milkshake, Solids

Bleeding Rainbow (detail)

>> Hotly tipped and Philly-based noise-pop purveyors Bleeding Rainbow's terrific new long-player Interrupt may prove to be little surprise to fans of the band's progression from lo-fi bedroom act to wide-screen dreamscapers. But even so, that evolution, no doubt influenced in part by the act's expansion to a solidified four-piece, is captured in vivid and urgent bloom on the new set, which will be released by Brooklyn’s Kanine Records Tuesday. The music of the current iteration of Bleeding Rainbow maps a mean between the angular kinetics of Burning Airlines and the tuneful rush of early Velocity Girl, proffering plenty of earworm choruses and loads of ringing guitars that flatten against the edges of the envelope of the stereo field. Co-fronter Sarah Everton's voice swims among the guitar tracks, while Rob Garcia's thrilling, aggressive lead vocal on "Images" could have come straight off of Drive Like Jehu's legendary Yank Crime. At press time this coming weekend's Bleeding Rainbow show at Tasty Burger in Harvard Square has been cancelled, according to this well-reported piece over at Vanyaland. It's unclear whether the show will be moved, and the band may be slightly less incentivized to deal with the bullshit of moving the show as they are already slated to play Hotel Vernon in Worcester the night before (see all Bleeding Rainbow’s tour dates right here). It would be a shame if the night doesn't go off, however, as the bill also included local heavies Fat Creeps and Boston indie pop phenoms Bent Shapes. Pre-order Interrupted on red or blue vinyl, or on what is in all likelihood a metallic silver compact disc, from Kanine right here. Below you may stream three absolutely smoking album tracks. -- Dillon Riley

>> It's no secret that this reviewer thrives on left-field twists in indie rock, and the latest from Melbourne, Australia-based dream-pop outfit Milkshake certainly delivers. The act is a side project of Bored Nothing's Fergus Miller, who joins with some fellow Aussies from the combo Retro Culture to make this remarkable and charming EP. Milkshake EP II, which was self-released Jan. 25, combines instrumental introspection with great production, engrossing guitar textures and wispy vocals, making for some bracing shoegaze that nearly evades categorization. The highlight of the short set is "Repeater" (after arguably the best Fugazi song, perhaps?), a tune that emphasizes warm drum production, floating, picked guitar work, and powerful, yet distanced, singing. While most groups tilling similar sonic terrain might choose to emphasize the strings, Milkshake's power is founded in the jazzy drum work. The snare and toms' vintage-sounding, analog dimensions would seem to have been modeled on a classic Vince Guaraldi cut (an early dream-pop master of the highest order, but that’s another discussion for another day). After "Repeater" well, repeats overdriven guitar sections and choruses, it settles into a beautiful, piano-led bliss out section that maximizes pristine chords; the section builds intensity yet never shakes a lightweight, airy vibe. Elsewhere, "The Way Back Through" employs interesting, fuzzed-out snare work, while "End" presents a full-blown ambient hiss piece that leaves listeners too soon. Milkshake deftly balances progressive elements on these cuts with a DIY indie aesthetic, rendering thought-provoking music ideal for a crisp, clear fall morning. It's all very compelling stuff, stuff that reminds us of the 2012 sleeper classic from Pacific Valley, Woodgate Valley. Grab Milkshake EP II as a digital download for any price, or order one of a limited number of handmade CDs (in a "sensual, handmade CD casing"), right here. -- Edward Charlton

>> Last week Montreal-based fuzz-rock duo Solids dropped a scorching Fat Possum debut titled Blame Confusion, and, well, if you gotta blame something, that's a good place to start. A stirring blur of head-on pop-acknowledging punk -- but certainly not pop-punk -- the long-player nonetheless wears its influences proudly on its sleeves. The thick, swirling guitars recall vintage Dinosaur Jr., while frontdude Xavier German-Poitras' vocals echo a dozen first-wave Midwest emo records. Much like fellow Canadian duo Japandroids, Solids have a sound totally conducive to late-night, steering wheel-slamming drives. However, while Japandroids aim to channel the foggy fragments of that one night you'll never forget, Solids' noise-addled numbers feel more akin to living those boozy nights in real time. Call it I Can't Remember Why We're Celebrating Rock, maybe... Last week Solids released a video for album highlight "Haze Away," which you may view view right here in all its cartoon glory. The band undertakes a North American tour this spring that will bring them to Boston's venerable Great Scott March 17; full tour dates are listed right here. We recommend you order Blame Confusion on vinyl, CD, or as a digital download from the Corpulent Possum right here; while you wait for your mersh to arrive, stream the primo face-scrapers "Trace" and "Haze Away" via the Soundcloud embeds below. -- Dillon Riley

February 21, 2014

Review: She Sir | Go Guitars

Whether it's successfully fusing genre signifiers from disparate decades, incorporating subtle and smart rhythms within its compositions, or even pulling through on years-long recording hiatuses, Austin-based quartet She Sir has made its name on finesse. The group revels in a thoughtful and careful approach, tinkering away at their perfect, distanced sound [forever. -- Ed.] with a patience that chagrins those addicted to the band's shoegazing pop. Finally, after years of starts, stops and whispers, She Sir is releasing its full-length debut, Go Guitars. It is a tour de force of sunny, spectral and shimmering rock that will be issued by Shelflife on vinyl and CD Tuesday, Feb. 25.

Abetting core players Russell Karloff (vocals, guitar, bass) and Matthew Grusha (vocals, bass, guitar) these days are Jeremy Cantrell on guitar and David Nathan on drums. And, right away, the power of the larger lineup is apparent: sure, opener "Portese" not only commences with the band's characteristically evocative guitar textures, but it also quickly communicates a subtle departure. With much more straightforward and foregrounded drumming and funkier bass work, the tune trumpets She Sir's shift in sonics away from the noise-pop of its stunning 2006 EP Who Can't Say Yes and the '60s psychedelia of the Yens 7". As Mr. Karloff told us a year ago, "It's really a blending of everything we've learned over the years. At this point, we're experienced enough to know exactly what it is we want to do, and we finally know how to achieve it." In press materials, the quartet points to Fleetwood Mac as a current influence. That iconic band, as well as a more general '70s (and even '80s) soft-rock studio vibe, seems to have captured Mssrs. Karloff and Grusha's restless attention. The combination of the two makes for some of the most relaxed, positive and forwardly sexual shoegaze Clicky Clicky has encountered. The singles for the new long-player, "Kissing Can Wait" and the previously reviewed "Condensedindents," each trade in such bright melodies and bouncy rhythms that sunshine, bikinis and dockside barbecues all feel like appropriate imagery, in contrast to the shoegaze genre's more typically dour evocations.

While the aforementioned yacht-gaze dreamers flank Go Guitars, the meat of the set boasts more strummy cuts, and tunes that employ quieter sections before flooding the stereo field with light in serial, monolithic choruses. "Bitter Bazaar" stages a moody breakdown at the two-and-a-half-minute-mark that transports listeners away from the summer fun to a romantic, air-conditioned moment of tension. "Mania Mantle" activates a pleasing, Jesus and Mary Chain-styled chug. The delicate acoustic guitar back-tracking of "Winter Skirt" echoes She Sir's absolutely flawless "You Could Be Tiger" single from 2012. Notably, throughout the album Karloff's soft vocals and the snappy percussion conspire to tie everything together. The approach highlights the fact that, despite the complex arrangements, there are actually not an overwhelming number of tracks in the mix, which makes it quite likely that She Sir can reproduce Go Guitars live.

Admittedly, this reviewer was hoping for some more non-traditional and classical instrumentation, after the fashion of previous songs such as "Lemongrass," a tune that masterfully married an indie sensibility to the band's academic background. Even so, Go Guitars finds the quartet in fine form, and reveals a looser iteration of the group that is clearly in command of the moment. In a current musical climate that emphasizes celebratory and hypnagogic beach-pop from hip corners of the country -- often of questionable substance -- She Sir once again show just how far that sound can go when approached with compositional expertise, patience and the lessons and benefits of time. Do yourself a favor, and give She Sir and their tremendous new collection yours. The band plays a record release show next week in Austin at The Mohawk, and is also slated to perform during the annual South By Southwest music confabulation next month as well. Purchase Go Guitars from Shelflife right here. -- Edward Charlton

She Sir: Internerds | Facebook | Soundcloud

Selected Prior She Sir Coverage:
Who Could Say No? The Clicky Clicky Interview With She Sir's Russell Karloff
Today's Hotness: She Sir
Review: She Sir | Yens EP
Best Of 2006 Addendum: She Sir's Who Can't Say Yes

February 20, 2014

Introducing... Regolith

Regolith -- intro

Regolith: [reg·o·lith] noun \ˈre-gə-ˌlith\, unconsolidated residual or transported material that overlies the solid rock on the Earth, Moon, or planet.

Geology, as Ellis Boyd Redding taught us, is the study of time and pressure. If that is enough to shape one kind of rock, Clicky Clicky wondered, would it work on another? To find out, we are embarking on a new project, a serial feature that asks songwriters to commit themselves to 30 days (or, one lunar cycle) of writing and recording music to see what shapes, textures, patterns, and sounds such an endeavor might yield. The parameters are simple: write, record, and mix original material, without any outside help. Do not use previously existing song fragments or ideas. And in 30 days time, send us the results.

The objectives: to contribute to a deeper understanding of what goes into writing and recording a song, and, from the artist-end, to provide a new creative context that might allow for a reevaluation of the artistic process. We want to see what, if anything, is changed in trying to produce music in a fixed amount of time, and how artists mix and match quality and quantity.

For the Clicky Clicky reader, the process will be revealed in three parts: an introductory piece on our featured artist, a glimpse into their home or practice space studio and into their recording equipment and techniques, and lastly, the unveiling of the music, and an opportunity for the artist to talk about the results. Your guide through this entire exercise is the intrepid and longtime Clicky Clicky confidant L. Tiburon Pacifico, who will reveal in the next few days our first featured artist, who as we speak is already toiling away in the midst of his allotted 30 days. Clicky Clicky is grateful to Mr. Pacifico for his stewardship of this project, and we are excited to hear what comes of it.

Finally, we must acknowledge our specific inspiration for Rigoleth, which was Samira Winter's Song-A-Day project undertaken last summer. Sure, songwriters working under self-imposed constraints is nothing new -- we immediately think of Into It. Over It's 52 Weeks project, or Clicky Clicky faves The Weaks' initial song-a-week gambit. But something about Ms. Winter's effort, which we wrote about here, fired our imaginations. And out of this comes Regolith. We look forward to sharing it with you.

Here are four (easy) hints as to the identity of the first songwriter. 1. 2. 3. 4.

February 19, 2014

Keep Doing What You're Doing: As Topshelf Records Hits New Highs With A Powerhouse Roster, Local Media Remai -- Hey Wait Is That Aerosmith?

You Blew It -- Keep Doing What You're Doing (edit/detail)

As with a lot of things in Boston, we worked our way around to Topshelf Records through the wrong end of the telescope. We had a general awareness of the label, but it was a long time before we realized it was based right here in our adopted hometown. Then, a couple years ago, we had a message from the head of a favorite UK label saying he'd be in town soon to visit Topshelf, then based in the Back Bay. Last May Topshelf signed (for the US) the very promising UK emo-core combo Crash Of Rhinos, a move that also raised our eyebrows. Topshelf's late 2013 signing of hotly tipped Sheffield, England-based slackercore duo Nai Harvest flat-out surprised us, and made us wonder just who was this local label signing some of our favorite overseas talent? And why -- as a fifteen-year Boston resident, and besides the reason that we might just suck -- didn't we know more about Topshelf? After an hour of Internetting, we got a sense of just how big the label is, how deep its Massachusetts roots reach, and rapidly our curiosity transformed into bewilderment. How could such a successful operation be just under our noses for much of its existence, yet there was no sign of them in the local press, and little indication of them (until recently) even in our fairly healthy blogosphere?

The same can't be said for national and international press, which recently has found a lot to like coming from the Topshelf stable; in October Pantsfork published a primer that perhaps was unfairly tagged around social media as "the emo revival piece." Given the very strong 2013 Topshelf had, which included, among others, notable releases from the aforementioned Crash Of Rhinos and majestic The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die, and a very strong start to 2014 with the release of the brilliant new one from Florida's You Blew It!, the attention from the overground is little surprise. But that the overground was taking notice while there was still relative silence in the local market highlighted even more this weird disconnect we were feeling. What the hell does Topshelf have to do to get props in Boston? We decided to put the question to Kevin Duquette, who, along with partner Seth Decoteau, has operated Topshelf from various perches across the commonwealth since its formation eight or nine years ago. Mr. Duquette very graciously agreed to talk, and was even more gracious in pointing out that his label is far from alone with regards to receiving little play with local press. Let's pick up the conversation there...
Clicky Clicky: Our initial discussions about this piece weighed my contention that Topshelf and Run For Cover are among Boston's two biggest labels, yet they paradoxically get little mention in the local press. At the same time there has been some very good national and international coverage, even recently. Why do you think there's that disconnect? Have you ever had that "I'm STANDING RIGHT HERE!" kind of moment, sitting around the Topshelf office?

Kevin Duquette: I am not 100% sure what to make of it. I can be pretty bad at meeting people and networking and that type of thing in person — and rarely talk to strangers at local shows (not that I'm opposed to it). I don't really know anyone involved in local press personally or professionally, and we're definitely not actively soliciting that type of thing, so maybe it's just a combination of all of those things? We're equal parts thrilled about and humbled by the national and international coverage that we've been getting of late, but it'd definitely be cool to see that translate to some local support, too. Maybe they don't know or care about what we're doing? I mean, haha, I sincerely don't know. I don't harbor any ill will over it, though, and I think there's plenty of deserving and talented people in this city also worth mentioning aside from anything our two labels have going on.

CC: Is there something inherent to the community of musicians and fans that surround Topshelf that makes it (much) less visible to the mainstream? Are the bands and fans too young, the scene too DIY? Or is it that maybe your biggest acts are not Boston acts? Can it be as simple as the scene doesn't care about that kind of affirmation, so it doesn't seek it out?

KD: With regard to us and anything we're doing, specifically, I think there's a little bit of most of what you just touched on at play. Probably the biggest being that, aside from a handful of long-since defunct acts, we don't have any bands that we work with locally. I think there's something inherently less visible (to the mainstream) about most "alt" sub-culture type things. Not to claim that we're exclusively at the forefront of — or leading anything by any means — but we're definitely a part of a niche that, although gaining a larger following, is still just a small blip. With a few exceptions, the biggest shows our bands play around here are more often than not in a packed sweaty Elks Lodge basement than on the stage of Middle East Downstairs — for what that's worth.

CC: Clicky Clicky certainly hasn't helped the situation much to this point. I honestly didn't realize Topshelf was based in Boston until a few years ago when Kevin from Big Scary Monsters mentioned to me that he was coming to town to visit you guys. I know Topshelf has actually been stationed in different places around the state since its inception. Setting aside the lack of support from the press, do you think the label derived some benefit from being based in and around Boston?

KD: Ah, Kev. We love BSM. Being in Boston the last five-ish years now has certainly helped us to provide better support for our bands while they're on tour, if nothing else. They can play in Boston, Allston, Cambridge, whatever and drive a mile or two down the street afterward and have a place to crash, have their albums and merch re-stocked, hangout at the office, we pick up some lunch for everyone... that type of thing. It really creates an atmosphere of camaraderie and community amongst everyone involved with the entire label. I don't think we had that before when we were in Western Mass., as just not too many tours typically go through the small towns we're from. I think when there's a really good thing going on internally, that becomes palpable externally and people notice and gravitate to that... I do, anyway. Outside of that, I feel like the profile and general awareness [of the label] has been upped for sure. But it's a totally intangible thing for me — I just kinda get the sense it has, rather than some obvious indicator that it has, if that makes sense.

CC: You moved the office to Peabody recently. What prompted that?

KD: I know, our physical address has been like the LOST island over the years, haha, but this is actually a spot that we've been at for some time now. You touched on this earlier, but we've hopped around a lot. Having started the label while in college, our actual "operating" address has shifted from Westfield, Monson, Northampton, Springfield, Hampden, Boston and Peabody. I won't even try to explain it save for that it involves a lot of dorm rooms and gross overuse of our parents' garages. Peabody came about because it's actually a shared space between a few businesses — namely Bridge Nine Records. Seth started interning at Bridge Nine *years* ago and eventually got hired. He's the label manager there now so our growth as an offshoot out of that space was probably more natural than it comes across from the outside.

CC: What really grabbed my attention about Topshelf late last year was your signing of Nai Harvest. One of the guys in Johnny Foreigner turned me on to them right before Whatever came out, and I was very surprised to learn that such a new act was already getting a U.S. label. Did you get a chance to see them play live before you agreed to do the Hold Open My Head EP?

KD: We've never seen them play (though I've seen countless Youtube performances at this point, haha), but we've met up with them at FEST in Florida the last two years. We *loved* their debut LP Whatever and kinda had them on our radar ever since first giving that a few spins. When we started talking about the prospect of releasing something new, the timeframe wasn't initially very good for us at all, but after hearing the demos and playing them in the office for a few days we knew it was something we had to do regardless. We're really happy to be working with them. Johnny Foreigner's another great, great band. I've just heard their new LP and I'm blown away by it. I think music in the UK has me more excited than anything in North America at the moment.

CC: It looks like Nai Harvest are working on some new recordings right now. Is the EP release just a one-off, or does Topshelf have plans to release new Nai Harvest music in the future? Looks like their spring is already booked up, but are you working on getting them over here before the year is out?

KD: A lot of this is purely speculative and wishful thinking, but we'd love to have them come over and I know the feeling's reciprocated. It's an idea we're definitely bouncing around, so hopefully we can make it happen. We've facilitated it before with international bands we've worked with (Enemies from Ireland, toe from Japan) and I'm hopeful we can make it happen for them, as well. As far as any future releases go, that's a similar situation. We're all on board, but there's no concrete plans for anything as of yet.

CC: You've got two of the biggest acts on the label playing this week at The Sinclair, which is one of the newest and certainly one of the larger venues in the greater Boston-Camb-erville. Sort of wrapping this interview back on itself, is having Into It. Over It. and TWIABP play a venue like that perhaps a better measure of success for both the bands and Topshelf, rather than, say, whether the local press in picking up what you're putting down?

KD: Yeah, A Great Big Pile of Leaves are playing that as well. The local support on many of the dates have largely been Topshelf-affiliated acts and a bunch of the dates have been selling out at pretty good-sized rooms so the whole tour has just been cool to watch from our vantage point. Any one of those three bands are capable of headlining their own tours at this point so getting to see how well all three are doing together every night is awesome. The Sinclair is a really great venue, but the success of the tour in general is what I'm hanging my hat on, moreso than anything else.

CC: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Kevin.

KD: Absolutely. I appreciate it. Thank you, Jay!
As of press time, the Into It. Over It. / The World Is A Beautiful Place And I Am No Longer Afraid To Die / A Great Big Pile of Leaves / Dreamtigers show tomorrow night at The Sinclair is SOLD OUT. The World Is A Beautiful Place And I Am No Longer Afraid To Die's highly regarded 2013 collection Whenever, If Ever just went into its third pressing. More signs, we'd say, that Topshelf and its bands are doing great things. Our interview with Kevin doesn't do nearly a good enough job of portraying the amount of hard work it takes to keep the label running; for a more fulsome discussion of that, as well as the label's more remote history, we point you to yesterday's excellent interview published in Made Of Chalk. Nai Harvest's forthcoming EP Hold Open My Head will be released by Topshelf on vinyl and as a digital download March 4. You can pre-order that here and scour the entire Topshelf catalogue for hits right here. For a taste of what the label is cooking in 2014, check out streams below of some forthcoming tunes from Nai Harvest and the recent rockstravaganza from You Blew It!. Who knows how the label will surprise us next?

February 17, 2014

Today's Hotness: Frankie Cosmos, The New Mendicants, Beach Volleyball

Frankie Cosmos (detail)

>> The hype surrounding NYC-based combo Frankie Cosmos belies the cloistered, personal vibe of their music -- proof positive, we suppose, that great songwriting finds its audience. The quartet, which is fronted by Greta Kline and includes among its number Aaron Maine of Porches., trades in the kind of plainly stated, lo-fi pop that lives and dies on personality. It's music that emphasizes unadorned, in-your-ear moments -- such as those that characterized Velvet Underground's third album -- as opposed to the blunt grandiosity and electronic immersion found more widely in today's underground. Frankie Cosmos' "Birthday Song" is a sweet, minute-and-a-half pop confection that recalls a certain stripe of indie pop that has not pinged the mainstream for years. The tune's biggest moments arrive at the end of each of the verses, when the drums shift into a half-time beat -- a trick borrowed from the metal and hardcore bands of our youth, perhaps, but it's very effective here, where Ms. Kline's vocals seem to get dragged down with a sadness that matches her year-closing observations and angst toward a changing world. Kline's wistfulness here is perfect and fresh for a band that hails from the Big Apple in 2014. With the success of Hospitality and now Frankie Cosmos, we're holding out hope for a full-blown indie pop renaissance emanating from New York City. "Birthday Song" is the second preview tune from the forthcoming collection Zentropy, a set of songs that is the first featuring a full-band iteration of Frankie Cosmos. Zentropy will be released as an LP by the Exploding In Sound-affiliated label Double Double Whammy March 4. The first 250 copies of the collection carried a screen-printed B-side and appear to have already sold out; another 200 pieces are pressed to white vinyl, and you can pre-order it right here. And although we do not know details and haven't yet cracked it open ourselves, fans would do well to note that Frankie Cosmos has issued what seems to be an even newer collection of recordings called Donutes, that can be snatched via Pukekos for free right here. Stream "Birthday Song" via the Soundcloud embed below. -- Edward Charlton

>> If this -- along with last year's Black Hearted Brother album -- is any indication of the way things are rolling, yesterday's indie pop and shoegaze pioneers are finding plenty of fresh inspiration in new trios that embrace collective legacies, adaptability and excitement. Here we are referring, of course, to Into The Lime, the tremendous new collection from The New Mendicants, a threesome comprising Joe Pernice (The Pernice Brothers), Norman Blake (Teenage Fanclub), and Mike Belisky (The Sadies). The set finds all three principles fluidly rotating duties while creating vibrant, cohesive work. With each successive track, it seems the band challenges itself again and again to create classic, harmony-laden pop in the vein of British Invasion bands such as The Hollies, Peter and Gordon, The Beatles pre-Revolver, and (more recently) XTC. Songs such as "Cruel Annette," "If You Only Knew Her," "High On The Skyline," and "A Very Sorry Christmas" all balance rich vocals that the light acoustic strumming, organ, and other period touches feel like the only extra weight the compositions could handle. The balance of the record emphasizes electric guitar, echoing at times Mr. Blake's Teenage Fanclub (with "Shouting Match") while coming as close to that classic band's power-pop euphoria as any combo in recent memory. Into The Lime, like BHB's Stars Are Our Home, so impressively balances the individual strengths of each band member that one can nearly cherry-pick them from any three-second clip form any song. Even so, the enthusiasm, songcraft and performances are so tight and fluid that it is hard to overstate the pop smarts at work. Perhaps the most telling gauge of success is this one: The New Mendicants on Into The Lime work free of whatever the confines of Teenage Fanclub, The Sadies or The Pernice Brothers might be, yet the disc feels like a welcome addition to any of their discographies. Buy the set from Ashmont Records right here, and stream the now seasonally inappropriate "A Very Sorry Christmas" via the Soundcloud embed below, and watch a beautiful and spare live iteration of "Follow You Down" right here. -- Edward Charlton

>> When we last tracked the arc of London shoegaze luminaries Beach Volleyball here last fall, we made sure to remark on the irony of their name, given the windswept, downcast vibe of the act's music. Now we are confronted with a second realization -- namely, that Beach Volleyball does classic, American-style shoegaze better than most American acts in the game. We're not the only ones taking a second look at the combo, as Oakland, Calif. and Berlin-based label Spiralchords announced late last month that it will reissue Beach Volleyball's full-length debut Broadcast later in February. The first teaser track from the collection this time around is "Contack," and it is a stunner. The short piece (short in shoegaze terms, anyway) is knotted and tense, and confidently arrays a driving group of chords. These bristle with texture, between the deep bass and droning, bending high notes, and the rhythm guitar's serrated tone applies an element of knife-fighting menace to the proceedings. Alex Smith's saddened drawl slips amid the textures, adding just the right pathos, contrasting against the noise rock danger and rolling drum beats. Closing with an ambient outro, the tune turns more contemplative as it slowly fades into greyscale. "Power Cuts," another pre-released tune (although, technically, all of them were "pre-released" last August), is similarly strong, and showcases again the driving snare and undulating bass of the rhythm section. These songs suggest a darker take on the early '90s, Isn't Anything-inspired rock of Americans all Lilys, She, Sir, Lorelei and The Swirlies -- bands unafraid to revel in mystery while staying true to their indie roots. Broadcast will be re-released digitally Feb. 28. Stream "Contack" below; it's not presently clear whether there will be a pre-order for the set, but keep watch at the Spiralchords Facebook page for additional release information. -- Edward Charlton

February 12, 2014

Review: Krill | Steve Hears Pile In Malden And Bursts Into Tears

Goddamn album title too long to fit on single headline. Motherfucker, that line just fit on a single line. Various publications stupidly parroting "failed concept album" talking point. This vs. "Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better." - S.B. Jonah Furman -- un/reliable narrator? [Would be interesting to good cop/bad cop entire band in separate interrogation rooms and see if the other cats agree to this "failure" bullshit. Should we call Furman on this?] Failure as a positive, as a measure of distance [integers greater than zero, yadda yadda. must listen to The Power Of Failing sometime soon. must not let people see me cry in car while listening to The Power Of Failing. beauty hurts more. subtweet], the metaphoric distance between the purity of the envisioned / hoped-for / anticipated and the reality, no matter how alabaster-white, tidy and well-executed that realized reality is. The idea in your head doesn't smell unless the idea is a smell. And even then it doesn't smell. [FUCK. Look for notes to PHIL 103/Bucknell University/Fall 1993] IMPORTANT: Can music fail anyone besides the person/group of persons whose intent it is supposed to express? Steve : Mouth :: "Failure" of philosophical exercise that is Steve : incredibly satisfying music for fans, underpinned by the kind of stark honesty of an internal monologue. Whose desires are more important? Steve : Mouth :: Furman's ideas : Fan's love of Krill's music [Q: ANALOGIES REVERSED? / should probably mention band name earlier in piece]. Intended unintended consequences oooh that's good. Save. Preview. Save. Preview. Save. Save.

Music as trojan horse, honesty as trojans. Honesty as trojan horse, sentiment freed from melodrama/irony as trojans. [Possible prophylactic endorsement deal?] Real emotional [trash] honesty true hallmark of Mr. Furman's lyrics/singing. Maybe not cool to acknowledge. As much as the trio's music is underpinned in part by Furman's deep thoughts about existence, it is not the academic piece of Krill that makes them so compelling, it's the emotion, so unmediated it is extraordinarily powerful, and the instrumentation is part and parcel of that. Music as trojan horse, music as trojans.

Pile story line superfluous, a red herring. Imposes a framework on projections of pure thought. [SUGAR PILL? or simply just a Krill-esque big ups/high five to Rick and posse] Perhaps music is also a red herring? Music as delivery device for honesty-with-self. Know thyself/beast within. Self-knowledge provides parameters [kinda like in literal/visceral/physical sense as well hahahaha], actual true framework, skeleton on which happiness can be hung like (too-)wet plaster. Refer to Furman's remarks in 2013 interview here. Quote. End quote.

More exposition here: The more we listen to Steve the more the narrative recedes, and the more we just hear the line from "Turd" over and over: "If I could just keep a commitment, maybe I'd be happier?" Fucking majestic guitar work in that song, closing section echoes the opening sturm und drang of the album, that interval between the notes in the guitar memory. That line over and over again. Great hook, but also The Big Idea? It's no secret that Krill fronter Jonah uses a song as a framework to weigh and test philosophical ideas. He sort of said as much in our interview with him. And given the particular area he has concerned himself with (self love), those lines just jump out.

Musical self-reference... The guitar in "Turd" echoes the low/high interval (a fifth?) of the pounding, pulsing opening track, a la Slack Motherfucker or Pedro The Lion's "Never Leave A Job Half Done." Pace is slower than opener. "Turd" is subterfuge, in the titular sense. Yeah, the title gets a laugh, but that is mere deflection from Furman's poking with a sharp stick his own (or, sure, his narrator's) inability to commit, to... what? Happiness? Self-love? Contentment. IMPORTANT: EVERY KRILL RECORD WILL FAIL, AT LEAST AS SOON AS RECORD BUTTON IS PUSHED. OR FIRST PLAYBACK? OR FOLDBACK TO HEADPHONES. FUCK. FIND MUSIC RECORDING AND SOUND DESIGN NOTES / WESLEYAN UNIVERSITY, RON KUIVALA (SP?) / FALL 1995

Steve Hears Pile In Malden And Bursts Into Tears will be released by Exploding In Sound Feb. 18 on black-and-white 10" flat vinyl circles with a spiral "groove" cut in both sides; it is also available for sale as a digital download. You can pre-order in either the physical or virtual formats via this link, where you may also purchase some pretty nifty and fashion-forward t-shirts. Krill plays a record release show for the EP at Great Scott in Boston Thursday, after which the trio mounts a five-week U.S. tour with avant pop operation Ava Luna. The tour touts so many dates that reading the list makes us tired. So let's not focus on that. The show Thursday at Great Scott includes sets from the aforementioned Ava Luna, as well as Kal Marks, Bad History Month and Fat Creeps.

Krill: Bandcamp | Facebook | Soundcloud

February 9, 2014

Today's Hotness: M.G. Lederman, The Collected Fictions, The Weaks

M.G. Lederman (detail)

>> Indie rock lifer M.G. Lederman keeps busy playing alongside such Boston notables as the legendary Thalia Zedek (with whom he is presently touring) as well as part of the ensemble No Love, but that didn't keep him from recording in late 2012 a new collection with his trio, a sophomore set titled I'm Ghosts. The collection will finally see the proverbial light of day later this month, but Mr. Lederman first made a name for himself years ago as part of respected turn-of-the-century Boston outfit Victory At Sea. In that trio, Lederman played bass next to the haunting Mona Elliot (the band, among many other things, released a very fine split single with the phenomenal Helms). I'm Ghosts presents a transporting half-hour of music; the surprise of the set is that it flies by so fast, given the deep, dark vibes contained within. The songs are built around Mr. Lederman's work at the piano and his gravelly voice (which now and then reasonably approximates that of Lou Reed, or a suicidal Neil Diamond), and present beery glimpses of relationships run afoul, of tired lives in the city. I'm Ghosts reaches a thrilling crescendo with the bar-room belter "Restaurant," an anthemic tune that repeatedly bends the hook from The Supremes' classic "I Hear A Symphony" to drive a tight and anxious ode about how summer isn't an escape for everyone, but rather something to be escaped from. The tune touts the album's biggest chorus, one that attests to the set's punk heart: "I'm sitting in Mass Ave traffic covered in sweat, after working all day in a restaurant wishing that this summer would end." The album's biggest moment, however, comes at its close, where Lederman delivers the crushing ballad "Union Square." To begin, the song establishes a sedate, dreamy atmosphere with a spare snare cadence, quietly flowing piano and single guitar notes. Verses gently swell, careful to not betray the torpedo coming from below: an explosive, face-stinging coda carrying the realization, "Why'd you go to bed so early? You must have been pretty sick of me." "Union Square" is both a career-defining song and a raw psychic wound, the kind you train your mind to skirt around with hopes it will eventually fade away. Midriff Records will release I'm Ghosts as a digital download Feb. 25; the record is presently streaming via the Midriff blog right here. M.G. Lederman play a release show to celebrate the record Feb. 19 at TT The Bear's Place in Cambridge, Mass., and evening that also includes sets from respected rockers The Rationales, indie pop sensations Reindeer, and Thick Wilde. M.G. Lederman's debut What Ifs And Bad Memories was released in 2010.

>> The Collected Fictions are an exciting young three-piece hailing from Manchester, England, whose fresh-faced indie pop compares quite favorably to the decades-old sounds it emulates, from acts like The Clean, The Pastels and Aztec Camera. The act formed two years ago as a vehicle for the songs of guitarist Paris Thompson, and four of these songs have found a home on a ridiculously listenable self-titled EP that surfaced on Bandcamp late last month. Mr. Thompson shares writing credits on the EP with bassist Daniel McMillan, and the trio is rounded out by drummer by Isaac McInnes, who recorded and mixed the The Collected Fictions EP. "It Don't Matter Much" is the collection's lively opener, which touts a low, thrumming verse that recalls Unrest's fantastic "Yes, She Is My Skinhead Girl;" bright chords and Thompson's wispy vocals dramatically elevate the chorus and alter the secretive tone of the tune. Indeed, Thompson's voice has an instantly relateable quality, drawling words just slightly, occasionally stretching vowels away from the frame of the words that contain them and into another strand of melody, as in the tune "Talk." The closer "Wait" perhaps best showcases Mr. McMillan's agile work on the bass guitar, which certainly recalls the almost lyrical playing of the bassist for legendary Mancunian forebearers The Smiths, Andy Rourke. And here in "Wait" Thompson's pleading may be at its most affecting. The trio's short set is available as a physical CD in a very limited edition of 100 pieces via the same Bandcamp page; an earlier track, "See Through You," was posted to Soundcloud last year but appears to have been sucked back into the cosmos, so completists among you, deep breath, exhale. Or ask around? We are blown away by how good this early effort is from The Collected Fictions, and are very eager to here more from these fellows. Stream the entire EP below, and click through to download.

>> The Internet is not real life, and really we should all be doing something better with our time most of the time. But we are human: we are weak. Which, surprisingly, is not the segue we're going to use to talk about young Philadelphia indie heroes The Weaks. Instead, let's back up to earlier this week and one of the Interpants' many tempests in a teapot, that piece in Noisey about how the Philly punk scene is the best one in America right now. Clicky Clicky has always championed Philly and its underground, since the city is where our executive director once called home; we remember the hype about The Hooters, we remember the hype about The Interpreters, we've seen the hype come and go. But we think, despite the obvious faults of the Noisey piece, the biggest thing it got wrong was omitting The Weaks from its roll-call of prominent contemporary punk acts. Readers here have seen that band name a lot, and hopefully are intimately familiar with at the very least The Weaks' transcendent contribution to last year's Lilys tribute comp. And while there has been a steady stream of new songs from The Weaks for the last two years, the combo has only recently solidified a live lineup and begun playing shows. This week the act issues its first physical product, a masterful set of guitar pop titled The World Is A Terrible Place And I Hate Myself And I Want To Die that showcases the mighty chops of chief songwriter (and former Dangerous Ponies cats) Evan Bernard and Chris Baglivo. From the shimmering chorus of the big strummer "Nietzsche's Harvest Song" to the earnest pop of the undeniable closer "Dunce Pageant," the compact and potent jams grip your ears and don't let go. The six-song collection will be released Tuesday by Lame-O Records as a one-sided 12" vinyl disc, with a screen-printed flipside, in a limited edition of 300 pieces. Deluxe packings of the LP come with handmade hot sauce and an awesome t-shirt, but the best stuff is right there on the record: big melodies, big guitars, ridiculous hooks. The entire shebang is streaming over at Brooklyn Vegan, and while we are loathe to point you over there to a land characteristically overrun by caustic, misogynist and homophobic troll commenters, well, you don't have to read the comments to get all this rock into your life. And you need it. So go get it. Then buy the 12" right here for eight clams. You're welcome.

February 5, 2014

Review: Speedy Ortiz | Real Hair EP

It's hard to believe that fewer than two years have elapsed since the release of Speedy Ortiz's debut single, "Taylor Swift" b/w "Swim Fan." Since its inception, the band has worked its ass off, and as a result it has become one of the biggest successes in contemporary indie rock. Oh, yeah: it also wrote awesome songs. And while we don't pretend to know what drove the decision, it is interesting that, while its terrific and terrifically successful 2013 long-player was recorded with Justin Pizzoferrato, the Northampton, Mass.-based quartet reunited with producer and engineer Paul Q. Kolderie for its newest set of songs, the uniformly thrilling Real Hair EP. Mr. Kolderie was also behind the boards for the aforementioned debut single. His bona fides are well-documented and recitation of same typically includes words like Pixies and Radiohead and Dinosaur and Uncle Tupelo.

Could Speedy Ortiz be hoping to catch a little of Mr. Kolderie's '90s shine to help boost them to some mythical "next level" with Real Hair, which will be released by Carpark next week? Like we said, we don't know -- we're not even sure what "next level" means in the music business anymore. But we do know that Kolderie's recordings (and, specifically, these recordings) sound great. His deep experience was likely reassuring as the foursome experimented with the different sounds and production techniques that make Real Hair a confident step forward for the band. The results speak for themselves: Real Hair in places sounds rounder, fuller and crunchier than last year's long-player Major Arcana [review]. Weird organ peeks out of the corners of the unsettling closer "Shine Theory," and the bass guitar on "Oxygal" is delightfully rubbery. The guitars in the chorus of the undeniable rocker "American Horror" rage like a tsunami. Last month we called that song "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."

The reunion with Mr. Kolderie may not have been the band's only look to the past. Attentive listeners may hear in Real Hair the influence of Pavement's superlative sophomore set Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain. In a curious little bit of serendipity, Ms. Dupuis and her cohorts Mike Falcone, Darl Ferm and Matt Robidoux all recently proffered remarks to MySpace (yeah, really) regarding that particular Pavement record (which was released 20 years ago next week). Of course, if we are going to plot parallels between the discographies of Pavement and Speedy Ortiz, well, Real Hair should be analogous to the Watery, Domestic EP, right? Nonetheless, the dense, melodic thrust of Dupuis and Robidoux's guitars in the chorus of "American Horror" suggest a more aggressive restatement of the final 30 seconds of Pavement's "Elevate Me Later." Similarly, Speedy's "Everything's Bigger" announces itself with a grimy revision of the descending melody to Pavement's biggest commercial moment, "Cut Your Hair," an aural motif that recurs between choppy verses that highlight Dupuis' easy drawl. "When I got my driver's license, I would cruise around listening to Crooked Rain with my windows down," Dupuis told Justin Timberlake's cute retro web site. Vigintennial sonic echoes aside, it's Dupuis' facility with story-telling, her deceptively versatile singing voice, and the interesting sonic interplay between the vocals and guitar melodies that persist as Speedy Ortiz's defining charms, and it is those charms -- and not rank adulation of a bygone band -- that shine brightest on Real Hair. Incidentally, Speedy Ortiz will tour with Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks this spring upon the Mass. act's return from a strand of tour dates in the UK and the obligatory sojourn to the annual South By Southwest confabulation.

Speedy Ortiz plays an all-ages record release show in Cambridge, Mass. this Saturday at Tasty Burger with supporting acts The Channels, Sneeze and Idiot Genes. The evening is also a release show for Sneeze's long-player Wilt; there are additional (and FREE) Real Hair release shows in New York Friday and Monday. For the time being, one can stream all of Real Hair via Pantsfork Adpants right here. But, as Edie Brickell warned lo those many years ago, everything is temporary. When that link dies you can stream the aforementioned "American Horror" and "Everything's Bigger" via the Soundcloud embeds below. There may or may not will be copies of Real Hair availz for salez Saturday night, and the set can be pre-ordered on orange vinyl via Insound here and as a download via the digital music store operated by the company with the $447 billion market capitalization here.

Speedy Ortiz: Interpants | Facebook | Soundcloud

February 1, 2014

Today's Hotness: Screaming Maldini, Burning Alms, Palehound

Screaming Maldini -- Soweto (detail)

>> The curious hints that popped up this past week did little to prepare us for the massive return of Sheffield, England-based ultrapop savants Screaming Maldini, whose new, Afropop-tinged tune "Soweto" is as strong a single as the sextet has ever released. The chorus is so uplifting and potent that it completely absconds with the second half of "Soweto," elevating without pause on the strength of the thumping 7/4 tempo and the jaw-dropping vocal arrangements and harmonies. Singer Gina Walters is at her most formidable and enchanting in the song's final moments, playing off the singing of Maldini mastermind Nick Cox to turn in a performance that tops even her singing on the last great Maldini single, 2012's "Summer Somewhere." The visual promotion of the single, we should note, is rather enticing, suggesting some sort of espionage or archeological theme. While no full-length has been announced, the single art labels "Soweto" as "3/12," which we'd venture means three of 12 of something, yeah? A photo on the Screaming Maldini Facebook appears to be a bill of lading of some sort from "The Maldini Institute," with the subhead "Miscellaneum Of Wonders." Could the latter be the title of a forthcoming collection? We shall keep our fingers crossed. Screaming Maldini is set to embark on a small strand of UK house shows in February. Its self-titled debut LP was issued a year ago by HipHipHip in France and we reviewed it right here. Stream "Soweto," and then stream it again and again, via the Bandcamp embed below.

>> Birmingham, England noise-pop luminaries Burning Alms Friday released to the wilds of the Interzizzles a second taster from its long-awaited debut full-length, In Sequence. The bracing brace of songs, "So Unreal" b/w "The Pastoral," highlight the opposing forces that pull at Burning Alms' songwriting, as "So Unreal" bashes and pops through 150 or so thrilling seconds of Swervedriver-styled guitars and punching percusion, while the acoustic ballad "The Pastoral" embraces its titular adjective, establishing a gentle, waltz-timed reverie with more subdued vocals and quiet dynamics during an even more brief 100 seconds. The tunes -- which the band describes as being part of a two-track EP, despite the fact that there is nothing "extended play" here -- are available as a paid digital download or stream via Bandcamp and Soundcloud. Within and without the context of the band and its related projects (Calories and Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam), "So Unreal" and "The Pastoral" are compelling listening, and make us all the more eager to hear In Sequence. In December we wrote here about "Matadors," the blunt and aggressive first single from the pending collection. No specific release date or other information about In Sequence has been proferred by the band (which, as we've previously reported, consists of John Robert Biggs and Thomas Whitfield with former Sunset Cinema Club guy and recording-engineer-to-the-stars Dom James), although the trio maintains it will be issued in 2014. This Facebook status indicates a release is moving one step closer, as the set is presently being mastered. Watch a video for "So Unreal" right here, and stream or download both tunes via the Bandcamp embed below.

>> We're as surprised as you to find that we haven't yet turned our attention to young indie rock concern Palehound. The act began as the vehicle for the music of one Ellen Kempner, a sorta protégé of Speedy Ortiz's Sadie Dupuis (Kempner = Eminem, Sadie = Dre). For her initial release, Palehound's entirely charming Bent Nail EP issued by Exploding In Sound in October, Ms. Kempner was abetted by the label's de facto in-house production due of Julian Fader and Carlos Hernandez. Palehound's whole deal snowballed all fall, with the addition of three new players (say hello to Mssrs. Lombardi, Kupperberg and Scherer on bass, drums and guitar, respectively) and the blogosphere spheorizing about what made this wonderful little band and songs like "Pet Carrot" and "I Get Clean" tick. Come now this four-piece iteration of the presently Yonkers-based Palehound, who issue via EIS Feb. 25 the Kitchen 7", the band's first recordings as, well, a band. The top side of the platter touts the tune "Holiest," with "Pay No Mind" on the flip. "Holiest," as we blurbed on Facebook, is a swaying gem with a terrific cascading hook that showcases well the new four-piece configuration of the hotly tipped band. Palehound plays a smattering of dates in New York and Philadelphia this month before embarking on their first U.S. tour, during which the 'hound makes the obligatory pilgrimage to Mecca. Sorry, not Mecca, Austin, they'll go to Austin for the annual SXSW music confabulation. We can expect another 7" after the release of Kitchen, at least according to this CMJ interview from November. But let us live not in the future, but in the now, a point in your life in which if you have enough time to read these words, you certainly have the time to click the button on the embed below and stream "Holiest." It's a fine rock song that we believe you will like.