March 31, 2014

Carsick Cars, Young Adults, Ladybones, White + | Middle East Up | 2 April

Carsick Cars, Young Adults, Ladybones, White + | Middle East Upstairs | 2 April

You look like you're just back-and-forth to China all the time. No? Not regularly shelling out $1,200 to hop astride an Air Canada jet for 17 hours en route to Beijing via Toronto for long weekends of rock and roll music? No? Well, even if that were the case, the place to be Wednesday night this week is Cambridge, MA, as Chinese indie rock titans Carsick Cars will perform an extremely rare area show at the Middle East. The act is supporting its tremendous, Sonic Boom- and Hamish Kilgour-produced new full-length 3, which wields infinite jangle and profound motorik vibrations in equal, visceral measure. The rich, technicolor set was released by Maybe Mars at the end of February, and we've embedded a stream of same below, but a warning: 3 will take hold of you. Hotly tipped, trend-shaping "China Wave" trio Carsick Cars rocks from atop a bill that also includes local noise pop heroes Young Adults, Ladybones, and the Carsick Cars side project White +. Wednesday night, China comes to you, and you'd be foolhardy to miss such an opportunity. Foolhardy, madam.

Doubly foolhardy, we'd say, because not only is China's biggest indie rock act performing, but the rumor is that this show will be one of the last two played EVER by Boston noise-punks Young Adults. We don't know what is behind the purported demise of the band, but we do know that fans of the static blasters will kick themselves for not seizing on one of the final opportunities to witness Young Adults arcing toward its distinct and lofty aural nirvana. Last we heard from YA, the trio had recorded a short set of tracks at the recently installed Converse Rubber Tracks jawn late last year. We're very hopeful that music sees the light of day before the band checks out. For now, all of the threesome's music is now available for free at their Bandcamp yert right here, and we've taken the liberty of embedding the face-scraping EP Born In '91 below. Under that you will find streams of tunes from the other acts on the bill, which we certainly recommend to your attention. Full details regarding Wednesday's show are discernible via this Facebook event page, and as of press time it appears there are still tickets available, which is sort of insane if you think about it, but maybe you weren't thinking about it, which is one reason why we thought we'd best think about it for you. Now go get 'em, tiger.

March 27, 2014

Boston: Here's Your Weekend, By Dillon, You're Welcome

Boston: Your Weekend, By Dillon, You're Welcome

After perusing the Internerds, weighing intently various social media invites/life surveillance checkpoints and surveying the websites of the many reputable rock clubs about town, we have determined that -- rain notwithstanding -- this weekend will truly be one of the greats. Yes, there have been many good weekends of rock music thus far in 2014. But this coming weekend, good people of Boston, this weekend has a seemingly endless slate of hot-shit rock shows lined up across the various stages and neighborhoods that make up our blessed little scene. One may be so bold as to call this weekend a real humdinger, although you didn’t hear it from us. Wait, scratch that, do tell people, we like the attention. And so we decree that this weekend shall be known as The First Great Rock Weekend Of 2014. To support our argument, below you will find compiled into a tidy list of all the cool, hip, and perhaps even fun goings on around town this weekend. Below that are selected new rock sounds of the season from the hitmakers of the day. New, elegiac grunge from Boston destroyers Pile? Check. Dark, thumping jangle from The Hub's Fat Creeps? Check again. New fuzz-and-reverb sandwich from Philly nugaze combo Creepoid's forthcoming Record Store Day 12"? That's an affirmative. Is our list comprehensive? Absolutely not. Should you go to these shows? Why, yes, yes you should. -- Dillon Riley

Saturday, March 29

Applejam Productions Presents: Ovlov, Disco Doom (Switzerland!), LVL UP and Indian Twin @ The Crane Room (Tufts University) 8:30PM / FREE >> Facebook Event

Creepoid, Bong Wish, Reformer and Headmaster @ Lilypad 9 PM >> Facebook Event

Sunday, March 30

Pile "Special Snowflakes" 7" Release Show @ Great Scott with Ovlov, Disco Doom (Seriously, Switzerland!!), LVL UP, Krill and, of course, the almighty Pile 8:30PM / $10 >> Facebook Event

...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead performing Source Tags & Codes in full @ TT The Bear's with La Femme, Midnight Masses 8:30PM / $20 >> Facebook Event

Eye Design Presents: Dead Rider, Guerilla Toss, Horsehands and Bunnies @ Middlesex Lounge 9PM / $8 >> Facebook Event

Fast Apple Presents: Fat Creeps, Tacocat, Miami Doritos and Dylan Ewan @ The Womb (Ask A Punk!) 7PM / $5 Suggested Donation >> Facebook Event
As we stated above, the Creepoid tune is from the act's planned Record Store Day release, which means you need to drop into a with-it retailer April 19 to score it. Fat Creeps' "Comes In Loudly" is from a full-length expected to be released by Portland, Ore.'s Gnar Tapes on a cassette (surprise, surprise) later this spring. Pile's absolute DEVESTATOR "Special Snowflakes" b/w "Mama's Lipstick" will be on sale at Great Scott Sunday, we reckon, but you may also pre-order it using your Interpants right here. In the meantime, embrace with your ears the secular rockulidge:

March 25, 2014

Review: Ringo Deathstarr | God's Dream

Having attained the contemporary American noise-pop throne via cracking songwriting, fully-realized recordings and years of DIY hustle that has seen the band touring far from its native Austin, Ringo Deathstarr's latest long-player finds the trio both firmly in control and delightfully at ease. The act's resplendent new EP God's Dream stretches out the tempos and melodies into the luxurious high of an after party, making the short collection an envelope-pushing victory lap that both sets and confounds expectations for the band's next long-player.

Opener and highlight "Bong Load" sets the stage from the shoegazing act's Olympus Mons. Druggy, woozy, even bratty (given guitarist Elliot Frazier's punky opening vocal turn), the song neatly restates the strengths Ringo Deathstarr has perfected on its prior full lengths and EPs. There's the vocal trade-offs of the lead melody between Mr. Frazier and bassist Alex Gehring, the live-yet-synthetic feel of the shuffling drums, and a potent instrumental bliss-out closer. In a bit of tasteful indulgence, Frazier introduces a relatively new tool in his arsenal, the conventional guitar solo, just past the one-minute mark. There a harmonized, slow-burning lead guitar temporarily subsumes the track, like the legendary J Mascis at his unbridled best. The lyrics and sleaze of "Bong Load" also remind the listener of Ringo Deathstarr's sense of humor, a quality unfortunately absent from a lot of the music made by the threesome's sonic contemporaries.

"Chainsaw Morning" (which includes guitar contributions from current Smashing Pumpkins guitarist Jeff Schroeder) and "Flower Power" also shine brightly in the new set. Each song evidences a shift away from (our much loved) 2012 album Mauve and its post-punk whiplash and distorted bass, and toward the territory of early '90s Britpop and grunge. The former tune leaps from a metal guitar section (that could have been played by Soundgarden) to a verse and chorus that carry the big-studio brightness and neo-psych qualities of late-period The Jesus and Mary Chain or even earlier Spiritualized. As evidence of Ringo Deathstarr's near-euphoric freedom to collaborate and experiment, the band even applies a Genesis-styled flanged drum break ahead of the final chorus. "Flower Power," which features guest guitar work from Swervedriver's Adam Franklin, continues in the vein of Seattle-styled riffage and thrash that comes as a surprise when considered in the context the classical shoegaze purism of the Deathstarr's 2009 full length Colour Trip.

Over the course of God's Dream, the songs investigate slightly different sonic directions, from sillier, slap-dash punk to the odd, quiet R&B confessional of "Shut Your Eyes." The takeaway is that the state of the Ringo Deathstarr union is presently so strong that it can playfully explore, while retaining its characteristic, effects-laden approach, impressive command of the studio, and pop songcraft. It also means that fans can expect everything and anything from a hopefully inevitable LP 3. God's Dream is available now from Neon Sigh, Noyes and Japan's Vinyl Junkie Records. The first pressing of the vinyl was in an edition of 500 flat, grooved circles; the first 100 mail orders of same were fulfilled with blended mint green/hot pink vinyl, according to Noyes, and those are apparently already sold out. The remaining 400 LPs were to be sold by the band on its recent 29-date US tour; additional pressings are already contemplated, and based on information at the Neon Sigh Bandcamp, those are apparently on transparent red vinyl and transparent coke-bottle green vinyl. Collect them all! Confuse your family. -- Edward Charlton

Ringo Deathstarr: Facebook | Internerds | Twonger

March 23, 2014

Today's Hotness: Mooncreatures, Tungs, Tapes & Tubes

Mooncreatures -- Gaslamps (detail)

>> Well, it didn't come as soon as we had hoped when we wrote about the band's first EP here two years ago, but Mooncreatures are indeed back, with another cinematic and evocative collection of heavily vibing ambient dreampop. The London-based duo's new, hermetic EP Gaslamps feels even more of a piece than its remarkable debut, as its six gentle songs steadily swell and breathe into one another. Band founder Rhys Griffiths describes the set as "a northern European night time record," but we'd put a finer point on it: the proceedings would seem to be aural travelogue of sorts, or so the song titles suggest. Opener "Cityscape, Hauptbahnhof" is all gauzy shimmer, as much an array of slowly shifting thoughts as it is cycle of pretty, waivering chords. The reverie is briefly suspended by a stretching tone that suggests a far off police siren, and the listener is suddenly transported to the second composition, the more intently structured dreamer "Tram To Brockenheim." The second half of the EP contains the sort of haunting half-dreams that hang in your consciousness for mere moments upon waking; these come in the form of the 44 second sketch "View From" and its two-minute successor "Expedition To." Gaslamps was released as a digital download March 14 via French label Beko, a concern that has also released music by the previously Hotnessed The Bilinda Butchers, Drug Rug and others. Stream the entire set via the Bandcamp embed below, and click through to purchase the full EP.

>> Earlier in 2014 we deemed Heavy Midgets' superlative LP Super Kings the first excellent surprise of the year, and now the label responsible for it, Richmond's Bad Grrrl Records, extends its streak of hot releases from the area's best DIY guitar bands with a new long player from reliable scene mainstays Tungs. Tungs' weirdly wonderful Not For Grandma finds the trio further pushing sonic boundaries and contorting its influences, as it has since debuting in 2010 with a set called Sleeping. More so than any of its prior collections, Not For Grandma catalogs the band's whims like a mixtape. Surprises abound -- we recommend going straight to the deep cut "Eggsack" and sticking around for the completely demented saxophone that abducts the song in its final 90 seconds -- as each song seems to almost inhabit a separate universe. Single "Roses" is an aggressive, minute-long punker in the vein of early '80s Black Flag, with plenty of palm muting, echoey vocals and a slick delay-time spin in the final seconds as the tune collapses. The threesome shifts gears hard for the following track "Geebus," whose clean guitar chops and falsetto vocals mark it as an R&B-tinged guitar-pop jam until thick distortion overtakes the tune in the chorus. Most impressive is the four-song stretch from "Bone Dry" to the doomy (but strangely gleeful) "Flesh Light," which posits an alternate reality in which punky, Bleach-era Nirvana and the darker, bent string, drop-D-tuned Pac. Northwest grunge were never watered down following Cobain & Co.'s rise to superstardom. All four of the songs revel in the classic fuzz of alternative America's '80s heyday, and the serrated and slack nature (check the goofy closer "Me Fucking You") of it all is as cathartic as it is oddly comforting. Not For Grandma is available from Bad Grrrl now on CD, tape and vinyl via this Bandcamp page. Stream all of the long-player via the embed below.

>> Tapes & Tubes' music is meditative and sturdily constructed, and it has a timeless quality that has a lot to do with great songcraft and probably a bit to do with the manner in which it is recorded, too. The act is the project of Olympia, Wash.-'s Austin Potter, a home recording and analog sound enthusiast whose love for the dreamier and more sedate side of Yo La Tengo (or, by extension, greatly underrated Brits It Hugs Back) is readily ascertained by listening to the recent collection Ebb Tide. Throughout the contemplative, 10-song set boxy, minimal drumming, organ and Mr. Potter's quiet vocals routinely work in tandem to create vividly murky moods and a sense of broad possibility. The collection offers affirmative nods in the direction of Lou Reed and Bob Dylan, in the form of covers of "I Remember You" and "God Knows," respectively. The former is a relatively deep cut from Reed's 1986 set Mistrial, which is widely considered to be, well, the album before the one that had everyone proclaiming (rightfully) that Lou Reed was "back" (that would be the 1989 opus New York). The original has its charms, but Potter's reinvention of "I Remember You" succeeds via its understated restraint: Reed's bouncy guitar is kept, but the awful canned rhythm tracks scrapped. The new interpretation gives a sense of the reasoned smarts Potter brings to a song, and those smarts are evidenced throughout Ebb Tide. "Beginning" echoes to a certain extent Yo La Tengo's masterful "On Our Way To Fall," but Potter's whispered vocals, almost impossibly, feel even more intimate than those of Ira Kaplan. The whirling drone of organ on Tapes & Tubes' "Haunted House" may be a little too perfect, but it goes far toward establishing a sheets-of-rain-down-the-windshield vibe as well as the tune's steady groove. Grooves aren't always a necessity, however: the shimmering ambient guitar exploration "Solo Guitar Two" is pretty and enchanting, and indicates that the music of Tapes & Tubes may be increasingly potent the more minimal its approach. Ebb Tide was self-released last month and is available as a digital download via Bandcamp; plans are in place for a limited-edition cassette release as well. An even newer short collection titled Amplifer is already on offer right here.

March 20, 2014

Review: Perfect Pussy | Say Yes To Love

"We're Perfect Pussy, and we're terrified." So spake Meredith Graves, fronter of Perfect Pussy, just as the hotly tipped act lurched into "Big Stars," a standout track from its debut long-player Say Yes To Love last week at NPR's SXSW showcase. The statement was delivered, perhaps, with a knowing wink; fear was likely the furthest thing from her mind. Here was a band that six months ago couldn't beg their way onto a hometown bill, now opening up for the likes of Damon Albarn and St. Vincent. Just today it was announced that the band would perform on the final day of the Pitchfork Music Festival this July.

Here's the thing, though: with the release Tuesday of Say Yes To Love, the band has clearly grown into its success.

The debut from the seemingly fearless Syracuse noise-punk quintet operates largely within the same sonic framework as its furious, legend-making four-song demo tape I Have Lost All Desire For Feeling -- all crushing distortion and wide-eyed, mantra-like screams from frontwoman Ms. Graves -- but the new set just feels bigger. Sure, some of that je ne sais quoi may be reflected attention received lately from within the music blogosphere. But one gets the feeling with Perfect Pussy that its boiling Say Yes To Love was going to be a massive, bold statement whether 10 people or 10,000 or even 100,000 people heard it [the preview track "Interference Fits" has been streamed about 70,000 times at Soundcloud to date. -- Ed.]. The Syracuse hardcore scene from which the band emerged is now just a jumping-off point; on its new collection Perfect Pussy transcend straight-ahead punk and grasp a sound and a vision far more interesting.

Interviews with keyboard player/in-house producer and engineer Shaun Sutkus reveal that the band's signature, headphone crackling distortion, which cakes the band's instruments and vocals on Say Yes To Love, is the final ingredient added during a Perfect Pussy recording session. Only after first obtaining clean drum and guitar tracks do Mr. Sutkus and Graves streak thick, visceral noise all over the mix. In an era where the lines between mainstream pop and indie rock are increasingly blurred, there's something refreshing about a band purposely marring perfectly good pop songs in an effort to achieve an ideal sonic aesthetic.

So, the name. On the surface, choosing it seems as subversive as the group's searing, noise-slathered sound, perhaps an immature headline-grabbing move from a careerist group bent on leveraging the sexual politics of punk to sell records. Well, A., it's not, and B., this record probably won't sell that many copies (Captured Tracks has Mac Demarco and DIIV on the roster for that). In point of fact, the name-too-explicit-to-be-printed-in-uptight-publications is the product of the extreme self-consciousness Graves has grappled with throughout her life, she has said in interviews. Call the moniker, instead, an act of defiant self-definition, even social protest: Graves finding strength within perceived weakness concerning her body image.

Another common Perfect Pussy talking point is the band's decision to bury the vocals low in the mix. Graves has a well-conceived and entirely legitimate retort for critics of the sound: she's a loudmouth, always has been, always will be. And so the genesis of Perfect Pussy's scorched-earth sound has roots in Graves' desire to speak out, even if no one will -- or can, given all the noise -- listen. The band's audible meshing of music and lyrics spurs a practice largely faded from the post-Napster music-listening landscape: following along the lyric sheet while listening, as one did, for example, listening to New York Hardcore records in the '80s and '90s (incidentally, Perfect Pussy's bio namechecks mighty NYHC legends Cro-Mags). Perfect Pussy is at its most exciting when Graves shouts loud enough to be heard over the din, as with her titular query "Since when do we say yes to love?" between the sludgy guitar riffs in the aforementioned "Interference Fits." Or the TMI declarations that punctuate late album highlight "Dig": "I WANT TO FUCK MYSELF / I WANT TO EAT MYSELF."

Behind the fury and emotional turmoil of these tracks lies a band truly enamored with sound. The fivesome smartly zags instead of zigs with its choice of ending the EP. The ambient noise collage "VII" is the slow roll back to start on a roller coaster: an easy sway back down to Earth following an intense fifteen minute ride. Say Yes To Love is out now via venerable Brooklyn label Captured Tracks and can be ordered on LP, CD or cassette right here; download codes provide access to bonus live recordings, which we'll be eager to hear. The band is currently on tour and is slated to be in town April 24 at the Middle East with Canadian experimental collective Yamantanka/Sonic Titan. Full tour dates and links for the Perfect Pussy's debut EP can be found here. -- Dillon Riley

Perfect Pussy: Bandcamp | Tumblr

March 18, 2014

In Bloom: Lilys Poised For Massive Resurgence; New Music, Reissues And Live Performances Planned

In Bloom: Lilys Poised For Massive Resurgence; New Music, Reissues And Live Performances Planned

We suppose all the recent activity should have been enough of a clue that the proverbial gears are purposefully turning in the camp of legendary indie rock act Lilys, but even so the scope of the information brought to light by an interview published by Chickfactor yesterday is breathtaking. Indeed, we don't know which exciting information to lead with: that mastermind Kurt Heasley is resolved to substantially increase the number of all-too-rare live performances; that a new release is almost a certainty (although it may or may not be released under the moniker Lilys); that there are definite (but not yet finalized) plans to reissue three Lilys records over the next year-and-a-half.

While all of the above has felt inevitable for some time, in some ways it almost seems too good to be true. "I do see playing live a lot more over the next few years," Heasley tells Chickfactor. He says he loves playing the mod-ish, Monkees-influenced music of his mid-period releases Better Can't Make Your Life Better and Services For The Soon To Be Departed, and that he hopes to find the right line-up in order to perform some of that music live, in order to "materializ[e] the mythology."

With regards to the reissues of old recordings, Heasley confirms what has long been thought, that he intends to reissue Lilys' legendary, 1991 full-length debut In The Presence Of Nothing. Heasley states that not only does he hope to reissue that album (and hopefully the related b-sides? and some rarities? please!), but also two others. We assume, but do not know for certain that, these two others must be the towering EP A Brief History Of Amazing Letdowns and the mind-blowing LP Eccsame The Photon Band, which were released by the now-long-defunct Spin-Art Records. We had been told years ago by someone that the dissolution of Spin-Art had thrown the rights to those latter two recordings into a black hole, although that might have been speculative chatter. Nevertheless, and whatever they may be, three reissues are hopefully a dead certainty. "I am currently negotiating the reissues of 3 records over the next year and a half with Mike Schulman of Slumberland Records. He just sent me some old DAT recordings today that I am looking forward to hearing. We've also talked about recording a new project."

Wait, what was that last thing? We've been aware that Heasley has been steadily working on new music and recording, but in the interview he confirms that and notes his recent work with Nighttime Gallagher (a/k/a former Apollo Sunshine guy Jesse Gallagher), who also abets the present live iteration of Lilys. Heasley's new ideas sound tantalizingly massive, and they may be the most exciting of all of the news broken by Chickfactor. Calling the new music "solar pop," Heasley states, "Whatever it is, it's not just about the music anymore, music is visual and physical, it's a whole show and I have a lot of ideas for the next project that include a big multi-media environment." Amazing.

Lilys played a fairly surprise, barely announced show Sunday night in Cambridge, Mass., in preparation for a performance this coming Thursday at Chickfactor 22 at the Bell House in Brooklyn. According to the Chickfactor site, Lilys are expected to perform some new songs, which like WOAH. As of press time, passes for the show (actually both nights of the two-night event) were still available. Stream some Lilys music below, and get excited for all that is to come. And, hey, did you know we curated this awesome Lilys tribute comp featuring songs recorded by Speedy Ortiz, Lubec, Arc In Round, White Laces, Infinity Girl, Soccer Mom, Cuffs and many more? Cause we did. My, that was a time.

Lilys: Facebook

March 16, 2014

Regolith A1E3: Reuben Bettsak Presents Emerald Comets' Inside Dream Room

Regolith A1E3: Reuben Bettsak Presents Emerald Comets' Inside Dream Room

What you did in the last 30 days: watched "True Detective;" posted several status updates about "True Detective;" feigned interest in international sport and/or affairs; listlessly commuted to that thing you hate; re-committed yourself to Cheez Doodles; listened to that St. Vincent record a bunch; laundry. What Reuben Bettsak did in the last 30 days: his band Guillermo Sexo was selected to perform on the first night of this year's 35th anniversary iteration of Boston's venerable Rock 'n' Roll Rumble; he wrote and recorded 15 songs; caught a cold -- wait, wait, what was that last thing? Yeah, while you were doing whatever, Mr. Bettsak was creating an alternate reality in a spare bedroom, from which he wrote an entire new record. He is ascribing the new set, titled Inside Dream Room, to his Emerald Comets project; the album is the product of his 30 days of work under the auspices of Clicky Clicky's new Regolith series. It's a spectral, sedate, otherworldy collection, one we've streamed a half-dozen times already, as it seems particularly complementary to a Sunday. It sounds like his work, of course, but it also sounds like post-Barrett, pre-Dark Side Floyd, The Album Leaf and a number of other things. Read Reuben's thoughts about the set and the creation thereof below, where you can also hear the record, which, of course, we are thrilled to share with you. Dig all the way to the bottom, and you just might find some clues about the identity of the next Regolith artist-in-his-or-her-own-residence, too. Get into it.
Clicky Clicky Music Blog: How did it go? Do you consider the results a personal success? A failure?

Reuben Bettsak: I'm very happy with the results! I was able to create a lot of songs that I really dig, and these songs created an album. I didn't know that would be the case when I started Regolith. I do think these songs work together both musically, and lyrically. Another great bonus was delving into some sounds and recording techniques that are new for me. For example, I used a guitar slide a bunch, and learned how to play better with a slide... and there's the space blues sort of thing happening on a lot of the tracks.

CC: What were the biggest challenges and frustrations?

RB: The 30-day time limit is tricky because it's not like I had 30 full days of recording time. I realistically recorded material in maybe 15 of the 30 days, and since I have a full time job, bands and life stuff, I was recording in two-hour periods here and there... It didn't prevent me from creating songs, but spending more time on mixing would have been cool.

Another challenge, at first, was figuring out what the songs would be like... I went into this with a completely open slate. I didn't bring any old riffs into it. I rarely have a problem writing songs, but I was recording in our very plain guest bedroom, and it wasn't very inspiring. This is why I drew inspiration from an idea of being inside a dream room. I pretended to be in a supernatural room, in a dream world of sorts. I knew I wanted the stuff to be somewhat different than other songs I've done... Luckily, the music and the lyrics just occurred in a very natural manner. It's one of the most meditative writing experiences I've ever had.

The other challenge was that halfway through the project, I got a bad cold. On those songs, I had to put a lot of effects on my voice to get through it. I'd keep pushing my voice, although I was losing it. But that was only for like three of the songs, and kinda gives some of those songs an intimate vibe.

CC: How were you able to work around these challenges?

RB: Something about this process really allowed me to delve into subjects and symbols that appear on various songs. I didn't intend to do a concept album, but these songs are tied together, and that really helped with the process of creating the album. I totally agree with the concept that creating art/music is therapeutic, and this process was very much like that... being in an isolated dream room.

CC: Did you find that your approach to writing and recording for this project changed over the course of the 30 days, or did you begin by finding an approach that worked (time-wise), and apply that to every idea thereafter?

RB: Good question... In regards to writing, it was always like "lay a guitar or drum machine," and build from there. I totally have to go back and re-learn these songs because I literally played the riffs or parts once when recording. So the writing approach stayed the same in that regard, but I did realize after a few songs that laying down a drum machine pattern made things way more tight. I guess I could have done a click track for the songs I started with guitar, but I didn't. Repetition and short song structures are definitely your friend when doing this type of project.

CC: What song do you think came out the best?

RB: Recording-wise, I think "Collapse Against the Sound" is one of the best-sounding songs. My favorite songs are probably "Unsleeping Eye," "Stolen Kisses," "Revolutionary Earthworms" and "Lost In Our Place."

CC: What song(s) do you wish you'd had more time to work on? Do you see yourself re-doing any songs in the future, in any of your bands?

RB: "Dreams of Oblivion" has so much potential. I do like this version, but some of the more catchy punkish songs like "Dreams of Oblivion" and "Manic Dreams" would be ideal with real drums. I'm really digging on the vibe of this album and the songs. These songs would not have been created without this process, and I'm so happy that they now exist. I also LOVE the lo-fi vibe.

For sure a lot these songs will be part of the Guillermo Sexo or Emerald Comets repertoire in the near future. I'm actually toying with the idea of having Guillermo Sexo re-imagine the album by recording it in a studio. I think there would be some other songs, or maybe it would be shorter, plus Noell would sing some of the stuff. Who knows if this will happen, but either way, songs like "Stolen Kisses (Visit the Archives)," "Wide Awake in Someone Else's Universe," and a few others would also sound cool if re-imagined by a band in a studio.

CC: We saw you mention the possibility of playing some of these new songs live soon. When and where are you going to be playing?

RB: Yeah! I'm playing an Emerald Comets solo show on March 26th at O'Brien's, and will play a couple of the songs from Inside Dream Room for sure. I just have to re-learn how to play them, and figure out how to perform them live.

CC: Are there any songs you did for this project that you couldn't re-create live?

RB: "Paper Tiger" and "Lost Pieces" would be nearly impossible. Some of the others would be doable as a full band with more than one guitar. Doing the songs "Inside Dream Room," "Bittersweet," or "Collapse Against the Sound" solo would be tough.

CC: If there was one person or piece of equipment you could have brought in for the project, who or what would that have been?

RB: Real drums would have been cool. Also, having a bass player like Bo (Barringer, of Future Carnivores) or Elliott would have been cool. I almost borrowed a bass and used it on some of the songs. It could have been cool, but given the time limit, I went without bass. I did manage to get some decent bass-type parts on my guitar or on the Nord lead keyboard.

CC: Did you learn anything about how you write and record music? What specific or quantifiable lesson, if any, did you learn that will help you in the future?

RB: I'm definitely getting better at recording, and the best thing is being able to get sounds that you imagine in your head into the recordings. I've always loved working quickly, and on the fly, but this definitely re-affirmed that working quickly without over-thinking or overanalyzing can yield some very rewarding results, and possibly some of the best songs written are written in this manner.

CC: If you could travel into the future and speak with the next Regolith participant, what one piece of advice would you give them?

RB: 1. Plan how you will record the songs, but do not worry or think about what you will be writing, or what it will sound like.
2. Short songs and repetition are your friends.
3. Make a decision ahead of time. Recording precision vs. quality of "song crafting," and the amount of material you want to produce. There has to be some sacrifice there.
4. Experimenting can be very rewarding.
5. Trying new things, like new ways of singing, or using a guitar slide, or something you don't usually use, can also be rewarding. I approached it as if it was a completely different band.
6. Have fun!

Thanks so much L. Tiburon and Jay and Clicky Clicky for inviting me to do this. It has been such a rewarding experience.
And there you have it, folks, Regolith Artist 1, Reuben Bettsak, is in the can. Stream all of the new music via the embed below, or click here to visit the brand new Clicky Clicky Music Bandcamp to stream the whole kaboodle there. Bookmark that page, too, because that is where we'll be posting all future Regolith music from here on out. Speaking of which, how about three clues as to the identity of the next Regolith artist-in-residence? 1. 2. 3. You'll be hearing more about that very soon. -- L. Tiburon Pacifico

Related Coverage:
Regolith A1E2: Reuben Bettsak Writing Songs Under The Gun
Regolith A1E1: Reuben Bettsak Is A Songwriter
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

March 14, 2014

Today's Hotness: Kindling, Tyrannosaurus Dead, Feral Jenny

Kindling -- Spare Room (detail)

>> Sepia-toned Velocity Girl dreams and young women in tall Doc Martens, that's what an excellent new collection of songs from upstart Western Mass.-based combo Kindling makes us think of. Their set, titled Spare Room, presently has nine songs, but a Facebook status from the band a few weeks ago indicates the universe of songs will grow as the band continues writing and recording (or will once the band gets a new vocal mic, dang). In its current iteration as of press time, Spare Room comprises nine songs including a cover of Wire's "The 15th." Spare Room is filled with big fuzzy guitar strummers and subdued vocals that swim just beneath the surface of the duo's controlled cacaphony. "Escapism" touts a pop bounce and bright lead guitar line that makes it perhaps the Kindling tune most analogous to the output of the aforementioned, Maryland-bred indie rock legends. Kindling's two-person configuration likely sets them up for comparisons to contemporary UK heroes (and pairs) Playlounge and Nai Harvest, as well, but that is certainly fine company to be in, non? Gretchen and Stephen, Kindling's surnameless (for now anyway, these things eventually always sort themselves out...) principles, certainly don't struggle to give their recordings a full sound, with dense guitars, cracking snares and sizzling cymbals filling the stereo field like so much fireworks and cotton candy. The highlight of Spare Room is also the pair's loudest and dreamiest number, "Became." Here overdriven guitar compresses into a vast cloud from which Gretchen and Stephen's vocals gently whirl around each other in a head-nodding, pretty chorus accented by alternating shaker and cymbal crashes; it's a perfect song. Kindling only just created the aforementioned Facebook page for itself late last month, so we're assuming the duo is quite new. Given the great music they've written so far, we are very eager to hear what comes next. Stream all of Spare Room via the Bandcamp embed below; the music is also on offer as a paywhutchalike download here, or, if you are lucky enough to run into the band, there is photographic evidence of some CDs or CD-Rs, too.

>> London-based Oddbox Records disclosed recently that the delightful Brighton quintet Tyrannosaurus Dead is planning to record a debut full-length with Rory Atwell that will hopefully be released before the year is out. Based on this Facebook status from last week, it sounds as if tracking starts at the end of the month. To set the stage for what will surely be a bracing set of noise-pop, Oddbox has gathered up all of T-Dead's various recordings to date, including the Pure//Apart 12" EP we wrote about here last year, for a CD anthology titled, quite obviously, Greatest Hits. The CD also contains the band's self-titled EP, the Lemonade EP, a track from a Reeks Of Effort cassette compilation called GUTS, and the 7" single "Bed Dread" b/w "Oyster Boy You're A Blast" issued by San Diego's Bleeding Gold Records last July. In all, Greatest Hits touts 16 tracks, and it is the first time any of them have been released on CD, which means Tyrannsaurus Dead is uniquely positioned to capitalize on the inevitable comeback of CDs, once all the hipsters get sick of vinyl again... lulz. We're expecting big things from the planned new long-player, and hope that the sort of success that has met peer groups Joanna Gruesome and Playlounge is just around the corner for T-Dead. While we all wait for the end of the year to get here, listen in to the brilliant tracks "Buried In The Ground" and "1992" via the embed below. Each tune touts big guitars, big melodies and smart vocal interplay, with affecting lyrics of longing, youthful confusion and stunted ambition. The chorus of the blistering rocker "1992" repeatedly advises "you should lower your expectations," before pleading "can I always dream of you?" It's classic stuff. Greatest Hits is available now for £7 via the Odd Box Bandcamp page.

>> The snappy tunes of Boston-based lo-fi concern Feral Jenny never quite emerge from beneath a blanket of gentle fuzz -- perhaps even tape hiss, do the kids use the tape machines anymore, we wonder? -- but that doesn't in any way obscure or detract from the appealing character and able songcraft found on its latest collection. Feral Jenny is the nom de rock of Jenny Mudarri, and her short set Bedrooms was recorded in her childhood bedroom. It's got a homespun sound, to be sure, and calling the set anything besides a demo might be an overstatement, but there are great songs here. Underneath the scuzz and of-the-moment, surf-styled leads, there's an urgent energy that will easily translate to the stage once Ms. Mudarri gets Feral Jenny out of the bedroom. The rough edges belie the workings of a mind that seems to appreciate tidy organization: vocal layers and harmonies are neatly applied, guitar reverbs are weighed and dialed thoughtfully -- the compositional chops are all there. Its also not hard to hear the youthful energy of, say, Potty Mouth, or the introspective scab-picking of Manors in these six songs. Opener "Say The Word" blasts off with a Wyld Stallyns-esque guitar flourish and then locks into an uptempo frug of garagey chords, over which Mudarri elongates vowels and stacks vocal melodies. She aims to put a band together in Boston, but at present Mudarri is concentrating on figuring out how she can perform this new material herself without sacrificing its layers and harmonies. An earlier collection of Feral Jenny songs from 2012 titled Bowie, Too is even lower-fi, but possibly even more charming, so we recommend you stroll over here and have a listen. Bedrooms was issued at the beginning of March and you can listen to the whole deal via the Bandcamp embed below. Mudarri previously fronted the Burlington, VT pop-punk act Nancy.

March 11, 2014

Today's Hotness: Walrus, Red Sea, Wildhoney

Walrus (detail)

>> If the allegedly impending spring has you in the mood for some Syd Barrett-inspired psych pop, well, you are not alone. Enter Walrus, a sextet based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, led by brothers Justin and Jordan Murphy. The act's dazzling and impressively realized new EP Glam Returns highlights the band's modern, compact and sunny take on the style. Across four songs simple chords, richly delayed vocals and burbling organ unravel to reveal bright, quirky songwriting. Standout track "Bulash" is buttressed by whooshing synths and circularly applied tremolo guitars that imbue the verses with a bouncy, almost tropical feel. The hazy vocals recall those of popular beat group Tame Impala. The most thrilling section of the song arrives at the tail end of its first minute, when a shouted, echoing blast of vocals and guitar announces the chorus. The choppy guitars here elevate the energy from that of a lysergic psychedelic fever dream to more mod-leaning aggression; it jolts the listener from the cozy bed of effects defining each instrument. Walrus draws heavily on powerful strains of our collective psych past, and on all four cuts on Glam Returns the band's enthusiasm and love for the style is both evident and contagious. Glam Returns was issued digitally via Bandcamp last month, and it will apparently be released on cassette via Out of Sound and Poncho Records March 27, in time for Walrus' planned jaunt out of town to destinations including Fredericton, Ottawa and Montreal. The EP, according to a recent interview, contains older material that the band doesn't perform live much these days, and Walrus hopes to have a full length out later this year. In the meantime, dig in to Glam Returns via the Bandcamp embed below. -- Edward Charlton

>> "We love to sound as one would love to food." That's the opening line of the Bandcamp bio for Atlanta's Red Sea; theirs is some of the best music (food?) this reviewer has encountered so far in 2014. The quartet's brilliant recent EP, Yardsticks For Human Intelligence, is presently available as a free download, and it is an art rock tour de force. Brainy, knotty, and alluringly catchy, this is the kind of stuff one would play for someone who claims they are "bored with music" (though really, why would you hang out with an asshole like that? -- Ed.). It's that good. This four-song selection follows up on a similarly sequenced EP from 2010, and, interestingly, these tunes appear to have been recorded in 2012. While that may make one wonder about the present state of Red Sea (keep your blouse on, they just played a hometown show last week), it also adds to the mystery from these compositional mavericks. The band just has so much on offer. Opener "Tandem Style" menaces with almost taunting vocal work and jumbled rhythms, which are interrupted by high-pitched slashes across the bridge of the guitar. Very quickly one senses that these guys are operating within their own, singular sound world, one in which it's normal for a singer to fluctuate from evoking Nico to Kermit the Frog to an opera singer within the span of a verse, one in which any of the more aggro-avant fret work of Thurston Moore is fair game for the plundering. Highlight "Grapes" cascades through mysterious section after mysterious section over the course of six minutes. Despite hard stops, one-offs and dramatic arpeggios, the piece never loses inertia; one particularly memorable bridge drops in at the two-minute mark. A generously textured noise section closes the tune out with exotic pedal work. The balance of the EP, comprised of the numbers "Down With The Crown" and "Vacant Ring," features more shifting, schizophrenic earworms. The steady, cool strum of the guitar work, despite the erratic changes, calls to mind Women and their prickly, post-punk masterpiece Public Strain. Indeed, at times, Yardsticks For Human Intelligence even feels like a possible extension of that band's legacy in an instrumental sense. Red Seas' EP offers an arresting look at a very compelling young band, and we recommend you listen very closely to what it has to offer. Stream Yardsticks For Human Intelligence via the Bandcamp embed below, and click through to download the tunes. -- Edward Charlton

>> We've been hearing about Wildhoney through the dream-pop grapevine over the last year, and the band's hotly anticipated 7" EP, Seventeen Forever, proves the hype is warranted. The Baltimore, MD-based shoegaze concern are now previewing the quasi-title track from that upcoming slab of vinyl, which arrives on D.C.-based Photobooth Records April 20, and, man, is this purist heaven. As on the act's previous disc -- recorded by Roomrunner bassist Dan Frome -- Wildhoney channels the best late-80's shoegaze and post-punk and synthesizes it into a fresh, professional 2014 model. "Seventeen" opens with some reverb-saturated surf guitar before a hip-hop drum break erupts, a smooth move straight from the Chapterhouse playbook. Soon after, Lauren Shusterich's lead vocals fly in on a sheet of harmonies that exude a contemporary pop confidence rarely exhibited so early on by such a young band. The crystal clear recording and myriad guitar tracks that surround her recall the same sort of carefully laid out, yet spirited indie rock of Maryland-based forebearers Velocity Girl. The most compelling part of the tune comes during the chorus, when both singers chant "over and over" while the guitars switch over from the chunky chording in the verses to melodic, single-note leads that one could almost mistake for bright keyboards. This grade-A East Coast dream pop not only feels very now and dreamy, but also so purposeful that one can hardly imagine anything but a bright future for Wildhoney. Our recommendation? Snatch up the band's dynamite previous self-titled 45, from 2013, in time to be prepared for this great piece of springtime wonderment here. Stream "Seventeen" via the Bandcamp embed below, and click here periodically for the next few weeks to see when pre-orders the 7" EP will begin. Massachussets and/or New England fans can catch Wildhoney performing at The Flywheel in Easthampton, Mass. March 23 with mighty Boston shoegazers Soccer Mom. Wildhoney plans to record a full-length set in June, according to its tumblaaaaaahhhh. -- Edward Charlton

March 9, 2014

Regolith A1E2: Reuben Bettsak Writing Songs Under The Gun

Regolith A1E2: Reuben Bettsak Writing Songs Under The Gun

Hello, indie rock fans. We are just about halfway through our first installment of our new Regolith feature, wherein we are challenging a favorite songwriter to write and record as much great music as she or he can in just 30 days. In the middle of February we launched the inaugural episode with Boston scene mainstay Reuben Bettsek of Guillermo Sexo, Future Carnivores and Emerald Comets. If you need to get up to speed on Mr. Bettsak or Regolith, we direct your attention back to A1E1 (that is, in Regolith parlance, "Artist 1, Episode 1") right here. If you know what's going on, well then, it's time to check in with Reuben to learn how things are progressing. There's a lot of interesting stuff in his responses below, in terms of how the tight timeline has actually enabled him to forge a pretty strong bond to the material. There's also some insight into setting priorities and gear choices. Fans should note that Reuben is playing an Emerald Comets show at O'Brien's in Boston at the end of the month [details]; Guillermo Sexo's next show is April 6, the opening night of the 35th Annual Rock 'N' Roll Rumble at TT The Bear's Place [ditto]. With that said, we invite you to read on, and remind you that later this month we will wrap up Reuben's 30-day experiment and premiere the resulting music. We're excited, and we hope you are excited, too. -- L. Tiburon Pacifico

Clicky Clicky Music Blog: How has the project been going up to this point? Are you finding it easier or harder than you anticipated? Have there been any particularly big challenges?

Reuben Bettsak: I'm really enjoying this project. It's refreshing because I've tried to create a little sonic world in a bedroom... Even though the 30-day limitation has forced me to write and record faster than ever before, it has also given me the opportunity to zone in and focus on an overall sound for this "album." Both the music and the lyrics definitely work with each other. They tie together the strings of this shoe that you could call an album.

The biggest challenge for me has been the actual recording process. With the 30-day time limit you have to do a bit of sacrificing between the recording quality of the material and focusing on writing the songs. I'm recording with Pro Tools so it sounds better than the quick demos I usually do on GarageBand, but things like weird microphone noises, imperfect vocal levels [and] messy mixes have been a challenge. It's hard for me to focus and clean up that stuff when I'd rather focus on the music and the content. However, for the most part, I've decided to say "fuck it," and embrace the weird microphone noises, imperfect vocal levels, etc. I think some of this stuff might sound like it was recorded on an old 4-track instead of Pro Tools… but I'm loving the imperfections. I feel like, as the project moves on, I'm getting better at getting better sounds....

CC: Can you describe for us your recording setup (feel free to get as "techie" as you like, or not)? Are there specific reasons you are using the equipment or software that you do?

RB: My setup for this project has been:
Pro-Tools express with an Mbox
My guitar pedal board with various pedals like the Memory Man, Digi Delay, Big Muff, etc.
Acoustic guitar
Boss Drum Machine
Guitar slide
All vocals done via a (horribly broken) Optimus dynamic microphone
Nord lead keyboard
CC: Describe techniques you employ (mic placement, mixing, effects, etc.). Would you use these same techniques if time were not a limiting factor? How did you learn to record this way?

RB: Seeing the words "mic placement" makes me laugh because there is no mic placement in my current setup. I've used the microphone for vocals through my pedal board, and for the maraca (shaker). Everything went guitar/drum machine/keyboard via my pedal board to Mbox/Pro Tools. I'd say my techniques have more to do with years of layering [and the] ability to kind of create the sound my mind wants to create, and lots of fun delay/Memory Man/distortion pedal manipulation to achieve interesting results.

I'm happy with the songs that are coming out... so the time limit is actually helping me create some really cool songs. If I didn't have a time limit, I'd try to hone in a bit more into the recording process and try to clean things up more, and get a better microphone.

I learned Pro-tools on my own a few years ago. I owned a setup like 8 years ago or something. This is actually the first time I'm using it to record my stuff at home. I think watching great Pro Tools wizards like Justin Pizzoferatto and Bo Barringer has helped.

CC: Do you have any unusual tricks or rooms/spaces you record in that are exclusive to your home studio?

RB: I've just been recording in one room. No fun room tricks, but my dog does hop on my pedals when I record sometimes, so I hope his unplanned collaboration doesn't get me in trouble with you guys at Clicky.

CC: What instruments have you been using to this point? Do you foresee introducing other instruments?

RB: I'm minimizing the amount of instruments I use partly for continuity within these songs, and also for the sake of convenience. I've only been using the acoustic guitar with a pickup going through the effects pedals, the Nord lead (when Noell doesn't steal it away), drum machine and maraca. I think that's about it. I've been thinking about grabbing some more percussion stuff from the Guillermo Sexo practice space, and have even contemplated recording live drums for a song or something, but we'll see if that happens.

CC: Do you find that the time limitations change your approach to writing and/or recording?

RB: The limitations have fully forced me to record as a write. Instead of sorting everything out before recording, I just go for it. One of the powerful things about this limitation is that I don't have time to think about the "type" of song I want to write, like I kind of do for Guillermo, because the band has a history. I also have little-to-no idea what the song will sound like by the end. I'm often writing melodies line by line.

The interesting thing that kind of blows my mind about this project is that I feel like I'm inside a little world. It's hard to explain. But the connection to these songs is immense even if they are in a more raw stage of development. It's like I'm in this room constantly creating songs, and the lyric themes connect with each other, and the music starts working together. At times I feel such happiness creating this little world in a room, but at times I feel isolated, and I think these emotions show through in the songs and in the lyrics. It's weird because I often have that internal struggle in regards to how polished and produced songs should sound. I guess production and polish help the end listener enjoy the product more, but for me, I love raw unpolished songs. I love the rough edges of recording in hi-fi. I feel such a connection to the "way I was feeling" when I sang a line that it makes it difficult to polish the line later when I realize it could be more on pitch, for example. And this is why I work with a producer/recording engineer like Justin when making a record.

CC: Do you feel that the songs are turning out differently than they otherwise would if you weren't restricted to 30 days? If so, what do you think would be different about them?

RB: It's possible my writing approach would have been a bit different, but if I approached the writing the same day, the only difference would be polishing things up on the recording end a bit.

CC: At this point, do you find the time restrictions to be a hinderance your process? Or do you find them to be liberating in some way?

RB: I find the restrictions to be very liberating for me. I think these are great songs that sound different than stuff I've done previously. And, as I mentioned before, I feel a deep connection to these songs because they feel like a little book written in 30 days.

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

March 7, 2014

Review: Ava Luna | Electric Balloon

Has there ever, in the now-actually lengthy history of indie rock, been a more apt descriptor for a band than "nervous soul," a tag some likely under-appreciated genius bestowed upon New York funk-punk (errrr... we mean "nervous-soul") quintet Ava Luna?

Ava Luna takes cues from classic soul and R&B, as well as the smart-guy tropes of turn-of-the-'80s bands including Talking Heads and Gang Of Four, and synthesizes them within its own skewed but wholly modern aesthetic. This is not to suggest that Ava Luna's music is overtly clinical: opener "Daydream" or the totally tweaked "Sears Roebuck M&Ms" provide ample evidence to the contrary, expressed in terms of devastating, Parliament-channeling groove. Indeed, Electric Balloon smoothly splits the difference between real-deal soul and the nervy indie rock that Ava Luna principals Julian Fader and Carlos Hernandez have become known for crafting as producers. Call it a late-night jazz club jam remade for the basement shows set, arrived at as much by significant deconstruction and reduction as by appropriation.

Chatter regarding Electric Balloon deems it the more accessible of Ava Luna's two long players. While that may be true, the music is still far from a conventional. Stylistically, the band is all over the place. Bits of jagged, angular post-punk, loose funk, and slow-jam R&B all coexist within the space of these 11 tracks, sometimes skillfully blended, sometimes swapped in an out for one another in rapid succession. What makes the record so compelling (as well as the band on the whole, really), is how fluent and capable the players are in wielding these varied musical vernaculars. It all flows from the rhythm section. Mr. Fader is an especially tight drummer, and locks the band into formidable grooves on songs such as the aforementioned "Sears Roebuck"; he routinely dishes out thrilling and compact fills, even when the song arrangements are at their most stark. He also ably applies nuanced syncopation, like on the stop-start dynamics of late-album highlight "Genesee," where his light touch on the hi-hat is often the only thing holding the sparse arrangement together.

The vocal work from all three singers is impeccable throughout, with Mr. Hernandez, Rebecca Kauffman and Felicia Douglass each taking show-stopping turns at the mic. The band's greatest moment may well be the classic-rock baiting, massive song suite "Plain Speech." Commencing with a brilliant staccato riff from Hernandez, the song deftly shifts to half-time for the chorus while lush vocal harmonies bloom brightly from the pocket like they have something urgent to deliver. They probably don't, and Ava Luna doesn't seem push any particular message. Which is fine by us; we don't need to know the lyrics to groove, baby, and the weight of preachy didactics is probably best left, for present purposes anyway, in the past with the aforementioned Gang Of Four. Blunt politics would only drag down Electric Balloon, and that would be a cardinal sin, as Ava Luna's fluid grace and resolutely cerebral hymns for the hips clearly thrive in their unfettered state. Electric Balloon is out now via Western Vinyl, you can grab it on vinyl or CD right here. Stream the album's two opening cuts as well as the space-ghostly soul ballad "PRPL" via the Bandcamp embed below. The band is currently on tour with bugcore heroes Krill; the remaining tour dates are listed below. -- Dillon Riley

03.08 -- Albuquerque, NM -- The Sister
03.12 -- Austin, TX -- EIS/Impose Showcase
03.13 -- Austin, TX -- Western Vinyl Showcase
03.13 -- Austin, TX -- Father Daughter Showcase
03.14 -- New Orleans, LA -- Tulane
03.14 -- New Orleans, LA -- Siberia
03.17 -- Atlanta, GA -- Mammal Gallery
03.18 -- Charlotte, NC -- Snug Harbor
03.19 -- Durham, NC -- Pinhook
03.20 -- Richmond, VA -- Gallery 5
03.21 -- Washington, DC -- The Dunes
03.22 -- Baltimore, MD -- The Crown
03.23 -- Philadelphia, PA -- Golden Tea House
03.25 -- Brooklyn, NY -- Silent Barn

March 6, 2014

Postscript: Johnny Foreigner's "Stop Talking About Ghosts"

Johnny Foreigner -- Stop Talking About Ghosts (detail, enhance)

While we ended up having enough restraint to edit the final version of yesterday's album review down from well over 1,200 words, there is still more we need to say concerning Johnny Foreigner's recent goings-on. Namely, that the Birmingham, England-based quartet issued Monday a digital single for the tune "Stop Talking About Ghosts," which includes some epic b-sides. The song is a central cut on the foursome's magnificent new collection You Can Do Better, which we unreservedly recommend. Chief among the b-sides -- in case you didn't see us raving on Facebook -- is Johnny Foreigner's scorching rendition of Swedish legends The Wannadies' rager "Hit." We've told this backstory here many times, we're sure, but it bears repeating. In early 1997, we were minding our business in Amsterdam when we were overtaken by a rainy day, and we spent that day inside doing whatever while watching MTV Europe. MTV Europe had in rotation at the time the video for The Wannadies' "Hit," and it blew us away (and, goddamnit, the clip is now region blocked for America -- THANKS OBAMA). Once we saw the video, we felt like we had little choice but to sit right in the basement bar we'd taken refuge in to see how many more times we could see the video again before passing out. It was that good. And the process, sitting and watching MTV, waiting for video to cycle around again, was a replay of a cherished experience from our youth, when we'd sit and sit and wait for a certain classic Van Halen clip, or maybe Rainbow's "All Night Long," to come back around.

So it was a brilliant day, that day in Amsterdam, and one made all the more brilliant by "Hit." The Wannadies never really cracked America, despite making some inroads with their "You And Me Song," which was prominently featured on the "Romeo + Juliette" soundtrack. And because the band never gained a footing here, they have always sort of just been "our" band, in a way not dissimilar to how Johnny Foreigner is sort of (OK, totally is) "our band." The fact that the Birmingham, England-based noise-pop giants chose to cover "Hit" is the very definition of serendipity, and one that makes us very happy. And it certainly makes the value proposition of the "Stop Talking About Ghosts" single that much greater. As if the music itself wasn't inducement enough, however, all money raised from the sale of the single goes to the Cavell Nurses Trust, which offers emergency financial support to nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants in the UK. So, while you could be a deadbeat and just grab these three awesome songs -- oh, right, there's also a ridiculously heavy reimagining of the Vs. Everything track "Vs. You" -- for free, well, don't do that. Instead, help Johnny Foreigner and its label Alcopop! support this very worthy cause. Stream all three tracks via the embed below, and click through to purchase and support Cavell. You can do it. For more information about "Stop Talking About Ghosts," read fronter Alexei Berrow's song-for-song breakdown of You Can Do Better right here. And in the event you are in need of some light reading, Johnny Foreigner has just published all the words to the new record right here.

March 5, 2014

Review: Johnny Foreigner | You Can Do Better

"Last night you told me: tomorrow we shall have to think up signs, sketch a landscape, fabricate a plan on the double page of day and paper. Tomorrow, we shall have to invent, once more, the reality of this world." -- O. Paz, trans. E. Bishop, Jan. 1, 1975

The blunder many may make when it comes to Johnny Foreigner's brilliant new long-player You Can Do Better is to consider it only in terms of what it is not, instead of the glorious what that it is. The Birmingham, England-based noise pop legends' prior record, the titanic, immersive third LP Johnny Foreigner Vs. Everything, casts a gigantic shadow, to be sure, and birthing that one, according to a recent interview, substantially sapped chief songwriter Alexei Berrow's creative energies for months ("Tbh I spent a good 6 months not wanting to admit I didn't want another record," Mr. Berrow told GoldFlakePaint). And just as Vs. Everything became an obstacle for Berrow, something similar could conceivably befall fans, whose brows perhaps furrowed with the announcement of the new collection as they pondered just how Johnny Foreigner could possibly top itself. It's wrong-headed thinking. The fact is that the band's fourth record You Can Do Better is a powerful, diabolically catchy set, a compact firecracker of a record that ably and convincingly delivers the band's intelligent brand of bash and pop. The music is as dramatic and as emotionally vital as ever. The Brummies have stared down the challenge of its own album title.

You Can Do Better is packed with bracing guitar anthems. Opener "Shipping" bursts into being with careening guitar and thunder from the rhythm section, smoothly interpolates quiet reflection, and then surrenders to a boisterous pre-chorus. "Le Sigh," which leads a parade of tunes that each could be standout singles, touts blissful feedback, engaging vocal harmonies, and no small amount of shouting. A fully realized version of the crushing, meditative ballad "Riff Glitchard," which appeared in a more skeletal form on last year's Manhattan Projects EP, breaks the pace of the new collection. Its helpless lyric "I might as well be an organ in your body, the damage I do, when I do nothing," is even more beautifully rendered here by bassist Kelly Southern, whose voice takes center stage more often on You Can Do Better than ever before. The last half of the record breathlessly blows by, from the blinding "Stop Talking About Ghosts" and its desperate revelation ("the hardest part is letting go"), to the lethal hooks of "Wifi Beach," upon whose lyric the album's fixation with an imaginary, dream-like metropolis turns, and through to the thrumming, majestic and self-aware closer "Devastator."

Rather than casting a shadow, one aspect of Vs. Everything actually illuminates You Can Do Better: the alternate universe / timeline / reality. The subject drove a substantial portion of the narrative to the former LP, and particularly its transcendent ballad "Alternate Timelines Piling Up." And, in a way, Berrow manifested just such an alternate reality in retooling his songwriting post-Everything for the band's new four-piece configuration (second guitarist/master propagandist Lewes Herriot officially joined the band after the recording of the third LP). Something about that change fired his imagination, and allowed it to escape the insatiable gravity of Vs. Everything. The result is a loud, clever and entirely thrilling noise-pop album, one that ironically echoes not the oft-cited prior record, but the band's aggressive and ambitious first LP, Waited Up Til It Was Light. In essence, and via a not small amount of mental jiu jitsu on the part of Berrow (again, to GoldFlakePaint: "I guess the simple answer is that I lied. In as much as an actor or author lies. I created like, an alternate universe me, that could make decisions and do whatever I told him to in order to reveal greater truths."), Johnny Foreigner has been reborn as a better version of a younger collective self.

You Can Do Better will be released by Johnny Foreigner's longtime label, Oxford, England's Alcopop! Records, Monday in the UK. There is as yet no public plan to release the collection in the U.S., but what Alcopop! is offering is, as always, very hard to beat: You Can Do Better is available as a 12" LP, CD or digital download, and depending on how fast one acts additional premiums include sparkle vinyl and a poster-size map of an imaginary metropolis that is apparently central to the record. There's probably even other stuff that we forgot; click through to the Alcopop! store to apprise yourself of your full slate of commerce options. Johnny Foreigner's You Can Do Better tour of the UK begins March 13. The quartet will perform all-dates with South African fifth man/keytar assassin Ben Rausch, and primary support for the tour are labelmates Radstewart. Full tour dates are posted right here; European dates are being finalized and please God Please GOD PLEASE let's have the band back to the U.S., yeah?

Johnny Foreigner: Internets | Bandcamp | Facebook | Soundcloud | Tumblr

Prior Johnny Foreigner Coverage:
Review: Johnny Foreigner | Names EP
Review: Johnny Foreigner | Johnny Foreigner Vs. Everything
Cut The Rope And Jump Off: Johnny Foreigner On Alternate Timelines, Optimism And Everything
Review: Johnny Foreigner | Certain Songs Are Cursed EP
Review: Johnny Foreigner | You Thought You Saw A Shooting Star But Yr Eyes Were Blurred With Tears And That Lighthouse Can Be Pretty Deceiving...
Review: Johnny Foreigner | Grace And The Bigger Picture
Review: Johnny Foreigner | WeLeftYouSleepingAndGoneNow
Review: Johnny Foreigner | Waited Up 'Til It Was Light
Review: Johnny Foreigner | Arcs Across The City EP
That Was The Show That Was: Johnny Foreigner | Bowery Ballroom

March 2, 2014

Today's Hotness: Andy Sadoway, Skyjelly, Pastel Colours

Andy Sadoway (detail)

>> To a remote observer it may appear as if Boston indie pop heroes Bent Shapes are going through a sort-of wilderness phase, figuratively wandering the desert with one arm thrown over the shoulder of Jesus and the other over the shoulder of Jim Morrison, and, since we're just making shit up now, a superfluous third arm thrown over the shoulder of the equally superfluous Val Kilmer. Anyway, longtime Bent Shapes bassist Supriya Gunda recently (and amicably) left the band to focus on other projects including the whipsmart quartet Lost Twin, and now we have before us a new solo EP from Bent Shapes drummer Andy Sadoway. The good news is that the state of the Bent Shapes union is strong, they continue to play shows (like last week's hotly tipped Bleeding Rainbow gig), and we're told there is new music coming, so everyone just keep your shirts on -- everything is cool. In the meantime, this EP from Mr. Sadoway isn't going to write about itself. The short set certainly sounds like a winner, if its title track is any indication. "Str8 Sh00ter" is built up like a house of cards from flappy acoustic guitar and minimal, tom-centric drumming, with lots of nifty, tremeloed electric guitar sprouting across the stereo field. Its resolutely breezy and somewhat innocent sounding surf-pop reminds Clicky Clicky of both the terrific (but, sadly, perhaps defunct?) Chicago act Distractions and zero-year left coast pop duo Jan And Dean. The Str8 Sh00ter EP also includes the Sadoway-penned and performed "You Kept Things In Tact," "Don't Mind," and "Leave Some Space." The four songs were recorded at Mystic Steamship just outside of Boston. The EP will be released by Father/Daughter Records March 25 as a cassette and digital download, and you can pre-order your very own right here right now. Father/Daughter also released Bent Shapes' full-length debut, which we reviewed right here last August. Stream the tune "Str8 Sh00ter" via the Soundcloud embed below.

>> The music of Boston-based experimental concern Skyjelly rarely, if ever, seems to tread the same ground twice: indeed, unpredictability may be its most distinguishing characteristic. Our unsubstantiated speculation points to this unpredictability being a symptom of the sort of restless pursuit of T+B our college professors advocated in the '90s (that's "Truth and Beauty," to you youngsters not fortunate enough to have been educated by academics who themselves were educated in the 1970s). Or it may be that founding member Skyjelly Jones just gets bored easily (the musical project that carries the Skyjelly brand now also includes Eric Hudson). Whatever the reason, the peripatetic yen of Mr. Jones' songwriting has heretofore come to rest on beautiful, more ambient sounds like "Providence," which we wrote about here in early 2013, and on a new, debut EP, well, it's decidedly weirder. The music on the Skyjelly & Sun EP retains a wide-eyed psychedelia, to be sure, but aspects of the proceedings are surprisingly formalized. Opener "Tea, The Drink" cuts through a funk sample to stride along a solid groove accented by maracas(or some sort of backwards masking that approximates the slanting kiss-kiss of maracas). It's a firm anchor for cooed falsetto vocals and tremeloed rhythm guitar, which dodge gestural, scrawled guitar leads. "Catherine's Rabbi" ups the tempo and the pop ciphering, consolidating a barely there guitar sketch, a canned beat and more weightless falsetto in the four-song set's most conventional composition. "Krilltastic" tantalizes with its Clicky Clicky-friendly title, but the dense rhythm track in the first half of the tune -- which recalls moments of The Cure's Pornography record -- provides an equally strong focal point. Skyjelly & Sun will be self-released March 20, and if you are lucky enough to get a physical copy, it may (or may not) come packaged in a pocket cut from a pair of trousers. The EP will be feted at a release party scheduled for March 15 at the UnchARTed Gallery [boing] in Lowell, Mass. In the meantime, stream the sitar- and WTF-tastic EP closer "Peshawar (Astral)" via the Soundcloud embed below.

>> Pink Floyd never grooved as steadfastly as this, likely because Roger Waters is a rigid bass player. Nonetheless, there is a touch of classic, singles-era Pink Floyd to Pastel Colours' blazing psych-pop nugget "She Can't Decide." Something in the vocals, bass flange, blues foundation, and of course the massive descending chorus echoes Pink Floyd's "Interstellar Overdrive." Pastel Colours' smoking psych-rock number is apparently only their second recording; the Falmouth, England-based quintet debuted with the somewhat more restrained but somehow even more psychedelic track "Hands Like Silk" late last year. "She Can't Decide" is the third installment in Art Is Hard Records' 2014 Pizza Club series, with which readers will surely be familiar, because we write about it, and Art Is Hard's knack for finding brilliant music, often. Coincidentally, another Falmouth act, Goddamn Nobody, was featured as the first single in the 2014 Pizza Club series, and we wrote about that right here. Despite having but a brace of tunes released, Pastel Colours has already garnered a not insignificant amount of radio support, and we are eager to hear what else the fivesome can do. Can they stay true to the psych-pop idiom while keeping its music fresh? Time will tell. For now, stream "She Can't Decide" via the Soundcloud embed below, and click through to grab a download of the track for the friendly price of zero anythings. And, of course, music fans would be wise to keep their ears on Art Is Hard.