August 31, 2014

That Was The Show That Was: Perfect Pussy, Joanna Gruesome, Potty Mouth and Love Of Everything | The Sinclair, Cambridge | 27 Aug.

Perfect Pussy at The Sinclair, Cambridge, Mass., Aug. 27, 2014, photo by Dillon Riley

There was a moment very early into Welsh noise-pop quintet Joanna Gruesome's headlining set at The Sinclair Wednesday that emphasized just how important its collective voice is, separate and apart from band's music. Fronter Alanna McArdle, sensing senseless aggression from a certain subset of overzealous concertgoers, stood at the lip of the stage and figuratively shot venom out of her eyes through the extended outro of set opener "Secret Surprise" as she slowly shook her head in disgust [shades of Mackaye in '94, we dare say -- Ed.]. Message received -- by most. By show's end, spurred at least in part by one woman's trip to the hospital, McArdle had again addressed the ever-shrinking pit, this time demanding the bad actors' swift exit from the venue, and to the cheers of nearly everyone in the audience, they solemnly obliged. Good guys win. Three cheers.

Between those moments of punk rock social engineering transpired an extremely impressive set that delivered would-be hit after should-be hit from Joanna Gruesome's boundlessly vital Slumberland debut Weird Sister [review]. While the world awaits a new collection of what will likely be equally exciting noise-pop, the Gruesomes plays the short game, releasing a winning series of split singles, including -- most crucially -- 7" records with fellow fuzz traffickers Trust Fund and present tourmates Perfect Pussy. We were treated Wednesday to the Welsh unit's sides of both singles, including an utterly gorgeous take on "Jerome (Liar)" from the Trust Fund release, a tune that makes a strong case for the argument that Joanna Gruesome has far larger things ahead of them. Following McArdle's call-out near the end of its set, the band ripped through a totally lethal rendition of its undeniable sonic calling card "Sugarcrush," pushing the tune's raging undercurrent into a swell of all-encompassing noise as McArdle coldly stormed offstage well before the beat dropped out. We couldn't help but feel like Boston let the band down big-time.

Prior to that legendary exhibition of noisy prowess, current champions of unadulterated distortion Perfect Pussy unleashed a powerful, sub-30 minute cathartic release of sonic energy. The band didn't really play all that many "songs" -- the bit of music rendered closest to its recorded counterpart was the drifting, confessional "Interference Fits" -- instead choosing to run everything into the ground in two-to-three-minute shifts punctuated by short tuning breaks and occasional thanks from fronter Meredith Graves. It goes without saying that we were stunned at what we believe was Perfect Pussy's first show in Boston at Tufts University last year prior to the release of its Captured Tracks debut Say Yes To Love [review], but Wednesday's performance stands head and shoulders above. Delivering tenfold on every captivating element of Love, Perfect Pussy are a transcendent act whose conviction and commitment to complete aural immolation make its music literally awesome to behold.

Western MA garage-punk standouts Potty Mouth performed second on the bill, with new guitar player Ali Donohue from Fleabite in tow, and proffered an array of as-yet-unreleased tunes. Readers will recall we delivered a positive assessment of Potty Mouth's still-rad debut Hell Bent via Vanyaland last year, but the act's newer jams are poised to substantially raise its game. Largely doing away with the brittle, surfy lead guitar lines scattered across Hell Bent in favor of a increased heft and melodic chug, the songs practically beg for Justin Pizzoferratto's production, which we're given to understand is Potty Mouth's next move, and a smart one at that. Chicago-based one-man-band Love Of Everything -- or for those in the know, Bobby Burg of Joan Of Arc fame -- opened the night mixing live guitar, bass, and synth loops with found percussion and camera flashes, among many other things. His songs are pure jangle-pop beauty, and Mr. Burg's live show is a horse of a different color, entirely, and commenced a near-perfect night of music quite nicely. -- Dillon Riley

August 28, 2014

Today's Hotness: Ahuizotl, Glish, Ultimate Painting, Enchanted Hunters

Ahuizotl -- Integrity Is Overrated (crop)

>> It's been more than two years since we first turned onto Cologne, Germany-based noise pop band Ahuizotl. Back in early 2012 we were significantly jazzed by the foursome's Lice EP, and we've been eagerly awaiting new material ever since. Our patience is finally being rewarded, as the quartet at long last announced last week that its debut long-player Integrity Is Overrated will be released Oct. 24 on the Cologne-based imprint Tumbleweed Records. The first preview of the forthcoming set is the quasi-title track "Movie," a compact and downcast slice of strummy guitar-pop that reiterates the best aspects of the tunes on the Lice EP, namely foregrounded guitars, precise rhythms, dreamy synth and yearning vocals. This is not to say that Ahuizotl doesn't have any new tricks up its collective proverbial sleeve. We've had a secret listen to another album track, "I Wanna Be Ignored," an ambitious, eight-minute pop suite that finds the band pushing at the boundaries of its sound in exciting ways. Looking at the 10-song track listing for Integrity Is Overrated, it appears two tunes from Lice also made the cut for the new collection, "Slide" and "Self-Made." All of which adds up to our being very stoked to hear the new set. Stream "Movie" via the embed below, and we'll make certain to alert readers when pre-orders begin for Integrity Is Overrated.

>> While many shoegaze fans hold the synthetic and textured sounds of landmark records such as My Bloody Valentine's Loveless and Slowdive's Souvlaki to be the highest ideal (and justifiably so), this reviewer prefers his dream-pop to work in the scrappier, home-grown vein. The smashing new single from New Orleans five-piece Glish hits right in that mythical sweet spot and is one of the best tracks of its kind to arrive this year. "Stu Hunkington," from the quintet's debut self-titled full-length out on Texas Is Funny Nov. 4, is an exercise in punky, whammy-bar delirium. The tune operates in a joyous, full-bore manner the likes of which have not been heard since perphaps the Swirlies' colossal 1993 full-length album Blonder Tongue Audio Baton (the actual pinnacle of the genre -- wink). Opening with a choppy, oblong two-chord riff, the song launches into a whirlwind of hardcore-influenced drumming, close-but-far vocal harmonies and a clean drum production style geared more toward capturing Glish's house show-styled combustibility more than any attempt at a delicate, dream-like environment. The best part of "Stu Hunkington," though, is surely what's going on in the left speaker. There, the lead guitarist's squealing and squelching lead notes not only drive the composition, but they inject just the right amount of chaotic danger to offset the open-vowel singing and skyrocketing kit. Think of it as a lone, unpredictable gale force wind interrupting the serene drift of a high-altitude balloon. Watch the Texas Is Funny digital storefront here for details on how to order Glish, as those details certainly should be cropping up soon. Stream "Stu Hunkington" via the embed below. -- Edward Charlton

>> We're pretty dang excited for the debut full-length from Ultimate Painting, the London superlative-earning duo of Jack Cooper from Mazes and James Hoare of pace-setting pop heroes Veronica Falls. The pair recently shared a new track from their upcoming self-titled debut, which is due Oct. 28 via the wonderful Trouble In Mind records. That new song, "Winter In Your Heart," provides still further evidence that Ultimate Painting's album will be a real gem. While there is really nothing new to add to our prior report beyond this new tune, we felt compelled enough by its gentle, breezy savoir faire to highlight it for our readers. Similar to what we said about the Ultimate Painting's title track in July, "Winter In Your Heart" explores the group's keen grasp of Velvet Underground-styled pop dynamics. Indeed, "Winter" has the same pure, undiluted warmth that makes the VU's self-titled third album such a timeless treat. It also sticks closely to a formalist song structure, while the up-close texture to the guitars (you can see the strings) and the simple, assured backing vocals lend the song a communal, happily-stoned jam-session vibe that eschews the seriousness of a lot of contemporary indie music. Keep your eyes peeled for the album pre-order details here, and we'll promise to do the same. While you wait, stream the terrific cut "Winter In Your Heart" via the embed below. Incidentally, we're growing impatient for news of new music from Veronica Falls, whose outstanding Waiting For Something To Happen was one of our favorite records of 2013. Here's hoping that, after the Ultimate Painting album cycle is complete, it is not a long wait for news of something new from Veronica Falls. -- Edward Charlton

>> Gdansk, Poland's Enchanted Hunters recently issued to the wilds of the Interzizzles its Little Crushes EP, an exotic, loungy indie-pop offering that sits just right as the lazy days of summers reach a final, comforting end, martini in hand. The four-piece is following up 2012's Peoria album with the new collection, which showcases a unique, woodsy spin on very European music. The tune "Hel" juxtaposes brushed drums with faraway, reverberated finger slides and a wordless vocal melody. Enchanted Hunters go all-in at the end of the track, too, when some unexpected jazz flute closes out the charming piece. EP highlight "Topiellica" makes room for chorused electric guitar, which glides underneath the gorgeous (and presumably Polish-language) layered vocal melodies. The combined effect transports one to a back alley jazz club, as if led by the hand of Bjork or Stereolab's Laetitia Sadier. As with the aforementioned Stereolab, Enchanted Hunters dwell on -- even delve into -- the little details, such as the watery, synthesized strings that play about during the verses of that song. Opener "Sonny" relies on the patterns and figures of various non-percussive instruments to anchor catchy vocals, culminating in a breezy sing-along during the final 30 seconds. It's in moments like these, it becomes apparent that the band is confident enough in its songcraft to not only be mindful of such subtleties, but also keep listeners intrigued throughout all of Little Crushes. Listen to the entire EP below, and buy it right here. -- Edward Charlton

August 27, 2014

That Was The Show That Was: Grooms with Hooray For Earth | ICA, Boston | 22 Aug.

[PHOTOS: Quinn Banford, special to Clicky Clicky] In a perfect world, Brooklyn-based dream-pop concern Grooms would be a band on a massive upswing. We hate to classify them as "underrated," as we wish continued success for them and every other act we ramble on about on the Clicky Clicky-sphere, but the Azerrad-approved touring threesome's colossal 2013 LP Infinity Caller failed to breech the overground despite critical acclaim and even a nod from Speedy Ortiz's Sadie Dupuis. New York synth-rockers Hooray For Earth had the band join them on tour for close to a month this summer, including a penultimate stop in Boston Friday night for the similarly penultimate evening of the Institute for Contemporary Arts' current Wavelengths series, which has also featured, among others, the legendary Dean Wareham and notable electronic artist André Obin.

When we last checked in on Grooms in October, they were headlining a tour supporting the aforementioned Infinity Caller. At the ICA Friday the act revisited a few tunes from the collection, including a particularly vital take on "Lion Name," but focused primarily on delivering new tunes from an as-yet-unreleased new record that has been teased in various social media posts. These newer tunes retain and build upon the things we've come to love most about Grooms: the precise, almost prose-like lyrics of fronter Travis Johnson, inventive and atmospheric guitar interplay and a steady rhythmic approach, which taken together plays at times like a smart, modern take on the sound proffered by Kitchens Of Distinction decades ago. Tunes we know and love, like the Infinity Caller highlight "Very Very Librarian," mixed well with Grooms' newer compositions and made for a more than satisfying opening set. Purchase Infinity Caller from Western Digital right here; two tracks from the record are embedded below.

Hooray For Earth's headlining set affirmed the quartet's status as a big-time and pop-friendly indie rock band. While sound problems hampered momentum early on, the band found its footing in plenty of time to deliver a strong performance, and even had a cool visual display going on the ICA's roof. Tracks from the act's recently released Racy, which minimizes the dancier outliers of its debut in favor of a more guitar-charged attack, rang out into the summer night and elicited the strongest reactions from the crowd. Racy was issued by Dovecote Records July 29, and it can be purchased right here; stream the bouncy single "Keys" via the Soundcloud embed below. The show, held out of doors at the ICA, was an all-around delight, and we can only hope the ICA brings Wavlengths back in 2015. -- Dillon Riley

Grooms: Bandcamp | Facebook | Internerds

Previous Coverage:
That Was The Show That Was | Grooms with Young Adults, Chandeliers, Vegans | Great Scott | 9 Oct.
Young Adults, Grooms, Ovlov and Soccer Mom | Great Scott, Boston | 11 July

August 26, 2014

Premiere: Big Mess' Pummeling You Are My Sunshine

Big Mess -- You Are My Sunshine

We are pleased to premiere for you today the majestic and gritty debut full length from Lowell, Mass. and Boston-based trio Big Mess. You Are My Sunshine touts six monolithic instrumentals. And while there are no vocals on the three-year-old threesome's set, that does not mean its music is not lyrical. Indeed, the imaginative shifts from spare to saturated give You Are My Sunshine something like a narrative flow. We've seen the descriptors "doom" and "metal" tagged to the music of Big Mess, but the trio's writing is at once too melodic and too graceful to really fit those adjectives well. Sure, aesthetically certain elements of those styles are present here -- in Olivia Close's gut-rumbling bass and more generally the flattening weight of the act's favored mid-tempo battery -- but the more melodic passages of songs like "Headbone" and the playful (but poky) bounce to the curiously titled "Pounding Piss Touch" give the proceedings a pleasantly slack overtone, as well. The trio may be at its most thrilling as it pursues its most minimal tendencies: the final half of closer "New World Order Blues" works a totally sick, Shellac-esque groove with a single note repeated before returning through a tight feedback portal to an earlier motif.

You Are My Sunshine was recorded in July 2013 at Dead Air Space with Will Killingsworth, whose name we mention again here because we continue to encounter it in the credits of great records. This particular record will be released by Midnight Werewolf Sept. 16 in a limited edition of 300 multicolored 12" vinyl records; the set is also available as a digital download, and both the visceral and the virtual versions can be pre-ordered right now via the Midnight Werewolf Bandcamp wigwam right here. The threesome also intends to sell a self-released cassette version. Big Mess embarks on an ambitious month-long U.S. tour beginning Sept. 2, and all dates are listed below. At press time some of those dates lack a venue name, but we expect if you ask a punk in any of those various locales it won't take you long to ascertain the 20 of the show in your town. With all that said, we invite you to get your Tuesday off to an earth-shaking start by hitting the embed below and taking your first listen to You Are My Sunshine. Fans take note: despite the Sept. 16 release date, Midnight Werewolf tells us that Big Mess will have copies of the LP with them from the very beginning of the tour (WHAT UP ALBANY), so start saving those nickels.

Big Mess: Bandcamp | Facebook | Tumblaahhhhh

08.29 -- Boston, MA -- O'Brien's Pub
09.02 -- Albany, NY -- The Shred Shack
09.03 -- Mansfield, OH -- Relax, It's Just Coffee
09.04 -- Athens, OH -- The Smiling Skull
09.05 -- Bloomington, IN -- The Cream
09.06 -- Chicago, IL -- Bric A Brac Records
09.07 -- Kansas
09.08 -- TBA
09.09 -- Salt Lake City, UT
09.10 -- Boise, ID -- Bouquet
09.11 -- Portland, OR -- Foggy Notion
09.12 -- Eugene, OR
09.13 -- Northern CA
09.14 -- Stockton, CA -- The Bus Stop
09.15 -- Oakland, CA
09.16 -- San Francisco, CA -- Neck of the Woods
09.17 -- Santa Barbara, CA -- Biko's Garage
09.18 -- Santa Barbara, CA -- 5. 4. 3. 2. FUN
09.19 -- Anaheim, CA -- The Doll Hut
09.20 -- Los Angeles, CA -- House Show
09.21 -- Phoenix, AZ -- The Trunk Space
09.22 -- Santa Fe, NM
09.23 -- Austin, TX -- The Lost Well
09.24 -- New Orleans, LA
09.25 -- Murfreesboro, TN -- Rack City
09.26 -- Asheville NC -- The Mothlight
09.27 -- NC
09.28 -- Richmond, VA
09.29 -- Silver Springs, MD -- Joe's Record Paradise
09.30 -- Philadelphia, PA
10.01 -- Purchase, NY -- SUNY Purchase
10.02 -- Portsmouth, NH -- Red Door

August 22, 2014

That Was The Show That Was: The Dirty Nil with Greys, Sneeze, Blessed State | O'Brien's Pub | 20 Aug.

The Dirty Nil, Aug. 20, O'Brien's Pub, Boston, photo by Dillon Riley

[PHOTO: The Dirty Nil by Dillon Riley] Nothing like a good redemption story, yeah? Wednesday night's Canadian-guitar-slinger-heavy lineup at O'Brien's in Allston Rock City featured Ontario garage rockers The Dirty Nil, who were in town with tourmates/province-mates Greys. Not that either act in particular need redemption, but after a burger-flavored disaster in February, The Dirty Nil surely must have been grateful to finally bring the rock to Boston. We can report that the rock in question was brought, and most steadfastly. The good guys win!

Just this week The Dirty Nil unleashed a two-sided, 7" piece of media via Fat Wreck Chords, and the platter offers a tidy summation of the trio's quick-hit sound. Layers of thick, fuzzy chords and chunky bass lines surround frenetic, short-burst drum fills, while fronter Luke Bentham's unpolished vocals erratically swell into full-throated screams. The Nil deployed both new tunes Wednesday, with A-side "Cinnamon" even eliciting a bit of a sing-a-long among the crowd during its infectious chorus. Elsewhere, the band blasted through some hardcore-influenced and newer (at least to these ears) tunes, as well as few numbers from its scattered short-form oeuvre. The song that struck hardest was "Wrestle You To Hüsker Dü," whose in-the-pocket groove afforded Mr. Bentham the opportunity to let loose with some rock-star stage heroics. Bonus points go to bass player Dave Nardi and his impassioned anti-Tasty Burger rant and related "Fuck Tasty Burger" chant. Not that we wish the burger vendor any ill will, but we do like to see rabble being roused now and then. We've embedded both "Cinnamon" and its flip "Guided By Vices" below, and fans can purchase the 7" or MP3s of same from Fat Wreck Chords right here.

Carpark Records signees Greys closed out the show with its own brand of hyperkinetic post-hardcore fury. Playing tunes mostly from its recently released and blistering debut LP If Anything, the quartet did an immaculate job of replicating the tumescent, near-claustrophobic sound of the record on O'Brien's relatively small stage. Greys wasted no time getting to the should-be-hits, jumping from the buzz-sawing "Use Your Delusion" straight into its fireball LP-opener "Guy Picciotto" and then "Pretty Grim" without missing a beat. Other tunes from the record meshed nicely led up to a well-timed and well-received cover of Mission Of Burma's colossal rocker "That's How I Escaped My Certain Fate," making for a thrilling end to an excellent night of music. Carpark issued If Anything in June, and would be quite pleased to sell you a copy in one or more of a variety of formats that can be considered right here.

Local superfuzz maestros Sneeze batted second slinging tunes off its powerful sophomore LP Wilt as well as a handful of yet-to-be recorded tunes slated for a forthcoming release which the trio claimed would be in the public sphere in "a year or two." The more we listen, the better Wilt sounds, and the same can be said for each live show we catch from the trio; buy Wilt from Glory Kid right here. Rising Western Mass. punx Blessed State -- which features at least one former member of erstwhile progressive beard-core foursome They And Their Children -- opened the night with tunes taken from its well-received debut full-length Head Space, which can be purchased here. -- Dillon Riley

August 19, 2014

Today's Hotness: The Hush Now, Brunch

The Hush Now -- Sparkle Drive (detail)

>> Boston dream-pop institution The Hush Now disclosed late last week that it will self-release its long-awaited fourth full-length, Sparkle Drive, next month. The act, now operating as a quartet, has issued to the wilds of the Internet an appropriately sparkling preview track, the mid-tempo strummer "Arthur Come On, Really You Can't Be Serious." The tune gives lead guitarist Adam Quane a turn at the microphone; long-time fans will remember Mr. Quane's vocal debut with The Hush Now was on the jaunty bouncer "Cameraphone," which graced the band's terrific third LP Memos, which we reviewed here in 2011. "Arthur Come On, Really You Can't Be Serious" carries Quane's characteristic quavering vocal and is anchored by rich bass tones and layer upon melodic layer of the band's big guitars. As strong as "Arthur" is, it isn't even the best Quane-sung tune on Sparkle Drive; the album opens with the darker, more ethereal composition "Panda" --which touts a spectacular, glistening outro in its final minute -- which we think will connect strongly with fans when the album is released Sept. 23. The Hush Now has been quiet, but not entirely quiet, in the three years since the release of Memos. Among other things, readers will recall founder Noel Kelly picked up his guitar to write a response to the Boston Marathon bombings, and more recently he memorably covered Neil Young's "Motion Pictures" to promote a show over the summer. Information about a proper Sparkle Drive release show has not yet been revealed, but you can watch the band's Facebook outpost for further bulletins. In the meantime, stream "Arthur Come On, Really You Can't Be Serious" via the Soundcloud embed below.

>> The Internerds went all aflutter a couple weeks back with the news that Krill's dearly departed drummer Luke Pyenson had joined a band in London, that the band was good, and that the quartet had a pretty great song in the fuzzy gem "Sea Toad." All of the above is, in fact, true. But by the time Brunch -- that's the name of the band -- dropped its self-titled debut EP last week, much of the Internerds had already moved on. Which is too bad, because it turns out *all* of the noise-pop upstarts' EP is terrific. "Sea Toad" is a fine calling card, yes, flexing scritchy riffage under a high and lonesome lead guitar and fronter Sean Brook's pliable and evocative baritone. However, the best tune of the short stack is its anthemic centerpiece "Tidal Wav." The tune touts an oversized and yearning vocal hook in the chorus, with verses that remind this reviewer of the patient plod of The Velvet Underground's "Lady Godiva's Operation," while the huge chorus echoes the more contemporary outsidery crunch of Dark Blue or even the shadowy London act Black Seas. The succeeding number "Cordial I" slows the tempo and thins out the sonic picture for quiet verses that set up the aggressive choogle of the tune's final 90 seconds. Surprisingly, Brunch plans to come to the U.S. in late September/early October (according to the act's Bandcamp page) to play some shows, and we're very hopeful we'll see the band right here in Boston playing with Krill, because, you know, that seems like a really obvious thing for them to do, and because we like rock and roll music. You should spend time with the Brunch EP, it's time very well spent, and if you pony up the £3 asking price for either the download or handmade CD, you'll be helping in an albeit small way to get the band across the pond for the aforementioned U.S. shows. Stream the entire EP via the embed below, and then click through to purchase.

August 14, 2014

White Laces Sign To Happenin, Trance Due Oct. 7

White Laces -- Trance (detail)

Richmond space-pop heroes White Laces revealed at long last today that it has signed to Alabama-based and Frenchkiss-affiliated Happenin Records to release its hotly anticipated sophomore set Trance. The record is slated to hit racks Oct. 7. The foursome recorded the 11-song collection last winter in Philadelphia with Jeff Zeigler, and we feel comfortable telling you it is a big step forward for the band. Working with Mr. Zeigler, White Laces has refined and intensified its singular, atmospheric sound, and as a result the album presents the band at its most sleek, sexy and dangerous. As we said here in April in regard to the early Trance taster "Skate Or Die," "[t]he sounds are bigger, fronter Landis Wine's vocals more desperate, and one can literally hear the band expanding on its sonic proposition, becoming bigger and bolder." Trance will be released on 12" vinyl, CD and cassette, and we have heard that some portion of the LP edition will be pressed to hot pink media, which means you'd best have your black light in working order for the zoned-out album listening sessions that will likely occupy a substantial portion of your time this fall. Presently, there is no way to pre-order Trance, but we expect if you keep an eye on the label's digital storefront your attention will eventually be rewarded. White Laces first LP Moves was issued by Speakertree two years ago, which we reviewed right here, and the band has released a steady stream of EPs and singles and cassettes since forming in 2010 (the majority of which you can read about in the vast Clicky Clicky Archives). White Laces plays Baby's All Right in Brooklyn tomorrow night and has a few additional confirmed dates -- including a spot at next month's hotly tipped Hopscotch Festival -- that we have listed below for your review. Stream the aforementioned "Skate Or Die" via the embed below.

08.15 -- Baby's All Right -- Brooklyn, NY
08.24 -- John's Hopkins University -- Baltimore, MD
08.27 -- Strange Matter -- Richmond, VA
09.04 -- Hopscotch Music Festival -- Raleigh, NC

August 13, 2014

YouTube Rodeo: Johnny Foreigner's Endlessly Haunted "Stop Talking About Ghosts"

We said it on Twitter, and we'll say it again: this is seriously one of the best music videos we've ever seen. And, yeah, sure, of course we're going to say that about a Johnny Foreigner video, but truly, this is head and shoulders above anything else we can think of off the top of our heads. The clip for "Stop Talking About Ghosts," a song that was previously issued as a digital single in March with a ridiculous awesome cover of The Wannadies' "Hit" as a b-side, is a slowburner that piles on the drama for three introductory minutes and perfectly translates the theme of the song into a visual story. It helps that directors Matt Diegan & Francis Newall of Moral Hangover get a hair-raising performance from Jeremy Irons-doppelganger Elliot Chidwick and can edit like motherfuckers. Fans may have a vague memory of that name, Moral Hangover -- turns out they are the same lot that produced the video for the radio edit of "You vs. Everything," the titanic single from Johnny Foreigner's devastating third LP, which we wrote about here in 2011. So anyway, watch the video for "Stop Talking About Ghosts," embedded above. It is tremendous.

In other super-important Johnny Foreigner news that hadn't broken before we published our most recent piece about them last week, the band's new U.S. label Lame-O has announced it will issue in American its amazing 2014 LP You Can Do Better. You may recall we reviewed the record here in the spring. Lame-O's domestic release is available immediately in a limited edition of 500 pressed to either red or clear vinyl, and you can buy it right here, and that is a thing you should do, assuming you did not already buy the Alcopop! version earlier this year. Johnny Foreigner is presently looking ahead to a strand of live dates in South Africa in late October, which can be hungrily gazed upon right here. And that, for now, is the news.

August 12, 2014

Review: Hoax Hunters | Comfort & Safety

Richmond threesome Hoax Hunters with its debut long-player has created an expansive, divergent set of punk-worshipping monoliths, each tune shaping an American post-hardcore lineage into formalized and nostalgic architectural shapes. The electrifying new set, Comfort & Safety, firmly establishes the trio as a noisy, squalling force, one that is both more informed and more nubile [HEY NOW -- Ed.] than many of its peers.

Hoax Hunters has been a fixture slowly rising up from the RVA scene for several years; it released a split single with Richmond dream-pop luminaries The Snowy Owls in early 2013. Long before the creation of the band, fronter and guitarist P.J. Sykes built a reputation as a go-to music photographer, relentlessly and selflessly documenting the local indie rock scene, and having work featured in Spin Magazine, Rolling Stone, The Washington Post and elsewhere. Mr. Sykes has also contributed photographs to a slew of highly regarded albums from Clicky Clicky faves including legends Superchunk and Versus. Unsurprisingly, Sykes' connected-ness within the mid-Atlantic music scene is the source of one of Comfort & Safety's strongest, defining traits: his love for currently overlooked post-hardcore standard-bearers from the mid-to-late-'80s Dischord stable -- groups like Rites of Spring, Gray Matter, Three and early Fugazi -- is reflected in his songwriting. These aforementioned bands moved punk into broader, more melodic, "mathy," and noisy territory, and to this reviewer their contributions at times seem overshadowed by trendier names and louder personalities. Hoax Hunters, however, honors these deeper and deeply important roots of the American underground, and casts their sounds and ideals within a modern framework, much like contemporary beloved and buzzed smashers Metz and Hausu.

Hoax Hunters' connection to The Snowy Owls is also illuminating. While far from a shoegazer outfit, Sykes and co. interestingly mix the vocals quite low, a move that emphasizes the shifting lead and rhythm patterns, which come courtesy of The Snowy Owls' drummer James O'Neill. Mr. O'Neill's drums bash loudly, and his great tom work is heavily foregrounded on Hoax Hunters' buzz-sawing rocker "Volume" and its tense thriller "Riskless Business." Clever studio trickery throughout injects interesting depth and dimension to Comfort & Safety and varies from song to song. Single "Breathe" utilizes swirling flange and panning in its opening moments to tasteful effect, and Sykes' various vocal filters here and elsewhere supply a subtly grit to the proceedings. Like many classic albums, these production methods give Hoax Hunters' debut a kineticism that accretes across the record toward album highlight and de facto closer "Erase." The standout track -- which apparently features "homemade electric dulcitar" from a guest player -- combines an experimental sound-collage introduction, a quick-burning hardcore song, and an extended, searing coda (which talks the listener down from the intensity of the previous numbers) to create what is perhaps Hoax Hunters most compelling composition to date. The chorus' dynamic, shout-along chant channels both the rage and joy that these guys bring to their music. "You. Can. Not. Erase," Sykes proclaims -- the final declaration that the hard work and values of those within a scene will live on, again and again.

Comfort & Safety was released last week on vinyl and as a digital download (sorry, no CDs, retro futurists!). Raleigh's Negative Fun is selling the LP (the very first to be offered by the label), and it is for sale right here. Richmond-based Cherub Records is handling the digital download sales, and if that is more to your taste, this is where you want to be. Stream the entire set via the Bandcamp embed below. -- Edward Charlton

Hoax Hunters: Bandcamp | Facebook | Internerds

August 7, 2014

Today's Hotness: Johnny Foreigner, Bent Shapes, It Looks Sad., Frontier(s)

Johnny Foreigner -- Worse Things Happen At Sea (detail)

>> We couldn't let this bit of news completely slip by without trumpeting it once more here, given our self-proclaimed status as the publication of record for all things Johnny Foreigner. So, in case you missed it in the mad run-up to our vacation last month, the Birmingham, England-based noise-pop titans have signed with Philadelphia's Lame-O Records to release its music in the U.S. The first fruits of this relationship is a weird virtual "mix tape" released a few weeks back called Worse Things Happen At Sea; it collects an unusual assortment of mostly previously released material, probably as many deep cuts as greatest hits, we'd say. Highlights include a session version of the opener to Johnny Foreigner's incredible 2014 LP You Can Do Better, "Shipping," as well the lead cuts from its titanic third LP Johnny Foreigner vs. Everything and devastating 2010 EP You Thought You Saw A Shooting Star But Yr Eyes Were Blurred With Tears And That Lighthouse Can Be Pretty Deceiving With The Sky So Clear And The Sea So Calm. The real deep cut is "Candles," a track that originally appeared on demos collections that pre-date any of the quartet's official album releases, and perhaps the most welcome return is the twinkling ballad "199x," whose only prior release to date was on the compact 2011 odds and sods set There When You Need It. Not that anyone's counting besides Clicky Clicky Music Blog, but the deal with Lame-O -- which is home to Johnny Foreigner BFFs The Weaks and has also put out music by Modern Baseball -- is the Brummie's third North American deal in its decade of existence. A 2008 deal with Nettwerk can most charitably be described as a non-starter (or even non-existent); Johnny Foreigner then signed with Chicago's Swerp in 2012 to release the excellent Names EP. It's unclear what will come next after the release of Worse Things Happen At Sea; the aforementioned You Can Do Better, which was released earlier in 2014, has not been released in the U.S., so we would hope that Lame-O might be able to make that happen (for that matter, besides Names, basically none of Johnny Foreigner's roundly excellent catalog has been properly issued on this side of the Atlantic, so, uh, you know, someone get on that). In related news, it would seem to be an unofficial off-season for Johnny Foreigner, as fronter Alexei Berrow recently disclosed he is working on new material for his solo guise Yr Friends, and drummer Junior Elvis Washington Laidley has similarly disclosed he has turned his attention to new recordings by his electropop project Fridge Poetry; the two projects even merged under the name Yr Poetry for a live date earlier this summer. Laidley, incidentally, has also signed on to drum for a new, full-band version of Birmingham's Mutes, which will make its live debut Aug. 15. Further bulletins as events warrant! For now, bask in the weird glory of Worse Things Happen At Sea via the embed below.

>> Another piece of news that fell in the gap during our vacation: Boston indie-pop heroes Bent Shapes issued recently its first new material since downsizing its official personnel to a two-piece. The release came in the form of a 7" plexi-disc put out by Olympia, Wash.-based "micro-indie" (redundant?) label People In A Position To Know. The disc itself is a legit piece of art, a flat, two-sided, lathe-cut plexiglass circle that carries the band's logo and the song titles on its front side; the disc comes in three colors in a hyper-limited edition of 25 pieces per color scheme (yellow/brown; black/teal; blue/brown). "It's thick and heavy and pretty pointy at the edges," fronter Ben Potrykus told Improper Bostonian recently. Fortunately for fans, the odd media is still not as snappy as the music. The A-side touts the tune "86'd in '03," which Bent Shapes has been performing live since at least its release show for Feels Weird a year ago. The flip-side carries a cover of a The 2x4's lost-classic Boston punk tune "Bridgeport Lathe" (whose title, incidentally, would be incredibly meta if it turns out these lathe-cut discs were actually fabricated in, say, Bridgeport, CT, or better still, Bridgeport, PA). "86'd" in particular is a stunner, compressing all the jagged changes and vocal hooks of the standout 2013 long-player Feels Weird [review] into a two-minute blast that proves the recent line-up shuffle has done nothing to squelch the band's fizz. One can acquire her or his own copy of "86'd In '03" b/w "Bridgeport Lathe" from People In A Position To Know right here, or at Bent Shapes' upcoming show later this month at TT The Bear's Place in Cambridge, Mass. But one, of course, should act expeditiously, even decisively, given the extremely limited quantities involved here. Stream both cuts below, then stream them again. -- Dillon Riley

>> In what we can only hope is a viable trend in indie band branding, one of the latest acts from the indefatigable Tiny Engines stable is the relatively new It Looks Sad. To dispel any confusion, yes, that is a full stop tagged to the end of the Charlotte-based quartet's name [counterpoint: special punctuation, symbols or use of capitalization in band names has been a deplorable scourge since at least NSync, whose name we will not grace with the once-requested-by-publicists giant asterisk. See me after class, Riley. -- Ed.]. The post-#emorevival self-parody via name is not the band's most distinguishing trait, however -- which is saying something, as the band initially traded under the signicantly more unwieldy moniker It Looks Sad, That's Why I Said It's You. No, more importantly, the native Carolinians favor an atmospheric approach to its music, injecting palpable elements of dream pop into an expansive sound. It's a key distinction that interestingly situates It Looks Sad. stylistically closer to bands on Captured Tracks than the foursome's hometown label peers. It Looks Sad.'s music is no less emotional, though. Fronter Jimmy Turner's reedy vocals do plenty to convey that, buffeted by airy guitar playing that ranges from mopey to soaring, in a manner not terribly dissimilar to the impressive contemporary work by New Yorkers Cymbals Eat Guitars. It Looks Sad.'s debut release for Tiny Engines is a four-song EP titled Self-Titled. During its sub-twenty-minute runtime, the quartet packs in nearly as many ear-catching hooks. The act's playing comes tightly into focus when it slows the tempo, consolidating into a loose groove on the standout track "Fingers" [video]. Here the band falls in around a high, trebly, circular riff that persists throughout the song, outlasting even a forceful, crash-cymbal aided chorus. Despite having just four songs out, It Looks Sad. exhibits an admirable mastery of its chosen musical argot at a time in its career trajectory when other young bands are struggling to break out of the bedroom. We're eager to hear where the band heads next. Self-Titled is slated for release later this summer, and it can be pre-ordered from Tiny Engines on 7" vinyl (in a limited edition of 500 pieces available in salmon, seafoam or cream) and/or download right here. Stream the entire short stack via the Soundcloud embed below. -- Dillon Riley

>> From the other side of the Tiny Engines spectrum comes another fairly new act, Frontier(s), which is helmed by Chris Higdon of '90s emo luminaries Elliot. The Louisville-based quartet dropped its second release, an EP titled White Lights, via the aforementioned label Tuesday. Drawing influence from the D.C.-styled post-hardcore sound that birthed first-wave emo acts such as Embrace and Rites Of Spring (and, honestly, maybe even a bit from '80s hair metal), White Lights feels a lot like the logical sonic mean of Higdon's prior acts, the early '90s hardcore collective Falling Forward and the aforementioned Elliot, despite the long passage of time since either of those groups have been active. More importantly, though, the EP feels vital and fresh, not a throwback to another time, much in the same way as the tremendous and recently released reunion album from Braid, No Coast. White Lights certainly carries in its five songs a certain amount of world-weariness, but doesn't feel bogged down with comeback emotions. Frontier(s) is at its best on set closer "Bare Hands," where the foursome sounds as if it has a lot to prove, despite its notable pedigree. You can grab White Lights from Tiny Engines on 12" vinyl and/or digital download right here, and stream the entire EP via the Soundcloud embed below. -- Dillon Riley

August 5, 2014

Review: Burning Alms | In Sequence

From drifting pastoral reveries to dense, open-tuned experimentalism, from patient expositive ambient passages to thundering verses, the dazzling feat of In Sequence is that it succeeds at being all indie rock things to all indie rock people. Even with a spirited experimental bent shot through the entire collection, Burning Alms' melodies, textures and dynamics on its debut long-player are fiercely engaging. This is no great surprise: Burning Alms principals John Biggs and Thomas Whitfield have made compelling music together for more than a decade, and few bands releasing debuts build from such a formidable foundation. Which is another reason why In Sequence is a terrific whole-album experience, one that is cinematic, mysterious and thrilling (and often all three in one song, such as the Branca-styled tour de force "Night Climates").

Long-time fans of the pair's music will find the collection wholly satisfying, and new fans -- whose sentiments are uncolored by the estimable back catalogs underpinning the new set -- will likely wonder where the hell these guys came from all of a sudden. And we suppose that is the optimist's edge of the double-edged sword of being massively underrated: the more one toils away from the sucking white-hot static of the hype-cycle, the more likely one is able to blow away listeners when one comes around with the goods. It has been a long road for Mssrs. Biggs and Whitfield, from early days in legendary Birmingham post-punk act Distophia to, more recently, the ludicrously slept-on Calories. That In Sequence is the duo's best shot at breaking through (at least since Northern Ireland/London-based Smalltown America released Calories' titanic debut Adventuring) is perhaps bittersweet, because as captivating and strong as this new record is, it is not so foreign from the recent work of Calories, not unrecognizably descended from Distophia.

It has been a bit of a parlour game here at Clicky Clicky HQ, figuring out what is going on with all of the various Distophia-descended bands, and what distinguishes them, particularly given the fact that certain of the bands have, at least at times, contained the very same members while performing under different names. Of that cohort, Burning Alms' music is dustier, more meditative, addresses more abstract lyrical themes, and only occasionally shimmers in the way of certain Calories songs (such as the epic closer to Calories III, "Tropics"). We suppose Burning Alms must be defined by the absence of the songwriting contributions of Calories bassist Pete Dixon, who keeps busy with Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam and recently played his first solo show in seven years, but how that absence manifests itself sonically is unclear. Perhaps one characteristic attribute is Burning Alms' aforementioned meditative dimension, apparently inspired by Mr. Biggs' interest in American literature and existential thinkers, although such conjecture is almost immediately dispelled by the crushing 5/4 opening of the blistering "The Aperture Colonised," the high-octane whirl of the single "Matadors," or the shuddering rage of "Forest Clearing." Perhaps in the music of Burning Alms there is a more restless pursuit of experimentation, as in the free-form title track to In Sequence, a minimalist pastiche of ambient (amp?) noise, taped voice interaction and skeletal guitar noodling. Whatsoever its determinant je ne sais quoi, no listener will come away from listening to In Sequence feeling like something is missing. Indeed, what ultimately makes Burning Alms' debut such a resounding success is its ability to balance myriad sounds and styles in such a way as to evoke a singularly rich musical identity.

Smalltown America released In Sequence Monday. The set is available as a vinyl LP, compact disc and digital download, all of which can be purchased through the label right here. Stream the entire record via the Spotify embed below.

Burning Alms: Bandcamp | Facebook | Internerds | Soundcloud

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Today's Hotness: Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam, Goodbye Childhood
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Today's Hotness: Burning Alms
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Today's Hotness: Burning Alms

August 4, 2014

Show Us Yours 21: The Cherry Wave

Show Us Yours 21: The Cherry Wave

We're not sure whether it is a surprise or not, that the brain-scraping, ear-bleeding shoegaze of Glaswegian quartet The Cherry Wave is made in a muted, sterile-looking (but apparently not -smelling) grey-and-beige rehearsal space. We were picturing something charred and dank, but given the searing volume the Scottish act characteristically weilds, a burned-clean look perhaps isn't to be unexpected. The band played its first live show two years ago and caught our attention not long after. Since then The Cherry Wave has released a self-titled (and now unavailable) demo EP, a titanic second EP titled Blush and a feedback-laden cut for a compilation, all of which firmly established the foursome as one to watch. The act is nearing completion of its debut full-length, a set that appears poised to both intensify and expand on The Cherry Wave's uncompromising sound. Indeed, the collection apparently closes with a nine-minute epic titled "Fuzzthrower," and is in the final stages of mixing. With the debut LP set to drop (perhaps very soon) and recent and approaching live dates with The Telescopes and Ringo Deathstarr in its datebook, we thought it was high time to check in with The Cherry Wave to learn a bit more about where and how (but mostly where, as the purpose of our Show Us Yours features is to peek into the practice spaces of our favorite bands) it crafts its beautiful tidal wave of sound. Fronter and guitarist Paul Owens was gracious enough to answer some questions for us, which we present below. Read on, and if you haven't yet availed yourself of the opportunity, be certain to click on the Bandcamp embeds at the foot of the piece to get indoctrinated so that you're ready once Cherry Wave's LP hits. We expect it to hit quite hard.
Clicky Clicky: So why do you use this practice space?

Paul Owens: It's cheap and nearby. The gear there's decent and the rooms are pretty spacious, which is nice. You don't want to be stuck in a tiny cupboard when you have 6 fuzzes on.

CC: Is there an idiosyncrasy or quirk to the space that has affected the sound of one of your songs, or even the overall (deafening) sound of The Cherry Wave?

PO: We've recorded a couple of times in the room -- our first EP and "Under Dull Grey Skies" were both recorded in it -- but generally it's just a place where we can rehearse loud, nothing particularly quirky about it.

CC: You walk into your space. What's the first thing you smell?

PO: The previous band's sweat, which is (as we say in Scotland) minging.

CC: As a guy who accesses contemporary Scottish indie rock solely and selectively through the Internet, I feel unqualified to say this, given what seems like an incomplete view of "the scene," as it were. But even so, there seem to be certain identifiable traits to Scottish indie rock, such as a willingness to embrace noise (and inflict it on listeners), and a certain cutting sense of humor, going at least as far back as Jesus And Mary Chain. As an actual Scotsman, do you feel like this is accurate? Are there representative characteristics of Scottish indie rock that are impossible for an American living in America to perceive via a laptop? There must be, yeah?

PO: I'd say we're probably just the same as any other country: we have a varied musical expression, an absolute ton of atrocious crappy bands that could be from anywhere, and a few decent bands who could also be from anywhere. Maybe an identifiable trait of Scottish bands and musicians is that we generally tend to be politically on the left, but I'm sure that's maybe also the case with artistic communities the world over.

CC: As long-time fans, we're very excited about your full-length debut. We saw that you finished tracking in late spring, that the album was being mixed, that Nick Blinko will do the art and James Plotkin will master. What's left to do? Is there anything about the record will surprise fans of your earlier EPs? Any luck finding a label?

PO: We've not put much effort into looking for a label, so no news on that front. I think there's maybe a few surprises on there, yeah. There's a bit more aggression and variety than we've been able to express on an EP. We're just finishing off the mixing, so hopefully it'll be out very, very soon.

CC: What does the second half of 2014 look like for the band? Grand touring plans? Heading to India to study meditation like the Beatles in '68?

PO: We're just taking things a step at a time, get the album out, then we'll see, but we're not looking to take over the world or make a load of money or sell a million records. We just want to make music we actually like.

CC: Cheers, Paul, thanks for being a part of the feature.

PO: Thanks for asking us! Really appreciate it.
The Cherry Wave: Bandcamp | Facebook | Soundcloud

Related Coverage:
Today's Hotness: The Cherry Wave
Today's Hotness: The Cherry Wave

Previous Show Us Yours episodes:
Shapes And Sizes | Dirty On Purpose | Relay | Mobius Band | Frightened Rabbit | Assembly Now | Meneguar | Okay Paddy | Charmparticles | Calories | Sun Airway | It Hugs Back | Lubec | A Giant Dog | Bent Shapes | Krill | Golden Gurls | Earthquake Party! | Hallelujah The Hills | Seeds Of Doubt

August 2, 2014

Today's Hotness: Literature, Lattimore/Zeigler, Mooncreatures

Literature -- Chorus (detail)

>> We make every effort to stay abreast of the Philadelphia music scene, even as we lack the time to cover every single development from the fertile scene. We were surprised, then, to learn recently of Philly indie-pop unit Literature, whose sophomore album Chorus will be released later this month via Slumberland. The group is following up 2012's wonderful Arab Spring, which dropped shortly after Literature moved to Pennsylvania from Austin (which, we suppose, explains why these cats weren't on our radar). Literature has also appeared on various notable compilations in the intervening years and played events such as the NYC Popfest, and supported such Clicky Clicky-approved acts as Brown Recluse,Sic Alps and The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. And so, unsurprisingly, the new set sounds right at home in the Slumberland catalog. On lead single "The English Softhearts," Literature distinguishes itself with effective keyboard playing (which switches warm synth tones mid-song) and dances with the bright Smiths- and Orange Juice-styled guitar work. If there's a member of the band playing both that and an electric guitar throughout the tune live, props to them. Also notable is lead singer Kevin Attics' voice, one among a fine procession of anglophile Yankee singers that aims for an accent but ends up with something ultimately more exotic and in-between (Nota Bene: this isn't meant as a slight, but rather is intended to illuminate a phenomenon that this reviewer famously enjoys). Mr. Attics succeeds at this more than most, sounding legitimately British (or at least an expat?) and much like a recharged and exuberant Alasdair MacLean of The Clientele. While "The English Softhearts" trades in all manner of classic dynamic tics, the best part of the song is the four-bar bridge toward the end, where pillowy synth-strings and a deep bass line seal the deal on the implied elegance to which the band earnestly aspires. The second preview tune, the elegant dreamer "New Jacket," is no less excellent, pairing nervy guitar jangle and wiry leads with a glistening, icy ambience that feels urgent but timeless. Chorus is set to arrive on CD and vinyl via the legendary Slumberland Aug.19; pre-order the set right here, and consider taking advantage of the label's limited time offer of a bundle of Chorus and Arab Spring. Has the label ever steered you wrong before? -- Edward Charlton

>> In-demand Philly studio guy Jeff Zeigler, the busy engineer behind Clicky Clicky-approved records by artists like A Sunny Day in Glasgow, Kurt Vile, Nothing and Purling Hiss (as well as the frontman for the visionary Arc In Round), this past winter teamed with harpist Mary Lattimore to craft a pleasantly meandering set called Slant Of Light, which will be released by the esteemed Thrill Jockey label Sept. 22. As this blog can't foresee anything not to love about Zeigler's work (we eagerly, eagerly await his long-anticipated solo record), this collaboration seems certain to deliver compelling ambient/post-rock optimal for autumnal daydreaming. Although the four-song tracklisting has been announced (and a version of the lead track "Welsh Corgis In The Snow" previously graced Zeigler's Soundcloud at one point, but is understandably now absent), at press time no preview single from the record has been released. The press materials announcing Slant Of Light, however, point to a compelling live video of the pair performing an untitled piece last summer that indicates what fans can expect from the duo's debut. Lattimore's harp makes unbelievably beautiful and avant garde sounds strained through a Line 6 delay while Zeigler manipulates the mix in real time and lays in smooth, pulsing bass synth chords. The twinkling and ethereal work demonstrates a masterful patience and exciting sense of play that makes us especially eager to catch the duo live. It does plan to make appearances to support the set, which can be pre-ordered right here. The record is being sold on CD and vinyl, with the latter available in a limited edition of 500 pressed to white media. Interface with the video below. -- Edward Charlton

>> Perhaps, as this reviewer would like to think, London-based "reverb-pop" outfit Mooncreatures took seriously our executive editor's March lament regarding a two-year release gap, as it is already queueing up the release of a second title in 2014, a cassette called Sand Maps. While the noteworthy and cinematic prior release Gaslamps was reason enough for celebration, Sand Maps presents still more of the band's impressionistic ambience augmented with fresh dynamic elements that point to the project's continued evolution. The mysterious duo -- which we now know includes Rhys Griffiths and Martyn Dunn -- proffers windblown, dreamy new age/wave within a specific and fragile analogue/electronic context that is singularly their own. This time out, however, on songs such as "The Shallows," the act somewhat surprisingly arrives at something resembling a noisy, traditional rock song, complete with full-blown guitar solos and palm muting -- not what one would generally associate with the typically steady-yet-soft project. Opener "(sea cure)" ratchets a short-delay loop pedal after the first 39 seconds and doesn't let up. "Salt Sea," "Pacific Theme (Solar Effect)," and "Tender Stems, Desert Winds" all tread in territory similar to their previous releases, but retain much of the the delightful affectations -- vocal sibilance, rich synths, and heaps of delay. "Landgrab" perhaps best pulls at the heartstrings, its yearning melody and subdued beat attaining an admirable floating effect while tasteful reverse-delay threatens to derail the tune, just like the harsh gales of the English moors where these two creative minds at least telepathically reside. Sand Maps was released July 18 by the new London-based and Beko Disques-affiliated label Balloon Festival in a limited edition of 40 pea-green cassettes. Buy it here. -- Edward Charlton