September 30, 2014

Today's Hotness: Soccer Mom, Young Adults, Gabriel Saloman, Los Roys

Dan Parlin of Soccer Mom, 2013, from the Clicky Clicky Archives

>> For quite a few years we sided with Tom Petty, believing that the waiting was the hardest part. What we learned in the interim is that that feeling sort of subsides once you're an adult and a lot of life's waiting is behind you. Now we feel firmly ensconced in the Johnny Foreigner school of thought, which believes the hardest part is letting go. We were met yesterday with an opportunity to remember that, as news made its way to us that beloved Boston noise-pop goliath Soccer Mom was pulling the plug on its operation after just a couple more live shows. The context here is that The Mom will play as part of the bill for static-blasting scenemates Young Adults' final show Oct. 12. News of Young Adults' dissolution surfaced this spring, and we have steeled ourselves to the idea of living in a post-YA world, so the sting of the noisy power trio's demise has long since ebbed. But Soccer Mom's formal announcement today was certainly a surprise to many. The foursome -- founded by guitarist and singer Dan Parlin about five years ago -- rose slowly and steadily up from the Boston underground on the back of a couple singles and an EP, all of which we wrote about in these electronic pages, and with the release of its fiery self-titled full-length this past spring [review here, stream it via the embed below], it was as if the band had finally, finally arrived. Now after its show Oct. 12 and an as-yet-unannounced final show, The Mom is gone. If there is some consolation, it is that we're already hearing rumblings about new music projects coming from certain of the members of Soccer Mom, and there is similar news about new music coming from Young Adults fronter Chris Villon, and we look forward to bringing you more information about those things at the appropriate time. In the meantime, Young Adults intends to issue to the wilds of the Internets tomorrow two previously unreleased tunes "Old Kids" and "Void," and we can tell you that both of them rage against the dying of the light and are sure to inspire fist-banging mania among the band's adherents. Chances are if you keep an eye on the Young Adults Facebook page tomorrow you'll see the announcement, but you may also want to open a browser tab for this link and this link, too, just to make sure you've got an eye on things. Young Adults' final salvo into the proverbial breech will occur, as mentioned supra, Oct. 12 at Great Scott in Boston; in addition to Soccer Mom, California X and Earthquake Party! will also perform, making the show a wall-to-wall slayfest. All the details are at this Facebook event page. Now get some rest, you.

>> As the autumn leaves begin to turn and ultimately fall to the streets below, the bare trees will in turn make way for winter's eerie, late-night silences that seem to exist simply for fragile, emotional drone music. Overly sentimental, perhaps, but this reviewer will certainly be adding all 34 minutes of "The Disciplined Body" by Gabriel Saloman to his queue of introspective, ambient jams. Mr. Saloman, who operates out of Vancouver and may or may not be better know for his work with noise-duo Yellow Swans, has turned his attention of late to pleasing piano drones and swooping electronic zones for his latest, two-track release Movement Building Vol.1. The set that apparently collects recent work composed by Saloman to accompany a dance performance by fellow Vancouver-ite Daisy Karen Thompson called "Re-Marks on Source Material." Movement Building Vol.1 will be released by Shelter Press Oct. 18. An preview excerpt titled, for some reason, after the record and not the song, offers up a glimpse into Salomon's sonic world. The composition commences with glowing, quavering bass pulses, then slowly unravels. The front end of the excerpt at first sounds synthetic and vaguely electronic, but gradually gives way to a spacious instrumental section that captures the introspective, clenched emotions of the most chilly, starry evening. After two minutes, the overbearing bass steps aside and an impossibly reverberated guitar drapes a wandering, bottom-string motif over a kick drum that mimics a heartbeat -- an arresting move that gives the glacial track a queerly vital immediacy. And that's just a single excerpt! Stream "Movement Building Vol.1 (Excerpt)" as well as a second excerpt via the Soundcloud embeds below. These relatively quick flashes of the larger whole of "The Disciplined Body" makes purchasing the stark, 500-edition vinyl that much more tempting. Buy it from Shelter Press right here. -- Edward Charlton

>> Remember Bozmo? We covered the Berkeley, Calif.-based outfit now and then, noting its awesome, wide-eyed '60s-inspired psychedelia. The act's sound is never too derivative, coming across more as homage than rote reproduction. More recently we turned on to the apparently affiliated California act Los Roys, whose latest self-released digital EP Hag Season seems to be further evidence that there must be something -- something murky and mod-garage -- in the obviously-only-proverbial Northern California water nowadays. Over the course of six tracks, Hag Season grounds itself in bright acoustic strumming while layered harmonies, snappy snare work and clean lead guitar flesh things out. The overall effect is not too far from some of the fractured pieces by White Fence, whose latest single on Famous Class comes highly recommended. Outside of the eponymous opening instrumental and similar closing track, Los Roys' EP offers up four perfectly realized pop songs that showcase humorous crooning and carefree lyrics in equal measure. "One Thing At A Time" strikes this listener as a sarcastic ode to dealing with life's many problems. "Honey Bear" not only revisits the very Lewis Carroll-esque whimsy that dominated much of the British freakbeat and psychedelic scenes from 1966-1968, but further adds to the tongue-in-cheek fun that Los Roys capture so well (Case in point: The dejected "fuck" that begins "Twisted"). Speaking of "Twisted," it's the best song of the bunch -- all fuzzy vocals and funny warbling and cackling that leads right into an odd, lounge-y electric guitar riff. For those who regard the slack, cut-up posturing and atonalism of the Pebbles, Vol.3: The Acid Gallery compilation as the pinnacle of boomer-generation creativity, Los Roys could not be any more appealing. They speak the truth, man! Stream Hag Season via the Bandcamp embed below, and click through to download it for any price. -- Edward Charlton

September 29, 2014

That Was The Show That Was: Beverly with The Drums | Brighton Music Hall | 22 Sept.

That Was The Show That Was: Beverly with The Drums | Brighton Music Hall | 22 Sept., photo by Dillon Riley

[PHOTO: Beverly by Dillon Riley] As is our wont, we descended last week upon one of Boston's finer rock clubs to revel in the now sounds in indie pop, which more often than not these days means getting to the club early to get a long listen to the undercard. After all, and as previously discussed, sometimes the most exciting time to find such commodities is early. And so it was that at Brighton Music Hall last Monday we put name and face to one of the lovelier dream-pop records of the year, Beverly's full-length debut Careers.

Beverly hails from Brooklyn, despite the fact that its sun-splashed sound evokes the mellower vibes more typically associated with the opposite coast of the U.S. Led by fronter Drew Citron, the band's hazy guitar attack largely echoes certain of the familiar tenets of the dream-pop playbook. What sets the act apart from contemporaries that prefer their noise sweetened, not stirred, is the ready tunefulness of Beverly's work: underneath the de rigueur noise are dynamic, well-realized compositions. The four-piece opened its set with a heavy sheet of tremoloed distortion that gracefully segued into Careers' opening track, "Madora." Thrilling highlights from the set included the preview track "Honey Do," which showcased the ascending vocal harmonies that feature prominently on the record. Beverly performance evidenced further that Ms. Citron and company have a singular approach to a genre that -- unfortunately, and if we are going to be real here -- too-rarely cultivates individuality. Careers was issued by Kanine Records July 1; buy it on LP, CD or download right here.

The newly truncated The Drums recently released a new record of its own entitled Encyclopedia, and its headlining set -- which took place just hours before the record's release -- offered plenty of new music. Pre-released tunes like the stuttering and tense "Magic Mountain" and the nu-Romantic confection "I Can’t Pretend," in particular, blended well with tunes from the act's previous two releases, pairing The Drums' characteristically minimalist, mechanistic groove with the experimental bent of the new record. Alongside the new material, the band delivered should-be hit after should-be hit from its self-titled debut and Portamento, and each selection elicited uproarious applause and word-for-word callbacks from an eager, engaged crowd -- a fairly rare feat for an early Monday night set. A three-song encore comprised of some of The Drums' earliest cuts certainly reminded fans of the reason for the early buzz surrounding the group, and included a white-knuckled iteration of "Let's Go Surfing." As the band finished up, we were left with the satisfied feeling of knowing that the indie pop world is most definitely a better place with The Drums in it. Encyclopedia is its third LP, and the platter was released by Minor Records Sept. 23. Buy it from the band here, and stream cuts from both bands via the embeds below. -- Dillon Riley

Beverly: Facebook | Internerds | Soundcloud
The Drums: Facebook | Internerds

September 20, 2014

Review: Lubec | The Thrall

It often seems that dream-pop is more about the atmosphere and less about the dream itself, about checking the right boxes, dialing the right reverbs, fetishizing the right gear. Which is not to say that production concerns are not something that Portland, Ore.-based guitar-pop quartet Lubec contemplates. But the rising band is about so much more, and with its new full-length The Thrall it has so decisively delivered on its vision for a sonically sculpted, gloriously melodic and viscerally present sound that it is stunning. The set is not the quartet's first long-player -- 2012's Wilderness Days, collects an EP and other early recordings -- and we've been covering the act since its earliest days in 2009. So there is a substantial body of work, of research and development, that has brought Lubec to where it is today.

And all of that toil has paid off: The Thrall is, simply put, a revelation, a fully realized and kaleidoscopic guitar-pop masterpiece that presents the band's striking songcraft and bright optimism within a shifting aural landscape that brilliantly balances clean, jagged leads, crystalline reverbs and thunderous percussion and fuzz. The band refers to its sound as "basement philharmonix," and in years past as "sculpt-rock," but we'd suggest "elegant cacaphony" as an equally suitable alternate. Whatever you want to call it, and although its core members migrated to the west coast years ago, it is undeniable that Lubec has finally arrived, and they've brought with them one of the best records of 2014.

The Thrall is like the beautiful girl in the room whose feet don't seem to touch the ground. It's a diary that captures fleeting moments, and the inherently tragic beauty of impermanence. The narratives therein confront coming of age, aspiration, nostalgia and even disappointment, and are constructed from remarkably literate and thoughtful prose that is as nimble referencing classical mythology ("Sunburn!") as it is describing the incalculable hugeness of life and its possibilities ("The Thrall"). Fronter Eddie Charlton sings with devastating poignance in the climax to the stunning late album track "Another Ghost Song:" "how long has it been? since you lived on a whim?" Indeed, the album's emotional payload is largely driven by the pairing of Mr. Charlton's airy tenor with pianist Caroline Jackson's ethereal backing vocals (Ms. Jackson's piano, interestingly, anchors the band's low end, but makes tasteful forays into its upper register to splash more color across the band's already colorful sonic palette). The pairing of the voices follows a formula that worked for Clicky Clicky fave indie legends Lilys on its early singles and first LP two decades ago, and it works immaculately here within Lubec's smart and dynamic compositions, especially the driving album highlight "Gold Protege."

But The Thrall is so much more than affecting vocals, too. The set thrills by pushing a relatively conventional four-piece band to overachieve. Where indie titans Spoon dazzle by imposing a certain stripe of minimalism onto amazing songs, Lubec's aim is decidedly maximalist, instrumentally, although never redundant. All of Lubec's moving parts really move, and move with purpose in complementary cycles that all support central melodic and rhythmic ideas. And all of it supports the record's wide-eyed, full-hearted and still partly innocent appraisal of the bigness and odd magic of life. The Thrall marvels, and it is marvelous.

Indiana-based Like Young Records is releasing The Thrall in a limited edition of 50 red cassettes on Sept. 21. The first pressing of the cassettes sold out on pre-orders, which should give you some indication of the power of The Thrall; a second pressing is already planned. The band does have a limited amount of product on its collective person, so if you are lucky enough to live in Portland, you may still be able to get your hands on the tape. Lubec fetes the release of The Thrall with a hotly anticipated hometown performance at Mississippi Studios Sept. 21, an evening which also features music from Night Mechanic and Old Wave. Lubec has another in-town performance at The Firkin a couple weeks thereafter, and is planning a strand of house shows across the Pacific Northwest for later in the fall. Stream The Thrall via the Bandcamp embed below.

Lubec: Bandcamp | Facebook | Soundcloud

Selected Previous Coverage:
Today's Hotness: Lubec
Today's Hotness: Lubec
Review: Lubec | Wilderness Days
Today's Hotness: Lubec
Today's Hotness: Lubec
Be Prepared: Lubec | Nothing Is Enough EP Teaser "Cherry Adair"
Show Us Yours #13: Lubec

That Was The Show That Was: Joyce Manor with The Weaks,The Exquisites | The Sinclair | 14 Sept.

The Weaks tune up, Sept. 14, 2014, photo by Dillon Riley

[PHOTO: Dillon Riley] If, like us, you prefer your pop-punk heavy on both the former and the latter, last Sunday's show at The Sinclair was not to be missed [unless you are slacker, in which case you did miss it, as tickets sold out 10 days prior. -- Ed.]. While it's inaccurate to state that hotly tipped topliners Joyce Manor and Clicky Clicky faves The Weaks sound alike, it's undeniable that the acts draw from a similar thematic well. The Weaks approach pop-punk with a pronounced little-c classic big-R Rock aesthetic, incorporating plenty of flashy guitar leads, while Joyce Manor's judiciously edited punk channels elements of vintage hardcore and never lets a song drift past 150 seconds. In common is an almost overwhelming tunefulness and refreshing earnestness that marks the best of the millennial generations' guitar bands.

The Weaks commenced the evening's program of music with hook-laden tunes from their cheekily titled debut EP The World Is A Terrible Place & I Hate Myself And Want To Die, as well as what sounded like some yet newer jams. In the flesh, the Philadelphia-based heroes manifest as a quintet, with a three-guitar attack that ably recreates the thick guitar sound that populates their recordings. Dual fronters Evan Bernard and Chris Baglivo handle most of the vocal and musical heavy lifting, and Mr. Bernard is an especially engaging presence on stage, with a full, booming voice and impressive array of facial hair. "Nietzsche's Harvest Song" connected with the early-arrivers and a particularly lethal take on the EP-highlighting "How To Put An Audience To Sleep In Under Two Minutes" served as a nice entree to the headliner's abbreviated brand of punk rock.

California-foursome Joyce Manor's recently issued LP Never Hungover Again, its fourth, may be the band's finest to date. Not one of the set's 19 minutes feel wasted, and every musical element supports the massive hooks girding each song. Joyce Manor's stage sound and persona challenges the pop-punk tag regularly applied to it, and its notably rowdy shows evidence the fact the act is a breed apart from their relatively staid brethren. It would be an understatement to call what we participated in throughout the show Sunday a "mosh pit," as the assembled mass really had no choice in the matter: literally everyone on the floor was complicit (or at least made complicit) in the chaos. Don't get us wrong, it was a blast, and as much fun as we've had on a Sunday night in quite a while, but the melee almost inhibits the band. Almost. In spite of the swirling tornado of bodies before them, Joyce Manor pulled off its tricky vocal harmonies and quick-change dynamics quite impressively. Everyone in the crowd seemed to know every word and rhythm change in the songs from the new, Epitaph-released record by heart. Seattle's The Exquisites held down the middle slot of the evening, performing songs from its clever 2013 debut Self Titled.

Joyce Manor's tour continues anon with The Exquisites supporting, and is presently in the American south and heading back to the left coast; remaining U.S. dates are posted below. In early November Joyce Manor heads to Europe and the UK for 15 dates there. The Weaks appear to be off the road for now but have dates booked in Charlotte and Atlanta at the end of October. -- Dillon Riley

09.21 -- 1904 Music Hall -- Jacksonville, FL
09.23 -- Backbooth -- Orlando, FL
09.24 -- Epic Problem -- Tampa, FL
09.26 -- Walter's Downtown -- Houston, TX
09.27 -- Red 7 -- Austin, TX
09.28 -- INDEX Festival -- Dallas, TX
09.30 -- Gasworks -- Albuquerque, NM
10.01 -- Yucca Tap Room -- Tempe, AZ
10.02 -- Irenic -- San Diego, CA
10.18 -- New Noise Music Conference at Velvet Jones -- Santa Barbara, CA
10.25 -- Beach Goth 3 -- Santa Ana, CA

September 16, 2014

That Was The Show That Was: Cymbals Eat Guitars with Bob Mould | Paradise Rock Club | 12 Sept.

Joseph D'Agostino of Cymbals Eat Guitars, Sept. 12, 2014, photo by Dillon Riley

We recognize the ridiculousness inherent in reviewing a show where Hüsker Dü-er and Sugar daddy Bob Mould performed, but in which he is not the star of said review, but bear with us. NYC indie rock troupe Cymbals Eat Guitars, who opened for the aforementioned Mr. Mould Friday night at Boston's legendary Paradise Rock Club, are out touring what may very well be their masterpiece, and stood to gain more than the legendary headliner if things went well. Cymbals Eat Guitars' recent third LP is simply titled Lose, and it is a dense, emotional and raw collection. That they're able to promote said record playing shows with a punk icon whose music pretty much set the curve for dense, emotional and raw music is a nifty bit of serendipity. And we're glad to report that Cymbals Eat Guitars were well-received by a crowd that included a substantial contingent of older folks more than likely inclined to consider the night's opener an afterthought, if they considered the opener at all. Happily, we counted plenty of older dudes visibly connecting with and even head-banging excitedly for the younger act.

Cymbals Eat Guitars' set unsurprisingly drew heavily from Lose, with a vital, anthemic reading of early single "Warning" setting the tone for the rest of the foursome's stage time. As noted in the press surrounding the new record, Lose represents no small mount of catharsis for fronter Joseph D'Agostino, a songwriter who played things closer to the vest on the band's earlier records. Despite the shorter time slot, D'Agostino managed to wade pretty deep into the album's emotional whorl, with album highlights "Jackson" and "XR" memorializing in part the sudden loss of a dear friend and former collaborator earlier this century. Cymbals Eat Guitars wisely ended with the record's centerpiece, the eight-minute tour de force "Laramie." The tune touts a slow build-up and concludes with a excoriating noise section during which D'Agostino wrung out notes up the fretboard from behind his head. The old punx liked that a lot. Lose was issued Aug. 26 by Barsuk Records and is available for purchase right here.

"Bob Mould still has it," I texted to a friend as I walked out of the Paradise late Friday night -- and why shouldn't he? With the exception of when he took some time away for important things like pro wrestling and dance music, the man has routinely released impressive rock 'n' roll record after impressive rock 'n' roll record, including his most recent set Beauty & Ruin. And all of that since the dissolution of his second genre-defining group, the aforementioned Sugar. Mould's set Friday was book-ended by two undisputed Hüsker Dü classics in "Flip Your Wig" and "Chartered Trips," respectively, and the meat in the middle served as a mini-"Our Band Could Be Your Life," dipping into the Hüsker and Sugar songbooks heavily, as well as Mould's impressive (and steadily growing) solo repertoire. Mould is backed by one of the best rhythm sections in punk rock, with Superchunk/Mountain Goats' John Wurster on drums and Split Single-guy Jason Narducy on bass, and together the trio impressively recreated the classic SST squall of sound that Mould helped define three decades ago with utterly classic records such as Zen Arcade and the more refined New Day Rising. The obligatory mosh pit materialized in the crowd early on, and it seems safe to assume the multi-generational melee included more than a few who had been there to thrash the first time around. Beauty & Ruin was released by Merge Records June 3 and is available for purchase right here. -- Dillon Riley

Cymbals Eat Guitars: Internerds | Facebook | Soundcloud

Bob Mould: Internerds | Facebook

Related Coverage:
Review: Bob Mould -- Silver Age/ Sugar -- Reissues
Rock Over Boston: Superchunk | Versus | Royale | 9.22.2010
Rock Over Boston | Bob Mould | Paradise
Today's Hotness: Bob Mould
Review: Bob Mould | Circle Of Friends [DVD]

September 15, 2014

Video Premiere: Hoax Hunters' Fiery Fireball "Erase"

Last month Senior Writer Edward Charlton made a strong case in these electronic pages here that Hoax Hunters' multidimensional fireball "Erase" was the Richmond post-hardcore trio's most compelling composition to date. Here's the whole quote: "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."

Presenting the tune live would seem to present myriad challenges given the collaged opening minute and distinct movements, but we think the video above is proof of a challenge met. Doubled-down upon, even, as instead of the recorded version's opening minute of ambient noise and feedback, fronter P.J. Sykes and band -- here abetted by a gentlemen named Dave Watkins -- open the tune with more than two minutes of feedback, coaxed by hands hammering the backs of guitar necks. Then, after delivering a passionate, fiery iteration of the tune, Hoax Hunters return it from whence it came, ashes to ashes, a conflagration of feedback hungrily devouring the song, until all that is left is Mr. Sykes and his guitar hanging off the front of his amplifier like an astronaut hopelessly clinging to the exterior of her spacecraft. It's quite a video. The performance was filmed at the release show for Hoax Hunters' debut LP Comfort & Safety, which was held Aug. 8 at Gallery 5 in Richmond, VA. The trio recently performed at Raleigh's Hopscotch Festival, and its next show is Sept. 28 in Richmond with The Awesome Few. Comfort & Safety can be purchased from the also Raleigh-based label Negative Fun right here. New music is apparently already in the offing.

September 14, 2014

Review: Cookies | Music For Touching

We spent more time than most in the first decade of this century watching Ben Sterling bend like a hinge over electronics in darkened rock clubs, the rhythm of the music and his duties on guitar for the visionary indie trio Mobius Band pulling him up while his obligations to punch pads on a sampler pulled him down. When the trio disbanded at the end of the oughts, we were more than a little disappointed, but that feeling was eventually ameliorated by a stream of 10" EPs that Mr. Sterling issued under the mildly ludicrous Cookies moniker starting in 2010. Finally, after life got in the way for a while, after Sterling patiently wrote and re-wrote the songs that would comprise it, Cookies issued last week the debut LP Music For Touching. It is a striking and rich collection of brilliantly conceived electropop, and proof positive that there are few songwriters -- at any sales level -- as smart as Ben Sterling.

It may surprise some that the set takes more cues from Prince or The Gap Band than the post-punk and post-rock that informed much of Mobius Band's work. Of course, given the four Cookies 10" records, those who claim surprise just haven't been paying attention. That aside, one need look no further than Mobius Band's swan song Heaven -- as well as certain of the cover tunes on the informal Valentine's Day EPs the trio still gives away for free -- for evidence of Sterling's affinity for more groovy and relatively conventional sounds. But it is a mistake to think that, just because Sterling's tastes have gravitated toward more traditional (or at least more traditionally listened-to) sounds and structures, that he has abandoned his marked yen for experimentation. The beautiful, languid rumination "The Dream" which closes Music For Touching illustrates that Sterling instead uses the latter to inform the former. The song works a slow R&B vamp, features some gloriously liquid guitar soloing, and lays both over minimal, clattering electronic rhythm tracks that gently remind of Sterling's bona fides as a former Ghostly Records signee. Maybe Sterling's aesthetic has always fed a conventional/experiemental duality, but it has never before been so purely expressed than on Music For Touching.

While the collection closes by fading into reverie, it pops open on the front end like a can of tennis balls. Staccato hand-claps and a foregrounded bleep establish a head-bobbing groove over which Sterling and vocalist Melissa Metrick coo from within the optimistic halo of young love gone right in "1,000 Breakfasts With You." That song claps itself out and is warmly met ("Hello. It's nice to see you.") by a robot voice introducing Music For Touching's second preview single, "Go Back." That joinder is the first of many snappy sequencing choices, the best of which may be where the primary descending three-note melody of the deliriously catchy "July 17" abuts the ascending three-note bumping bass line that drives the next tune, the funky -- and we do not use that word lightly -- standout "Crybaby." But it isn't just the sequencing of Music For Touching that makes it shine so bright; it's not even just the songwriting. During the four years it took to germinate the record, Sterling selected very arresting sounds, from the kalimba that provides the hypnotic counter-melody entering with the first chorus of "Spill Of Sugar," to the neon-dripping synth stabs and mind-scrambling baritone sax solo in the aforementioned "Crybaby," to the thick, Beatles-implying piano chords underpinning the title track.

We like to think of Mr. Sterling as the next generation's Daryl Hall -- "next generation" because he is that far ahead of the pack in terms of style -- but akin to Mr. Hall in his appreciation for substance, which is to say, actually substantial pop and, yes, even soul. As an aside, it's interesting to think how Sterling's arc as a songwriter roughly traces the rise of the music crit viewpoint known as poptimism, which rise itself tracks recent critical acceptance of music marked by glossy (even unrealistic) production and a distinct contemporary R&B influence. Clicky Clicky itself does not embrace the poptimist perspective ("rockism" forever! get off my lawn, youths! -- Ed.), and it will never aspire to be "in touch with the taste of average music fans." We expect Sterling would bristle at a reference to his music as poptimist, if only because, really, what makes music less fun than yoking it to some fairly bullshit intellectual name-calling. What we will say is that, while poptimism strains to make excuses for contemporary pop music, Sterling's only concern for pop or music is to make it smarter. While the above-linked article posits that poptimism stands in opposition to adventurousness, Sterling clearly carries with him that same sense of adventure that first manifested itself in the earliest Mobius Band music. Indeed, that adventurousness is even more intensified as a result of Sterling's sole responsibility for writing and producing all of Music For Touching. And it is what makes us such ardent fans of the musical places Sterling takes us. We are very eager to hear what comes next.

Music For Touching is available now as a very attractive 12" vinyl LP and digital download, both of which can be ordered via the act's Bandcamp outpost here. The vinyl edition comes with a "newspaper of companion images by Emily Keegan titled "Tools For Touching." Cookies fête the release of Music For Touching with a show at Baby's All Right in Brooklyn Tuesday; the night also features performances by Superhuman Happiness and The Great Void. Boston-area fans should set aside the evening of Sept. 24, as Cookies will be making a very rare area appearance at Cafe 939 in Boston's Back Bay neighborhood. The Boston date is part of a short strand of shows Cookies will embark upon with tourmates Dawn Of Midi Sept. 22 that swirl through the mid-Atlantic and Northeast. Full dates are below.

Cookies: Bandcamp | Facebook | Interzizzles | Soundcloud

09.22 -- Washington, DC -- The Black Cat
09.24 -- Boston, MA -- Cafe 939
09.25 -- Portland, ME -- Space Cafe
09.26 -- Burlington, VT -- Signal Kitchen
09.28 -- Hamden, CT -- The Space
09.29 -- Philadelphia, PA -- Johnny Brenda's

Related Coverage:
Today's Hotness: Cookies
Today's Hotness: Cookies
Today's Hotness: Mobius Band

September 11, 2014

From The Banford File: Boston Calling In Pictures

You there. Yes, you, discerning indie rock fan. Was our five-part, wall-to-wall coverage of this past weekend's Boston Calling festival just not immersive enough for you? Well, while going over our archived notes from the weekend, we stumbled upon this neat-o photo set from shadowy freelance operative Quinn Banford. You will find therein evidence of good rock music being played, and good rock music being heard. And we think you will agree the photos of Lorde and Spoon in particular really sizzle. It seems essential to share Mr. Banford's work with you. Banford, on special assignment to Clicky Clicky yet again, had this to say about his experience in the field at the festival:
"Carrying around a camera felt a bit odd at times, especially with the flowing amounts of beers waving in the air. The poor camera had no rain coat and the lightning storm was another form of "wet" that it wasn't ready to take on. But my good lad Nick the Nikon had bold plans, and he got those pictures. He pulled through."

Previous Coverage:
Replacements Deliver Blazing Set, Spoon and The War On Drugs Also Highlight Final Day Of Boston Calling
Rain Delay Dampens Boston Calling Day Two, But The Hold Steady, Sky Ferreira And Lorde Still Shine Brightly
Classic Neutral Milk Hotel Lineup Electrifies Night One Of Boston Calling Festival
Boston Calling This Weekend: Five Key Sets To Catch By Bands That Are Not The Replacements
Boston Calling This Weekend: The Replacements Return To Boston For First Show In 23 Years

September 10, 2014

Replacements Deliver Blazing Set, Spoon and The War On Drugs Also Highlight Final Day Of Boston Calling

The Replacements, Boston Calling festival, Sept. 7, 2014, photo by Dillon Riley

[PHOTO: Dillon Riley] Here it was, Sunday, the day we waited for with bated breath, the final day of this fall's Boston Calling music festival. The day we saw one of the greatest rock acts ever, The Replacements, return to our fair city for its first area show in more than two decades, along with noteworthy bands who channel in one form or another the legendary act's influences. A friend we encountered Sunday on Boston's City Hall Plaza noted the presence of a much older crowd than previous days, and we laughed nervously in agreement, wondering what that said about us, our mindset, and our own inherent age/mortality. Such concerns were assuaged -- at least temporarily -- by the incredibly vital sets of rock 'n' roll we saw; here are the highlights. -- Dillon Riley
The War On Drugs (3PM, Blue Stage)

We noted in our preview last week The War On Drugs' recent breakthrough with the release of its latest record Lost In The Dream. So it's somewhat sad to report that the general excitement surrounding the band out among the broader indiedom wasn't reflected in the Boston crowd's reaction to the Philadelphia act's midday set. Indeed, festival-goers seemed a little less than enthused, which is a shame, because Adam Granduciel and his cohort laid on the grooves nice and thick. There was a propulsive chug to some of the new record's sleepier numbers, including the title track. For his part, Mr. Granduciel employed some nimble fretwork on punchier tunes such as the album's early single "Red Eyes." A reference to the dearly departed rock radio broadcaster 104.1 WBCN fell on deaf ears to boot, prompting Granduciel to deadpan something to the effect of "Y'all should get out more." We wholeheartedly concur.

Spoon (7PM, Blue Stage)

In case you need reminding, Spoon has a lot of good songs. A lot of them. And they played quite a few of them in a challenging time slot early Sunday evening (when many minds were likely drifting ahead to the next hour's highly touted Replacements appearance). But Austin's favorite sons acquitted themselves with aplomb, however, and it was nice to see the act retains a youthful energy whilst still being able to showcase the major progression it has undertaken over the last two decades. The band's bold opening salvo was a nervy take on "Small Stakes" off 2002's critically adored Kill The Moonlight before slipping into a few hot tracks back-to-back off their latest offering They Want My Soul. No complaints here, as the new record bursts with massive hooky rock-and-roll without abandoning the experimental nature of certain of Spoon's work. A heartfelt mid-set shout-out to the beloved 'Mats, who were figuratively on deck, was well-received, too, and provided a candid and true moment of real meets real.

The Replacements (8:15PM, Red Stage)

"Yes, we are this close for the goddamn Replacements," is what we kept saying to ourselves as we hung over the barrier by the right side of the stage Sunday night. And the Minneapolis-spawned act's fiery set was everything we thought it would be, and possibly more. No, Billie Joe didn't show, and couches be damned, the recently hobbled fronter Paul Westerberg made it through the whole hit-spangled, 20ish-song set without any back issues... though he did pour salt and pepper on his guitar. The set came off like all those legendary 'Mats sets we've only read about in Our Band Could Be Your Life, all manic energy and hilariously flubbed choruses. Sure, Westerberg forgot an entire verse of "Androgynous," big deal -- the crowd knew all the words and was happy to fill in the blanks. The band snuck offstage for all of about 30 seconds before returning to run through a brilliant take on Pleased To Meet Me's "Alex Chilton," a towering love letter to the legendary and iconoclastic former Big Star co-fronter (the song was explosively delivered again Tuesday night on late night television). Turns out Nas and The Roots had sent Paul, Tommy, Dave and Josh back out for the quick encore (likely sacrificing some of their own stage time in doing so, it should be pointed out). So thanks to the festival closers for letting the boys play, and thank you boys for taking the piss out of the final chorus on "I Will Dare." The laughs helped chase away the tears of joy.
And that about wraps it up for Boston Calling 2014. On a personal note: what an amazing, scary, tiring and emotionally trying weekend. We believe Saturday's final run of Spoon into The Replacements into Nas + The Roots' headlining set may have been the best show-going experience of our year thus far, and you better believe we've seen some shit. Until next time...

Previous Coverage:
Rain Delay Dampens Boston Calling Day Two, But The Hold Steady, Sky Ferreira And Lorde Still Shine Brightly
Classic Neutral Milk Hotel Lineup Electrifies Night One Of Boston Calling Festival
Boston Calling This Weekend: Five Key Sets To Catch By Bands That Are Not The Replacements
Boston Calling This Weekend: The Replacements Return To Boston For First Show In 23 Years

September 7, 2014

Rain Delay Dampens Boston Calling Day Two, But The Hold Steady, Sky Ferreira And Lorde Still Shine Brightly

The Hold Steady, Boston Calling festival, Sept. 6, 2014, photo by Dillon Riley

[PHOTO: Dillon Riley] As some of our more observant readers know, we had the good fortunate to wait out most yesterday's three-hour rain delay of Day Two of the Boston Calling festival from the relative safety of the VIP section of City Hall Plaza. Between some intense bouts of beach ball keep-up and sorta-frightening lighting strikes, we made some new friends and chatted about The Hold Steady, among other things. We were among the first hundreds back inside around 9PM post-delay, which afforded us the opportunity to be thoroughly impressed with New Zealand pop wunderkind Lorde's performance. It goes without saying that we're grateful to the Boston Calling staff for being accommodating and making sure we didn't get turned into Sizzlean via lightning blast last evening. Here's the best of what we heard and saw Saturday. -- Dillon Riley
Sky Ferreira (3:05 p.m. Blue Stage)

Hype and tempest/teapot-scaled controversies aside, one thing was made clear during Sky Ferreira's mid-afternoon set: she's got a hell of a voice. Surrounded by a trio of grizzly dudes whose day jobs are more than likely far removed from the glittery, girl group-indebted synth-stomp of Night Time, My Time, Ms. Ferreira presented a commanding presence on stage. While the music itself -- driven by thudding synth bass and high-hat driven beats -- is easy enough to swallow, it does little to hide the fact that Ferreira is really the show. And, as such, it grew easier and easier to see why her (pop) star has steadily grown over the last few years. Certain technical issues broke the rhythm of her set, but even so watching her shout to the sound crew from behind big black sunglasses seemed consistent with its overall vibe. "Everything Is Embarrassing" inspired dancing among the assembled masses.

The Hold Steady (5:00 p.m. Blue Stage)

The Hold Steady were our key picks for Saturday's festivities, and we're very happy to report that they did rock most steadfastly. Our scrawled notes excitedly shout from the page something to the effect of Craig Finn being the consummate indie rock frontman. Much like, say, Guided By Voices' Robert Pollard, Mr. Finn pulls plenty of rock star stage moves, as they have been handed down generation to generation from Elvis to Iggy and so on. This included plenty of nerdy off-mic ad-libbing and over-animated expressions to go along with Finn's prowling, strutting and mic stand twirls. The Hold Steady tour with two additional guitar players these days that trade lead and rhythm duties, which render Finn's guitar-based contributions (or more accurately, lack thereof) all the more comical. Songs in which he elects to sling on the ol' axe were seemingly chosen at random, but, hey, we aren't roadies, so what do we know? When minded at all, his guitar would typically only receive attention for a verse or two before Finn shoved it aside to make with the dancing. The Hold Steady's set itself was a briskly paced tour de force of rock 'n' roll, and drew tunes from nearly its entire catalog. It was a crowd-pleaser to be sure, cramming in 14 songs in just about an hour.

Previous Coverage:
Classic Neutral Milk Hotel Lineup Electrifies Night One Of Boston Calling Festival
Boston Calling This Weekend: Five Key Sets To Catch By Bands That Are Not The Replacements
Boston Calling This Weekend: The Replacements Return To Boston For First Show In 23 Years

September 6, 2014

Classic Neutral Milk Hotel Lineup Electrifies Night One Of Boston Calling Festival

Neutral Milk Hotel, Boston Calling festival, Sept. 5, 2014, photo by Dillon Riley

[PHOTO: Dillon Riley] Being huge fans of the Elephant 6 collective mainstay's brief (but life-affirming) oeuvre, we were understandably psyched to catch Neutral Milk Hotel assume the Boston Calling stage Friday night prior to The National's headlining set for the first night of this fall's iteration of the Boston Calling festival. Lo and behold, the act did not disappoint. Fronter/cult figure Jeff Mangum appeared on stage first, an electrified acoustic guitar in hand, sparking uproarious applause. He then dipped into a solemn strum. As his piece gained footing and favor, the fellow members of the classic Neutral Milk Hotel lineup bounded on stage behind him. Then, with the five supporting characters behind Mr. Mangum, the unit broke into a glorious rendition of CC eternal fave "Holland, 1945."

From there, the hits did not let up, with the band gracing the crowd with nearly all of the In The Aeroplane Over The Sea, as well as a number of additional choice cuts from their debut LP On Avery Island. A particularly vibrant take on the On Avery Island standout (and supposedly Galaxie 500-baiting) "Naomi" proved to be one of our favorite parts of a moving and extremely fulfilling set. The self-titled song suites from the aforementioned Aeroplane drew some of the biggest cheers and sing-alongs from the crowd, but on the whole the massive swell of energy among the assembled masses incited by Mangum's mere presence onstage rarely abated, if at all, throughout Neutral Milk Hotel's electrifying performance. In a brilliant piece of showmanship, NMH's set ended just as it had begun, with Mangum standing alone, bellowing his heart out with distorted guitar strums clipping just like the records. "Two-Headed Boy Pt. 2", the final tune he played, was a fitting end to the story arc of Aeroplane as well as to the band's set this night. We're not sure where Mangum intends to take the band from here, but we certainly like the Boston Calling stage provided him with some decent closure, should that be what he's looking for. -- Dillon Riley

Neutral Milk Hotel: Internerds | Wikipedia

September 3, 2014

Boston Calling This Weekend: Five Key Sets To Catch By Bands That Are Not The Replacements

The Hold Steady, Cambridge, Mass., Oct. 30, 2006, photo from the Clicky Clicky Archives
[PHOTO: The Hold Steady, Cambridge, Mass., Oct. 2006, from the Clicky Clicky Archives]

Earlier this week, as you will recall, we waxed poetically in these electronic pages about how unbelievably stoked we are for The Replacements' triumphant return to Boston Sunday, when the storied band hits the Boston Calling stage (ahead of NYC rap legend Nas and The Roots, no less). Today we're taking the opportunity to flag for readers the rest of the acts the Clicky Clicky brain trust deems most likely to turn in festival-highlighting performances framed against the brutalist architecture of Boston's City Hall Plaza. If you remember nothing else from this piece, remember this: stick close to the blue stage sponsored by the apparently consistently satisfying air carrier (as opposed to the red stage sponsored by the credit card company fined $140 million in 2012 for deceptive marketing). Indeed, the weekend's best acts, in our opinion, are stacked up at said blue stage. And so this is where you'll catch us clapping, cheering, and outwardly displaying all manner of merriment during this weekend's festival, and particularly during the five sets highlighted below. Dig with us now below the who, the when and the why. -- Dillon Riley
___//Friday, Sept. 5th//

Neutral Milk Hotel (8PM, Blue Stage)

The indie rock institution recently emerged from self-imposed exile to a large run of reunion dates surrounding a deluxe box set release from Merge, including two nights at the Orpheum Theatre downtown that certain members of the Clicky Clicky editorial staff -- but not all of them -- regrettably missed. There's really no need to spill too much digital ink on the importance of the collective's two epoch-defining records, but suffice it to say they mean a great amount to a good many, and the track "Holland, 1945" in particular is etched in full upon the hearts of many more. Know this, though, dear readers: the current iteration of Neutral Milk Hotel is the lineup that recorded and toured behind their swansong/magnum opus In The Aeroplane Over The Sea, so it's a good bet we'll hear plenty of tunes from it. Considering how long this reunion tour has bee going on, it wouldn't be outrageous to perhaps even expect something new from Jeff Mangum and Co. We mean, it wouldn't, right? A blog can dream.

The National (9:30PM, Blue Stage)

Elder statesmen in the indie rock game who came across like self-assured pros from the get-go, The National has built up an impressive catalogue in their decade-plus as a recording entity. Theirs is one filled with a strong identity and a strong handle on a sound that borrows heavily from the darkness of British post-punk but filters it through a prism of strong Midwestern sentimentality. Much like fellow indie legends R.E.M., their records can be exercises in slow, deliberate progression. Sure, successive releases regularly mine similar territory as those prior, but one should not mistake consistency for complacency. To wit, The National's latest, 2013's Trouble Will Find Me, boasts one of their strongest collections of songs since the act's 2005 breakthrough Alligator. Also of note, guitar player Aaron Dessner has been a co-curator of Boston Calling since its inception. This year's performance will be the band's second appearance as a headliner.

___//Saturday, Sept. 6//

The Hold Steady (5PM, Blue Stage)

The Hold Steady and our beloved 'Mats are cut from the same cloth, generally speaking. The younger act's ultra-relateable songs -- featuring the painstakingly detailed lyrics of Boston College-graduated fronter Craig Finn -- are filled with loveable losers whose judgment and choices are often clouded and/or fueled by intoxicants; The Hold Steady's early shows weren't exactly sober occasions, either. Certain of the editorial contingent here at Clicky Clicky are comfortable advancing an argument that, as a recording entity, The Hold Steady were far less erratic than the 'Mats. Not unlike The National, The Hold Steady spent the '00s putting together a stream of critically acclaimed and universally -- at least within the indiesphere -- beloved records that positioned the act tantalizingly close to a break through into the overground. That never quite happened (that part like sounds familiar to 'Mats fans, too), but the band soldiers on making great records and putting on remarkable and cathartic shows. Saturday is the act's first appearance at Boston Calling.

___//Sunday, Sept. 7//

The War On Drugs (3PM, Blue Stage)

2014 has proven to be the year Adam Granduciel finally achieved the notoriety on par with that of certain of his famous Philly friends. Not that it is a contest or anything, but The War On Drugs -- a recording project overseen almost entirely by Mr. Granduciel -- is regularly addressed in the same breath as Kurt Vile, Philly's favorite über chill son and an early Drugs collaborator. However, with the release of The War On Drugs' gargantuan new record Lost In The Dream, Granduciel has stepped out of Vile's friendly but long shadow. Boasting a billowing and bold batch of songs that takes the Americana-in-space aesthetic of predecessor Slave Ambient and blows it up to widescreen HD, The War On Drugs' latest even reminds us of Spiritualized with its massive, philosophical scope, enveloping swells and sonic trickery. We've heretofore only seen the band once, at a show in Central Park in NYC a few years back, and it will be fulfilling to finally see the band post the well-earned breakthrough.

Spoon (7PM, Blue Stage)

Got a bit of a running theme here, as Spoon represent another ultra-consistent indie rock group whose work defines the aughts. While certainly taking a more calculated, minimalist approach to rock 'n' roll than the aforementioned Clicky Clicky Fest Picks, Spoon is arguably the most notable of the three in the greater scheme of things. Their transition from Pixies-indebted garage riffers/major label aspirants to whatever weird micro-genre can classify them post-Girls Can Tell can be seen as one of the most vital evolutions in the past three decades. Their latest record, They Want My Soul, their first not on indie flagship Merge since being fatefully dropped from Elektra all those years ago, documents yet another creative rejuvenation. Turning to Flaming Lips producer David Fridmann for support, They Want My Soul situates the band among new sounds and finds them blending new techniques into their established mix with winning results, and recent reports of the acts always-dependable live show are quite promising.
Related Coverage:
Rock Over Boston: Jeff Mangum | 9.9 - 9.10.2011
Review: The War On Drugs | Slave Ambient
Footage: The War On Drugs' "Baby Missiles"
Today's Hotness: The War On Drugs
Clicky Clicky Music Blog's Top Albums 2000-2009
Today's Hotness: The War On Drugs
Today's Hotness: The Hold Steady
Today's Hotness: The Hold Steady
Today's Hotness: The War On Drugs
That Was The Show That Was: Spoon | The Roxy
Today's Hotness: Spoon
Today's Hotness: Spoon
Today's Hotness: The Hold Steady
That Was The Show That Was: The Hold Steady

September 1, 2014

Boston Calling This Weekend: The Replacements Return To Boston For First Show In 23 Years

The Replacements, Toronto, Ontario, Aug. 2013, photo by Brad Searles, used by permission (crop)
[PHOTO: The Replacements in Toronto in Aug. 2013 by Brad Searles, used with permission]

We don't often write about The Replacements here for the same reason people most people don't often write about gravity. The Minneapolis-spawned act is hugely important, but at this point it is largely taken for granted that the quartet's music and attitude underpin just about every square inch of indie rock. Mainstream music fans can certainly be excused for regarding the quartet as a footnote: The 'Mats rated zero gold records; zero platinum records; zero top 20 hits. They were never asked to appear on "The Muppet Show," they were banned from "Saturday Night Live" (think REALLY HARD about that). The band's original lead guitarist is dead, the original drummer would rather be a painter, and the frontman for years said he would rather stay home.

But the legend of the band has grown with each passing year since its roadies bashed out their last notes -- the de rigueur ending of many a Replacements show during the act's original run -- in Chicago on July 4, 1991. And so a funny thing happened on the way to oblivion: it basically became stupid for fronter Paul Westerberg NOT to join up with bassist Tommy Stinson again, along with some trusty old friends, and just take the money (rumored to be in the ballpark of $250,000 per show). And, thank the higher power of your choosing, some of that filthy lucre is bringing the legendary, Our Band Could Be Your Life'd rock act to town for the latest iteration of the Boston Calling music festival this coming weekend.

You've heard the legends, right? The drunken antics, the feces in the elevator, the seemingly intentional torpedoing of big gigs during the band's wild '80s. Indeed, its instincts regularly tilted toward pissing upon the polished loafers of opportunity. And so the seeds of the current reunion weren't sown by promises of the big payoff, or at least not solely so. First Mssrs. Westerberg and Stinson along with founding drummer Chris Mars got together to record two tunes including "Message To The Boys" to entice fans to buy the fairly superfluous 2006 compilation Don't You Know Who I Think I Was? Mr. Mars didn't actually drum on the 2006 recordings -- drumming duties fell to current 'Mats drummer/musical journeyman Josh Freese -- but he did contribute backing vocals. But everything seemed to go well, and well enough that the band set to recording again last year.

It is the recording sessions for the 2013 EP Songs For Slim -- which aimed to raise money to help late-period 'Mats guitarist Slim Dunlap recover from a stroke (founding guitarist Bob Stinson's body succumbed to years of alcohol and drug abuse in 1995) -- that ultimately spurred the band into its present state of sorta-being. Indeed, press for the release of Songs For Slim was almost completely overshadowed by pronouncements from Paul and Tommy indicating that playing shows under the Replacements moniker was no longer out of question. And then the 'Mats tumbled into an improbable new existence, top-lining festivals over the last 12 months, and now -- finally, Finally, FINALLY -- bringing the show to Boston once again.

Looking at this set list of The Replacements' heretofore final Boston show, which occurred all the way back in February '91, one sees the band didn't dip any further back into its catalog than "Within Your Reach," its debut LP and Stink EP ignored at least for the night (Westerberg, we should note for those that don't know, enjoyed a pretty hopping solo career after the dissolution of The Replacements, but he has not played Boston since 2006). Which is something that, unsurprisingly, distinguishes The Replacements of 1991 from the (sorta) Replacements of 2014. While giving the people what they want these days has sometimes required Westerberg to lay on a couch on stage, set lists for all the reunion gigs have included tunes from as far back as the band's first LP, which has thrilled the hardcore fans who have the pocket change to purchase the pricey festival tickets one needs in order to gain an audience with The Replacements these days. Boston fans attending this weekend's Boston Calling festival were asked to part with at least $75 for the opportunity to see The 'Mats Sunday night slotted in between Spoon and The Roots with Nas. Even so, we imagine nary a one will be complaining about the ducats when the band hits the stage.

Old-time Boston rock fans will see a familiar face on stage, of course, assuming Dave Minehan is handling guitar duties for the show. Mr. Minehan made his name in the Boston act The Neighborhoods in the early '80s and later as a noted recording engineer around town. And if Minehan's face doesn't ring a bell for the kids in the audience, it's possible that The Replacements will bring along Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong to help out on vocals and guitar; Mr. Armstrong, as obliquely alluded to supra, has been playing with the group a fair amount this festival season, and his schedule looks clear for a while. If that's a thing you would hope for, then go ahead and hope -- anything to make this week go by faster, yeah? For what it is worth, here is a Clicky Clicky's Choice of 21 favorite 'Mats tunes. Get down front Sunday night to hear some of 'em.

Clicky Clicky's Choice: 21 Favorite Replacements Songs In Discographical Order
//Spotify Playlist//
"Johnny's Gonna Die"
"Kids Don't Follow"
"Color Me Impressed"
"Within Your Reach"
"I Will Dare"
"Favorite Thing"
"Answering Machine"
"Bastards Of Young"
"Left Of The Dial"
"Here Comes A Regular"
"Alex Chilton"
"Nightclub Jitters"
"Can't Hardly Wait"
"Talent Show"
"I'll Be You"
"Merry Go Round"
"Sadly Beautiful"
"All Shook Down"