It’s good to see Pamplona, Spain’s Melenas returning with album number two. Their 2017 self-titled debut was a nice surprise that saw the band working in the realm of Flying Nun jangle with some additional guitar drone that brought to mind the Bats, Look Blue Go Purple and the Shop Assistants. It didn’t get much attention due to its Spanish-only release. Same for last year’s single Yo No Me Importa. Though both are out of print and going for semi-big bucks on discogs, so someone is paying attention. The new album Dias Raros which gets a US release courtesy of Trouble In Mind records should help get the group some more deserved attention and wider availability especially if you prefer hard copy music.
Dias Raros features some new facets to their sound. Lead track Primer Tiempo features great droning keyboards that evoke classic kraut influenced stuff and bands like Electrelane and Stereolab. Los Alemanes has similar hypnotic affects. The production and playing on this record sounds like it’s improved from their debut. The band feel more comfortable with different tempos and more space in their sound as is evident in songs like El Teimpo Ha Pasado and En Madrid and the guitar solo in 29 Grados. There are some great uptempo rockers here too. 3 Segundos, No Puedo Pensar and Ya No Es Verano are bonafide future jangle classics that even the most jaded indie rocker would find it hard not to nod along to. If you haven’t noticed from the song titles that everything is sung in Spanish, it is. But even with my rudimentary Spanish skills I find myself singing along to some of the choruses (probably incorrectly). If you’re a fan of the jangly Dunedin sound of 80’s Flying Nun and your Spanish is better than mine, you will too.
You probably don’t know this, but I was a member of BOAT for a very brief time. I showed up for one of their album release shows, I think it was for the Dress Like Your Idols album at the Tractor. To my surprise the show was sold out. D Crane spotted me in line and I told him I didn’t have a ticket. Immediately he grabbed M McKenzie, got his wristband and gave it to me and gave his own wristband to my buddy who was also without a ticket. A little apprehensive about impersonating members of BOAT, D Crane told me not to worry because the opening band had about 12 members and there was no way the door guy would know if we were really in the band or not.It’s a great example of how down to earth this band is and how they don’t take themselves too seriously (Their Instagram is called Sloppypopstagram and they still book shows using their fictitious manager H. Fozzleberry).
It’s been seven years since BOAT put themselves into storage. In the meantime they’ve collaborated with Math & Physics Club as Unlikely Friends for three albums and some shows. When a band with a low-profile like BOAT reforms, it doesn’t really bring with it the massive expectations concocted by fans and the media. This seems to have played in the band’s favor as D Crane and J Long traded demos back and forth. The songs for album came together in secret and with zero expectations from anyone except from the band themselves.
So what do we get with the new BOAT LP in 2020 as the band enter their 40’s (their golden years)? Believe it or not, we get the best BOAT LP yet. It’s not a concept record per se, but you could argue that it’s their mid-life crisis. Most folks have panic attacks and nervous breakdowns, BOAT writes a bunch of hits about it, infusing self-effacing humor, drum loops, bleeps and bloops, killer guitar riffs and chest thumping choruses. Metabolism, In the Water, the title track, So Many Reasons Your Turns Gray, I believe In the Principle, Loneliness Kills and the Ballad of Gaz Coombes all deserve to be considered as some of the best songs the band has written. The guys are obviously rejuvenated and at the peak of their pop powers and make a good argument that older guys can still bring it.
When we last caught up with Portland, Oregon’s Mo Troper it was 2017 and his very good album Exposure and Response. He’s still writing top quality pop songs on album number three which is called Natural Beauty. Where Exposure employed the services of Richard Manning of Jellyfish fame for the horn and string arrangements, this album sees Troper handling most of them himself with now obvious quality degradation.
Natural Beauty is a solid batch of songs (Almost Full Control, Come and Get Me, and Jaz from Australia are all standouts). The obvious standout song here (and one of his best songs yet) is Your Boy. It’s two minutes of sheer pop brilliance in the vein of the La’s There She Goes. Maybe it’s the similarity the two songs share in their choruses (“There she goes” vs “There goes your boy”), or it could be the jangly guitar intro, or perhaps it’s the fleeting brevity of the song. Whatever the case, it was the reason the repeat button was created. I wouldn’t be surprised if I didn’t start hearing it used in many upcoming romantic comedy movies. Get it below before it’s discovered and killed by corporate America.
The original singing cowboy was Gene Autry which has little to do with the Cowboys of this post. These Cowboys don’t come from Texas, instead they call the flatlands of Bloomington, Indiana home. The band seemed to start gaining some attention when Hozac released their 3rdLP in 2017 and those positive notes continued with last year’s the Bottom of a Rotten Flower which had elements of the Kinks, Who and Guided by Voices along with tight post punk riffs to keep it in the corral.
Continuing their prolific ways, Room of Clons was released by the band last month and has been really clicking with me. Wise Guy Algorithm is great midwest post punk featuring snotty similarities with Uranium Club, Devo and Pere Ubu. The Beige Collection has a great gothic feel to it. Days with its kazoo and Queen Bee Real Estate with it’s saloon piano and bounciness both sound like they could have been an outtake from Kinks Face to Face or maybe the Apples in Stereo. It doesn’t stop there either. The Human Puzzle channels some serious Television in it and Martian Childcare shows that the band can do straightforward pop and like some of the best feature a killer chorus shrouding much darker subject matter.
I can’t say that Room of Clons is their best album because I have yet to get them all. I can say that it’s a subtly great record that is very midwestern in style with nods at other eccentric mid west bands of past and present. Not flamboyant, but done with such a confidence that could be mistaken for flamboyance. Like most great records, it keeps you guessing.
Anyone out there remember Slum of Legs? They released a couple really good 7-inch singles back in 2014 and 2015, so you could be forgiven for scratching your head in wonder. The Brighton, UK band’s perseverance is our fortune, because they now have a shiny new self-titled debut album. In case you need a reminder, they come from the Velvet Underground, the Fall, and Comet Gain school of jangly drone that breaks any melodic rules you may have concocted for that sort of music. Featuring a violin prominently, the group play by a different set of rules. They can do anthem type rockers, but love to devolve into full-on raging cacophony.
Benetint & Malevolence starts the record, alluding to a Scottish highlands atmospheric feel and that slowly builds and builds until you find yourelf in the middle of a good old midwestern thunderguster. The band also smartly bring back their eponymous theme song that originally appeared on their first cassette, and get playful sounding on I Dream of Valves Exploding. I appreciate the breadth of topics that the group tackles, eschewing the overdone typical love song thing. A good example of this is the song Baader-Meinhof Always Look So Good In Photos. Pop terrorists taking on real life terrorists. It rightly gives the listener the impression that she really needs to be on her toes if she’s committing to this band. Who said pop music wasn’t dangerous?
Another dispatch from Seattle. This time we catch up with indiepop up and comers Flying Fish Cove. Their debut album At Moonset came out on Help Yourself Records a little over a month ago. They are anchored by the songwriting couple Dena Zilber and Jake Jones and write an innocent brand of pop that has touches of Elephant 6 psychedelics, pastoral folkiness akin to Essex Green, and DIY P.U.N.K. reminiscent of Heavenly.
The album’s cover evokes a tropical paradise where cheetah cubs and friendly lizards hang out underneath double rainbows and twin crescent moons. The album conjures a make believe in light of harsh reality which seems to tips its hat to recent covers of like-minded Seattle bands like Mommy Long Legs and Tacocat. It wouldn’t be out of place on K or Magic Marker, packed full of immediate songs that range from ramshackle to swooning synth-tinged odes. Zilber has a sweet voice that gives you the impression she speaks from experience, while the lone Jones vocal on Cammy the Camry has a Jim Ruiz lounge style to it.
Just when I was giving up on the Seattle scene’s ability to generate new bands , Flying Fish Cove appear and deliver this beguiling beauty. Cheers!
Living in Seattle at present requires one to be economical, especially if you’re trying to hold it down with the influx of tech usurpers. Folks used to move here for aesthetic reasons, but now that just comes with the package. It’s taken for granted, or just a bonus. You can tell by the shift from quirky and slightly run down shop fronts and houses to sleek, new and mundane shop fronts and townhouses and the tall buildings that keep edging out further and further from downtown. For a few years, it seemed like anyone with an artistic bent was packing up and heading out of town. That left Seattle tipping into a somewhat unenviable circumstance of being like every other fucking city.
Thankfully a few have stayed around and stuck it out. If i were an optimist I might even tell you that things are looking up, at least on the band front. Zebra Hunt have been a light in the darkness these last five or so years and their beacon continues to shine on their third album Trade Desires. At eight songs, it is economical. The band packs its punches and doesn’t waste time on any feints or diversions. Zebra Hunt continue their janglepop mastery and add a handful of new classics like Two States, See Through You and Coral Scenery to their cannon. They also make a Fresh & Only’s song sound like they wrote it and stretch out on the nearly seven minute Don’t Say Anything.
Every time a new Zebra Hunt album comes out, I count myself lucky that I live here. The PNW is known for its snow capped volcanoes, soggy grey days, hoppy beer, and if Zebra Hunt has anything to say about it, jangle pop.