Tags: Alvvays, Barboza, Belly, Bleached, Dreampop, Mazzy Star, Primitives, Seattle, Shoegaze
Alvvays at Barboza, Seattle | 2 December 2014
Alvvays‘ debut album which was recorded by Chad VanGaalen is a subtle dreamy affair and one of the better records to come out this year. It has elements of shoegaze, but really it’s singer Molly Rankin that makes the record so good. Her voice has a vulnerability to it, while at the same time a strength to it. It’s like she’s singing for her life, but doesn’t want to be too obvious about it.
Their show in Neumo’s basement earlier this week was sold out and the band were obviously chuffed about it. Even going as far to say in their heady delight that it was better than the Portland show the night before. Live they have a more substantial sound probably because of the twin guitar attack and Molly Rankin formidable voice that sounds stronger live and loses some of its vulnerability but still sounds great. Kids were pogoing and moshing for most of the set which seemed a bit odd because Alvvays could never be interpreted as a punk or a party band. Dudes who mosh to dreampop I assume have a poor sense of direction and walked into the wrong show. Nevertheless, they went especially went crazy for Archie, Mary Me which is the stand out song on the album, but still not noshing material. The show sort of reminded me of seeing Belly back around when Star had come out where there were bros moshing while couples snuggled together at the edges. Like Belly, Alvvays seem to have that that crossover appeal that brings out the bros, the lovers and this aging indie kids like myself.
For their encore they included a surprising cover of Out of Reach by the Primitives. I’m not sure how many of the youngsters recognized it, but it was exciting to hear a deep cut from an overlooked band. Like the rest of the set, Alvvays added a bit of grit to their version but the innate pop of the song shown through.
Tags: Chapterhouse, Cocteau Twins, My Bloody Valentine, Shoegaze, Slowdive, Swirlies, Wildhoney
After two singles that are as good as anything that came out during the the first generation of shoegazing, Baltimore’s ecstasy inducers Wildhoney are not taking their feet off of the pedals. The band is readying their debut album for release in January on Forward/Deranged Records. Fall In is the first song the band have released from the forthcoming Sleep Through It and it may be their best yet. The way singer Lauren Shusterich’s voice floats over the haze of guitars is otherworldly – part Liz Fraser, part Rachel Goswell. Wildhoney are without a doubt the new shoegaze royalty!
stream: Wildhoney – Fall In
Tags: Day Ravies, Ex Hex, Gwenno, Lee Hazlewood, Paperhead, Perry Mason, Primetime, Tam Vantage, the Pippettes, The Rainyard, Vic Goddard
1. Tam Vantage
Pop Singles’ 2012 album All Gone was an understated jangle-pop pleasure. Though it’s too bad it looks like that band has called it a day, it is exciting to see that Tam Vantage the singer and guitarist in the band returning with a solo album that is scheduled to get a release early next year. The perfect pop of the first single the Boy Who Always Wins picks up right where Pop Singles left off.
3. Kyle Orton is the new Lee Hazlewood
I bet you didn’t know that Lee Hazlewood had been reincarnated as Buffalo Bills quarterback Kyle Orton. When I saw this photo tweeted by Light in the Attic I assumed it had been doctored. It’s uncanny. I thought that mustache could only exist in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Orton’s new nickname if he needs one should be a Cowboy in Buffalo.
Nashville’s Paperhead release their third album this week and it’s full of late 60’s influenced psychedelic pop. It has a definite Kinks glow to it and of course you can’t talk about a record like this and not reference the Beatles. These paperback writers know how to write page-turners.
5. The Rainyard
I’m sorry I didn’t write about this while it was still in print. The Spanish label Pretty Olivia put out A Thousand Days on a short run of vinyl earlier this year. It collected all of the Australian band’s 80’s output and it is a wonderful record of paisley psych jangle. As a consolation, you can still purchase a download of the record.
6. Perry Mason
I’ve got a stack of Mojo CD’s ten feet high that I’ve never listened to, but every once in a while there is one that piques my interest. The November one compiled by Siouxsie Sioux and Steven Severin is full of soundtrack music and TV themes from the 50’s and 60’s. I had forgotten about the Perry Mason theme and how much it sounds like Peter Thomas playing the James Bond theme.
7. Vic Godard
1979 was a very good year. It’s hard to believe that it took 25 years to properly record this batch of northern soul inspired songs and get them released. Perseverance pays off for Godard.
Primetime’s single came out in the summer but I had’t heard it until Still Single reviewed it. If you dig Oakland’s Pang then this London quartet’s debut single will be your thing.
Gwenno joins Rose Elinor Dougall as a former Pippette with a solo career. Gwenno’s debut album Y Dydd Olaf is sung in Welsh but that shouldn’t matter to non-welsh speakers. The title comes from a sci-fi novel by Welsh scientist Owain Owain, and the music sounds like it was inspired by the likes of Broadcast and Stereolab.
10. Ex Hex
Mary Timony’s latest band is inspired by Cheap Trick and the Buzzcocks and chock full of adrenaline fueled songs. Ex Hex’s debut album was produced by Mitch Easter who knows his way around power pop hooks and this record has got ’em to spare.
Tags: Halifax, Joao Gilberto, Lilys, Monomyth, My Bloody Valentine, Swirlies, The Laurels
The Laurels out of Halifax contain members from Monomyth and Moon. That doesn’t really help though. They sound a bit like the 90’s noisy indiepop of the Swirlies and the Lilys. Not surprising since they admit to being ispired by that scene along with Beach Boys, Byrds and C-86. Their self-titled bandcamp album has elements of all of the above as well as a sublime ode to Joao Gilberto thrown in for good measure. Crazy that bands this good are just giving away their music!
steam: The Lauras
Tags: Edwyn Collins, Funboy Three, Hollie Cook, Nectar Lounge, Review, Seattle, The Slits, The Specials, Vic Godard
Hollie Cook at the Nectar Lounge, Seattle | 21 October 2014
I wasn’t sure what to expect seeing Hollie Cook at the Nectar Lounge earlier this week. Would anyone show up considering none of Cook’s albums have been released in the US? I shouldn’t have worried, people turned out for the show, obviously aware how good her records are, especially her newest one Twice which is string drenched tropical bliss. The basic sound is reggae, but with the help of collaborator Prince Fatty her records transcend that genre’s narrow confines. Cook’s father Paul plays drums for Edwyn Collins and Vic Godard, he also played in a punk rock band back in the 70’s. Her mom sang in Culture Club for a while and Hollie herself did a brief spell in the reformed Slits. Even though she comes from a performing family, Cook has a shy onstage demeanor that she occasionally bursts out of with infectious smiles, sincere dialog and serene dance moves.
The strings that are so prevalent on Twice were missed on some of the songs, but it was understandable since touring with a string section is economically unrealistic. Cook more than made up for any of the missing studio flourishes. Her band was all top shelf and Cook’s sweet voice glided gently over everything with ease. She played all the best stuff from her two albums, opening the set with Ari Up, her ode to the Slit’s front woman. She also did a cover of the Slit’s Newtown, emphasizing how influential this seminal band is to her. Shadow Kissing and 99 were the clear highlights for me. The only one I wished she would have played was Desdemona, but it was likely left out because it features a significant string section.
I don’t go to many reggae shows, so it was refreshing to see and experience the positive vibrations. There was much dancing, bands interacting with the audience, lots of smiles and general cheerfulness and of course ganja. Near the end of the set a fellow lit up a spliff and brought it up to Cook, who graciously accepted it and hung onto it while she sang. For most of the evening it felt so un-Seattle, almost tropical.
Tags: Baltimore, Bleached, Crimson Wave, Expert Alterations, Felt, Scrawl, Wildhoney
It seems as though Baltimore has had a minor outbreak of excellent indiepop bands. You might remember the recent singles from Wildhoney and the EP from Expert Alterations? Get ready to add another band to the contagion. Crimson Wave have just released their debut 7-inch single on Accidental Guest records. The A-side Say has a detached melancholy that rides over you the way Scrawl did on records like Velvet Hammer and Smallmouth and an infectious quality in the vein of Bleached. On the flip side Calling You the guitar playing has a pace and sense of space that also brings to mind more languorous side of Felt. For a first single, this is subtle,accomplished and compelling stuff!
stream & buy: Crimson Wave – Say 7″
Tags: Beach Boys, Byrds, CF Records, Girls Names, Real Estate, Sea Pinks, Stereolab
Northern Ireland doesn’t have a west coast, so I can only imagine that Sea Pinks are left to conjure sunny wide open California scenes through their music. Top Pink, Neil Brogan was originally the drummer in Girls Names but left that band to concentrate on his band Sea Pinks. For good reason, as he seems to have an endless supply of lush, jangle filled songs in his head. Sea Pinks’ music has an affinity with the US west coast due to Brogan’s smooth tenor which evokes the lugubriousness of the Beach Boys, combined with the guitars cracking with the dusty jangle of the Byrds.
Brogan’s boyish tenor could make him an honorary Beach Boy. It’s smooth and easy on the ears, lending a sense of melancholy to these otherwise upbeat songs. The new album Dream Tracks, their fourth, is not drastically different from the previous three, but in little ways you can tell that Brogan is stretching out as a songwriter and open to incorporating a more varied pallet of sounds onto his records. The inclusion of cello on songs like Dream Happening and Invisible Lines provides more depth to the sound, while Meat and Drink employs a undulating Stereolab-like bass which adds something new to the jangly Sea Pinks cannon. These additional embellishments mesh easily with Brogans top songwriting talent to produce what may be the best Sea Pinks album yet.
stream and purchase: Sea Pinks – Dreaming Tracks
Tags: Aislers Set, Butter the Children, Erik Blood, Fat White Family, Flowers, Hardly Art, In the Red, Kanine Records, Seattle, Slumberland, Suicide Squeeze, Tacocat, The Go-Betweens, The Intelligence, The Primitives
You may have noticed that I’ve been struggling to keep up around here: fewer and fewer posts, overflowing in box, long beard and unclipped nails. In an effort to get back on track and clean myself up I’m going to try and start doing a top ten list for each month of things that I’ve neglected to post about in the past month. Well, I’m already behind seeing as it’s October and I’m doing a top ten for September. Before it gets any later, here are ten things from the last month that merit some recognition.
1. The Aislers Set at Neumos
The Aislers Set breifly reunited for the Chickfactor 20th anniversary shows back in 2012. I saw that show and it was good, but seeing them a couple weeks ago in Seattle was even better. This was a brief West coast tour celebrating the reissue of all three of their LP’s from the 90’s (Slumberland & Suicide Squeeze). Linton and company were in top form this night performing their glistening pop that never got old.
2. The Intelligence at Lo-Fi
Sadly the Intelligence are no longer based in Seattle, so the opportunities to see them live have greatly decreased since Lars Finberg’s migration to L.A. Other things have changed as well, This is not your kid brother’s Intelligence. Although this was a release party for reissue of their first LP Boredom and Terror (In the Red), they played a bunch of new songs that featured a powerful rhythm section and meaty jam sections to them. A far cry from the bedroom tape hiss of that first record. No, they haven’t turned into Phish, but they’ve evolved into something even more formidable than before. Can’t wait to hear the new album!
3. Fresh Hop Beer
It’s harvest time and up here in the pacific NW, and that means hops. Fresh hop beer is made with hops just picked off the vine and when it’s done right, it’s a fruity mouthful of flavorful beer. You have to be quick though, because it’s made in limited quantities and it goes fast. Recommended ones that I’ve tasted this year include Fremont’s Cowiche Canyon, Fort George Fresh IPA and Schooner Exact’s Amarillo Fresh Hop. Still hoping to get a taste of Bale Breaker’s Piled High!
4. Erik Blood – Cannons Vol. 1
Erik Blood, the guy that made a shoegaze record about porn has switched gears slightly into electronics and motorik beats. His new four song EP (free to download at his bandcamp) features Mahogany’s Andrew Prinz and Shabazz Palaces’ Ishmael Butler.
5. Fat White Family – I Am Mark E Smith
I was nonplussed over Fat White Family’s debut album last year, but this new single has got my attention. They may be claiming to be the Fall front man, but they sound like they’ve been hanging out with David J and Daniel Ash.
6. Primitives – Spin-o-Rama 7″
The Primitives have a perfect pop single in Spin-o-Rama. It’s Bright and sunny. It’s got hand claps. It’s under three minutes and leaves you wanting more. You hear it once and you can immediately sing it. I defy you to to find a more immediately infectious song that’s come out this year.
7. Go-Betweens Box Set – G Stands for Go-Betweens (Domino)
Just the other day I was pining for someone to reissue the Go-Betweens catalog on vinyl, since I never see them in the used bins. I should have been more specific in my wishing and added that they be individually released and affordable. Domino announced last week that they are planning a box set containing the first four Go-Be’s LP’s and four CD’s of rare stuff. It’s due to be released in January of 2015 and it’s only $160. Looks like I’ll still be scouring the used bins. Oh well.
8. Tacocat – Bridge To Hawaii (Hardly Art)
In between listening to and singing songs from Frozen my daughter will sing or play Tacocat’s Bridge to Hawaii. The first time this happened I did a double take and couldn’t figure out where she heard it. I like to think she heard it from me, but with kids these day’s you don’t want to ruin it for them by letting them know you like it too.
9. Butter the Children – True Crime
When Brooklyn’s Sweet Bulbs split up after releasing one stellar self-titled LP, two bands immediately emerged from their ashes. The Butter the Children sect (Heaven’s Gate is the other sect) continue the warbly, spazzed-out guitar attack of Sweet Bulbs and feature Sweet Bulbs singer Inna but she’s more forward in the mix which I think makes for a unique and better combination. The band put up their album on bandcamp as a free download. I don’t know if this means they gave up trying to get it released by a label, broke up, or are simply a benevolent noise pop band.
10. Flowers – Do What You Want To, It’s What You Should Do (Kanine)
I wasn’t sure after the first few listens to Flowers‘ debut album. They seemed to have toned down the noise for something more subtle. Recording with former Suede guitarist Bernard Butler the London trio won me over with their minimalist approach that evokes the sparseness of Young Marble Giants, the smart intensity of the Spinnanes and the melancholy melodies of Everything But the Girl.
Tags: Aphex Twin, Batida, Black Acre Records, Clap! Clap!, Cristiano Crisci, Fourtet, Wagon Christ
Every once in a while even the most ardent rock fans need a break from the daily slog of guitar, bass and drums. My break has come courtesy of Italian maestro Cristiano Crisci who goes by the moniker Clap! Clap! Tayi Bebba is an album as well as an imaginary island. The record takes place all over the island and comes with a map so you know where you are at all times. It’s a good thing too because it’s easy to get lost in the landscapes of field recordings, tribal rhythms, creek crossings, big beats, jungle vibes and trade winds.
Crisci recently did a YouTube session for Hyponik in which he posted 10 videos that influenced him while making the record. It’s a deep dive into worlds far beyond the daily niche grind of indie guitar, bass and drums.
Tags: Slum of Legs, The Fall, Tuff Enuff Records, Velvet Underground
You may remember Brighton’s Slum of Legs from their demo last year. I certainly do! The six piece avant indiepop group have just released their first single on Tuff Enuff records. The record has elements of the Velvet Underground’s Lady Godiva’s Operation and the Fall’s Sing Harpy. Like both of those bands, Slum of Legs ably combine dissonance and melody into a delicious stew. I especially love how they feature the violin in both songs. It gives a cathartic tension and melancholy not often found in strictly guitar, bass and drum bands. Begin to Dissolve slithers and stabs at once. It’s downright Hitchcockian in the way it builds up tension that culminates in a bloodbath of noise at the end. The flip side Razorblade the Tape starts with a warm jangle that morphs into a near-anthem with the huge refrain of the band chanting “I won’t let you get away!” Don’t let this single get away!
stream & buy: Slum of Legs – Begin to Dissolve