Monday, October 29, 2012

Total Control-Scene From a Marriage

The true quality of Total Control, I think, comes from their ability to change shape and sound, and not only make what ever type of shift organic, but natural as well. On one single they sounded like an abrasive, drugged out post-punk band, and on another they had crafted claustrophobic dance-punk. And now they've done it with their newest single. Stripped of any of the moody synths that colored much of previous release, the ungodly under appreciated album Henge Beat. Instead "Scene from a Marriage" opens with with a lone acoustic guitar, something that threw even me off since Total Control have always crafted their music as unnaturally as possible. However, that guitar quickly starts bending and producing discordant chords that eventually explode into a full band playing an incredibly dark and twisted post-punk tone that manages to convey everything with its knotty, Wire like guitar work and the monotonic yet piercing vocals of DX as he spews out abstract, anger-filled lyrics can you can't exactly understand, but can't escape either. Total Control have always had this dark energy to their music that has been evilly compelling, and nowhere is that more prevalent than listening to "Scene From a Marriage".


Total Control's Website
Buy the "Scene from a Marriage" b/w "Contact" 7" here, from Sub Pop

Friday, October 26, 2012

Album Review: Ty Segall-Twins

We, music fans and music critics, really don't like prolific artists. Yes, the concept of your favorite band/artist releasing an armful of records in a year in a half rather than just one LP every few years sounds appealing, but it tends to backfire quite easily. In order to reach the title of "prolific", one usually has to put out so much that quality starts to fade, not to mention the effort in figuring out which releases are worth it, and having on top of the various side projects to keep track of as well. To be able to do something like release three albums in one year, and have them all be quality is a near impossible feat of musical prowess. Guess what Ty Segall did this year?

Twins is Segall's third release this year, and it is superb. While it could be argued that he’s been able to maintain this degree of quality thanks to others (the first album this year, Hair, was a collaboration with White Fence, and the second, Slaughterhouse, was worked out with his bandmates), but it is a testament to Segall to still have this level of work left for his “official” solo release of the year. Not to mention, I believe those previous albums helped to focus Segall into truly focusing on how Twins should sound.

That is to say Twins is monstrous. More akin to his Melted-era sound as opposed to the more stripped down sound he tried out with Goodbye Bread, but in a more mature fashion. The album is filled with some of the most creative uses of fuzz and blown-out guitar that I’ve heard on a garage record. It’s very easy to just crank an amp to 10, hit a pedal, and get by on pure energy, but Segall has moved beyond that process to something more. Opener “Thank God for the Sinners” sets the stage early, serving as a much more muscular intro cut than say “Goodbye Bread” was, launching in a flurry of fuzzy guitar riffs that somehow get amped up by the time the chorus hits. It manages to be intense and in your face without ever being overbearing in the least, much like the rest of the album. “You’re the Doctor” channels paranoia and anger into a truly manic guitar thrashing that does not let up during its two minute duration. “The Hill”, the most melodic track on the album, also has an otherworldly beauty to it as Segall’s vocals are layered with Thee Oh Sees’ Brigid Dawson’s as a drum fury and guitar screeches play underneath them. Segall’s vocals especially have been fined tuned for this release from their brattier days to nicely balanced punk tenor, switching between melodic growl and high pitched coo to fit with the track.

“Inside Your Heart” and “Ghost”, the two slow burning, bluesier numbers on Twins, while perfectly fine as individual tracks, feel somewhat out of place on the album with their stretched out solos compared to the smaller ones that punctuate the rest of the songs on Twins. They don’t ruin the flow, but disrupt it a bit. However, the album picks up a massive amount of steam again in its second half, especially with rockers like “They Told Me Too”, “Who Are You” and “Handglams” charging a steady, solid pace to the finale. Even “Gold on the Shore”, a bare acoustic track and the only real throw back to the Goodbye Bread sound manages to work here, in no small part due to its off-kilter nature. Twins reaches its last, and possibly greatest high point with closer “There is No Tomorrow”. A slice of sun baked pysch garage, it manages to be sludgy, melodic, and wistful all at once, as well as being a sort of summary of the entirety of Twins. Twins has this just inherent classic rock feel without at all sounding like classic rock. It already feels sort of timeless Nugget’s perfection, the type of record archive labels will be putting out for years. Above all else, Twins is great record.


Ty Segall's Website
Buy Twins here, from Drag City Records

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Teen Mom-I Wanna Go Out

Everything about Teen Mom just sort of throws you off. The band name does not send strong signals for a sense of quality, but one listen to "I Wanna Go Out" instantly disproves that. Then the lovely, Cure like intro verse of the song morphs unexpectedly (but wonderfully) into an almost shoegaze-like sound of fuzzy bliss. This constant shift plays out through out the rest of the song, with the next verse tempered by muscular guitar riff and the chorus' fuzz wave shattered momentarily by bright, shimmering guitar lines. "I Wanna Go Out" is such a brilliant, lovely gem of a song, everything within it complimenting one another so well, from the jumpy bass-line that connects the whole song to the intelligent guitar playing through it to the crisp, high pitched vocals that manage to seal together the song effortlessly. "I Wanna Go Out" is a quite stunner, but a stunner none the less.


Teen Mom's Website
Pre-order the Mean Tom EP here, from Analog Edition

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Video: A Place To Bury Strangers-And I'm Up

A Place to Bury Strangers, a band I truly should cover more, just dropped the video for their excellent song "And I'm Up", of their under appreciated Worship album. "And I'm Up" might be the band's most melodic to date, an bouncy, Joy Division-esque tune with the band's signature, ungodly noise and fuzz being used to under cut and complex the song, rather than being the song's main focus. However, the video has just the opposite effect, with various fires and bright fireworks burning childhood toys and memories. The video is a stupendous contradiction, as the flames burn everything in sight, they manage to create some perverse beauty out of their destruction, deforming and coloring everything it touches. It helps to mimic the inner darkness and contradictions that lie in "And I'm Up", and is just a visual fest for the eyes.


A Place to Bury Strangers' Website
Buy Worship here, from Dead Ocean

Monday, October 22, 2012

Soda Fabric-Antonia

When a band is claiming to be from Atlantis in their press email, that's a pretty clear hint that their music is going to evoke some sense of beachy-goodness or aquaticness. And to a degree Soda Fabric do that with their song "Antonia", from the distorted, VHS art of paradise to the rubber bass lines and reverbed-to-hell guitar lines. Nostalgia makes its presence know as the band recounts a tale from 2009 of long drives and love. Yet, despite the clichès described, and utter terribleness that should be "Antonia", Soda Fabric manage, quite well in fact, to make it one very great, dreamy, post-punk song. Mining inspiration from early New Order, everything from the frantic drumming to the baritone vocals to the surfy, staccato, almost Modest Mouse guitar lines raises this song above the usual fray of bland, summer time nostalgia, to an urgent plea for something more. "Antonia" is utterly sublime, and even more so, ungodly catchy.


Soda Fabric's Facebook

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Live: Godspeed You! Black Empeor/David Dondero @ The Mohawk 10/10/12

I should not have seen Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Rather, I don't think I deserved to be at their show. I say this because, while I am very, very aware of the legendary mythology of GY!BE, until this show I had yet exposed myself to their (alleged) glory. So standing around before they come on, surrounded by people with more than a few decades on me, and others saying "I can't believe I get to see Godspeed before I die", more than once the thought "What am I even doing here?" entered my mind. Then Godspeed You! Black Emperor started playing and words immediately started to fail me. But before they went on...

David Dondero

...David Dondero opened up the show. I think several people were wondering why this unknown folk singer was choose to open for Godspeed You! Black Emperor's. No one more so than Dondero himself, who was visibly nervous on stage and had to back track on more than one song due to messing up a part. Later in his set he confessed that he usually only plays to about 30 people at his show, rather than the hundreds that had gathered at The Mohawk. However, Dondero persisted through his relatively short set, churning out politically lyrical songs that came across as Conor Oberst meets Daniel Johnston, with various lines getting shouts of approval from the crowd. By the end of Dondero's set, it somehow made much more sense why GY!BE had chosen him to come along with them on tour; the anguish and hope he channeled through his songs, while utterly different than the way GY!BE does it, are still the same emotions GY!BE express in their songs as well.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor

Do you want to know why people freak out and use almost pure hyperbole when describing Godspeed You! Black Emperor, especially live? Because truly, seeing them live is pretty much like nothing you've ever seen. It's quiet and dark as members slip on stage. They begin playing their instruments, and you can't tell if they are just tuning or actually starting. Then the violinist's notes start to build ever so slightly until you realize it is the beginning of the song, as quiet guitars are layered on, and sonic manipulation comes into play. Blurry images begin to project behind/on the band from the four actual film projectors the band has stationed above, which intensify the atmosphere even more. And the band builds more and more, ever so gradually, before you realize the band is unfolding a song right before your eyes.

Keep in mind this was just for the opening song of the set, one of the quietest of night as well. The band picked up immensely from there, morphing from crafting discordant, atmospheric sound to using a hammer dulcimer to signal a switch to something much heavier. The drums started pounding, the guitar work layering to higher degrees of intensity, the film projects becoming much more disconcerting and paranoid. The band's sounds just engulfed the entire venue, a barrage of suits of quite lulls to skull splitting intensity amplified by the powerful images projected in front of you. And the band was able to hold this degree of intensity, power, and strange beauty through their hour and half long set. The only break was a near silent 10 minute piece near the end that nearly crushed what the band had been building the entire night, but the band came back, launching into another beautifully painful song/movement. By the time the band finished, I doubt their was a single person who saw them who was unsatisfied, but that did not stop some from attempting to pull an encore from the band, as lead by a insanely/wonderfully passionate fan screaming "Don't you want more?! Well then come on!" from the balcony. Then, in the first traditional act from the band, which wound up being completely unconventional because of everything just seen, the band came back and performed one last song. And it, much like everything else that night, was absolutely mind blowing.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Heaven's Gate-Pogo

Heaven's Gate is a band that formed out of the ashes of Sweet Bulbs, a super awesome noise/shoegaze hybrid that somehow managed to shove pure, über catchiness without watering down their noisier tendencies one bit. After a long delay, Heaven's Gate are finally prepping their debut EP for Fire Talk, a 200 only(!) pressing of 7(!) swirling nuggets of noisy goodness. "Pogo", the first single of the EP, starts in a semi-similar area that Sweet Bulbs did, filled with truly buzzing guitar work at the song's core. However, an off-kilter surf/garage bent quickly appears and mends itself to the song, and singer Jess Paps' vocals, which used to only be dream-like whispers, have been ratcheted up into intense, anguish filled howls. All of these elements are ever so slightly off from one another, never fully connecting together. For any most bands, this would make the song just fall apart into a blob of mishmash sound. For Heaven's Gate though, they manage to just keep plowing forward with the song, letting "Pogo" form into this wonderfully crystal of noise rock, garage rock, and indie rock perfection.


Heaven's Gate's Bandcamp
Pre-order their debut EP here, from Fire Talk

Monday, October 15, 2012

Single Review: Pale Lights-EP

A good indie-pop 7" is like chocolate. There is a plethora of it, and the bars almost always taste nice, but you can can tell a quality piece from the generic stuff they always stock. It might be a little harder to find, and usually comes from another country (in this case an English export), but tracking down that quality is always worth it to track down. Pale Lights, and in turn their debut 7" EP, is that quality chocolate.

Pale Lights is the newest band of Philip Sutton, who plays(ed) in the likes of Cinema Red & Blue, The Soft City, and the Comet Gain. All this is brought up to give the proper perspective of what type of indie-pop one is dealing with when you place this single on your turntable. This is pure jangle-pop, in all its glory. Not one note of distortion exists within the world of these songs, instead riding a wave of unfiltered, bright, and sharp guitar pop. It sort of sounds like early Belle and Sebastien if they had used only electric guitars and the album had been cracked to 45 RPM.

Not to say these songs lack bite. Sutton's time in Comet Gain payed off in learning how to add a deeper pull to even the catchiest pop songs. In fact, all of the songs on Pale Lights' debut are darker than they appear once you dig a little. "Boy of Your Dreams" is about about a collapsing relationship, "Ghosts of Youth" about never escaping one's past. "She Won't Ever Calm Down" feels like remembrance of someone who is a little more than just off-kilter. All these tunes also happen to be beyond catchy, the guitars plucking melodies and hooks out of thin air, and swirling keyboards to add another dimension to the songs. It's just a simply lovely package, one of those 7" that just appears out of nowhere, and grabs a hold of you thanks to its wondrous songs.


Pale Light's Facebook
Buy EP here from Calico Cat Records

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Babies-Get Lost

The Babies were/are a wonderful psych/folk-tinged garage band that put out some very cool singles in 2010, but a for-some-reason-less-engaging debut album in 2011 that made me stop looking their way for a little bit. Now they have returned with their second album, Our House on the Hill, and with it comes the return of why they grabbed me in the first place. "Get Lost" is a jagged, country rocker with a damaged/burned sense at its core. Over an ever present distorted riff and a off-kilter, jangly rhythm guitar, "Get Lost" weaves together a song about escapism that feels darker than most of its contemporaries. The vocals seem more distressed, the cries and howls more painful. "Get Lost" has a pull and sincerity to it that makes it stand out, and reminds me why The Babies were so great in the first place.


The Babies' Tumblr
Pre-order Our House On The Hill here, from Woodist Records

King Tuff-Screaming Skull

Well this is long over due. King Tuff is awesome. Since his early lo-fi days, to his twee-grunge of Happy Birthday, to his now pristine, but just as catchy solo records, Tuffy manages to pump out some of thee catchiest garage rock around. Already putting out an awesome single on Suicide Squeeze (seriously, "Wild Desire" might be one of the best songs of the year), and an equally great, self-titled album on Sub Pop, King Tuff has returned with another single. "Screaming Skull" almost plays like an anti-Misfits song, taking possibly evil and/or grotesque imagery as its starting point, but filtering it through King Tuff to produce a garage-pop gem. "Screaming Skull" is everything that makes a Tuff song great from twangy power-pop chords and simple drums, to Tuff's falsetto-filled but memeorizing vocals. More so, the guitar solo the punctures the song midway through manages to convey what is so enjoyable about "Screaming Skull" and King Tuff in just a few seconds: simplicity without being boring, a childlike sense of energy, and above all catchy after catchy hook.


King Tuff's Facebook
Buy the "Screaming Skull b/w Love Potion"  7" here, from Sub Pop

Friday, October 5, 2012

Times New Viking - Sleep-In

A little while ago I caught wind that Time New Viking would be coming out with a nice, long EP called Over & Over after what feels like too long a gap since their last album Dance Equired. It's coming out on their first label Slitbreeze, but those expecting a return to Time New Viking's no-fi roots are going to be disappointed. The band is diving further into their new sleeker, indie pop sound, with "Sleep-In" being one of their best tracks with the new style. Jared Phillips' and Beth Murphy's vocals mush together in a perfectly off-kilter sort of way, as the choppy guitar of Adam Elliott and Phillips' drum work keep the song from fall apart as Murphy's keyboard sprawls and swirls everywhere during the song. "Sleep-In" manages to channel all the charm of TNV's early work, but still show how their new style is just as excellent as well.


Times New Viking's Website
Pre-order the Over & Over EP here, from Siltbreeze Records

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Mixtape: THEESatisfaction-THEESatisfaction Loves Anita Baker

THEESatisfaction are one of the few R&B informed artists that I can really enjoy, and their debut awE NaturalE from this year was not only an under appreciated gem but an album which I had gotten into sooner. So it was nice to find out that the band had decided to drop a new mini-mixtape and tribute appropriately called THEESatisfaction Loves Anita Baker. I say "mini-mixtape" because not only is the track list short (five songs), but the songs themselves feel almost like previews for upcoming songs by THEESatisfaction with all but one of them being under two minutes and having an incomplete quality to their endings as well. However, it is a testament to the band that these almost fragments are still very compelling. The vintage piano swirl of "Black Fact" or the stacked harmonies of "Pressed", all the songs have a spark to them and flow perfectly from one to the other, keeping the mix consistent. "Cabin Fever Sweat Love" is the highlight of the tape, the most fully formed song on it and most evocative of the singer that the tape pays tribute too. It jumps effortlessly between Stas' and Cat's styles, blending their dichotomy into an outstanding soul track for modern times. While THEESatisfaction Loves Anita Baker is probably no more than a stopgap until the next THEESatisfaction album, it is still a great stopgap none the less.


THEESatisfaction's website
Download THEESatisfaction Loves Anita Baker mixtape here, from the band

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Born Gold-Sky Bicycle

Speaking of Born Gold, Cecil Frena will be releasing his second album Little Sleepwalker in October as well. And wow, if "Sky Bicycle" is a proper showcase of the album, the band has emerged in an entirely new shape. Gone is the chopped up, electronic intensity that colored most of Bodysongs. Instead, take their song "Decimate Everything", their most R&B influenced and laid back track, as a starting point. Layer it with bubbly production and add Baths like beats to it to get some sense of how Born Gold sounds now. It is an entirely different sound, having an almost ethereal like quality to it that is just amplified by Frena's new vocal style which lays somewhere between hyper-falsetto and auto-tune. Miraculously, Born Gold is able to pull of this 180 in sound without it feeling like a 180. "Sky Bicycle" is still just as compelling as Born Gold's previous work, with the million hooks per minute feel of his music still as present as ever, just a lot more subtle. It's the marking of an artist willing to start completely from scratch in order to expand their sound, and the results being well worth the risk here.


Born Gold's Website
Pre-order Little Sleepwalker here, from Audraglint Recordings

Black Moth Super Rainbow-Gangs In the Garden

Just in time for Halloween, Black Moth Super Rainbow are going to self-release their new album Cobra Juicy themselves, thanks largely to a Kickstarter campaign that is letting the album come out in every form from 3D vinyl to rubber mask (seriously, check out what they did). What might get lost in all this creative ruckus though is that Cobra Juicy might be BMSR's best album to date. Second single "Gangs in the Garden" is certainly one, if not their catchiest song to date. While not losing any of their weirdness or creepiness (just listen to the distorted, monster like vocals that make up half the song), the beat that kicks off the song makes up its back bone has to be one of the most dance inducing beats I've heard in a while. The electronics that click off through out the songs enhance the song rather than pulling it in a million directions, and Tobacco's vocals are the most enticing they've ever been. Like Born Gold at his most demented, this is electro-clash at its catchiest and most twisted point, intersecting to make a very evil ear worm.


Black Moth Super Rainbow's website
Pre-order Cobra Juicy here, from the band's own Rad Cult label