Monday, December 24, 2012

Parenthetical Girls-Good Christian Men Rejoice, It's Parenthetical Girls EP

As is their proper, yearly tradition, Parenthetical Girls have released a batch of self-crafted, original Christmas tunes to take the place of the usual traditional, repetitive, and generic tunes that flood the years during this time. Not that the band dives head first into holiday cheer, instead capturing the complexity of emotions (i.e. anguish, stress, melancholy, and occasional happiness) that comes with the season. It's all there on superbly titled Good Christian Men Rejoice, It's Parenthetical Girls, from the off-kilter and forced joy of "Rejoice, Rejoice" to the sad, morning-after waltz of "After the Holidays". Tracks like "Christmas Mourning" and "The Salvation Army Bell" bring forth concepts and thoughts that are so rarely talked about during the season (death and lust respectively), yet are still omnipresent there as well. The twelve-minute long, narrative prose "The Christmas Steps" is a surreal and haunting piece that more than anything captures the magnitude of emotions attached to this time of year. Parenthetical Girls may not be spreading pure, holiday cheer, but Good Christian Men Rejoice, It's Parenthetical Girls still captures Christmas time, if a bit more three dimensionally than others.


Parenthetical Girls' Website
Buy the Good Christian Men Rejoice, It's Parenthetical Girls EP here, from the band themselves

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Single Review: WL-Impermanent

There has been some very, very, VERY great noisy, creative guitar rock this year. From more traditional shoegaze craft from the likes of Whirr to more complex takes on the genre from the likes of Heaven’s Gate, these “shoegaze” bands has been pumping out sublime (and noisy) releases all year. And to round off the end of the year and trend, WL have released their ungodly excellent debut single.

The single is a simple two song affair, but the band nonetheless manages to manifest their sound and style perfectly across both sides. On the a-side “Impermanent” is a slice of pure, classic shoegaze: cascading, distorted guitar over slow motion drums and cymbals, with both picking up at exactly the right moments to propel the song forward. The song hits you like a constant barrage of waves, just crashing over you steadily, like a great Isn’t Anything era My Bloody Valentine. The vocalist for WL, Misty Mary, has an absolutely stunning voice, which sticks just the right balance between sultry and airy. It gives “Impermanent” an added dimension that doesn’t hit you at first, but would be lacking if it wasn’t there. “No Escape” ups the noise quota for the band, but toes WL more into dream pop as well. Whereas “Impermanent” was a stagnant barrage of pure shoegaze (in the best possible sense), “No Escape” uses momentary noisy breakdowns to punctuate its relative quietness. The track is built around Mary's breathy vocals (which are possibly nicer here than on “Impermanent”), and the simple chiming guitar lacking all its distortion but captivating still, along with the steady drum beat. Subtly, the song builds into these noisy blasts of off-kilter distortion and frantic drum crashing before returning to its shimmering, airy-pop core.

I cannot overstate how wonderful this single is. There is nothing like a band coming out of nowhere only to completely knock you over with their skill and songs, and WL have done just that. Their debut 7” is pure, unfiltered noise-pop heaven, drawing from all sides of the genre. It’s the type of thing shoegaze addicts like me are always craving, and this more than meets my cravings.


WL's Bandcamp
Buy the Impermanent 7" here, from Death Party Records

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Campfires-Fortune Teller

It's finally happened. After countless cassettes and seven inches, Campfires will be releasing their debut album Tomorrow, Tomorrow this coming February via Fire Talk. Utter joy! With this news comes a brand new track and possibly the best indication of what Tomorrow, Tomorrow will be like with "Fortune Teller". A bright, sunshine filled song that is the equivalent Forever Changes Love as played by a twitchy C-86 band. "Fortune Teller" has a noticeably higher production than Campfires songs of yore, but the band makes the transition to hi-fi smoothly, allowing all the simple instrumentation of the track to ring out clearly, thus filling out the song's psych-folk indie pop sound more so than ever before. More so, band master mind Jeff Walls' vocals have their first chance in the spot light, adding wiry, subtle, and earnest charm to the track that would have ever wise been lacking. I have been waiting for this album for ages, so for it be arriving so soon, coupled with hearing an excellent foreshadowing in the form of "Fortune Teller", have just made my day.


Campfires's Website
Pre-order Tomorrow, Tomorrow here, from Fire Talk Records

Monday, December 17, 2012

Live: The Mountain Goats/Matthew E. White @ Emo's East 12/5/12

I think there was some worry of attached to the news that The Mountain Goats were playing the new Emo’s East. Not that they didn’t deserve to play such a large venue, or that they couldn’t fill it (they did easily), but that some of the intimacy that band manages to always maintain no matter how big they get might be lost to the venue. However, The Mountain Goats, along Matthew E. White and his ensemble (more on them in a second) managed to easily fill in the vast space presented to them.

Matthew E. White

It’s sort of surreal to see Matthew E. White perform on stage. There’s just so much to him that is just traditional and the opposite at the same time. His music is a heavy combination of classic southern rock, gospel, and funk, along with psychedelic, jazz, and tiny flourishes of just about every other genre imaginable. It’s both insanely old and nostalgic music, and yet White somehow manages to ever so slightly make it feel personal and his own as well. He brings these feeling to life on stage with his sprawling ensemble (think Bon Iver’s live band, but more relaxed), and even his own persona as well (long flowing hair and beard along with a solid wood guitar). And by “he brings these feelings to life on stage” I mean “Matthew E. White was amazing live!” There was no pretext or falseness to what is doing. He just loves making these old-school, almost classic sounding songs and he loves performing them too. White, in his tiny 45 minute set, just effortlessly recreated his material live, with an elegant yet mighty air that was almost magnetic. It didn’t hurt that he was constantly in synch with his band mates , the horn section, two percussionists, bassist, piano player, and White himself just constantly playing off each other, never missing a beat from soft rock ballads to psych induced break downs. Matthew E. White and his band just played skillfully and masterfully, managing to win over the crowd, including me, despite laying at an almost perpendicular to the style everyone was there for that night.

The Mountain Goats

What can be said about The Mountain Goats that hasn’t already been said, repeated, and said in 50 other ways? John Darnielle and his band mates are a force that cannot be bottled or questioned. The crowd was singing along from the first note as lines from “Amy (Spent Gladiator I)” echoed throughout Emo’s East. The set leaned heavily from cuts from Transcendental Youth and did they come to life on stage. They all have a batter and tired air to them, as is the theme of the album, but onstage so does the anger, hunger, and small pieces of hope contained within them as well. They were mixed with equal heart hurting and wonderful fan favorites from Tallahassee and The Sunset Tree. Darnielle set the tone early recounting the death of his abuser as a lead in to “Up the Wolves”, capturing the sadness embedded within the song, but the other emotions and ability to keep moving forward as well. Darnielle’s stage banter was a highlight of the set as he recounted tales of failed actors (“Rotting Stinking Mouthpiece”) and finally being able to make his child smile through Scarface (“The Diaz Brothers”). Hearing people actually hush does around them as to not interrupt Darnielle was a staggering and wonderful moment. Horns provided from members of Matthew E. White’s band beautifully brightened some tracks, but the section where it was just Darnielle on stage was just as powerful. By the time the encore rolled around, the night was already magical. However, placing “Transcendental Youth” and its account of finding a small piece of happiness with someone else, as a lead into a shout-along with “This Year” was just stupendous. The Mountain Goats will always, always be an otherworldly force when they perform live, and everyone left Emo’s East that night knowing that.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Solar Year-Night & Day

Solar Year's music feels deeply trendy. The duo crafts very atmospheric pop, cemented with their newest track "Night & Day" from their first, proper single. It's based around a mix of cut-up clean and grimy beats that still have a ton of space to them that let's the song both have a "quiet echo" throughout the song, as well as expand and build while it closes too. There's also the dark, R&B influence present in the vocals and production that adds to the already heavy air of detachment and mystery present in the song. It feel like something that Ad Hoc or No Fear of Pop would fall in love for, so it should come as no surprise that this is the first release on NFOP's new label Stratosfear. At times it feels like a more muscular and slicker take on the type of sound Born Gold produced with his Little Sleepwalker album, and more so, Solar Year have produced an elegant and sparse slice of modern electronic pop with "Night & Day".


Solar Year's Website
Buy the "Night & Day" 7" here, from Stratosfear Records

Single Review: Heaven's Gate-High Riser EP 7"

Is it possible to make shoegaze that's energetic? On the surface I think the answer to that question for many people would be "no". Shoegaze is a genre that usually marks itself by turning inward, swirling together the lines between vocals and guitar, along with every other sound, to create a mesh of noise and melody. Emotion is not expressed through vocals (usually covered up with a inaudible layer of haze anyway), but through insanely noisy burst of guitar feed back or wails. However, I think Heaven's Gate is trying to challenge all those notions with their High Riser EP.

The EP opens with a roar thanks to first cut "Pray". The guitars start buzzing in a lovely swirl that makes them feel alive as the rhythm section thunders behind it. The drums especially are deeply pronounced and innovative for a shoegaze sound. However, it's front-women's Jess Paps that are the most striking. Thankfully void of any to all effects, they are both airy and sharp. She has the ability to jump between banshee snarl to a crooked coo that balances out the songs intensity in the right places. On the likes of "Pogo" and "Sea Swingers" this element really shines, in so making the chorus truly pop and explode to certain extents. "Explode" is definitely the right term to use because that what all the songs on High Riser manage to do. The band undercuts typical shoegaze expectation again by actually not indulging in the sprawl, instead cutting the songs to their minimalist core so that only one of the seven tracks on here is more than two minutes long. In doing the songs contain a hyper-condensed quality to all of them that amplifies nearly every aspect to them, so those twisted, zooming guitar riffs and powerful vocals feel even more prominent. More so the more typical shoegaze songs, like the dreamy "Salome", feel creative instead of coming off as generic.

With the High Riser EP, Heaven's Gate have broken from their Sweet Bulbs shell to reveal the nearly fully formed hawk within. The EP and band have come out with an aggressive first release, with a near laser like focus on their own style of indie-rock and shoegaze. It feel volatile and new, especially within a genre where it seems like that doesn't happen enough.


Heaven's Gate's Facebook
Buy the High Riser 7" here, from Fire Talk

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Los Campesinos-A Doe to a Deer

Any reason to talk about Los Campesinos! is a good day in my book, but when it involves a new song, I am more than ecstatic. "A Doe to a Deer" is part of the their semi-regular tradition of releasing Christmas songs, and a follow-up to their first Christmas tune, the spectacular "Kindle a Flame In Her Heart". Here Gareth twists several holiday tropes and references to spell out another tale of his desire for companionship during the holidays. Meanwhile the band crafts a sublime faux-indie Christmas tune, filled with church bells and the return of lovely placed string arrangements. Though the songs is still punctured occasional melancholy, especially by the time the bridge hits, filled with discordant, wilting guitar lines and Gareth getting plastered on Christmas Eve and walking home Christmas day by himself. Yet, it wouldn't be Los Campesinos! if they just played it by the book and painted a song about perfectness Christmas time. Instead they paint in shades, show every aspect of what the holiday brings out, and in turn, make a better song from it.


Los Campesinos!'s Website
Download "A Doe to a Deer" (and read the lyrics) from the band's website as well

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Wax Idols-Sound of a Void

Wow, did this new Wax Idols track catch me off guard. I have been a fan of Wax Idol's work since their debut No Future and the punchy, old-school punk sound that was perfectly captured in its eleven tracks. However, "Sound of a Void", off the groups upcoming second album Discipline and Desire sounds nothing like that, in the best way possible. Pulling from the darker direction touched on with the "Schadenfreude" 7" from earlier this year, only amplified ten fold. Front-women and band leader Heather Fortune's vocals strike a deeply haunting note the moment they open the track, only to be met by the equally dark, central guitar riff which is equal parts The Jesus and Mary Chain noise, Joy Division post-punk angularness, and Heaven's Gate post-shoegaze warp. "Sound of the Void" manages to be catchy as hell, but the gothic and dark undertones that Fortune brings to the songs are ever present as well. However, those traits manage to just amply the power "Sound of a Void", crafting it to a perfect, almost forgotten post-punk gem that has been resurrected by Fortune and her cohorts.


Wax Idol's Facebook
Pre-order Discipline and Desire here, from Slumberland Records

Monday, December 10, 2012

Mount Moriah-Younger Days

I've never been very partial to country music, no matter what form it decides to take (regular, country rock, alt-country, etc.). The truth of that fact, I think, is a testament to the quality of Mount Moriah for making me like them. Mount Moriah are a decidedly country band from Durham, North Carolina, emitting everything the genre usually brings on "Younger Days"; crisp production on every instrument, twangy guitar lines and stomping drums, powerful vocals soaked in Southern drawl, with flourishes of harmonies around the chorus. But instead of all this being off putting or clichè, instead Mount Moriah pull it off beautifully. By the time the organ comes in to color in the chorus, I'm just hooked. "Younger Us" is just a simple, simmering song that grows in power with each listen, with front-women Heather McEntire's vocals powerful but haunting vocals especially staying with you long after the song has ended. The band music probably was made to soundtrack summer nights, but just as easily soundtracks these cold winter days.


Mount Moriah's Website
Pre-order Miracle Temple here, from Merge Records

Nyquil Jordan-The Emotions We Emote

Nyquil Jordan was birthed from the same twisted mind that created Pariah Carey, AKA Jheri Evans, one of the master minds behind Decoder Magazine. Disclaimer: Jheri and I are internet buddies, but that doesn't stop his new project and "The Emotions We Emote" from being any less awesome. "The Emotions We Emote" is a demented remake/remix of K-Ci's & JoJo's "Tell Me It's Real": the vocals are twisted almost recognition with auto-tune, modulation, and manipulation while a new, grimey beat has been placed underneath. The result is the pureness of the original track is still present, but now side by side a new demonic presence that makes "The Emotions We Emote" feel ever so darker. It's a warped and weird sound to be sure, but deeply creative and cool weird as well. What other type is there when it's warping of thirteen year old R&B songs?


Nyquil Jordan's Facebook
Download the "Emotions We Emote" digital 12" here, from the artist himself
Check out Decoder Magazine

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Marching Church-Throughout the Borders

Look at the cover art for Marching Church's new single for a second. It's only of the few times I think the artwork properly expresses the music contained within it. There is a beauty present in the artwork, but you can see the evil and darkness there as well, which is and will slowly consume everything else eventually. That, to a certain degree, is what Marching Church's "Throughout the Borders" sounds like. Marching Church is the solo project of Elias Bender Rønnenfelt front man of iceage and member of Vår, two bands who already have a dark energy to them. Here he mixes dark folk and post-punk catharsis in a lethal combination on "Throughout the Borders" as the metal sounding guitar chords just ring out over the frantic and off beat drum work while Rønnenfelt brings all of the despair and darkness that he hadn't released with his other projects here, especially through the vocals. "Throughout the Borders" is a deeply haunting song, containing a nervous and dark energy that is inescapable. Nonetheless, that eeriness and bleakness of the song are what make it so compelling in the first place.


Buy the "Throughout the Borders" 7" here, from Posh Isolation

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Dan Deacon-Wish Book Vol. 1

I should hate this. Detest this with a large chunk of my being. A mash-up mix-tape composed by Dan Deacon made up entirely of various different songs, that range from Grimes to James Brown to Animal Collective to Nicki Minaj to even Lightning Bolt. In any other situation, this would have just been some terrible variation on the generic material Girl Talk has been pushing out for years. But through the magic of Dan Deacon and his ability to understand every facet music, he manages to craft something incredibly wonderful and unique with Wish Book Vol. 1. To a certain degree I think it has to do that these mash-ups feel like Dan Deacon songs at their core; they have the same euphoric and joyous sense to them under their demented electro-dance skin that Deacon's original tunes have. The fact that Deacon stakes all the samples on top of one another rather than just jumping from one to another adds helps add to this sense. These songs just so evilly addictive looping and looping around in the brain due to three million different hooks flying at you at once. Just listen to "Someone Area (Rod)" which places cheesy Rod Stewart synths next a manipulated Beyoncè "Single Lady" vocals before diving into LCD Soundsystem's "Someone Great", which sets a memorizing tone for the rest of the tune. Everything on Wish Book Vol. 1 is like exactly as insane and wonderful as that description sounds.


Dan Deacon's Website
Download Wish Book Vol. 1 here, from Dan Deacon himself

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Wiener Dog Benefit Comp

Burger Records are just purely awesome. For proof of this just look at the Kitty Comp they released earlier this year. A massive, 60 50 song, double tape collection of unreleased songs from Burger-related bands all to support an injured cat the label heads had found on the highway. Like I said, Burger is awesome. Now, they have put together another compilation to help an animal in need. The Wiener Dog Benefit Comp was put together to help Popcorn the wiener dog get an operation from a growth in her belly. An even more massive 71 song compilation, the likes of Redd Kross, King Tuff, White Fang, The Memories, Free Weed, Gap Dream, Cleaners from Venus and so many more all of unreleased tracks on this comp. Thee Oh Sees contribution is the sun baked "Teacher's Holiday", a sparse, raw, and surreal track that would have fit perfectly on Castlemania. So go help a doggy in need an get some great tunes out of it in the process.


Buy The Wiener Dog Benefit Comp here, from Burger Records
Thee Oh Sees' Website
Excess money from the compilation will be donated to ASPCA, which you can support here

Beach Fossils-Careless

There comes a point in every jangle band's life where they must choose either keep either refine their sound and hope they can continue to produce quality albums through out their time together, or take a jump to expand and/or change up their sound. Beach Fossils, possibly the premier flag bearer for modern jangle pop have announced their decision to go with the latter choice along with the announcement of their second album Clash the Truth. And holy hell does it pay off in strides. "Careless" opens with the ringing of guitar chords that instantly feel thicker and heavier. They don't so much jangle as chime out of the speaker. There's honest shoegaze squeals from the guitar over the rolling bass lines and frantic drum work. The '80s-esque, nostalgia filled production compliments the song perfectly, embellishing it with the same feelings that Teen Mom delivered with their EP earlier this year; "Careless" gives off a sense of the past you instantly remember, but at the same time doesn't feel trapped by it. While this evolution isn't completely out of the blue (anyone who heard Beach Fossils' "Shallow/Lessons" 7" from earlier this year can see the logical progression here), that doesn't stop "Careless" from just hitting you upside the head with it's guitar pop greatness.


Beach Fossils' Facebook
Pre-order Clash the Truth here, from Captured Tracks

Monday, December 3, 2012

Cassette Review: Free Weed-Free

I doubt few things will embody pure stoner pop quite like Free Weed's Free cassette. Free Weed is the alias of Rikky Gage, one of the masterminds of Gnar Tapes. He also happens to be in the lo-fi punkers White Fang as well as crafting lo-fi guitar pop in The Memories too. Now with Free Weed, Gage dives further down the lo-fi rabbit hole, crafting twelve lo-fi gems that make up Free.

It's clear from the onset that Free Weed is a solo project, one deeply rooted in the bedroom-pop, VHS lo-fi movement that has made waves in sections of the indie world, and makes up a decent part of Gnar Tapes' discography as well. So through out Free you get hints of Ariel Pink, for lack of a better reference point. Familiar but weird samples pop up within the songs (see the weird space sonics of "Out of My Mind), old school radio channels are an ever-present influence (classic rock rather than AM Gold though), and there's the ever present humor of mocking the form, in the form of very cheesy humor (stuff like the self-parodying "Slo-Fi")and simple mindedness to weed and slacker culture.

However, that is slightly overshadowing what I think Free Weed first intent is though: to craft simply and catchy bedroom pop songs. And over the much too short Free, he succeeds. All but a few of the tracks are more than two minutes long, allowing for hyper condensed ear-worms to form out of the songs. Stuff like "Light the Night", "Lust for Everything", and "Didn't Wanna Do It" are pure slacker, lo-fi brilliance, clean and simple. The 'longer' jams like "In Doors" and "High with Me" don't break the flow at all either, they just enhance the vibes of Free further, both in terms of lyrical content and the ability to stretch out Free Weed's style ever so slightly while to maintaining the ear-worm capabilities. In fact closer "Pimp Reaper" might be the best track on the tape, a slow, Beck-influenced tune constructed over psych guitars and a broken drum machine, Gage's vocals just mumble out but feel no less wise before the track itself fades out. Free is simple, but clever tape on lo-fi music, made by a prolific lo-fi artist. It's stoner gems that will stick long after the haze has lifted.


Free Weed's Bandcamp
Buy Free here, from Lillerne Tapes