Thursday, August 29, 2013
Writing about Los Campesinos! is always beyond difficult for me. They pull this level of excitement from my soul, larger than the usual amount I have for almost all other music, causing my brain to stall out, and my ability to write words to collapse into nothing. Already it's taken more than an hour just to write those first two sentences. I always expect that once their new album rolls around, and the singles start leaking out I will have finally had enough time to adjust and properly articulate how their new song sounds. And then I hear the likes of "What Death Leaves Behind", and I collapse into a puddle of giddy excitement.
“What Death Leaves Behind” takes the pop sheen that the band implemented on Hello Sadness and cranks it up 10x higher. Everything on the track glows brighter. The synths glow and hum like a supernova, the guitars are glorious and just infection, and the drums just glide effortless so has this never ending bounce. Then there are Gareth’s vocals, which are so bright and shinning, never relenting at any point during the song, and never sounding more soulful. The old vocal tradeoffs between Gareth and Kim are even brought back, to stunning effect for the song’s climax. After listening to the song over and over again, it becomes clear why. There’s hope in “What Death Leaves Behind”; really, tangible, hope. Yes, death, fear, and despair are still heavily present here (just look at the song title), but underneath all of that is the sense that things just might, might work out (the album is, after all, called No Blues). The final cry of “WE WILL FLOWER AGAIN” is so earnest it can’t be taken any other way. Los Campesinos! Haven’t sounded this purely, unabashedly excited in a long time, and the return is spectacular.
Los Campesinos!'s Website
Pre-order No Blues (and a new issue of Heat Rash) here, from Witchita/the band
Tuesday, August 27, 2013
“Spit it Out” could have easily fit on Butter the Children’s demo. A noisy, tough and tart track, Inna Mkrtycheva’s vocals never are never more anguished, and the guitars are never as wonderfully warped and distorted as they are here. The damaged emotional core that lays secretly at the core of Butter the Children’s songs, hid by jagged hooks and the band’s warped style, has never been more on display. “Loose” is a re-recording of one of the best songs of their debut “Lupus” and serves as the EPs transition song. It is still great, a supremely catchy song, largely in part to the song’s central riff, this sort of “jangle-pop shoegaze” sound that is completely memorizing in its warble. Though compared to the original, the slight drop in urgency that was previous there detracts from it, even if the backing rhythm section shines much brighter. However, the small step back in energy helps to segue nicely into possibly Butter the Children’s quietest song to date “Dennis”. It’s almost disconcerting when first heard, not a hint of distortion, just wonderful chimming guitars and Mkrtycheva voice. Even when the noise does kick in, (slowly and introduced by acoustic guitar no less) it’s never overwhelming, so the song can always maintain its bouncy charm be as close as the pop song they want it to be.
The whole True Crime EP lasts less than seven minutes, but that’s all the band needs to get anyone addicted to their absolutely wonderful blend of off-kilter, distorted indie rock and jangle & hook filled post-punk. If their demo wasn't enough last year, Butter the Children show they can be just as great bright and studio polished as when they were scuzzy and murky.
Butter the Children's Website
Buy the True Crime EP here, from Downtown Records
Monday, August 26, 2013
I really shouldn't have to announce this. If you don't know who Ty Segall is, the garage rock wunderkind who over the past five years has released some of the best rocknroll albums around (with three of his best ones to date released last year alone), OR how much of a whirlwind of manic energy and teenage excetiment can be produced at one his shows, then I'm sorry to say you've been missing out for far too long. Thankfully, Segall tours so much that you're actually never missing out for too long, and will be coming to The Mohawk on August 27. This show will be a special affair though; due to the the quiet nature of Segall's latest album Sleeper, the show will be a stripped down, almost acoustic affair. How Segall will jump from crazed garage rock stomping to peaceful, introspective strumming is beyond my mind, but something tells me Segall will be more than able to pull it off (plus anyone who's heard "Caesar" knows Segall can be just as excellent acoustic as he is plugged in). Local psych bangers Holy Wave and burnt out, pastoral jammers Hidden Ritual will serve as the more than fitting openers. As if I wasn't clear enough before, this is not a show to be missed.
Buy Tickets to see Ty Segall here.
"A Funny Thing You Said" opens with a sad accordion and saxophone that is on the cusp of sounding like it is playing soft jazz. Under every single other situation those first few seconds would be enough for me to turn off the song and never listen to whatever band produced it. However, this is Ben Parker and Superman Revenge Squad, and if there's one person who can use those instruments to communicate something, emotionally arresting at that, it's him. Billed here as "The Superman Revenge Squad Band", "A Funny Thing You Said" is not a deeply devastating song delivered by Parker, his acoustic guitar, and incredible lyrical manipulation, but all that and enhancements from the aforementioned accordion and sax, but superb drumming courtesy of Ben's brother Alex Parker (anyone who heard them when they were making music as Nosferatu D2 know the fury Alex is capable off). The result of all this being a Superman Revenge Squad song with a massive amount of kinetic force behind it. Not to say that Superman Revenge Squad songs of the past were just quiet, slowly plucked affairs, but here, the Ben Parker's reflections have a true sense of urgency, as if the realizations of life not coming out the way he wanted it to and his friends distressing feelings on how everything turned out are rushing over him all at once. For the first time in a while the lyrics lack the same sense of assurance that Ben Parker usually communicates about his despair, and that lack of grounding is what makes "A Funny Thing You Said" complete. It's a song built around a nervous sense of dread, and everything from the instruments to the words communicates that in full.
Superman Revenge Squad's Website
Pre-order There Is Nothing More Frightening Than The Passing Of Time here, from Audio Anti-Hero
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Hoax have been making scummy, vile, and excellent hardcore seven inches for a while now, each more brutal then the last. Now after three years, Hoax is going to release their debut self-titled, and going by the first two songs they've released from it, it's going to be absolutely brutal. While "Anesthetize" is absolutely crushing in terms of psychotic existentialism, "Hide" is the true beast. Delivering the lyrics from a throat so shredded that they sound monstrous, the song feels like two minutes from the worst horror movie transformed into a song. "Hide" chases after you, screaming with its vocals and noisy, scummy guitars, bass, and drums the need to escape. But you can't, and the band catches up to you with one brisk breakdown and delivers one last cruel taunt before ending. "Hide" is the most evil hardcore songs I've heard in a while, and one of the best as well.
Buy the self-titled album soon from the band
Monday, August 19, 2013
"You've Got Me Wonderin' Now" is everything that makes Parquet Courts wonderful compressed into one ball of manic, scuzzy, twisted energy. Tightly wound, coil-like guitars ready to unleash a blast of fuzzy, distorted noise at a moment's notice? Check. Oblique, wordy, but nonetheless earnest lyrics comparing superficial pain to earnest heartache? Check. Heavy presence of an actual musical recorder throughout the song that shouldn't work but instead adds to the song's warped charm? Check. Really "You've Got Me Wonderin' Now" is an extension of what the band can do when the make the likes of "Borrowed Time" or "Yonder is Closer to the Heart"; full fledged rockers that hold steady right on the line between between indie rock and post-punk. It's the type of frenzy that made Light Up Gold such a great album, and what will make Tally All the Things You Broke a great EP.
Parquet Courts' Blog
Pre-order Tally All the Things You Broke here, from What's Your Rupture/Insound
Seeing Speedy Ortiz live (along with Ringo Deathstarr and Hola Beach), eliminated a worry that I had unfortunately had been buying into a bit subconsciously; that indie rock is dying. This mostly comes from detractors saying guitar music itself is dying, and that everything is just recycled nostalgia at this point. Ignoring a potential 5,000 word essay about nostalgia/previous ideas on music at any point, that really doesn't matter. Whether playing on just borrowed nostalgia (and believe me it wasn't just that), these three bands were great, each shows how great music made with a few guitars, bass, and drums can be.
For some reason the word scrappy keeps popping into my head to describe Hola Beach even though it doesn't exactly fit. Composed of four kids I have seen at various shows throughout town, they played something close to proto-shoegaze; shoegaze that obviously was tinted by a secondary love of garage rock or something more energetic. They were noisy in that "let's crank all our instruments and amps to 10" way, and their music just amplified that further. There were really songs under all the noise though, with really catchy melodies and killer bass hooks if you could make them out. They closed on a mini freakout, every band member trying to create as much noise as possible, frontman Will Kurzner in particular smashing his guitar into the floor and then his amp, and yet still keeping the song going. They were great and everything a local opener should be.
There is some deep embarrassment about the fact that I’ve been going to shows in Austin for six years and this was the first time I had ever seen Ringo Deathstarr. One of the best shoegaze bands out there right now, from my town, and I had managed to miss them at every turn. Not only that, but seeing them that Friday confirmed I had missed some spectacular performances. Ringo Deathstarr was just captivating, giving off this inviting energy that few shoegaze bands can manage in any sense. They actually got part of the crowd dancing (or at least pogoing in place), and someone even attempted to start a mosh pit at one point. The new material debuted was just excellent, fitting perfectly into their set and seemed just wonderful as their older material. It was 40 minutes of just excellent shoegaze bliss from a band that has perfected it steadily over years while no one was watching.
Seeing Speedy Ortiz live allowed for something I had always wanted when listening to it; for it to click. In theory, I knew I should love them; well crafted, Pavement loving indie-rock that seemed like it was ripped out straight from ’92 by a time machine. Yet, up until seeing them, I had only “enjoyed” Speedy Ortiz rather than loving them. And what changed when I saw them was understanding that they don’t care. They understood that the importance people have placed on indie-rock from the ‘90s over the last 12 years was not its point. It was four goof balls making loud, guitar rock and just having FUN doing it. It was sloppy; it was silly; matt Robidoux was more concerned in hitting his guitar then actually playing it. At one point Sadie Dupuis (whose banter was great during the whole show) explained their song “Gary Oak” was based on hating the main rival from the early Pokemón games, and that was one of the best songs of the night. And know that Speedy Ortiz were great, all disjointed energy and indirect proficiency with their instruments. The set ended in intentional madness, noisy squeals with the band just bashing on their instruments as a drum cymbal was shoved into a guitar. Speedy Ortiz aren’t playing on borrowed nostalgia; they are their own thing, loving old indie music and making something in honor of that. And they can play a hell of a show.
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Butter the Children demo EP from last year was one of my absolute favorite releases: a twisted concoction of shoegaze and indie rock, with a damaged & dark art rock influence lurking underneath. And wonderfully, there hasn't been a wait to hear more material from them; they'll be releasing their first "proper" EP True Crime in August. "Slip it Out", the EP/7" A-side is an ever so more refined take on their demo's sound, mostly likely from being able to enter a proper studio. The slight haze has been lifted, and what's left is a razor sharp track. The guitar is both sprawling and dagger like in its riffs, the drum work nice yet manic, and Inna Mkrtycheva vocals are even more powerful then they were before, always catchy and sweet, yet at the same time having a knowing malice to them that amplifies "Spit it Out"'s still dark energy. The video helps to convey all this even more, a stylistic throw back to the bleaker days of New York City, and all the depravity and creation that the city helped to create. "Spit it Out" an absolutely monster of a song, managing to squeeze so much energy and damaged life into its two and half minutes that I can hardly believe the track doesn't collapse. "Spit it Out" is just flat-out glorious, noisy indie rock of the tallest order.
Butter the Children's Facebook
Pre-order the True Crime EP here, from Downtown Records
Sunday, August 11, 2013
Being able to turn dark musings, on trying to escape from the dread that life is slipping you by and you will die without accomplishing anything, into a blistering post-hardcore sing/shout along is a feat in and of itself. To make it so that the song is not only absolutely great, but that none of its emotional core is lost at any point is something else entirely. And that' what Big Ups' "Goes Black" is. Over extremely proper spoken word-esque verses, frontman Joe Galarraga expounds on a lingering, inescapable sense that something is deeply wrong with the way he is living his life. Then the tension mounts, and it all bursts apart, the emotional weight becoming too great during the chorus as Galarraga screams "What happens when it all goes black/And I'm lying there dying/Trying to think back". Everything about "Goes Black" has the gist of appearing simple, from the lyrical delivery, to the instrumentation, a toeing the line mix of hardcore & post-hardcore that at times sounds like a reduced METZ. However, it's that simplicity that allows "Goes Black" to be so great, to perfectly delivery every aspect of the angst and anger contained within the song. No frills, no extras, just disillusioned reflections one's as soundtracked by post-hardcore fury.
Big Ups' Facebook
Pre-order Eighteen Hours of Static here, from Dead Labour
Friday, August 9, 2013
"(I Don't Mean to) Wonder" is the type of song dreams are made from. Well, specifically my dreams. Because "(I Don't Mean to) Wonder" is perfect, PERFECT, noisy, shoegaze-y, guitar rock. I mean that with no hyperbole (or as much removed as I thin is possible). What Black Hearted Brother have created with this song is just heaven, a wash of ever flowing distortion that instantly engulfs the listener, always buzzing but never harsh, before pulling back completely to the allow the vocals to float in from space, echoed to near incomprehensible levels, but never the less gorgeous in their own right. And they just sit there, as the guitars coming roaring back to life, even more powerful and twisted and stunning before. And then the song pulls back again, just ever so, before one big, final, head swelling burst of cavernous, blitzkrieging shoegaze. It is an absolutely stunning piece of guitar rock, something truly made by masters of the craft, so greatly designed there is not a single wasted element or flaw. "(I Don't Mean to) Wonder" is the type of song that lifts you off the ground & launches you into space, without making you ever want to turn your head back.
Black Hearted Brother's Facebook
Get Stars Are Our Home soon from Slumberland Records
If I had to pick one band to be my best SXSW discovery of this year, I think I would have to say it was Nothing. I had heard the stories of how incredible they were live, but to actually experience it, to receive that punch to the gut both sonically and the emotional edge (yes, emotional) that were pouring out, was something to experience, even if the band damaged your hearing while they were doing it.
"Dig", the first single from their upcoming album Guilty of Everything, does not translate this experience. It is not the ever cascading wall of shoegaze noise that was those 30 minutes. However, that's a good thing. It might even be a great thing. Because what it shows is the band that I saw, that made the Downward Years to Come EP, has sort of passed, replaced by Nothing's newest form. Instead what "Dig" is synthesis, three parts shoegaze guitar wail and hushed (but crystal clear) vocals, one part modern update of sludgy emo riffage, and one part perfection of the darker atmosphere they have always injected into their songs. "Dig" is a sad song; one mourns steadily during its four minutes. It is deeply emotional shoegaze at its best; noisy and bursting, but bent so that its true emotional core always shines through.
Get Guilty of Everything soon from Relapse Records