Friday, August 29, 2014

Mister Lies-Deepend

Mister Lies is no longer the Mister Lies you once knew. What was once the pseudonym used by Nick Zanca just to craft his eclectic production work under has pushed his music has now been pushed into a far grander realm with “Deepend”. While still rooted in Zanca’s production (more on that in a second), it’s made to serve the new heart of the track, Zanca’s vocals. Singing for the first time, it’s slightly unbelievable how easily he manages to not only incorporate them into his music, but how much it expands his work as well. “Deepend” builds slow, opening with a muffled clicks and Zanca’s crystal clear voice delivering cryptic but clearly dark lyrics. The song then lurches forward, the production clicking together, and beautiful cello lines emerge to continue the sullen mood of the song. The song eventually comes to its crescendo, Zanca practically yelling the last line of “Don’t pull me up/I would drown happily”, giving out right when the production becomes the most frantic and glitched out, with only a moment to catch your breath after it finishes. "Deepend" is Mister Lies blooming in every capacity before your very eyes. It's utterly glorious.


Mister Lies' Website
Pre-order Shadow here, from Orchid Tapes

Monday, August 25, 2014


Institute have been an Austin staple for a while now. If there was ever a hardcore show, or a noisy guitar band rolling into town, Institute were sure to be shoved onto the bill somehow. Over that year of opening for everyone though, Institute started to hone their bleak, misanthropic post-punk, turning it into something tighter and tougher with each passing show. A sharp taste of this was already delivered earlier this year when the band released their Giddy Boy 7", and it has been refined even more with "Salt".

"Salt" will probably serve as the introduction to Institute for many, and there may not be a better track. The rumble of the low end bass and drums meshing together, only to be cut apart by guitarist Arak Avakian's jagged, picked riffs. These two contrasting sounds play off each other, creating a discordant mood through the whole song. All this this serves as the backbone for frontman Mose Brown's vocals. Taking center stage, they're both snotty yet menacing, slurred but full of spite. When the words can be made out, they're Brown decrying clichés of the world, taking down tropes with profanity and a snarled lip. With "Salt" Institute push post-punk into a ragged form, creating the musical equivalent of a raw nerve protected by nothing except venom and bitterness, which is the band is more than happy to spew.


Pre-order the Salt EP here, from Sacred Bones Records

Friday, August 8, 2014

Sea Oleena-If I'm

Back in the distant time of 2011, Bridgetown Records released an unassuming tape from Sea Oleena. The tape was compilation of her two EPs (Sleeplessness & a self-titled work); a collection of some tracks that balanced at the edge between folk and gauzy dream-pop, with a sense of delicateness and longing underpinning the songs. The compilation had an almost haunting quality to it, and was truly memorizing.

So hearing "If I'm", the first piece of new material from Sea Oleena in three year, is slightly startling. In that time, Sea Oleena's confidence has grown immensely. It's in her vocals, which now shine clearly in the song, no longer hidden behind a partial haze and open "If I'm" with a certain boldness. Its in her instruementation as well. The track evolves from tinkering piano before gradually bring in perfectly placed strings, which in turn collides with quick electronic beats that flow right into the song. Instead of rising into something climatic though, Sea Oleena decides to dissolve the song, closing it on a sweeping and gorgeous ambient section like the one she has been performing live for the past few months. And truly, that is the better option. By ending on that quite yet stunning note, "If I'm" exists as a thing of beauty, one that is as memorizing as it is enveloping.


Sea Oleena's Facebook
Pre-order Shallow here, from Lefse Records

Thursday, August 7, 2014


Sophie has built his sound around a form of musical whiplash; an uncanny ability to craft tracks in a truly twisted form, constantly jumping between build and climax without ever really giving either in a track. Similarly, the sonic competent has a matching quality. Like the rest of his PC-Music family, Sophie utilizes these sugary sweet, almost cartoony samples that when shoved through Sophie's production develop a warped, menacing quality that lays just below the surface. A taste of this was presented in a more compact form with "Lemonade", but it's much better crystallized through "Hard".

At the core of "Hard" is a tinny trap beat which Sophie manages to slice and dicing in a matter of moments, ripping it up & putting it back together over and over again. It is everything else that surrounds "Hard" though, that makes it so magical: the tinkering chimes, the creepy synth that suddenly lurches to life during the song's high points, the vocals that never change in tone but somehow develop a menacing quality to them when saying the track's name. Sophie cuts to & pieces together all these different sounds at such a rapid fire speed it's almost disorienting. However, that just adds to the effectiveness of the song. The world of Sophie is an off-kilter one, so it's no surprise that its soundtrack is just as manic.


Sophie's Website
Pre-order the "Lemonade"/"Hard" 12" here, from Bleep

Friday, August 1, 2014

Joanna Gruesome-Jerome (Liar)

"Jerome (Liar)" is a strange little track. The newest song from Joanna Gruesome since their utterly impeccable collection of noise-pop tunes Weird Sister came out last year, "Jerome (Liar)" feels like a distillation of every aspect of Joanna Gruesome's sound. Incredibly sweet snippets of indie-pop are dueling with equally frequent bursts of noise rock throughout the whole song, with the track constantly teetering the edge between wholesome pop and teeth snarling guitar freak out. It manages to do all of this in less than two minutes, short even by Joanna Gruesome standards, and sounds like the closest the band has ever come to throwing a temper tantrum in song form. But maybe that's the point. The song is clearly about someone they know, and we've all been in the predicament of having a "friend" you had to alternate between smiling to their face and flipping them off behind their back. Joanna Gruesome just finally cut the charade short, and let it all come tumbling out on "Jerome (Liar)".


Joanna Gruesome's Facebook
Pre-order the Trust Fund/Joanna Gruesome split 12" here, from Happy Happy Birthday to Me Records


Whirr have gone through many different forms since their initial inception. There was the strict shoegaze sound of their Distressor EP, the more '90s fuzz rock sound of their debut album Pipe Dreams, and then finally the sprawling/cascading sound that emerged on their Around EP last year. With each release, the band ventured into a new area of the shoegaze sound, exploring all the possibilities that the genre tag would allow in conjunction with the ever changing shape their band existed in at the time.

Now though, Whirr may have finally found their sound with their new album Sway. The band has seemed to have refined the more crushing aspects that they made on Around, focusing their sound to less of a build/climax style than to a more everlasting sludging through brightness quality. A taste of this was heard in the album's first single "Mumble", but the full effect of this is more present on "Heavy". Opening with thunderous drums and a wall of static fuzz, the track quickly gives way to a beautiful gliding guitar that sets the tone of the song. The production is what makes "Heavy" work so well. Every instrument shines through instead of colliding with one another like on previous Whirr albums. The thick thumps of the rhythm section are always ever present even as the noise swells more and more as the song progresses. The utterly beautiful guitar work is layered, the perfected melding of distorted riffing and noisy soundscape. Even the lose of the key balancing component of female vocals has been worked out with an ever so added presence of  Loren Rivera's vocals, which in turn give the track a lovely distant quality to it. With "Heavy" Whirr have finally whittled their sound to its core, and have crafted a pitch perfect piece of shoegaze around it.


Whirr's Facebook
Pre-order Sway here from Graveface Records

Friday, July 25, 2014

Hamish Kilgour-Crazy Radiance

Hamish Kilgour, whether making music with his brother David in The Clean or The Great Unwashed, or co-fronting the greatly underappreciated Mad Scene, has been making music for 30+ years at this point. In all that time though, Kilgour has never released a collection of his own music until now. "Crazy Radiance", the first single off Kilgour's upcoming All of It and Nothing, is not too far removed from music he made with The Mad Scene, all be it presented here in a much more stripped down form. Over a quickly strummed acoustic guitar and distant bass drum booms Kilgour crafts a very intimate pop song, his vocals especially helping to convey this moody, containing an well worn and knowing quality to them. Even when the second guitar comes in to let the track unfold a little, the feeling like he's crafting the song right next to you before your eyes never dissipates.


Pre-order All of It & Nothing here, from Ba Da Bing Records

Friday, July 4, 2014

Foxes in Fiction-Shadow's Song

It's hard to believe it has been three years since Foxes in Fiction have released an album. Not that Warren Hildebrand, the mastermind behind the project, has been completely quite since Swung from the Branches came out. The Alberto EP, various compilation appearances, and a collaborative 7" with Benoît Pioulard were all released in the intermediate time. However, as lovely as those songs were, they couldn't help but feel like stopgaps while Hildebrand was building to something bigger or grander.

"Shadow's Song", the first taste of Foxes in Fiction's second album Ontario Gothic, fulfills that promise. It is a slowly unfolding piece of absolutely gorgeous dream-pop, taking it's time to reveal all its different layers. What starts as something akin to the frail guitar work of Atlas Sound circa Logos quickly gives way to Hildebrand's silky vocals and the track's wonderfully glossy & warm production that blossoms with each guitar strum. Owen Pallett's guest violin work gives the track extra room, letting it expand further and further than it could have on its own. The song's ending, with Hildebrand's almost liquid guitar work trading off with Pallett's violin as the track swells more and more is one of the loveliest movements I have heard in a song all year. "Shadow's Song" is utter and complete dream-pop beauty, with all three years worth of effort shinning brightly in every aspect of this track.


Foxes in Fiction's Website
Pre-order Ontario Gothic here, from Orchid Tapes

Monday, June 30, 2014

Liam Betson-The Primordial Will

Before Liam Betson was a guitarist in Titus Andronicus for the last two years, he was Liam the Younger, creator of ragged indie folk/rock that served as a medium for Betson's dense and near stream of consciousness lyricism. His work is not unlike that of fellow "Titus Andronicus guitarist gone solo" artist Andrew Cedermark, layering this sense of rusticism into their work that gives their music a more aged feeling which in turn better reflects the weariness contained within them.

However, while Cedermark approached his music with a clear love of The Microphones in his heart, Betson's tunes are more lively, a sort of musical jog through what's on his mind. "The Primordial Will", the latest track from the upcoming The Cover of Hunter, uses rolling guitar jangle and shimmering distortion to drive the track. The track sprawls and sprawls, creating a sense like it could never end, Betson unfurls a tale of self-awareness, of knowing the mistakes one will make in a life, being unable to do anything about them, but still longing to change. Betson is addressing someone else in the song, but it's clear that that he's really talking to himself, trying to figure out and map out the himself the best he can. When "The Primordial Will" finally hits its climax, with a small roar of guitar that is pure catharsis, it is still up in the air whether Betson has succeed or not. But at least he tried, and that might be the most important thing of all.      


Liam Betson's Bandcamp
Pre-order The Cover of Hunter here, from Double Double Whammy

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Bilinda Butchers-Edo Method

The Bilinda Butchers have been making synth-filled dream pop for a while now, putting out several excellent EPs and singles for the past couple of years in the vein of the equally underapprciated Depreciation Guild. However, with the band finally announcing the details of their proper debut album, Heaven, something has changed. At least, it feels that way while listening to "Edo Method". Everything about the track feels ramped up, as if it's a Bilinda Butchers track on hyperdrive. It bursts out of the gate, the drumming massively more kinetic & frantic (thanks to the inclusion of newest member Ryan Wansley), and the guitars richly distorted yet it's riffs ringing out crystal clear. Most sticking maybe Michal Palmer's vocals, which are still soft and warm, but now are no longer buried. Instead, they are front and center on the track, and give the song an added urgency that wouldn't have been there otherwise. With "Edo Method", it seems Bilinda Butchers are taking the energetic burst they picked up on "The Lovers' Suicide!" and decided to crank that energy even higher. Which is wonderful because the band wound up melding power pop to dream pop perfectly, and crafted a truly gorgeous song in the process.


The Bilinda Butchers' Website
Pre-order Heaven here, from Orchid Tapes

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Merchandise-Little Killer

Bands change. They evolve. They take in new influences, sharpen their skills, have band members come and go, or some combination of all or none of those things. It's natural. If they didn't, they would wind up making the same album over and over again, and no one wants that, no matter what they say or think. And so it has come that Merchandise have reached that point as well. We can only be thankful that they pulled off their shift so excellently.

For it could be argued that Merchandise have already gone the experimental route, having touched on noise, distortion, and sprawl through their earlier works, such as the still incredible "Become What You Are" or the darkened intensity of "Anxiety's Door". So the only direction they are left with is actually compacting their sound, making it lean and tight, and going from there. That's how you end up with "Little Killer", possibly the closest Merchandise have come to writing an actual pop song. No doubt thanks to Elsner Niño and Chris Horn joining the band properly on drums and guitar respectively has lead to a stability within the group, allowing the band to concentrate on the strengths its been nurturing since the beginning; in this case David Vassalotti's charming but intelligent guitar playing and frontman Carson Cox's passionate & sultry croon. There is a clear '80s romanticism within the track, emphasized by the video it's contained in; a clear, almost cheesy throwback to that time and style. But much the same way that video is clearly a distortion as much as it is an homage to that era, so to is "Little Killer" itself. It's catchiness can't hide the ambivalence and wistfulness that is actually at its core. This may be Merchandise going pop, but they're bringing their bleakness and longing with them.


Merchandise's Website
Pre-order After the End here, from 4AD

Monday, May 26, 2014

Compilation: odd castles-those who were once friends are now fam

The internet’s capacity to make connections, for people to meet and trade ideas in ways that were never before possible, cannot be understated, especially within the modern musical world. We live in a world where some kid in a basement in Wisconsin can record a demo that can be heard by someone in France, and it can become their favorite collection of music and main source of inspiration, and vice versa. There is something honestly magical about that fact, and it should be (and is) celebrate.

This is why I feel there is something so incredible about the those who were once friends are now fam compilation. Originally what was going to be just a mix on Soundcloud of likeminded artists, the curator George realized it was something more and wound up creating a label of sorts to release a tape version into the world. Which is more than deserving because those who were once friends are now fam deserves to be documented. The fifteen tracks here paint a picture of artists, some separated from each other by country or continent, creating something truly intertwined, even as they all approach it with their own style and sound. The quiet indie-pop of Teen Mom Birthday Cake and Sales. The twisty electronica of Yohuna, Cuddle Formation, and Blithe Field. The gorgeous, enveloping dream pop made by Foxes in Fiction and Lo sé. Two unbelievable covers via Emily Reo’s gooey rendition of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams”, and Sea Oleena’s sparse & goose bump inducing cover of “Crazy in Love”. Even friends Attic Basement and Bulldog Eyes are here vicariously via covers by R. L. Kelly and Imaginary Houses respectively. All these different sounds, styles, and artists sit next to each other with ease, flowing into one another effortlessly. By the time the comp. ends on a compact indie-rock jam from Alex G, it just feels natural that it got there. Everything about those who were once friends are now fam feels like it should exist together; it all feels so beautiful.


Pre-order the those who were once friends are now fam compilation here, from odd castles

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Cremation Lily-Iron Pier

Cremation Lily is Zen Zisgo, a UK artist who for the past few years has been releasing dark, noisy, pieces of electronic ambient music under the guise of Cremation Lily. Up until recently, Cremation Lily releases had been as in the shadows as the music itself, usually taking the form of deeply limited cassettes that would disappear as quickly as they came into existence. Now though, Fires Frame the Silhouette may serve as both a proper sort of introduction and cementing of Cremation Lily to the larger, noisy ambient world. "Iron Pier", off of that album, will mostly likely be the first taste any most people have had with Zisgo's music, and it's a hell of an opening salvo. It lulls the listener in, its opening a single note of dark synth that casts an eerie, tense feel over the track almost instantly. Then the rest of the song kicks in the, the clatter of metal and industrialization serving to flesh out the rest of the track as the synth begins to morph, raising and falling as needed. Zisgo emerges near the end, or at least his vocals do. They're muffled and distorted, allowing only the intensity and fear within them to be conveyed, the one last distinction to "Iron Pier" before it comes to its murky end.


Buy Fires Frame the Silhouette here, from Alter

Monday, May 19, 2014

Some Ember-The Thrashing Whip

Something happened during Some Ember's transition from crafting their cassettes to their debut LP. Their two tapes exemplified the coldwave resurgence that had been occurring in the musical shadows for the past few years now. Their was a clear fascination and love of '80s synthpop, the band letting their synths and drum machines run wild while Dylan Travis' monotone (and Nina Chase's crystal vocals on occasion) would pierce through and guide the tracks. "The Thrashing Whip", though, is something else entirely. The synths have a creepy-crawly quality to them, unfurling slowly with a steady pulse, yet intermittently bursting forth with a cascading quality, washing over and disappearing into the track. Travis vocals are now much more soulful, emotive, and the intensity they use to have has been replaced with an almost quiet fear. The track gets darker as it progresses as the synths begin to collapse in on themselves, adding a claustrophobic quality to track as it nears its end, amplified by Chase's vocals fluttering in an out, so airy here they layer perfectly onto Travis', an amplifier of the song's dark tone. "The Thrashing Whip" is a massive step forward for Some Ember, a deeply atmospheric piece of synth work by a band clearly honing in on a new aspect of their sound and fine tuning it to a precise degree.


Some Ember's Facebook
Pre-order Some Ember's self-tilted album here, from Dream

Friday, May 16, 2014

Ricky Eat Acid-requiem/ugly sky at night/still sick

Ricky Eat Acid, aka the nom de plume Sam Ray assumes to craft gorgeous, ambient electronica, already released the stunning Three Love Songs earlier this year, contributed a track to the incredible Boring Ecstasy compilation, and has a new EP on the way as well. Not to mention there are plans for Julia Brown, the indie-pop project he fronts, to release their debut album within the coming months as well. And still, still, within all that work Ray somehow found time to craft something as wonderful as “requiem/ugly sky at night/still sick”. Released seemingly out of nowhere by Ray himself, what’s so stunning about the track is how clearly it’s not something that was just haphazardly thrown into the world. At ten plus minutes, “requiem/ugly sky at night/still sick ” as the feel of a mini-epic, a three part suite that progress slowly, unraveling more and more without you even realizing it. The static hum that is the song’s core morphs further and further, acquiring a quiet intensity as it expands, pulling in compressed satellite signals and electronic hisses to further its growth. It takes its time, washing over whoever’s listening, immersing them completely, only for that feeling to slowly drift away as it ends. “requiem/ugly sky at night/still sick”, is the musical equivalent of staring into a starry sky on fast forward, as you watch the black turn into the faint glow of morning.


Ricky Eat Acid's Website

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Quirke-Break a Mirrored Leg

There's not a lot of information about Quirke. Like a lot of producers these days he just suddenly appeared, without name or picture into the musical world. Instead, they've choose to let their music speak for itself, and good god is "Break a Mirrored Leg" one hell of an opening salvo. It's genius lies in the tracks dynamic; the track opens with an eerie yet intriguing ambient intro that sounds like the wind traveling with a warped siren layered over it. Then the track drops for a moment, falling into complete silence before instantly emerging with its true sound, a stuttering, muffled, yet rapid fire beat paired with equally fast, glitched synths that sound as if they were turned off and back on every second. "Break a Mirrored Leg" keeps building, adding inorganic clicks and triggers to keep the tension mounting; the song drops again right in the middle only to burst alive again at somehow a faster momentum. "Break a Mirrored Leg" is the soundtrack to driving down a destroyed, futuristic cityscape in a hovercar. It has the sense of someone starring into the future, only to be shocked and horrified by what they see.


Quirke's Website
Pre-order Acid Bath EP here, from Young Turks

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Video: Lust for Youth-Illume

It's fitting that the members of Lust for Youth wear white tuxedos through out the video for "Illume"; not only does it serve as a stark contrast to the grimy backgrounds the duo walk past during the clip, but it is also a pretty apt metaphor for how dazzling their music has become. Their first single off of International, the equally excellent, and catchy, "Epoetin Alfa", alluded to how much of a dramatic shift Lust for Youth have made with this album. However, "Illume" is practically a pure beacon of brightness; sharp, almost chirping synths pared with a warm, summertime pulse for a beat. Hannes Norrvide vocals, previously communicating a sense of loss or confusion on his songs, here feel passionate and assured to the world around him. The presence of revolving member Loke Rahbek & newest member Malthe Fisher truly add a confidence and fleshed out qualit to Lust for Youth, letting Norrvide embrace a sound he had kept at arm's length until now. "Illume" sounds tropical and luminescent, words I never thought would be used to describe Lust for Youth in a thousand years. More than that though (and more importantly), through this radical change in their sound, Lust for Youth may have crafted their best song to date.


Lust for Youth's Facebook
Pre-order International here, from Sacred Bones Records

Friday, April 25, 2014

Professional Flowers-Protex Biome/Genome Shuflr

Professional Flowers is yet another project of the ever prolific Matthew Sage, he of RxRy, Wellington Down, and his own self-titled work. One would think a solo artist wouldn't need so many different nom de plumes for their music, but Sage has always had a clear & distinct idea as to what each project represent and sounds like. As such, Professional Flowers feels like it exists in its own world, or more accurately, like it's trying to bring worlds together. Professional Flowers' sound is based in Sage melding manipulated field recordings to modulated synth sounds so that the natural sounds unnatural, and vica versa, with Sage exploring the dichotomy when placing those two sounds together. The Protex Biome tape is what happens when those sound blend into each other in the most organic way possible. It pulses with a certain life, with not only every sound blending into the next, but the whole album feeling like it's alive, constantly expanding and contracting, but always trying to bloom. It's the sound of various nature recordings playing at once as Mage cuts between them and soundtracks them at the same time.


Genome Shfulr is the inverse of that sound. Harsher, and more random, the tape is the result when the sounds don't meld together at all. The contrast is sharp, the more earthy sounds rubbing sharply against the various synth beeps and whirls. In fact, the sounds Sage creates Genome Shfulr feel almost unnatural at times, as if he sampled space signals and TV static when crafting these songs. It's frantic and almost intense at times, with Sage purposefully making nearly every "track" on this tape short so as to not let them unfold, unlike how they did on Protex Biome. Even the longer tracks, like the three minute closer "Cloud Slurp", is just as jarring as the rest of the tape. Yet, although there's a schizophrenic sound at play here, Genome Shfulr still mirrors the beauty that was present on Protex Biome as well. For there are some lovely and lush moments buried underneath the squeals and sharp cuts of Genome Shulfr, much like their are hints and bits of murky darkness laying within Protex Biome.


Professional Flowers' Bandcamp

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Rat Columns-Another Day

It took them long enough, but it seems Rat Columns have finally embraced the fact that they pop band. Ten seconds into "Another Day" is all the confirmation you need to know that it is perfect guitar pop. More than that, it's perfect melancholic, "plucked straight from a rainy city in the UK during the '80s" jangle pop. The saccharine, perfectly reverbed guitar notes. The guiding, ever present bass in the background. The shimmering yet sad synth lines that follow the song throughout. They all meld together so, so well into this beautifully sweet & sad song; something The Pains of Being Pure at Heart would create in a parallel universe. Band mastermind David West might deliver his vocals in a monotone, but the specks of sadness are present in his delivery, for anyone who truly listens. "Another Day" ends with a frantic and almost noisy guitar solo that manages to blend perfectly into the song, speaking to how sublime of a piece of pop Rat Columns have crafted here. Which is a wonderful because Rat Columns made some truly wonderful songs on their debut Sceptre Hole, which far too few people heard. Somehow though, everything West did on that album has been refined to perfection with "Another Day", and the result is nothing short of heavenly.


Rat Columns' Tumblr
Pre-order Leaf soon here, from R.I.P. Society

Monday, April 21, 2014

Single Review: Still Sweet-Pirouette 7"

Still Sweet used to be called Scallions, though both are/were the creative project of Darian Scatton, the mastermind behind the label Edible Onion. Edible Onion is truly a throwback to another era. Everything about it feels intimate and personal; from the bands it releases, all who make music that is creative and not concerned with popular trends in the least, to the packaging, all handmade and assembled by Scaffon himself. Still Sweet’s “debut” 7” likewise fits this aesthetic perfectly, crafting two pieces of dream pop that feel plucked from a distant time before that genre even existed.

“Pirouette”, for instance, is what would happen if The Music Tapes ever decided to craft something gothic. Scatton sings sweet sounding, yet ever so ghastly lyrics, made even more ghostly by Gabrielle Smith’s singing which follows just a moment out of step with Scatton’s. The song’s instrumentation adds to this askew sound as well. The use of an old-timey harp,  as well as high pitched frequencies that float through the song from what sounds like a combination singing saw/pump organ give the track a truly haunted feeling. The track constantly slows down only to start up again, leaving anyone listening constantly off balance, adding to the song’s effect.

“Holey Bones” travels even deeper into the past, sounding like a long forgotten ‘60s girl group b-side, the one they always made sure was a slowed down dance track. It certainly has that feeling, with the “oohs” that echo through the track, paired with the stuttering drums and nighttime surf guitar riffs. “Holey Bones” undercuts its own sweetness though, with even darker lyrics about everything one loves turning to dust, and some noisy synths that creep into the track right before it ends. Scatton never wants anyone to forget that as sweet or lovely as his tracks can get, there is something darker lying underneath.


Still Sweet's Bandcamp
Buy the Pirouette 7" here, from Edible Onion

Friday, April 11, 2014

Tirzah-No Romance

Tirzah's "I'm Not Dancing", one of the best and strangely obtuse dance songs from last year, managed to be both an excellent opening bravo and mission statement rolled into one. In little more than two minutes, it managed to truly showcase Tirzah's sound's; sparse, dry beats enhanced by Micachu's excellent production coupled with Tirzah's detached yet warm vocals. It was a real case of accomplishing so much with so little.

On "No Romance", off Tirzah's upcoming second EP, she and Micachu's have expanded upon everything that made her debut EP so excellent. Its core is still the give and take between the song's beat, here ever so more punchy with its artificial snare snaps & the more subtle electro pulse, and Tirzah's vocals, here stacked upon, and almost falling over each other, giving them a more sultry effect as a contrast to the song's actually sad, emotional core. Not to mention Mica Levi's production is truly on display with this track, especially when the vocal manipulation takes center stage during the song's last third and all of  the various tricks and flourishes Levi' has added to the track come into focus. "No Romance" is a deeply creative R&B track, demonstrating Tirzah's ever expanding style and willingness to go in whatever direction her sound takes her.


Tirzah's Facebook
Pre-order the No Romance EP here, from Greco-Roman

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Total Control-Flesh War

Total Control is a restless band, seemingly permanently uncontent with staying still in just one facet of post-punk. This is a band that over four 7”s sounded like four different bands, jumping from Swell Maps-like guitar twitch on one to minimal wave dance thumps on another. Their debut LP Henge Beat felt like the perfect distillation of all this, managing to meld all their different style hopping with one another by coating every aspect of it in a cold, hardened, and detached intensity. But as wonderful as Henge Beat was, it shouldn't be surprising that Total Control would grow uninterested in that style as well.

On its surface, “Flesh War”, the band’s newest song, feels like a continuation of their sound. The drums open the song with mechanical beat as the guitar starts playing a repetitive riff, synths appear to give the song a cold background, and frontman Daniel Stewart’s delivers his vocals in a flat, almost bored monotone. Previously, Total Control would have locked into this groove and let the song bear out as long as they felt like it should. However, once “Flesh War” hits its chorus, everything changes. The track suddenly blossoms, the synths now delivering this incredibly warm melody, and Stewart’s vocals suddenly gaining a deeply romantic quality to them. It’s a sudden but perfectly executed shift that speaks to the band’s desire to always do something different. There’s a dreary beauty to the song, not unlike that of Sonic Youth’s “Schizophrenia”, melding the band’s more intense past to a new, (more) melodic present. Though maybe “Flesh War” is so striking simply because it’s the song that has humanized Total Control the most, slipping something besides anger or delirium into their music.


Total Control's Bandcamp
Pre-order Typical System soon here, from Iron Lung Records

Monday, March 24, 2014

SXSW 2014: Wednesday (Part 1)


There is some irony in the first band I saw at South by Southwest being a reunion band. Coachwhips, John Dwyer’s scrappy, noise-garage band from the mid-00s, had decided for whatever reason to play SXSW. Not to say they weren't great. Setting up on the ground rather than the stage, and plugging into their own amps rather than the venue's, the band immediately clicked into action and started rattling off song after song thanks, no doubt, to each one being usually less than two minutes. It probably wasn't the ideal situation to see them, a grassy & sunny field rather than a dark & dank bar basement, but it was fun and noisy nonetheless, especially when Dwyer got decent portion of the crowd to sing along and throw their hands up into the air when the band closed on “Peanut Butter and Jelly”.


Sophie’s performance was an indication that almost every producer/DJ should be seen indoors during SXSW. He was good, actually performing a set, changing and remixing his tracks so they emerged rather than it feeling like he just hit “play” on his rig. Unfortunately, his gooey club tracks didn't mesh with the setting, and his minimal set up and lack of lights/visuals just left everyone to stare at the kid with orange hair onstage. Though props to everyone in the crowd who danced super awkwardly during the whole set; you all very much made the set.

Perfect Pussy

I wound up seeing Perfect Pussy several times over the course of South By, largely because of the standard they hit with their first show. Over the four months since I had first seen them, they had gotten even better; more frantic, more intense in every aspect. Guitarist Ray McAndrew and drummer Garrett Koloski played their instruments with a jubilant but fierce furry, and bassist Greg Ambler & keyboardist Shaun Sutkus just flailed behind their respective gear. Vocalist Meredith Graves easily matched her bandmates intensity; her movements onstage feeling both precise and wounded at the same time while she screamed the lyrics with a menacing desperation that could be felt by everyone, no matter how obstructed they were in the mix. The band was so loud they would up blowing have the speakers on stage three songs in and had to pause for a moment. Not that it mattered; once the power clicked back on they launched right back into the same burst of energy they started with. It was 18 very glorious minutes.

Ex Hex

Springy. If you had to describe Ex Hex in one word, that’s the one I think a lot of people would go for. Which says something, as everyone in this band, particularly frontwoman Mary Timony of Helium and more recently Wild Flag, are practically veterans of the indie music world. Yet here they were, having fun as they played their chewy, power-pop tinted guitar rock, being indulgent as all hell, and loving every minute of it. You could tell how much this band was just friends finally getting together and playing some songs right; it leaked immensely into their songs and their stage craft.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Slow Pulse-Hardware

Obviously, there is some gull in Slow Pulse's decision to use "Hardware" as their "introduction to the world" track. It's nearly six minutes long. It's a cold, distant, and detached piece of electronica, with Xander Harris' beat feeling almost like a series of mechanical clicks. The only humanity of the track comes from Nicolas Nadeau's vocals, which are buried, hazy, feeling as if they are coming in from another dimension. The song locks into its groove fairly quickly and rarely alters it during its entire length. Yet, at the same time, "Hardware" is pretty memorizing. It occupies that trance like space that LCD Soundsystem's "Get Innocuous" did, when the club's music has gotten overwhelming and the drugs have just gone bad, transporting you to a precisest between euphoria and panic. The brief flourishes of wailing noise that float in and out of the song only add to the tension. "Hardware" maybe cold, but it is truly alive as well.


Slow Pulse's Facebook
Pre-order the s/t cassette here, from Mirror Universe Tapes

Monday, March 3, 2014


I remember the first time I heard Yohuna's music. I was visiting New York City during the summer of 2012, and my friend Tom took me to Shea Stadium for FMLY Fest. I knew few of the acts, and so each one's performance was its own surprise. However, when Yohuna took the stage it was something else. Almost a silhouette because of the dark lighting, her music unfolded and bloomed, growing bigger and more beautiful in the near nothing. I stood in awe to it all as I let it wash over me.

It says something that her recorded music has the same effect, her songs feeling just magical on first listen. Or maybe that's largely due to how sparingly Yohuna releases new songs into the world. making each one feel like a treasure. "Badges" certainly has that quality, one of many incredible tracks that will soon be released on the ever impeccable Orchid Tapes' third compilation Boring Ecstasy. Know that this song is very much alive, especially with Yohuna's vocals now ringing out crystal clear, no longer encased in a protective shell of reverb. The sadness is palatable while she's singing, but so is the trace of hope within it, especially in the chorus of "I’m not pretty/I’m not nice/I am radiating light". There is something truly earnest in a phrase like that, especially with the way Yohuna sings them so delicately. All of this behind the utterly beautiful, tinkering pianos and delicate beat that gives the song it's pulse. At least that's how "Badges" feels; like a softly glowing gem that quivers & fades like a heartbeat.


Yohuna's Tumblr
Pre-order Boring Ecstasy soon here, from Orchid Tapes

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Shamir-If It Wasn't True

It's crucial while listening to Shamir's "If It Wasn't True" to remember that this is the 19-year-old's first song ever, at least in the house genre. I say this because "If It Wasn't True" sounds like something that was crafted by a master, someone who had been crafting white label 12 inches for years now, and had made of especial excellence. It's a compact tune, going through its builds and falls in less than four minutes, but that doesn't make it any less hypnotic, layering a dry beat with a thick, synth bass as Shamir's vocals, both silky and soulful at the same time, guide the song along effortlessly. The biggest strength here might be how utterly seamless the song is, incorporating every new element and shift without a moment of hesitation. When the song builds to its climax, with synth lines going off like rockets and Shamir's vocals momentarily echoing like crazy, it comes with such little warning, but feels less like a burst than a culmination, one that is particularly euphoric. "If It Wasn't True" is entrancing, the song that thumps through the head for days, and makes you do silly little dances in public because of the control it gains on the ligaments. 


Get the cassette compilation Common Interests Where Not Enough To Keep Us Together, which "If It Wasn't True" appears on here, from Godmode

Monday, February 24, 2014

Tiny Ruins-Me At The Museum, You In The Wintergardens

I am not a massive folk fan. Most of the songs within the genre have a tendency to sound far too similar to one another, to blur into one another, with little distinction in style or lyricism. However, that just makes the artists that do stand out to me that more potent, feel that much more magical. And listening to Tiny Ruin’s “Me At The Museum, You In The Wintergardens" is one of those instances. The track instantly invokes the beauty Nick Drake does with his songs, Hollie Fullbrook and her gentle plucking coming in piercingly, longingly, and ever so worn as she speaks of where she will soon find comfort, in the least likely of places and ways. The track is incredibly subtle, flutes and cello only present in the song’s first half if you truly pay attention. But then, before your eyes the track blooms, drums come in ever so softly to give the song a kick as the song unfolds more and more. “Me At The Museum, You In The Wintergardens" is truly something wondrous, managing to compact a certain degree of magic and beauty into a less than three minute song that feels like its from another time and place. It's truly stunning to behold.


Tiny Ruins' Website
Pre-order Brightly Painted One soon here, from Flying Nun

Coming To Town: Angel Olsen @ Red 7 (2/25)

It's still startling to hear Angel Olsen play the electric guitar sometimes. It was a long time coming; one can only make incredibly emotional folk songs on just an acoustic guitar for so long. And the full band, plugged in sound that permeates most of Burn Your Fire For No Witness should lay in utter contrast with her old sound. Yet, Olsen wears the new shift in sound like a glove. Whether it be the blues stomp of "Hi-Five", or the more earthly St. Vincent-esque "Forgiven/Forgotten", Olsen uses her new sonic pallet to tap into a brand new swath of emotions that should couldn't reach before. Olsen is touring as a four piece, so it will be interesting to see how she performs her earlier material in this new context.


Opening for Angel Olsen is her touring mate Cian Nugent, another artist who has no desire to stay trapped in one sound. One moment, he'll be channeling the ghost of John Fahey, or matching the skill of a contemporary like Daniel Bachman, the next moment he'll have a full piece band behind him and they will be playing something psych bent and jammy, as if it were plucked out of some forgotten craves of 1965. I can easily see several different versions of Nugent performing tomorrow, each equally as excellent as the other.


Sunday, February 23, 2014

Video: Real Estate-Crime

If I'm being completely honest, there is very little new that can be said about "Crimes". It feels just as utterly timeless as every other song Real Estate have crafted in their growing catalog. The jangle is just as warm and comforting as ever, which says something as "Crimes" is a pretty direct reflection on a rough patch in a relationship, as well as its blissful past and the forbidding potential future. There's a heartbreak in the nostalgia, though fear and sadness have been emerging in Real Estate songs since Days. No, "Crimes" is exactly the continuation of Days it should be, and feels like it could have recorded a week after they finished their last album. But maybe that's where its excellence lies. Few bands have been able to maintain this degree of consistent greatness; of being able to craft catchy album after catchy album that all manage to have a true emotional core to them as well. It might seem that jangle pop is an effortless genre to create, but as someone who listens to a lot of it, trust me when I say it's not, especially if you want to make something long lasting. Real Estate just have the uncanny ability to make it look easy.


Real Estate's Website
Pre-order Atlas here, from Dominio Records

Friday, February 21, 2014

Dan Svizeny-Dawn

After far too long, Dan Svizeny has finally released his debut solo cassette. It's a collection of dark, but warmly lo-fi tracks that sound equally like they should be heard riding down the highway in the middle of the night as they should in your room with a good pair of headphones & the shades closed. "Dawn" the closer to the A-side feels like a Pet Grief era Radio Dept. song put through a blender. Built on a crashing/crunchy drum beat & humming synths that meld into the background, Svizeny' starts singing along. His vocals are just as fuzzy as the rest of the instrumentation, but the longing in them comes out crystal clear. "Dawn" is a truly lovely song, tinted by just the right degree of sadness that bubbles to the song's surface. I'm still in the dark as to what separates this collection of songs from Svizeny's usual recording name Cool Cough, but that's not a massive deal; they're wonderful no matter what the nom de plume is.


Dan Svizeny/Cool Cough's Tumblr
Buy the self-titled tape here, from Mirror Universe

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Amen Dunes-Lonely Richard

"Lonely Richard" has nostalgic twang to it. Which isn't that surprising; Amen Dunes (the solo work of Damon McMahon) has been crafting psych-folk songs with a distance and otherness to them for a while now (see his last album, the under appreciated Through Donkey Jaw). Here, though, the emotional essences that he has buried in them shines a little brighter. Gone is the heavy and hazy coat of reverb, replaced now with clear, drawl tinted vocals and lyrics that feel like they're trying to capture a memory and look to the future at the same time. They are greatly enhanced by the track's arrangement, a country bar band guitar and drum beat layered with violin that is constantly warped as to sound like it is turning itself inside out. "Lonely Richard" feels like an otherwordly folk song, a song patched together by wanting to have the best soundtrack to both your campfire and the sun going out at the same time.


Amen Dunes' Facebook
Pre-order Love soon here, from Sacred Bones Records

Friday, February 14, 2014

Technicolor Teeth-Alone on a Cloud

Last year, Technicolor Teeth released my seventh favorite single of last year, the two song "Blood Pool b/w Drips" 7". Both songs were thick & dark blends of noisy shoegaze and lighter dream-pop, the type of things that you let yourself get lost in, letting the melodic fuzz wash over you as you flip the small piece of wax again and again.

Now, Technicolor Teeth are going on their biggest tour yet, and are bring along a show-only cassette called Can You Keep Me Out Of Hell. It compiles a lot of their previous work, their two singles, as well as various other tracks. More importantly though, besides being a good introduction for those who haven't listened to the band yet, are the new tracks the band has sprinkled into the track list. Like "Alone on a Cloud", which might be the most ethereal song Technicolor Teeth have ever made. The percussion comes from a drum machine so distant and muffled it feels like it was plucked from a dream. Ever so haunting synth lines fill in the song's core, and gorgeous but sparse warbled guitar lines come in every now and then. There is only one aspect of the song that isn't obscure and that is the vocals, which, while ever so spooky and monotonic that they slip right into the track, ring out crystal clear. They are so present it forces you to pay attention to the lyrics, a surreal exposition that captures a real sense of feeling detached. It's striking how "Alone on a Cloud" manages to be Technicolor Teeth's prettiest and possibly dreamest song to date, yet is still maintains a small tint of darkness and dread no matter how lovely it gets.


Technicolor Teeth's Facebook

Thursday, February 13, 2014


playlounge are a band that should have existed six years ago. They make the type of pure in the red, crank-the-stereo-to-the-loudest-volume, coated in distortion indie rock that just isn't made anymore. I mean, on their latest song "zero", they nick the opening of No Age's "Eraser", only to go into a version of "Sleeper Hold" with same perfect blur of guitar & drums as No Age did. Thankfully, "zero" feels much less like a rip-off than it does a missing/next step; the fervor that would have been the complete core of a song like this in the past is here undercut with a sense of sadness, or maybe even nostalgia, especially in the surprisingly subdued vocals. Which is all too fitting for a song that does feel removed from the year it exists in. I'm kicking myself for having not discovered playlounge sooner, considering they've existed for four years already. Thankfully though, I caught on to them right before they are about to release their very appropriately titled debut album pilot, something that, after hearing "zero", I am beyond excited for. Indie rock this great is few and far between.


playlounge's Facebook
Pre-order pilot here, from Dog Knights Productions

Monday, February 10, 2014

Damaged Bug-Photograph

Damaged Bug is the obvious result of John Dwyer needing a break. After about ten years fronting the manic, warped garage chaos that was Thee Oh Sees, and the even more demented Coachwhips and Pink & Brown before that, it was sad, if understandable, that Dwyer announced they were taking an indefinite hiatus.

Though if you were recording & touring nonstop for ten years, it's understandable that one would eventually need a break. And Damaged Bug seems to be the antithesis of that. It's so far removed from anything Dwyer has done before. "Photograph" is a humming, whirring piece of electronica, with nary a guitar to be found on the whole track. It's as buzzing and futuristic, like an android playing its circuitry and singing to you with its artificial voice. The song isn't completely robotic though, as it carries over the warped sensibilities that Dwyer smeared all over the last band he played in, right down to the nervous tension that cuts through the whole song. "Photograph" manages to be both paranoid and psychedelic at the same time; it balances both its human and robotic aspect very finely, which Damaged Bug feel like the a perfect extension of Dwyer twisted, but now exhausted, mind.  


Pre-order Hubba Bubba here, from Castle Face Records

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


The first time anyone probably heard Communions was their contribution to DOKUMENT #1, the double LP put together to capture the Copenhagen scene that the Posh Isolation crowd has helped to create. The stuck out like a sore thumb, the shine of the song in complete contrast to the much bleaker material that their friends are making. Because while Communions are, at their core, a post-punk band, unlike their peers their songs feel like the band trying, and succeeding, in shrugging off darkness that surrounds them rather than letting it engulf them. "Children", one of the best tracks off their new Cobblestones 7", feels as youthful as the name implies. Starting with the vibrant pulse of one of the best bass lines I've heard in ages, the song builds with an equally addictive guitar riff, and with a burst of high-hat the song launches off the ground and never returns. The band never for a moment tries to hide the pop hooks they are creating, and instead channeling them to make the song even more euphoric. Whatever Martin Rehof is singing feels true and earnest, even if not a single syllable of it can be made out. You can tell how long this song has been sitting inside the band members, just waiting to pour out of them. Communions have made something almost anthemic with "Children", binding hope and bits of desperation to glorious ragged post-punk; a plead for a future that might not even be there, but is truly wanted none the less.


Communions' Facebook
Buy the Cobblestones 7" here, from Posh Isolation

Monday, February 3, 2014

Fear of Men-Alta/Waterfall

Fear of Men's Early Fragments is one of the greatest modern collections of indie-pop to exist within the decade. The fact that it just so happens to be a singles collection (something that is startling on first listen because of how utterly excellent it flows) is the only thing stopping it from being hailed as the incredible album that it is. No matter, for that under appreciation will be fixed once the world hears "Alta/Waterfall" of their upcoming proper debut Loom.

After the quiet opening, built on an understated declare of longing by frontwoman Jessica Weiss, the song gives way to the song's tense but lush core. Somehow, the band has managed to expand their technical pallet even further, yet completely subtlety. The small "woosh" of the drums on the final beats, the dual harmonies that weave in and out, the synthscapes that float in the song's background before eventually over taking the song in a absolutely lovely ambient coda; all compound on one another to enhance the craftsmanship that Fear of Men place into their songs. "Alta/Waterfall" might be the band's most well crafted song to date. It's a piece of truly accomplished and sophisticated indie-pop, stretched out so new ideas and tricks can be incorporated seamlessly, yet never having a moment that feels dull or unnecessary. It's stunning, pure and simple.


Fear of Men's Website
Pre-order Loom here, from Kanine Records

Friday, January 31, 2014

Coming to Town: Mutual Benefit @ The Mohawk 1/31

Right now, Mutual Benefit are in the midst of their first proper tour across the US. What was original started as a solo recording project by one Jordon Lee that didn't even play shows when it started, will performing his lush, almost orchestral indie-folk in its current six piece form tonight at the Mohawk. If the band can bring to life an ounce of the beauty and emotion that was found on Love's Crushing Diamond, their quietly excellent debut from last year, tonight's show will truly be something to see.


Opening the show tonight will be Austin's own Poppy Red, the the long distance bedroom-pop project of Molly Long and Jimmy Spice. Together they craft this truly intimate pop, the type that feels both intimate and swelling at the same time (seriously, their Keep Your Heart EP from last year is scary good). I've been dying to see them since my friend Jheri told me about them, so I'm am beyond happy the chance has finally arrived.


Thursday, January 30, 2014

Miserable-Halloween Dream

Back when I saw Whirr a few months ago (who were absoutly incredible and demonically noisy as I hoped they would be), I noticed that their vocalist/synth player Kristina Esfandiari was absent. It seems now that Esfandiari has left the band, which is truly unfortunate because her breathy vocals truly add a wonderfully ethereal quality to Whirr's sound, especially their last EP Around. However, there appears to be a silver lining, with Esfandiari investing in her solo project Miserable. Least anyone think the name is an exageration, go listen to the dark folk melded blackened shoegaze that is "Bell Jar" and tell me otherwise. However, it's the the title track of her new 7", "Halloween Dream" that truly stands out. Her voice has emerged from its hazy casing, and now carries the full weight of its gothic, almost witch-like tone. It hovers heavily over the whole song, whether during its creeping and breathy opening, or during the metalic shoegaze crash of that takes hold of the song in its second half. "Halloween Dream" is as dark and haunting as its name it evokes, both spider-like and crushing.


Miserable's Facebook
Buy the Halloween Dream 7" here, from The Native Sound

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Perfect Pussy-Driver

“Driver” starts similar to the way “I” did opening I have lost all desire for feeling; with an audible click to announce the track, a momentary pause that draws you in, and then a blistering guitar cuts in to launch the song like a bomb. “Driver” is no rehash though. It’s built on sections, shifting between almost shimmering parts where every instrument locks into a steady momentum powered by Ray McAndrew’s fury of down strokes and Shaun Sutkus’ buzzing synths, before the song bursts open, Garrett Koloski’s drums suddenly crashing everywhere next to amped up tempo. Keeping it all together are Meredith Graves’ vocals; the fury turned down just a notch from the demo, but now presented here with the intensity doubled, conveying a sense of gritted teeth frustration reaching an apex as her words interweave excellently through the clatter her bandmates create. The final moments of “Driver” represent all this preciously, as everything in the song goes into a final, momentary frenzy of noisy chaos, then pit stopping at the opening riff before everything just stops. “Driver” feel relentless; even through its sudden starts and stops, the song engulfs you until the very last moment. Perfect Pussy have grabbed hold of a precision here that, melded to internal chaos that runs through all their songs, has result that is just jaw-droppingly excellent. Again.


Perfect Pussy's Tumblr
Pre-order Say Yes to Love soon here, from Captured Tracks