Tuesday, September 16, 2014
I think when it's done right, there will always be a time when the acoustic guitar and a vocal will still be able to be as emotionally powerful as it must have always been. It's an inherently classic sound that I bet will still have a place in whatever fragmented genre's are happening fifty years from now. The End Times are working in that hushed folk sound with patches of darker elements.
A-Side's "A Plea For Recklessness" opens with a nice tangy electric/acoustic guitar and clear right up front vocals from Jennifer Green. This is so clear and her concise trained vocal is in the isolated booth to commit this to tape, candles burning. Singing a lot about kicking some ass and being loud delivered in the opposite quiet assured way she has from the darker corners of a midwest summer porch. The vocal gets doubled and this instrumentation is taking it's time to finally pick up while Jennifer layers in a bunch of harmony. It's all understated, a slow Giant Sand or Calexico sound. There are hints at an older country here, brushes on the snare, knowing they can get loud and explosive but when they strip it all back to just a slight acoustic and this vocal that's the sort of thing that proves what you've really got. If you can go to that personal place AND the immense produced highs then you're onto something.
B-Side's "The Drowning Waltz" drops more of that lonesome acoustic with a piano backing this time. Shakers and slow ride bass is the foundation this time with Jennifer returning with her sweet sounding vocal about really bad things, a massive disconnect being the key here. The slow contemplative instrumentation that supports the giving in feel of not fighting anymore, but making it sound as good as possible because they're sadists? They're the ones that get off on other people's pain right? Cause that's what they do when you start paying attention to the lyric. Slow as possible teetering percussion reminding me of the Spinannes. They keep sweetening this pot with higher sounding tight acoustics or mandolins, soprano sounds that spin this higher and higher but she's made it pretty clear things are damn hopeless.
Nicely screened chipstock sleeves and a great upside down crosses logo. You know they take every possible opportunity to say at every show "These are the End Times!" introducing the apocolypse.
Get it from the band direct.
Monday, September 15, 2014
The Meters began in New Orleans in the early '50's while Art Neville (of the Neville brothers) was still in high school. They are credited today as one of the roots of American Funk and M-Tet started out with the beginning of it all covering this album for a while before coming up with their own material. A perfect plan if this single is any indication.
A-Side's "Number One" has a warm button pushing bass line right in the middle of this. It's the central funky thing that's going to keep everything else in line, not that those dime stops between solos aren't impressive - they are, but you give the bass free reign to roam and it makes a conscious decision to never deviate or go off the rails, just settled, comfortable cruise control bass. Confidently walking down the street pimped out with those goldfish platform shoes, same rhythm, all the same speed while the organ works overtime trying to get your attention. It does - looking good girl, but damn there's that bass again. I hear you drums. Yea your back there slapping away on the tightly wound up kit. There's the guitar stepping out for a second to give this some soul but we want more of that bass. Why wasn't there enough room for a good minute of bass? Did it ever step out and get all flashy? No. Did it need to wind around frets of scales? Never. I have to think that's the direct influence of The Meters baby.
Damn, B-Sides "Bikes" has a real slow groove with major distortion playing the central role here. I hear you bass but the guitar seems to have moved in on this one with attitude. The organ is run through some kind of nice effect or busted leslie speaker that rotates off axis like the earth. They settle in and that guitar gets back to work like a Lee Fields instrumental track. Major breakdown beat alert towards the end of this, makes me want to break out a sampler. When that percussion jumps out for a minute on it's own and you get those big sharp hits? No wonder you just want to hear that on repeat. Worth using up the hi-fi space on that 5mb card for.
No sleeve just like the good old days. Reminds me of that thrift store basement in greenpoint. There's no way that can still be there. That was an education of the seven inch. Another education has been episodes of the Dirty Dirty Podcast from these guys.
Get this from the band direct.
Friday, September 12, 2014
The Outfit from Denver seem to be hell bent on delivering a smoking pile of rock and roll. This four piece has noticed a void of thundery riffs in todays musical landscape and energetically fill it with clean distortion and a sense of purpose on this single from Hot Congress Records.
A high treble jangle opens A-Side's "Station Wagon Apocalypse" into a tom see saw jagged rhythm with a fuzzy undertone and harmonics from hovering over the frets. Like the Faint, Eric johnston comes in hard making a real case for this thing. The tracks turns down into a harder sound and that sharp post punk goes metal. They know it's complicated and feels like Franz Ferdinand meets the Make Up, vocally losing it with a slight bit of distortion, making friends in the front row. It's a produced sound with fringe pieces that keep you searching for those obscure references. Mic-ing the hell out of these drums that get heavy when the bomb falls. The edges of this are sharp, the changes are mean, it's all been rehearsed. The verse is repeated about brothers and sisters making me think about that sleeve. It should be a happy family right? What happened.
B-Side's "Tyrannosaurus Surfboard" - Like Don cab titles they're fucking with me. A heavy punk riff comes in with feedback or synth blurps, and Eric is like this otherworldly figure from above his giant hands on everything, a lot darker on this side. The devil made me do it coming through those organ melodies and surf tiki sound, what the hell did that T Rex want with a board anyway, he's surfing magma? Playing with the length they can go to with heavy distortion riffs and reverb solos, plates and springs, metal all coiled up. Eric is equally wound tight here, this thing just gets faster with all cymbals and extra orders of solos.
Get this from Hot Congress Records.
Thursday, September 11, 2014
If the number of inserts correlates to the enthusiasm of a band then Melbourne’s King Tears Mortuary are about to implode. Hand colored band fliers, lyric inserts, label listings, all different paper stocks says we really REALLY care about this crazy project. We will spend countless hours putting intricate packaging together and drive any amount of miles to play any venue that will have us because we plan on doing this FOREVER. If the pace and energy on this record is any indication they’re going to need a LOT of stimulants.
I was hoping this cover eluded to some kind of hopped up punk twee inside, like Love Is All meets X-Ray Specs and A-Side's "Grease Trap" confirmed my suspicions. The jangle is tight and blown out, they know just enough about playing together and their history but obviously threw the rest out the window. Completely unhinged like Pens or Divorce they get exactly the sort of chaos they wanted, her vocal is excellent and the guy joining her in the chorus, just the kind of thing that’s exciting to watch let alone listen to. "ABCs" uses feedback and jangle to throw you into this deep vocal with a vibrato that’s louder than anything else like a halloween greaser on stage singing about growing up. A guitar plows through the solo and ends with more feedback which is never accidental. "Flippers" yells right off - I mean how fucking confident could you possibly be? I think they’re talking about a freakshow lady with flippers but she’s stepping all over her own vocals, layered with cheap guitar peaking into the PA in silted perfection.
B-Side’s "Face Blind" has a bass line open into weird distortion and chorus with those manic female vocals, maybe someone else a little more restrained with crafty melody in a squeaky watery chorus. Layered with that Coathangers feel focused on the blown out part nailing these brief perfect moments with one chorus AT 45 RP*$%%@M’s
"2manysamz" guy vocals are back with that talky delivery mixed so crazily loud, but insanely youthful and optimistic. "False Pregnancy" ends with jangle and fuzz bass, charged female vocals are back - god she has a fantastic sense of melody I mean there’s nothing that would have you come up with this from the instrumentation, and is completely casual about it - making even better. Like The Unicorns or their dirty cousins carrying around their blanket followed by a cloud of flies. Gets dirtier by the end and feels frayed like they threw up their hands and said we aren't going to ever capture this any better than that last take.
Get this from Vacant Valley Records.
Wednesday, September 10, 2014
It's an unintentional coincidence that the label 20 Sided Records is run (just like The Funs) by the three gentlemen of Couches. I think every band should start their own label. Honestly what was the reason for giant labels being in the middle of this whole thing? Maybe there was a time when unless you were willing to tour incessantly for years at every random venue and spread by word of mouth there wasn’t another way to interact with fans all over the country. You can be annoyed at the internet but it’s allowed for more DIY than ever before and is worth sifting through worthless gifs and facebook posts to be able to easily track down a label like this.
Warm guitar tones open A-Side's "California" with lots of compressed reverb, the vocals get right into singing about the state and you can hear those pilowy strings bouncing around reminding a lot of Pinback’s exaggerated harmonies and over the top production. Two riffs wind back and forth with huge channel separation in the vocal track, making real specific interesting changes. It’s even like Why?’s playful approach to the lyric about his state and weird instrumentation. When this breaks into a heavy sludgy ending for a measure their crisp production is brought into an even tighter focus; the melody shift in the lyric, spreading the notes way apart while that huge metal haze piles in again turning this into earlier decades hard sound. Makes California sounds pretty nice and this track is as sunny and clear as those cloudless days.
B-Sides" Killer Mutant Butterfly" opens up the left channel with an understated riff in a bending Built to Spill epic style, the swirly layered guitars all but lying just on the surface of this deep pool. The second the lyric starts the delayed tight melody splinters into a million pieces the vocal finding space between them. It gets hazy just before the sharp, quick verse comes in, making it that much closer to Why?'s weird combinations of genre’s. The way they seemingly ignore trends, they’re off on their own path getting something this unique and separated from anything else. When the hiss is stripped away the clarity of this stands out even more while taking the long way home with this track jamming in every last rotation. It's an extended cut that leaves you wanting to hear more of their controlled chaos.
Great interview from Gelatinous Blog over here that got me started on that corporate label rant.
Get this from 20 Sided Records.
Tuesday, September 9, 2014
The Funs are a duo from Chicago who have their own label, design their own fliers and even recently started a recording/crash space a few hours outside the windy city in the vein of Daytrotter. They've been making it happen for themselves long before I found out about them thanks to Maximum Pelt. I have to remember when I'm home sitting on the couch, listening to their single that they've endured countless days of van trouble only to spend their last few bucks to play in your town and you should count yourself lucky. But they obviously can't help themselves, this is that important to them they they don't want to do anything else. That should be all you need to know.
A-Side's "Concrete" has one hell of a muddy rehearsal space thick sounding riff with all sorts of effects on this growling little riff with drums and a reverb echo filled vocal from Jessee that comes in like an ominous feeling Grass Widow. This track plows ahead with no sense of clarity, wallowing in this uppity buzzsaw grind and the effortless, backwards vocal. Something like Blanche Blanche Blanche she's messing with this melody cracking and rising through the registers into falsetto. Not worried about any sort of perfection. Its pleasantly stress free, not like that beachy weed smoking alien stuff but like a crack swat team has just finished clearing this house. They kicked the door down, made a huge mess, scared the shit out of everyone and then cleared the hell out. In slow motion.
B-Sides "Its strange I'm Here" has another heavy riffs striking in not wasting a second of seven inch time. The drums can barely stand up to Philip's vocal and it's reverb. It's something of a stoner psych sound, everything bleeding into each other like a watercolor painting of a slaughterhouse getting rained on. Two chords back and forth to force the expression to make this compelling. It doesn't feel minimal it's just an oppressive HHHHAAAAAZZZZEEEEE that makes the biggest impression here, A Jesus and Mary Chain record at the wrong speed that overwhelms leaving room for nothing else, You can't think of anything but the fog. I think i'm just getting the band name now. Jokes on me.
Get this from Maximum Pelt on baby blueish vinyl, nice color...and vintage inner labels.
Great interview with these guys from Psychedelic Baby blog made me appreciate these guys even more.
Monday, September 8, 2014
Fruits De Mer Records is one of those home grown DIY operations I'm always glad to hear is still putting singles out. Started back in 2008 they've been pressing local UK psych bands singles and have started to get some attention and based on ebay auction prices they should have pressed more. But you can't see something like that coming, you can't plan on pressing something that will sell. The best audience is yourself, if you sincerely want people to hear it chances are they will feel the same way about the things you're passionate about. Bronco Bullfrog, named after the '70s indie film about East London hoodlums, is a UK based three piece who have absorbed all of those '60s psych sounds and
"Time Waits for Norman" has a real attention to detail of that late '60s and it's the kind of thing that Paul Messis would be into. Theres something about the drum recording from that era and the way they bend down that electric with a wah, sliding in and out of different tempo's all smooth with major backup vocals. The main vocal from Andy Morton all doubled and airy with that dreamy harmony quality the lyric stream of consciousness and weird word associations. They even going as far as running the whole arrangement through a phaser for a verse or two or slowing down the mellow paisley kaleidoscope to then pick it back up into a heavy dance tempo. It's slightly manic sounding this track with something of a Kinks feel. "Rocking Horse Mender" is actually a song about a guy that fixes rocking horses - so sincere but I also have to think they were a little tongue in cheek about this, it's so earnestly describing all the different horses and how they ended up in the shop with a slow soft harmony, I mean what kind of crazy world are they living in? Fingerpicked guitar and those rolling brushes on the snare with a high hat and alternating rim shots. Who doesn't want to live in that ridiculous world where the only problem is the damaged rocking horses, it's such a crazy dream.
B-Side's "Listen To The Sky" is a cover of a track from The Sands and is a little bit heavier with that analog distortion that jumps into jangle crunch bursts, picking up on the nuances of that time period. You can hear the black and white appearance on top of the pops. I get how the individual pieces should sound but putting it all together is where they get this right; that bass has no effects on it at all, the guitars are sustained and distorted following the march snare beat for a second an then flipping that rocker switch on the fretboard for a feedback psych. I'm also hearing a lot of the Lilys later pop indie psych stuff even.
Get this from Fruits De Mer Records.