It’s December, again. Typically the time of year when music writers drop the ball and eschew everything that surfaces, in favour of end of year lists. But not here, no sir/ma’am or however you identify. So, with that said, here are five December releases that gave us chills more enjoyable than the recent Arctic blasts we’ve been having.
The Anderson Tapes – Everyday Again EP
The Anderson Tapes have been merrily chugging along since 2019. Their hazy mix of jangle pop and grunge had an instant appeal to us. Their new EP ‘Everyday Again’ has slightly ramped up the scuzz.“Outta The House” is the most relaxed of the four tracks, with verses that recall the plethora of Melbourne janglers of the last few years. It’s the chorus that really slaps. The Smashing Pumpkins-esque slacker groove and melody is straight out of the Billy Corgan playbook (in a good way).“Don’t Go” is more of a British punk affair. All edgy and upbeat, like a less anxious Witching Waves with a touch of Sonic Youth. The guitar interplay is simple but mightily effective, the dual vocals in the chorus adding a sense of urgency.
The EP well and truly comes to life on “Taste of Grace”.
The initial riffing verges on surf punk, with a hint of rockabilly in the chorus before another Sonic Youth inspired chorus. There’s a building of momentum on the EP with this being the moment the bubble bursts.The final track “Pictures In Cellophane” is a grungy comedown that recalls PJ Harvey to an extent. The gnarled 90s guitar tones, chugging bass and dynamic drums pull this track into different directions. The stop start dynamics and intricacies offering up something that sounds free, yet meticulously planned.
‘Everyday Again’ is another fine addition to The Anderson Tapes’ consistent drip feed of strong EPs. They absolutely suit the format, always leaving us wanting more, although one wonders when something more longform might appear.
Dot Dash – Madman In The Rain
Dot Dash hail from Washington DC although the band, based right in the beating heart of the USA, have a sound that at times could be mistaken for being British. Their new album ‘Madman In The Rain’ has a old school punky edge that recalls The Clash (opener “Forever, Far Out” case in point) and a whimsical jangle that recalls Orange Juice and Milky Wimpshake on songs like “Space Junk, Satellites”.
There’s perhaps a touch of Teenage Fanclub too.
The sweetly raucous “Tense & Nervous” is one such melodic blast, with added paisley pop organ sounds. The retro vibes continue on the hip swinging “Animal Stone”, which would have been right at home in Liverpool circa 2001.
Dot Dash have a vibrant ear for melody, painting bright colour palettes throughout ‘Madman In The Rain’. The title track continues in this vein. The chorus melody completely took me by surprise, as did the instrumental fill that follows. This is an onslaught of great pop nuggets. “Airwaves” throws caution to the wind. A two minute blast of upbeat indie pop perfection.
There’s also a joie de vivre and spark akin to Of Montreal during their 60s inspired era on tracks like “Trip Over Clouds” while “Saints/Pharaohs” has a hint of The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven” about its shimmering guitar lines.This band are abundantly talented.
“Lonesome Sound” could be one of the best songs R.E.M. never made.
It would fit comfortably in their early 90s output. There’s no let up on the sweet melodies yet somehow it never gets boring. It almost plays like a greatest hits record. The light punk of “Everything = Dust” is another banger while “Wokeupdreaming” brings up the pace about as far as it comes on the album. Its hypnotic structure neatly reflects the subject matter. The Galaxy 500-like atmosphere is gorgeous. This could easily have been the closer but “Dead Gone”, instead, fills this duty. It’s one last Brit blast that walks the same path as The Jam and The Libertines, but with the genuine likeability of The Housemartins.
So, in short, ‘Madman In The Rain’ is a great indie pop album that fully deserves your attention.
Fell – Mallows Marsh
I was unfamiliar with Fell before hearing this release. A solo project more than anything, it’s the musical alias of London based artist Nicolas Burrows. On his new album ‘Mallow’s Marsh’ he’s accompanied by Jon Rulton, Dav Shiel and Matt Giraudeau.
I had no idea what to expect, other than something good, given this comes via the ever reliable Lost Map.
Opener “Mayweed” initially hints at being a post rock track before opening up into the sweetest psychedelic pop. Burrows has a lightness of touch akin to Sam Prekop on this track which, at over 6 minutes, has plenty of beautiful twists and turns to keep the listener engaged. Tempo and time signature changes, neatly constructed atmospherics and lush backing vocals make this quietly breathtaking.
There’s a pastoral English pop quality to the eccentric “Elephants”.
Stomping bursts and gentle fuzz disturb the gentle waltz while the drums drastically alter the swing, while the musical voices are meticulously selected.The brass accompanied “The Seed” has a dreamlike quality, owing to the gentle guitar psychedelia and Burrows’s gently effected vocal. It naturally draws comparisons to The Byrds. The topsy turvy stop start sway of “A Handworm’s Hip Bone” is an absolute joy.
It’s playful without being cloying or too fiddly for its own good, just toeing the line. It also features a George Harrison-esque guitar solo which is only ever a good thing and toys with the listener. There’s something of Pennsylvanian oddball Arthur to this.
It’s cliche to say this and brings me great shame to do so, but this is timeless music.
“We Could Do Anything”, Burrow’s admits, has more than a hint of the Velvet Underground’s “Who Loves The Sun” to it. The backing vocals only add to this, but it’s a great piece of pop in its own right. “Lissener” is no more than a necessary interlude, albeit a beautiful one, that seeks to break up the album. A palette cleanser as it were.The organ backed “Staring At The Knives” shuffles and expands and, while perhaps not as intricate as anything else thus far, there are still sublime moments, like the brief explosive sax solo after the first chorus. “Call The Manager” restores the order, in that it offers up more odd time signatures and crooked dynamics, while Burrows’s vocal has a John Lennon quality to it.
It’s what Albert Jesso Jr might make if he was genuinely weird.
The piano twinkle of the hypnotic country ballad “Temperate Zone” dances light footed over the lightly warped guitar sounds. There’s a lot of space too. Burrows’s vocal, at one point the last thing standing. There’s a Sparklehorse-esque beauty to it.This subtly stunning record comes to a close with “Death Of A Naturalist”. It has a melody that makes you feel like you’ve heard it before a thousand times. There’s a touch of Mercury Rev to its understated grandiosity.’Mallows Marsh’ is an unexpected and utterly welcome delight. An instant hit, which highlights exactly why we leave our albums of the year list until the actual end of the year instead of bashing it out in November.
GAMMA – GAMMA
And now for something completely different. Gob Nation dropped this explosive self-titled EP by Gamma late last month, and boy is it fun. I’ve literally no information on Gamma other than what my ears tell me. Essentially, Gamma are a quintessential hardcore band; a guitar, bass and drums three piece with a snarling vocalist and, to top it off the recording is lo-fi as all hell. We wouldn’t want this any other way.
Every track is a blast of pure anger and energy.
The guitar power chords are brutalist in their simplicity on “Creeping Dissonance” as they are on “Inward Body”, the vocal performance vicious. “Reset” is no less complex but the bouncing bassline adds a frenetic, nervous edge. The extreme lo-fi quality turns “Implant” and “Dressing” almost into mush, although thrilling high octane mush nonetheless.
There’s no let up until the opening chords of “Space”.
It does, of course, descend into utter chaos. The guitar flails wildly and ramps up the intensity on what is the most thrilling track on the EP.Gamma, whoever they are, are a brutal and exciting addition to the Gob Nation roster.
Galore – Blush EP
Galore are a four piece from San Francisco comprised of Comprised of Ava Rosen (bass), Britta Leijonflycht (guitar), Griffin Jones (guitar) and Hannah Smith (drums). Their new ‘Blush’ EP follows their self-titled 2020 released debut album and comes via the excellent Paisley Shirt Records. Across the five tracks here they present a laid back jangling indiepop at times reminiscent of The Velvet Underground, Primo and The Vaselines. “New Living” is particularly Velvet Underground-esque.
The strummed chords, simple drums and twinkling lead guitar all contribute to this. The sweet keyboard melody and chord structure of “Jackpot” are a joy, while “Ladders” has a very C86 sound.
The dual guitar counter-rhythms provide a sugary backdrop to their angelic vocals.
There’s a touch of Sacred Paws about their melodic approach too. The slacker-ish “Fire” has a jagged dream pop edge, like My Bloody Valentine if you stripped out all the layers of noise. They provide a slightly dirtier palette on “Second Moon”, which has a hypnotic droney atmosphere running throughout.
On ‘Blush’ EP Galore show themselves to be highly adept at producing instantly enjoyable melodies and a comfort blanket atmosphere. There’s an honesty and purity here and a warmth that would have made this an equally suitable summer release.