Sniffany and The Nits are yet another new band formed by members of Joanna Gruesome, The Snivellers, Artefact, The Tubs and Ex-Void. Of these bands their sound is perhaps closest to the hardcore punk of The Snivellers. Having seen them a few months back we’ve been excited by the prospect of their first release and now that it’s here it does not disappoint. The EP, released on the excellent Gob Nation, consists of three scuzzy snarling punk songs lasting under 5 minutes in total.Fittingly the first track is called ‘Nit Comb’ – probably the perfect way to kick it off. Everything is distorted, Josephine Edwards’ sneering vocals are full of punk attitude – the lyrics intense with imagery of scalpels, pliers, spiders and the repetitive shriek of “itch, itch, itch”. Matthew Green’s guitar playing is super punky with fidgety power chords riffing all the way through. Max Warrens’ bass adds the necessary unfussy low end rumble and Owen Williams’s relentless hardcore drumming makes for a high octane opener.The two following tracks are basically more of the same. ‘Piggy Bank’ brilliantly references Sex and The City – “You’re my dreamy Mr. Big and I’m a Carrie Bradshaw pig!” It seems to be about someone looking to exploit a relationship for money. The sound recalls a more pissed off Child’s Pose or Be Your Own Pet.‘Good Boy’ keeps up the intensity with imagery of animal abuse; “he pulls taut on a rusted chain in the back garden of my brain” and “I keep him on a short lead if he pulls then he’ll bleed”. Musically it shifts from the pace of the first two songs into half speed, providing a fitting ending to the EP.Itchy, powerful, exciting and visceral, this instils the raw power of the live set and we are really looking forward to more from Sniffany & The Nits.
You may enjoy this if you like: Child’s Pose, Be Your Own Pet, Sauna Youth
Edinburgh’s Buffet Lunch have recently released a new six track EP on Permanent Slump, a label that just keeps on pushing out top quality indie and post punk. Buffet Lunch’s sound is a jagged discombobulating, at times slightly folk tinged, lyrically bizarre form of post-punk.Opener ‘Brief Pause’ musically recalls the kookier moments of The Fall or Pavement, Perry O’Bray’s descriptive vocals similar to chief Pheromoans rambler Russell Walker, about someone who stops at the side of the road to take off his shoes, revealing his feet have become disfigured. The coherent structure, however, doesn’t quite prepare you for what is to come later on.‘Hotel At The End Of The Universe’ is a brilliantly crooked stop-start jam with Mclusky-esque lyrical humour and vocal delivery. O’Bray’s and John Muir’s guitars dance and ping around joyfully like they are in conversation and the deadpan backing vocals at the end are a delight. Single ‘Snap’ is a short fast paced, frantic race that instantly recalls Glasgow neighbours Kaputt. It struts and shakes. There’s a great saxophone skronk, jagged discordant guitars that wildly shift between hooks and taut drumming by Luke Moran that provides a great counterfoil to the elastic guitars. Lyrically they continue the oddball nonsense – “I need your hands to work to help my friend give birth”.‘Where Is My Prize?’ plays with warped harmonics and clanging guitars that recall Dublin weirdos Stump and Neil Robinson’s bassline gives it the feeling of a drunken circus. The song descends into Captain Beefheart style madness before collapsing on itself. The spikey ‘Smell The Fruit’ sounds like a half-melted funk song that has tinges of James Chance and further leanings towards the Magic Band. The elements are sparse but come together to make a busy and delightful whole. It’s always curious when a band decides to put a live version of a song on a studio record, particularly when they’ve already put it out before, and that’s exactly what they do on final track ‘Do You Like My Trousers (Live)’. To be fair it does sound good and represents the song well. Again the lyrics are quite ridiculous, seemingly just about asking someone if they like the trousers they bought at a shop. All in all Snap EP is a really vibrant and enjoyable listen.
You may enjoy this if you like: Kaputt, Pavement, Savage Mansion, Stump, James Chance & The Contortions, Mclusky, Anguish Sandwich
We first became aware of PC World when Nick Carlisle of Bamboo tipped us off about them during their interview in April. Having scoured the internet for any trace of this unGoogleable band and only ever finding links to the UK based computer and electronics stores we were beginning to doubt their existence. Having had a chance experience of seeing the duo live, this EP recently appeared on bandcamp via Brighton based DIY punk label Gob Nation (which also serves as home to The Estate Agents and Sniffany and The Nits).The most immediate point of reference for PC World is synth punks Suicide’s 1988 album A Way Of Life. They share the retro sounding drums, the minimalist synths and the delayed vocals, however PC World do not indulge in the rock n roll leanings of Alan Vega and Martin Rev. Sound artist Ryan Bellett paints a more visceral, industrial landscape, while William Dante Deacon’s intricate spoken word rants sit unerringly just underneath.‘Running Man’ is the sort of music you would hear in underground clubs in movies about futuristic dystopias in the late 80s and early 90s. It also conjures memories of the computer game ‘Speedball 2’! The phasing synths and samples are like a sinister Yello. ‘System and Structure’ amps this up even more with the low pitch spoken sample at the start. The vocals are set so far back in the mix that some phrases get lost while others suddenly stand out. There is a dark mood to this EP that carries on throughout. ‘The Drift’ is more brooding, the vocals delay and warp while a slow edgy synth sequence is present throughout, as arpeggios dance in and another hard industrial beat that makes room for that ever satisfying 80s cowbell sound.‘Next In Line’ while still industrial, is a little more funky with warbling synth sounds that have that Tom Tom Club feel and a super wet sounding bassline, but this is no upbeat dance party. It’s mutant punk.While the electronics sound great throughout it would be nice to hear a little more of the vocals in the mix at times, whether that’s through more volume or a little less delay, to truly get a grasp on Dante Deacon’s lyrics. It sounds like he has a lot to say.
You may enjoy this if you like: Yello, Bamboo, Suicide, Throbbing Gristle
Sprinters – Struck Gold
‘Struck Gold’ is Manchester band Sprinters’ follow up to their self-titled debut album and comes via Spanish label Meritorio Records. Their sound is washed out jangle pop that immediately brings to mind New Jersey band Real Estate, aligned with the slacker attitude of Mac DeMarco.
Opening instrumental title track ’Struck Gold’ is instantly recognisable in that it’s hard not to hear Cornershop’s “Brimful of Asha” in the opening chords, although the chords eventually shit and a lead guitar part takes the song in a different direction as synths swirl around.Second single ‘3’s & 4’s’, which follows, is a cracking song and the first glimpse of singer Neil Jarvis’s heavily delayed vocals that sit somewhere between the laid back, almost stoned style of Kurt Vile and the poppier moments of Ariel Pink (think ‘Round and Round’ in particular). Melodically there’s a Dinosaur Jr feel, particularly in the chorus. It’s easy to imagine the lyrics “it is what it is, there’s no escaping it” and the vocal melody coming out of the cracked throat of J Mascis.‘Missing’, is a great tune with a strong, relentless guitar line that repeats throughout. With heavier production and played faster it would be an absolute ripper. Instead it retains the dream pop vibe, going for some phase effects in the guitar solo towards the end. It’s a style that reminds us of the brilliant yet short lived Oxford band Beta Blocker And The Body Clock.‘The Light’ is a joy. The bass is really prominent, at times chopping up then driving the song along, the drums are allowed to skitter playfully underneath while synths and guitars swell and distort. The vocals float on top with a beautiful melody.‘Ending’ carries on the themes we’ve seen thus far although it lets rip with some gnarled distortion and feedback which satisfyingly cuts through the mix before the band jam like Brighten The Corners era Pavement with chiming guitars that eventually fade out. ‘Demolition’ again brings a J Mascis melody but mixes things up with a Yo La Tengo style bossa nova beat.Lyrically Jarvis uses very simple ear wormy phrases that get easily lodged in your head. The choruses on ‘Struck Gold’ are not often more than two or three words repeated. ’It’s Gone’ is a good example of this. Musically it brings the band back into more upbeat territory, fizzing along to a classic indie pop drumbeat while the chorus “and it’s gone and it’s gone” repeats.The band seem to truly take the shackles off collectively on second instrumental track ‘Scream 2’. The guitars are fuzzy, the drums are stronger and the catchy hooks are front and centre. This is the closest they get to playing full blown indie rock, which makes for a nice contrast. In fact, the final few tracks in the whole shift the dynamic a little and this works in the band’s favour. ‘Virtue’ feels more open. It’s not quite so swamped in reverb. This is also the case for ‘Undone’. The vocals are a little clearer, the production brighter. The drums kick more, the guitar solo with its flickering tremolo effect sounds great. We’re just guessing here but it might perhaps point to these songs being recorded in a separate session.The album closes on a stunted, slow and tripped out reprise of the opening title track, serving as the bread for a solid, enjoyable sandwich. Worth indulging in.
You may enjoy this if you like: Real Estate, Yo La Tengo, J Mascis and the Fog, Kurt Vile, Mac DeMarco, Beta Blocker And The Body Clock
Listen and purchase here: https://sprinters.bandcamp.com/album/struck-gold
Max Levy is a one off. Previously going under the moniker ‘King Of Cats’, he started writing as Garden Centre in 2016. ‘A Moon For Digging’ follows the excellent ‘Strap’ EP in the form of a full length album. It’s pushed everything up a notch.
Recorded for the first time with a full band, this is a more ambitious sounding record. What might divide people with Levy’s work is his unique high pitched voice, something that could be equally said for Daniel Smith of Danielson, or Daniel Johnston, perhaps the closest reference points to Garden Centre. However, we happen to love them both.‘Naked Ape’ is a strong and wide awake opener kicking off the album with Levy wailing “I get out of bed hearing a strange noise in the night”. The drums are four to the floor, dual keyboards lead the melody before two quite beautiful sections, either of which could serve as a powerful chorus on their own.
Latest single ‘Super Moon’ is a paisley tinged indie pop hit, while ‘Lucky Guy’ is a soft minimal ballad that suddenly explodes into life in the last minute in the vain of Neutral Milk Hotel.
‘Parasite’ is a really peculiar song, beginning like a very convincing old fashioned sea shanty before a woozy instrumental keyboard part introduces an exciting distorted almost Broadcast-like section that suddenly halts just when you’re getting into it and gives way to a short guitar accompanied vignette.
Half was point ‘Wheelie’ is a glammy fuzzed up indie pop punk belter, with buzzing guitars and distorted theremin. It’s a great hip shaking hit. For us it’s the highlight on ‘A Moon For Digging’. The theremin also makes a return in the excellent jangle pop of ‘Wide Sea’
‘Sorry Feeling Heart’ is an absolutely gorgeous lilting folk song as is ‘Get Drunk’, channelling Levy’s inner Bob Dylan, while ‘Spill Our Wine’ is a great pop song in a triumphant, Bruce Springsteen kind of way.
Despite having been releasing music for over 10 years now Max Levy sounds as wide eyed as ever.
You may enjoy this if you like: Danielson, Daniel Johnston, Neutral Milk Hotel, Pavement
Listen and buy here: https://gardencentre.bandcamp.com/album/a-moon-for-digging-2
The State of Georgia in the USA has born some unbelievable indie bands since the 80s: R.E.M., Of Montreal, Elf Power, Neutral Milk Hotel, The Apples In Stereo and Deerhunter just to name a few. Omni are another exciting band to add to the list and their new album ‘Networker’ (out now via Sub Pop), whilst touching the sides of some of these local heroes, seems to draw influence largely from the 1970s. There are (whisper it) elements of progressive rock as well as the virtuoso musicianship of Television married with the jagged new wave of Elvis Costello. This is even evident in the production with the tight flat drums and slightly overdriven guitars.From the off ‘Sincerely Yours’ marries these elements with the scuzz and jittery energy of 70s acolytes The Strokes and a hint of Parquet Courts whimsy.
Melodically at times there are parallels with early Of Montreal, particularly in the vocal and bass melodies. Also present is a laid back attitude within the tight, sometimes complicated and Captain Beefheart-esque structures. This is particularly evident on the intricate ‘Courtesy Call’, the jaunty “Genuine Person” and the driving and brilliant ’Moat’.Omni shift between time signatures without it seeming pretentious and this is coupled with George Harrison style guitar wails in the breakdown on ‘Underage’.
‘Skeleton Key’ plays with guitar stabs on the off beat, noodling scratchy solos and nicely timed swung triplets. It’s a fidgety song but serves as a real highlight.
Occasionally it feels like the band are holding back to keep the listener on edge. ‘Present Tense’, for example, seems to be begging to take off into the stratosphere but this never quite happens and, perhaps it would be a bit cheap or too easy to do it. They seem to prefer to noodle and skew instead like a less cartoonish Deerhoof, particularly on ‘Blunt Force’ and ‘Flat Earth’ (which has some almighty riffs).The penultimate title track is an unexpected side step near the end, with its smooth keyboard sounds and 80s chimes, but the band return to the jagged formula on closer ‘Sleep Mask’ with its jazzy chords and perky verses.
At just 32 minutes ‘Networker’ is an album that packs in a lot of twists and turns and may require repeated listening to fully connect with. There are some really nice hooks and impressive shifts in dynamics and structure. Omni are clearly excellent musicians and the lyrics are sardonic and fun throughout.’Networker’ is a really fine record that leaves room for manoeuvre. The really great songs here like ‘Sincerely Yours’, ‘Skeleton Key’ and ‘Flat Earth’ suggest the band may be on the verge of producing something amazing.
You may enjoy this if you like: Television, The Strokes, Elvis Costello, Parquet Courts, Ought, Deerhoof, Captain Beefheart
Listen and buy here: https://omniatl.bandcamp.com/or here: https://megamart.subpop.com/releases/omni/networker
Barry, from London (which sounds like a contestant on Blind Date but is actually, in their words, a “queer guitar pop band”) have just released their self-titled debut mini album on the ever-reliable Permanent Slump and it’s a lot of fun.All four members sing, the lyrics are bold and quite frequently hilarious. It’s not often that a band can make you laugh out loud but Barry are masters of it. It’s not just in the lyrics but, as with all good comedy, the timing of the delivery.Take first single ‘Posh Club’ for example where the band display their bemusement as to how everyone around them became “so fucking posh. Has it always been this way and I just never noticed?… That everyone is really fucking posh”. Don’t listen to ’Man Pose’ while drinking tea or you may just spit it out all over your (fucking) laptop, particularly when you hear the line “My mask keeps slipping, my mask keeps slipping and it’s hitting your dick”. It’s also a great Velvet Underground-esque rock n roll song.
Musically throughout there are notes of early Pavement, Jeffrey Lewis and Terry. The structures are simple, there are only three or four chords in each song for the most part and this all works hugely in Barry’s favour. Bart McDonagh’s guitar playing doesn’t often go further than simple chord strumming but it really is all that is needed as Helen Skinner’s bass lines and Mark Amura’s keyboards are super melodic and earwormy, while Kathy Wright’s drumming is tight precise and suitably un-flashy.‘Our First Party’ has a Folk Jam-esque guitar chug, with a super hip shaking drumbeat and shares a similar vocal melody to Jeffrey Lewis’s ‘Another Girl’.’Stretch Your Legs’ is less in your face, displaying a softer side, Amura’s keyboards give it a great paisley pop atmosphere, which is also the case in “Baby Helped Mummy Write A Song”.
‘Shy Or Cunts’ is lyrically simple but, again, hilarious. They put people in three categories: “Shy or cunts, or just fucking rude”.‘The World Is Not Your Toilet Sir’ is, of course, about people relieving themselves in public and is a sweet sounding yet, obviously, lyrically gross song!‘Liz Naylor’ another single, is great fun. Super catchy and bouncy in a similar vein to Marc Riley favourites Terry. The song also plays with bursts of noise which provide a simple and brilliant counterpoint to the chirpy verses.
This whole mini album is melodically infectious, fun and addictive. If you like your pop jangled and are into the current Melbourne indie scene this will be right up your street.
You may enjoy this if you like: Terry, Parsnip, Pavement, Jeffrey Lewis, Swim Team
Listen here: https://permanentslump.bandcamp.com/album/barry
Dry Cleaning – Boundary Road Snacks And Drinks EP
‘Boundary Road Snacks and Drinks’ is the second EP by London band Dry Cleaning who have sky rocketed in popularity over the last year. Self released and physically packaged with their debut EP ‘Sweet Princess’, this follows hot on the heels of the re-release of said debut. ‘Boundary Road Snacks and Drinks’ sees the band adding flourishes to the straight forward post punk of the debut. There are several firsts here, for instance the opening track ‘Dog Proposal’ kicking off with Lewis Maynard’s catchy bass, which is followed up by another first – Florence Shaw singing as opposed to speaking (albeit in none lyrical form). The song has a great guitar hook by Tom Dowse reminiscent of early REM.Nick Buxtons drumming is super tight, driving the song into more familiar territory as Shaw starts a superbly cynical diatribe about hard work and success. There are strong hints of Sonic Youth and The Feelies as the song progresses.First single ‘Viking Hair’, carries on the theme of vocal melody with tuneful “oooohs” intersecting the verses and the chorus. Musically the guitar is gnarled, carrying the melody, ringing out in the verses and stabbing in the chorus, ultimately climaxing with some great wah. The band build so effortlessly and provide far more than just a backdrop to the comical observational lyrics (“over the road there’s an abandoned fridge, still works”). It’s super catchy, a total indie hit.‘Spoils’ has such great attitude. Both lyrically and musically it has an aggressive edge. The thumping four to the floor drums, the guitar squealing with feedback before kicking in with its fuzzed out hook and bassline that are like the evil twin of Jonathan Richman’s “Egyptian Reggae”. There are powerful yet bizarre lyrical images repeated throughout like “Run over by a, squashed by a, crushed by a crazy raisin”. It shifts into a dirty funk, makes time for a short guitar solo, a great breakdown and crashing crescendo with strange background vocals and a sample that sounds like it came from a fairground ride.“Jam After School” has a great opening line “The last bullshit masculine mountain conquering crap” (at least that’s what I think it is). The opening guitar hook makes this sort of a cousin of “Phone Scam” from the debut EP. Dowse then plays with harmonics that recall early Modest Mouse. The mix and the driving nature of the song means that the vocals are sometimes a little hidden but fun references to “sausage rolls”, “Capri Sun” and “gut problems” jump out and make you want to play it back to grasp the vivid imagery conjured.“Sombre One”, as the name suggests, is more downbeat with initially just clanging drawn out guitar notes accompanying Shaw’s vocals. The bass and drums very slowly fade into the mix, initially like the faint sound of a party next door. As the guitar then fades out the bass and drums take hold. It’s an interesting dynamic experiment that closes with a conversation in which Dowse tells a funny story about a Rottweiler while a harmonic loop plays before a keyboard drone introduces second single and final track “Sit Down Meal”. This exhibits the first use of keyboard on a Dry Cleaning song, an instrument they had to do without when they started for not being able to fit it into the practice room! This is Shaw’s first lyrical performance that is accompanied with a vocal melody and hints at a possible way forward for the band, also adding interesting vocal inflections. The guitar solo at the end brings back the Sonic Youth vibes, like a wonky Teenage Riot. Maynard’s bass and Buxton’s drums, as on the previous EP, are perhaps the unsung heroes and provide a super solid and important platform for the inventive guitar work and lyrics. So, all in all, Boundary Road Snacks and Drinks has added extra colours to Dry Cleaning’s already exciting palate.
You may enjoy this if you like: The Fall, Sauna Youth, The Feelies, Sonic Youth, Life Without Buildings.
Listen and purchase here: https://drycleaning.bandcamp.com/album/boundary-road-snacks-and-drinks-ep
Hot Shorts – I Understand And I Wish To Continue
If you were to boil down all the elements of what makes the perfect Indietracks festival band you would probably end up with something like Manchester four piece Hot Shorts.Their new album ‘I Understand And I Wish To Continue’ is testament to this.This is an album loaded with 90s and early 00s nostalgia with references to Myspace, departed pop stars and plenty of nerdy musical references.No Jokes is a real ripper from the off, with a super catchy buzzy guitar hook, dirty Elastica chords and attitude. Despite the title it all feels like an in joke and possibly brings with it our first musical homage, squeezing in a Queens Of The Stone Age style break down reminiscent of “Feel Good Hit Of The Summer” after fittingly singing about cocaine.“Please Don’t Let Me Go To Space” is like a Weezer cut from Pinkerton, with its high vocal harmonies and screaming chorus akin to “El Scorcho”. It’s great fun.“Who Brings A Guitar To A Party” continues with the Weezer nod, immediately aping the drum intro to “Undone – The Sweater Song”. However, what follows is more laid back, rhythmically related to Blur’s “Coffee and TV” with the knowingly self-referential lyricism of indie scribes like Darren Hayman and Stuart Murdoch, vocalist Chris Killen characterising himself as the annoying guy with the guitar who thinks everyone wants to hear his new songs at a party.“Don’t Stop Me If You’ve Heard This Before” is pure Hefner, in rhythm, melodic sense and lyrical wit. “I Found You On Myspace” brilliantly sums up the anxiety and weirdness that went with being part of the Myspace generation “Would I make your top 8? Yeah I know it’s really stupid but I want to know anyway”, even fading out to the sound of a dial up modem.“Summer of 2012” again begins with a cheeky homage, this time to Bryan Adams’s “Summer Of 69” (of course), before again bouncing along to 4/4 Hefner-isms.“I’m Not Mad (I’m Just Disappointed)” musically switches back into Weezer mode as does “Lostprophets Tattoo” which showcases more fantastic lyrics emploring a friend to remove their now embarrassing and distasteful Lostprophets tattoo. “My Cat Is Gonna Live Forever” has a harder edge, with its Nirvana-esque bassline, distorted backing vocals and pounding drums. It kind of feels out of place, moving the band out of the summery indie vibe but certainly offers up something different.“Beach Ballin” closes the album on a soft note, lamenting the loss of musical heroes (Lou Reed, Prince, Tom Petty and Whitney Houston) alongside the frustration of a generation growing older and ever more confused by modern life “hold down the power button and count to ten”. In one final nostalgic wink they end the album with the final six notes of Rage Against The Machine’s “Killing In The Name”. ‘I Understand And I Wish To Continue’ is a fun and satisfying game of nerdy music reference bingo. No doubt we missed some along the way.
You may enjoy this is you like: Weezer, Hefner, Wave Pictures, Elastica, Pavement
Pre-order here: https://icecapades.bigcartel.com/product/hot-shorts-album-launch-party-bundle
Shake Chain – Neil Yonge & Bob Doylan Live At Hyde Park EP
We’ve heard whispers about Shake Chain, from London, for a couple of months and were recently passed a snippet of live video that suggests this band will be super entertaining live. Members Chris Hopkins and Robert Eyre also feature in Basic Hinge, Rodents, The Bin Bags and Dead Arm. Shake Chain have just dropped this hilariously titled four song EP, courtesy of the ever-reliable label Permanent Slump. It was recorded the same day Neil Young and Bob Dylan played at Hyde Park, hence the bastardised title. Beginning on an ominous pulse Highly Conceptual is a woozy opener with the pace and sickening motion of a rocking boat. Robert Eyre’s jarring guitar work and Jenna Finch’s straightforward drums provide the dynamic shifts, synths bubble underneath while Kate Mahony’s vocals range from drunken slurs to ecstatic atonal shrieking. It’s a powerful introduction that sets the tone for the following three tracks.Big On The Straight’s vibrato keyboard and great bouncing bassline by Chris Hopkins are reminiscent of The Fall’s sound in the early 80s. The utter monotony and confusion of the lyrics is fantastic “extensions, islands, floorboards, loft conversions, I’ve got three bathrooms, have I got there yet?”. The big dumb shout along chorus crashes in, rudely upsetting the rhythm, like that person who suddenly arrives three hours late to parties and sparks them into life.Copy Me is short and sweet at just over two minutes. It bounces along in a similar vain to label mates Life Drawings, but with ants in its pants. The guitar work, however, hints that the structure is about to be smashed to bits, which is of course fulfilled in the utterly bonkers chorus. Mahony’s vocal performances really are so unique. Her anti-singing is what sets Shake Chain apart from anyone else, yet also what will no doubt divide opinion (for the record, we’re of the opinion they’re great). Copy Me is frantic, vicious, a hell of a lot of fun and probably the highlight of the set. The production lends itself really well, with the guitars super scratchy and drums allowed to peak.Final track Architecture is a pissed jam with a fuzzed up bassline, warped keyboard and disco-not-disco drums. Seemingly about the trials and tribulations of an architecture and design student, it descends into madness with the chorus “Aim high, got cash, aim high, get cash” repeated at various speeds by the four band members, out of time clapping and the synth fizzing and burbling freeform. Chaotic, unhinged, with a knack for great simple hooks and unexpected shifts this EP leaves us eager to hear more from Shake Chain.
You may enjoy this if you like: The Fall, Bardo Pond, Sniffany & The Nits, Deaf Surf, Child’s Pose, Sauna Youth
Listen and purchase here: https://permanentslump.bandcamp.com/album/neil-yonge-bob-doylan-live-at-hyde-park-ep
We love The Slugs. We’ve kind of grown up with them given they featured in our first ever set of reviews, so imagine our excitement when a new five track EP recently dropped. This time the theme of the EP is, of course, water.As with their previous two released the recording is a little lo-fi and they’ve kept things simple with just drums, guitar and dual vocals. There is the same unshakeable confidence, sense of fun and humour (Liberty Hodes also plying her trade as a comedian). Despite having a song titled PISS IS WET, this EP displays the Slugs’ most sophisticated song writing to date.
In typical Slugs style ‘Wet’ kicks off with someone sniffing and taking a sip of water on opener Splash!, before a two note guitar hook fades in alongside a light keyboard drone, accompanied by a metronomic hi hat. The syncopated vocals are what make it though, the lyrics simply about the various ways we consume water. Although a very simple idea it becomes quite hypnotic.What is wet? ‘PISS IS WET’, of course. This time two chords chime along to a pounding snare and call and response vocals. Ladies Ponds might just be the highlight. That eerie keyboard drone returns while Liberty Hodes strums two chords and Phoebe Dighton Brown plays a simple marching snare. They conjure up a gorgeous vocal harmony to the lyric “Take off your jumper and another another and another, dive down deep splash around with each other.” It’s a moment of beauty that proves a counterfoil for the great vibrant chorus that is to come. “Swimming in the summer in the ladies ponds… I’ve got my factor 50 on”. They display a sense of humour like Moldy Peaches at their best but with an unmistakeable Britishness.Do The Mollusc!!! again provides the sort of joyous nonsense we’ve come to expect from The Slugs. They urge you to “Shake your shells grow a new leg… Do the Mollusc!” then to “do” various other sea entities before, finally, to “Do the chips” of course! This inevitably collapses into laughter.
Mint Green opens with the eery high pitched drone that appears several times throughout “Wet”. The vocal harmonies are fantastic, the guitar sounds slightly out of tune and the snare is audibly reacting to vibrations in the room. This warts and all one take live recording is very much like their lyrics; “varicose veins, oh what a pain”. The Slugs are so real. They continue to embrace and comment on every day and unglamorous things like varicose veins, wearing factor 50 sun cream and, of course, eating chips. They always sound like they are having the best time and we wouldn’t have them any other way.
You may enjoy this if you like: The Moldy Peaches, Jeffrey Lewis, Dog Legs, Let’s Wrestle, The Raincoats, The Slits
Listen here: https://theslugsband.bandcamp.com/album/wet
Breakup Haircut – What Did You Expect? I Got It Off The Internet!
Breakup Haircut are a product of this year’s First Timers Fest which previously spawned some great bands including Big Joanie, Scrap Brain, Panic Pocket, Secret Power, Charmpit and Irn Brunette. They deal in a catchy lo-fi pop punk that wears its heart on its sleeve. They have a great knack for a melody that you can’t help but feel like you’ve heard before.I (Don’t) Wanna Do Things kicks things off with a catchy bassline that drives through the song (think Dinosaur Jr’s cover of Just Like Heaven and you’re close), it buzzes along like The Only Ones and has a real tongue twister of a chorus. It seems vocalist Ishani Jasmin has a lot to say, cramming so many thoughts into every song on the EP. Why Can’t I Be Cool Enough To Move To Berlin? dreams about moving to Germany’s longstanding capital of cool playing “tiny sold out shows”. The chorus (same as the title) is a real singalong. Despite the self-deprecating angsty sentiment of the lyrics it’s really upbeat.
Kim Pine has a more sombre tone. It’s slower paced with chiming guitars and a pummelling bassline giving it a kind of “Say It Ain’t So” moody atmosphere. Jasmin’s voice is eerily effected with some kind of phaser. She puts in an intense vocal performance which is counterbalanced with ghostly Kim Deal-esque backing vocals.Mystery Inc, all about going to a cemetery on the way to a party, kicks off with an almighty drum fill. It has a twitchy urgent energy like early REM.Mum, I Wanna Be Greaser is an instant hit. A straightforward rock n roller, like a Beach Boys or Modern Lovers track with surfy drums and guitars and a great Cramps-esque bassline. Lyrically it’s great fun, like Jonathan Richman in full silly flow.Yet another hit from the First Timers Fest production line then. You may enjoy this if you like: Weezer, Camper Van Beethoven, The Only Ones, Jonathan Richman
Listen here: https://breakuphaircut.bandcamp.com/releases
Kaputt appeared on our radar when we reviewed the fantastic Highlight!/Suspectette single. We said we “could be due quite the album from them”. Well they’ve now returned to treat us with said album, which features both sides of the single, and it doesn’t disappoint. It’s a strutting, confident, monster of a debut. If you’re into the weird side of no wave, new wave and punk this is definitely for you.
Rats opens on a “Close To Me” drum beat with catchy guitar and bass interplay. The phrase “It’s so much darker now” is intersected by a Captain Beefheart style false start before the song launches into a hip shaking saxophone driven section. The song twists and turns over itself whilst vocalist Cal Donelly’s Fred Schneider meets David Byrne by way of Devo vocal delivery is incredibly captivating. In some sense we could end this review here. The whole cocktail of this band is infectious. They frequently pack so many ideas into just over three minutes. It’s great party music.The rolling cyclical 5/4 riff of Carnage Hall is phenomenal. The sax wanders through the song, shifting and expanding the rhythm before everything breaks down into a section that sounds bizarrely similar to the theme to the 90s computer game Day Of The Tentacle (sorry that’s nerdy). Everything then descends into what is almost like a frantic, warped Madness ending.Accordion sounds at first like it is going to be a more relaxed affair with its tremolo arm guitar chords and meandering sax. It then flips into a spiky angular stomp with great guitar interplay. Donelly’s growl of “Is he a man now? Is he a man now?” just sounds awesome. The dual male female vocals complement each other really well, adding to the party vibe.Very Satisfied has Jon Spencer attitude, B52s backing vocals, skittering Magic Band rhythms and guitars in the verses while the chorus is pure Devo.Highlight! has a great percussion intro, with guitars building from sparse to frantic before the rhythmic bubble bursts and expands into yet another catchy chorus.
Hi! I’m the Wasp has a crazed intro followed by a verses with a super infectious groove and wonderful brass flourishes. The chorus hook is colourful and cyclical with stunning backing vocals. It’s cartoonish, in a good way.Parsonage Square again combines a Devo-like sense of fun (“Are you ready for my examination?”) with B52s backing vocals, the drums are tight and fast, driving the momentum while the guitars dance, the bassline is great and the sax provides a glorious melodic counterpoint.The two parts of Drinking Problems Continue, the first being a short spoken word piece built over an abstract crescendo that is the only moment of respite from Kaputt’s frenetic energy, the second almost veering into afrobeat, with the muted guitar hooks and skittering drums. As with other tracks the song fidgets into different directions, expanding and contracting, this time into brilliant melodic climax using the track’s title.Thinking About Your Face (While You’re Doing It) is bonkers. Excuse the pun. It jumps about all over the place with yelped vocals and is probably the most atonal moment on ‘Carnage Hall’.You Are Buried With My Nose is lyrically bizarre and provides a moment of hilarity at the end of the first chorus, with the high pitched vocal squeal, that reminded us of sadly departed London oddballs Chubby Nest. The vibrato sax part towards the end is so good.Suspectette brings big Talking Heads vibes. There’s great interplay between instruments and nice slide guitar touches. The parts are minimal but come together to make an intricate web. Finally, Feed My Son is a rousing closer. It’s punchy, quite funky, with the jagged edges of Contortions era James Chance and rounds off an almost relentless collection of party tunes. Kaputt are one of those bands that just sound like so much fun to be a member of.
You may enjoy this if you like: B52s, Talking Heads, Plastics, James Chance, Captain Beefheart, Devo, Madness, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, DUDS
Serafina Steer – The Mind Is A Trap
Serafina Steer has become quite a shape shifter since her last solo album, 2013’s stunning ‘The Moths Are Real’. Starting to play more synthesizer and learning bass Steer formed the band Bas Jan which took her sounds into a whole other direction – more direct, simpler, with catchy pop hooks. So on this, her first solo album in six years, Steer has returned to the harp (in part) although the approach is more understated and less orchestrated than on ‘The Moths Are Real’. The most prevalent instrument here however is the synthesizer, which lends itself to the generally more experimental edge apparent on this record, although somehow this all manages to feel incredibly intimate.Whatsmystone is an instrumental oscillating synth opener that builds droning chords, with timbres like beautiful feedback, for almost 6 minutes. There are fleeting tunes from various synth sounds and what at times sounds like a melodica decorating the piece. It’s unexpected and quite mesmerizing. You almost forget who you are listening to.
Provides Common Ground opens with a bleepy synth beat before introducing the harp and Steer’s soft, sophisticated and unmistakeable vocals. “Pressure, pressure, in life” the opening line almost feels like a comment on the anxiety about returning to the harp that followed her previous solo album.The harp, slightly overdriven, provides a wonderful counterpoint to the synth bleeps and bloops. The combination is dreamy. A subtle pop song and probably the most straightforward and recognisably Serafina Steer track on here.Lapse throws another curve ball. It’s an intriguing abstract piece with scraping strings effected with cavernous delay. There are short harp and/or piano blasts that lend melodic form. Despite the instrumentation being acoustic it still fits in with the synth textures of the other tracks.Lyrically this record is very interesting, there are less opinions stated and stories told. There is an acceptance of vulnerability. Auto which begins with Steer clearing her throat, plays around the idea of the “self” and self-awareness. “I have diagnosed myself, I have pleasured myself, and when there’s no one else around to do it I have lied to myself”. The only backing instrument being a delayed harp only hammers home further that this is the first record in six years on which Steer’s signature instrument has featured, and this the first song where it is the sole accompaniment.
The Mind Is A Trap opens another door, and quite a surprising one. Steer is practically rapping and, what’s more it works! Fluttering synths, strings, hard beats and a disco bass line accompany lyrics about learning to let go. This makes way for Say What You See, another gentle instrumental which marries twinkling synth with harp, an underlying drone, and, possibly a zither. This blurs the line between acoustic and electronic sounds.Time To Recover, is again solely harp backed. The harp loops around the same intricate dreamlike phrase, the vocals are effected with reverb uttering short phrases.In yet another twist, the final two tracks veer into dance territory: Back On The Scene exhibits some very 90s sounds – particularly electronic choir synth voice. Interestingly it doesn’t seem out of place. This Is My Emotion introduces techno beats with a repeated synth phrase that comes in and out and drones that wobble and detune. It seems some of Steer’s remixing of other artists in recent years has come to the fore.All in all ‘The Mind Is A Trap’ feels like an amalgamation of every avenue Serafina Steer has explored since ‘The Moths Are Real”, almost remixing herself.
You may enjoy this if you like: Bas Jan, Mary Lattimore, Julia Holter, Bamboo
Listen and buy here: https://serafinasteer.bandcamp.com/album/the-mind-is-a-trap
Sweet Williams – Where Does The Time Come From
Ex-Charlottefield frontman Thomas House is back with another release as Sweet Williams. Sweet Williams is a slightly different beast to Charlottefield. It’s slower, more sinister and unsettling. Everything almost seems like it’s played at half speed. The spikey guitarwork and the just woken up growl of House are recognisably his, as are the rhythms which almost trip over themselves.
Stop It I’m Killing You opens with stabbing guitars and eery harmonised vocals. Rhythmic lurches give way to a glorious use of squealing feedback.Stunt Freeze has a sleazy, powerful groove along a simple yet punishing hook before it almost skips and stutters at slow speed towards the end.Fifties, with its Slint-like guitars and stop start dynamics, is weirdly hypnotic. House’s almost whispered vocals, as they do throughout the record, add a creepy edge. There is something brutalist and calculated in the structure.Despite the brutalist nature, instrumental RF offers a moment of beauty amid the darkness; a simple combination of crunching and clean chiming guitars that allow a moment of reflection.This beautiful moment gives way to the rumbling rolling bassline and pinging ride bell inVery Long Division which features unsettling slightly slowed down vocals, guitars that add texture and colour and a locked bass groove that repeats until fade out.The album’s first single Ride A Gold Snail opens on a mean bass line with metronomic drums, polyrhythmic guitars that open up space, and sparse vocal lines. The guitars build to an almighty fuzz that might question whether your speakers are still working. It sounds great.Rust startles the listener with a drum beat akin to someone banging on the wall. Its clanging, slightly dissonant guitars and double tracked vocals are minimalist and brutal, giving the feel of a dark Mount Eerie. The spaces in between the noise are never completely silent – a light feedback drone runs throughout.Two Golden Sisters is a slow, hypnotic and contemplative song about lost love. For the most part it’s just guitars and voice. The absence of drums makes this perhaps the most intimate and affecting track on the album. House introduces sparse piano and eerie atmospheric sounds like rusty gates opening. It’s bleak and spine tingling.Facing East brings the most intricate and measured drum performance on the album. Ringing guitar rhythms syncopate through a repetitive phrase that builds as the guitars become more layered and effected. Discomforter closes the album with bending guitars that are allowed to ring out to accentuate the unnerving slight dissonance they create. A lot of the songs on Where Does The Time Come From deal in a constant repetition from beginning to end, never coming to a resolution, like ghosts trapped in the real world that could go on forever if they were not faded out or ended at an opportune moment.
You may enjoy this if you like:Charlottefield, Slint, The Jesus Lizard, Bonnie Prince Billy
Listen here: https://sweetwilliams.bandcamp.com/album/where-does-the-time-come-from-2
Robert Sotelo – Infinite Sprawling
‘Infinite Sprawling’ is the third album by prolific solo artist Andrew Doig AKA Robert Sotelo. The follow up to 2018’s superb lo-fi ‘Botanical’ is his second release on Upset The Rhythm, following 2017’s ‘Cusp’. On ‘Botanical’ Sotelo did away with guitars for the most part, leaning heavily on a keyboard. On ‘Infinite Sprawling’ he has returned to a traditional band setup but retains the beautiful vocal melodies, harmonies and slightly off-kilter song writing.Sotelo is a very gifted melodist in the vain of Harry Nilsson, but with a loose and crooked playfulness. Something Besides is a beautiful swaying opener. The wordplay is a delight, the rhyming couplets are playfully timed and have a satisfying mouth feel. There are some beautifully timed guitar slides, a delicate Velvet Underground keyboard solo and all in all it’s brilliantly crafted pop song.Mister is a fuzzy and crooked little rocker which changes pace several times, shifting between stabby verses, a whirling singalong chorus and a fantastic break down.The Set Up, with its lolloping pace, cryptic lyrics and delightful “yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah” chorus, is almost like a cut from Stephen Malkmus’s excellent ‘Face The Truth’ album. The use of strings and backing vocals, with the “Run Run Run” fuzzed guitar ramble is brilliant.Title track Infinite Sprawling introduces new sounds with samples of frogs, cute digital percussion and lightly flanging guitar. It’s oddball, slightly psychedelic, intricate yet simple – straight from the Nilsson school of thought. Despite all these American references there is still something very British about Robert Sotelo. After all, Nilsson was known as the fifth Beatle and Sotelo’s melodic sensibilities share that McCartney catchiness. The simple rhythmic and melodic shifts throughout these mostly sub-three minute songs are a joy. Run seems to bounce and sway at the same time. The guitars, played on here by Ruari Maclean of Vital Idles and Edwin Stevens of the brilliant Irma Vep and The Birthmarks, are noodling delicately at one point, lightly riffing the next, chiming like Silver Jews then sliding like the Kinks. Sotelo’s always light and chipper vocals just float on top.The chirpy church organ stomp of In the Style of is beautifully constructed.Roof is perhaps the most ridiculous song on Infinite Sprawling, with the guitars and bass following an ear worm of a vocal melody and rhythm, funny little fills, underwater flange effects and loungey pastiche parts. You cannot listen to this without smiling.Piece of Cake is a hip shaking ode to cooking that flirts with chamber pop and the sophisto-cartoonishness of Stereolab.Sotelo peppers songs with little curve balls. For example, the Road Runner rock n roll of Battery which slips in some bizarre Sgt Pepper backward vocal conversation samples just when you think you have it pegged.Message Of Beauty is a gorgeous, delicate closer. It slowly builds to a refrain of strings and backing vocals, with heavily reverbed (that’s not a word, is it) slide guitar which all combine to stunning effect.
At just 29 minutes ‘Infinite Sprawling’ is short but you may find yourself playing this on repeat, er, infinitely.
You may enjoy this if you like: Harry Nilsson, Stephen Malkmus, Rozi Plain, The Velvet Underground, Of Montreal, Silver Jews, Danielson, The Beatles, Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci
Pre-order here: http://upsettherhythm.bigcartel.com/product/robert-sotelo-infinite-sprawling-lp-pre-order
Frankie Cosmos – Close It Quietly
Greta Kline and her crew, from New York, are back with a fourth studio album, on which the sound and lyrical themes have really pushed on, with an apparently more collaborative spirit. On reading the track list there are a daunting 21 songs yet they’ve squeezed this into just 40 minutes. With an average time of under two minutes, as has always been the case with Frankie Cosmos, the song writing is succinct – there is no unnecessary fleshing out of ideas. “Moonsea” at just over two minutes packs in a lot of great ideas. A confident opener that kicks off with just Kline’s voice, quickly whips up a bouncy beat with some great sounding distorted Broadcast style keyboard touches before the song crashes and crescendos to an incredibly sweet melody. It’s the perfect introduction.For the most part it’s packed with great melodies with sweet indie pop songs but there’s always something special in each song. “Cosmic Shop” features some great synth flourishes by Lauren Martin, first single “Windows” is classic indie pop with great drumming by Luke Pyenson, and twinkling 80s keys to accompany the 90s jangle. “Even Though I Knew” is perhaps the highlight of the set. There is a great vibrancy to it, fizzing and popping, sighing and fidgeting. There is huge rhythmic confidence throughout the record; “Rings (On A Tree) shuffles beautifully building, making space for wacky keyboard sounds, the band endulge in a grungey waltz on the fuzzed up “I’m It”, while “Never Would” is expansive and lurching with echoes of Lonesome Crowded West era Modest Mouse. The drums skitter and crash while the guitars create a wall of sound. “Acting Weird” plays in all directions around Alex Bailey’s constant bass pulse and “41st” shifts from upbeat to dreamy.
“So Blue” ramps up the fuzz with its Pavement-like guitars, it shares a lot in common with the excellent and recently departed UK band Doe, as does the softer “UFO” in its melodic approach.
There are very short songs that lay Kline’s voice bare – the short halfway marker “Self-Destruct” and a cappella “A Hit” in which Kline has just slight reverb for company.The vocal melodies in generally are gorgeous, at times Kline’s distinctive voice almost caws and cracks like Joanna Newsom or Scout Niblett, but there is a softer more rounded tone to Kline’s voice. The stripped back “Marbles” has a melody to rival some of Stuart Murdoch’s most poignant moments, while “With Great Purpose” is Frankie Cosmos’s Blackbird, with its picked acoustic guitar and soft piano accompaniment.“Last Season’s Textures” is quite stunning, fitting multiple sections into just over two minutes. The melodies and gear changes are brilliant, with Pyenson’s virtuoso drumming again at centre stage, stalling the song dramatically with some particularly great triplets and driving it at others. It doesn’t ever feel like he is overplaying though.
Lyrically the album seems to deal in themes of failing relationships, loneliness, anxiety, coping with the modern world in a social bubble. The repeating motif of diamonds either being coughed up or “in your throat” is a particularly intriguing one.
They make time for one last upbeat indie pop song on “This Swirling” or so you think at first. The lyrics are sombre, in contrast to the music. The song then locks into a repetitive phrase with the lyrically playful but, again, sad “I will die trying, I will die crying, I will cry dying, I will try crying, I will cry trying” and fades out. You could say that Frankie Cosmos “close it quietly” (sorry not sorry). All in all, a great end of summer record – one with plenty of depth that definitely bears up to repeat listening and is probably the strongest Frankie Cosmos record yet.
You may enjoy this if you like: Bearsuit, Broadcast, The Concretes, Doe, Belle and Sebastian, Joanna Newsom
Close It Quietly will be released on Friday 6th September via Sub Pop.Listen here: https://ingridsuperstar.bandcamp.com/
Sarah Anderson – Between Mouthfuls
Between Mouthfuls is the debut four track EP from ex-Bas Jan and Chrome Hoof violinist Sarah Anderson.Burrow Mump kicks things off with a simple industrial drumbeat, an eery synth motif that appears at various points, and constant bass hook, accompanied by percussion that kicks the song into gear. Lyrically it appears to be the story of two people meeting up, presumably at Burrow Mump in Somerset – a monument with a ruined church on top of a hill – perhaps revisiting an old relationship and considering reconnecting. “We’ve grown weeds where our words were, so how do you suppose we’ll speak the truths in our hearts?” The singing is soulful, complemented with some great backing vocals and occasional strange low pitched Yello-esque vocal effects. Violins sway counter rhythms, and there is a backing vocal part with the same tune as the alien transmission on Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Intentional or not, we dig it. It packs in a lot of interesting ideas and sounds.
The energy generate by Burrow Mump is carried over into Handerover, which opens with scratchy backwards violins and proggy synth flourishes. Deep backing vocals slowly build over a revolving synth bassline, whilst the vocals chant the phrase “Come come don’t do that, find yourself another bed” before things become wacky. An unexpected and bonkers vocal arrangement and a strange violin burst akin to early dEUS intersect the phrase before everything winds down.
Hold Your Own is perhaps the highlight. Its cavernous, sparse percussion and subtle simple piano allow Anderson’s vocals to really take centre stage. The message seems to be one of encouragement and strength to protect loved ones from hardship. With all the abstract, atmospheric and otherworldly sounds there is something lyrically very personal and human about this ep.Kind Words, the final track is real odd-brained song writing. The lyrics are playful yet quite dark. This is set to a pulsating synth, sparse percussion, guitar skronk and vocals that distort, yelp and shift. Think The Knife, but more abstract and unhinged.All in all there is quite a lot of depth to the four songs on ‘Between Mouthfuls’ which could lead Sarah Anderson down several different paths. Veering between funky, soulful, contemplative and downright oddball.
You may enjoy this if you like: Jenny Moore’s Mystic Business, Bas Jan, Kate Bush, The Knife
Listen here: https://sarah-anderson.bandcamp.com/album/between-mouthfuls
Lunch Lady are a four-piece post-punk band plucked by Upset The Rhythm from the Los Angeles DIY scene. Fronted by Rachel Birke, whose vocal stylings sit somewhere in the space between Kim Gordon, Lydia Lunch and Karen O, Lunch Lady sound like they could have existed at any time within the last 40 years.
With a predilection for British 80s sounding phaser and delay effects on the guitar and bass, and great hooks to match, they create a restless mood from the start. Title track Angel kicks off the album in style with ghostly stop start guitar stabs by Juan Velasquez, motoric drumming by Robert Wolfe and a driving melodic bassline from Victor Herrera. The simple rhythmic shifts from Velasquez give the song great depth in the chorus.
Birke’s simple vocal melody gives direction to the tight choppy post punk stomp of Sweet One and Window, which could be dance floor fillers. Sister, with its lolloping guitar and bass parts is tied together by Wolfe’s disco drumming, before another fantastic vocal melody in the chorus that to these ears is an awful lot like Mamma Mia by Abba, repurposed for punks. Whether accidental or a knowing nod, it works.
Snakes begins with a slick and purposeful drumbeat, the guitar and bass meander and judder over the top, before sliding into another disco beat while Birke’s vocals drift through the song, dreamlike. It feels like the result of a few jam grooves tied together, in a similar vein to the excellent Dry Cleaning, without the deadpan delivery. My Dead Dog provides perhaps the most dramatic shift. There are two clear sections – the first is nervous and tightly wound like a spring being coiled, building up tension before the second part, an expansive release into slacker rock with a Lou Barlow style bassline.Pardon Me Miss is disco grunge, almost like a sped up Nirvana or Hole, Wolfe’s drums akin to a keyboard beat on full tempo, Birke’s drawl like Courtney Love without the snarl.
The pace continues on Dolores, which offers up some really surfy guitar, absolutely soaked in reverb to the point it seems almost as if the dry signal was completely taken out. The rumbling bassline complements this really well. Lyrically it’s the darkest song on the record, yet “They say he’d kill me in a heartbeat” is delivered in such gloriously blasé fashion.Just as we begin to feel breathless, Lunch Lady throw in the absolutely stunning Preacher Man, swapping the drums for a string section and hinting that there is a lot more to this band than they first let on. What better way to follow this than with a warped segue into the dirtiest and most aggressive track on the album (Young Bride) and a short instrumental (Dream Date).Despite the drama created by the band throughout, Birke’s dry, matter of fact delivery is a satisfying foil. With another singer they could have sounded quite aggressive.As the second half of the album allows for more variety in their approach it will be interesting to see how Lunch Lady develop from here.‘Angel’ is out now via Upset The Rhythm.
You may enjoy this if you like: Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Sonic Youth, Lydia Lunch, Les Savy Fav, The Vaselines, Dry Cleaning, POZI, Molar
Watch the video for ‘Window’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zOqEetpv3k4
Buy ‘Angel’ LP: http://upsettherhythm.bigcartel.com/product/lunch-lady-angel-lp-cd-pre-order-1
Swim Team – Home Time
So, Melbourne eh? Seriously, this city must be amazing. Is there anyone living there who isn’t in a fantastic band? Enter newcomers Swim Team who, whilst sharing many sensibilities of the aforementioned, offer something slightly different to the scene on their debut album. Their chiming lead guitars, vocal harmonies and simple melodies are at times reminiscent of The Vaselines or Young Marble Giants (“Grown Up” and “5AM 5PM”) and at others the naïve and very honest early works of Ben Lee (“Home Time” and “Are You Into Me”) but with the light touch and sparkle of Camera Obscura. There is another side to the band though, which they display on tracks like “Everyday Things”. It’s a little rougher around the edges and more playful, the lyrics a knowing complaint about first world problems. It’s a real cracker of a tune.“Forever and Ever” has an unusual vocal melody that almost doesn’t work with the backing track. It feels at various points like it is on the edge of wandering away from the song completely, cramming words into spaces they don’t logically fit. This could seem like a negative criticism but this is what makes the song endearing. It’s like Dot Wiggin of The Shaggs with The Smiths as a backing band.“Time and Sacrifice” opening on a drum beat, is perhaps the most inventively produced and written song here, introducing space, vocal delay effects and has a brilliant chorus “Taking its toll on me” the guitar playing at the same melody as the vocals to really satisfying effect. There is generally some really gorgeous guitar playing in this song, making time for a sweet solo. Lyrically it’s an introspective rumination on the effects of time and changes in life, which seems to be a running theme throughout the album.“New Year” carries on this lyrical sombre mood and, with it’s straight forward beat, prominent bassline and guitars absolutely drenched in reverb, is almost like a breezier indie pop Interpol. “5AM 5PM” brings the pace back up, like a slightly punky Vaselines. A nervous tension runs throughout accompanied with dark lyrics.“Glare” continues the pace, the vocals shared throughout with a vocal melody that at times recalls Sebadoh and at others (although this may seem a strange comparison) The Longpigs.“Black To Blonde” again pulls off the trick of the instrumentation and vocals playing the same tune in the chorus, drawing comparison to The Raincoats. When Swim Team embrace their punkier side they still retain a breeziness through the sweet reverb soaked guitars. They don’t really ramp up the distortion. Following track “Navigating Change” comes the closest to doing this. The speak-singing vocals also really put the Australian accent into the foreground, which provides a nice contrast. There’s a hint of Parquet Courts style whimsy on display.“Work Out Right” is a fine indie pop album closer with a melancholic reflection and deconstruction of a failing relationship, ending the album on a bitter-sweet tone.Swim Team veer between tongue in cheek, sardonic, serious and earnest, showing a depth of personality that not many bands manage. We look forward to hearing more from them.
You may enjoy this if you like: The Vaselines, Camera Obscura, The Raincoats, Belle and Sebastian, Parquet Courts
Listen here: https://swimteamhello.bandcamp.com/album/home-time
Parsnip – When The Tree Bears Fruit
Seriously, what is in the water in Melbourne? Parsnip are the latest fantastically bizarre band to come out of this quite incredible musical hub. An all-female four-piece with a whacky sense of humour, lots of silly, catchy hooks and childish vocals. It’s giddy, jangly and sweet, with simple arrangements. For a Ride is brilliant. The “Carrot Rope” wah guitar and keyboard vie for attention with the vocal melody, each one as silly as the other, the ploddy bass and Disco Not Disco drumming complete a hugely enjoyable opener.Lift Off is a more jangly affair with its lightly distorted rock n roll guitars, retro baseball ground organ sound, a sweet melody and great backing vocals. It’s super catchy and a total earworm – the sort of song you can start singing along to after only hearing the first verse and chorus. It’s infectious. They crank up the guitar with fuzz on the two paced Lighthouse Reaction, which shifts between an upbeat instrumental and a lilting chorus, with a great bassline that carries the dreamy keyboards.Sprouts is faintly ridiculous – cute and cartoonish. It feels like it was very much the result of a few ideas that were squashed together.Too late is a candyfloss fuelled ode to lost opportunities, with a middle eight that provides a joyous unpredictability.Parsnip sound like they are always having a lot of fun. They’re not too self-conscious to use obvious and commonly used rock n roll hooks, aligned with a melodic simplicity that gives you the feeling that you’ve heard these songs before. This is displayed throughout When the Tree Bears Fruit, particularly on Lift Off, Too Late and Rip Off.What absolutely sets Parsnip apart is the fantastic group vocals which lift everything up and add a nostalgic edge. At times it’s like a small school choir, only more competent. Soft Spot is perhaps the best example of this.There is a great playfulness in tracks like Lullaby and My Window, with stop start structures, odd syncopation and instruments that seems slightly out of tune. There are similarities to the cute lullabies of Dragibus and the sugar-high pop of Citrus. The song writing feels more ambitious in these later tracks and they add extra instruments like glockenspiel and saxophone to accentuate parts. They even play with some Smile-esque animal samples and percussion on Seafarer that emulates a horse clip-clopping all through the song until it ends with a short, slowed down reprise of the instrumental section of Lighthouse Reaction. This would be a fine ending to When The Tree Bears Fruit, but the band still have time for one more fabulously sweet song – Trip The Light Fantastic, which ties things up with a fittingly giggly ending.
Parsnip, on their debut album, have created a unique take on paisley pop that doesn’t feel out of place amongst their contemporaries.When The Tree Bears Fruit is out on 30th August 2019 via Trouble In Mind Records.
You may enjoy this if you like: Terry, Primo, Citrus, Dragibus
Listen and pre-order here:https://parsniphq.bandcamp.com/album/when-the-tree-bears-fruit
Dry Cleaning – Sweet Princess EP
Finally this EP is out again! We reviewed this in October 2018, loved it then and still love it now. London post-punks Dry Cleaning have surged in popularity in the intervening 10 months which has seen Sweet Princess being given a re-release.
This six track EP is an extremely assured debut; cutting, cynical lyrics with dry acerbic wit, bendy guitar lines and repetition, repetition, repetition.Florence Shaw’s vocals, for the most part, are more spoken than sung but timed to suggest there has been more thought put into the structure than to just ramble over the backing track. The lyrics are a cut up collage of Youtube comments, overheard conversations and newspaper articles bastardised to often hilarious effect. Vignettes of mundanity, bafflement and frustration. The live show often sparks laughter amongst the audience at the oddities Shaw has observed.This is simple, catchy, very confident and, at times, quite danceable – Magic of Meghan in particular, with its funky driving bassline from Lewis Maynard and one of many awesome guitar hooks by Tom Dowse. Nick Buxton’s drums throughout keep things simple. Solid and unfussy. Providing a tasteful and competent pulse at the heart of Sweet Princess.
Nothing lasts too long, the band have a good sense of space, which they demonstrate well in Traditional Fish. There’s something very old school about this but that’s not at all a bad thing.Some of the hooks and basslines really feel very familiar at the first time of hearing but given we could not place them, it’s just down to very good song writing. There are some real earworms amongst them.Our particular favourites are Good Night and New Job but this whole release is very strong. There’s not a duff track on it. It’s a really fine first release and we look forward to more from them which, we’ve heard, is not too far away.
Of course, you can also check out a live video and full interview with Dry Cleaning on our Youtube channel:https://youtu.be/yFE4LpluEP0https://youtu.be/62lE9qI9xZA
You may enjoy this if you like: The Fall, Sauna Youth, Ravioli Me Away, The Feelies
Listen and buy here: https://drycleaning.bandcamp.com/releases
This Heel – Heaven Is A Trap
From Malmo, Sweden, This Heel is seemingly the Lo-fi solo project of Martin Mansson Sjostrand, who has been steadily releasing Eps on Bandcamp over the last few years. These types of projects on Bandcamp can often be pretty ropey but Sjostrand has an ear for a strong pop hook and enough weird-headedness to make this five track EP an enjoyable listen.“Intermolecular Pash” is like a cross between Sebadoh and The Apples In Stereo. With some clever chord changes which might have made the song too fussy but the pop melody is strong enough to carry it off well. The lyrics are like the sort of utter nonsense that we heard from Beck circa 1994.Title track “Heaven Is A Trap” is a catchy lo-fi instrumental with peculiar electronic drums and duelling guitars, a little like something Agaskodo Teliverek might have come up with when they were mainly an instrumental two piece.“Problem On Earth” is a fine piece of power pop. The song at various points refers to the track’s title in a vocal melody that some could find annoying but there are some really nice passages in this song, with its chunky guitars and verses that would sit nicely on a Stephen Malkmus record.“Self-adhesive Snakes” takes us back to instrumental mode. It feels like it may have been something that might have been intended to have words that just never materialised. There are some nice hooks throughout.“Uncle Reptoid” finishes the EP. Another instrumental, and perhaps a tad unnecessary. A short vignette with one note keyboard wobbles and a very silly auto keyboard bassline. It’s very much the sound of someone dicking around.
All in all, this is worth checking out, particularly for “Intermolecular Pash” and “Problem On Earth” and has prompted us to check out a few of This Heel’s previous short releases which feature a few pop gems.
You may enjoy this if you like: Sebadoh, Beck, The Apples In Stereo, Stephen Malkmus, Agaskodo Teliverek
Grey Hairs – Health & Social Care
Grey Hairs, a dark post-punk four piece from Nottingham, return with their third album on Gringo Records. Health & Social Care is full of pulsating drums and bass, spikey guitars and pissed off vocals, instantly drawing comparison to The Jesus Lizard, The Birthday Party and Les Savy Fav. The Jesus Lizard influence is apparent throughout. They share the same kind of reverb heavy, yet spikey guitar sound of Duane Denison, particularly on the truly evil sounding motoric opener “Hydropona” and “Capable Man”.
Piss Transgressor blasts off from some nasty feedback with a monstrous riff intro and a great descending guitar and bass line. The verses have a McClusky-esque feel and they even make time for a short, ripping guitar solo. The drums, as they are throughout the album, are powerful but unfussy, driving a pulse right through the song.Ghost In Your Own Life, with it’s chantable “you and I, you and I, you and I” verses and heavy choruses has a similar rasping vocal power to Brighton favourites Lower Slaughter at points, and at others complement this with backing vocals that recall some of the best work of Les Savy Fav. Tail To Teeth also recalls some of the quieter work on Les Savy Fav’s “Let’s Stay Friends” with its high pitched singing and more expansive approach.Single “Tory Nurse” hinged on a sinister repeated chord line, with a quite/loud/quiet/loud approach, provides perhaps the most interesting vocal performance of the set, veering between Kevin Rowland wobbly yelps and Cedric Bixler-Zavala screams.Breathing In Breathing Out cuts between Birthday Party post-punk verses with a great lolloping bass line and delicate guitars, and huge post-hardcore choruses. Introducing keyboard twinkles at the end.
Kernels Of Eyes is perhaps the highlight here. It has an atmosphere and tension akin to the Birthday Party’s “Nick The Stripper”, crunching bass and guitar stabs that would have fit nicely on The Jesus Lizard’s “Goat” and vocals that channel David Yow.
Grey Hairs have put together a fine album. If you are a fan of the now defunct bands we have mentioned throughout this article Grey Hairs may be the band for you.
You may enjoy this if you like: The Jesus Lizard, Les Savy Fav, The Birthday Party, McClusky, Lower Slaughter, At The Drive-In, Fugazi
Health and Social Care is released on 2nd August.Order here:http://gringorecords.limitedrun.com/products/644466-grey-hairs-health-social-care
The Birthmarks – No Slash EP
The Birthmarks are back with the follow up to 2017’s Yawn/Sigh. Comprised of members of the Sex Hands, Irma Vep and Dom Jolly, we have been eagerly anticipating a new release. As with many releases on the ever-reliable Permanent Slump there is a peculiar monotony and slacker sound underpinning The Birthmarks’ music – like The Rebel with a predilection for 13th Floor Elevators. No Slash EP is packed with fantastically skewed lo-fi indie.
Single and opening track “Fan Fiction” has a brilliantly catchy guitar hook, a bouncing drumbeat and a great sense of fun and astute dynamic shifts. The Worm is a great piece of slacker indie, with drum rolls that sound like they’re about to fall apart, the delayed vocal melody like a dreamy Let’s Wrestle, wonderful wonky guitars and keyboards.“Dog Man’s” attention grabbing stop/start intro gives way to woozy jangle pop like the more straightforward moments of later Ariel Pink records. The bridge towards the end particularly features some rather gloriously wobbly keyboards that give a psychedelic edge to the clanging guitars and simple 4/4 drums.The second half of the EP is reserved for less orthodox moments. “The Mark”, a strange instrumental, pairs everything down to just distorting keyboards, crooked guitar strums and lead noodling. It’s the sort of interlude you might find on early records by the aforementioned Let’s Wrestle, Pavement, Blur or labelmates Life Drawings.“Fan Fiction Part 2” shares very little in common with its earlier namesake. Featuring spoken word vocals by Bryony Daweson, crashing drums, squealing saxophones, this slow, trippy freak out is a departure from the Birthmarks formula and an intriguing direction. Perhaps the most vibrant sounding track on the EP.“Walking Cringe” resumes and closes the standard songwriting. Another woozy track with a Kurt Vile or Real Estate sleepiness, Dylan Hughes returning to vocals that peak and distort satisfyingly alongside the guitars.Moving on from perhaps the most lo-fi sounding track on the album, “Fan Fiction TDA Remix” finishes it off as they started but sounds like it has been filtered through a Nintendo Entertainment System Soundcard. The remix brings a new edge to the song with the lyrics more audible and the whacky keyboards making it sound almost like Terry.There is something very retro about The Birthmarks’ music. It sounds like it could have been made any time in the last sixty years, we’re just glad it’s now.
You may enjoy this if you like:Ariel Pink, Terry, The Stroppies, The Shifters, Real Estate, 13th Floor Elevators, The Rebel.
Trash Kit, now split between London and Glasgow, are back with their third album after a five year gap, albeit a productive one filled with various other projects from this talented trio. Boasting two of the most prolific musicians in the UK, Rachel Aggs (Sacred Paws, Shopping) and Rachel Horwood (Bamboo, Halo Halo), Gill Partington also formerly of Halo Halo now completes the trio.The first we heard about this new record, Upset The Rhythm label boss Chris Tipton told us this would give Odyshape by the Raincoats a run for its money. Upon hearing this he’s not wrong.The three-piece continue to open up the instrumentation beyond what just three people can play live, introducing several extra layers, Nick Drake-like strings on Coasting, saxophone on the rangey instrumental Disco among others, delicate piano on Dislocate and Window. They retain the Soukous flecked guitar work, although this is paired down somewhat at times (but check out the new Sacred Paws album for that. It’s really sensational). Still, it’s very much in the foreground on the stunning, high-tempo Everyday Second, Disco, See through, title track Horizon and Get Out Of Bed.There is also slight shift toning down of the post-punky vocal influences that were evident on tracks like Boredom and Teeth on 2014’s ‘Confidence’.Generally Trash Kit sound like they have matured and have done so in an interesting way; there is a softer touch displayed in the guitarwork, the basslines are less aggressive and the rough punky edges have been sanded down somewhat, without anything sounding overly fussy. The production also really sparkles. This is Trash Kit in vivid high fidelity. You could say they’ve expanded their…horizons. Sorry.
There is inventive syncopation and rhythmical play across the album. The aforementioned Get Out Of Bed is slow building and gorgeous, with lush harp-like sounds and shimmering cymbals. The drums on the title track are a paradox – somehow both sparse and skittering. Frequently Gill Partington’s bass is what really pins things down allowing Horwood to explore the full drum kit and Aggs to shift the momentum with the guitar, whilst displaying a lightness and playfulness. The blasts of brass and vibraslap percussion are also a really nice touch.
See Through is, for us, the most impactful and striking track here. It has an almost late-Radiohead quality to the grooves in the verses before it releases the built-up tension with a frantic highlife guitar and bassline, the vocals retaining the punk aesthetic.
There is a cluster of vocally sophisticated tracks – particularly the airy bass led Sunset with its call and response and chanted ending and Traffic Lights which has a particularly delightful building vocal arrangement towards the end. The rhythm of the guitar work at times also makes you wonder how on earth Aggs plays and sings this live this live. There’s also a hint of a tasteful guitar solo!
Closer Window is the sort of song in which you can get lost in a moment of daydream – full of space, lyrics sung by both Rachels at ever so slightly different rhythms, with harmonies that cross each other’s paths. It’s the most reflective sounding track on the album. Having expanded their sound, where they go from here will be interesting.
This record deserves your full attention.
You may enjoy this if you like: Sacred Paws, Shopping, The Raincoats, Rozi Plain, Thomas Mapfumo, Kanda Bongo Man
Listen to the title track here: https://soundcloud.com/upset-the-rhythm/track-kit-horizon
‘Horizon’ will be released on Friday 5th July. Pre-order here: http://upsettherhythm.bigcartel.com/product/trash-kit-horizon-pre-order
Bamboo – Daughters Of The Sky
A sense of space and pop sensibilities sit harmoniously together on Bamboo’s third album. They have ramped up their ear for the dramatic but also created soundscapes that engulf the listener in their fantastical world.
Opening track Diamond Springs is stunning. Xylophone is syncopated with gentle synth stabs before 80s power drums and a classic synth hook push the song into pop mode. The synth work is intricate, using bizarre sounds that sound like vocals, somewhere along the lines of Yello.
Rachel Horwood introduces banjo and a simple melodic vocal line. There are eerie descending stabs that immediately drew us into David Bowie and Trevor Jones’s Labyrinth (soundtrack).Weeping Idols deserves be a huge pop hit, with its great hooks and chorus. This sees Bamboo play it straight more so than on any other song on the record. It channels Kate Bush through Naughty Boys era Yellow Magic Orchestra.
The title track Daughters Of The Sky is a slower building song, introducing beautifully arranged multi layered vocals with a constantly repeated motif.There is an Animal Collective-like feel to the song particularly in the last minute as the vocal melody shifts from drifty to more staccato and backing vocals become a haunting choir.Memories All At Once almost has a “Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence” atmosphere in the intro, the pitch shifted banjo and synths that dance around create gorgeous timbres. The drums are toned down and alongside the vocal melody in the chorus give the sense of a more ethereal Broadcast or Stereolab.
East Of The Sun : West Of The Moon is the 11 minute centre-piece. Drifting synths and lush harp sounds slowly give way to backwards strings before a folky banjo hook pulls the song into focus. There is a beautiful tension to this song. There is an almost medieval feel. A sound somewhere close to a harpsicord and percussive bells are even introduced. Nick Carlisle, following Rachel Horwood’s powerful performance, takes centre stage on vocals when the song winds down in the middle, the synths swirl and build before Horwood comes back in with the banjo hook and vocals.
There is also a playfulness with the synth sounds which is perhaps displayed best in The Deku Tree. It creates a feeling of being in nature with the various textures, later affirmed by what sounds like birdsong samples.A World Is Born with its dark 80s synth sounds, heavily gated drums and powerful synth strings brings things back into odd pop mode – complete with Dirty Projectors-like vocal melodies, with strange timing that works brilliantly.
The album is broken up by a few short instrumentals at well-timed points, namely Off World Colony, Under Larches and Tenebrae. Each track showcases a different side to the band. The first focusses mostly on synth soundscapes, the next on a repeated banjo hook, and the final track (almost like a heart monitor) lulls you back into the real world.
Try this if you like: Bas Jan, Kate Bush, Josephine Foster, Dirty Projectors, Yellow Magic Orchestra, late 70s and 80s David Bowie, Broadcast
Daughters Of The Sky will be released on 14th June via Upset The Rhythm.
We’re breaking our Soundcloud/Bandcamp only rule for this one.Black Midi are currently the hippest band in the UK. They have been a hot topic for a while now. Their previously elusive live appearances, unknown track names, and general lack of information around them or recordings created a mystique that led to a huge buzz.Their debut album Schlagenheim arrived this month on Rough Trade, accompanied by sold out shows around the UK and an extensive world tour.
Black Midi, for a band still in their teens, sound very mature at times, at others like they’re pulling everyone’s leg. This, along with the mood and sophistication of their music suggest they could be perhaps considered as this generation’s Slint. No small praise.There are elements of noise rock, post-rock, Krautrock, prog, jazz, synth pop and shoegaze mangled into their unpredictable and explosive sound.
Opening track 953 is brutal. Built on a frantic guitar part, a gnarled and twisted breakdown and riffing that pauses only for screeching feedback courtesy of Matt Kwasniewski-Kelvin, who frequently adds interesting textures throughout the album. This eventually gives way to space and subtlety when Geordie Greep’s rather unique vocal delivery, at times like a cartoonish David Byrne, introduces itself alongside an almost Jeff Buckley-esque sense of tension and atmosphere in the production, only coming from a weirder place. They then blast off, eventually using the intro as an outro but gradually slow it down.Black Midi at times revel in repetition, at others in chaos. Speedway is based around a repetitive chord, strange vocal effects, interesting wah guitar parts underneath, and superb glitchy drums. Elements akin to Tortoise or Cornelius.
Reggae must be named ironically. The, at times, almost drum and bassy expressive drumming of Morgan Simpson (a constant highlight), Greep’s bizarre vocals and the drama they create are the antithesis of Reggae.
Near DT, MI, one of the shortest and most pointed tracks on Schlagenheim, kicks off at 100mph. There’s a great sense of darkness and tension to this critique of the controversial change in water supply in Flint, Michigan. Cameron Picton’s vocals become increasingly erratic. The guitars, as the song crescendos sound so sharp they could almost decapitate you. The spikey evil akin to some of the truly gross sounds on Manic Street Preachers’ The Holy Bible.
Eight minute centrepiece Western is a moment of relative calm, yet this doesn’t permeate the whole eight minutes. It almost veers on 80s synth pop at points, with the bombast of Lift To Experience at others. Just when you think you know where it’s going it veers off somewhere else but is generally harnessed by a more expansive and less chaotic vision. It’s the closest they get to normality.
Of Schlagenheim opens with weird delayed guitars, the lyrics throughout almost indistinguishable. This features some of their most awesome, yet bizarre and wonky grooves. Greep’s Shrieking vocals and the multiple sections mark Black Midi out as probably the weirdest but most acceptable of prog bands. To complete perhaps the most satisfying segment of the album this segues into the unsettling and utterly brilliant first single bmbmbm, with its creepy effected samples of a woman ranting, the one note bass groove reminiscent of Shellac, spoken vocals and violent intersections that eventually reach the point of frenzy.
Years Ago featured bizarre slide guitars which hark back to the more lively latter stages of the Magic Band (think Doc At The Radar Station or Ice Cream for Crow era).Closer Ducter brings back the simple repetition with its Don Cabellero style guitar loops before dropping into a very Slint-like build up (think Don, Aman from Spiderland and you’re pretty close). Geordie Greep’s powerful voice soars into shouting jibberish before everything explodes and crashes back to earth, where we started. A warped vocal effect flips things back into gear, the band’s last display of their raw power.
Black Midi are truly unique and Schlagenheim, whilst perhaps not completely accessible to all, deserves the attention it has garnered. If this isn’t right at the top of a lot of end of year lists we’ll be very surprised.
You may enjoy this if you like: Don Cabellero, Slint, Shellac, Stump, James Chance, Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band
Check out a performance of some of the album here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TMn1UuEIVvA
Boogarins – Sombrou Dúvida
Brazilian psychedelic band Boogarins have really taken off in the last couple of years. Currently in the middle of a long world tour, which sees them come back to the UK this July, they now have a new album to back this up and it’s quite something. Carrying on in the same vein as on previous releases, it is hard to get away from the comparisons to tropicalia bands like Os Mutantes and modern psychedelic music like Animal Collective but Boogarins’ sound is very much their own.Opening track As Chances is a woozy psych pop song with pitch shifting guitars, echoing vocals and warbling effects all over it. Amost title track Sombra Ou Dúvida introduces glitchy electronics, stop start beats throughout and adds bass synth into the mix. Invenção is all dreamy effects and skittering drums pinned down by a bouncing synth bass line that wouldn’t be out of place on the Flaming Lips’ Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots, while the vocal melody could be mistaken for Os Mutantes.Dislexia ou Transe is somewhere between REM and Radiohead, with the guitar sounding almost like a mandolin and the Raphael Vaz’s bassline sounding very much Colin Greenwood-like.A Tradição has a Super Furry Animals quality to it, in both production and song writing. It would fit nicely on Rings Around The World. Nós is beautiful, with a structure and vocal melody straight out of the Shugo Tokumaru school of writing, only there are more tripped out textures. Tardança has probably the biggest pop hook in the chorus, whilst keeping the lyrics very minimal. Desandar has a satisfying sway with noodley guitars and another satisfying bassline. Te Quero Longe drifts for the most part, pleasant without perhaps being quite so essential as the rest of the songs here. Passeio closes the set with another downtempo track which becomes layers on the effects as it continues, ending the album on almost a sigh.Although the final two tracks slightly lose the momentum, there is a lot to love about this record; the use of effects on pretty much every component and the fantastic production do not come at the expense of their song writing. This is one of the best psychedelic pop albums we’ve heard in a long time.
Try this if you like: Radiohead, The Flaming Lips, Shugo Tokumaru, Super Furry Animals, Os Mutantes, Palm, Animal Collective
Comfort, from Glasgow, return with the follow up to their “Built To Waste” LP (2017).
Their sound is like a more percussive, minimal and electronic Future of the Left (by way of the vocal stylings) or a more aggressive Sleaford Mods but they have really pushed on with the electronics here. Tracks like Calm Of The Crowd and Husbands offer up atonal glitching synths to accompany the motoric drums. Together is a straight up banger – just drums and vocals. Work Through Fault is the closest they come to a synth pop tune, yet still it introduces some of the nastiest sounds on the album towards the end.
Better Need Assumptions closes on eery pitch-bent synth sounds, offering up a slightly different atmosphere, which is welcome as the repetition throughout is quite intense.
The politics of this record are very “now” – dealing with the challenges faced when not conforming to gender in a world that is slowly waking up and learning, yet has a long way to go.The lyrics are poetic, the message is powerful. This album feels pretty vital.
You may enjoy this if you like: Future Of The Left, Sleaford Mods
Dead Arms – Simply Dead
Dead Arms, from London (also via Kent and California), have just released their first album since 2015’s excellent “All The Hits” and it’s a powerful aural assault. Full of shout-along choruses with pissed off delayed vocals a la David Yow, pulsating drums and vicious guitars. This is a relentlessly fast-paced set of ten songs.
They take aim at Nigel Farage (Grandad Hates You), corporate media (Biased Broadcasting Corporation), Hollywood (Tom Hanks), the nostalgia circuit (MacKaye Convention), and the chaos and damage of Brexit (Deceptive Carafe).
There is an anger and anxiety that runs through the album. Every song is no-nonsense, with no part lasting too long and great dynamics – the shifting power in the guitar work in Apocalypse Yow, the chugging harmonic section of Biased Broadcasting Corporation into the almost Motorhead-esque verses. The driving bassline, great drum beat and angular guitarwork on Tom Hanks have a real Jesus Lizard-like quality.This is a great hardcore album.
You may like this if you like: The Men, Fucked Up, Anxiety, The Jesus Lizard, At The Drive-In, Lower Slaughter
Junmin Cho – Musical Odyssey
Junmin Cho is a modern classical composer from Seoul, South Korea. This four track EP, conceptualised in 2014, is fascinating. With bizarre synth sounds, effected opera singing, occasionally almost veering into jazz, these sparse compositions phase between the speakers, coming to life in surprising ways throughout.
The EP begins with a lulling jazzy piece (Sea Waves), centred around the sound of waves and a creaking ship. There is a wonderful tension in this piece despite the relaxing wave samples.Air introduces standard percussion from the start, cutting in and out and slowly building. It’s almost like something from Tortoise’s Standards album.
This collection is at times unsettling, particularly third track Scent which has large chunks of silence, rapid stereo phasing and a slow build, before it segues into an engine-like loop.Lights brings in dripping water sounds which delay and decay to crescendo.
You may enjoy this if you like: Stockhausen, Tortoise, Steve Reich
Of Bits & Pieces – Of Bits & Pieces Vol. 1
A bizarre and highly rewarding compilation out of Leipzig Germany, consisting of a large group of friends spontaneously exchanging ideas, instigated by Leo Marchand of the band The Staches. Mostly recorded in one night, giving this album it’s air of spontaneity, some members had never had musical experience before and others went on to become bands (such as the excellent AKU) off the back of this.
This spans strange Hip Hop (Bicuitz, Rottweiller, Ganache and Fant Mes), Hardcore Punk (He Just Wanted To Paint and Who You Gonna Call?), No Wave (Watching TV and Rainbowroad), Post Punk (This Makes My Day, There’s a Hole, Dreams Of Getting Hit By A Car and Do The Exist) and Ambient Electronica (Aquatic Hunting Day).
There’s a real joie de vivre throughout the music and lyrics on this compilation and a real collective spirit evident in no one being credited as individual bands or artists. Sung in parts in English and in others in French, this is an international affair that feels very inclusive in a time where so much is being done to attempt to divide us.
It’s like a great mixtape that no one had to compile.
You may enjoy this if you like: erm… really fun compilations!
Sunlotus – This Old House
Sunlotus is a shoegaze threepiece from Java, Indonesia.Reading their bio on Bandcamp they site 90s grunge and shoegaze bands – in particular Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Jesu, My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive – as their influences and, from the evidence of these songs, they certainly wear these influences on their sleeves. Picturesque is a slow wall of sound that builds before slowing down even more. The guitars swirl, the drums are kept simple, the vocals are drenched in reverb. The main guitar melody almost has a Mansun-esque quality to it, only this is masked by the dreamy effects.
The Pillars Beneath My Feet reveals the Nirvana influence perhaps the most, with its moody atmosphere, and heavy intro riff – yet the dreamy approach remains.
Sunroof Shelter (This Old House), the longest track on the album, serves as the centrepiece. Mixing lilting vocal melodies with one phasing, almost white noise, guitar, whilst the other picks out a chiming melody, the drums giving an almost power pop quality to the song, before everything breaks down into beautiful feedback.
Heatstroke is the most lively effort here, veering from thrashy grunge into MBV-esque sections, whilst all the while absolutely filling every last bit of space. They also play with a quick flange effect on the vocals, which works well. The track ends on more lovely feedback and percussive guitar clangs.
A Step Away Further has a huge sound, akin to Explosions In The Sky, and tons of space to let things breathe. It’s gorgeous.
Perseverance closes the set, introducing samples, seriously fuzzed out peaking and looping guitars, offering up a more abstract piece which is absolutely punishing to your speakers!
All in all, although they don’t offer up anything particularly ground-breaking, Sunlotus have excellent tunes and this album really feels like a nicely rounded collection. We’re told by the label HEMA that a vinyl release is also on the cards, so watch out for that.
You may enjoy this if you like: My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, Explosions In The Sky
POZI are a brilliant and bizarre Post-Punk band from London. Four words to describe them? Well, in their words… “Smash”, “Visceral”, “Sparse” and… “Drenched” (whatever that means!).
They are big favourites of Marc Riley at the moment, and it’s easy to see why.
Political without always sounding particularly angry, their lyrics are very much on point – taking digs at the KCTMO over Grenfell Tower (KCTMO), reflecting on mobile phone addiction in the form of a love song (Engaged), seeing friends in hospital (Watching You Suffer), the loneliness of Christmas (Noel) and the happenings in the dark, seedy corners of London (Doggers).
“Watching You Suffer”, “Yia” and the wonderfully catchy “Ash Can” are the closest thing they get to outright punk, lying somewhere between Wire and The Fall in approach – their unusual set up of bass, drums, violin and eerie effected vocals producing a really refreshing take on the genre.
There are elements of Television Personalities style melodies evident (KCTMO and Engaged).
“Noel” is the centrepiece here, sitting comfortably in the middle of the album. The strings, vocal effects and almost operatic backing by Rosa Brook result in a woozy lulling track which provides a perfect breather to the frenetic nervous energy running throughout the rest of the record.
“Diggers” has a simple fun bassline, plucked violins and junk percussion. You cannot help but smile as soon as you hear it.
“Doggers” and “Roulette Wheels” introduce eerie bass synth sounds, dark lyrics and vocal effects akin to Trans Am.
They even channel Black Star era David Bowie on “Sound The Alarm” and “Noel”. You could at times mistake Toby Burroughs’ vocals for the Thin White Duke.
There’s an awful lot to love here. Keeping it simple has never sounded so unique.
You may enjoy this if you like: Television Personalities, Wire, Trans Am, David Bowie
Listen here: https://poziband.bandcamp.com/album/pz1
Rozi Plain, previously of Bristol, now of London is another fantastic artist on the Lost Map label. Unique of voice, her musical approach marries subtle layers to sometimes stunning effect. Opener “Inner Circle” is the sort of song that could just as easily end the album – a slow, drifting, light and jazzy arrangement, built around a revolving guitar line.
There are moments where there may be an Animal Collective influence – the backing vocals of “Swing Shut” and “The Gap” certainly have a Sung Tongs quality.
There’s a sense that Rozi Plain revels in wordplay. The lyrics have a satisfying mouth feel. First single “Symmetrical” is a good example of this. Musically it has a sparsely syncopated approach akin to Sam Prekop of The Sea And Cake. “Conditions” expands upon this approach, layering elements to a gorgeous climax. “Dark Park” has elements of Broadcast, the wavering synths and minimal bass line, accompanied by more beautiful airy synths in brilliant bursts in 3/4 over the 4/4 rhythm. “Trouble” is like a more relaxed Palm in its playful rhythms and light touches. “Quiz” and “When There Is No Sun” are drifting dreamscapes that close the album beautifully, the latter introducing fuzzed out guitars which feed back but do not dominate or disturb the mix.
This whole album really sparkles. It’s comforting, like fresh bed sheets… or… something. An absolute pleasure to listen to.
You may enjoy this if you like: Broadcast, Sam Prekop, Animal Collective, This Is The Kit, BAS JAN, Jim O’Rourke
Listen here: https://roziplain.bandcamp.com/
Witching Waves third album “Persistence” has a harder, more urgent edge than either of their previous efforts. They are a hard-working band that constantly seems to progress. The title really seems to encapsulate everything about them. There is a feeling of great frustration and anxiety coursing through this record. They’ve evolved from something almost like the Vaselines into a much more aggressive beast, somewhere between contemporaries Sauna Youth and Blood Red Shoes.
Opening track “Disintegration” is full on punk – absolutely racing out of the blocks. It really sets the tone and there is almost no let up in the energy with which Witching Waves (try saying that three times really fast) approach each track.
“Best of Me” is brilliant. Emma Wigham (also on drums) taking the verse vocals, Mark Jasper (on guitar) singing the choruses. This, in parts, sounds like early Dinosaur Jr.
“Eye 2 Eye” is a catchy nod to divisions in families, likely over Brexit, although this is not explicitly stated.”Hoax” is a sure-fire live shout-along, particularly Wigham’s fantastic phrasing of “I can’t can’t can’t can’t can’t can’t shake shake shake shake shake this feeling”. Estelle Adeyeri, also of Big Joanie, provides a great propulsive bassline (and does so throughout the album) while Jasper puts in arguably his most impressive guitar turn on this track, with several fantastic hooks and a great solo.
“Shipping Container”, the longest track here, starts off much in the same vain as the rest of the album then absolutely sky rockets with an excellent instrumental crescendo.”Melt It Down”, whether or not accidentally, recalls Envelopes’ “Sister In Love” in the rhythm of its vocal chorus line, although that’s really where the comparison ends. This is far more aggressive and pissed off. “Money” has some deliciously fuzzed up guitars, “Underachiever” is a spiky stand-out, which is perhaps the closest the band get to The Vaselines on this record. “I think I’m onto something good” the repeated refrain and we certainly agree.
Every moment of this record feels absolutely vital; Witching Waves playing like their lives depend on it.
You may enjoy this if you like: Blood Red Shoes, The Vaselines, Dinosaur Jr, Sauna Youth
Listen here: https://witchingwaves.bandcamp.com/album/persistence
We’ve been excitedly waiting for this EP for the last year. Molejoy are a No-Wave Punk three piece from London. All taking on vocal duties at various points, with spiky guitar parts (Giles Bunch), great bass lines (Sophie Chapman) and fairly minimalist drums (Kerri Jefferis), they have a lot in common with the likes of Numbers and Erase Errata. In their more freeform moments there are also hints of the Magic Band.
The name suits the band perfectly. Anyone who has seen Molejoy live would agree they are extremely entertaining. It’s rare to see a band that look like they are having such a great time. Mistakes are laughed off; all three members frequently beaming from ear to ear. They mix a serious social message into their often-disjointed minimalist fun but carry it off with a sense of humour. Their sense of fun is also perfectly translated across to their recorded output on I Hate It But It’s Free.
Opener 9 to 5 is a cover of Dolly Parton’s classic, but not as anyone will have heard it before. It is a three minute onslaught of raucous guitars, frantic vocals from Bunch and disco not disco drums. It all collapses for the last minute, becoming slow and disparate.Oooo grooves really nicely, with a fantastic matching guitar and bass hook. It’s super catchy and lyrically bizarre – seemingly revelling in the monotony of day to day life. The chorus, as it were, being as the title suggests.
Microwave is perhaps where Molejoy most sound like the aforementioned Numbers – the super minimalist bass line, sparse revolving guitar line and minimalist, almost marching, drums. The effect, which we’re sure is deliberate, is very much like turning on the microwave, stopping it, checking to see if the food is ready, turning it on again and repeating the process. The difference is, this is actually fun. At times it feels like it is all about to fall apart. Seemingly instructing someone on how to prepare a microwave meal, the lyrics also serving as a metaphor for a personal relationship.One of the great things about this EP is the amount of ideas the band crams into it. The rhythms are simple but the structures are so playful.MAMMA is a brilliant example of this. All built around Chapman’s repeated vocal line “mamma sexy mamma cool girl”. There is something akin to The Rapture’s early work – the guitar playing drawn out (but also somehow spiky) chord strums, the bass rumbling along with it, the drums also sparse. Once the vocals chime in the guitar and bass stop and Chapman and Bunch begin double-time clapping. At the same time Jefferis moves from the toms to the snare which really shifts the rhythm fantastically.
Radicalise is probably the highlight of the set, all three members joining in on the chorus with a line each. There is almost a Sonic Youth quality (think of some of the early Kim Gordon numbers) to this song; the lyrics are cutting and, at times, hilarious. The concept being wanting to take away a middle-class centrist’s children and, well… radicalise them.The guitars are wonderfully scratchy, angular and messy, yet well-formed. The melodic bassline complements this shifting between semi-tones, the drums simple but perfect. A punk anthem.
Closing track Body is a pounding, almost tribal, shout-a-thon. What is interesting about this track (and this could also be said for Microwave and MAMMA) is that the idea is the song. What we mean by this is there is no traditional structure. It doesn’t particularly build to anything, but it doesn’t need to. These songs are almost performance art pieces, vignettes.Recent live performances have seen the band piece things like this together into almost some kind of minimalist prog, so we look forward to hearing that on record! All in all, this is 15 minutes of great fun from start to finish and leaves us wanting more. So why not give it another spin?
You may enjoy this if you like: Erase Errata, Numbers, Captain Beefheart, Le Tigre
Garden Centre, from Brighton, have been on the Beats To The Bar radar for a while. Having released a new EP this month, we have a good excuse to write about them.
A lo-fi and playful group, this type of thing is in abundance on bandcamp, however none of it is really as interesting or worthwhile as this. These songs do not sound like sketches or demos, despite their lo-fi nature. They sound like they are supposed to be as they are.
Singer Max Levy has what can only be described as a unique voice.Now, this might be the deciding factor for some as to whether they like this music, but for us, it gives it a point of interest; it’s high pitched, cartoonish, warped by what we are assuming is a tape four track and some fairly budget equipment (which works well, although sometimes makes the lyrics a little difficult to make out).
Similar in some ways to Daniel Johnston, Jad Fair, Joanna Newsom or Avi Buffalo or a helium filled Avey Tare, Levy’s vocals are constantly on the verge of cracking. There is a reasonably sophisticated folksiness and a group dynamic that perhaps pushes this in the direction of the Danielson Family, without the religious edge.
Folds in the Washing begins sounding like an ode to the washing basket but becomes lyrically darker, suggesting a toxic relationship, with casio keyboard solos intersecting.
Clean is a one minute interlude of weird keyboard and recorder chirps, pinging from left to right.A Fan of the Body is an upbeat catchy number, documenting the experience of playing a gig, fans quickly becoming disinterested, clocking in at under 2 minutes. It’s good fun.Westland then interjects with more keyboard noodling.
Long Grass brings the tempo down again, backed by strange phasing percussion, distorted keys and fluttering recorders. There are some great textures here.There are some nice ideas packed into the six tracks, although they average at an easily consumable 9 minutes all in all. Well thumbed, the title track, lyrically focussed on a belt (as far as we can tell), is quite beautiful.Limited to just 10 copies on tape, this is already sold out in physical format, but is digitally available.
You may enjoy this if you like: Daniel Johnston, Half Japanese, Joanna Newsom, Danielson Family
We spotted this some time ago and it has been on our long list of albums to review, having not full listened to it. Having done so now, we have some regrets in not having given this our full attention sooner.
Mid-Air Thief, from Korea, are seemingly something of an anomaly in a sea of K-Pop, uncovering a more underground and avant-garde culture that we’ve found a challenge to discover. There are still some of the powerful synthesized sounds we are used to hearing but there is an airy subtlety to what they do, yet it’s glitchy and immediate too.
Take the breathy vocal stylings on Animal Collective’s fabulous Prospect Hummer EP, the folky electronica of The Books or perhaps Four Tet, and the quirky glitches and synth squelches and indie pop sensibilities of Cornelius and you are somewhere in the right ballpark.
Opener 왜? (Why?) segues from lush folksy dream pop into a cartoonish electronic section, before the two elements combine. It’s brilliant.
Unlike a lot of chill-wave (shudder) style music, Mid-Air Thief stays on point.쇠사슬 (Ahhhh, These Chains!) breezes along on a stunning melody, with pitch shifting synth sounds, shimmering guitars and a subtle playfulness that really could be Shugo Tokumaru. The sound production is fascinating with bit crushed and watery sounds merging and phasing. Even making time for a stop-start guitar section.감은 듯 (Gameun Deut) is full of interesting textures, guitars that sound like they have been recorded on scratched vinyl, bursts of indiepop, shifting phases, glockenspiels and oscillating synths. It’s almost fitting of the Beach Boys’ Smile at points, with several sections, a psychedelic edge and returning phrases.
곡선과 투과광 (Curve and Light) takes off like a dance track, shifts the focus onto calypso pop, then introduces woozy keyboard parts before breaking down into a reflective vocal. More strange keyboards and skittering percussion then accompany and build to a climax before it all fades out.
함께 무너지기 (Crumbling Together) is the album’s magnum opus. A slow building folk song, that builds into a phasing, Panda Bear-esque, swirling section that picks up pace, introduces Beatles style backwards strings and shifts in and out of clarity.
수호자 (Protector) introduces some really dirty bass production when it gets going, as well as Shugo Tokumaru style syncopation, and more fabulous string parts. It’s gorgeous.
흙 (Dirt) really ramps up some of the pitch bending, to the point that it shouldn’t really work, but it does, oh so well. It almost sounds like A Moon Shaped Pool era Radiohead in some of it’s more instrumental sections.The vocal melodies are like Brian Wilson at his most creative, and we don’t say this lightly.Closing track 무소식 (No Answer), also the shortest track on the album, is perhaps the most straight forward song here, but provides a fitting ending.
The obvious and cliched thing to say here is that this is Korea’s answer to OK Computer, but we won’t, even though we just did.This is a masterpiece and deserves a full international release.
You may enjoy this if you like: Animal Collective, Panda Bear, Shugo Tokumaru, Cornelius, Radiohead, Four Tet, The Books, The Album Leaf.
Listen here: https://midairthief.bandcamp.com/releases
There truly must be something in the water in Australia at the moment. The sheer glut of great bands coming out of Melbourne and Brisbane, in particular, right now is astonishing and we’re playing catch up with discovering them.It’s like a music version of Pokemon Go (could there be an app in that? If so, it’s our idea alright?).
We’ve already caught a Terry, a Primo, a Stroppies, a Sydney 2000, a Goon Sax and now there’s a Shifters hiding under a desk in the British Library.
(Enough childish and outdated referencing already!)
The most obvious comparison to make with The Shifters, upon first listen, is that they are, at times, very much like an Australian version of The Fall.
They often share similar tropes; simplistic, catchy repetitive music providing the perfect complement to the outspoken vocals of the front man.
Of course, the great thing is, due to singing in his own accent, Miles Jansen brings his own character to the table. The choice of keyboard sounds are interesting and it comes as no surprise that this was produced by a member of Terry.
Album opener Molasses is a prime example of this. Work/Life, Gym Etc is pure Fall. The bouncing beat, the chanted chorus, the lyrical celebration of monotony all totally wired.
John Doe’s Colleague shows a different side to the band. The repetition remains but there is a drop in pace, a group vocal, a delivery that recalls the comedic approach of Mclusky (without the Shellac-isms).
Carlisle has a bouncy rhythm, and a sense of fun that could be mistaken for Terry.
Medieval Kicks is really silly. Short sections with comedic gaps, a catchy tune and daft lyrics. It’s great fun.Pyramid Scheme has a similar feel. A strange structure that places it somewhere between Duds and The Fall. Straight Lines is straight out of 1978. It has a Buzzcocks or Jilted John type melody that gets lodged in your head.Boer Hymn starts as it doesn’t mean to go on, with a doubled up guitar part, which then picks up pace and again almost feels like a softer Mclusky. It feels almost like a sketch as it seems to end before it really gets going.How Long? is a garage pop nugget that precedes the final track Andrew Bolt, which begins with a revolving keyboard drone, before hitting the 90s slacker button, recalling some of the more “normal” material produced by the Butthole Surfers. It also delivers the most expressive vocal performance of the set and a wonderfully shonky guitar solo.
You may enjoy this if you like: The Fall, Mclusky, Duds, Pavement, Terry.
Listen here: https://theshiftersofmelbourne.bandcamp.com/album/have-a-cunning-plan
Landlords, the new single from The Cool Greenhouse, seemingly a solo artist from London, is a dry humoured rant about terrible landlords who would do anything to deflect responsibility for the upkeep of their property – ignoring phone calls, claiming the issues are for the council to deal with. They have “KILL ALL SCROUNGERS” as a number plate, when they are leeching money off hardworking people themselves. The caller then attempting to call the council who do very little to help – given it is not their problem to deal with. The delivery is deadpan, like James Murphy or Mark E Smith, which it is fairly safe to say this is heavily influenced by. This is all set to a two note bassline, jarring guitar stabs and an electronic drum beat, the minimalism of which reminds us of Prinzhorn Dance School and Stump.
4Chan, a comment on people trolling on message boards, is much in the same vain. The music again prides itself on monotony, similar to cult Brighton band The Pheromoans. It introduces static feedback, wonky guitars and a lo-fi keyboard beat. The vocal delivery is more sparse than on Landlords. An enjoyable single then, and what’s more, 50p from each digital release goes to the London Renters Union. Putting their money where their mouth is.
You may enjoy this if you like: The Fall, LCD Soundsystem, The Pheromoans, Prinzhorn Dance School, Stump
Listen here: https://thecoolgreenhouse.bandcamp.com/
Good Sense is the first single from Hash Redactor’s (featuring members of Ex-Cult and NOTS) debut album Drecksound. From Memphis Tennessee, but you might not guess this at first given there is a distinct lack of the blues here. A sleazy post punk tune with wonderfully simple fuzzy bass line, trashy drums, washy – almost surfy – guitars and distorted vocals that perhaps recall The Birthday Party or The Jesus Lizard, ending as it should with a healthy dose of feedback. A fine introduction then and we look forward to hearing the album, to be released on 26th April via Upset The Rhythm.
You may enjoy this if you like: The Jesus Lizard, The Birthday Party, The Rebel
Listen here: https://soundcloud.com/upset-the-rhythm/hash-redactor-good-sense
The Stroppies – Whoosh
It’s finally here! We’ve been looking forward to this release since the excellent Maddest Moments/Architectural Charades single dropped back in May. The Stroppies, from Melbourne, are at the forefront of an Australian indie scene that is currently booming and has produced some quite fantastic albums over the last couple of years. “Nothing at all” is a lively opener, beginning with handclaps before kicking into a Pastels-esque groove. The incidental guitar parts in between verses give the song a classic The Cure feel.
Present Tense, perhaps our favourite track on the record, opens on a very 90s slacker bassline, the song has an oddball stop start quality, at times worthy of The Shaggs (only more musically competent!). There is some wonderful interplay between the musicians, sometimes reminiscent of Pavement, even ending with a strange keyboard interlude, a la J vs. S or the beginning segment of We Are Underused. Although sharing musical similarities to Pavement, The Pastels and The Cure, the vocals do not quite have the same impact as the aforementioned. Not that this is a bad thing, it just means there is less sense of there being a leader. They are more subtle.
Think along the lines of Real Estate and you will not be too far off. Amidst all the wonk there are moments of genuine beauty here – My Style, My Substance, in particular, is gorgeous. Pen Name is, for the most part a simple Velvet Underground style three chord ditty, broken up by little guitar runs and what sounds like a bottle smashing half way through. Cellophane Car introduces Jonathan Richman style organ chords and sprightly beat in the vain of Roadrunner. Clocking in at over 5 minutes they seem to know this song is a joy. Better than Before echoes Belle and Sebastian, before they started messing with the formula that made them great. Entropy ramps up the keyboards, before Switched On closes in the same vain as the album started.
There really is a lot to love here.
You may enjoy this if you like: Pavement, The Pastels, Primo, Real Estate, Jonathan Richman, Belle and Sebastian
Listen here: https://thestroppies.bandcamp.com/
Vital Idles released a fine album in last years Left Hand. Compared to Life Without Buildings ad nauseam (although we understand why), and misunderstood by some, they offer much more than that. This four track ep sees Vital Idles continue along the same themes as on Left Hand but they have upped their game. Opening track Break A would have fit comfortably on the aforementioned album and would have served as a highlight on there. The track revolves around an infectious Alex James style bass line and straight 4/4 drums, the guitar stabs, scrapes and wonky hooks offering the main source of instrumental variation. Jessica Higgins’ vocals are fantastic. She has honed her style – well placed yelps adding great character.
Seconds has an almost slacker edge to it, dropping the pace a notch, introducing some wonderful slide guitar touches half way through. It’s Pavement-esque, but again, the vocals set this apart. Like those of Stephen Malkmus the lyrics throughout are descriptive of something, but require thought to understand.Rustle Rustle kicks things up a notch, a punky three note progression and a spiky almost guitar solo played with venom. Higgins’ repeated yelps almost serving as a chorus.Careful Extracts, the final track, carries on the punk momentum whilst also offering the most musical variation. It begins frantically with three distinct chord patterns before shifting pace after 50 seconds and settling on a darker progression which builds to a climax and sharp ending. This is perhaps the most adventurous track of the four. Eps don’t usually feel this, well, vital.
You may enjoy this if you like: Dry Cleaning, Pavement, Life Without Buildings, The Raincoats
Listen here: https://vitalidles.bandcamp.com/album/ep
When we think of Norwegian music, the first thing that springs to mind is punishing doomy metal (eg Noxagt).Pom Poko, from Oslo, are different. They are also the flavour of the month with Marc Riley, which is always a decent stamp of approval and has made this album much anticipated. They have a huge sense of fun and playfulness about them which inevitably makes them comparable to bands like Palm, Battles and Deerhoof, so much so, that in some musical passages you could mistake them for Deerhoof, although the singer could at times be mistaken for Joanna Newsom and at others The Cardigans’ Nina Persson.Opener Theme #1 is a curious number that begins with the repeated phrase “sublime, sufficient” amidst a steady beat and guitar pings, scrapes and various cartoonish noises before launching into a frantic, twisting guitar lead section which wouldn’t be misplaced on an At The Drive-In record, before launching into another section that gives the first glimpse of some Deerhoof influence.What strikes us about this band is they are so bold. They are not afraid to use effects at all, with guitars phasing, pitchshifting and fuzzing out. The production is powerful, with everything upfront, which perhaps belies the band’s subtlety at times but makes for a frantic and fun listen.Highlights here, for us, are the bonkers My Blood and Crazy Energy Night and the beautiful (and most subtle track) Honey and the rhythmically brilliant Milk Trust. The only slight misstep for us is My Work Is Full Of Art which, to be fair, brings out a different side of the band with a rather big pop anthem chorus. This will no doubt be their hit now we’ve said this!
You may enjoy this if you like: Deerhoof, Battles, Palm, Stereolab, Joanna Newsom.
Listen here: https://pompoko.bandcamp.com/album/birthday
We also missed this when it appeared on Bandcamp in July 2018. The bizarrely named “(and difficult to find possibly due to trademark infringements) Sydney 2000 are a weirdo punk band from Brisbane (of course), much in the vain of Stump or Captain Beefheart and The Butthole Surfers.Yet another product of a burgeoning Australian scene that has recently given us the likes of Terry and Primo.
There are a lot of strange rhythms going on, strained yelped vocals that aren’t at all self-conscious. One Million Babies almost sounds like a collaboration between the Butthole Surfers and Modest Mouse (before they discovered disco beats). Dustice has a Dinosaur Jr-esque chorus, Checkininon a frantic piece of psychobilly. Fans of weird punk, most likely influenced by psychedelics (or other bands that were) will love this. It’s all just pretty great fun. Someone get this band to the UK!
You may enjoy this if you like: The Butthole Surfers, Stump, Modest Mouse, Captain Beefheart, Boredoms
Listen here: https://tropicalcancerrort.bandcamp.com/album/tape-2
Dom Jolly, named after early noughties TV “funnyman” Dom Joly, are a DIY supergroup from Glasgow featuring members of Sacred Paws and The Birthmarks. This four track ep is a barking, four note riffing joy – sitting somewhere between hardcore punk and stoner metal.Opener Giant is all raw power, repeating the same riff over and over. The vocals the only thing that shifts until around half way through when the guitars start squealing before they break things down. The pattern of the song set from here.Love is a blistering 3 and a half minute piece of hardcore punk with metal undertones. It appeared recently on Youtube, the video featuring clips from the TV program Trigger Happy TV. The lyrics “I don’t want to be in love” are pretty much the only words here. The song is super catchy and dumb, the vocals are viceral, the chorus a stutter.OOO is perhaps our favourite track here. It has a constant drum beat and bass line and some of the most hideous guitar playing we have ever heard, before the whole thing drops into a doom metal outro.Upside Down Cross is a cover, we assume of the band of the same name. A pretty awesome stoner riff fest. This EP is ridiculous and enjoyable from start to end and we love it.
You may enjoy this if you like: The Melvins, Butthole Surfers, Shit and Shine
Listen here. We think you’ll agree it’s competitively priced:https://domjolly.bandcamp.com/album/dom-jolly
We had to wait a little before sitting down to review this. Give it time to breathe.Having done so, this debut album from Guttersnipe is the pure musical embodiment of insanity and violence. It’s like all the craziest parts of Mr Bungle or Boredoms with the intensity of Lightning Bolt. Some might call it a mess but to us it is kind of glorious. The drums sound like they are falling down the steps to Al-Deir, crashing off the rocks on either side, the twin vocals are a fit of hardly discernible visceral (and pained) screams, the guitars and keyboards screech, stab and fizz in every possible direction. This is definitely not something you put on in the background. It begs either for your attention or to be turned off.
To review one track is kind of to review them all, such is the consistency of their approach, so simply put: My Mother The Vent sounds like an intense nightmare for the most part, only winding down in the closing stages of the final track. There is ultimate freedom in Guttersnipe’s music – self-consciousness abandoned, instincts trusted.
Guttersnipe from Leeds, we think, are unlike anyone else at the moment… and awesome.
You may enjoy this if you like: Boredoms, Lightning Bolt, Mr Bungle
The Homebirds are a three piece from Bordeaux, France. They are an integral part of the local DIY scene in the city, with members often putting on shows for touring UK bands. When Bricks Fall has been much anticipated (at least by us) and it doesn’t disappoint. To describe Homebirds would perhaps be that they are a combination of early dEUS, Pavement and Sebadoh. Influences are firmly worn on sleeve here, but that is no bad thing when the influences are so good.
There is a crookedness to what they do, though that is not to say they are not tight. All three members sing, their French accents tinging their English lyrics in a charming way. The opening two tracks Ditch and Alan would fit quite well on The Ideal Crash. Shortcakes has a Spiral Stairs quality to it. Bad Boy Bubby is a fun piece, which really has that kind of unhinged early dEUS quality with the vocalists trading places yelping and chanting – the title a reference to a bizarre Australian movie about a guy who has been locked up in a room for 30 years with a disturbing dependent family relationship.
Told Me and Plop are both pure Sebadoh, particularly Plop with it’s swaying guitar lines in the verses that follow the vocal line (or vice versa), a trick that Lou Barlow used a lot on Sebadoh III in particular. Future Dicks begins with a slightly more minimal approach, with spacious passages of harmonics before it builds to a climax fitting of Wowee Zowee era Pavement.
The lyrics throughout are slightly abstract, sweet and or comical. To sing in a second language is not easy but they pull it off with adequate charm. This is all good fun and provided a fine release right at the end of 2018.
You may enjoy this if you like: Sebadoh, dEUS, Pavement, Sonic Youth, Silver Jews
Shjrunken Heads have been frequently popping up on our radar and we recently had the opportunity to go see them. They were excellent. Furthermore they released a 4 track EP back in November called Rainham Steel. This is their first release in which they moved away from free-form improv, although they have retained the feeling of something that stemmed from jams they have carefully structured the build up of these songs. To describe their sound would be a sort of hypnotic krautrock meets the Residents mix.
Opening track Earthwork opens with a phrase that is indeliby marked in the brain of every Londoner – “See it, say it, sorted” with the only other lyrics being “Television in the morning, television in the evening”. We assume this is some kind of commentary on the mindless act of watching TV and taking its word as gospel. There is a Clinic-like quality to this song. The vocals are effected with backslap echo that gives them that wispy feel and what sounds like a melody horn is introduced around half way through. It is a steady opener that paves the way for this EP to build.
Running on XP has a great groove, the bass and drums locking things down while the guitar and synth whirl around, whipping up a heady noise. There is a brilliant climax around the 2 minutes 40 where the guitars and synth really take off before dropping back into the motoric groove. This satisfyingly repeats.
Drunk Tank has a kind of strange Residents-like quality to it (particularly in the vocals) and may be the highlight on this EP. With Stranger Things style synth arpeggio, marching drums and mad guitar sounds. SKRUNK is another rhythmic masterclass – there are a lot of polyrhythms taking place which demands the listener’s attention. There are some nicely placed vocal wails, a great hook around the three minute mark and wondering synths before the whole thing stutters and falls apart. All in all an enjoyable EP.
You may enjoy this if you like: Neu!, Can, Clinic, The Residents, Now
Given we’ve heard some pretty raucous stuff so far this month, the chance to review the new track from USA/MEXICO (featuring members of Shit & Shine and The Butthole Surfers) couldn’t be passed up.This is the first track from their new album set to be released early March. In the best possible way it sounds disgusting. All heavy peaking drums, fuzzed out guitar and bass, weird high pitched yelping vocals – it’s just what you would expect and it’s great fun. It’s full on for six minutes and leaves us wanting more. We look forward to hearing the rest of this.
You may enjoy this if you like: The Butthole Surfers, Shit & Shine
Listen and pre-order here: https://riotseasonrecords.bandcamp.com/album/matamoros
Dry Cleaning, from London, are an exciting new post-punk band. This six track ep is extremely assured; cutting, cynical lyrics with dry acerbic wit, bendy guitar lines and repetition, repetition, repetition.
The vocals are mostly more spoken than sung but timed to suggest there has been more thought put into the structure than to just ramble over the backing track.
This is simple, catchy, very confident and, at times, quite danceable – Magic of Meghan in particular, with its funky driving baseline and awesome guitar hook.
Nothing lasts too long, the band have a good sense of space, which they demonstrate well in Traditional Fish. There’s something very old school about this but that’s not at all a bad thing.Some of the hooks and baselines really feel very familiar at the first time of hearing but given we could not place them, it’s just down to very good song writing.
Our particular favourites are Good Night and New Job but this whole release is very strong. There’s not a duff track on it. It’s a really fine first release and we look forward to more from them.
You may enjoy this if you like The Fall, Sauna Youth, Ravioli Me Away
Listen and buy here: https://drycleaning.bandcamp.com/releases
Molar teased us last month with the lead track from this EP, Auslannerwahlrecht (See last month’s reviews for details on that). The full EP is now out and what of the other four tracks? Courage is the longest track here, clocking in at 2 minutes 40 seconds. Seemingly aimed at a certain breed of stupid patronising man, the songs kicks off with a Sonic Youth spikey guitar line before breaking into a gorgeous, breezy, Dinosaur Jr style chorus. This song is awesome. Pretend is a wash of My Bloody Valentine guitars at the start before the drums drive the song into it’s post punk verses, with dual vocals from Eilidh and Su. It seems to be about making too much effort to impress people and feeling awkward. Venezuela kicks the EP back into the gear it started in. It’s a one minute piece of punk brilliance, the band delving into the current political issues in Venezuela. It’s frantic, with buzzing guitars, pounding drums and a bouncing bassline, and the message here is strong. Weights & Values sits somewhere between The Breeders, Joy Division and Witching Waves. There is a fantastic nervous energy to this song, and throughout the EP. Producer Mark Jasper has also done an excellent job of capturing the band’s live sound. Molar just get better with every release.
You may enjoy this if you like: Ought, The Breeders, Dinosaur Jr, My Bloody Valentine, Sonic Youth, Witching Waves.
Listen here: https://molartheband.bandcamp.com/album/straniero
Diff’rent Folks, as far as we can tell, is a four person an art project from Tokyo, Japan – the music made by Nao Harada. This album, although 9 track long is over before it has started, with several tracks clocking in at under 30 seconds! This is gorgeously produced, spacey electronica with some calypso influence. In some places think Air meets Cornelius and you are somewhere along the right lines. Opening track Different Strokes for Different Folks is a lolloping dreamy instrumental, with the occasional vocal chiming in with the title. It’s wonky, weird and immediately has you walking on a marshmallow street with candyfloss trees. What follows are four very short and giddy jingles that almost seem like off cuts. Kick is a dreamy, woozy four minutes, coming closest to the Air reference, although there are some cartoonishly effected vocals. Motsuko is like a weird Yamaha keyboard demo, with a vocal track. Nobody introduces wah effected guitars and a jazzy bassline. Snoop ends the album with 30 seconds of echoing synth, and nonsense vocal samples.
Given the theme for cartoonish noises and playfulness that runs heavily in the music of artists such as Boredoms, Cornelius and Shugo Tokumaru, this couldn’t really have come from anywhere other than Japan.
You may enjoy this if you like: Air, Cornelius, Mr Scruff, Plus-Tech Squeeze Box
Listen here: https://differentfolks.bandcamp.com/album/music-for-diffrent-folks-a
It feels like we’ve been waiting for this album forever and it’s finally here. Big Joanie are really making waves at the moment, picking up serious steam. Recent support slots for no less than Parquet Courts and being signed up to Thurston Moore’s new Daydream Library imprint (this being the inaugural release) suggest they are onto a winner. For the uninitiated, Big Joanie are a three piece punk/soul band from London, and an ever growing presence in the burgeoning DIY punk scene. Theirs is an approach very rarely tapped (or done well) which immediately makes them an intriguing proposition. They site their influences as being The Ronettes, Nirvana, The Breeders and The Jesus and Mary Chain, which is a fairly accurate description of their sound: The soulful voice and grungey guitar playing of Stephanie Phillips, backed up by the propulsive basslines of Estella Adeyeri (also of Witching Waves) and the metronomic drumming of Chardine Taylor-Stone.
So, how is their debut full length? We’ll break it down for you:Opener New Year immediately brings to mind Interpol’s “Obstacle 1”, sharing a similar moody atmosphere. The intro guitar riff is similar, is effected with a slight delay, but the song takes off into another direction, the drums shifting the momentum of the song, the bass driving a steady course. A strong opening track.Fall Asleep showcases the Nirvana influence, the grungey guitar riff, the drawled “Yeah yeah yeah”s, but they throw a disco beat curveball and, later, distorted synths into the mix as well as overlapping vocal lines. It’s a cracker of a song.Used To Be Friends laments a broken down friendship, reminiscing then conceding that it hasn’t yet healed. Backed by indie pop hand claps and an almost Meat Puppets-esque guitar line in the verses, there is great simplicity in the song writing that keeps it catchy.Eyes may be our favourite track here. The frenetic drum beat, repeated recorder lines, the guitar that almost works in call and response with itself. There is a beautiful, soulful break down around half way through that slowly builds with fuzzed out guitars before burning out.Way Out is another highlight here, the phased guitar parts, the “way out” chanted vocals. There is a lot of texture in this song, which is allowed to breathe by a simple and minimal drum beat throughout.Down Down really showcases the Jesus and Mary Chain influence – the overall mood and Bobby Gillespie-style drumming.Tell A Lie has great rhythmic appeal. The drums start simple then become busier, yet maintain the same beat. The guitar and bass ping back and forth. It brings to mind contemporaries Halo Halo and Trash Kit.Token deals with being black in a largely white community, not taking drugs in a community where this is common, and at the same time accepting it. “Don’t think it really matters anyway”, the frequent reply.It’s You features more great rhythmic shifts. How Could You Love Me is like a classic rock n roll song – kind of like Blue album era Weezer, with more soul. Another highlight on the record. Cut Your Hair (not a Pavement cover) closes the album. The slowest building track on the album. There is a lot of space here, drawn out keyboard notes, sparse drums and a simple, slinky guitar line. The subtlety with which new sounds are introduced is gorgeous. This album is a triumph.
You may enjoy this if you like: Shopping, Halo Halo, Jesus and Mary Chain, Nirvana
Listen here: https://bigjoanie.bandcamp.com/album/sistahs
Gut Waxy feature members of the quite amazing Squeakeasy. The band seem to have been undecided on their name, hence they appear to have released this record to Soundcloud under the moniker Laser_Printer. This is an album absolutely packed with ideas in a similar way to albums like Of Montreal’s “Hissing Fauna Are You The Destroyer” and Animal Collective’s “Centipede Hz”, but to describe what they do is quite difficult. Although there are several reference points here they are, basically, one of a kind.There is so much going on here, yet it all fits together quite brilliantly. Less skilled songwriters would have made a hash of this and it would be too difficult to listen to but the songs here, despite being rammed full of noises and ideas, have a strong pop undercurrent that carries them through. The album also flows quite seamlessly – bizarre yet somehow sounding very organic.There is great confidence displayed here and quite how they approach their songwriting is a mystery. It’s giddy, it’s fun, it’s complex, wildly creative, yet sounds spontaneous.Big Boss and Any% are baffling mixes of squelchy lofi electronica, hip hop and just plain weirdness. Full of samples and strange synth sounds.DATM is a frenetic Plus-Tech Squeezebox style pop song, all bleepy keyboards, eerie backing vocal sounds and is possibly the closest they come to sounding like previous band Squeakeasy. The chorus “Drunk at the market” may be our favourite chorus of the year! The band conjure a feeling of euphoria similar to that created by Dan Deacon in his early work. The sounds are computer game or cartoonish.Green Man Green Blob begins with a simple two note synth progression in the verses, shifting to a rising middle section with only piano for accompaniment, before the synth takes over once more, eventually melding into the brilliant abstract Gut Gut Waxy, with its Deerhoof style matching keyboard and vocal line. Daniel Howard’s vocal in the second half of the song sounds almost like Darren Hayman or Stuart Murdoch to an abstract chopped up vocal backing.Cheap Carnival Night Zone is a little more subtle and minimalistic. Prone is Belle and Sebastian through an Ariel Pink filter. Saccharine melodies engulfed by lo-fi oddness.Playtime hits the Of Montreal button as does another highlight in Fanta Hunta.The Birthday Beat begins on an Aphex Twin style beat before climaxing abruptly and shifting to a Bojack Horseman theme tune rhythm, and a glorious vocal line.SxX SxxxE is probably the most danceable track on here. It is carried along on a 4/4 beat but still skitters and shifts.Worthy is a conversational track. A rumination on life, which “isn’t like Sonic”, set to a droney, washy backing. NPHS, from which the album title appears to originate is basically an electronic prog track (which you could almost argue this whole album is). Like an abstract lo-fi This is What She’s Like, written in several catchy parts, even introducing strings. This should be the final track but, like the final Lord of the Rings movie, this album has three points at which it could finish.Credits is an instrumental that plays out like the end credit music of a particularly strange computer game and sounds akin to someone running through all the ringtones on their phone (if each one were a catchy jingle or a song from a different setting in Street Fighter 2).Closer Secret Bonus Track is a Prince pastiche vocal over the top of a percussive synth line, that invariably breaks down and becomes more intricate each time, at times conjuring images of cartoon cats. It’s a brilliantly bizarre ending.Just as with Squeakeasy before them, it’s great to hear a band that seemingly has no inhibitions in their songwriting. They do things that other indie bands would be too self-conscious to attempt (eg the Prince-style singing and rapping), and pull it off in their own unique way. This is bonkers and we love it!
We are also very excited to have Gut Waxy playing at our mini festival in January to see how this all comes together in a live setting!
You may enjoy this if you like: Of Montreal, Deerhoof, Dan Deacon, Plus-Tech Squeezebox, Bearsuit, Ariel Pink
Listen here: https://soundcloud.com/laser_printer
Jenny Moore is a prolific musician who has been in and around London’s DIY scene for several years now, previously being a member of the (still) excellent Bas Jan and currently also in the percussive post punk three piece Charismatic Megafauna, who also released a fine album this year.Mystic Business, although sharing Charismatic Megafauna’s strong leaning towards percussion, is an altogether different proposition. For this album Moore assembled a 10 piece choir and percussive orchestra to sing hypnotic harmonies and rounds. This all feels very carefully considered and crafted, sometimes to quite spectacular effect.Opening track Mystic Business starts almost like a religious chant. You could be forgiven for almost thinking there was a cult at play here! There are some religious undertones to the lyrics that add to this, but this doesn’t necessarily suggest a religious stance. The opening lines are set to a constant waltz beat with other scattered percussion adding to the trance like feeling created. Half way through the song takes off into a phenomenal round which, in places, recalls Animal Collective’s We Tigers. A soulful vocal line leads each turn of phrase, acting as the catalyst for a rhythmic shift.Tear Things Up revolves around a metronomic xylophone note. The opening chant “We tear things up when we go around…” repeats for over two minutes before quite literally being torn up in to a round. Eventually the word “round” is sung alone in a round, the lyrics throughout reflecting the form of the song. The mood of this piece has echoes of the brilliant French pseudo-Japanese choir Yamasuki.
Sandwiches is the closest the group comes to sounding like the aforementioned Charismatic Megafauna. This is far more percussion heavy and a well time shift up in tempo, which refreshes the audience’s attention. The vocal theme about wanting to do nothing is an interesting juxtaposition with the group becoming perhaps their most active.Body is waves of vocal non-words for two minutes before a simple drum line joins. This is the first track on the album that doesn’t have a lyrical theme, at least that’s what we think it will be until the last minute when we hear the line “We made proposals to the extra-terrestrials. Get us out of here!” Possibly a rumination on the chaotic, confusing mess of a world we now find ourselves living in.The Internet is perhaps the strangest lyrical venture here, about growing a tentacle or two “one for my aperol spritz, one for my drumstick” and internet clickbait. Moore solos the vocal here, over a minimal two note chime. This sounds the most spontaneous song on the album.Flashbacks is built around what sounds like xylophone, vibraphone and glockenspiel lines intertwining, Moore vocally soloing for the most part before the choir joins and Moore adlibs about choral music. The song has several movements – the mood, despite the song being played by only one or two instruments, shifting throughout the song.We Want Our Bodies Back brings the full choir back into play, once again refreshing the audience’s attention. Singing to a stamp-clapped beat. This is the most organic track on the album. You almost forget that for the most part (other than a little xylophone) there is no instrumentation here that isn’t created by the human body. It’s simple but impressive.Closer Come and Go introduces a slow revolving synth line, Moore once again returning to solo singing, repeating phrases with varying intonation, the synths build and bubble before winding down. It’s a gentle ending to what is quite a journey of an album.
You may enjoy this if you like: Joanna Newsom, Julia Holter, Charismatic Megafauna, Bamboo, Yamasuki
Listen here: https://jennymoore.bandcamp.com/
One of the first bands we wrote about back in July this year, we’re delighted to see London two piece The Slugs are back with their second EP.
Having struggled to find anything more out about them we wondered whether they would release anything else. What we’re equally delighted by is that this is just as fun as the first EP “Open Your Lugs! Here Comes The Slugs!”I Feel Sick is all jangling guitars, plodding simple drums and dual vocals about, well, feeling sick. The vocal harmonies echo The Slits or The Raincoats.Not Here For That, clocking in at under one minute, is The Slugs at their most upbeat. Ridiculous lyrics and an early Let’s Wrestle style “ohhh” vocal delivery.Pest, the title track, is the centrepiece here. Revisiting the theme of the first EP (ie being a metaphorical slug), this song bounces along, the guitar and drums being played staccato, towards a simple yet brilliant one word chant of “p-p-p-pest!”, the lyrics focussing on lethargy and self-deprecation. Both band members finally exclaim, ad nauseam, “don’t touch me I’m too slimy”. Girly Gang is great fun. Two chords repeated, comical dual vocal lines, just over a minute long. It’s a piece of lo-fi post punk perfection.Whether it was intentional or not we don’t know, but what is interesting about this EP is that the first two and last two tracks seem to perfectly mirror the middle track, starting and ending with a slice of jangling guitar indie with a short post punk track sandwiched in between either side of Pest.Last Night I Dreamt I Had Conical Breasts ends the EP with great vocal harmonies and probably the best lyrics on the EP, finishing on the winning, and seemingly unrelated, repeated lyric “I’ll just eat my chips from a bowl”.The Slugs have cemented their place in our hearts as possibly our new favourite slacker band.
You may enjoy this if you like: The Moldy Peaches, Jeffrey Lewis, Dog Legs, Let’s Wrestle, The Raincoats, The Slits
Listen here: https://theslugsband.bandcamp.com/album/dont-touch-me-im-too-slimy
Real Songs is the solo project of Dog Chocolate’s cat loving Jonathan Allen. If you are familiar with Dog Chocolate’s music disregard this when listening to this project because it is very different! Super 70 X, one of five EPs to come out this year, consists of four tracks that are sub 2 minutes 30 seconds. This is a collection of synth gurgles and stabs, abstract vocals, and disjointed beats, in places similar to Black Dice’s Broken Ear Record.Opener Amos begins with a glitchy drum track not unlike an excerpt from Radiohead’s Amnesiac. Strange gargling synths emerge that sound like cicadas going crazy before a vocal nonsense comes in. Cherries is more sparse, in terms of the drums, there are vibrato keys playing two alternating notes, and strange noises that sound like car horns, heavy synth stabs and a vocal that drones and flutters in and out.Van, Ran, Tan is more disjointed, but is held together with a constant vibrato drone playing throughout.Finally DJaded is perhaps the most abstract of all four pieces. There is a lot of texture in this track. A light crackling beat lies beneath vocal chattering and intermittent spacey pings.An enjoyable listen.Edit: this album has been removed from bandcamp.
You may enjoy this if you like: Black Dice, Standards era Tortoise, Aphex Twin
Listen here link no longer available
We’ve finally had the opportunity to hear Scab City’s self released debut, with the band having put it up on Bandcamp.
What strikes us first (and was expected) is that the production brings to mind the early work of Times New Viking, the lo-fi quality of the recording somehow adding to the appeal here.
Scab City are, for the most part, a heavy riffing noise rock band (MIB, Lava, Come Here Good Boy) but what sets them apart from (and makes them infinitely more exciting than) bands like Royal Blood, for example, is that this is all quite loose.
Scab City have a more punk rock aesthetic – at times recalling Be Your Own Pet and Yeah Yeah Yeahs at their most raucous.
Highlights here are Man’s Arm, which builds around one simple, but pretty stellar, guitar hook, the ear bleeding country of ATTJ, the aforementioned heavy riffing MIB and the brilliant raw energy of the 1 minute 9 second Botulism, which has a hint of Jon Spencer Blues Explosion about it.
This all points towards a band that are surely great fun to watch live – and speaking of which, they are playing the second day of our two day mini festival!
You may enjoy Scab City if you like Be Your Own Pet, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Lightning Bolt, Times New Viking, Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
Listen here: https://scabcity.bandcamp.com/releases
Summer Dress, from Bangkok have been around for a while, it seems. They are, however, new to us.Serious Music was released in January 2017 as an 9 track album. On Bandcamp it appears as a 3 track EP, and this is how we are reviewing this release.The band are clearly technically proficient but align this with a good sense of space and taste. At times they sound like they draw influence from bands like The Sea and Cake, Tortoise and Battles. There is lots of skittering instrumentation, time signature changes airy vocals. Opener 1917, apparently named after the year of founding of the Dutch De Stijl movement, opens with an Animal Collective style intro loop before a revolving guitar hook takes over. This perhaps most reminds us of The Sea and Cake. The guitars bounce back and forth in and out of prominence, giving way to the gorgeous delayed vocal melody, before eventually crescendoing with stabbed guitars. This is our favourite track on here.Track two, synthesizer, introduces piano (or synth piano) and various other synth sounds into the mix. The vocal delay speeds up and slows down frequently, the time signature shifts from 7 to 6, allowing the song to build before making way to a short field recording.Third track, The Beatles Fever, is written in several movements, with the synths giving this (whisper it) a prog rock feeling, veering on the border of cheesy but never quite succumbing to this. The intricate guitar work often tends to save the day. The band also introduces syncopated layered vocals here. Because of the synths parts of this even recall the soundtrack to the 80s movie Labyrinth.
You may enjoy this if you like: The Sea and Cake, Battles, Tortoise, prog rock.
Listen here: https://summerdress.bandcamp.com/
This self-titled album by London’s Upset Stomach hit Bandcamp in August.
Somehow it passed us by but, fortunately, the listing of a gig being put on by the excellent Nun Habit (who really do have exceptional taste), on 15th December, brought this release to our attention.
On this release Upset Stomach veer between dream pop, brattish indie pop, punk and… just… plain weirdness, which culminates in a heady listening experience. Subtle and brash in equal measures.
They share some sensibilities with other London band Flirting, particularly the voice of the main vocalist (sorry, we do not know any names here) which is uncannily similar to Poppy Waring’s.
However, Upset Stomach add effects to their vocals in a range of different ways; huge swathes of reverb, delay, pitchshift and even autotune done tastefully!
The opening track (seance) gives clues as to some avant garde leanings but gives no indication of the band’s pop sensibilities, which are on show on the following track Lost Love.
The range of styles and sounds that are packed into a single song suggest a band who cannot sit still for long and are brimming with ideas and enthusiasm.
Not Yet is a perfect example of all of this – there are collective vocal yelps that instantly recall indie pop heroes Bearsuit and Los Campesinos, strange pitch shifted guitars and delayed vocals a la Palm, Animal Collective or Halo Halo (as well as the aforementioned use of autotune).
They are just as adept in more straightforward indie pop. Lonely 4 U being the case in point, although it still manages to be weird in the wonderfully ramshackle delivery of the multiple vocal parts and high frequency synth sounds and chaotic mess at the end!
Although this is weird pop, it is remarkably instant, catchy and very enjoyable. Mary & Shelley is a Sarah Records band playing Ariel Pink. Or something like that…
… whatever, this album is well worth a listen!
You may enjoy this if you like: Palm, Bearsuit, Ariel Pink.
Evil Twins are from Oakland, California. We missed this release on Vacant Stare Records when it came out back in December 2017 but having discovered it now we just had to write about it.
This is lo-fi, funny, nowave with double vocals, bass and simple drums. Daft. But great fun.
With track names like Squishy Squish, Sweaty Faces and Punks N’ Jocks you know this band don’t take themselves too seriously.
Most songs here last under one minute apart from the epic 2 minutes 51 seconds of John Hughes Jam.
At times they recall bands like Numbers and Whirlwind Heat due to the absolute simplicity and hip shaking danceability. The home recording quality and great dynamic between the two band members makes them seem almost like a funky Moldy Peaches.
You may enjoy this if you like Numbers, ESG, Whirlwind Heat, Moldy Peaches
Life Drawings, a four piece from London, revel in the mundane. This first full-length release (which we should have reviewed long before now) is really raw, and we wouldn’t want it any other way.
Opener The AGM shares a lot in common with some of Graham Coxon’s work on Blur’s Blur and 13 albums. Understated, distorted with a dry sense of humour. The band’s simple, repetitive approach, speak/singing style, nonsense wordplay and references to British celebrities (Paul McCartney and Julian Clary on Sadface) places them somewhere in the weirdo indie cannon alongside The Pheromoans and The Rebel.
The bizarre rendition of Ave Maria is a left field turn that fits in nicely given they have distorted the hell out of it. It is something out of the Let’s Wrestle school of weird interludes, breaking into clarity before fading away.
Following track Hair is almost danceable. It has a Joy Division-esque tension to it, the vocal line and bass line following the same pattern of notes. It’s great.
There is a lot to love here if you are a fan of lo-fi outsider British post-punk.
What’s more, they recorded this all themselves so they get extra DIY points!
You may enjoy this if you like The Fall, Country Teasers/The Rebel, The Pheromoans
Carrying on the lo-fi theme this little single is superb. Lowly Loverboi are a three piece from New York.
NSTRL (Nothing’s Scarier Than Real Life) has an almost Daniel Johnston-like quality to it – which is further aided by the accompanying artwork.
The lyrics are bizarre images of supernatural horror that clash with the chorus line (same as the title). There’s something in the intonation of the words that reminds me of Neutral Milk Hotel. It’s a beautiful piece of music with burbling keyboards, simple strummed guitars and basic drums that fizz underneath the vocals.
B-side The Sweater Song (not a Weezer cover) is a lament to a recent lost love, with simple guitar, keyboard drones and a Kimya Dawson-esque feel. It also has a really nice trumpet solo halfway through, which again recalls Neutral Milk Hotel.
This is a great single and well worth checking out, as is their previous single Dumb Phone.
You may enjoy this if you like Daniel Johnston, Kimya Dawson, Neutral Milk Hotel, Joanna Newsom
Listen here: https://lowlyloverboi.bandcamp.com/album/nstrl
A few years ago it felt like we hit peak Twee. Every advert on TV had some twee indiepop band or someone playing a ukelele on its soundtrack.
Thankfully this went away and we can enjoy indiepop on its own terms again. Tampopo (named after a 1985 Japanese film) from Copenhagen, Denmark, have been releasing EPs on Bandcamp since 2017 and, having done so quite prolifically, have now released their first full-length album Too-Ticki-Tattoo.
There is something warmingly familiar about Tampopo. The lead singer’s vocals immediately recall the drawl of Stephen Pastel or Eugene Kelly, the instrumentation sounds like it’s all about to fall apart (like with many of the most fun bands!).
It’s all jangling but slightly out of time guitars, funny lyrics (I’m the kind of person who plays his guitar all the way up) and a wonderful ear for melody.
At this point we’re a little unclear about how many people are in this band but we’re guessing at the moment it’s one person’s work.
Despite influences being worn firmly on sleeve this is a very enjoyable album, especially if you like the aforementioned The Pastels and The Vaselines.
You may enjoy this if you like Magnetic Fields, The Pastels, Suburban Kids With Biblical Names, Belle and Sebastian
Listen here: https://tampopo.bandcamp.com/
The Bad Pelicans are a three-piece punk band from Paris, France – a city reknowned for being a very difficult place for touring bands due to an apparent lack of interest from locals in small Indie bands.
For a band that doesn’t appear to be that old, “Best Of”, we assume is a title chosen with tongue firmly placed in cheek. What you also soon notice is that all “U”s are replaced with “V”s in the track list. As for why this is we don’t have a clue! The third thing you notice is, like the Beach Boys, they seem to have a fixation on surfing.
Opener “SVRF PVNK” kicks off the album with a singalong slacker intro before it suddenly launches into a hardcore beat, the guitars distort and the vocals remind us of Locust Abortion Technician era Butthole Surfers, with the twisted delayed refrain of “Surf Punk, Surf Punk, Surf Punk”.
“SVMMER TIME” has less surprises around the corner, a very good piece of slacker indie, as is “SVFR” “SVRF SVRF” again hits that Butthole Surfers button, with added Cramps-esque echoes on the vocals (although there are no words as such) until things slow down completely in the second half of the song with a spacey break before kicking back in to the hardcore punk. “
COVCH PIZZA” is probably the silliest track here, the vocal lines “I’m 21 and I can’t wipe my own arse” and “It’s couch pizza day” underlining this. A scuzzy and very fun straight up punk song that is surely a live highlight too. “BVDDY BVDS” has a similar feeling to Let’s Wrestle around the time of their “Nursing Home” album.
Closer “PAVLINE MC SHIT” recalls slacker bands like Dinosaur Jr and Milk Music in their slower more spacey moments. It is a real wig out track.
Basically, this band are great and have left themselves enough room with this release to be able to go down a few different avenues in the future. This record is all pretty cohesive though – it always sounds like the same band.
You may like this if you are a fan of: early Dinosaur Jr, Milk Music, Butthole Surfers
We are certain this band are set to explode. Grow Into It, Doe’s second full length album, certainly reflects the title. This is a band who have developed on their pop sensibilities and really let their creative side come out. They still nail the Weezer-style harmonies and Pixies loud-quite-loud dynamics, as before, but there is something a little more playful about this record than the previous album Some Things Last Longer Than You. Opener “My Friends” sets the tone with it’s opening guitar stabs and Joey Santiago style intro. There is a great sense of melody and timing with satisfying feedback and a killer power chord sequence. The guitar solo around the 3 minute mark is pure Rivers Cuomo (when he’s good). The guitar work in “Labour Like I Do” shifts from power chords to wonky single notes, reminiscent of Built To Spill. The lyrics bemoaning someone who needs to check their privilege.
The band plays with dynamics (Heated) and time signatures (Even Fiction and Here In The Dirt), yet maintain their exceptional knack for a catchy melody and a vocal harmony. They haven’t over-complicated anything, they keep it simple and know when to give their songs space. This is the sound of a band who have honed their sound and are having real fun. The guitar interplay is often just a pleasure to listen to. Closing track “Here In The Dirt” is a great finale, beginning with a sustained note before kicking into a Built To Spill style guitar intro, dropping out, building up, ending in a squealing guitar outro.This is the sort of record that every teenager should fall in love with and can be the starting point for further explorations into the underground.
You may like this if you are a fan of: Built To Spill, Weezer, New Pornographers
Listen to Grow Into It here: https://topshelfrecords.bandcamp.com/album/grow-into-it
We wrote about teaser track Peppermint back in July and, this month we’ve been able to hear the full EP. It is certainly not what we expected, in a good way.
Opener “Yum” takes a minute to get going with a repeating guitar line setting the stage before it is joined by the full band and one of three vocalists, Arthur Davies Evitt. There is a lot of space created by washed out guitar sounds and delayed “ahhs” from vocalist Poppy Waring who then takes over on the chorus. The drums become more scattered as the second verse begins and the song builds into another chorus, after which the song really takes off. The lyrics exude confusion and anxiety.
There is a new version of “Peppermint” with a spoken word intro from another vocalist in the band, Andrew Potter. This version is perhaps better produced than the single version, the band sounding tighter, the drums more powerful. So far, pretty much along the lines of what we expected.
Then comes the bizarre poetry and backwards backing of “Interlude”. It’s just over a minute long but it suggests there is more up this bands sleeve than we initially realised. “Lilac” floats along a synthesizer loop and once again demonstrates the band’s penchant for crescendo. The lyrics about anxiety and insomnia. This, along with the opening track is almost a post-rock vignette… with vocals.
Final track “In The Dark” has a Bjork-like feel to it. It may well be our highlight. Waring’s vocals stretch over an industrial electronic drum beat, the band again slowly building piece by piece before the electronic drums play a rolling skittery beat, the vocals becoming heavily effected with delay. This is a wonderfully weird and woozy ending.
“This Would Be Funny If It Were Happening To Anyone But Me” is out on 8th October.
You may like this if you are a fan of: Life Without Buildings, Los Campesinos!, Sonic Youth
Pre-order and listen here:https://flirtingfullstop.bandcamp.com/album/this-would-be-funny-if-it-were-happening-to-anyone-but-me
Sauna Youth – Deaths
Sauna Youth are an intriguing band. The name alone immediately makes one think of another band altogether. All the more interesting is the thought process that has seemingly gone into the creation of their three albums to date. The three records make up a trilogy, and a fine one at that. Deaths is the final of the three, released earlier this month through Upset! The Rhythm.
The band gave themselves just five months from booking studio time to make an album, giving this recording a very immediate urgency. There would have been little time to make drastic changes to the songs, to procrastinate over lyrics. The songs rarely tip over the three minute mark, the longest being the excellent “Distracted” clocking in at 3 minutes 11 seconds (although the final 40 seconds is a field recording!) .
The album starts as it means to go on, the fast 4/4 beats spoken/shouted lyrics and discordant guitars of “Percentages”, the catchy hooks of “Unreal City”. The band keeps it simple for the most part and this makes it an awful lot of fun.
“In Flux” is the sort of song you just want to jump around the living room to and even features a full on guitar solo. Repetition is key here. “Problems” emphasises this to the point that the verses consist of only the title being repeated.
Despite there having been little time to produce this album there are some interesting textures. “No Personal Space” fuzzes out in bursts in the chorus, before the whole song ends completely fuzzed out. It sounds like the song actually breaks, with the synth lead ramble of “The Patio” cutting in.
Despite there not really being any let up in pace or any major left field turns from the formula, until the eery penultimate track “Swerve”, the short tracks ensure this doesn’t become a chore to listen to.
All this confirms Sauna Youth as one of the most exciting punk bands in the UK.
You may enjoy this if you like: Sonic Youth, The Fall, Trash Kit
Listen here: https://saunayouth.bandcamp.com/album/deaths
The Tropicanas are a four piece from Livingston, Scotland. They have one previous release on Bandcamp – a compilation of previous tracks from 2013-2016.
New release “A Lovely Coincidence” is currently being previewed with just the title track available for listening, but what a beauty it is. What hits you immediately is a singer singing in his accent – something we always love to hear. The song is breezy and immediate, with catchy melodies and shimmering guitars bringing to mind bands like Real Estate and the softer moments of Yo La Tengo and the Flaming Lips (particularly in the instrumental breaks with the “ahhhs”). We’re certainly intrigued to hear the full EP.
The opening track “Tempo” is understated, the opening guitar chords instantly familiar. Think The Velvet Underground’s “Femme Fatale” and your somewhere in the same ball park. Winter’s vocals, unlike Nico’s on the aforementioned Velvets track, float on top of the music -delayed to replicate the sound of 60s tropicalia bands like Os Mutantes.
Second track “Amiga” is the stand out track, picking up the pace with it’s relentless catchiness throughout. It really is a gem. “Desaparecidos” drops the tempo again. There is a lot of breathing space here, the song reaching a gentle climax over it’s plus four minutes. “Doce Violeta” drifts along a phased guitar line before lifting off towards the end, showcasing Triptides’ guitar chops.
“Raio de Sol” is a short interlude that suggests an idea the songwriters liked but felt they could take no further. “Ele Dorme” is a simple, short, pop song with very busy drums that sets up another drop in tempo, “Te Levar”, which is quite beautiful and another highlight of the record, as is following track “Ontem” in which both Winter and Triptides provide vocals, swapping between languages. It’s all 60s garage psych with beautiful phasing guitars and lyrics lamenting a lost love, “yesterday seems so far away”.
Closer “I Just Wanna Be With You”, again sung in English, is another pretty slice of dream pop, recalling Galaxie 500 minus the vocals of Dean Wareham. All in all, not quite as was expected following the catchiness of “Amiga” but this is still a very good and understated record.
You may like this if you are a fan of: Camera Obscura, The Concretes, Os Mutantes, Mazzy Star.
Listen here: https://wintertriptides.bandcamp.com/
Sial, from Singapore are a female fronted hardcore punk band. They are raw, aggressive and really exciting. On this release, via the excellent La Vida Es Un Mus label, none of the songs break the three minute mark (just as it should be). It’s all over in a flash. Opener “Huru-Hara” propels the record into life. It’s urgent and powerful. Classic hardcore drums, simple power chords, dirty production and a singer with a blood curdling scream. The intro to “Kerakap” is superb, the rolling drums setting the tone before the song stops then breaks into a fast 4/4 beat. To write about each individual track seems almost pointless. Not that every song sounds the same, but Sial start as they mean to go on and it’s all great fun.Music to go crazy to in a grimey underground club.
You may enjoy this if you like: Melt Banana, Minor Threat, The Minutemen.
Listen here: https://lavidaesunmus.bandcamp.com/album/binasa
We’ve only recently discovered London band Doe, having listened to their 2016 album “Some things last longer than you” on Bandcamp just a few weeks ago. It is a rewarding listen with melodies that often recall Weezer at their best and harmonies that conjure memories of early noughties (whisper it) emo band The Anniversary (in a very good way!). Sometimes it’s uncanny. Nicola Leel’s voice sits somewhere between Scout Niblett and Neko Case in the vocal spectrum… if such a thing exists!The songwriting is strong although, for some, it could get a little too emo in places. There are some real gems here. Opener “No.1” absolutely kicks into life after the opening “no one, no one, no one, no one” refrain which reveals it’s purpose when the dual vocalists reach the line “I don’t know why you think you can talk down to me as if I’m no one”. “Monopoly” is pure blue album Weezer, although with Joey Santiago-esque guitar blasts. The opening verse of “Sincere” evokes Blur, before the song blasts into a power pop chorus and a screaming ending. “Respite”, the lyrics from which the album takes its name, is a great song, full of crunching guitars, melodically rich, hell, as is the brilliant “Last Ditch” (although the ending sounds a bit like Sum 41…) .
Listen here: https://doetheband.bandcamp.com
Le Almeida, from Rio De Janeiro, has an absolute ton of releases on Bandcamp. Given this one has just been released, and we were enticed by the cover, we checked it out. We have no idea how many people are in this band. In may be just a solo project, but it is packed with great songs. The main reference point, minus the Portuguese lyrics, is The Apples in Stereo. The singer’s voice has a very similar quality to that of Robert Schneider. Some may see this as a bad thing but for us it is very, very good. His voice compliments the music really nicely. The recordings here are very lo-fi, without sounding muddy, although the instruments tend to clip as the mics are peaking. This only adds to the sound though. Particular favourites are opener “Um Idiota”, the punky and unhinged “Compilacao de Setembro” and “Patinete”, which really evokes the aforementioned Apples In Stereo. There are 25 tracks here so favourites may change with each listen!Some of the tracks, on first listen, appeared to be little snippets of ideas and this seems to be the case once the blurb about the album is translated. It says this is a compilation of songs and loose ideas that were left out of previous records. If these are the cuts left on the floor the fully realized releases must be exceptional. The melodies are instantly satisfying, the penchant for fuzzed out guitars and messy guitar solos is irresistible. We look forward to delving further in!
Listen here: https://lealmeida.bandcamp.com/album/amenidades
What a great name for a band. Primo!, from Melbourne, Australia are a four piece post-punk band featuring members of Marc Riley’s favourite band Terry and, like Terry, have released their new record on taste-making London label Upset! The Rhythm. Primo’s sound is minimal, sometimes like Young Marble Giants playing the Raincoats, or something.This is catchy, simple and slightly off kilter. Third track “Future” reminds us a little of Southend band The Plan in it’s disjointed rhythms and harmonized female vocals. What endears us further to Primo is that they sing in their own accents; there are no fake American accents to be found here. They also mix up their sound with the brilliant “Mirage” introducing keyboards to the mix alongside the slinky guitar lines that ping around gleefully, the whole track only lasting around a minute and a half.“Disco Eyeballs”, “Bronte Blues” and “Family Dinner Club” are lo-fi indie disco bangers, with simple, funny lyrics. “Family Dinner Club” at times has a Shaggs-esque quality, if the Shaggs could actually play their instruments in time with each other.We love that the whole album almost sounds like it was recorded on a cassette four track. Whether it was or not we do not know, but it sounds great. You wouldn’t want it any other way.This record is quite understated but is good fun throughout and grows on you with repeated listens.
Listen here: https://primocassetto.bandcamp.com/album/primo-amici
The Stroppies (another brilliantly named band), also from Melbourne Australia,released this single back in May, following their self-titled mini LP. This is a nice piece of early 90s inspired slacker indie that recalls the milder moments of Parquet Courts, The Clean and Sarah Records band The Orchids.Maddest Moments is woozy and wacky, with a kind of Pavement b-side swagger. Look out for the sample at the end which is just bizarre… but funny. Architectural Charades is perhaps our favourite of the two songs, with it’s nonsense lyrics, crooked organ parts and silly guitar lines.This is a strange slice of indie rock but right up our street! Looking forward to hearing more from The Stroppies.
This has just dropped on Bandcamp and it is pretty damn fun. YHTEENOTTO (which translates to One Take) are a four piece hardcore punk band from Finland. Having found a video of them on Youtube they are older than they sound, but who cares about age, particularly when the music is this fun. This three song EP (not sure why they’ve called it an LP) is intense from beginning to end. Opener “Muukalaisena tuomittu” is pretty brutal. The drums are insane! The sound is somewhere between Melt Banana and Minor Threat. We have no idea what lead vocalist Jatta is saying but she sounds like she really means whatever she is shouting about.
Listen here: https://yhteenotto.bandcamp.com/releases
акульи слёзы are a three piece from Ufa, Russia. The name, pronounced “akul’I slozy” translates to Sharks Tears.On their Bandcamp page the band are described in the past tense although, thankfully, it appears this is a typo. This four track e.p., available digitally (or on an extremely limited cassette), is a glistening dream pop gem. With female vocals within this type of genre the obvious references here are Mazzy Star and Lush; the music is slow, affecting, the vocals pure. A lot of dream pop and shoegaze bands tend to hide everything, particularly vocals, behind effects but there is a clarity to this recording for the most part. With the singing being in Russian we have no clue what they are saying although sometimes this is for the best. Another release on POW! POP KIDS, this is clearly a label worth following.
Listen here: https://sharkstears.bandcamp.com/releases
Blóm in their own words are “three cute punx playing pua radge shit”. This release (originally a tape, now only available via Bandcamp) consists of two tracks of fuzzy pitch shifted bass riffs, drums and shouty female vocals. It’s lo-fi, it’s loud and it’s politically charged. Basically all the raw ingredients for some excellent punk rock. From the cover (depicting Grenfell Tower and a screaming cartoon of Theresa May’s head) and the lyrics we can only assume these songs are directed towards the British Prime Minister. Although the lyrics often resort to basic name calling there is no denying that the anger expressed is palpable.The sound, mainly due to the pitch shifted bass perhaps draws mild comparison to Lightning Bolt or Melt Banana although the drums are not at such breakneck speed nor are the pitch shifts quite as intense. Blóm are less thrashy, more punk. To sum up, they seem to be exactly as they describe themselves!
All in all this is an enjoyable introduction to this new band from former members of Tough Tits and we look forward to hearing more.https://hominidsounds.bandcamp.com/album/powerfrau-skank-witch
Boogarins are a four piece from Goiania, Brazil.They are one of just two bands on what seems to be shaping up as a fantastic record label in OAR, the other being Winter e Triptides who are featured below.
This release consists of two 30 minute tracks of Psychedelic, garage-y, at times no-wave at others just plain weird abstract brilliance, put together to soundtrack a film about the band called “Boogarins na Casa das Janelas Verdes”.When there are vocals they are soulful, almost female sounding (although they’re not) , sometimes effected. We would definitely recommend giving it a go and checking out their back catalogue. If you live in Bristol, UK, they are coming over in November as part of a European tour. Hopefully more UK dates will be added.
You may enjoy this if you like Boredoms, Can, Pega Monstro, Animal Collective.https://boogarins.bandcamp.com/
New York’s Florist sound instantly familiar – the hallmark of most good pop music. The music is subtle, with a lot of space. The vocals evoke bands like Avi Buffalo and The Concretes/Taken By Trees. If you like Yo La Tengo’s quieter moments, Mazzy Star, or Camera Obscura at their dreamiest you might also enjoy this. The song craft is beautiful; simple slow melodies, quiet background resonance and occasional (cello) string swells. The songs are allowed to breathe and nothing feels overdone. Our highlights are “The Fear Of Losing This” and “Glowing Brightly”. A lot of this may be too twee for some and wouldn’t be out of place on a John Lewis Christmas advert, but that sounds unkind so we’ll shut up now.https://florist.bandcamp.com/
Honkies – Entitled To Nothing/Moving To Berlin
London band Honkies, from the evidence of this release are a very strange band. In a good way. A very good way. They call themselves “Premium synth infused country honky-tonk”, which kind of makes sense. To attempt to compare them to anyone think part Meat Puppets, part Country Teasers, through a V/VM filter. “Entitled To Nothing” is a plodding country song unsettled by a flat, discordant synth track that makes this somehow brilliant. The distorted vocals reminding us of Ben Waller of the Country Teasers/The Rebel. “Moving To Berlin” is pure Meat Puppets in its guitar line, the synth again adding that layer of unsettling weirdness throughout, the vocals at moments recalling the Mark E Smith.
This is nearly a year old and, other than one more song called Pagans which you can hear on Soundcloud, appears to be their only release but we’re hooked!
Lower Slaughter – What Big Eyes
Named after a small village in Gloucestershire but from Brighton and Glasgow, Lower Slaughter are a four piece band whose members have history in the Brighton music scene stretching back over 15 years. Jon Wood, who plays guitar here, was formerly a member of the excellent Ack Ack Ack and Yuchi, Barney Wakefield on bass previously of Epideme and Shudder Pulps. Lower Slaughter is arguably the most powerful project either has embarked upon. After a change of singers the band really came into their own. Vocalist Sinead Young has a gritty voice, which is quite something to behold and complements the music brilliantly. Her screams are absolutely brutal. The riffs are heavy, the lyrics are dark, Graham Hebson’s drumming is heavy, intelligent but not overly elaborate. It’s hardcore punk with a stoner rock edge and infectious repetition in the riffs.
In songs like the closer “(Hold Me Close, I’m) Coming Up” there is a hint of the heavier, faster moments of legendary Chicago Post-hardcore band The Jesus Lizard. Other highlights are opener “Bone Meal”, “Caliban And The Witch” and the awesome two minutes twelve seconds of “Teeth”. They also mix up the approach, “Earthseed” has a Butthole Surfers-like quality. The drums are tribal, Jon Wood’s guitar plays a Paul Leary-esque line, the song climaxing in a slow sludge. It’s fantastic. “Tied Down” brings to mind Shellac in its opening riff before bringing in a “Whole Lotta Love” riff and following onto a riff that reminds us of “My Sharona”, but with a huge sound!This is a fun listen, deserving of the plaudits it has received and certainly stands up to repeated listening. If you have somehow missed this and are partial to a bit of hardcore punk and like your riffs monstrous, we would definitely recommend you check this out.
MAGIK BLACK – MAGIK BLACK
This is brain melting! Magik Black, from Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, are incredibly intense. They are described as “speed shoegaze” on their Bandcamp page, and that fits quite nicely. There are hints of HEALTH, Explosions In The Sky and Lightning Bolt – the sound is expansive and Alexey Shapkin’s drums are, at times, absolutely brutal. This is Noise Rock with a psychedelic edge. Third track “Conqueror” starts a little cheesy, but thankfully changes direction. There is a euphoria to this that suggests the live show must be quite incredible. You may want to take a breather after listening to this.With this, their first release on POW! POP KIDS, Magik Black have made a fine start. Someone get these guys over from Russia.https://magikblack.bandcamp.com/
MOLAR – Ring EP
Molar have been on our radar for a couple of years. They are a four piece all female punk rock band based in London, having arrived in the same place from various parts of the globe. Their approach is simple, raw and a fantastic racket. There is an effortless cool about Molar. The guitars are distorted, sometimes laced with reverb, playing simple chords and the choruses will burrow themselves into your left temporal lobe (the part of the brain that recognises music). None of their songs breach the three minute mark, they have a good sense of how to keep the ideas fresh, which means they stand up to repeat listening. The excellent Ring EP (can you call two tracks an EP?) features a brilliant cover of 90s band Slant 6’s “What Kind Of Monster Are You?” which we actually prefer to the original. The triple vocals add an extra punch to the chorus, which is missing from the original. The Molar penned “Javier” cruises along a fuzzy bassline with heavily reverbed guitars playing hooks back and forth, before a great call and response chorus. This song gets better with repeated listens. It didn’t grab us at first but is a bit of an earworm. We’re hoping to hear something new from Molar soon, this being released in November 2016. Check out the rest of their Bandcamp output, it’s all pretty great -particularly their split EP with the excellent Pale Kids (for more of whom, see the article below!)
Pale Kids – St Bernadette/Haunted & Holy Mess EP
Pale Kids are a four piece band from Durham with a knack for a great melody. They are equally adept at contemplative twee (see the Hefner-like slow burner “Haunted”) as they are with catchy Undertones style pop punk (“St Bernadette”) song writing. The vocals even sit somewhere between Feargal Sharkey and Darren Hayman. Their lyrics are frequently excellent, baring their youthful anxiety and frustration which is part of a jittery, relatable and ultimately very likeable whole. Their songs are instantly accessible with shout along choruses, buzzing guitars and an addicting urgency.The four song Holy Mess EP, released on Drunken Sailor/Frux Tapes, is great. There is a real vibrancy to every song on this release. They start as they mean to go on with opener “Prayer List” setting the pop punk tone – the longest track here being 2 minutes 5 seconds. The chorus “I’m crossing you off my Prayer List” is anthemic. As we mentioned before they have a real knack for a catchy melody. Having released several singles and EPs, all available via Bandcamp, we would love to hear a full album. Also look for their excellent Hesitater EP on US label Father Daughter Records, released back in March. Given their fan base is seemingly fairly sizeable and the songwriting is consistently good, the future looks sunny for Pale Kids… sorry.
Palm – Rock Island
Palm, from Philadelphia, have been around a few years now and have already amassed quite a following. We just had to write about this record though. The band appear to have really hit upon something on this record. There are hints of The Knife, Panda Bear, Battles, Don Caballero, Stereolab, Dirty Projectors and Deerhoof, as many have pointed to before, but Rock Island feels like they have advanced as a band and honed their own sound.The vocals are where most comparisons will occur; Kasra Kurt recalls, at times, Brian Wilson, Panda Bear and James Mercer of the Shins. Eve Alpert’s voice has tinges of Karin Dreijer (Fever Ray, The Knife) and Broadcast’s Trish Keenan. The vocal lines are poppier this time around than on previous releases, less drawn out, yet still take a few listens to fully appreciate.Musically the band are very adventurous, Gerasimos Livitsanos’s bass lines are sparse and pointed, a less is more approach which complements the scattered yet clearly purposeful and considered drums of Hugo Stanley, which bring a dimension of controlled chaos.The guitars ping back and forth rhythmically, sometimes effected to resemble steel drums.Palm’s is a sound that would have fit seamlessly into the Indie scape of 15 years ago but is updated for a new generation.Particular highlights for us are opener “Pearly”, “Composite”, “Color Code” and the dreamy “Swimmer”, with it’s beautiful vibrato and harp like effects.A slow burning but quite rewarding listen. They are coming to the UK in October. Be sure to catch them. Rock Island is out now on Carpark Records.https://palmnewyork.bandcamp.com/
Pega Monstro – Casa de Cima
Pega Monstro, from Lisbon Portugal, are a special band. Two sisters (Julia and Maria Reis), both who sing, Maria playing guitar while Julia plays drums. They kick up a fantastically full sound. We certainly recommend catching them live if you can. Casa de Cima, their second album released on Upset! The Rhythm (third all in all) is a lot of fun, whether you understand Portuguese or not. Their songs can go from garage pop into something ethereal and repetitious, which lulls the listener into a trance like state, sometimes all within the same song (see the brilliant “Partir A Loiça”). “Fado da Estrela do Ouro” has the subtlety of “Prospect Hummer” era Animal Collective, while “Cachupa” is, in parts, like classic Os Mutantes. “Odemira” has a similar feeling to Yo La Tengo’s “Sugarcube”, although it has a hypnotic chanted climax before drifting dreamily to a conclusion. Pega Monstro must be heard. They are one of the most exciting bands around.
Skinny Girl Diet – Heavy Flow
For those heading to Reading Festival this summer be sure make a stop at the BBC Radio One stage on the Sunday for London band Skinny Girl Diet. If you like Hole, Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr you may well find a space in your heart for Skinny Girl Diet. The sound is very 90s grunge, but good 90s grunge. Singer Delilah Holliday’s sneering drawl recalls Courtney Love… but English. She also has a brutal scream, which is particularly showcased in the awesome “Pretty Song” and “Okay”. The guitar parts are fuzzed out and discordant, the basslines rumble like prime Krist Novoselic or Lou Barlow, the drums are unfussy and tastefully controlled, Steve Shelley-esque. “Fix Me” is pure Dinosaur Jr at the beginning, with a similar groove to “Tarpit” from the classic “You’re Living All Over Me” but when the chorus comes in there is more than a hint of Nirvana as Holiday sings “I need you to fix me, it’s all I ever wanted to be”.Skinny Girl Diet are not much of a secret any more, having had airplay from several BBC Radio 6 DJs but, given this is an opportunity to push people into the direction of an awesome band who they may otherwise miss at a big festival, we would suggest they are worth your attention.Listen to “Heavy Flow”, in full, on Soundcloud.
The Slugs – Open Your Lugs! Here come the Slugs
What a great name for a band!London two-piece the Slugs are a lot of fun. All the tracks on this five song EP are slug related (other than the final track “Pill In Ya Bum”… yep!), none of which exceeds one and a half minutes. With no information on them other than a photograph of the two members standing next to an industrial bin they are somewhat a mystery. The sound is lo-fi; the humour reminiscent of the Moldy Peaches, the melodic approach similar to the much missed duo Dog Legs. This is the sort of music that works best when recorded lo-fi. This is simple two or three chord/note punk, just guitar and drums with dual vocals. The opening track “Yeah Yeah We’re The Slugs” is a big favourite. We hope to hear more from this duo although we wonder if this was all just done with no intention of taking it further.https://theslugsband.bandcamp.com/
Twinken Park – Flowers EP
Twinken Park are a “flaming queer and transsexual punk trio” according to their Bandcamp page. They are everything that the mainstream press attempts to bill Shame as. There is a sneering fury, a dark wit and… good lyrics (sorry to hate on Shame but they’re just not as exciting as the media are trying to make them out to be). The awesome “Flowers” is inspired by artist and influential AIDS activist David Wojnarowicz, who also features in cartoon form on the cover, cutting straight to the bone in its criticism of the US Food and Drug Administration and their lack of action on AIDS research. This is a powerful political statement, the refrain “Feel No Guilt In Your Desire” a bold statement to embrace who you are. Musically this is pure Rage Against The Machine, the vocals almost like Eddie Argos of Art Brut – if you can imagine it. You may not expect that to work but it really does! The rest of this EP is more straightforward punk in sound. The lyrics continue to impress; the song “Gilmore Girls” addresses the difficulties in being able to be honest with your parents and what is too much to share. It contains the brilliant line “I’ve done things that would make my parents cry”. We urge you to also check out their brilliant On A Leash EP of last year, particularly “Fuck This Country”.Twinken Park demand to be heard, and in every way it’s for the better.