08.26.2014 — “Scarecrow” by TWENTYFOURLIVES

TWENTYFOURLIVES

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Scarecrow” by TWENTYFOURLIVES (2014, from the forthcoming album Peaks… Peaks… Peaks!).

TWENTYFOURLIVES is a post-rock quartet from the small Belgian town La Luvière. The band got started in 2009, and they have two EPs to their credit. They’re set to release their debut album Peaks… Peaks… Peaks! on September 15.

Although today’s song has vocals, most of the TWENTYFOURLIVES songs do not.

I really don’t know anything about this band, but today I got something in the mail bag inviting me to listen to a private stream of the forthcoming album. The email gave no details at all. I had no idea even what type of band they were. I usually don’t have very high expectations in a situation like that, but I like to give everything a fair shot.

Within five seconds of the first song, I was pretty sure that I liked it. It took about 30 seconds for me to realize that I loved it. That first song (“Peaks”) is really reminiscent of the early EITS stuff, so I was really impressed. That song isn’t available for public sharing, but this one is.

“Scarecrow” by TWENTYFOURLIVES

It’s a bit of a slow build, and then there’s a bit from about 1:20 to about 2:20 where there’s a really ghostly guitar bit going on. It makes me think of the magnificent Japanese shoegaze/post-rock band Mono.

The vocals are subtle and whispery enough that they don’t get in the way of the elaborate stuff that’s going on with their guitars and the simple genius of the bass line. I’m not really a fan of vocals in post-rock songs, but I quite like them here.

There are tons of examples of post-rock songs that I love because of the dizzying heights and cacophonous buzzes and drawn-out decrescendo in the coda. This song doesn’t have any of those things, and I think it’s better because of it.

The album will be out on September 15, and you can pre-order a digital copy via bandcamp here. You can also score their 2011 EP Mammoth here by naming your own price.


08.19.2014 — “Pet Carrot” by Palehound

Ellen Kempner of Palehound

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Pet Carrot” by Palehound (2013, from the Bent Nail EP).

Palehound is an indie rock recording project based in Yonkers, New York. The founding member is Ellen Kempner. She had been in other bands before, and she started this project in 2012 during her freshman year at Sarah Lawrence College. From what I understand, the lineup of the band is meant to be constantly revolving, so in essence, this is a solo project.

The six songs on the EP are meant to portray Kempner’s transition from teenager to adult, and I think most would agree that the songwriting is very mature. Each song has its own sound, and I don’t think there’s a connective thread, so it’s totally fair to have each song stand on its own. However, there’s something that seems “Canadian” about this EP. I’m reminded quite a bit of the marvelous Julie Doiron, and there’s something that also reminds me a bit of the big noise from a small package that is Drawn Ship.

Palehound is one of the 160 bands who will be playing at next month’s fifth annual Hopscotch Music Festival in downtown Raleigh. I had never heard of them until the lineup was announced, and now I’m really looking forward to seeing them play at the festival. They’ll be playing on Friday night (September 5) from 10:30 to 11:30 at Slim’s. It looks like Friday night will be the hardest night for me to manage. There are lots of scheduling conflicts, so I’ll have to pay close attention to the day party schedule.

Anyway, here’s today’s song:
“Pet Carrot” by Palehound

I love how it’s relatively quiet and comes off as a fairly “cute” song for the first 1:36. It’s during this portion of the song that I’m reminded in a weird way of what Helium might have sounded like as an acoustic band. Then, the noise comes in right there and it stays a bit noisy for the rest of the song. That’s precisely what makes me think of Drawn Ship.

This is a very tidy EP. The whole thing clocks in at under 17 minutes, so you can listen to the entire thing while you’re taking a coffee break. You can purchase a digital download of it from bandcamp here.

Single-day and three-day passes are still available for Hopscotch. Check out all the different options here.


08.14.2014 — “King Porus” by SoftSpot

SoftSpot

If you only listen to one song today, make it “King Porus” by SoftSpot (2014, from the album MASS). SoftSpot is an indie rock band from Brooklyn whose exact subclassification is hard to pin down. They have elements of dream pop, elements of “stoner rock”, elements of post-rock, and many others. However, it wouldn’t be fair to classify them as any of those. They describe themselves as “Old School New Age Art Rock”. There’s a lo-fi grunge band from Halifax (who are also worth checking out) by the name of Soft Spot, but this isn’t that. This is SoftSpot. The band started in Brooklyn back in 2009 when North Carolinians and long-time friends Sarah Kinlaw and Brian Keller Jr joined forces. A few years later, they added drummer Blaze Beteh (who came to Brooklyn by way of Atlanta). They put out a handful of records on their own imprint Zen as Fuck Records, and their friend Jonathan Campolo always did the artwork for the sleeves. Later still, Campolo joined the band on synths. Earlier this year, the band came down to western North Carolina, where they recorded their new album in what has only been described as “a makeshift studio on the top of a mountain somewhere in the Appalachians” I’d never heard of this band until recently, and they’re one of the 160 bands who will be playing at the fifth annual Hopscotch Music Festival this September in downtown Raleigh. They’re playing Saturday night, September 6 from 10:30 to 11:30 at Slim’s. Today’s song is the first song from the new album, and without further ado, this is that song: When taken as a whole, the song sort of reminds me of the magnificent chamber/post-rock 12-piece Altos. They were my surprise favorite band of Hopscotch 2012, but they’ve sadly fallen off the face of the earth. Part of the reason that this song reminds me of Altos is that “King Porus” has several distinct and completely different parts. Also, the way they’ve produced this, it sounds like there’s much more than four players. It starts off sounding a bit like a folk song, with pretty straightforward instruments, and Kinlaw’s vocals a bit on the low end of the register. Somewhere around 1:10, there’s a slight change. A guitar bit gets a little brighter. Something else happens very subtly, and it goes from sounding more like a psychedelic rock song than a folk song. Then there’s a vocal bit behind the main vocals. For that, Kinlaw is really high in the register. That’s where it starts to sound just a bit like dream-pop.

There’s sort of a long bit there where the main components are her angelic vocalizing, cymbals, synths. It’s at the point in the song when it might be called “middle eight”, but when we come out of that bit, it’s nothing at all like what happened earlier in the song. When we emerge out of that dreamy bit, everything is much bigger than it was before and Kinlaw’s vocals are still pretty high. And they’re doubled and delayed. Everything sounds really enormous. It’s almost reminiscent of the Arcade Fire stuff on Funeral. It’s that bit. The bit from about 3:15 to about 4:08, where everything is big and anthemic. I love that bit, and it wish it would go on like that for a few more minutes. Alas, that bit ends, and we get to the coda, which settles everything down and tidies everything up.

You can buy a digital download or a vinyl copy of the album via the SoftSpot bandcamp page. Hopscotch is downsized a bit this year due to renovations in one of the large venues. From a logistics standpoint, this means that there are fewer tickets and wristbands available this year. There are still some left, but if you want to attend, you should hurry up and secure your tickets. Check out all of the ticketing options here.


08.08,2014 — “Coasts” by Leave the Planet

Leave the Planet

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Coasts” by Leave the Planet (2014, from the “Coasts/Sarah, Where Are You” digital single).

Leave the Planet is a lo-fi shoegaze/dream pop duo from London. As the story goes, Natalie Bruno moved into the same apartment building as Jack Milwaukee, they discovered that they had similar taste in music, and they decided to start a band. They’re both huge fans of Galaxie 500, and they named their band after the Galaxie 500 song “Leave the Planet” (1990, from the album On Fire).

The band is signed to Kanine Records, which is home to a lot of really great bands. Last night, the Kanine Records social media person posted this song to their feed, and I fell in love with it right away.

This is that song:
“Coasts” by Leave the Planet

It’s got distant-sounding fuzzy guitars, a Cocteaus-esque drum machine bit, and warm synths. Beneath all of that, Bruno’s reverb-drenched vocals sit way low in the mix. It simultaneously sounds like classic dream-pop and also like something fresh. I guess I can lump them in with other outstanding dream-pop duos Beach House and Memoryhouse.

This is a mesmerizing song. I listened to it late last night, and it stayed in my head all morning. As I usually do, I’ve listened to the song over and over while I write, and I know that I’ll be thinking about those hooks for the rest of the day.

The single will be released digitally on August 12. You can order your copy here.


08.07.2014 — “Right Through” by Wing Dam

Wing Dam

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Right Through” by Wing Dam (2014, from the album Shifter Bliss).

Wing Dam is an indie rock/post-grunge trio from Baltimore. They have a sound that a lot of people say is the embodiment of the “Baltimore sound”. I wouldn’t say that they “sound like” or even “remind me of” Baltimore luminaries like Wye Oak and Thrushes, but the three bands would certainly go well together on a mix tape.

There’s definitely a 90s feel to what they’re doing. I’ve listened to most of the album, and it definitely has elements of the tough-but-sweet That Dog, the clever angles of Pavement, and the raw emotion of Archers of Loaf

I had never heard of this band until the 2014 Hopscotch Music Festival lineup was announced a few months ago. We’re less than a month away from the festival, which means it’s time for me to start cracking on my homework. This year there are 160 bands scheduled for the festival, which opens Thursday September 4 and officially closes Saturday September 6. Every year when the lineup is announced, I’m only familiar with maybe 15% of the bands, but I do a ton of homework and I always start with a long list of about 40 that I’d like to see. By the time the schedule is announced, I narrow that to about 30, and as we get closer to the festival, I’ll narrow that list to about 20. Realistically, I won’t be able to see every band that I have on my lists, and I always end up seeing something that wasn’t even on my long list. That’s the way this festival works. I love it.

Anyway, this is one of the bands that I’ve already put on my short list.

“Right Through” by Wing Dam

Wing Dam will be playing the 9:30-10:30 slot at Slim’s. You can still buy tickets to the whole festival, single day passes, and City Plaza shows. See all the ticketing options here.

You can buy a digital download of Shifter Bliss here, and as per the band’s instructions “play it loud as fuck”.


08.04.2014 — “Scars” by Gems

Gems

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Scars” by Gems (2014, from the standalone single “Scars”).

Gems is a “shadow pop”/synth-pop/dream pop duo from Washington, DC. Lindsay Pitts and John Usher used to be in a lo-fi folk/psychedelic band called Birdlips, but they decided to go in a totally different direction when they formed this band in 2012. They released a four-song EP called Medussa last autumn, and the reviews usually include adjectives like “dark”, “delicate”, “sexy”. Thanks to the coupling of Pitts’ soaring, ethereal vocals and the dark synths, some of their songs bear some resemblance to things more gothy like early Cocteau Twins and maybe even Zola Jesus.

I know absolutely nothing else about Gems and I had never heard of them until the lineup for the fifth annual Hopscotch Music Festival was announced in April. Once again, I’ll be attending the festival and writing all about it. They’ll play the 10:30 slot at CAM on Friday night, the middle night of the festival.

Anyway, here’s the song:

“Scars” by Gems

I love how during the verses, her voice is normal, but in the chorus, it gets all high and angelic. There’s something really special about that octave shift. The first time we hear this shift is at 0:45, and it kind of knocks my socks off every time it gets to the chorus when she makes that shift.

Another part that I really dig is that middle eight section. It gets all fuzzy and crunchy and a little warmer. That starts at 2:16, and the fuzzy bit bleeds right into the final chorus with those lovely, dreamy high vocals. During that final chorus, there’s also a loop of some of the other vocals blended right in there.

There’s a lot of layering and mixing going on in this song, and I love it.

If you’re able to make it to Raleigh for Hopscotch this year, you really should. Tickets are still available, and lots of options are there. For example, if you only want to go to the Spoon/St.Vincent/Lonnie Walker show in City Plaza on Friday, you can do that. If you can only go on Saturday, you can get a one-day pass for that. Obviously, the best deal is to get the 3-day wristband. Those are still available, but the “VIP” passes have sold out. Check out all of the ticketing options here.


08.01.2014 — “The Archive” by We Need Secrets

We Need Secrets

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “The Archive” by We Need Secrets (2014, from the album Melancholy and the Archive).

We Need Secrets is a shoegaze recording project of Halifax, Novia Scotia musician Chad Peck. He’s been writing and recording songs for this project in his basement for about four years. He’s been in other bands, and he runs a record label, but right now, this is his baby. Last autumn, We Need Secrets joined the Saint Marie Records family. Way back then, I wrote a post about the song “Melancholy”, when it was in a different stage of development. In the post, I wrote that “the album will be out in early 2014″, but it just got released on Tuesday via Saint Marie.

The version of “Melancholy” that made it to the album is much cleaner and well-produced than the version that I wrote about last September. It’s worth mentioning that the production team included Elliot Frazier from the brilliant Texas shoegaze band Ringo Deathstarr and Bob Weston from Shellac. Frazier played guitar on a track or two and also worked the mixing desk. Weston did the mastering. There were a few guest musicians, but Peck wrote and recorded the bulk of it himself.

There’s a point of reference that gets thrown around a lot when you’re talking about shoegaze bands. I think it’s overused and in most cases, it’s inappropriate. However, in the case of We Need Secrets, it really does sound like My Bloody Valentine. Tonight’s song is certainly an example of how the MBV sound has been a major influence on Peck. Other influences include The Swirlies and Ringo Deathstarr.

This is that song.
“The Archive” by We Need Secrets

Right out of the gate, it’s super fuzzy and super crunchy. Lots of bent notes and pitch shifting. Lots of pedals and lots of loops.

This isn’t one of those songs that I can point out a specific thing that I really love about the song. I just love the whole thing because I do.

I highly recommend getting the album. There’s a limited run of normal vinyl and there was a very limited run of clear, glitter-infused vinyl. There’s also a CD. The clear vinyl is out of stock, but the other physical releases can be purchased from the Saint Marie web shop here. You can also purchase a digital copy via Bandcamp here.


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