12.15.2014 — “Almost Blue” by Moon King

Moon King

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Almost Blue” by Moon King (2013, from the Obsession II EP).

Moon King is the Toronto dream pop duo of Daniel Benjamin and Maddy Wilde. Last year, they released two very good EPs via One Big Silence Records, which is run by the guy from Fucked Up. The two EPs — Obsession I and Obsession II were combined and re-released as a double EP Obsession later in 2013 by Tough Love Records. They have a debut album in the works for a 2015 release. Last week, the band announced that they had been signed to the Toronto label Last Gang Records and that they would go on a “world tour” with This is That Song favorite Alvvays. By the way, if you don’t have that Alvvays record on your 2014 year-end list, then you’re doing it wrong.

I got something in the mail bag about the signing to Last Gang, and although it took me a while to get around to it, I fell in love with tonight’s song right away.

A lot of things can be said about Moon King, but what you’ll always see in other write-ups about them is that they’re massively influenced by Cocteau Twins. Their other songs might also sound like other things — there’s one that reminds me of Darling Buds. On tonight’s song, though, there’s definitely a big fingerprint left by that whole late 80s/early 90s 4AD Records sound. Maybe even earlier Cocteaus than that. I’m thinking maybe Head Over Heels (1983). Wilde’s voice isn’t Liz Fraser-esque or anything like that, but there’s just a big Cocteaus feel from all of it. There’s a nice mix of electronic sounds and live instruments. Effects loops and delayed vocals. It’s all covered in a dense pink and orange fog.

This is that song:
“Almost Blue” by Moon King

I love the thick drum sequence, the tape loops and the doubled/delayed vocal. I have to think that some of the drums are live and some from a machine, and I’m pretty sure that when they perform, they use a live drummer. As far as I can tell, Maddy does the lead vocals and guitar bits while Daniel does everything else with a midi controller. However they do it, they’re doing it very well on this song.

You can buy the Obsession double EP on one piece of 12″ vinyl for about $20 USD from Tough Love here. No details yet about the forthcoming 2015 album, but those details should be emerging very soon.

For a little bit of extra credit, here’s a video for the song. It’s a bit 4ADish. And there’s a cat.


12.12.2014 — “When Christmas Comes” by Los Campesinos!

Los Campesinos!

If you only listen to one new Christmas song this holiday season, make it “When Christmas Comes” by Los Campesinos! (2014, from the EP A Los Campesinos! Christmas).

Los Campesinos! is an indie pop sextet from Cardiff. I’ve written about them a couple of times before. Herein 2012, and here last year. Since 2006, they’ve released five proper albums, a few EPs, and a bunch of singles. They’ve shuffled the lineup a few times and have shrunk from nine members to six. In 2012, bassist Ellen Waddell, who was a founding member, left the band. It was devastating news to fans, and she was probably more gutted than any fan. She left a long, emotional note on the band’s tumblr, and she played her final show with them on December 15 of that year. In the note, she asked fans not to point out her tears, but to regard them as “eye sweat”. She left to pursue her dream of becoming “a failed writer”. She writes fiction and screen plays. She also has a one-woman semi-autobiographical show called “Jean-Luc Picard and Me” about an obsessed Star Trek fan who uses lessons learned from Star Trek to navigate real-world obstacles.

There was naturally some fear that Ellen’s departure would make the band worse, but they found a way to carry on. Last year’s No Blues was a good record that just barely missed my year-end list.

Everybody knows that I don’t enjoy Christmas music. I don’t like “traditional” Christmas music, I don’t like modern interpretations of traditional Christmas songs, and with a few exceptions, I don’t like new-fangled Christmas songs. Last year, I wrote a post about how there were five “Christmas” songs from the 1990s that I really like. Four of them originals, and a Cocteau Twins cover of “Frosty The Snowman”. You can read that post here.

This year, Los Campesinos! have made a Christmas EP with five original songs and one cover. A couple of the originals have been around for a couple of years, and the others are brand new. The songs all have some Christmas imagery, and they’re naturally packed with the signature LC! snark. Christmas isn’t only about puppy dogs, warm cups of cocoa, and brand new luxury sedans in the driveway. There’s also some heartache and sorrow. That’s life. These are songs about love and lust. Because it’s a LC! record, there are obligatory references to booze, nudity, sex, and also to vomiting. You know…. Christmas! The EP was released this week via iTunes, but today’s song was shared publicly almost a month ago. I’ve spent a lot of time with this song

“When Christmas Comes” by Los Campesinos!

It’s got all the textbook LC! stuff. The coed vocals from Gareth and Kim. The chanting in the chorus. The glockenspiel. The big percussion. The big hooks. It’s just a glorious pop song.

There’s the classic LC! hopeless romantic notion

Audition for ass end of horse in village pantomime
just to hear your voice calling from the back

and the classic LC! sexy bit:

A dream of you stood naked as Christmas tree,
left unattended ’til second week of February.
In the morning, you’re lying next to me
Covered in gold, stole from nativity

I really love that line “naked as a Christmas tree left unattended til second week of February”.

This is, by a long way, my favorite song on the EP, but I also like the others. They made a very limited run of vinyl, and it sold out immediately. You should buy a digital copy from the iTunes store.


12.07.2014 — “Not Today” by Flyying Colours

Flyying Colours

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Not Today” by Flyying Colours (2014, from a standalone single).

Flyying Colours is a shoegaze quartet from Melbourne. They’ve been around since 2011, and they really turned a bunch of heads last year with their self-titled debut EP. Just a few months ago, they came out with a brand new standalone single that might put them at the front of the crowded pack of new bands emerging from the Melbourne shoegazer scene. There’s quite a lot of shoegaze coming out of Australia in general and Melbourne in particular. Just the other day, I featured another of the city’s bright shoegazing stars Lowtide.

Flyying Colours has a variety of influences that run the shoegaze gamut, from dreamy to noisy to heavy. It’s pretty clear on this song that they take a lot of cues from Swervedriver. Only they do their thing with more rounded edges than Swervedriver ever did. Swervedriver never had coed vocals like Flyying Colors does, but at one point in today’s song while Gemma O’Connor has the lead vocals, I imagine it’s what it would have sounded like if Miki Berenyi out of Lush had done some guest vocals for Swervedriver.

That said, here’s today’s song:

“Not Today” by Flyying Colours

Within the first thirty seconds, you get a little bit of everything. The intro is all guitar loop, then at 0:10, the bass and drums come in and it’s dark and angular and a tiny bit post-punk. Then at 0:20 with the wave of guitars all fuzz and delay. It’s a fantastic way to start a song with those three distinctly different flavors.

In the second verse with Gemma singing lead, that’s where I’m reminded of Miki Berenyi. Even the lyrics there sound a bit Lush-esque

I can’t help these things I’m feeling
I can’t help the way you see things
I don’t want to leave this way
(something) you could stay another day

The vocals get all caught up in the wave of guitar distortion and it’s difficult to make out how the rest of that verse goes. This also happens in the first verse when Brody Brümmer has the lead vocal. Even though I can’t make out all the vocals, it’s clearly about sex.

I’ve listened to the song over and over and I’m not getting tired of it.

You can download the song for free from soundcloud here. If you’re feeling generous, you can buy a digital or physical (CD) copy from Shelflife Records here.

There’s some bit of ambiguity about what’s on the immediate horizon for Flyying Colours. All it says in their one-sheet is that they’re working on their next 12″ record. There’s no indication whether that’s going to be an EP or a full-length album. Either way, it should be something to look forward to in 2015.


12.03.2014 — “So Long” by School ’94

School ’94

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “So Long” by School ’94 (2014, from the Like You EP).

School ’94 is a post-punk/indie-pop quartet from Gothenburg, Sweden. That city is also home to electro-pop duo The Knife as well as that really horrible pop band from the 1990s Ace of Base. Future Hockey Hall of Famer Daniel Alfredsson is from there, and so was the 1959 heavyweight boxing champion of the world Ingemar Johansson.

They used to call themselves School, but recently changed for some reason. Yesterday, they released their debut EP Like You via Cascine Records (North America, UK) and Luxury Records (Sweden). They generated a bit of buzz ahead of the release, and this has been dubbed a “much-anticipated” release. I got something in the mailbag about the EP, and if I’m honest, I knew I liked it before I even laid ears on it. The email said that they draw their sound from classic punk and modern pop, and it also included an attention-grabbing quote from a review done by Wondering Sound:

(The EP’s title track is) a gorgeous bit dewy-eyed heartsick guitar pop

I’ve been featuring a lot of shoegaze lately. That really is my genre of preference, but I do have a pretty sizable soft spot for that dewy-eyed heartsick guitar pop.

Tonight’s song has been kicking around for about a year, and a video for it was released a few months ago, but the EP itself just came out yesterday. This is that song.

“So Long” by School ’94

There’s so much to like about this song. There are elements (especially the bass) that remind me of The Cure. There are other elements that remind me of some 80s new wave stuff. And on top of all that, Alice Botéus sings in a very strong but sexy way that sounds a bit like Miss Nika Roza Danilova, who is much better known as Zola Jesus.

Somehow, this song is simultaneously gloomy and bright. I don’t understand it, but it works really well. There’s also something that’s really charming about the late-1980s-style long, gradual fade at the end. It’s magical. When they were doing that long fade in the 1960s, it often sounded like they just didn’t know how to resolve the song. The 80s long fade was a bit of a different animal.

For some extra credit, here’s a 90s-style performace video.

You can buy the six song Like You EP from Amazon here.


12.01.2014 — “Drive Blind” as covered by 93 Million Miles From The Sun

93 Million Miles From The Sun

If you only listen to one cover song tonight, make it “Drive Blind” as covered by 93 Million Miles From The Sun (2014, from a standalone single). The original was done by Ride (1990, from the Ride EP).

93 Million Miles From The Sun is a shoegaze/noise rock trio from Doncaster, England. They’ve been at it since 2008, and they’ve recorded a few EPs, a few singles and three albums. They have a new album called Fall Into Nothing due out soon, but they’re making a bunch of waves with this standalone song that they released last week.

Although this is a band which is right up my alley, I’d never listened to them before today. I’ve seen their name a bunch of times, including on some “the best of shoegaze” lists, but for some reason, I’ve never listened to them. Their name, by the way is a reference to the Earth’s distance from the sun. I’ll make the assumption that it’s a tip of the hat to the magnificent 1997 Swervedriver single “93 Million Miles From The Sun… and Counting”.

Some really big news came out of England two weeks ago. The massively influential shoegaze band Ride announced that they’re getting back together. At least long enough to play a few high-profile festivals in Europe and a very small handful of dates in North America.

After the landmark album Nowhere in 1990, Ride was on top of the world. They were the darlings of the UK indie rock press and they were one of the flag bearers for Creation Records. More importantly, they made a big splash in the United States. A lot of the English indies were flying under the US radar because of poor or non-existent distribution in the US and the often prohibitive cost of ordering import records. Ride made it here because of Seymour Stein. As the founder and chief of Sire Records, he brought a lot of up-and-coming bands to stardom. He also brought a lot of UK bands to prominence in the US. At some point in 1990, Stein made a deal for Sire/Warner to get US distribution of three of Creation’s biggest bands: My Bloody Valentine, Ride, and Primal Scream. It was a huge deal for everybody involved, and that little back-room deal is an often overlooked stroke of genius.

Anyway, Ride continued their success with Going Blank Again, but they changed their style after that. Simultaneously, things started to go wrong within the band. Andy Bell and Mark Gardener were at each other’s throats and could no longer work together by the time their dismal failure Carnival of Light came out in 1994. They had a falling out that had them acting like bigger babies than Noel and Liam Gallagher. They managed to stay away from each other and still work with the rest of the band, and Carnival is literally split down the middle, with Gardener’s songs on one side and Bell’s on the other. They finally called it quits while they were actually recording their final album Tarantula in 1996. They stomped off in opposite directions, and oddly enough, Bell joined Oasis. By then, the Gallagher brothers had drifted far apart and they had a huge fight which Noel blamed partly on Bell. Bell and Liam started a band called Beady Eye.

That’s more backstory than you wanted and certainly more drama than you were expecting. The point is that except for a one-off a few years ago, everyone assumed that Bell and Gardener wouldn’t work together again and there would never be a Ride reunion.

Fortunately, they buried the hatchet and they’re working together. At least in preparation for the nine tour dates that they announced.

In celebration of this announcement, 93 Million Miles From The Sun went out and recorded a brilliant cover of “Drive Blind”, which is perhaps my second favorite Ride song. A couple of years ago, they also did a trippy, slowed-down cover of “Vapour Trail”, but that’s not why we’re here. We’re here, finally, for this:

“Drive Blind” as covered by 93 Million Miles From The Sun

The original Ride version clocks in at 4:46, and this cover stretches it out to a massive 8:15. That’s mostly thanks to a very extended intro and an extended coda. It also seems like it’s played at a slightly lower BPM rate, but I can’t really be sure.

It’s magnificent, and there’s really nothing else that needs to be said.

I don’t know the release date for the new album, but I do know that this song isn’t on it. As of right now, it doesn’t look like you can buy it. But you can stream it on Soundcloud as much as you want.


11.30.2014 — “Rosie” by Tuques

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Rosie” by Tuques (2014, from the Slushpuppie EP).

Tuques is a shoegaze/noise pop/dream pop quartet from Edmonton. They put out a really great EP this October via the Edmonton-based cassette-only label Phởk-ing Tapes.

I don’t know anything at all about this band. I learned about their EP while I was snooping around the outstanding Sounds Better With Reverb site. I’ve seen this EP mentioned on a couple of other shoegaze-centric sites, and as soon as I took a listen, I liked it.

There’s a little bit of lo-fi grittiness to this entire EP, a lot of tape hiss. It sounds a little bit like it might have been recorded through the on-board tape recorder on a boom box. Like the magnificent All Hail West Texas by The Mountain Goats. That’s probably not the case, but it certainly is the case that they didn’t have loads of posh studio gear at their disposal. Nonetheless, it’s gloriously noisy in all the right ways. Feedback and fuzz and delay. It’s a very good EP, and I’ll hope that there’s more to come from this young band.

There’s only six songs on this EP, and they’re all great. Even while I was writing this post, I changed my mind three times which song to feature, and I finally settled on this.

“Rosie” by Tuques

Right from the drop, there’s no mistaking what’s going on here. A squall of feedback and we’re immediately hit with a heavy wave of fuzzy guitars. Airy delay-laden vocals? Check.

Something about this song reminds me in a very general way of one of the finest and most unsung examples of mid-1990s American shoegaze. The Drop Nineteens.

In the second half of the song, it gets a bit quiet for a few seconds, and I love that moment that comes at about 2:58. After the big burst of feedback, the heavy wave comes again. But it’s all so much bigger here than it was at the opening of the song. Almost impossibly big. Hard to breathe. I can imagine this is something to behold as a live song. I’ve just listened through headphones again and again, and I suggest that you do the same.

You can download the Slushpuppie EP by naming your own price here.


11.26.2014 — “Beautiful Kingdom” by Dreamcoat

Dreamcoat

Dreamcoat

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

Dreamcoat is an indie rock/folk quartet from Melbourne. They released this single back in September via Blank Tape Records, and they’re set to start recording their debut EP sometime early in the new year.

I know nothing about this band, but I got something in the mail bag promising that Dreamcoat’s style has “elements of shoegaze, folk, post-rock, and indie-pop”. I love those genres, so I was naturally quite intrigued by that.

I wouldn’t say that this song has any elements of shoegaze or post-rock, but I’m not disappointed in any way. I like it a lot. I’m not the first and I won’t be the last to say that this song is really really reminiscent of Grizzly Bear. Part of it is that Dreamcoat vocalist Kieran Ebert sings a lot like Grizzly Bear’s Ed Droste. Part of it is the drumming. Part of it is the guitar work. It’s the whole thing. It’s a lot like Grizzly Bear. In case you missed it, Shields was my second favorite album of 2012, so being compared to Grizzly Bear is a very good thing.

This is that song.
“Beautiful Kingdom” by Dreamcoat

There’s actually a couple of bits where Ebert reminds me of Jeff Buckley. At the end of each vocal line when there’s a little drum fill, and everything gets a little louder. Reminds me of Buckley in the chorus of “So Real”.

I liked the song right away, and apart from the things I’ve already mentioned, I was drawn to the line in the chorus. I can’t make the whole thing out but I get

I flew to the moon just to drown in your (??)

I have no idea what that last word is, but it’s a cool line anyway. Hopelessly romantic.

This is another one of those songs that I like more and more after repeated back-to-back listens. It’s gonna stick with me for a little while. I hope the rest of the forthcoming EP is this good.

If you happen to live in the Melbourne area, Dreamcoat will be playing a single release party this Sunday night at The Gasometer. That’s ten thousand miles from me, so it’s extremely unlikely that I’ll be there.

For extra credit, here’s the video:


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