09.03.2015 — “Sequester” by The Virgance

Nathan Smith (The Virgance)

Nathan Smith (The Virgance)

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Sequester” by The Virgance (2015, from the forthcoming album Paradigm 3).

The Virgance is a dream pop/ambient/shoegaze recording project of Nathan Smith, who is from a very small town called Acton, in the county of Suffolk, England. He’s a part of the Portuguese web-only label El Vals Del Conejo. That label is also home to This is That Song alumni Flying Cape Experience.

Smith released his first album (Lost Continent) in February of 2014, then another (Hiko Shrine) this January. The third album (Paradigm 3) will be released on September 21. One of its tracks features guest vocals by Shauna McLarnon from the Canadian/Ukrainian dream pop/shoegaze duo Ummagma. She sent me an email about the new Virgance album, and I liked it right away.

A lot of labels and PR firms and lazy journalists will haphazardly throw around references to Slowdive but it’s not often that something really does remind me of them. The first half of this song is sort of distant and foggy. Very atmospheric and dream-like. In that way, I’m certainly reminded of Slowdive’s first album Just For a Day). The second half of the song gets much bigger and noisier and makes a shift from dream pop to shoegaze. It’s pretty cool how it happens.

This is that song.

“Sequester” by The Virgance

I’m a really big fan of the atmospheric parts. There’s so much delay and reverb and all that good stuff, so the guitars just become a steady stream of rolling waves and undertow. Most of the rest of that album sounds like that, and to an extent it’s even drone-y. There’s something mysterious and haunting and just-out-of-reach about it.

You can get a digital download of Paradigm 3 via bandcamp by naming your own price here.


09.01.2015 — “Windwaker” by Grubs

Grubs

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Windwaker” by Grubs (2015, from the forthcoming album It Must Be Grubs).

Grubs is an indie-pop trio from Bristol, England. Roxy Brennan (vocals/guitar) and Owen Williams (guitar/vocals) also play in the Welsh noise-pop band Joanna Gruesome, who changed their lineup this year just after releasing their brilliant new record Peanut Butter. Rounding out the band is drummer Jake May, who is not in Joanna Gruesome.

I didn’t know that this side project existed until I got a submission to the mail bag last month, promoting this song and the band’s debut album It Must Be Grubs. The album will be out on September 11 via Reeks of Effort Records and Tuff Enuff Records.

I haven’t heard the rest of the album, but this song definitely reminds me of K Records 1993. It reminds me of Lois and of Rose Melberg’s band Tiger Trap. And maybe even a little bit of Beat Happening. Rose Melberg has been in a lot of bands, and they’re all awesome, but Tiger Trap is my favorite, and they don’t get enough love in the nostalgia press. Heck, they didn’t get enough love in 1993 either, despite my best intentions.

Anyway, that’s what this song reminds me of. Cuddlepunk.

This is that song
“Windwaker” by Grubs

I love the “made in yer bedroom” sound, complete with the tom-heavy drums, and I especially love the vocal tracks. As far as I know, there aren’t any guest vocals. It’s Roxy and Owen on vocals, with Roxy obviously doing most of the work. It sounds like they tracked her at least two, maybe three times, and there’s some crazy layering of those tracks.

To complete the “K Records circa 1993” analogy, this song clocks in at a very tidy 1:50. There’s nothing superfluous, and if anything, it leaves me wishing that the song was at least a minute longer.

The album will come out on September 11, and you can pre-order it here.


08.31.2015 — “You Made Me Do That” by Cruising

Cruising

If you only listen to one song today, make it “You Made Me Do That” by Cruising (2015, from the Cruising EP).

Cruising is an Irish post-punk supergroup, with its four members living in Belfast and Dublin. Frontwoman Benni Johnston (vocals) used to be in a Dublin post-punk band called Logikparty, who disbanded in 2012 after a couple of records. Claire Miskimmin (guitar/bass) is still active as the bassist for the amazing Belfast band Girls Names, who released a new EP Zero Triptych in May and have a new album Arms Around a Vision coming out in October. Neil Brogan used to play in Girls Names and is now the guitarist and singer in the Belfast indie-pop band Sea Pinks. Sarah Grimes (drums) also plays in the Dublin noise/post-punk band September Girls.

Due to the schedules of each of those other bands, and the fact that this is the “side project” for everyone except Johnston, the band doesn’t get much time to play shows or even to rehearse. Specifically, as crazily busy as Girls Names has been, it’s kind of a miracle that this EP even came into being.

I didn’t know anything about this side project until I read a little article in NME :10 Essential August Releases You Might Have Missed. The article simply described the EP like this:

howling post-punk, shadowy psych and pop hooks that results in something equally buoyant and brooding

And that was good enough for me. But with no embedded songs, I had to seek it out. This was another of many times when the first five seconds of the first song I listened to completely exceeded the very high expectations that I had.

The band certainly sounds like the sum of its parts, which should be no surprise. In a weird, but not-so-weird way, some of the songs remind me of Blondie. In fact, the first few bars of today’s song sound a bit like the guitar in “One Way or Another”.

This is that song
“You Made Me Do That” by Cruising

Like “One Way Or Another”, the guitar on this is played using a lot of upstrokes and perhaps as few as two chords. Throughout the EP, there’s a lot of repetition of structure. I don’t want to suggest that it’s a bad thing, though. At the end of the day, this is a collection of really good songs.

The initial pressing of the EP was on hot pink vinyl, and it sold out very quickly. A second press was done on regular black vinyl, and will be available from September 4. You can pre-order that from Rough Trade here, or you can buy a digital download from eMusic or Amazon or even iTunes.


08.30.2015 — “Cranekiss” by Tamaryn

Tamaryn

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Cranekiss” by Tamaryn (2015, from the album Cranekiss).

Tamaryn is a dream pop/synth/shoegaze recording project of New Zealand native Tamaryn Brown, who moved to the US some time ago. She’s bounced back and forth between New York and San Francisco, and is now based out of Brooklyn. Her 2010 album The Waves was one of my favorite records that year, and the follow-up Tender New Signs was #9 on my favorite albums of 2012 list.

This eagerly anticipated third album Cranekiss just came out via Mexican Summer, and it was marked by a lot of changes. She moved back to Brooklyn from San Francisco. She tweaked her sound. She got a new set of collaborators: on this one she worked with Shaun Durkan from Weekend and Jeorge Elbrecht from Violens.

The new record is a bit more synthy than her previous efforts and at times a bit darker. I haven’t been able to spend a lot of time with Cranekiss, but I like it a lot anyway. Especially the title track. This is that song.

“Cranekiss” by Tamaryn

The first ten seconds and the last five obviously bring My Bloody Valentine to mind, with that melty guitar and the big snare fill that sounds like a hybrid of live and synthetic drums. Apart from that, there’s not so much of the MBV vibe.

There’s a brilliant balance of darkness and light. The bass is sort of gloomy and Cure-esque, and there’s a certain coldness to the drums, while the chime-like guitars and the heavy effects and Tamaryn’s angelic vocals offer the counterbalance of light. An abundance, actually.

This song reminds me of why I loved The Waves so much, and there’s a variety of other sounds throughout the rest of the album. It’s not a radical departure from “the Tamaryn sound”, but a bit of one.

Enjoy the beautiful video for the song here:

Buy the album via Mexican Summer here. There’s a limited edition vinyl which they’re describing as “white with silver haze”. I might describe it as “white smoke”. It looks like there are only about 20 still available from the run of 500.


08.28.2015 — “Surrender” by Briana Marela

Briana Marela

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Surrender” by Briana Marela (2015, from the album All Around Us).

Briana Marela is an ambient pop/experimental singer/songwriter from Seattle. I don’t know anything about her and had never heard of her until I got an email promoting the new album, which came out last week via Jagjaguwar.

She self-released a cassette-only album called Water Ocean Lake in 2010, followed by the Speak From Your Heart album in 2012. She immediately got to work on the new album, writing the songs in 2012/2013. Through a series of circumstances, her new songs found their way into the hands of Sigur Rós producer Alex Somers, and they started working together in Iceland to get All Around Us made. At some point in the process, she joined the roster at Jagjaguwar. While this is her third album, it’s the first with label support and the first that will have a significant tour to back it. Her tour, by the way, is a run through North America as the opening act for ambient/electro songstress Jenny Hval. Jenny Hval will be playing at Hopscotch, which will be in full swing in just two weeks. However, Briana Marela will not be there. At least not on the “official” schedule. I haven’t studied the “day party” schedules yet, so I may get a chance to see her at one of those.

Today’s song makes me think of what might happen if Jessie Stein from The Luyas collaborated with The Postal Service.

This is that song
“Surrender” by Briana Marela

I love the multiple layers of vocal track and the vocal manipulation that makes it sound all glitchy. As I said, Marela’s cherubic voice instantly brings to mind Jessie Stein from The Luyas and the late Trish Keenan, who was the front of Broadcast. Oddly enough, on some other songs from the album, she reminds me of Amy Millan from Stars. The song “Everything Is New” sounds like could easily be a Stars song. Something from the In Our Bedroom After The War sessions.

The point is that although there are certainly some cool musical things going on, the star of this show is Marela’s voice.

Please enjoy the video

You can buy a physical copy of All Around Us from Jagjaguwar via SC Distribution here. You can get downloads from bandcamp here or through Amazon, iTunes, eMusic, etc.


08.27.2015 — “Dirty Sun” by Infinity Girl

Infinity Girl

IF you only listen to one song today, make it “Dirty Sun” by Infinity Girl (2015, from the forthcoming album Harm).

Infinity Girl is a shoegaze/noise rock quartet from Brooklyn. They formed in Boston in 2012, released their debut album Stop Being On My Side that spring, and followed that with the Just Like Lovers EP at the end of 2012. Since then, they’ve moved to Brooklyn and signed a deal with Top Shelf Records. The new album will be out tomorrow.

I don’t know for sure, because this information wasn’t included in their press release, but I really hope that the band took its name from the Stereolab song of the same name (1999, from the album Cobra And Phases Group Play Voltage in the Milky Night).

The press on them says that their sound evokes bands like The Swirlies and The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. I’m okay with the Swirlies comparison, and I would definitely qualify the Pains comparison by only including the early Pains stuff. On at least a couple of the songs from Harm, I would say that Infinity Girl reminds me a bit of Ringo Deathstarr. There are a lot of bits and bursts of sheer noise juxtaposed with big chunks of lovely melody. There’s just one thing that all of those bands have that Infinity Girl doesn’t: a girl. I really like what I’m hearing from Infinity Girl, but if they had a female singer or some coed vocal harmonies, I would like it much, much more.

That said, this is a very good album. I didn’t know about the band at all until I got a promo copy in the mail bag along with the email/press release which snared me with the comparison to The Swirlies. In this song, there’s even a tiny bit in the intro that seems like a direct reference to The Swirlies. There’s a weird little sound on “Dirty Sun” that sounds a bit like that bit from The Swirlies “Bell (Prelude)” in which a guy is pulling masking tape from its spool, and that sound is manipulated.

Anyway, here’s today’s song:
“Dirty Sun” by Infinity Girl

What makes this for me is the carefully placed bursts of noise and perfect amounts of feedback, which allow for the melodies to be the bigger picture.

The release date for this is tomorrow, and you can pre-order it via Topshelf here. You can get it on regular black vinyl or “clear with black smoke” vinyl. Orders of physical copies come with a lossless digital download. You can also, of course, buy a digital download on its own.


08.26.2015 — “That Kind of Girl” by All Dogs

All Dogs

If you only listen to one song today, make it “That Kind of Girl” by All Dogs (2015, from the forthcoming album Kicking Every Day).

All Dogs is, per their press release, a “loud rock band that plays pop songs”. The DIY punk-influenced quartet from Columbus, Ohio released a four-song EP in 2013 and a standalone single called “Georgia” last December. Their debut album Kicking Every Day will be out this Friday via the Detroit-based Salinas Records. That label is the home of Swearin’ (Allison Crutchfield) and P.S. Eliot (Katie and Allison Crutchfield), but not Waxahatchee (Katie Crutchfield). Katie has climbed the indie rock ladder and is now on one of the biggest indies, Merge Records. Although we’re not here to talk about the magnificent Crutchfield twins, it’s easy to bring their names up in a conversation about All Dogs. They share some common RIYL tags, and to some extent, they sound like each other. I know that All Dogs has played at least a couple of shows with Waxahatchee, but I don’t know about their touring history with Swearin’.

I had never heard of All Dogs until I got a promo copy of the album in the mail bag this morning. The email grabbed my attention with some press clips like “Fuzzed out guitars, unfussy production values…” (New York Times) and “Loud guitar, unpolished but affecting vocals… (I)mpressive and intoxicating” (NPR), and references to 1990s college radio playlists. It only took a few seconds for me to know that this is right up my alley. From the aforementioned fuzzy guitars, to some tricks in the stereo field, to singer Maryn Jones’ voice that’s somewhat reminiscent of That Dog frontwoman Anna Waronker. There’s an occasional hint of growl or vocal fry, but for the most part, Jones comes out cleaner than some similar sounding singers like Alicia Bognanno from Bully or Lyn Heinemann from Drawn Ship.

Today’s song is the fourth song on the album, but it was the first that I played. Whenever I’m previewing an album, I rarely start with the first track. Like I said, it only took a few seconds to decide that I really really like this.

“That Kind of Girl” by All Dogs

There’s a subtle bit in the intro that tugged at some heartstrings for me. The first few seconds are weighted really heavily towards the right channel. Right at 0:07, the drums come crashing in and the balance sort of evens out. It seems like the drums might be heavier left than right, but I might be imagining that. Incidentally, they use this same trick on the album’s opener “Black Hole” I’m always a sucker for that, and it adds icing to a cake that was already pretty delicious.

A lot of reviews have mentioned All Dogs in the same breath with Bully and Hop Along. Both of those bands have great new records this year, and I’ve already mentioned that both of those bands evoke the last “golden age of indie rock” — the mid 1990s.

As I spend more time with this album, I expect that it’ll climb its way into the top 20 or so of my year-end list (along with those records by Bully and Hop Along). Historically, I’ve made year-end lists of more than 35 but less than 50 full-length new release albums. This year, I might have to make it more like 80. If the year ended today, I would already have a really hard time narrowing my list down to the top 50.

You can pre-order Kicking Every Day from Salinas here.


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