May 29, 2016 — “Misdirection” by Lavender Blush

Lavender Blush — Lavender Blush

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Misdirection” by Lavender Blush (2016, from the Lavender Blush EP).

Lavender Blush is the newest recording project of San Francisco-based shoegazer Ryan Lescure. You may know him from some of his other projects which I’ve written about. Moonbeams, and My Red Dress, but mostly from LSD And the Search for God. Under the Lavender Blush moniker, he released a song last May called “All I Had” and a self-titled EP, which just came out.

I didn’t know about this new project, but Ryan dropped me a line the other day about it. I’m always keen to promote his stuff, and I knew even before I listened that I would like the new stuff.

What I like about this song is that it’s got a heavy Pale Saints vibe. Specifically, the bass reminds me quite a bit of “A Deep Sleep for Steven” (from The Comforts of Madness) or “Deeper Sleep for Steven” (from Mrs. Dolphin). Take your pick. It’s higher than most bass lines, so in that respect, it’s also reminiscent of Naomi’s bass in Galaxie 500. To be fair, there’s something in the guitar that’s also Galaxie 500-esque. Except that this is a good bit fuzzier.

Anyway, this is that song:
“Misdirection” by Lavender Blush

You can buy the five-song EP via Bandcamp here, and you should click on the links above for Lescure’s other projects.


May 26, 2016 — “Tsunami” by Told Slant

Felix Walworth (Told Slant)

Felix Walworth (Told Slant)

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Tsunami” by Told Slant (2016, from the forthcoming album Going By).

Told Slant is an indie rock/indie folk/indie punk recording project based in Brooklyn. The band is really not much more than a “solo” project of Eskimeaux drummer Felix Walworth, who is also a founding member of the Epoch Music collective. Walworth prefers the gender neutral pronouns “They” and “them”. They do all of the recording themselves, but when they perform live, Walworth is joined by fellow Epoch members Gabrielle Smith out of Eskimeaux and Emily Sprague out of Florist. Walworth also plays drums in both of those bands and also in another band called Bellows.

As a bit of trivia that will NEVER come up at your local trivia night, Walworth’s father Danny was in a band with Thurston Moore before Moore formed Sonic Youth.

Walworth has a familiar style of singing that might remind the listener of some pretty varied singers. I can hear bits of Matt Pond, bits of Eric Bachmann (not for his work in Archers of Loaf, but for his work in Crooked Fingers). Some reviewers say that the entire Told Slant package reminds them of Bon Iver, or maybe to Bonnie “Prince” Billie.

Told Slant released one album called Still Water in August of 2012, and the sophomore album Going By will be out on June 16 via Double Double Whammy Records. I’ve been getting stuff in the mailbag, and it’s finally time to share what I’ve been hearing.

Here’s the video for tonight’s song:
“Tsunami” by Told Slant

I like the imperfections in the vocals. Of course I love the coed vocal parts in the chorus. I love the banjo. I love that it’s impossible to put this song into a convenient cubby-hole. It’s a little bit of several different genres, and it all mixes together well. This song reminds me a bit of Group of the Altos, who were one of my favorites of Hopscotch 2012.

The album will be out on June 16, and you can pre-order it via DDW here.

Told Slant just started a US tour, which will go through the middle of July. Details are here.


May 20, 2016 — “Evan Evan” by Pale Dian

Pale Dian

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Evan Evan” by Pale Dian (2016, from the forthcoming album Narrow Birth).

Pale Dian is a dream pop/shoegaze trio from Austin. They’re fronted by Ruth Ellen Smith (vocals/synths/drum machine). She and Derek Kutzer (guitar) used to be in the Austin synth popdream pop outfit Blackstone Rngrs. I don’t know what happened, but that band apparently disbanded, and Pale Dian rose from its ashes.

Like Blackstone Rngrs, Pale Dian is definitely going to appeal to fans of Cocteau Twins, Siouxie and The Banshees, and the like. The tail end of late 1970s UK post-punk/goth and the front end of dream pop. If you’ve got a lot of 4AD records in your collection, this is for you.

I didn’t know that this project had gotten started, but I got something in the mailbag about this song and the forthcoming album. I immediately recognized Smith’s name, and recalled Blackstone Rngrs. Even without listening, I knew that I was going to love this song.

“Evan Evan” by Pale Dian

I love the goth-y/post-punk flavors mixed with the shoegazey dream pop flavors. I like the delay and the other effects on the vocals. But really, I just love the buzz at the end of the song. It all comes to a beautiful, noisy head. And I just want to listen again and again.

Play it loud and play it often.

The album comes out on June 3 via Manifesto Records. You can pre-order a physical copy via Amazon here.


May 19, 2016 — “Your Best American Girl” by Mitski

Mitski Miyawaki (Mitski)

If you only listen to one song and watch one music video today, make it “Your American Girl” by Mitski (2016, from the forthcoming album Puberty 2).

Mitski is an indie rock/indie folk singer/songwriter from Brooklyn. She has released three albums, including the remarkable 2014 album Bury Me at Makeout Creek. She has a stunning new album called Puberty 2 coming out on June 17, and it’s my guess that she’ll instantly go from being just under the radar to being a proper indie queen with this record. I’ve said before that Mitski reminds me of Torres, and I still say that. But with this album, there’s a bit of St. Vincent flavor. It’s indie as hell, but it also has some mainstream accessibility. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

She played at last year’s Hopscotch festival, and I featured her song “Drunk Walk Home” last May, ahead of the festival. She played on the middle night of the festival at Tir Na Nog, and I was unfortunately shut out of the show. I was really disappointed to have missed that, but I’ll have my chance to see her in Durham when she plays in support of the new album next month.

25 year-old Mitski Miyawaki was born in Japan, and has lived in the Congo, Malaysia, China, Turkey, and the United States. She’s “Japanese-American”, but identifies neither as fully Japanese nor fully American. That’s what this song is about, and that’s especially what today’s song is about. It’s about wanting to fit in, but not fitting in. It’s about being frustrated with that. It’s about feeling inferior.

“Your Best American Girl

I love the quiet/loud/quiet thing, and I’m especially fond of the fact that the chorus gets louder the second time through.

The first verse:

If I could, I’d be your little spoon
And kiss your fingers forevermore
But, big spoon, you have so much to do
And I have nothing ahead of me
You’re the sun, you’ve never seen the night
But you hear its song from the morning birds
But I’m not the moon, I’m not even a star
But awake at night I’ll be singing to the birds

“I have nothing ahead of me”. That’s a pretty bleak look. And she compares herself as something very little in comparison to the very big object of her affection.

This is, for the record, autobiographical. In this interview with NPR’s Bob Boilen, she says:

I don’t think I have the kind of creativity to write fiction… (T)his song is quite autobiographical because I didn’t grow up in the U.S. I am half Japanese, and it came from wanting to just fit into this very American person’s life and simply not being able to. Just fundamentally being from a different place and feeling like I would just get in the way of their progression if their life, because I could just never get to wherever they’re naturally going.

Wow.

Here’s the main chorus:

Your mother wouldn’t approve of how my mother raised me
But I do, I think I do
And you’re an All-American boy
I guess I couldn’t help trying to be your best American girl

In the last chorus, she changes it from “your best American girl” to “THE best American girl”. I suppose that’s to say that she’s tired of trying to impress that one guy, but she’s still struggling with trying to be an “American” girl.

Also, in the last chorus, in that line about approving of the way her mother raised her, it changes to “I do, I finally do” and then back to “I do, I think I do”. So it’s possible that she’s constantly questioning her own approval of the way her mother raised her.

You can pre-order a physical copy of the fantastic new album via the Dead Oceans site here, and you can pre-order the digital download via Bandcamp here.

And here’s the video, which makes me a little uncomfortable. But it’s amazing anyway:

It goes in a direction that I wasn’t really expecting. She and the guy awkwardly glance in each other’s direction and wave in each other’s direction. He starts making out with some white girl, and she starts making out with her hand. It’s weird, and I think the director wants the viewer to feel like a creep. I certainly do.

Anyway, what I really like about the video is what happens in the second chorus. As the fella and the other girl continue to make out in increasingly explicit ways, Mitski gets a mischievous grin on her face, the camera pans out, and she got her guitar slung over her shoulder. It’s fantastic.

I got my ears on the whole album a little early, and I really, really like it. I probably listened to it three times in a row yesterday.

Buy the album. Buy a ticket to her show when she plays in your town.


May 17, 2016 — “Vincent” by Car Seat Headrest

Will Toledo (Car Seat Headrest)

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Vincent” by Car Seat Headrest (2016, from the forthcoming album Teens of Denial).

Car Seat Headrest is one of the many great bands on the Hopscotch lineup this year. More on that in a bit. First, some bio, some stuff about the new album, some stuff about Ric Ocasek. And obviously, some stuff about today’s song.

Car Seat Headrest is an indie-rock band currently based in Seattle. Although there is a full band right now, it’s really a one-man project of Leesburg, Virginia native Will Toledo. Between 2010 and 2014, he digitally self-released 11 home-recorded albums. The project gets its horrible name from the fact that Toledo recorded the vocals for the first couple of albums in the back seat of his car. Apparently, he was too embarrassed to sing in his parents’ house, so he went to parking lots, and did his work there. Toledo went to William & Mary, and continued to home-record albums. At some point very recently, he moved to Seattle, got a full band, and got a contract with Matador Records.

Last year, Toledo released a Car Seat Headrest album called Teens of Style. It’s just a bunch of his older songs reworked and re-recorded. Teens of Denial will be the band’s first studio-recorded album of new material. The album was scheduled for release this Friday May 20, but there’s been a last-minute delay. The album will be released digitally, but the physical copies will be pushed to July, and it has everything to do with Ric Ocasek.

The new album was supposed to feature a song called “Just What I Needed/Not Just What I Needed”, and that song does appear on initial pressings of the album. Promo copies, advance releases, and things that had already been shipped to distributors. The song’s intro is exactly the intro to “Just What I Needed” by The Cars, and the last verse of the Car Seat Headrest song takes lyrics directly from that Cars song. What’s brilliant, though, is even in lyrics directly lifted from the Cars song, Toledo squeezed in a direct reference to Pavement’s “Cut Your Hair”.

I don’t mind you comin’ here
And wasting all my time
Coz when you’re standing oh so near
I kinda lose my mind. Yeah.
It’s not the way you cut your hair
that’s a pretty nice haircut

Toledo, and the people at Matador Records thought that the lyrics and music had been cleared for use. They had negotiated a contract in good faith, but as it turns out, the publisher didn’t have the authority to complete the license. That’s the boiled-down explanation of the legal aspects of it. Above all, however, Ocasek himself put the kibosh on it. He just “preferred that his work not be included in the song”. Whatever.

Matador will now have to recall and destroy the existing physical copies and remove the Cars reference. The album will come out digitally as planned on May 20, but the song will be replaced with a completely different song called “Not Just What I Needed”. The offending song is included on the digital copy that I have, and it’s a great song, but for obvious reasons, I can’t share it.

Today’s song reminds me a bit of The Dismemberment Plan. At least their Change album. It also reminds me a bit of Ought. Other songs on the album remind me of Guided by Voices.

“Vincent” by Car Seat Headrest

It takes a while for the song to get going, but once it does, I love it. Toledo is known for some clever lyrics, and there’s definitely some of those right out of the gate:

Half the time I want to go home
And half the time I want to go home

then later…

If I’m being honest with myself
I haven’t been honest with myself

Between 5:30 and 5:40, he gets a bit shouty in a Stephen Malkmus way, so there’s another connection to Pavement.

Although we don’t know the schedule, we do know that Car Seat Headrest will be at Hopscotch in September, and I’m guessing that it’ll be one of those where the venue reaches capacity quickly. You can check out the Hopscotch lineup here, and you can get your three-days passes here. At some point in June or July, they’ll announce the main stage lineups and they’ll put individual day passes on sale. Then in August, they’ll announce the full schedule.

You can pre-order Teens of Denial via Bandcamp here, or via the Matador store here.


May 15, 2016 — “Snowstorm” as covered by Third Sky

Blue Thunder: A Tribute to Galaxie 500

If you only listen to one cover song tonight, make it “Snowstorm”, as covered by Third Sky (2016, from the compilation album Blue Thunder: A Tribute to Galaxie 500).

Third Sky is a dreamwave band from Brussels. I know absolutely nothing about them. I don’t know if it’s one dude or a full band. I don’t know how long they’ve been around. I only know that they’ve put out a few EPs and that they’re on the latest compilation tribute album released by the Brazilian blog and label The Blog that Celebrates Itself. I’ve featured stuff here before from the long list of fantastic tribute compilations that they’ve curated. Last week, they released the newest one, which is a tribute to the legendary dream pop/indie rock trio Galaxie 500. The compilation features songs from each of the band’s three albums. As always, the compilation features a couple of bands that I already know and like, but mostly some bands that I’ve never heard of. And like always, most of the ones from the “I’ve never heard of them” list have little or no footprint on the internet.

Some of the interpretations are very good, and most of my favorite Galaxie 500 songs were covered. Unfortunately for me, though, my favorite Galaxie 500 song didn’t make the cut. Nobody covered “Listen, The Snow is Falling”. Or at least if they did, it didn’t make the final edit.

Galaxie 500 only released three proper albums. The original version of tonight’s cover came from the middle album On Fire (1989), which many people consider to be their best. I love all three albums, but if I had to pick a favorite, I would choose the final record This is Our Music (1990). I could go on for ages about this, but I’ll just go ahead and get to the business of tonight’s song:

“Snowstorm”, as covered by Third Sky

This sounds quite different to the original. This is significantly brighter and more upbeat than the original. Every instrument sounds nothing at all like what’s going on in the original. Although it’s fundamentally the same, it’s a pretty wild interpretation. I like it, but I still like the original much more. I won’t judge the guitar or the bass in their unique approach to this song, but I will judge the drumming. I think that programmed or synthetic drums are good for a lot of things, but in this case, I really don’t like the drums. In the original, Damon’s drums are dark, menacing, and at times, heavy. You get a sense of the approaching snowstorm and the havoc that it’s going to wreak. I mean, it’s gonna knock the TV out, for cryin’ out loud! You just don’t get that feeling at all from the drums in this cover. But like I said, the whole thing has a much brighter tone.

My picking on the drums aside, I do like this cover despite its completely different mood to the original. I like most of the covers on this collection. I’m just sad that there wasn’t a cover of “Listen, The Snow is Falling”. I can’t say that enough times.

You can download the compilation via the TBTCI Bandcamp page here. As always, they’re offering it on the “name your price” plan. Seriously, though, visit the store for the other compilations. They’re all great.


May 14, 2016 — “Your Cigarette Was Glowing” by Seven Tin Stars

Pablo Alvarez Garcia (Seven Tin Stars)

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Your Cigarette Was Glowing” by Seven Tin Stars (2016, from the Return to the White Tide EP).

Seven Tin Stars is a dream pop/shoegaze band from Gij√≥n, Spain. The band was started by Pablo Alvarez Garcia in 2002. I think it’s pretty fair to say that the band is the domain of Alvarez (vocals/guitars/keys), but he has a bunch of frequent collaborators to make it a full band. That full band usually consists of Fernando de la Flor Prieto (bass/keys) and Fernando del Rio Alberdi (guitars/vocals/keys). There are other past members and frequent collaborators, but I can’t be sure about anything other than those three guys. I really know nothing about this band, and the internet only offers scant help.

The band put out an EP called Songs My Mother Never Sang to Me in 2013, then an EP called Goodbye Stars (Daylight is Coming) last year, and then the Return to the White Tide EP in January of this year. I didn’t know about any of this stuff until I came across one of their songs in my Soundcloud feed earlier today. The band name looked familiar, and I recalled that they were on the We Are All BOOs tribute to The Boo Radleys. The compilation was another in a series of great compilation tributes curated by the Brazilian blog and micro-label The Blog That Celebrates Itself. Seven Tin Stars’ contribution to that was their cover of “Barney (…And Me)”. I’m not a huge Boo Radleys fan, but I do love that album Giant Steps (1993). That compilation is worth a listen, so see the link above. TBTCI just released another compilation tribute to Galaxie 500, which you can visit here. It’s also great, and includes Thrushes doing their cover of “Tugboat”. I’m severely disappointed that they couldn’t get anyone to cover “Listen, The Snow is Falling”, but I digress. This isn’t about that.

This super-dreamy/gazey song is reminiscent of a bunch of mid-1990s stuff, while also sounding contemporary. There’s even a little bit of something that reminds me of the whole Toronto/Arts&Crafts scene.

“Your Cigarette Was Glowing” by Seven Tin Stars

The band is signed to a tiny Mexican shoegaze/dreampop focused label called Emma’s House. They just began operations in January of this year, and they only have six bands on the roster. Four Mexican bands, an Argentinian band, and these guys.

You can grab a download of Return to the White Tide via the Seven Tin Stars Bandcamp page by naming your price here. You can also support the label by buying a download of the EP for the low, low price of $1.20 here“. There was a “limited release” of the EP on compact disc, but since that was a run of only fifteen copies, that sold out quickly.


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