August 2, 2018 — “Heavenly” by Cosmic Strip

Cosmic Strip

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Heavenly” by Cosmic Strip (2018, from the forthcoming EP Heavenly).

Cosmic Strip is an indie rock band from London. The band is masterminded by Camella Agabalyan, and she’s joined by four “Cosmic Friends”. They’re getting quite a bit of good press ahead of the release of their debut EP Heavenly, and the title track from it was released today. Many people are calling what they do shoegaze and “crunchy indie rock”, and they’re drawing comparisons to the likes of Beach House, Alvvays, and Slowdive. I’ve only heard one song from the forthcoming EP, and the first thing I thought of was the sort of squeaky clean “diet shoegaze” that Velocity Girl exhibited on their final album Gilded Stars and Zealous Hearts. That record was much more poppy than their previous gazey stuff. I’m also reminded of a less effect-laden The History of Apple Pie. To be clear: although I think Gilded Stars… is the least awesome of VG’s records, I still like it a lot.

I noticed this band getting written about in one of the Facebook groups that I’ve joined, and then I got something in the mailbag about this song and the forthcoming EP. While I can’t say that I would compare the band to Slowdive, Alvvays, or Beach House, I really like what I’ve heard. There’s something about the nice, undistorted vocals that make me want to compare Agabalyan to Sarah Shannon out of VG and Stephanie Min out of THOAP.
While Min is nowhere near as objectively talented as Shannon, I always said that the former reminds me of the latter. And now Agabalyan reminds me of both. There’s also something that makes me think of the first Blondie record. When Blondie was still a punk band. There’s something else more contemporary that I’m reminded of, but I can’t quite lay my finger on it.

Without further ado, this is that song:
“Heavenly” by Cosmic Strip

Towards the end of this song, it does get a little heavy with the effects, a little gazey. From about 3:55 on, it sort of reminds me of the coda of any song from the Darling Buds outstanding album Erotica.

This reminds me a lot of many things that I like very much. It does not remind me of the things that other people are reminded of. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. It’s just good.

I don’t know any of the details about when the EP will be out, but based on the hints that I could gather, it’ll be sometime in August.


July 25, 2018 — “Grow into a Ghost” by Swearin’

Swearin’

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Grow into a Ghost” by Swearin’ (2018, from the forthcoming album Fall into the Sun).
Swearin’ is an indie pop/cuddlepunk quartet from Philadelphia. The band is fronted by Allison Crutchfield, who is the twin sister of Katie Crutchfield. Katie is, of course, the front of the magnificent Waxahatchee. You’ve heard the story a million times about how they grew up in Alabama and played together in a band called P.S. Eliot. I won’t rehash that story.

Swearin’ put out an album in 2012 and another in 2013, then they took a break. The two Crutchfield sisters played with their respective bands at Hopscotch in 2013. Scheduling problems forced me to miss most of the Waxahatchee set, and I had to skip the Swearin’ set.

Allison made a solo record called Stranger in This Town, which was released last January. She toured in support of that album, and last February, on a very strange night, I went to see her. Although it was no surprise, it was awesome to see her sister come on stage to help her do a marvelous cover of The New Pornographers’ “Letter from an Occupant”.

You may remember that the 2015 Waxahatchee album Ivy Tripp was my #3 record of that year, and that was a banner year for new releases at my house. You may also remember that Katie pinch hit for Owen Pallett at Hopscotch in 2015 and absolutely knocked my socks off.

This year, when the Hopscotch lineup was announced, I was very happy to see both Crutchfield sisters on the card. Waxahatchee plays on Thursday night and Swearin’ on Friday night. I’m not going to miss either one. In addition, both bands have new releases coming out in the autumn. Waxahatchee’s Great Thunder EP will be out on September 7, and the Swearin’ album Fall into the Sun will be out on October 5. Both will be released by my hometown label Merge Records.

So far, I’ve only heard one song from the Swearin’ record, and I really love it. This is that song.

“Grow into a Ghost” by Swearin’

This is, as expected, wonderfully fuzzy indie pop. I’ll say again, as I always do, that I’m reminded very much of That Dog. With that said, it’s a little convenient that my favourite That Dog record is Retreat from the Sun, and this new Swearin’ record is called Fall into the Sun. While it’s fuzzy and wonderful like the previous releases, this is much more polished. It’s better production values, better playing, and simply just better. The previous releases are raw and energetic, full of unchecked emotions, and probably done with limited studio time and limited feet of tape. This song is a bit more sophisticated. All of the values are better and it’s clear that more attention was paid to making it sound great.

One thing I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around is the chorus. The line is

I watch you
I watch you
I watch you

Grow into a ghost

Because she sings these lines with no spacing, and because she puts emphasis on I, rather than on watch, it sort of sounds like she’s singing

Chihuahua
Chihuahua
Chihuahua…

That silly mis-hearing doesn’t change the fact that I love this song, and I’m really looking forward to the new record and to finally seeing Swearin’ at this year’s Hopscotch.

You can and should pre-order Fall into the Sun via Merge here. They say physical copies come with a pair of 3D glasses. From the looks of the gallery, there’s a 3D photo on the back cover of the vinyl and in the liner notes of the CD. There might be something else. Merge promises more details on what the 3D glasses are for.

You should also pre-order the Waxahatchee EP here.

Check out the Hopscotch lineup here, and check out the ticket options here.


July 22, 2018 — “Piritorilta Taivaaseen” by Teksti TV 666

Teksti TV 666

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Piritorilta Taivaaseen” by Teksti TV 666 (2016, from the album 1, 2, 3).
Teksti TV 666 is a garage punk/motorik/shoegaze septet from Helsinki. They formed a few years ago and released 1, 2, 3 in October of 2016, but I had never heard of them until I got something in the mail bag promoting their album Aidattu Tulevaisuus, which will be released on September 7 via Svart Records. To be fair, I also got something in the mailbag in advance of the release of 1, 2, 3, but it somehow slipped through the cracks.

The band is known for its army of no less than five guitars. They’re also known for their intoxicating sound, which is sort of hard to categorize. They have elements of psych rock, punk rock, shoegaze, metal, motorik, and just standard rock music. Today’s song is very much in the motorik style. I think of today’s song as what Transient Random…-era Stereolab might have sounded like if they had six guitars instead of Vox organs and Farfisas and Moog organs and other synths. Then mash that up with some Hüsker Dü, and this is what you might get.

Although I have a lot of interest in Finland, especially the hockey players from Finland, and although that country is very high on my list of places I’d like to visit, I don’t speak any Finnish. Sure, I know a small handful of words, but I don’t even know basics of conversation. Thankfully, there are resources, and I know that “Piritorilta Taivaaseen” translates to “From Amphetamine Square to Heaven”. This is a reference to a city plaza in Helsinki where lots of drug deals go down.

This is that song:
“Piritorilta Taivaaseen” by Teksti TV 666

Although you won’t notice it right away, the other thing that the band is known for is that they sing in Finnish. They speak English, and the members have been in other bands that sung in English, but they decided to go with their native tongue. That decision is in part because the songs on 1, 2, 3 are largely about some local characters in and around Helsinki, and it seemed appropriate to do the songs in Finnish.

For the majority of the song, it has that motorik, Stereolab-esque sound that I mentioned, but it takes a bit of a turn at about 4:25. Once the vocals really kick in, that motorik sound keeps going, but it’s lower in the mix.
Meanwhile, some of the guitars are doing more of a mid-1980s Minneapolis punk-rock thing.

I love this song, and while I haven’t spent any time with the rest of 1, 2, 3, I recommend downloading it from Bandcamp here.

I have spent some time with the forthcoming release, and while I can’t share any of the songs with you, I can tell you that they’re all great. You can pre-order Aidattu Tulevaissus here. And you should, because it’s fantastic.


July 18, 2018 — “Inhuman” by Oceanator

Elise Okusami (Oceanator)

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Inhuman” by Oceanator (2018, from the Lows EP).

Oceanator is the indie rock solo recording project of Brooklyn-based Elise Okusami. She’s been playing guitar since she was nine years old, and she’s played in bands for several years, but this is her pet project. The first Oceanator EP, simply called EP came out last year, and she followed it with Lows in April of this year. Her influences range from 80s synth pop to surf rock to folk rock to 90s alt-rock and grunge. On this record, I hear a lot of 90s indie rock influences, and I’m frequently reminded of Guided By Voices. Especially on today’s song.

This is another project that I had never heard of until I started my Hopscotch research. It’s a really good lineup this year, and while we don’t know the full schedule, we know that Oceanator is playing on Saturday night. She’s one of many on my short list of bands to see on the last night of the festival. My short list for that night includes Liz Phair on the main stage plus club shows by Grouper, Chad VanGaalen, Ought, Still Corners, and Oceanator. Plus a few others on the long list/”plan B” list. Of course there’s bound to be a conflict or two over the course of the weekend, but Grouper is the only one of that lot that would take precedence over Oceanator if such a conflict exists on Saturday.

While I haven’t spent a lot of time with this EP, I like the whole thing, and today’s song jumped out at me the most. This is that song.

“Inhuman” by Oceanator

It starts off with some gentle strumming and a bit of echo on the vocals. It builds a bit, slowly, and then there’s a pretty heavy shift at around 1:19 when everything crashes in pretty heavily. Up to then, it totally reminds me of GBV. It shifts back to “quiet” for a while, and then back to “loud”, but it doesn’t follow a predictable pattern. The second “quiet” part is a bit louder than the first, and the third “quiet” part has really muted drums. When the chorus comes back around again for the third “loud” part, it’s significantly louder and much more intense, with many more layers than before. From 3:42 all the way to the end, it’s sheer, beautiful noise. Controlled chaos. Of course it comes to an almost full stop right there at the very end, and that’s another thing that makes this amazing.

Oceanator is on Tiny Engines Records along with Illuminati Hotties, which is an amazing solo recording project with what is either the dumbest name or a clever name. That label also features Spirit of the Beehive, who will be playing Hopscotch on Friday, the middle night of the festival.

You can buy Lows via Bandcamp here. While you’re at it, support the label by buying the latest record by The Spirit of the Beehive here, and the amazing debut record by illuminati hotties here.

For details about this year’s Hopscotch lineup, check here. For ticket options, go here.


July 11, 2018 — “FFS” by Deaf Wish

Deaf Wish

If you only listen to one song today, make it “FFS” by Deaf Wish (2018, from the forthcoming album Lithium Zion).
Deaf Wish is a noise rock/post-punk quartet from Melbourne. They’ve released four albums to date, and they have a new one called Lithium Zion coming out on July 27 via Sub Pop. On today’s song, and on many of their other songs, they sound very much like Sonic Youth. There are some songs that sound more like Black Flag or something of that ilk, but it’s really mostly Sonic Youth.

Although I go through phases when all I can write about is Australian bands, and I go through phases when all I can write about is bands in the vein of Sonic Youth, this is a band that I had never heard of until very recently. Deaf Wish is on the roster for the 2018 Hopscotch Music Festival, and as I always do, I’ll be doing a bunch of research and a bunch of writing in advance of the festival so that I’m very familiar with the lineup. Although there will be more bands named later and some inevitable changes to the lineup, this is where it stands right now. We don’t know the schedule yet, and it’s usually posted in August, but we do know that Deaf Wish is scheduled for Thursday night, the first night of the festival. As long as they’re not playing at the same time as Waxahatchee, or in the same time slot as Sonic Youth guitarist Lee Ranaldo, I’m putting these guys high on my list of bands to see. Those are the only potential conflicts that I can imagine that night. Click through this second wave of artist announcements and scroll all the way down for the day-by-day lineup, which includes some names not on the “main list”.

By now, you all know how much I love Hopscotch and how much fun I have every year, so I’m looking forward to another great autumn kickoff.

As I said, I hadn’t ever heard of this band until I was doing more Hopscotch research, but it didn’t take long at all for me to put them way near the top of my list. So far, I’ve only heard two songs from the forthcoming record, and I love them both.

“FFS” by Deaf Wish

The Sonic Youth comparison is an easy one on this song, but there’s also something that makes me think of The Wedding Present’s wildly interpretive cover of the Bow Wow Wow song “Go Wild in the Country”. Take some time to check out the Weddoes blistering cover here compared to the poppy original here.

Back to the matter at hand, one of the many things that I love about “FFS” is the full stop at the end. That’s no surprise to anyone. Another thing that should come as no surprise is that I really love that they play with the stereo field a little bit. The intro is really heavy in the right channel until the drums kick in and the balance is more even. Also, Sarah Hardman really does sound like Kim Gordon.
I love this song, and everything else that I’ve heard from these guys. I’ll look forward to the release, and I encourage you all to pre-order Lithium Zion via Bandcamp here.
Also, the video is worth checking out because it’s really basic, but really awesome:

Remember: Hopscotch is just two months away. Time to buy your tickets and start making your plans.


June 28, 2018 — “Surf Alone” by Ceremony

CEREMONY east coast

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Surf Alone” by Ceremony (2018, from the album East Coast).

Ceremony is a shoegaze/noise pop/post-punk band out of Fredericksburg, Virginia. The project started in 2005, and John Fedowitz is the only permanent member of the band. He used to be in Skywave, which was Oliver Ackermann’s thing before Ackermann started A Place to Bury Strangers in 2002. Fedowitz also played with APTBS on one of their tours.

Ceremony has released five albums including East Coast, which came out in May of this year. The album name is a nod to the fact that the band now goes by the name “CEREMONY east coast”. This is, presumably, to avoid confusion with the Bay Area hardcore punk band Ceremony. I don’t know anything about that west coast band, and I really don’t want to.

You may recall that I really enjoyed the album Distance, which came out in the last week of December 2013. I had already pretty much finished my year-end list because nobody in their right mind releases an album after American Thanksgiving (really though, nobody should release any albums after Canadian Thanksgiving either). Anyway, I liked it so much that I had to shoehorn it in to my top 40 albums that year. However, because I didn’t get to spend enough time with it, and because it was such a late entry, I could only slot it in at number 31. If it had been released before Labor Day, it certainly would have finished in the top 10 that year.

This new album has hit me just as hard as the previous one. It’s heavy as hell with miles and miles of whatever crazy effects pedals he’s using. So much beautiful noise. If you choose to believe the narrative, the songs from the new album were written with acoustic guitar, then they were given the wall of sound treatment.

On today’s song, there’s a comparison that I never thought I would make. I’ve listened to this a ton of times, and every time I listen, I can’t help but think of the Violent Femmes’ “Add it Up”. Listen to the bass guitar and the repetitive, driving drum beat. That’s where it has me thinking of “Add it Up”. Obviously, there’s nothing else about this that is anything like Violent Femmes. This obviously has much more to do with Psychocandy than with Violent Femmes.
This is that song:
“Surf Alone” by CEREMONY east coast

Apart from the bit that sort of makes me think of “Add it Up”, there’s the textbook blistering guitars with the tsunamis of sound coming from the insane pedal boards through the amps, which are turned to eleven. Fedowitz’s vocals are also obscured by tons of effects, and the whole thing makes such a lovely wall of unrelenting sound. Like many things that I post here, people will either love this or hate it. There is no middle ground. Y’all know where I stand.

You can buy East Coast via Bandcamp here.


June 21, 2018 — “Motorcycle” as covered by Bysts

Bysts

If you only listen to one cover song today, make it “Motorcycle”, as covered by Bysts (2018, from the Love and Rockets tribute album Welcome Tomorrow: Love and Rockets in Another View). The original version was done by Love and Rockets on their 1989 eponymous album.
Bysts is a darkwave/psych-rock/shoegaze duo from Salt Lake City. I know very little about them, and they probably like it that way. Their names are Bryan and Stefanie, and they released their debut album Offer Your Throat in the spring of 2017. I remember hearing their cover of The Cure’s “Killing an Arab” on the The Cure in Other Voices tribute album released by The Blog that Celebrates Itself. Here they are again on the tribute to Love and Rockets.

By now, everybody knows how fond I am of the tribute albums they do at TBTCI. Last month, the Brazilian blog/label released another in their long line of fantastic tributes, and that most recent one is an homage to Love and Rockets. Everyone who reads this probably already knows that Love and Rockets emerged from the ashes of goth rock kings Bauhaus. After that band broke up, frontman Peter Murphy had a solo career that was decent while his Bauhaus band mates enjoyed more success, and even some crossover into the mainstream. As you may recall, “So Alive” was a huge hit, even on top 40 radio. The video also got lots of play on MTV even apart from “120 Minutes”.

The Love and Rockets tribute album, like the others in the series, features a bunch of really great covers including some that are pretty inventive. Like the others, it features some covers that are kind of weird. Like the others, it features a lot of bands that I’ve never heard of before. This is one of those bands. While there are some really great covers on this tribute, this one is my favourite. I say that partly because “Motorcycle” is perhaps my favourite Love and Rockets song, but also because this version is really good.

This is that song:

I love that this is a bit lower than the original song and it seems to roar more than the original. At least in the bass guitar and drums. Somehow, in the guitar at least, it’s brighter than the original. So in a weird way, it’s simultaneously heavier and lighter than the original. For the most part, they haven’t done anything crazy with their interpretation of the song, and a lot of times, that’s a good way to go. This cover about 15 seconds longer than the original. Their coda is a bit more drawn out, a bit noisier, and a bit more chaotic than the original. I love it.

On Love and Rockets, the mean, heavy, roaring “Motorcycle” bleeds right into the next album track “I Feel Speed”, which is its very quiet companion piece. Bysts also does a cover of “I Feel Speed”, and it appears on the tribute album, but it’s several songs later in that track listing.

You can get Welcome Tomorrow: Love and Rockets in Another View via Bandcamp by naming your own price here. The whole thing is really worth checking out, but today’s song really is my favourite of the lot.


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