November 3, 2016 — “Midnight Sun” by JOSIN

JOSIN

JOSIN

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Midnight Sun” by JOSIN (2016, from the forthcoming single “Oceans Wait”).

JOSIN is a German indie singer-songwriter who I know nothing about. I got something in the mailbag a while back about her forthcoming single “Oceans Wait”, which is backed with tonight’s song. The press release gave only one thing in the way of biographical information: both of her parents are opera singers. I don’t know her real name, and I don’t know what part of Germany she calls home.

JOSIN was recently signed to the Stockholm-based micro-label Dumont Dumont, and they’ll be releasing her debut single on November 18. She’s about to go on a German tour to support the release, and she just (November 3) played at the Iceland Airwaves festival in Reykjavik.

I’ve heard both songs from the single, and I like them both. On tonight’s song, there’s a quite obvious influence from the late 90s/early 2000s Radiohead that we used to know and love, and that’s fine with me. On “Oceans Wait”, I might point to Grouper as a reference .

“Midnight Sun” by JOSIN

It’s a lot like Kid A/Amnesiac. Specifically, it reminds me A LOT of “Pyramid Song”. There’s also a video, which is even more Radioheadesque:

With the camera right in her face, there’s even something about the way she moves that’s reminiscent of Thom Yorke. Everything is so Radioheadesque, I sort of wonder if that was her precise goal. Thankfully she doesn’t look like Thom Yorke.

There’s no pre-order information yet for “Oceans Wait”, but it’s coming soon.


October 28, 2016 — “Dean’s Room” by Allison Crutchfield

Allison Crutchfield

Allison Crutchfield

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Dean’s Room” by Allison Crutchfield (2017, from the forthcoming album Tourist in This Town).

Allison Crutchfield is a Philadelphia-based indie rock/punk singer/songwriter. You probably know her twin sister Katie as the frontwoman of the amazing Waxahatchee. The most recent Waxahatchee record —Ivy Tripp was my third favourite record of 2015. When Katie had to pinch hit for Owen Pallett at the 2015 Hopscotch Music Festival, her hastily planned set was far and away my favourite thing of that year’s festival, and is among the top three things I’ve ever seen at Hopscotch. Read about that here.

You might also remember that the Alabama native twin sisters were in a band called P.S. Eliot. Both Crutchfield girls played the 2013 Hopscotch festival with their respective bands, but circumstances prevented me from seeing Swearin’. I was only able to see a few songs of the Waxahatchee set that year.

You may also remember that Allison was the front of a band called Swearin’. She’s stepped away from that band, at least for a moment. She’s on Merge Records now (same as her sister), and she’s set to release her solo debut early next year. Last week, Merge shared one of the songs from that album. This is that song:
“Dean’s Room” by Allison Crutchfield

It’s a little punky, a little poppy, and even a little gothy. And it has enormous hooks. After the drum-heavy, fuzzy intro, the particular way the keyboards mix with the guitars and bass reminds me of Disintegration. Specifically, I’m reminded of “Fascination Street”. The chorus is big and bright with vocals way up front. All of that sets this apart from “Fascination Street”, but during the bridge, if you can ignore the drums, it sounds a lot like something that might have been on Disintegration.

I don’t know how the rest of the album sounds, but this is big and fun. Allison says that she went through a lot of life changes in the last two years. She says that big changes will often trigger a panic button, but that in the end, most people will emerge triumphant on the other side. That, apparently, is what her record is about.

Tourist in This Town will come out on January 27, 2017 via Merge Records. You can pre-order it here. The first 150 vinyl orders will come on opaque lavender vinyl.

In case you’re wondering, Katie did some vocals on three songs from this album, but not on this one.

For good measure, there’s also a video for the song:
“Dean’s Room” by Allison Crutchfield


New Minor Victories record on the way

Minor Victories

Minor Victories

Yesterday, Pitchfork reported that Minor Victories has announced a “new” album called Orchestral Variations. The band has also released a video in support of it.

Minor Victories is the supergroup formed by Rachel Goswell (vocals) out of Slowdive and Mojave 3, Stuart Braithwaite (guitar) out of Mogwai, Justin Lockey (bass, electronics) out of Editors, and filmmaker James Lockey. As you probably already know, the massively influential shoegaze/dream pop band Slowdive released one of my top five albums of all time in Souvlaki (1993), and the massively influential post-rock band Mogwai have consistently released albums that have landed in my year-end top 10. Their most recent proper album Rave Tapes was #3 on my list in 2014. Mogwai released a soundtrack album called Atomic this year, and it should end up very high on my year-end list. I don’t know any of the music by Editors.

In June of this year, Minor Victories released their eponymous debut album to much fanfare, and I locked it into a top five position on this year’s list. Even back in February, long before the album came out, and before I had heard anything other than a teaser, I already had it locked into a top spot.

The Pitchfork article tells us that the “new” album consists of orchestral “interpretations” of the songs from Minor Victories. “Interpretations”. Not “strings versions”. In other words, this isn’t one of those things where the songs are played just like they are on the album, but with a string section. The songs, as I understand the project, have been totally re-imagined and then played with orchestral instruments.

Justin Lockey said that the original songs were created based on strings-based melodies. They were then developed into post-rock songs, complete with vocals, drums, and lots of guitar stuff. This new project is sort of like deconstructing the songs to their roots, then re-building them exclusively with strings. They’ve also, as a bit of fun, rearranged the track listing.

Anyway, I’m really looking forward to the release of the album, which is slated for physical release on November 25 in North America. It’ll be released to the rest of the world and also on digital format on January 27, 2017.

They also, quite awesomely released a video for the first song from Orchestral Variations. This is that video:
“Cogs” (Orchestral Variation) by Minor Victories

This is quite different to the Minor Victories version of the same song. The original version is an eardrum crusher with some heavy drums, lots of guitar effects, lots of fuzz, and of course Rachel’s angelic vocals. Here, with the piano and the lush strings arrangement, the melody is almost unrecognizable as the same. I absolutely love this. It’s stunningly gorgeous, and it’s in stark contrast with the heavy nature and dark tone of the video. It’s also two and a half minutes longer than the original album version. I reckon every song will have the same “extended” treatment because it’s going to be a double LP.

I can’t wait to hear the rest of it.

The 180 gram double LP version of Orchestral Variations will be released in North America via Fat Possum on Black Friday. You’ll have to wait until January of 2017 to get it elsewhere or in different format. Surprisingly, they don’t have a pre-order going just yet. I imagine that’s coming very soon.

For now, enjoy the video.


October 15, 2016 — “Protection” by Emma Ruth Rundle

Emma Ruth Rundle

Emma Ruth Rundle

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Protection” by Emma Ruth Rundle (2016, from the album Marked for Death).

Emma Ruth Rundle is a doom-folk/ambient folk singer/songwriter and visual artist from Los Angeles. You may know her from her work with the post-punk bands Marriages and Red Sparrowes. She’s also released a few solo recordings. First was the Electric Guitar One EP in 2011. That record is thirty minutes of continuous instrumental ambient electric guitar in six chapters. It was written and recorded during the Red Sparrowes tour of Europe in 2010. In 2014, she released her first proper solo record called Some Heavy Ocean. That one is still plenty ambient, but leaning towards folk. In some ways, it’s reminiscent of the first two Mazzy Star records.

On September 30 of this year, she released her sophomore album Marked for Death. As the album title suggests, there’s a lot of death imagery and other explorations on the issue of mortality. It’s dark and a bit heavy, but it’s a lovely record that demands a thorough listen. A lot of the songs are about a relationship gone wrong. The word on the street is that all of the songs are connected by that thread, and that it’s actually a narrative about the same failing (or failed) relationship. Frequent readers of the blog know that I’m a real sucker for that kind of sad gal stuff. I’m reminded a little bit of Cat Power, and also of the great Torres.

The whole record is really good, and I think it should be listened to as a whole, in one sitting, with no distractions. That said, I really like this song:
“Protection” by Emma Ruth Rundle

I like the fact that it’s low-end heavy. I love the chorus or delay or whatever on the vocals. I adore the fact that it’s relatively quiet for each of the verses, but louder in the chorus, and at the end of the chorus, it’s thunderously loud and fuzzy. I love that loud and fuzzy bit, but what I love even more is when it comes to a rapid halt and is juxtaposed right up against the quiet verse. Rundle’s voice is beautiful, soft and sweet, but also very strong. We shouldn’t lose sight of that even with all the talk of the glory of the noise and the fury brought on by the effects pedals.

Speaking of the chorus, it pretty much sums up the song, and maybe the album:

I am small but in your arms
You are colder in your heart
I am worthless in your arms
But you offer this protection no one else has given me

The heroine of the story is in what is undeniably a bad relationship, but it seems like she’s saying “I’ve been treated worse” and “being alone is worse than this crap”. There’s also two separate references to giving the guy 16 days, and separate references to letting him “choke out” and “tie down the frailest part of (her) body”. Presumably as part of a sexual fetish that she may or may not be into, but plays along anyway. Again, it’s a bit weird that the heroine doesn’t like the situation very much, but willingly goes along. For a period of exactly 16 days.

Marked for Death was released on September 30 via Sargent House Records. You can buy physical copies via Hello Merch here. It’s also available for download from Bandcamp here.


October 10, 2016 — “I Don’t Mind” by Twerps

Twerps

Twerps

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “I Don’t Mind” by Twerps (2015, from the album Range Anxiety).

Twerps is an indie-pop/jangle-pop quartet from Melbourne. They formed in 2008 and have released two albums. Their latest album Range Anxiety was released via Merge Records last January, and it ended up making some year-end lists. I didn’t hear about the album until just a few days ago, and it didn’t take long for it to muscle its way into my listening space. I haven’t listened to the whole album yet, but I’ve listened to this song and a couple of others a bunch of times. And I like it very much.

Like just about every Australian indie band, they claim The Go-Betweens as a big influence. Like just about every Australian indie band, lots of people say that they are reminiscent of The Go-Betweens. Maybe “The Go-Betweens” is an easily recognizable signpost, but I’ve always thought it to be a lazy and clichéd reference when writing about Australian bands. If writers insist upon comparing them to another Australian band, I just wish they would say that Twerps sound a bit like what might happen if you took The Lucksmiths and removed all of the puns and clever wordplay from their lyrics. That’s kind of what I hear. That said, I have to reveal an embarrassing truth: I’m not very familiar with The Go-Betweens.

I like that while they all contribute vocals, the band has two lead vocalists. I like that they use a lot of coed vocal harmonies. I like that they often use call-and-response vocals. I like that the harmonies are often imperfect. I really like that there’s something unmistakably Australian about the mathematics of their songs. Something that I can’t explain, but I know it when I hear it.

“I Don’t Mind” by Twerps

That Je ne sais quoi quality that I was talking about makes me a little giddy. And that’s great.

You can purchase Range Anxiety via Merge Records here.


October 4, 2016 — “Beyond the Moon for Someone in Reverse” by Eluvium

Eluvium

Eluvium

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Beyond the Moon for Someone in Reverse” by Eluvium (2016, from the album False Readings On).

Eluvium is the Portland, Oregon-based ambient electronic/”modern classical”/dreamgaze recording project of Matthew Cooper. He’s released eight albums as Eluvium, some solo albums, and two albums as Inventions with Mark T. Smith out of Explosions in The Sky. I’ve really liked everything that I’ve heard from him, but this new one is far and away my favourite.

Like most of his stuff, the new record is full of super-dreamy sounds and soft textures. There’s lots of very soft pink noise, lots of tape loops, lots of tape hiss, lots of vocal loops. Threre’s also a lot of piano and other classical stuff. Like the splendid Ruins by Grouper, this album also has a lot of incidental and field recordings. Rain. Wind. It sounds and feels like spending a night far away from the lights and sounds of the city. This is a record that should remind people of Grouper, lovesliescrushing, and some of Brian Eno’s ambient stuff.

I’ve been listening to this album a lot over the last couple of weeks, and it always puts me in a very relaxed, comfortable mood. I really think this album should be listened to front to back without pause. And then again. Tonight, though, we’ll just focus on one song. This is that song:

“Beyond the Moon for Someone in Reverse” by Eluvium

Don’t expect anything “big” to happen. It’s not going to. This is just a slow, peaceful voyage to a dream-like place. Imagine drifting to sleep in the most comfortable bed you’ve ever lain in.

False Readings on was released on September 2 via Temporary Residence, Ltd. You can buy it from the label in your choice of physical formats here, and you can buy it digitally via Bandcamp here.


September 28, 2016 — “Requiem for Hell” by Mono

Mono of Japan

Mono of Japan

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it the truncated version of “Requiem for Hell” by Mono (2016, from the forthcoming album Requiem for Hell).
Mono is a post-rock quartet from Tokyo. To avoid confusion with other bands with the same name, they are sometimes referred to as Mono of Japan or as Mono (Japan). However, the other bands named Mono are either inactive or irrelevant.
Mono formed in 1999 and they’ve released eight proper albums including two “twin” albums in 2014. They’ve had the same lineup the entire time and have been one of the most revered bands of the genre. Like a lot of bands in the post-rock genre, they don’t like that classification, and they prefer to be called something like “modern classical”. Call it what you will. They use traditional rock instruments in a non-traditional way, and they use non-traditional rock instruments to enhance their sound. They’re big, they’re loud, they’re heavy, they’re dark. They’re also bright and gentle. They’re very good at the heavy/light/heavy stuff. And they’re very nonchalant about it. They often seem like otherworldly spirits, both in their sound and in their presentation.

Their 2012 album For My Parents was my #1 album of the year (full countdown here), and when I saw them play in October of that year, I was absolutely floored. I hold that show in the same extraordinarily high regard as the time that I saw Stereolab play a 20 minute version of “Jenny Ondioline”. Utterly gobsmacked.

In 2014, their Rays of Darkness album was my #33 album of the year, and The Last Dawn was my #8 album of the year. You can see the full list here.

A couple of months ago, the band announced that their ninth album Requiem for Hell would be out this year, and as I always do with Mono records, I pre-ordered a physical copy. The album hits the street on October 14, and they’ve already shared a couple of sneak peeks at it. Three weeks ago, they released a slightly truncated version of “Ely’s Heartbeat”, and two weeks ago they released an abbreviated version of the album’s title track. Yesterday, they released a video for the title track via Decibel Magazine.

All of the press on this says that this is Mono’s darkest, heaviest work yet. This is on the heels of everyone referring to Rays of Darkness as “their blackest album ever”.

I don’t know about the rest of the album, but “Ely’s Dream” is the cinematic, arcing stuff that we know and love from Mono. This song, though… This song (or at least the abridged version we’ve heard) is indeed quite heavy and quite dark.

The video, in all its black-and-white glory, is even more sinister, more macabre than the music itself. Of course the music in the video is different to that in the 7:45 Soundcloud snippet. These are different sections of the same song. I haven’t heard the album version of the song in its entirety, but I really like both of these snippets. For different reasons.

First, the Soundcloud bit:
“Requiem for Hell”(edit version) by Mono

This bit is the beginning bit of the song. It starts low and quiet and gradually builds to something bigger, louder, darker, heavier, and meaner. The bit that’s used in the video picks up somewhere close to where the above edit ends. There’s a quiet bit at the start before it goes to a much more sinister place than we went with the audio edit. It’s heavier, more low-end-focused, and just flat dark. Hex value #000000. Pantone doesn’t even have a number for how black this is. This must be glorious to see played live.

The video, which premiered yesterday, plays like a really weird art house horror film. Mysterious and creepier than hell. More psychological terror than blood and gore. And we never even really know just what’s going on. We’re not even sure who the villain of the piece is. But it’s beautiful and it fits.

Here it is:

The video was directed by a Finnish fellow called Harri Haataja, who turned a lot of heads last year with a gorgeous, lush video that he made for an Icelandic metal band called Sólstafir.

Overall, this is a very dark and very heavy song. It seems aptly titled. While there isn’t yet an audio file anywhere of the 18-minute opus in its entirety, you can see a video of the song performed live in its entirety at a Halloween night show in France last year. See it here.

The new album comes out on October 14, and you can pre-order it via Temporary Residence in your choice of formats here.


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