03.06.2015 — “Another Crestfallen Sunday” by Spirit System

Spirit System

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Another Crestfallen Sunday” by Spirit System (2013, from the Together in The Merciful Dark EP).

Spirit System is a shoegaze/darkwave/psychedelic trio from Winston-Salem, North Carolina. They released a three-song EP in 2013, and are scheduled to release a full-length album later this year.

Although this band’s style is very much in my wheelhouse and although they are based 25 miles away from where I live, I hadn’t heard of them until last September. They were playing a show down in Charlotte with the brilliant shoegazers Lightfoils. It was an early show, and a free show. I think the sun was still out when Lightfoils took the stage. Spirit System played after them, and I really had no idea what to expect and I never did any research either. I was super-impressed by Spirit System’s set, and I’ve been looking forward to the long player for a while now.

I’ve heard a few teasers from the album, and it sounds great. I don’t know any details about it, though. While we wait, there’s always their spellbinding 2013 EP, and the first song from it. This is that song.

“Another Crestfallen Sunday” by Spirit System

Laure Ruroden’s bass is part Peter Hook, part Simon Gallup. Eric Gilstap’s hazy vocals and super-delayed guitars remind me a little bit of Dean Wareham. Somewhere in there, I also get a taste of Beach House, without all the brightness of Beach House. This is familiar and dark and sludgy. It leaves me with the same but also different feeling I get when my personal space is being invaded. As much as I hate my personal space being invaded, I love it when a piece of music gets right up on me. There’s a little bit of panicky excitement from that kind of closeness. That’s exactly what’s going on here.

The album will be out soon. In the meantime, you can download Together in The Merciful Dark by naming your own price at the bandcamp page.


03.05.2015 — “Delicate Madness” by Takaakiro Goto

Takaakira 'Taka' Goto

Takaakira ‘Taka’ Goto

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Delicate Madness” by Takaakira ‘Taka’ Goto (2015, from the forthcoming album Classical Punk and Echoes Under The Beauty).

Takaakira ‘Taka’ Goto is a guitarist and composer from Tokyo. He’s well known as the lead guitarist for the instrumental post-rock band MONO, and lately he’s been honing his composition skills by writing a few film scores. He started working on solo stuff way back in 2003, but didn’t want to release any of it because he didn’t want that to be a distraction from MONO. Finally, after a dozen years, that solo stuff will see the light of day. His debut solo album Classical Punk and Echoes Under The Beauty will come out on April 27. Presumably, it’ll be on Temporary Residence in this country, but there’s no mention of the album on their site. Pelagic Records distributes MONO in the UK, and there’s no mention of it there, either. Also, no mention of it on the MONO official site. Finally, I found a mention of it on the Magniph Records (Japan) website, where they encourage people to pre-order the album from Amazon. I’m sure as we get closer to the release date, we’ll see pre-sales on the Temporary Residence and Pelagic websites.

What we know is that there are seven songs, and that today’s song is the album-opener. This is that song:

“Delicate Madness” by Takaakira ‘Taka’ Goto

Taka says that the inspiration for the material in this album came from watching the films of Lars von Trier, and in particular the 1996 film Breaking The Waves. He wanted this music to have the same feeling that von Trier’s movies have, and somehow wanted to convey the common theme of a kind-hearted woman getting the shit kicked out of her by life. The violins, violas, and piano express the melancholy and mystery that he was aiming for. I definitely get the feel of tragedy with this.

It’s beautiful. It’s tragic. It’s haunting. I can’t wait to hear the rest of the album because I really love this.

Even when the drums and guitars come sneaking in at 3:20, there’s a bit of a hollow sound to that, and there’s a lot of interesting things going on in the stereo field. It’s absolutely necessary to listen to this with headphones on. It’s magnificent. If this song is any indication of how the rest of the record is, it should be near the very top of my year-end list.


03.03.2015 — “Kisses” by The Poetry Book

The Poetry Book

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Kisses” by The Poetry Book (2015, from the forthcoming album Young Martyrs).

The Poetry Book is a shoegaze/noise rock band from Madrid. The duo of Chris W and Soul R released an EP called First in January, and in advance of their debut album Young Martyrs, they’ve just released a single “Flowers/Kisses”.

I don’t know anything about this band, and there’s nothing about them out there in the internets. I just came across them in my soundcloud feed, and I really like what I’m hearing. I’m really looking forward to their album, whenever it comes out.

In their Facebook bio, they list The Jesus & Mary Chain, FSA, and Joy Division as their influences. Clearly, though, they’re also influenced by the 1960s girl groups in the US, the Phil Spector sound. In a different one of their songs, they employ the famous “Be My Baby” drum bit that I’m so fond of. The Mary Chain used it in at least three songs on Psychocandy, so if it’s good enough for them, it should certainly be good enough for the rest of us.

So without further ado, here’s your song of the day:
“Kisses” by The Poetry Book

I like the drone-y, spacey, sparse intro. Then there’s a big muddy wave and a relentless wall of sound at about 0:35. Later, the vocals come in, but they’re so buried in the mix and obscured by the wall of sound that they’re impossible to make out. They publish the lyrics at the bandcamp page, and they’re quite nice. They way they’ve done the vocal track, though, is the right way. It has to be buried. It has to be indecipherable.

You can download the First EP from bandcamp by naming your price here. You can download the “Flowers/Kisses” single by naming your price here.


03.01.2015 — “Kiev (Haioka remix)” by Ummagma

Ummagma

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Kiev (Haioka remix)” by Ummagma (2014, from the Kiev remixes album). The original version of the song comes from the 2012 album Antigravity.

Ummagma is a dream pop/shoegaze duo who formed in Moscow in 2003 when Shauna McLarnon (who hails from Whitehorse, in the Yukon Territory of western Canada) and Alex Kretov (who hails from the small western Ukraine town of Kremenets) met at a performance by an acoustic guitarist. They started making music together, fell in love, got married. You know the routine.

I’ve written about these guys a couple of times before. in October of 2012, and again in December of 2013.

In July of 2012, they simultaneously released their two albums Ummagma and Antigravity.
Lately, they’ve been remixing a lot of stuff by other bands, and a lot of people have been remixing their stuff. They had a lot to do with that Revolution: The Shoegaze Revival comp that I’ve been writing so much about. Shauna co-curated the compilation. They’ve got one of their own songs on there, one song that they remixed, and one that they collaborated on. This song isn’t on the compilation, but they asked me to put in the word about this. Since I like these kids so much, I naturally obliged.

There’s been a ton of turmoil in Ukraine, but Ummagma are looking for a brighter future for Eastern Europe in general and Ukraine in specific. The song “Kiev”, and the nine remixes of it that appear on the special release are a demonstration of their hope for triumph in the face of adversity. There are nine remixes, with each one coming from a different country. This one comes from the Japanese producer Shintaro Haioka. I know nothing about him other than what I’ve read: he offers “a distinctively Japanese take on modern electronic music”.

This is that song:
“Kiev (Haioka remix)” by Ummagma

I certainly like the original version of the song, which you can hear here, this is a very nice re-imagining of the song. It’s much dreamier and spacier. I’m reminded of the superb 5 EP by Slowdive, with the ambient electronic stuff standing in for the guitars and pedals that the band was known for. And it’s our general rule that anything that makes us think of Slowdive in any way is okay in our book.

Each of the songs on the remix collection is unique in its own way, and this is my favorite of the lot.

You can buy the compilation here


02.27.2015 — “Breathe Bullets Which Taste Like Pure Fruit” by Jaguwar

Jaguwar

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Breathe Bullets Which Taste Like Pure Fruit” by Jaguwar (2014, from the I EP).

Jaguwar is a shoegaze/noise rock/punk trio from Dresden who formed in 2012. To date, they’ve just released one EP –I– which was released last June. I learned about the band because of that wonderful 30-song shoegaze compilation Revolution: The Shoegaze Revival. I’ve already featured a couple of other bands who came to my attention via that comp, and there will probably be more on the way. I highly recommend the free download. Just click on the link to go to the page where you can name your own price for the download.

Jaguwar very clearly take cues from My Bloody Valentine, and the band name is probably a nod to the Fender Jaguar guitar. That guitar fell out of production in the 1970s when the Stratocaster became very popular. In the 1990s, Kurt Cobain and Kevin Shields were largely responsible for bringing the Jaguar back from the dead and into popularity, and Fender started making new ones again in 1999.

“Muffhead” is the song that appears on the aforementioned compilation. It’s very good, but I think I like this one better.

“Breathe Bullets Which Taste Like Pure Fruit” by Jaguwar

I love the super fuzzy, super delayed, super low-end-ness of this. It’s really heavy and really muddy. Then, when bassist/singer Oyemi Noize starts singing, things get a little weird. Her voice is very nice, but there’s so much reverb and delay, and there’s so much other stuff going on, I’m not even sure that the vocal track isn’t backwards. It kind of has that “warped” sound that you get by running the vocal track backwards. Because of the tremendous wall of sound, I can’t tell whether her vocals are in English. To be honest, I don’t really care.
Also, during the vocal bits, the guitars are less low-endy and everything is a bit brighter.

The instrumental sections get all heavy and grimy again, and it’s a really nice juxtaposition of rough and smooth. Like that sandpaper that’s got course grit on one side of the paper and really fine grit on the other.

Jaguwar makes absolutely no secret of the fact that they love MBV and modeled their sound after MBV. And that’s totally fine with us. If and when they find their own particular voice, they’ll be just as great.

While we wait for a full-length album, you can download the I EP here.


02.26.2015 — “Cristina” by Desperate Journalist

Desperate Journalist

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Cristina” by Desperate Journalist (2015, from the album Desperate Jouranlist).

Desperate Journalist is an noir-indie rock/post-punk quartet from North London who formed in February of 2013. They released one EP, two “heroically independent” singles, and one album. Their debut album was released on January 27 of this year. In this country, they’re signed to the Chicago-based Minty Fresh Records, while in the UK, they’re on Fierce Panda Records. Although they have label support and distribution on both sides of the Atlantic, the band really wants you to know that they’re fiercely independent.

Desperate Journalist has a little bit of punk, a little bit of post-punk, a little bit of good old-fashioned “alternative rock”. Like a lot of indie bands that came out of the UK in the mid-late 1980s, they have a little bit of shimmer and a lot of darkness.

You’ll see this in every single write-up about Desperate Journalist, so I might as well get it out of the way. Singer Jo Bevan has some Morrissey-esque qualities to her singing style. Not so much her voice, but her style. Her pacing, the way she emphasizes certain parts. It’s all very Morrissey-esque. Rob Hardy’s guitar work is sometimes reminiscent of Johnny Marr. So people say that Desperate Journalist reminds them of The Smiths. If The Smiths had a rougher edge and more muscle. And two girls.

I got something in the mail bag a month ago about the debut album, and as I was doing mailbag maintenance today, I realized that I never got around to writing about them.

Today’s song is on the brand new album, but it’s been around much longer than that. It’s the title track from an EP that was released in June of 2013, just after the band formed.

This is that song:
“Cristina” by Desperate Journalist

The bass is gloomy and post-punk. The guitar is mostly shimmery and bright. Bevan’s vocals fit right in the middle, towering when she needs to tower and understated when she wants to be. Note that at the end of the first and third choruses, drummer Caz Hellbent employs the iconic “Be My Baby” drum hook. It’s a really nice touch, and I fall for that hook every time someone uses it.

Here’s the official video, which is appropriately in black/white.

UK fans should buy the album on CD here, or on vinyl here. Everyone else should use Amazon or get it from eMusic here.


02.20.2015 — “Half” (alternate version) by Anamai

Anna Mayberry (Anamai)

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Half” by Anamai (2015, from the forthcoming album Sallows)

Anamai is a dream-folk/experimental band from Toronto. The main player in the band is Anna Mayberry, who is also in the Toronto garage/punk band HSY. I’ll assume that the band name Anamai is a play on her name. She works mainly with David Psutka, who is also in the electronic dance band Egyptrixx. I’m not wild about HSY, and I really can’t stand this EDM stuff, so it’s a weird thing that I like the product that these two have created.

It’s super minimal and dreamy and slowcore-ish. It’s all drone-y and sparse and weightless. I got something in the mail bag that compared the new album to Chelsea Wolfe and Weyes Blood. Sure, sure. I might also throw Grouper in that mix. I haven’t heard the whole album, which comes out on March 10 via Buzz Records. I’ve just heard this song and one other. A bunch of times.

“Half” (alternate version) by Anamai

As a bit of trivia, this song was recorded by Josh Korody, who is in a couple of Toronto bands including Beliefs.

This is dark. Really dark. And icy cold. It doesn’t help to have this song playing on a very cold day, but that’s how the cookie bounces sometimes.

I love the way the vocals sound so cavernous. Mayberry is doing most of the vocals (and the guitar, and the drums) with some additional vocals from Alexandra Blumas. The vocals are affected and layered and pieced together in a really amazing way. It’s haunting. And although everything is kind of mushed together into a sonic milkshake, you can feel miles of wide open space. It’s a little bit disorienting. And awesome.

The album will be out on March 10. While you wait for that, you can buy this song and the album-opening song “Lucia” over at Bandcamp. In late March, they’ll start a tour of Ontario. They’ll also play one show in MontrĂ©al and one in Brooklyn.


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