August 18, 2017 — “I am a Chicken” by Mourn

Mourn

If you only listen to one song today, make it “I am a Chicken” by Mourn (2016, from the album Ha, Ha, He.).

Mourn is an indie rock quartet from Barcelona. The band of teenagers formed in 2014 and they released their eponymous debut later that year. Last year, they released their sophomore album Ha, Ha, He. via Captured Tracks in this country. I remember that I had the album on my radar last year, simply because of their affiliation with Captured Tracks, but I didn’t know anything about the band. I still know very little about them. Then, I saw them on this year’s Hopscotch Music Festival lineup, and when I started doing my Hopscotch homework, I got excited about it.

They say that they’ve been influenced by the Chicago brand of post rock — bands like Tortoise and The Sea and Cake. They also say that they’ve recently found a new influence in Throwing Muses. Any time a band says that they’re influenced by the Muses, I become very, very interested in them. If I’m honest, I don’t really hear much of a Muses sound in their music. Instead, I’m reminded in a lot of ways of the amazing Tsunami. Specifically, the stuff from the first side of Deep End. In a completely different way, I’m reminded of Bully, whose album Feels Like was my seventh favourite album of 2015, and whose show I was shut out of at Hopscotch 15. Oh, and since I’ve brought it up, Bully has a new record coming out on October 20. This isn’t about Bully, though.

In today’s song, I hear a lot of Tsunami, but Mourn’s sound is much better and their production values much higher than those of Tsunami. For some reason, Tsunami wanted their records to sound really muddy, and that was something that always disappointed me very much; they were an incredible band to see live, but their intentionally poor production values make listening to the records much less fun. This isn’t about Tsunami, either. This is about “I am a Chicken”. This is that song:

“I Am a Chicken” by Mourn

Speaking of disappointment, I really like the repeated line “Sorry to disappoint you”. And the layered vocals. Those are my two favourite bits about the song. There’s a really abrupt ending, and it’s not exactly because it segues into the next song on the album. It only sort of segues into the next song. It’s just the way it is.

Tonight’s song is a bit on the short side, and in fact, the entire album clocks in at a very tidy 26:05. Punk rawk.

You can buy Ha, Ha, He. as a download via Bandcamp here, or in physical formats via Captured Tracks here

Mourn is playing on the Friday night of Hopscotch, the second night of the festival. For the first time, the fest will run for four nights. They have the 11:00 slot at CAM, which is a long hike from the rest of the festival footprint, but there’s a lot of great stuff going on at CAM this fest. I don’t have a scheduling conflict in that slot, so it’s a safe bet that I’ll be there.

The Hopscotch Music Festival is in just three weeks. Check out the lineup, the schedule, and the ticket options. As usual, I’ll be there all weekend.


August 16, 2017 — “Wall Watcher” by Sunflower Bean

Sunflower Bean

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Wall Watcher” by Sunflower Bean (2016, from the album Human Ceremony).

Sunflower Bean is an indie rock trio from Brooklyn. They’re young, but they’ve been around the Brooklyn DIY scene for a while. They formed in 2013, and after a series of singles and EPs, they released their debut long player last February on Fat Possum Records. Their sound has elements of dream pop, fuzzy indie rock, psychedelic rock, hard rock, and others. I read a quote from frontwoman Julia Cumming (vocals/bass):

You’re allowed to obsess over Black Sabbath as well as The Cure… It’d be boring if everything was one way or the other

.

Certainly, each of their songs sounds totally different to the others, and some have different sounds within the same song.

I had never heard of this band until I started doing my preparation for the 2017 Hopscotch Music Festival, and now I’m pretty excited that I’ll be seeing them there. They’re playing on Thursday September 7, the first night of the festival. That’ll be a busy night for me, and their set will be the last of the night over at The Pour House. It’s often packed to capacity in there during Hopscotch, but it’s always fun.

Anyway, here’s one of the songs from the debut album:

“Wall Watcher” by Sunflower Bean

It’s part late aughts commercial radio alternative, part late nineties college radio alternative, and still part something else. I’m reminded a little of that song “Tick Tick Boom” by The Hives. I’m also reminded of the first record by Veruca Salt. There’s also something that reminds me just a tiny bit of The History of Apple Pie. And yet, it’s still got its own vibe. And I like it.

Here also is the video for the song:

You can order the album on your choice of format from the Fat Possum store here.

The Hopscotch Music Festival is in just three weeks. Check out the lineup, the schedule, and the ticket options. As usual, I’ll be there all weekend.

Again, if you’re going to Hopscotch, Sunflower Bean is playing on Thursday at 12:30 at the Pour House. There’s actually four different venues I want to be in at that same time, so I can’t say for sure that I’ll be at Pour House, but the Sunflower Bean set is very much on my radar.


August 3, 2017 — “Stupid Things” by Girl Ray

Girl Ray

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Stupid Things” by Girl Ray (2017, from the album Earl Grey).

Girl Ray is an indie pop trio of 19 year-olds from London. They are Poppy Hankin (vocals/guitar), Sophie Moss (bass), and Iris McConnell (drums). I just learned about them this morning because of a friend’s tweet that he was eagerly anticipating the release of the band’s debut record tomorrow (August 4) via Moshi Moshi Music. I’ve listened to a few songs, and I really like what I’ve heard. I’ve done a little bit of research, and I still don’t know much about them.

Some of the things that I’ve read compare them to the c-86 sound and lo-fi twee pop. Some compare them to stuff like Belle and Sebastian. Some are brave enough to mention Hankin and Harriet Wheeler out of The Sundays in the same breath. Some mention Hankin and Nico in the same breath. Every article I’ve read mentions Todd Rundgren. The band say that they’re influenced by Pavement, Pixies, Cate Le Bon, David Bowie, Neutral Milk Hotel, The Beach Boys, ABBA, and others. Also, as a bit of trivia, the girls went to the same high school as Ray and Dave Davies out of The Kinks.

The only really close comparison to twee pop that I might make is to say that I’m reminded of The Softies, or Brave Irene, or any of Rose Melberg’s projects that weren’t called Tiger Trap. There’s a bit in tonight’s song that reminds me A LOT of the hit song “Evil Woman” by Electic Light Orchestra. And in a general sort of way, especially on some of the other songs, I’m reminded of Badfinger. These young gals have a lot of talent, and with the exception of Cate Le Bon, no matter what band you compare them to, it’s from before they were born.

They formed in 2015, and released their first single –“Trouble”– last autumn. They followed with a single for “Preacher” last month. After a lot of rave reviews in the UK music press and a few over here, they’ve generated a lot of buzz around their debut record coming out tomorrow.

Tonight’s song is, from what I’ve read, about having a supercrush (intentional reference back to Tiger Trap) on someone, then doing a bunch of stupid things just to get close or feel close to them. Things like obsessively watching a movie that their crush mentioned in passing, or obsessively eating and drinking stuff that their crush eats and drinks. You know… Standard issue pseudo-stalking.

I don’t know if the Bandcamp clip is an abbreviated version of the real song or if the music video is an extended version, but the Bandcamp version picks up at about 1:10 of the video. Either way, here’s the audio:

“Stupid Things” by Girl Ray

It’s that first bit with the piano and the “Ooh hooo hooooo-oooo” that makes me thing so much of “Evil Woman”. It’s the first thing I thought of as soon as I heard the first few seconds of this song. After that, it doesn’t sound like or remind me of ELO at all.

For good measure, here’s the cinematic video for the song:

They have sold out of the first pressing of the vinyl, but you can still buy the album via Bandcamp on CD or as a download.


July 24, 2017 — “Forgot Myself” by Jen Cloher

Jen Cloher

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Forgot Myself” by Jen Cloher (2017, from the forthcoming album Jen Cloher).

Jen Cloher is an indie-folk/rock singer/songwriter from Melbourne. She has released three albums and a couple of EPs and singles, but I didn’t know much about her until recently. Actually, I did, but I didn’t. She has been dating indie darling/rising superstar Courtney Barnett for several years, and they’ve collaborated on each other’s records before. On August 11, she’ll release her fourth album —Jen Cloher— via Milk Records, which is the label that Cloher and Barnett run.

I got something in the mailbag about a different song from the new record, and I knew right away that I like this record. Tonight’s song is about “the sacrifices and difficulties of maintaining a long-distance relationship with a high-profile partner”. They live together, but Barnett spent a long time touring with her brilliant debut Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit, so I guess they’ve spent a lot of time apart from each other. We’ll get to that later.

The album was recorded in a one-room studio in a rural Australian town, then mixed in Jeff Tweedy’s studio in Chicago. Barnett contributed guitar and vocals to the entire album. Their friend Kurt Vile also played guitar on one track, and Andrew “Bones” Sloane (bass) is a full-time member of the band. Both are also frequent collaborators with Barnett.

Anyway, here’s tonight’s song:
“Forgot Myself” by Jen Cloher

It’s a great song that reminds me of a lot of things. There are bits that remind me of The Breeders and bits that remind me of Bettie Serveert. In a weird way, the bass and drums remind me of Butterglory. There are obviously bits that remind me of Courtney Barnett. Despite how catchy and toe-tap inducing it might be, it’s kind of a downer. The words to the last verse tell the whole story of dealing with being apart from her love:

You’re riding round the world
You’re doing this and you’re signing that
The facts are that you’re there and I’m here
When you’re gone too long I become an idea
I’m driving in my car
Your song comes on the radio
And I remember what I always forget
Loneliness.

That’s kind of intense. But it’s about to get better. Jen Cloher will be touring with this record. Courtney Barnett will be on tour with the album she made with Kurt Vile. For a few weeks in the United States this autumn, they’ll all be touring together. I don’t know who headlines those shows, but it sounds like a badass show. If I’m honest, I’m not wild about Kurt Vile, but that would be an amazing show.

The eponymous Jen Cloher album comes out on August 11, and you can pre-order it via Bandcamp here, or via the label here.

Also, there’s a great video for the song. And it’s packed full of people who have something to do with Milk Records or the Melbourne music scene. You’ll easily recognize Courtney Barnett. “Bones” Sloane plays the guy making art with his food. Jen Sholakis, who plays drums in the band (and a couple of other Melbourne bands), is drinking coffee. Tain Stangret, who sings on a couple of songs, is the waitress. You may recognize her from Courtney Barnett’s incredible video for “Elevator Operator”. The dishwasher is played by Anika Ostendorf, who makes dream-pop under the name Hachiku. The cook is played by a guy called Tejo D’Cruz. It took a bit of internet research, but I figured out that he used to be in a Singapore pop-punk band called Aspectrum. Now he lives in Melbourne, and does a decent Elliot Smith cover.

Anyway, now that you’ve got the cast and all their bios, here’s the video:

The video is worth watching multiple times because there are lots of really subtle and cool things going on. It’s weird, but it’s fun.


July 6, 2017 — “The Places We’ve Been” by Lost Horizons (featuring Karen Peris)

Lost Horizons

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “The Places We’ve Been” by Lost Horizons (2017, from the forthcoming album Ojalá).

Lost Horizons is a dream-pop duo formed by Simon Raymonde out of Cocteau Twins and Richard Thomas out of Dif Juz. They have a stable full of guest vocalists including Sharon Van Etten, Marissa Nadler, Tim Smith out of Midlake, Leila Moss out of The Duke Spirit, and Hazel Wilde out of Lanterns on The Lake. Most thrilling, though, is that they also have the inimitable Karen Peris out of The Innocence Mission on one track. Tonight’s track.

Simon Raymonde needs no introduction here.

Richard Thomas was the drummer in Dif Juz, who was also on 4AD records back in the glorious heyday of that label in the mid-1980s. Actually, of the three Dif Juz albums, only the last of them was on 4AD. That record —Extractions
was produced by Robin Guthrie out of the Cocteaus and featured guest vocals by Liz Fraser out of the Cocteaus. Dif Juz was a strange sort of math-y dream-pop/post-punk band that I was never into despite my obsession with the incarnation of 4AD Records that existed at that time.

The Cocteaus disbanded in an inglorious blaze back in 1997. That year, Raymonde put out a solo record that nobody even noticed. He and Guthrie had already started the Bella Union record label, which was meant as a platform for the Cocteaus to self-release their stuff after their fall-out with 4AD boss Ivo Watts-Russell. Unfortunately, by the time they got out from under their contract with 4AD, the band was starting to rot from the inside anyway. So it was all over for the Cocteaus.

Raymonde and Guthrie ran the label together for a while, but now it’s entirely run by Raymonde. While he had his hands in a lot of projects, he pretty much stayed out of the business of writing music until he formed Snowbird in 2014. The one record that band put out was my #13 album of 2014.

Just today, I learned about the Lost Horizons project, and I got very excited when I saw that Karen Peris appears on tonight’s track. It’s a poorly kept secret that I really, really like the Innocence Mission. At least everything from 1989 to 2003. The six records during that time are magnificent. To be fair, I’ve never paid much attention to the three albums that came after that. Glow (1995) is my favourite record of theirs, and it’s really solid from start to finish. My favourite song of theirs, though, is “The Lakes of Canada”, which I’ve written about here. And as a digression that’s well worth your time, Sufjan Stevens famously did a sensational cover of that song, practically making it his own. See that here. Coincidentally, Stephanie Dosen out of the aforementioned Snowbird has also done a cover of “The Lakes of Canada” on her solo record, giving it a more spooky than sad tone here.

Anyway, all of that digression was to the point that Karen Peris is an amazing songwriter and vocalist. That’s on full display here. This is that song:
“The Places We’ve Been” by Lost Horizons

As terrific as the music is, this is all about Karen Peris. Her breathy, high-register vocals, which are small and big at the same time, soar above everything else. And of course this should come as no surprise, but I absolutely love the miles of delay they put on her vocals at the end of each chorus.

As far as I know, this is the only song that’s been released in advance of the album. I’ve seen a track listing, but no details about who sings on which tracks. At any rate, we’ll be very much looking forward to the release of Ojalá on November 3 via Bella Union. You can pre-order digital copies here. No word yet on pre-sale of physical copies.


Melody’s Echo Chamber tour canceled after hospitalization; New album release uncertain

Melody Prochet (Melody’s Echo Chamber)

I’ve been quiet over here for a couple of weeks. Last night, while I was catching up on some emails, listening to a lot of submissions, and just doing some general music research, I stumbled upon some bad news.
Melody Prochet, who is the front of Melody’s Echo Chamber was recently involved in a “serious accident” which has forced her to cancel the band’s scheduled tour of North and South America in the autumn.

You may remember that I first wrote about the Paris-based dream-pop/psychedelic rock band back in the very early days of this blog in 2012. I compared MEC to Broadcast, and Melody Prochet to the late frontwoman of Broadcast, Trish Keenan. I eventually named the Melody’s Echo Chamber eponymous debut album my 10th favourite album of 2012. There was supposed to be a sophomore album in 2014, and we were teased with a single called “Shrim”. For some reason, though, the full album never came to fruition. Back in April of this year, Prochet announced on her birthday a new single called “Cross My Heart”. She also promised that there finally would be a second album — Bon Voyage — and that we would see it later this year. She also announced a tour of North and South America which would have kicked off in October. Unfortunately, this tour has been canceled after Prochet was recently hospitalized.

On June 27, Melody’s family posted via her Facebook page the following message:

Dearest Friends,
Melody suffered a serious accident earlier this month.
We are optimistic, but she needs to be in the hospital
for a few more months.
Due to these circumstances, Melody’s upcoming Tour
has been canceled.
But she is hopeful to be able to play shows again soon
Thank you for your support
– Melody’s Family –

They didn’t offer any further details or divulge any specifics about the nature of the accident. A day later, the family offered a little bit more: in the accident, Melody suffered a brain aneurysm and broken vertebrae. She will remain in hospital and will have surgeries.

This is all the news we have now. We are all, obviously, hoping that Melody makes a full recovery and that she is indeed able to resume touring at some point. I’m hopeful that it happens sooner than later. The album was scheduled to be self-released later this year, but no specific release date was given. At this point, we sort of assume that the release will be delayed. Tour dates and album release dates are much less important than Melody’s health and well-being right now.

The song, by the way, is fantastic. This is that song:
“Cross My Heart” by Melody’s Echo Chamber

There are a lot of different layers and textures to this song, and it almost seems like a couple of different songs. The first bit is dreamy with some nice drums that are crazily reminiscent of Broadcast. The vocals are in English with lots of delay and/or other vocal effects. There’s a strange bit that goes from 1:33 to about 5:03 that has some weird beats and strange dance-y things mixed in. During this bit, the vocals are in French. After that, it goes back to the “dreamy” sound, but with a bit more guitar. At the end of the day, though, it’s a brilliant reminder of how fantastic that first record was and what a magnificent sophomore album we have to look forward to.


June 15, 2017 — “Lake House” by Beverly

Beverly

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Lake House” by Beverly (2016, from the album The Blue Swell).

Beverly is an indie pop/dream-punk band from Brooklyn. The front of the band is Drew Citron (vocals/guitar). She started the band a few years ago with the magnificent Miss Frankie Rose of Vivian Girls and Dum Dum Girls fame. With that lineup, Beverly released the 2014 album Careers, which was my #26 album of the year. Since then, Frankie Rose has left the band, and Citron has enlisted Scott Rosenthal (bass/guitar), who is better known as a producer who has worked with Crystal Stilts among others. I think he also had something to do with the technical stuff on Careers. Citron and Rosenthal are often joined by Kip Berman out of The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, but he’s not an “official” member of the band.

Beverly is currently on tour supporting Berman and the Pains, who have a new record out in September. Speaking of September, Beverly will be performing at this year’s Hopscotch Music Festival in September. There’s a lot for me to look forward to this year, and of the “small print” bands, this is one of the first things that caught my eye the first time I looked at the lineup.

The band’s second record —The Blue Swell— came out last spring, and if I had bothered to make a list last year, it would have been at least in my top 20. It may not have done so well with the press, but I love it. This is one of my favourite songs from the album:

“Lake House” by Beverly

You can buy The Blue Swell via Bandcamp here, or you can buy directly from Kanine Records here.

You can check out the tentative Hopscotch lineup here, and ticket information here.


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