05.28.2015 — “City Sublet” by Slow Down Molasses

Slow Down Molasses

If you only listen to one song today, make it “City Sublet” by Slow Down Molasses (2015, from the album Burnt Black Cars).

Slow Down Molasses is a five-piece indie rock/dream pop/shoegaze collective from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Sometimes their membership has swollen to as many as 14 people, but there’s really five official members right now. I don’t understand this analogy, but sometimes people refer to them as “the Broken Social Scene of the prairies”. They call themselves a “collective” as opposed to a “band”, and sometimes there are a ton of people in the mix, and they’re Canadian. That’s about where the BSS similarities end. Stylistically, Slow Down Molasses is often compared to Slowdive. I’m much more prepared to get on board with that likening than with the BSS likening.

One of the core members is Jeanette Stewart (vocals/keys/synths) who used to front a band called Jeans Boots. Her style of folky indie rock with a dash of punk earned her many comparisons to the great Julie Doiron. And that’s more than alright with me. In Jeans Boots, Stewart was always accompanied by Tyson McShane, who is the front of Slow Down Molasses.

The band just released their third album Burnt Black Cars this month, but I had never heard of them until I got something in the mail bag promoting the album. The email didn’t provide much in the way of biographical info, but it included a private link to stream the album, and it got me with the hook which was the mention of Slowdive and that massively influential Irish shoegaze band. For the record, I don’t think Slow Down Molasses sounds anything at all like MBV, but they baited the hook with that comparison.

I listened to a couple of songs and knew that I really like this. I wanted to wait until the songs from that private link went public before sharing. They haven’t yet, so I’m actually sharing an older version of a song from the new album. The version I’m sharing was on a promo flexidisc and a standalone digital single in 2012. It was produced by famous Canadian producer David Carswell.

“City Sublet” (David Carswell mix) by Slow Down Molasses

The new album (including the album version of this song) was mixed and produced by Jace Lasek from The Besnard Lakes. I can’t say enough how brilliant Jace is and how much I love Besnard Lakes. Their albums always end up in my year-end top ten. Their most recent record —Until In Excess, Imperceptible UFO— was my #8 favorite album of 2013 and my second favorite Canadian album of that year. See the full list here. So after I was already hooked, it was just an added bonus to see Jace Lasek attached to this project.

The album version is substantially brighter, and the album version puts some delay on the vocals, but apart from that, there’s not much different about it. A lot of times when bands do this, the album version is drastically different. Harder, or softer, or flip-flopped coed vocals, or something like that. This isn’t one of those times.

Burnt Black Car came out on May 12, and you can order it from iTunes or amazon. Get the album, and play it loud.


05.27.2015 — “Drunk Walk Home” by Mitski

Mitski

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Drunk Walk Home” by Mitski (2014, from the album bury me at makeout creek).

Mitski is an indie rock/folk singer-songwriter from Brooklyn. She recently graduated from the music conservatory at SUNY Purchase, and while she was there she released two albums. Her debut LUSH came out in 2012, followed by Retired from Sad, New Career in Business in 2013. These were both written and recorded with a large cast of supporting characters, a full orchestra, and relentless attention to detail. When she was ready to graduate, she had some sort of revelation which led her to change her approach to making records.

I awoke to the fact that music didn’t have to be this difficult and academic thing to be ‘good’

The new album came out in November via Double Double Whammy, which is also home to Quarterbacks and Eskimeaux. This time, the focus is on the traditional rock instruments: guitar, bass, drums. Her band is just that — a three piece.

I really don’t know anything about Mitski, and I think she likes it that way. I only learned of her existence when the Hopscotch Music Festival announced the lineup for this year’s festival. I’ve started my festival homework, and in the coming months, I’ll be posting a lot about the bands who will be playing there this September.

What I do know about Mitski is that her new album has turned a lot of heads and that according to at least one media outlet, she took SXSW by storm. I’ve listened to a few songs and I very much like what I’ve heard. I’m reminded a bit of both Jenn Wasner (from Wye Oak) and the magnificent Torres. Both of those are Hopscotch alumnae, and Wasner will be making an appearance at this year’s festival with her Flock of Dimes.

Anyway, here’s one of the songs from the new album:
“Drunk Walk Home” by Mitski

I really like how at the beginning of the song, everything is very calm and pretty. By the end, she’s literally screaming, the drums are chaotic, and the guitars are really grungy. It’s a song about a woman whose night didn’t go the way she hoped it would. She’s really frustrated with this person she’s trying to impress. It boils over at the end, and it’s a little frightening. The protagonist of this story is someone I wouldn’t want to cross, or even to disappoint.

The Hopscotch schedule hasn’t been announced, but with the lineup announcement, they told us who’s playing which nights. Mitski will play some time on Friday September 11, which is the middle night of the festival. On that night, TVOTR will headline the City Plaza main stage show. Some of the highlights of the indoor shows that night will be Mitski, Jefre Cantu-Ledesme, Moon Duo, Natalie Prass. Just to name a few.

You can buy bury me at makeout creek here. Look for Mitski on tour in North America this summer with Eskimeaux and Elvis Depressedly.

Check out the day-by-day Hopscotch lineup here, and get your ticket info here.


05.25.2015 — “Texas Funeral” by Hop Along

Hop Along

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Texas Funeral” by Hop Along (2015, from the album Painted Shut).

Hop Along is an indie folk/indie rock/grunge revival quartet from Philadelphia. The siblings Frances (vocals/guitar) and Mark Quinlan (drums) are joined by Tyler Long (bass) and Joe Reinhart (guitar). They all came from suburban Philly, and the band formed in 2008. Prior to that, Frances had a similarly named solo project while she was still in high school. She released one album called Freshman Year, and the full band released their debut album Get Disowned in the spring of 2012. Just a couple of weeks ago, they released their sophomore long player via Saddle Creek Records.

I had never heard of this band until I recently saw the album listed at #3 on a “best ‘under the radar’ indie records of 2015 so far”. I already had most of the albums on that list, and I was surprised that an “indie rock” album with a metacritic score of 87 had indeed slipped completely under my radar. In fact, it was the only album on that list of 33 that I had never heard of. I was intrigued by that, and without knowing anything at all about the band, I found a couple of songs to listen to. As you probably guessed, it didn’t take long for “Texas Funeral” to win me over.

In a lot of ways, I was reminded of the Vancouver duo Drawn Ship. Something about the particular kind of noise. Although Frances Quinlan’s voice is raspier and fried more than that of Lyn Heinemann from Drawn Ship, there’s a similarity there as well. It’s unpolished and unapologetic. I love it.

I’ve listened to the album a couple of times, and this is one of the songs that I keep coming back to.

“Texas Funeral” by Hop Along

This song has some elements of shoegaze, some elements of indie-folk, punk, and others. Mostly, though, it’s just good old-fashioned “indie rock”. I love Frances’ Kim Deal-esque howling, especially during the “None of this is gonna happen to me within my lifetime” parts. I’m also impressed by Mark’s tumbling drum bits in the bridges.

I seriously can’t get enough of this song. I’m not wild about the band’s name, but they made a really good record in Painted Shut. Check it out, and play it loud.

You can buy Painted Shut in your favorite format from the Saddle Creek web store here.


05.22.2015 — “Midnight Garden” by Expert Alterations

Expert Alterations

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Midnight Garden” by Expert Alterations (2015, from the forthcoming Expert Alterations EP).

Expert Alterations is a lo-fi jangle-punk/c-86 trio from Baltimore. The Charm City is on fire right now with a bunch of new acts. There’s certainly a laundry list of those. Among the class of “veterans”, This is That Song favorites Thrushes are triumphantly coming off of hiatus to announce a new album coming soon. One of the newest fantastic Baltimore bands Wildhoney have released a smashing debut record which is already written in pen into my year-end top five. Wildhoney will be one of my MUST SEE shows at this year’s Hopscotch Music Festival, along with fellow Baltimorean Jenn Wasner’s Flock of Dimes. I could go on and on about the number of great bands coming out of “Bawdamoor” right now, and a bunch of seasoned pros from there, but that’s not really the point.

I really don’t know much about Expert Alterations. They’ve only been around for a few years, and they’ve found homes in the venerable labels Kanine Records and Slumberland Records. Every year, my year-end list features a bunch of albums from those labels, and this year will be no different. The band cites some serious 80s/90s UK indie jangle-punk influences like The Wedding Present and Close Lobsters. I can definitely hear Close Lobsters, but not so much Weddoes.

On June 2, Slumberland will release a one-sided 12″ record of the self-titled EP. Simultaneous with that, Kanine will release digital copies. This is one of the songs from that forthcoming EP.

“Midnight Garden” by Expert Alterations

Another UK band from the late 80s/early 90s that I’m reminded of is The Field Mice. Not to be confused with the current Brooklyn indie-pop duo Field Mouse. No. The Field Mice were essentially the poster children of the post-C-86 movement. Remember… The Weddoes and Close Lobsters were actually on the famed C-86 cassette. The Field Mice were among thousands of bands who probably formed because of that cassette.

Expert Alterations undoubtedly also formed in part because of that cassette. Twenty some odd years after the fact. Although they certainly look and sound like they walked right out of 1986, I doubt that any of the members of Expert Alterations were even alive when the massively influential mix tape came out. That’s also not the point.

The point is that this is a great new band from a thriving music scene in Baltimore. Keep your ears and eyes on them. It’s certainly en vogue right now for bands to be a part of the revival of the glorious early-mid 1990s. It’s nice to hear something reminiscent of the somewhat less nostalgia-invoking late 1980s.

A full-length album is in the works and may come out this year. For now, you can and should pre-order the vinyl EP from Slumberland here. Alternately, you can pre-order the digital EP via bandcamp here. With the digital pre-order, you’ll get an instant download of the song “A Bell”.


Happy Birthday, Souvlaki!

Souvlaki

Yesterday was the birthday of the great Rachel Goswell. As a guitarist, singer, and co-front of the legendary dreamgaze band Slowdive, she cranked out three of the most important records of the 1990s. Well, two anyway. Just for a Day(1991) and Souvlaki(1993) are records that helped define a label (Creation), a scene (shoegaze/dream-pop) and a decade that’s often called “the last golden age of music” (the 1990s). Pygmalion (1995) was an album that confused even some of their most devoted fans. I know that I was left scratching my head.

Souvlaki was released 22 years ago today in the UK. Several months later, it was released in the USA with a different track listing and different artwork. Being a huge fan, on the day, I plopped down the cash for the deluxe 2xCD edition (crecd 139x). The bonus disc is the beautiful Blue Day EP, which has seven fantastic songs. Remember the days when you had to get store clerk to put in a special order for your imported copy of some album that wasn’t yet available in the US? The shop I frequented already had a copy of this very limited edition 2xCD package on the shelf, and I didn’t hesitate to spend the exorbitant amount for it. It was $21.90 in 1993 US dollars. In today’s dollars, that would be $35.79, which would be an absurd amount of money to pay for a new release. However, it’s not really fair to compare 2015 dollars to 1993 dollars that way. It wasn’t out of the ordinary in 1993 to pay $13.99 or more for a new release. I was happy to pay an extra $8 for a bonus disc. The US release date wasn’t known at the time, and it turned out that it didn’t come out until February of 2014. It was a good investment because of that, and also because although I didn’t know it at the time, this particular release was apparently limited to 1000 copies. The album has been re-issued a number of times with bonus tracks and bonus discs, and I suspect that it will very soon be re-released in “deluxe and redux” glory.

Just for a Day may have charted higher in the UK, but Souvlaki is the album that everyone talks about when they talk about Slowdive. It’s the album that made people stop what they were doing and want to learn to play guitar. It’s the album that people have in their “best of the decade” lists. It’s the album that people still have in their “desert island” collection.

The album is a perfect combination of melodic shoegaze and the dreamiest of dream pop. It’s suitable for any time of day and any listening environment, but it’s really best to play this over real speakers, and play it loud. These days, I very rarely play physical copies through my real stereo, but that’s what I’m doing right now. Listening to this perfect album on big speakers through a real stereo.

It’s really hard to pick out a favourite song. A lot of people go with the bursting-at-the-seams “When the Sun Hits”, a lot with the album-opening “Alison”, a lot with the dreaminess of the restrained “Machine Gun”, a lot with the really ambient “Sing”, which was co-written by Brian Eno. Still others go with the acoustic album-closing heartbreaker “Dagger”. For a long while, I thought that the somewhat psychedelic, super-spacey, bass-heavy “Souvlaki Space Station” was my personal favorite. I know now that I can’t pick a favorite. But I definitely prefer Souvlaki to the other two albums. By a wide margin.

You should listen to this album as a whole. Just kick back with a beverage, turn up the volume and enjoy this. Let your worries melt away and allow the album to carry you to a different place. That’s one of the many things that I love so much about this album. Whenever I listen to it, I feel like I’m literally lifted off the ground. Not figuratively into the depths of the outer atmosphere, but literally a few feet above ground. I even feel like I’m lifted out of my own body. Whatever my “real world” problems are, I forget all about them for 40 minutes.

Of course I also love the co-ed vocals present on nearly every song. A lot of times they go back-and-forth. A lot of other times, either Rachel or Neil takes the vocal lead and they harmonize in the chorus. Either way works brilliantly for me. And I love that they were unafraid to put the bass so up-front on so many songs.

I’ve loved this record since the first time I heard it 22 years ago, and I’ll love it for many more years to come.

The band suggested through their Facebook page that there’ll be some “Souvlaki-related news soon”. This, I assume, is that they’re either re-releasing the album in “deluxe and redux” fashion, or doing one of those tours where they play the whole album front-to-back along with some of the non-album tracks.

Now, go pull out your physical copy of this album and play it loud!


05.15.2015 — “Aubrey” by Debris Slide

Debris Slide

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Aubrey” by Debris Slide (2015, from the album Araido)

Debris Slide is a low-fi noise rock/shoegaze quartet from Nottingham. They started in 2012, and their debut album Araido just came out this week. I had never heard of the band until I got something in the mailbag. Before I even listened to a note, I was intrigued because of their name. It’s likely a reference to the Pavement song of the same name (1991, from the Perfect Sound Forever EP). The band say that they’re influenced by some of the best of the early lo-fi shoegaze from this side of the Atlantic. They specifically name Black Tambourine and Swirlies as their influencers. They’re also HUGE fans of Weezer. You can see that in the photo above, and you can also see it in their previous release.

In the autumn of 2014, Debris Slide released an EP called Everything Will Be Alright For Steve McDonald of Off Corrie In The End. This is an obvious nod to Weezer’s 2014 album Everything Will Be Alright In The End, and it features six Weezer cover songs. If you’re interested, you can get that by naming your own price here. The recording quality is really awful, but it’s sort of fun anyway.

While the recording quality of the new debut album is considerably better, it’s still very much on the “lo-fi” end of things. Don’t let that cloud your judgement of it, though: it’s a good record. All Hail West Texas by The Mountain Goats is an example of a phenomenal record that was literally recorded by a very inexpensive boom box. It’s a very muddy record, but it’s incredible. But enough about Weezer, and enough about The Mountain Goats.

There are many good songs on the Debris Slide record. This is one of my favorites.

“Aubrey” by Debris Slide

This is definitely reminiscent of the early days of US shoegaze. It reminds me specifically of all of the stuff from Slumberland Records during the early-to-mid 1990s. Black Tambourine, Boyracer, Henry’s Dress, et cetera. Really noisy, but recorded with really low production values and mixed into the stereo field in rather unusual way. I can’t really pinpoint exactly what’s going on, but among all the noise, there’s definitely some different things happening in the left channel as compared to the right.

The album was released digitally on May 12, and a limited run of 100 vinyl copies was pressed. You can get a download from bandcamp by naming your price here. Also, see the details about the vinyl there.


05.14.2015 — “Land Gone” by Novella

Novella

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Land Gone” by Novella (2015, from the album Land).

Novella is an indie-pop/shoegaze/krautrock quintet from London. They’ve been around since about 2011. Hollie Warren (vocals/guitar), Sophy Hollington (guitar/vocals) and Suki Sou (bass) met through some mutual friends, hit it off immediately, and formed a trio together with a drum machine backing them. Later, they added drummer Iain Laws and released their debut single “The Things You Do” in 2011. The following year, they released a self-titled EP, then in 2013 an EP called Murmurs. Last year, they added Isabel Spurgeon (keys/vocals) to the lineup. All along the way, they were generating a ton of buzz in the UK, but were unknown on this side of the Atlantic.

A few months ago, the buzz started to grow here, and their debut album finally released this week. I had heard a little of the buzz, but didn’t listen to the whole album until a friend told me he was surprised that I hadn’t already written about Novella.

The band is influenced by a wide variety of bands, and they remind me of some things that don’t necessarily belong in the same sentence. On “Blue Swallow”, Sou’s psychedelic bass and Laws’ drums suggest a lot of krautrock-inspired stuff like Stereolab. Meanwhile, the phased and flanged guitars on “Phrases” bring to mind Eternal Summers. Through all of it, Warren’s vocals are somewhat reminiscent of Miki Berenyi from Lush. When she’s harmonizing with any of the other girls, it’s like Berenyi/Emma Anderson harmony. In fact, as a whole package, Novella reimind me (and lot of other people) of the shoegaze-flavoured pop sensibilities of Lush. The post-Spooky Lush, anyway. The less noisy Lush.

Here’s today’s song:
“Land Gone” by Novella

This is a really well-oiled machine, and it’s a fantastic pop song. This also has some of that driving, motorik-like rhythm section that I talked about before. And some of that tasty flanger/phaser. And those glorious vocal harmonies.

For extra credit, you can enjoy the video for “Land Gone”. I’ve already watched it about 30 times.

The album came out this week via Sinderlyn Records. You can buy a physical copy from amazon, or buy a download from your favorite legal downloading place.


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