February 17, 2017 — “The Embers” by Vagabon

Lætitia Tamko of Vagabon

Lætitia Tamko of Vagabon

If you only listen to one song today, make it “The Embers” by Vagabon (2017, from the forthcoming album Infinite Worlds).

Vagabon is a lo-fi indie rock/punk/folk recording project for the NYC-based singer/multi-instrumentalist Lætitia Tamko. She was born in Cameroon, and her family moved to New York when she was thirteen. At age 17, she taught herself to play on a guitar that her parents bought at Costco. Years later, when she was off at college, she would tell her parents that she spent every weekend holed up in the library, when in reality, she was out every weekend night playing shows in small clubs. Eventually, at one of those shows, she was approached by the founder of Miscreant Records, who wanted to release a record for her.
That record was the Persian Garden EP, which was released in November of 2014 and has been out of print for a long time. Some of the songs from that release, including today’s song, have been reworked and renamed for the forthcoming debut long player Infinite Worlds. That record will be released next Friday, February 24 by Father/Daughter Records.

While Tamko does a lot of the heavy lifting on the album, she has a full backing band and there are a few guest vocalists on the album including Greta Kline, who is also known as Frankie Cosmos.

“Cold Apartment”, from the forthcoming album reminds me a lot of Torres. It’s just a reworked version of a song called “Cold Apartment Floors” from Persian Garden. Similarly, today’s song is a reworked version of a song called “Sharks” from Persian Garden.

“The Embers” by Vagabon

I love the rawness of it. Although it wasn’t recorded in a bedroom, it has that feel to it. It starts with just her voice and a muted guitar, but by the end of the big chorus, it’s a cacophonous lo-fi buzz.

It’s impossible to write about Vagabon without mentioning two things. One is the opening lyric in today’s song:

I feel so small
My feet can barely touch the floor
On the bus where everybody is tall

The whole theme of the song is feeling small. Not just in stature but “small” in the grand scheme. Insignificant. I think it’s a running theme throughout many of the songs.

Run and tell everybody Lætitia is a small fish
I’m just a small fish
You’re a shark that hates everything
You’re a shark that eats every fish

The other thing that’s impossible not to write about is that she’s not just a black woman, but an African black woman in the world of indie rock and freak-folk, which is a world inhabited almost exclusively by white people. Although being a Cameroonian partially defines who she is as a person, she doesn’t necessarily want her skin colour or the continent where she was born to be part of how she’s described as a musician. She told the Village Voice about this:

I struggle with wanting to just make music and do my thing and not have a face, but I also want to be visible

.

That EP back in 2014 got lots of good reviews and the forthcoming full length record has been eagerly anticipated. If I’m honest, though, I didn’t know about Vagabon until I got something in the mailbag early this morning. You can stream the whole album via NPR First Listen here. I’ve listened to most of it, and I really like it. I’ve listened to today’s song a bunch of times already, and I can’t get enough.

The album comes out next Friday, and you can pre-order it via Father/Daughter in your choice of formats here.

Also, for extra credit, here’s a video for the song:


February 15, 2017 — “Avalyn II” as covered by White Cascade

Just For a Life: An Homage to Slowdive

Just For a Life: An Homage to Slowdive

If you only listen to one cover song tonight, make it “Avalyn II”, as covered by White Cascade (2017, from the compilation tribute album Just For a Life: An Homage to Slowdive). The song was, of course, originally done by Slowdive on their 1990 eponymous debut EP.

White Cascade is a shoegaze trio from Raleigh, North Carolina. I first learned about this band when I saw them open for Ringo Deathstarr in Durham a few years ago, and I’ve written about them a couple of times before (September 6, 2015, and March 14, 2014).

The members of the band are all called Matt, and they are Guess (guitars/vocals/programming), Cash (bass/vocals), and Robbins (drums/engineering). They’ve released a couple of EPs and an album called Endless.

There have been several exciting updates from the Slowdive camp in the last few months. They’re back together. They’re making new music. They’re touring the USA this spring. The most exciting, though, is that they’re playing at my favourite club, which is just a short 40-minute drive from my house. I’ve loved Slowdive passionately for more than 25 years, and their Souvlaki is among my five favourite albums of all time. It’s always been one of my saddest stories that I never got the chance to see them play back in the day. They toured the USA in 1992, 93, and 94, but they never came close enough for me to go. They’ve never played the Cat’s Cradle. When they announced their USA tour dates for 2017, I was saddened to see that they weren’t coming here. However, I was thrilled to find out last Wednesday that they added the Cat’s Cradle to their tour, and I actually found out about it via a Facebook post by White Cascade member Matt Guess. Naturally, I snagged tickets the very second they went on sale and I’ll finally be able to check that one off my bucket list, leaving only MBV on my list of seminal 90s shoegaze bands that I’ve never seen.

Yesterday, The Blog That Celebrates Itself released another in a long line of fantastic tribute albums. The newest one is a tribute to Slowdive, and the first song on the tribute is by White Cascade.

“Avalyn II”, which is a longer and more spacey version of “Avalyn I”, was on Slowdive’s first EP way back in 1990. When the band’s first three EPs were compiled as the Blue Day EP in 1992, “Avalyn II” was oddly left off. The Blue Day EP was a bonus disc in the limited edition of Souvlaki, which I am lucky enough to have a copy of.

I don’t actually have the original of “Avalyn II” in my personal library, but I do know that this is a fantastic, albeit shorter, cover of it. This is that song.

“Avalyn II”, as covered by White Cascade

It’s a little fuzzier and louder than the original version, but overall, it’s pretty faithful. And we like the noise.

I’ve listened to most of the tribute album, and this one is far and away my favourite. To be fair though, there’s plenty of great stuff on there, and there are a few bands I’ve written about before. As is usually the case, there are a few Brazilian bands I’ve never heard of on the comp, and a bunch of bands from all over the globe with varying styles and varying methods of interpretation. It’s all quite good.

You can download a copy of Just For a Life by naming your price at Bandcamp here.

You can see Slowdive’s tour dates on their official web page here. Tickets are still available for the Cat’s Cradle show on May 10 here. I will be a very happy man that night.


February 13, 2017 — “Listerine” by Luxury Death

Luxury Death

Luxury Death

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Listerine” by Luxury Death (2017, from the forthcoming EP Glue).

Luxury Death is a lo-fi indie pop band from Manchester. At the center of the band is Meg Williams (vocals/keys) and Ben Thompson (vocals/guitars). They date each other, play in this band together, and produce an art magazine which is also called Luxury Death. Thompson used to be in a slacker punk band called Nai Harvest, and the dissolution of that band gave rise to this one. They’ll be releasing their debut EP Glue via Punk Slime Recordings on February 24.

They definitely have some influences from the mid-late 90s. To me it sounds like there might be a lot of Merge Records influence. I hear part Butterglory, part Portastatic.

I got something in the mailbag today about the forthcoming EP and specifically about tonight’s song. The release listed plenty of links to high praise from the indie music press. Many of the clips said things like “nihilistic” and “recalls the era when post-punk was just starting to morph into new wave”. Those kinds of quotes pique my interest, but really it was the quote from Noisey when they reviewed a song six months ago that got me:

Radiator Face” is the sound of waking up with a crushing hangover and a comedown, but lying sweatily next to the one you snog

It’s a really colorful, but appropriate way to describe that song, but this isn’t about that song. This is about “Listerine” This is that song:

“Listerine” by Luxury Death

I love the lo-fi punk-pop sound, and I love the coed vocals. There’s something about the way the lyrics are treated that makes them nearly impossible to understand. From what I’ve read, though, the lyrics have some pretty clever wordplay. I’m always a fan of clever wordplay.

One of my favourite bits in the song is at the 2:27 mark when it goes from being a little buzzy but mostly quiet to being pretty loud and much busier. Just before that, there’s a tiny little hiccup where it goes dead quiet for just a fraction of a second. Normally, I really like that kind of thing. I’m not sure that I love it here, but I like the rest of the song so much that I’ll let it slide.

After I got the email about this song, I listened to all of the other songs, and I really like this EP. I can’t wait to see what else this band has in store.

You can pre-order the EP on pink vinyl via Punk Slime here, or you can pre-order a digital download via Bandcamp here.


February 9, 2017 — “Babes Never Die” by Honeyblood

Honeyblood

Honeyblood

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Babes Never Die” by Honeyblood (2016, from the album Babes Never Die).

Honeyblood is a pop-punk/pseudo-grunge duo from Glasgow. They formed in 2012 and released their self-titled debut in 2014. The original lineup was Shona McVicar (drums/vocals) and Stina Marie Claire Tweeddale (vocals/guitar). They intended to fill the band out with other members, but they found that people liked them as a duo. Shortly after their formation, McVicar left the band to pursue a degree in dentistry, and she was replaced by Cat Myers. They released their sophomore album last November, and it’s been getting good reviews.

People have said that their sound brings to mind stuff from the 90s like Juliana Hatfield and The Breeders. I sort of get that, but if they remind me of the 90s, it’s more like That Dog and the first Veruca Salt record. They’re a little fuzzy, a little punky, and plenty loud. At the end of the day, though, they make excellent pop music with tons of “cute factor”.

I had actually never heard the band until I recently got something in the mailbag about the newly released video for tonight’s song. This is that song.

“Babes Never Die” by Honeyblood

This is full of well-polished hooks and driving drums that remind me a little of David Narcizo out of Throwing Muses. Both vocal parts are fantastic, but it’s all about the fine-tuned powerful but sweet voice of Stina Tweeddale. It’s also amazingly bouncy. All of that means that it reminds me very much of the girl-fronted indie rock of the 90s.

They say that they write songs about “things (they) really hate and things that are okay”. As best as I can make out, this is about silencing haters. It seems like there’s some reference to witch trials, but I can’t be sure about that. Either way, it’s a song that I like a lot, and it’s tons of fun.

Here’s the video, which is how I got here in the first place. It, too, is a lot of fun.

You can buy a digital download of Babes Never Die via Bandcamp here. You can buy it in physical form via Fat Cat Records here.


February 8, 2017 — “I’m in Grace” by Sonic Jesus

Sonic Jesus

Sonic Jesus

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “I’m in Grace” by Sonic Jesus (2017, from the forthcoming album Grace).

Sonic Jesus is the darkwave/post-punk recording project of Italian multi-instrumentalist/composer Tiziano Veronese and vocalist Marco Baldassari. They formed in 2012, and immediately signed to Fuzz Club Records. Before they even had a record out, they were playing sold-out shows and getting rave reviews. In 2015, they released a double album of noise/psychedelic rock stuff called Neither Virtue Nor Anger, which earned them even more praise. Despite that, I had never heard of them until I got something in the mail bag the other day. They’re set to release their highly anticipated sophomore album Grace via Fuzz Club on March 10.

The new record is getting lots of advance praise, and some folks are saying that it’s reminiscent of Interpol and Editors. I got a preview copy in the mailbag, and although I haven’t given the entire album a proper listen, I really like what I’ve heard. It’s got the elegance of The National combined with the grit of Joy Division, with some wonderful 80s synth pop mixed in.

In a way, on tonight’s song anyway, I’m also reminded a bit of the marvelous album Hospice by The Antlers. This is that song.

“I’m in Grace” by Sonic Jesus

Talking about The Antlers, there’s something about the way the chorus of tonight’s song comes in really heavily that reminds me of when the chorus of “Sylvia” comes in like a million tons of wet bricks. I don’t know what tonight’s song is about, but I’m guessing that it’s not as heavy as “Sylvia” or the rest of Hospice. The stuff on Grace sounds dark, but not heavy.

The record is out on March 10, and you can pre-order it via Fuzz Club here.


January 31, 2017 — “I Don’t Feel So Alive” by Gabriella Cohen

Gabriella Cohen

Gabriella Cohen

If you only listen to one song today, make it “I Don’t Feel So Alive” by Gabriella Cohen (2016, from the album Full Closure and No Details).

Gabriella Cohen is a psychedelic/surf-rock/folk musician from Melbourne. She’s in a band called The Furrs, but she released a highly acclaimed solo record called Full Closure and No Details last year via Dot Dash Records. Dot Dash is a label exclusively for Australian artists, and the very good album got limited recognition outside of Australia/New Zealand.

Last week, Captured Tracks announced that they’ve signed Cohen and will be reissuing her album on March 3. They’ve also released a bunch of videos to promote the album. They sent me the announcement and a preview copy of the album, which I’m liking very much.

Most reviews of the album point to The Velvet Underground as a reference point, and I can understand that, but I prefer to say that this reminds me of a slightly quieter, slightly down tempo Best Coast.

It’s said that this album was written and recorded in a matter of ten days, and that it’s about the dissolution of a relationship. It’s melancholic and it’s brooding. It’s dark and gloomy at times. But it’s well-crafted and it’s real. And we really like it.

Today’s song even has a vaguely Mazzy Star feeling to it. Maybe it sounds like Mazzy Star doing an imitation of VU.

This is that song:
“I Don’t Feel So Alive” by Gabriella Cohen

I like how it picks up some steam in the last bit of the song, and that’s where it really does sound like the Velvet Underground.

People point to the

This could be the last time we get together

line and call it “sad” and say that it’s the end of something. I think it’s something different . While the first half of the song is about crying and not putting forth much effort, I think the whole thing might actually be about the exciting beginnings of something. Or at the very least, it could be about throwing fears and caution to the side in favour of one last go. Or one first go.

Did you find out what I’m all about
Or should I tell you
I’m gonna tell you
I’m gonna tell you

This could be the last time we get together

It’s now or never
Let’s get together
Why don’t we get together

That “It’s now or never” line is whispered, so it sort of makes me think that it might even be about doing something with someone with whom there’s never been any intimacy and with whom there can never be any intimacy except on this one night.

Whatever stage of a “relationship” it’s about, I really like this song. And I really like the album.

Here’s the video, complete with a very subtle nod to ABBA:

You can pre-order Full Closure and No Details via Captured Tracks here. In the EU/UK and AUS/NZ, you still order it from Dot Dash.


January 25, 2017 — “New York” by Peter Silberman

Peter Silberman

Peter Silberman

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “New York” by Peter Silberman (2017, from the forthcoming album Impermanence)

Peter Silberman is an ambient indie rocker from Brooklyn. You probably know him as the front man of The Antlers. The Antlers was a full band, but the first two records (2006’s Uprooted and 2007’s In The Attic of the Universe) were just solo projects for Silberman. The 2009 album Hospice received universal critical acclaim, but it came out during a point in my life when I wasn’t listening to or buying very many new releases. I heard about Hospice during a snowstorm in January of 2010, and I immediately fell in love with it. If I had made a year-end list in 2009, it would have been very near the top spot.

I’ve liked everything else by The Antlers, but Hospice remains my clear favourite of theirs.

As I was researching the upcoming new releases this winter, I was surprised to see that Silberman had a solo record coming out. I had high expectations, and the two songs that I’ve heard from the six-song album have exceeded my expectations.

There’s no denying that Silberman sounds a bit like Jeff Buckley, and he certainly does here:

“New York” by Peter Silberman

The softly played guitar bit plays gently off Silberman’s falsetto, and the “horns” and other stuff join in nicely. It’s all very quiet, and that’s on purpose. He says that the whole album is about the ever-changing face of the city he calls home. More importantly, though, it’s about the changes he’s going through. He had to stop playing music for a while after he suffered significant hearing impairment in his left ear and chronic tinnitus. He says that even the sound of his own voice reverberating in his head was painful. After some time, though, he was able to slowly work his way back to working. In an interview with NPR last year he said:

What I found was that if I sang very quietly and if I played guitar very quietly that this would be a path for me.

This is indeed a bit quieter than the stuff we’re used to hearing from The Antlers. So quiet, in fact, that you can practically hear the room tone. I don’t know if he’s still using the “bedroom recording” technique, but it sort of sounds that way. And we like it.

It’s a stunning song on what promises to be a fantastic album.

There’s a video for the song, which features a bunch of “found” archival footage of people in New York.

Impermanence will be released on February 24 via ANTI- Records. You can pre-order it on vinyl here. Alternately, you can pre-order a digital copy of the album via Bandcamp here. If you pre-order the digital download, you’ll immediately get the first two songs “Karuna” and “New York”.


%d bloggers like this: