April 27, 2016 — “Why Are You Still Here?” by Panda Panda

Panda Panda

Panda Panda

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Why Are You Still Here?” by Panda Panda (2016, from the Millions EP).

Panda Panda is an indie/noise rock quintet from Trondheim, Norway. I don’t know anything about them, but I do know that they’re on the wonderful little label Riot Factory, which is based in their hometown. There’s only about two dozen bands associated with that label, but I’ve written about a bunch of those, and I’ve really liked almost everything that I’ve heard from that label.

I got something in the mail bag a couple of weeks ago about the band’s debut EP, which just came out on April 15. Naturally, I was interested in them simply because of their label affiliation, and I loved tonight’s song right from the drop. They’ve been generating a lot of buzz in Norway, and it’s easy for me to understand why.

I’m reminded a bit of Wye Oak, and a bit of The Most Serene Republic.

“Why Are You Still Here?” by Panda Panda

Ragnhild Fangel Jamtveit (vocals/synths) reminds me a bit of Jenn Wasner out of Wye Oak in her singing style. I may not be able to pronounce her name (or any of the band member’s names for that matter), but I like what she’s doing there. During the choruses, things slow down quite a bit, and there’s some coed vocal harmonies. Throughout the song there are lots of bits where there’s a bunch of overlapping things that make it sound a bit like chaos. It’s not a mess, it’s just really busy, and there are lots of different textures. All of those things remind me a bit of the first couple of records by The Most Serene Republic, and in particular, their song The Men Who Live Upstairs.

I like everything about this song, but I especially like the really noisy bit at the end.

You can grab a download of Millions via Bandcamp here. The default currency unit is Euros, and the €5 price converts to something like $5.66 USD.


April 19, 2016 — “Chaos For You” by Hyla

Hyla

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Chaos For You” by Hyla (2016, from the “Chaos For You” single).

Hyla is a shoegaze/noise/dream pop quartet from Perth. I don’t know much about them. The guys have been friends for a long time and have been around the music industry for about a decade, but they only formed Hyla in 2014 or so. They released a self-titled EP in early 2014, then the Fever Calls Late EP last June. They draw influence from the heavyweights of the UK shoegaze scene in the 80s and 90s. The Mary Chain, the Valentines, Ride, Slowdive. You get the idea. However, instead of fitting into one of those molds, they have their own sound and they’re stamping their own seal on things. Along the way, they’ve generated quite a buzz in the Aussie indie music press and on Triple J radio down there. I had never heard of them until I was sorting through some emails and reading some of my resources for new Australian music. It didn’t take long for me to decide that I like this very much. Again, I don’t know much about this band, and I can’t dig up very much, but it sounds like they’re planning to release an album sometime in 2016.

Today’s song has a bit of musky, sweaty, smokey overtones. It’s also got some shimmery brightness and some melody. It’s dark and it’s light. It’s cold and it’s warm. It’s like a tiny, battered boat weathering rough sea: it should capsize, but it doesn’t.

Without further ado, this is that song:
“Chaos For You” by Hyla

You can get the “Chaos For You” single backed with an older song called “Thousands” via Bandcamp. Go here to name your own price. And be on the lookout for a full length from them later this year.


April 18, 2016 — “Love No One” by September Girls

September Girls

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Love No One” by September Girls (2016, from the album Age of Indignation).
September Girls is a noise pop/post-punk/psych rock quintet from Dublin. They formed in 2011, and released their debut album Cursing the Sea in 2014. That album ended up being our #20 favourite album of the year. I think this new one might do better than that.

As you might guess, the band takes its name from the Big Star song “September Gurls”, but it’s actually The Bangles’ cover of the song that inspired the band name. That cover appeared on the hugely successful album Different Light, and is one of a small handful of Bangles songs that Micki Steele sang lead vocals.

Despite achieving critical success with Cursing the Sea, the band took its time with the sophomore album. It’s a well-executed album with better production value than its predecessor. Don’t worry, though. It’s still dark, thick, and sweaty. In fact, it might be darker, heavier, thicker, and sweatier. It still sounds a bit like 1979. Bassist Paula Cullen is still going to get the comparisons to Peter Hook. And that’s always a good thing.

A couple of years ago, September Girls played a bunch of shows with A Place to Bury Strangers. I don’t think it can get darker than that. They must have gotten on really well, because APTBS frontman Oliver Ackermann contributes vocals to “Jaw on the Floor”, which is also from the new album.

It can’t be repeated enough times: this new album is really dark. Both in sound and in content. A lot of the songs have some heavy political and/or social commentary. I won’t delve into that, though. While there are some other, larger issues being tackled on this album, today’s song is simply about narcissism.

This is that song.
“Love No One” by September Girls

As usual with this band, the bass and the drums are so dark, and they have me pulled in one direction. Simultaneously, the vocals and the guitars are brighter, and they pull me in exactly the opposite direction. That’s one of the reasons that I love this band. There’s different textures and different tones going on at the same time. And it works.

For extra credit, here’s the creepy and intoxicating video for the song:

You can order the album in digital format from Amazon or eMu or whatever. It was released digitally on April 8, and it looks like the physical release (at least in this country) will be May 13.


April 6, 2016 — “Brainwasher” by Autolux

Autolux

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Brainwasher” by Autolux (2016, from the album Pussy’s Dead).

Autolux is an experimental/noise/shoegaze/psychpop trio from Los Angeles. They’ve been around since 2000, but they’ve only released three proper albums, including the new one Pussy’s Dead, which just came out last week. I like it quite a bit. Autolux has a lot of noisy guitar parts, and sometimes those guitars sound like something from a Sonic Youth record or a Pavement record. Really, though, this band is all about drummer Carla Azar. Her heavy-handed fills, her non-traditional patterns, and her “funky” technique draw comparisons to Jaki Liebezeit (out of Can) and John Bonham. I’ve never seen Autolux, but everything that I’ve read suggests that she’s a marvel to watch.

In 2002, after the band had only released an EP, they somehow found themselves on tour with Elvis Costello. After they played a set, Azar jumped off stage, tripped on a cord, and demolished her elbow. I don’t know if it was her right or left, but it was apparently broken in three places. The reconstruction required several screws and part of her hip. Apparently, all of the doctors who worked with said that it was the worst break they’d ever seen. They also all told her that she wouldn’t be able to play drums again. And just like that guy in that movie, she proved them all wrong.

The band’s 2004 debut album Future Perfect was kicked off by a raucous Bonham-esque drum solo in the song “Turnstile Blues”, and a lot of people say that those 10 seconds are the very definition of the band. I was late to the boat on that album, but I really loved it once I found out about it. The 2010 album Transit Transit got favorable reviews, but somehow, I missed the boat on that one as well. This new record just came out, and I didn’t have any particular expectations. I got it as soon as I could, but I waited a while before I finally listened to it. I was completely floored by it. I was busy doing something else while I had the album on, but it stopped me in my tracks a couple of times. This song was one of the times.

The album features a bit of programmed drums in addition to Azar’s fantastic live drumming. It’s also got a good deal of electronic elements, and there’s something that’s slightly Kid A-ish about all of that. And I mean that in the best way. This song is no exception to that.

Here’s the official video, anyway:
“Brainwasher” by Autolux

I really dig the fills, and one of the times through that drum fill sequence, it’s slightly busier and bigger. It’s the passage from 2:11 to 2:15. It’s like a bit of controlled chaos.

There’s much more brilliance on this record, and I highly recommend the songs “Junk for Code” and “Listen to the Order”.

Pussy’s Dead was released on April 1. You can order a physical copy here, or a digital copy from Amazon here.

Also, for fun, you should watch the movie “Frank”, in which Azar plays the drummer in an avant-garde synth pop band alongside Michael Fassbender (in the titular role) and Maggie Gyllenhaal, among others. It’s a weird but fascinating movie in which the main character is based on this guy. Azar doesn’t have very many speaking lines, but she does get to play the drums a lot. It’s a very weird movie, but I like it. It’s available on Netflix streaming. Or at least it is in the US.


March 26, 2016 — “Tonight” by Ashley Shadow

Ashley Webber

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Tonight” by Ashley Shadow (2016, from the forthcoming album Ashley Shadow).

Ashley Shadow is the stage name of Vancouver indie-folk musician Ashley Webber. She’s about to release her debut record on April 15, but this is far from being her first rodeo. She was a member of the 19-member indie supergroup Pink Mountaintops, and she was a contributor with the stoner rock band Black Mountain. She’s also done some guest vocals on the 2008 Bonnie “Prince” Billy album Lay Down in the Light. It’s probably worth pointing out that Ashley has a twin sister Amber, who was also in Pink Mountaintops and Black Mountain.

I started getting emails about this album early this month, and although I haven’t had time to fully catch up on all of it, I know that I’ve gotten more than two emails about this. So I figured now’s as good a time as any to actually write something about it.

It looks like Webber enlisted the help of Josh Wells (Pink Mountaintops) both in the studio and in the control room. He produced the album, and he’s credited with playing bass, keyboards, and percussion. There’s three other band members, but this is pretty consistently being referred to as a “solo record”.

I didn’t make the connection to Pink Mountaintops and Black Mountain right away. I was more intrigued by the fact that the press email compared Webber to Sharon Van Etten, Angel Olsen, and Neko Case. Tonight’s song is fuzzy and a little dark, and there are certainly some things that remind me of Neko Case or maybe of Angel Olsen. Some of the guitar bits, particularly at the very end, remind me of Galaxie 500, and that’s a really pleasant surprise.

Anyway, here’s tonight’s song:

“Tonight” by Ashley Shadow

I really dig Ashley’s voice. Soft and lovely, but also really powerful.

There’s also a really nice video:

You can pre-order the album in vinyl, CD, or digital download format via Bandcamp here.


March 21, 2016 — “Ether” by Mogwai

Mogwai

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Ether” by Mogwai (2016, from the forthcoming soundtrack album Atomic).

Mogwai is a massively influential post-rock band from Glasgow. Since 1997, they’ve released eight proper studio albums, a ton of EPs and singles, and three movie/teevee soundtrack albums. Their most recent proper album Rave Tapes was my third favourite album of 2014. Their last “soundtrack” album Les Revenants was my 24th favorite album of 2014. I’ve been a big fan for a long time. I’ve only seen them play once, and there was some ridiculous incident with that.
Last year, the band announced that they had recorded the original score/soundtrack for a BBC documentary called Atomic: Living in Dread and Promise. It’s an 80 minute film about the good bits and the horror of atomic energy. Of course there’s focus on the bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but there’s a lot of good things like radiotherapy and things like that. Anyway, Mogwai recorded the score for that, and later on, they reworked those songs to be released as an album. It’s not really a proper album, but I’m going to allow it in my year-end list anyway. The album comes out on April 1 via Rock Action (UK/rest of world) and Temporary Residence (US).
While the song “U-235” is really making the rounds, I like this one a little better.

It’s true that Mogwai have been reinventing themselves pretty frequently, adding some electronics and some vocals to the mix, and that each album has a slightly different flavor. This is more true to the “old school” Mogwai. This reminds me of some stuff like “Mogwai Fear Satan” (1997, from the album Young Team). This has some tuned percussion and some horns, but it’s mostly guitar, and it slowly builds to a huge crescendo at the end that makes Mogwai what they are.

This is that song.

“Ether” by Mogwai

Listen for the tuned percussion in the early bits of the song. Mostly, though, listen for the slow build to the huge wave that crashes down at the 3:37 mark. That’s what it’s all about. In this respect, it’s a lot like old school Mogwai, and like old school Explosions in The Sky. Which is strange, because the forthcoming Explosions in The Sky record (which also comes out on April 1 via Temporary Residence) has a bit more electronics than we’re used to, and it sounds a bit like new-school Mogwai. New Mogwai sounds like old Explosions, while new Explosions sounds like new Mogwai. And if you’ll excuse the reference to “Almost Famous”: If Mogwai is doing Explosions, and Explosions are doing Mogwai, then Mogwai is still doing Mogwai.

Speaking of old school, the band recently had a split with one of their long-time members in guitarist John Cummings, who was with the band since 1995. They had the same lineup for 20 years until he left to pursue solo projects. 20 years with no lineup changes, and yet nobody talks about them as a band with longevity. It’s a bit of a disgrace if you ask me.

IF you’re in the US, you can pre-order Atomic via Temporary Residence here. If you’re in the UK (or anywhere else in the world), you can pre-order the album through the band’s own label Rock Action


March 15, 2016 — “Captain” by OxenFree

OxenFree

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Captain” by OxenFree (2016, from the forthcoming album Beacons).

OxenFree is an indie rock quintet from Brooklyn. They formed in 2013, and they released their first EP — Fire, If We’re Anything— in 2014. With that release, they won comparisons to Canadian supergroups The New Pornogrphers and Broken Social Scene. I’m on board with those (the latter more than the former) but they were also compared to The Replacements, and I don’t really see the comparison there.

I didn’t know about the band until I got a couple of emails about them and a preview copy of their forthcoming debut album. Although it’s not quite as pronounced on today’s song, the rest of the album really does remind me of a You Forgot it In People-era BSS. I love that album to pieces, so the fact that this OxenFree album reminds me of it is a very good thing.

Again, this song only sounds a little like BSS. The rest of the album sounds a LOT like them.

I love the energy behind this. With this song, I’m reminded a little of Milwaukee post-rock/indie folk group Altos. In case you don’t know that band’s name, they’re a 12-piece band. BSS had as many as 17 members at any given time. The point is that OxenFree, with its five members, reminds me of two bands that have more than 10 members and many more moving parts.

While I’m not crazy about OxenFree’s name, I like what they’re doing. I’ve listened to the whole album a couple of times, and I’m very impressed. I wouldn’t be surprised if this ends up doing very well on my 2016 year-end list.

The album comes out on May 13 via Brooklyn-based Sneaky Bear Records. You can pre-order a digital download or purple vinyl physical copy via Bandcamp here.


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