Author Archives: dlee

About dlee

North Carolina born and bred. I'm a restaurant guy who spends free time listening to music, watching hockey and playing Scrabble. I have a bachelor's degree in political science and I will most likely never put it to use.

April 6, 2020 — “Is That What You Wanted To Hear?” by Bdrmm

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Is That What You Wanted To Hear?” by Bdrmm (2020, from the forthcoming album Bedroom)
Bdrmm (pronounced “Bedroom”) is a post-punk/shoegaze/dream pop quintet from Hull, England. They are signed to London’s Sonic Cathedral Records, and are slated to release their debut album Bedroom on June 30. It’s said that they draw influence from the likes of The Cure, Deerhunter, DIIV, Ride, and Radiohead. In today’s song, the influence of The Cure is pretty obvious, and I’m reminded quite a bit, generally of the seminal Cure album Disintegration and more specifically of “The Same Deep Water as You”.

The album was mixed by the prolific Brooklyn-based engineer Heba Kadry. You may not know her name, but she mastered a lot of albums that you absolutely love. Here’s a partial list:

    Red by Weekend
    Lost Songs by …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead
    Runner by The Sea and Cake
    Guilty of Everything by Nothing
    Cranekiss by Tamaryn
    Gold and Stone by Eternal Summers
    More Faithful by No Joy
    Thank Your Lucky Stars by Beach House
    As If by !!!
    Utopia by Björk
    Slowdive by Slowdive
    Okovi by Zola Jesus
    Soft Sounds from Another Planet by Japanese Breakfast
    The Practice of Love by Jenny Hval
    Anak Ko by Jay Som
    The Rescue (reissue) by Explosions in the Sky
    How Strange Innocence
    (reissue) by Explosions in the Sky
     
    … and many, many others

 

So you get the point. Kadry has been super busy with noisy and beautiful albums for the last ten plus years.

Although I haven’t heard the whole album, I’ve read that Kadry and the band wanted this album to have seamless flow from one song to the next using cross-fading. Specifically, they wanted it to flow like Cocteau Twins’ Treasure or Pale Saints’ The Comforts of Madness. Those are two of my favourite albums of all time, so naturally my ears perk up when I hear something like that.

Anyway, today’s song is the only one from the album that’s available for share right now, and if it’s any indicator, I’m going to like the album a lot. It’s got nods to Pale Saints. It’s got nods to The Cure. It’s dreamy. It’s a little dark. It’s cavernous. It’s got a lot of things that make me like it. This is that song.

“Is That What You Wanted To Hear?” by Bdrmm

I love the major chord arpeggio high notes on the guitar sort of floating in space and the way the chunky bass counters that. There’s where I’m reminded a lot of Disintegration. The effects on the vocals lend a little more dreaminess to it. I like the quiet/loud/quiet dynamic because I almost always like that. I also like that even in the “loud” bits, it’s never over the top. While I certainly enjoy over-the-top loudness, this song is pretty great without that extra push. Sure the amps go to 11, but they’re fine on about 8.

The album has gotten buzz well in advance of its release, and the guys were slated to play a bunch of shows in the UK and Europe this spring to prime audiences for the July release. Obviously, nobody’s going to be playing any shows in front of audiences any time soon, but they’ve scheduled another slate of UK/Europe shows for this coming autumn.

You can pre-order Bedroom via Bandcamp here. They have already sold out of vinyl, but you can get CD and digital versions.


March 27, 2020 — “Twitch” by Miss June

Miss June

Miss June

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Twitch” by Miss June (2019, from the album Bad Luck Party).

Miss June is a indie rock/punk/power pop quartet from Auckland, New Zealand. They signed to Frenchkiss Records last autumn and released their debut album Bad Luck Party on September 6. Nearly every review says that they sound like Sonic Youth mixed with some more contemporary, more pop-oriented band. To my ears, they sound like the noisy post-punk awesomeness of Sonic Youth and the energetic power pop of Veruca Salt.

After releasing a 7″ record last summer, the band booked a few shows in the UK and US, and wowed audiences with their high-energy, raucous performances. They were set to embark on a European tour and two US shows this May, but that tour will obviously have to be postponed.

I learned about the band yesterday while I was going through the massive pile of emails that have been accruing since I went on a writing hiatus in 2018. Although I’m a little late to the boat on this, I’m glad I didn’t miss it entirely.

“Twitch” by Miss June

That’s 1990s-era Sonic youth all day. And that’s a beautiful thing. There’s a tiny “quiet” bit in the middle of the song, but there’s a gloriously noisy part from 2:05 to about 2:28 when hell breaks loose. The guitars are searing and the drums are wild. My favourite bit of that section, though, is the fuzzy, crunchy bass line. It deserves a second and third listen just for that bit.

You can get the “Twitch” single, from Bandcamp, but unfortunately the full album isn’t available for download from Bandcamp or from Frenchkiss. You can, though, buy an album download from Amazon or similar.

For fun, here’s a video for today’s song, full of late-80s flair:


March 24, 2020 — “Giibs” by Collections of Colonies of Bees

Collections of Colonies of Bees

I’m not even going to pretend to carry on with the “If you only listen to one song today…” spiel that I used to use.  You should be listening to and paying for a lot of music.

While I was checking in on some new stuff, I read something that made me really happy:  On Friday March 20, when Bandcamp waived their fees, music fans spent $4.3 millon on downloads and merch from Bandcamp.  That money went straight into the pockets of the artists, and that’s awesome.  The 800,000 items that were purchased was about 15 times what Bandcamp does on a typical Friday.

While I was there, I discovered that Chicago indie label Polyvinyl Records is going a step further by waiving their percentage on Bandcamp digital purchases through March 31.  They are also offering a modified “pay what you want” model on all digital releases.  This year’s new digital releases start at $5 while everything before 2020 is going for $1.  Of course you can pay more than the suggested amount.

Naturally,  today’s feature is from a Polyvinyl band, and they’re one that I didn’t know, even if I knew of its members.  We’re going to look at “Giibs” by Collections of Colonies of Bees (2018, from the album Hawaii).  Collections of Colonies of Bees is an experimental indie rock quintet from Milwaukee.  The band originated in 1998 when John Mueller out of  Pele teamed up with Chris Roseneau.  The band has had many iterations and band members since then.  Roseneau has been the only consistent member, and he has collaborated with such giants as Nick Sanborn out of Sylvan Esso and Justin Vernon out of Bon Iver.   The most recent lineup included Daniel Spack and Marielle Allschwang, who were both in Altos, who I’ve written about several times.  Other members of the band came out of Volcano Choir, which is fronted by Justin Vernon.

“Giibs” by Collections of Colonies of Bees

There’s a bit of electronics in there, but this is about the layers of vocals and instruments. I really love the coed vocal harmonies.  I’m always a sucker for that.  And there’s something that I love about the way the drums get quite heavy later in the song and the guitars and the programming swirl together to a beautifully appropriate level of loudness while the vocal harmonies remain the star of the show.

If you’re interested, Nick Sanborn did a remix of the song last year, but it’s far too dance-y for my taste.

You should download the Hawaii album here, and buy lots of other stuff from the good folks at Polyvinyl.

Whatever you’re listening to, please support the artists by purchasing downloads or physical copies.

 


March 20, 2020 — “Wandering Star” as covered by Torres

Torres

It’s been a long while since I’ve written anything, and I apologize for the very long break since my last post. Since we’re all hunkered down at home and avoiding the outside world, and since I have free time on my hands again, I’ve been thinking about getting this thing going again.
I’ve been doing a lot of things to take my mind off the scary COVID-19 crisis: I’ve been reading more than I normally do, I’ve been looking at cat videos, spending quality time with my fur babies and my human family, and I’ve been listening to music again!

You should probably listen to and buy a lot of music today and for the next 60 or so days, but if you only listen to one song today, make it “Wandering Star” as covered by Torres (released as a standalone single today). The song was originally done by trip-hop pioneers Portishead on their massive 1994 debut Dummy.

Torres is the stage name of indie rocker Mackenzie Scott, who was born in the southern US but now makes her living in New York. I’ve written about her several times. I called her debut album my second favourite album of 2013, behind the long-awaited album by some Irish band. I called her sophomore album Sprinter my 18th favourite record of 2015. While I liked the 2017 album Three Futures, it marked a movement towards valuing production values over rawness. While she deliberately made the first two records to make the listener feel like they were reading her diaries, the third record felt different to me. It like watching a Hollywood film adaptation of a book based on her diaries. Polished.

Torres put out her fourth record — Silver Tongue — on January 31 via Merge Records, and I love it. I’ve learned to embrace the high production values. I’ve been listening to it a lot lately, and I like it more each time. That’s not why we’re here today, though.

Today, as you may have heard, Bandcamp is waiving their cut of all sales, in order to better support the musicians. If you don’t already have the new album, you should pay for a download from Bandcamp here. You can also get digital or physical copies directly from Merge, whose headquarters are about a mile from my house. This supports indie music as well as my local economy.

While I was browsing around on Bandcamp this afternoon, I spotted today’s song, which was actually released today. Obviously, the original Portishead version is breathtaking, but this version is pretty amazing as well, in a different way.

Wandering Star (Portishead Cover) by Torres

This version is a little more dark, a little more ominous, with the low growling synths and the guitars that sound a bit like Annie Clark. The original version features a symbol being lightly tapped throughout, and I miss that in this cover. Surprisingly, I do not miss the turntablism, which is quite heavy in the original version and featured very sparingly here. While the original is more sad and makes you want to cry, this cover is a little more haunting and makes you want to hide under the covers. I love it. Although this isn’t a wild reinterpretation of the song, it’s one that radically changes the tone for me. And that’s enough.

Buy the records from Torres. Buy other records. Support the musicians you love. Support your local economies as much as you can while staying as safe as you can. Keep listening!


Notes from day three of Hopscotch 2018

As you all know, I spent the entire weekend in Raleigh for the ninth annual Hopscotch Music Festival. My Thursday recap is here. My recap of the Friday day parties is here, and my recap of Friday night is here.
As I have done for the last couple of years, I used Saturday afternoon as a resting period and I skipped most of the day party stuff. Friday was a really long and really busy day, and I definitely needed the time both to write and to reset.

The only day party thing I had on my plate was a solo set by the fantastic drummer Kid Millions. I finally made it downtown at about 3:15, got some late lunch and headed over to Neptune’s for what I thought would be a really cool drumming clinic. He’s the drummer for Oneida and has done a lot of collaborations with a lot of people over the years, including a day party show with harpist Mary Lattimore two Hopscotches ago. What he did wasn’t exactly a “drumming clinic”. He told a long personal story about being in a pretty bad car crash. The story was punctuated by drum fills. It was a little odd, but still really good.

After the Kid Millions thing ended, I immediately went upstairs hoping to catch some of the set by Eric Bachmann out of Archers of Loaf. It was already over by the time I got up there.

It was almost time for the stuff in City Plaza to start, so I headed down there and waited. And waited. It was that weird part of the day when they’re trying to clear everyone out of the plaza from the “open” part of the day before letting people back in for the festivities. They ended up being really late with the gates, and although Zack Mexico was supposed to go on at 5:15, they didn’t start until about 5:45. I had seen the band from Kill Devil Hills, NC at a Hopscotch a few years back, and they sounded different this time than I remembered them being. Their brand of psych rock is inoffensive, but not very exciting to me. For some reason, they have two drummers who play the exact same thing, and that’s totally unnecessary. They had been allotted something like 35 minutes, and despite the late start, they played even longer than they were supposed to. This meant that Speedy Ortiz was waaaaay behind schedule.

Speedy Ortiz at Hopscotch 2018

Speedy Ortiz finally hit the stage about 40 minutes after they were supposed to, but they put on an amazing show. The indie rock quartet from Northampton Mass released their third album this year, and they’ve drawn comparisons to PJ Harvey, Liz Phair, Pavement, and many of the other indie rock greats of the 1990s. You may remember that I’ve gone on and on about how their frontwoman Sadie Dupuis is a ridiculously smart woman. She studied maths and music at MIT for a while, then changed her plan and got an undergraduate degree in poetry from a small college. Then she got an MFA in poetry from UMass. She writes great songs, plays a mean guitar, and knows things. Enough about that, though. The Speedy Ortiz set was fantastic, but I felt like they didn’t play long enough. They played Hopscotch in 2013, but I didn’t see them for some reason. It seems like that was the year that I missed a lot of great stuff.

Liz Phair at Hopscotch 2018

Next up was the much anticipated set by indie rock legend Liz Phair. Her 1993 debut Exile In Guyville set the college radio and indie rock worlds on fire and she has now influenced multiple generations of young female indie rockers. Her next three records were sort of hit-and-miss for me, with 1998’s whitechocolatespaceegg being my clear favourite of those albums not named Exile…. In the aughts, she put out a couple of records that didn’t do much for me, and then a record in 2010 that I didn’t even know about. When it was announced that she was going to go on tour this year and that she would play Hopscotch, I guessed that she would lean pretty heavily on her older catalog, and that’s exactly what we got. Of the twelve songs they played, six were from Exile. I never got to see her in the 1990s, and it was awesome to get to do so now. I had a ton of fun during this set, and I was honestly a little surprised to see so many younger people who were there just for her.

Next was the iconic punk band MC5. Since it’s the 50th anniversary of the band, they’re on the road calling themselves “MC50”. To be honest, the only song of theirs that I know is their trademark “Kick Out the Jams”, and they played that early on. The band these days is made up of founding guitarist Wayne Kramer, Brendan Canty (drums) out of Fugazi, Kim Thayil (guitar) out of Soundgarden, and some others. It was kind of fun, but I didn’t know the songs, and I kind of wanted to move on to the indoor part of the night. Also, somebody near me smelled like a dumpster full of Indian food and cat poop.

Oceanator at Hopscotch 2018

I made the long hike over to Deep South because I really wanted to see Oceanator. I try to avoid the long hike over there, but sometimes it’s necessary. This was one of those times. I got there as a band called Vanity Plates was finishing up. The room emptied out and I was able to move close to the stage. That’s another one of the venues that has bad sight lines and a stage that’s only about a foot off the floor. As much as I liked the songs that I heard when I did research, I liked the songs even more when I heard them live. They were so loud and so energetic, and it totally blew me away. I also got a really good sense of how freaking good a guitar player Elise Okusami is. Not to take anything away from her band mates, but she’s the unparalleled star of that show. The original plan was to watch only a few of their songs before making the long hike back to the main footprint of the festival, but I stuck around for the whole set. I enjoyed it so much that I stuck around to say hello and I even bought a t-shirt. I make it a point not to buy merch at Hopscotch, but I had to break the rule for this. Speaking of buying things, you should buy their new record here.

I made the walk back over to King’s for the set by Calgary indie-folk/rocker Chad VanGaalen. I really liked his 2008 album Soft Airplane, but I don’t know any of his other stuff. I was excited that he was on the schedule, and King’s was actually packed for him. I got there after he had already been on for a few minutes, but I didn’t miss much. During his set, he bantered a lot, and he was sort of funny and sort of nervous. He talked a lot about carrots, swimming in lakes vs swimming in the ocean, Baconators, and some more about carrots. He also said that he was star-struck when he met Mac McCaughan, and that he had to muster up courage to say hello to Mac. The CVG set was really good, and although I had contemplated staying put to watch Ought, I decided to walk over to Fletcher to see ambient noisemaker Grouper again.
Indeed the Grouper set was not much like the set she played during the day party on Friday. This time, she had a piano, and she played the guitar much more than she did at the day party. Of course she used her effects pedals and tape loops and all that, and it was completely amazing. It wasn’t a very full house, but everyone was really into it. Because of the nature of her songs, and because of the nature of the venue, it was dead silent in there except for the noises she was making. Even between songs, there was a deafening silence. Nobody made a peep until she was completely done. By the time she finished, it was 1:30, and I was really tired. I was headed for the door when I realized that she was coming back on stage, but I had to call it a night. It was a nice, quiet end to a good day and a great festival.

Although I was eagerly anticipating many of the sets on Saturday night, the Oceanator set exceeded my expectations by a long way, and that was my favourite thing of the day, and one of my favourites of the whole weekend. Make sure you see them when they come to your town.


Notes from day two of Hopscotch 2018

I’ve been very busy at Hopscotch this weekend. I had a thrilling Thursday night, followed by a long and interesting Friday day, and a pretty busy Friday night. Between all of those day party shows at King’s and the things on my calendar for Friday night, there was a gap of about 3 hours. Instead of getting drinks or going into shows that I didn’t care about, I picked up some snacks and headed back to the hotel to freshen up and put my feet up.
I headed back into downtown about 30 minutes before the start of Grizzly Bear. I already wrote about how I always eat at Beasley’s for fried chicken. I also always eat pizza when I’m at Hopscotch. I was saddened that Pie Pushers food truck wasn’t there, so I tried a new place in downtown Raleigh that’s super close to the footprint of the festival. I had a slice at Benny Capitale’s. They have really big slices. One is plenty. Most places that serve giant slices have New York-style slices that are often impossibly thin. This wasn’t too thin, and more importantly, the crust was a little crispy. Anyway, it was good. I would eat it again.

Grizzly Bear at Hopscotch 2018

I headed in to Grizzly Bear just as they were starting. I had never seen them before, but I absolutely love their records. Shields was my second favourite album of 2012, and the others would also have been in the top five of their respective years. Although the sound was a bit too heavy on the low end, they sounded great, and they seemed really excited to be at the festival. Because I wasn’t there at 5:30, I wasn’t as close to the stage as I normally like to be, but I could still see the stage really well. Because it’s been a while since I’ve spent significant time with their records, I kind of forgot how bloody brilliant they are. There’s no need for theatrics or elaborate lighting. Just a really good show.

Just as they wrapped up, I started to hustle out of there to get back to King’s because I really wanted to see Empath. On the way out, I unexpectedly bumped into one of my old Hopscotch pals who hasn’t been able to go for the last couple of years. I chatted with him for a couple of minutes, then headed down the street to King’s. There was a pretty packed house, and Empath was already on stage playing a loud, energetic set. In a live setting, some things about them become more evident than they are on recordings. The songs are good, and they have so much energy and so much fun, but there’s just a little missing in the skill department. I only had time to spend about 20 minutes there because I needed to haul ass over to Pour House, where I was planning to use as home base for the rest of the night.

Spirit of the Beehive

Pour House is a mystery to me. It’s accessible by a narrow walkway in an alleyway, and the venue is really cool, but it’s always either jammed to capacity, or nearly empty. I used to hate it because it’s kinda grimy, and when it’s packed, it’s not much fun, but the sound is always really great, and they’ve had some great bands there for the last couple of festivals. So it went from being one of my least favourite venues to one of my very favourites.
I was expecting a full house for Philly noise rockers Spirit of the Beehive, and it was a good house, but not at capacity. This meant that it was easy to order a beer and easy to move around.
Spirit of the Beehive were fantastic. They exceeded my expectations. Unfortunately, they only played about five songs, which left a big gap between them and the next band.
Because of the gap between bands and because it cleared out a little, and because I was a little annoyed by some of the kids who were near me, I went upstairs to the viewing area. If you can get a seat on the railing up there, it’s a perfect place to watch, but if you can’t, it’s terrible.
I had a dilemma. On one hand, I really wanted to go see Julie Byrne, who was playing at Nash Hall a couple of blocks away. On the other, I needed to be back at Pour House for Swearin’ in an hour, and I should probably stay put. Also, I made a really silly mistake in my planning.
When the lineup came out, I saw “Molly Burch”, and I mistook that for Anna Burch. So I was also thinking that I had a lot of interest in seeing Anna Burch, which meant that I should stay put. As soon as Molly Burch came on stage, I realized my error. I was annoyed, but I decided to roll with it and stay put.
Molly Burch is from Austin, and the band sort of reminds me of a Texan version of Cowboy Junkies. They also remind me of the kind of band that Matt Saracen and Julie Taylor would have gone to see on Friday Night Lights.

Allison Crutchfield of Swearin’

I stayed put in my perch in the upstairs lounge, and the house started to fill up for Swearin’. As you know, Swearin’ is headed up by Allison Crutchfield, who is the twin sister of Katie Crutchfield out of Waxahatchee. They play on each other’s records and they often support each other on stage. Yesterday, I lamented the fact that Allison didn’t join Katie on stage during the Waxahatchee set, and I wondered if Katie would be around during Allison’s set. During the intermission, I spotted Katie chatting with Allison’s bandmates, and I thought that I might get my wish. Spoiler alert: that never came to pass.

Last time both Crutchfield sisters were at Hopscotch was 2013, and I had to pass on Swearin’ because of a time crunch. I did, however, see Allison play a solo show a couple of years ago. During that show, Katie came on stage to help her sister do a magnificent cover of The New Pornographers’ “Letter from an Occupant”. It gave me goose flesh. The point is that I had never seen Allison with a full band. Certainly not with so much noise.

Allison and her band roared through an amazing set of new songs from the forthcoming album along with some older ones. I absolutely loved every second of it. It was a wonderfully noisy, enery-filled ending to what was a long but fairly sedentary night.

I’ve seen nearly everything that I’ve wanted to see, and it’s been a wonderful festival so far. There’s still a ton on my schedule tonight, and it looks like I’m going to bouncing around quite a bit.


Notes from Hopscotch 2018 Friday day parties

The middle day of Hopscotch means that there’s a lot of day parties going on. There’s also a lot of eating and drinking. Because this is what I do during Hopscotch, I got my Friday lunch at Beasley’s. Because it’s the best fried chicken. I could go on for pages and pages about them, but this isn’t about that.
I’m always very pumped for the Three Lobed day party, which always takes place on Friday and always takes place at King’s. There’s usually at least two bands that I’m very interested in at that party. While there are other day parties going on, the smart money is to stay put if possible. Today, I arrived to that party just in time to see a collaborative performance from Mac McCaughan out of Superchunk and the harpist Mary Lattimore. She’s a Hopscotch regular, and I caught her two years ago doing a day party collaborative set with drumming phenom Kid Millions.

Mary Lattimore playing with Mac at Hopscotch 2018 day party

Like every time that Mac does a collaborative set, I didn’t really know what to expect. He came out with a lot of bleep bloop stuff and Mary did her thing by adding effects pedals and loops to her harp. Although it took me a while to get into it, I really loved it.

Long Hots playing day party at Hopscotch 2018

Next was a band who I didn’t know anything at all about. Long Hots. They’re a punk trio of young women from Philly. They played last year during a day party, but I didn’t see them. I had no expectations at all, but they were pretty great. The drummer plays with the most minimal kit I’ve seen in a while: just a snare and a floor tom. In some ways, they reminded me of the really early stuff by Throwing Muses, when they were a punk band. Like that untitled 1986 album.

Meg Baird was up next. She’s a veteran of the industry, but I didn’t know much about her other than that she’s a folk musician from California. As it turns out, she has done some collaboration with Will Oldham, Sharon Van Etten, Kurt Vile, and others. She’s a really good guitar player, and I enjoyed her set.

Wet Tuna was the next band. I didn’t know anything about them. A couple of stoners playing experimental psychedelic rock mixed with something else. I would not have sought out their set, but because I really wanted to see things that were at King’s both before and after, I just stayed put.

Liz Harris (Grouper) playing a day party at Hopscotch 2018

For me, the entire point of going to the day parties was to see the set by Grouper. I had heard that she was going to do a day party set that was completely unlike the set she was planning to play on Saturday night. I had heard that she was just going to have a guitar and none of her tape loops and all that. I was really looking forward to it either way. In the end, the set she played was exactly what I would have expected. It was a Grouper set. I had never seen her play, but I love her records and I’ve heard a lot of stories. Vocals, guitar bits and a bunch of prerecorded stuff looped and run through effects pedals. I loved it. It wasn’t long enough, but I loved it anyway.

By the time Grouper ended, it was about 5:30. I didn’t have anything on my schedule until 8:45, so I went back to the hotel for a bit of a rest, a snack and a change of clothes.

In a short while, I’ll be posting the stuff from the shows on Friday night.


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