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 15, 2018 — “Blood Brother” by Rich Girls

Rich Girls

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Blood Brother” by Rich Girls (2018, from the album Black City).

Rich Girls is an NYC art rock/indie rock/post-punk trio who say they’re influenced by Iggy Pop, The Beach Boys, and The Motels. While I can hear some of what makes people call them post-punk, they’re a little brighter and shinier than that. This sounds more to me like the Toronto indie rock scene of the mid-Aughts. This reminds me of what might happen if you mashed up the brilliance of In Our Bedroom After the War-era Stars and the magnificent Knives Don’t Have Your Back (2006) by Emily Haines. It’s dark and dingy but it’s simultaneously bright and beautiful. It’s blood, sweat, and beer under blindingly bright lights. And speaking of Toronto, there are times that this band reminds me of the shoegaze revival darlings Alvvays.

Although the band has been around since 2013, they have just put out their debut album Black City last week via the Bay-area label Tricycle Records. After frontwoman Louisa Black’s previous band The Blacks split up, she moved from San Francisco to London and wrote a bunch of “dark pop” songs that eventually became Black City). She wrote and recorded everything herself on a laptop with minimal gear and the Garageband platform. As the story goes, she recorded and released some demos, then moved back to California where she recruited a full band overnight. The release of Black City has been a long time coming, but it’s a beautiful record. I had never heard of the band until I got something in the mail bag recently, and I was knocked out right from the drop.

While I really like the whole album, today’s song is certainly one of my favourites.

“Blood Brother” by Rich Girls

Right away, the guitars are affected with tons of reverb, the drums are big and crisp, and the vocals have just the right amount of delay. Black’s voice oscillates between airy in the verses and heavy in the bridges. There’s a lot that I like about this song and the entire album, but I think my favourite thing is right there at the end. All of the music comes to a full stop while the last strains of Black’s vocals are soaked in reverb/delay. It’s sort of a trick out of the mid-90s indie rock producer’s playbook. As everybody knows, I can’t get enough of that.

You can buy Black City in digital format via Bandcamp here.


March 18, 2017 — “Distortion” by Mount Eerie

Phil Elverum (Mount Eerie)

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Distortion” by Mount Eerie (2018, from the album Now Only).

Mount Eerie is the Anacortes, Washington ambient indie-folk/slowcore brainchild of Phil Elverum. He used to front a band called The Microphones, who formed in 1996 and released four albums on legendary punk label K Records between 1999 and 2003. The last of those albums was Mount Eerie, and after its release, Elverum announced that he’d no longer use the Microphones name. Since then, he’s done a bunch of visual art things and he’s recorded under the Mount Eerie name.

His 2015 album Sauna was my #17 record of that year, and it really should have been placed closer to the top ten of my year-end countdown. Last year’s A Crow Looked at Me was certainly among my very favourite albums of the year, but because of its weight, one can really only listen to it a few times without becoming engulfed in sadness. That heartbreaking work of staggering genius (you should read Dave Eggers’ book A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius) was about the death of his wife Genviève Castrée. Every song is about her. Every song is about death. Every song is heartbreakingly beautiful. It’s a really difficult album do listen to, but it was met with universally rave reviews.

I was very excited when I saw Mount Eerie on the Hopscotch lineup last autumn, and I was completely blown away by his performance. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house. You can read about that here. During that stunning set, he played a couple of works in progress, which eventually became the songs on Now Only.

The new album, which just came out on March 16, has also been met with rave reviews. It’s more or less a companion piece to A Crow Looked at Me. These are also songs about Genviève. These are also beautiful and painful songs about death. They’re written and sung by a man who has very fresh wounds, and he makes his audience understand his pain. Today’s song is the one that made me lose my mind at Hopscotch.

Right off the bat, there’s the heavily distorted electric guitar, which is something that there isn’t much of on this album and even less of on A Crow Looked at Me. That chunky, fuzzy bit sounds a little like the opening to an alternate version of Pavement’s “Here”, or maybe any number of Sonic Youth songs. But this isn’t the high-intensity of those bands; far from it. This is somber and unbearably heavy, but he somehow makes it easy for his audience to relate. This is, as I’ve said before, the kind of song about love and loss that Mark Kozelek wishes he could write. Kozelek can write the hell out of a song about being dumped (see: “Katy Song”), but I’ve hated his stuff about death and mortality (see: Benji) because I found it over-the-top and hard to relate to.

Today’s song is thematically heavy and on the long side. It takes a great deal of effort to listen to this, and it takes some time to decompress after listening. Give it your undivided attention. Listen to this alone in a quiet room. Don’t listen while you’re doing dishes or working out or something like that. Buy this record. Listen to it with your full attention. Admire the artwork. Then leave it alone for a while. You can’t return to it very often. If you get a chance, you need to see Phil play these songs live. It’s an emotionally and even physically exhausting experience, but it’s worth it.

The thing that makes this so powerful is the very candid account of seeing first his great grandfather’s dead body many years ago, then his wife’s dead body in their bedroom. It’s about getting another glimpse into his own mortality and a feeling about the fingerprints that we all leave behind:

The second dead body I ever saw was you, Geneviève,
when I watched you turn from alive to dead right here in our house.
I looked around the room and asked “Are you here?”
and you weren’t, and you are not here. I sing to you though.
I keep you breathing through my lungs
in a constant uncomfortable stream of memories trailing out
until I am dead too
and then eventually all the people who remember me will also die
containing what it was like to stand in the same air with me
and breathe and wonder why

There are also some other personal things woven into the song, and most of it is sort of hard to take. Neither this song, nor the album as a whole, is a walk in the park.

You can buy the new album via the Mount Eerie site here. You should also buy a box of tissues.


February 25, 2018 — “Klonopin” by Drowse

Drowse

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Klonopin” by Drowse (2018, from the forthcoming album Cold Air

Drowse is an ambient shoegaze/experimental recording project fronted by Portland, Oregon’s Kyle Bates. He has frequently collaborated with the Oakland doomgaze band Miserable, but his own music is more akin to stuff like Grouper and Mount Eerie. He’s been making music under the Drowse moniker since 2013, and has released one album and a few EPs. He has a new album Cold Air coming out in two weeks, and there’s a dark backstory to it. Bates suffered a mental breakdown many years ago and needed some antipsychotic medications to ease his pain. He went several years without any problems, but his problems resurfaced, and he drank a lot and took a lot of Klonopin to deal with it. During this time of heavy medication, he also experienced the death of a close friend, some family health problems, and some other unpleasant stuff. He channeled this dark stuff to write the songs that would become the Cold Air album. It’s an album about being filled with emotional pain, and being filled with drugs to kill the pain. And yes, it’s an album with some death imagery. Today’s song is obviously a reference to his medication.

Bates recently talked very candidly about it in an NPR interview

In the song I wake up from drug-induced sleep and imagine myself as the empty part of a shape imprinted in mud: a strange vision of shame. With this image in mind, I ruminate on how I’m ashamed of the way I force a wall between myself and others — on the inside I’m passionate, but I keep a cold, calculated distance from those I love. This fixation makes me anxiously waste my day, stumbling wistfully through my waking life until night comes and I can take Klonopin to forget myself again

Like the newest Mount Eerie record, this album is full of some dark and heavy imagery. It’s counterbalanced by the beautiful music and Bates’ honey-throated vocals. Bates is the only official member of the band, but his creative partner Maya Stoner provides backing vocals on a bunch of the songs, including today’s song. This is that song:

“Klonopin” by Drowse

I am reminded a bit of Mount Eerie, but more than that, I’m reminded of what Damon and Naomi might sound like if Krukowski and Yang were better singers.

I like this song a lot, and I like the other song from the album that I’ve heard. I think the entire album should do well at my house.

The video for the song is also definitely worth watching. Check it out here:

Cold Air will be out on March 9 via The Flenser. You can pre-order it via Bandcamp here.


February 12, 2018 — “Old Town” by Say Sue Me

Say Sue Me

If you only listen to one song tonight. make it “Old Town” by Say Sue Me (2018, from the forthcoming album Where We Were Together)

Say Sue Me is an indie pop/twee/cuddlepunk/surfgaze quartet from Busan, South Korea. I don’t know anything about them other than that they formed in 2012, released an album called We’ve Sobered Up, and they released a Record Store Day EP called Semin last year. It’s my understanding that the EP was named as a tribute to the band’s drummer Kang Semin, who is in a coma. It is not, thankfully, a tribute to former NHLer Alexander Semin, whose career trajectory went very rapidly from “elite player” to “bum” almost overnight during his tenure in Carolina.

I had never heard of the band until I was doing some research today. I sort of randomly ended up on this song, and I really love it. It reminds me of the gloriously gloomy but bouncy twee-pop of Camera Obscura and The Concretes mixed with something like Veronica Falls. I love it.

“Old Town” by Say Sue Me

It’s a song about growing tired and growing old in a town where everyone else is leaving. The hero of the story wants to leave and also wants to stay. There’s not much to the lyrics, which are in perfect English, but there’s a lot to the melody and the big hook. There’s a bit after the second chorus with some hand claps and vocalizing. It’s magnificent, and there’s no way you can have a frown on your face while listening.

I’ve just listened a bunch of times in a row, and it keeps getting better.

Where We Were Together will be released on April 13. You can pre-order it via Bandcamp here, and enjoy an immediate download of “Old Town”.


February 1, 2018 — “Never Coming Back” by A Place to Bury Strangers

A Place to Bury Strangers

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Never Coming Back” by A Place to Bury Strangers (2018, from the forthcoming album Pinned)
A Place to Bury Strangers is a noise-rock trio from Brooklyn. Often hailed as “the loudest band in New York”, the band has been exhilarating and deafening audiences since 2003. They’ve only released four albums(with another on the way) but they’ve toured extensively and taken their time with each album. When they tour, by the way, they bring way more gear than other bands who play in clubs. The only time I’ve seen them, they brought their own PA and light rigs. And it was amazing.

I called Worship my #12 album of 2012 and Transfixiation my #10 album of 2015. Every time that I’ve been given a chance, I’ve mentioned to anyone who will listen that the one time I saw them live was sort of a mind-blowing experience. Even with some high-quality ear plugs, it was a little bit painful. In a good way. They don’t play loudly for the sake of playing loudly. It’s like the simultaneous chaos and control of Psychocandy. The noise is carefully constructed and manipulated, and at extraordinarily high volume, the sound gets better. Every bit of fuzz and feedback is painstakingly engineered in the same way that Donald Fagen and Walter Becker annoyingly strove for perfection in the Steely Dan recording studios.

Since Transfixiation, the band has gotten a new drummer in Lia Simone Braswell. She’s been around for a while playing in bands in Los Angeles, and filling in for touring bands. She moved to New York a few years ago and was spotted by APTBS bassist Dion Lunadon. He asked her to join the band, and that’s where they stand now. She brings more than drumming to the mix, though; she sings on a couple of the songs including tonight’s song. This band has always been about blunt force, and her voice adds a little bit of softness to the equation. Make no mistake, though; this is noisy as hell, especially in the second half of the song. I love it.

“Never Coming Back” by A Place to Bury Strangers

It starts off just like any APTBS song. The signature bass leads the way until about 0:50, when the guitars slowly build to a roar. Every time you think it’s reached a boiling point, it hasn’t. There’s a bit at about 2:53, with the rapid-fire pummeling of the drums, the squalling guitar and the mountains of feedback. You think that has to be it. But it’s not. Then there’s a signature APTBS break, and then hell really breaks loose. At 3:33, there’s another big burst of controlled chaotic activity that doesn’t let up until the end.

It’s noisy as hell. You either love APTBS for their noise or you absolutely hate them for it. There is no middle ground. You already know where I stand.

The new album will be out on April 13 via Dead Oceans. You can pre-order here. You can also catch APTBS on tour. They’re playing a show in Montréal tomorrow night, then they’ll play a bunch of shows at SXSW, then an album release party in Brooklyn, then a big tour starting in April that takes them through Europe. They’ll have a few days off before the North American tour which ends in June.

There’s a very strange video for the song that was just released yesterday. Make what you will of it.


January 30, 2018 — “Deux Cœurs” by Corridor & Halo Maud

Corridor

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Deux Cœurs” by Corridor & Halo Maud (2017, from a digital single).

Corridor is a quartet from Montréal. They’re essentially an art-rock band with some post-rock and jangle-pop stylings. They’ve been around since 2013 and have released two albums, including last year’s Supermercado. I had never heard of them until I stumbled upon one of their songs on another blog, and decided that I needed to dig a little deeper into their catalog.
Halo Maud is the stage name of Parisian dream-pop singer/songwriter Maud Nadal. She was in a Paris psychedelic pop band called Moodoid, and she may have played guitar on the still forthcoming sophomore album by Melody’s Echo Chamber. Nadal put out a solo EP called Du Pouvoir last year. I had never heard of her until I started my own research about Corridor.

Maud Nadal

I found this collaboration between these two bands I know nothing about, and I absolutely love it. It combines the angular, bouncy post-punk in the vein of The Dismemberment Plan or Ought with dreamily alluring baby-ish vocals similar to Melody Prochet out of the aforementioned Melody’s Echo Chamber, the late Trish Keenan out of Broadcast, or Jessie Stein out of The Luyas. To a much lesser extent, there are also some bits of the Stereolab brand of krautrock.

I seriously fell in love with this right away:
“Deux Cœurs” by Corridor & Halo Maud

Of course the words are in French, and of course I can’t make heads or tails of them. Only that the title translates to “Two Hearts”. You don’t need to speak French to get that part. There was a time when I could read French well enough to understand the lyrics, but those days are long gone. When I plugged the French lyrics into an auto-translator, it came back with gobbledygook. It doesn’t matter, though. I love this song because of how it sounds.
Corridor brings the sort of math-y and weirdly beautiful angular sounds. Maud Nadal softens the edges quite a bit with her breathy, high-registered cooing. The sticcato bursts of guitar remind me just a little bit of Stereolab.
It all fits together beautifully.

You can buy the digital single via Bandcamp for $1 CAD here. That’s about $0.81 USD by today’s exchange. I have no idea if Corridor and Halo Maud will collaborate again in the future, but I hope so.


January 25, 2018 — “You” by Stef Chura

Stef Chura

If you only listen to one song today, make it “You” by Stef Chura (2018, from the forthcoming album Messes).
Stef Chura is a DIY indie rocker from Detroit. She’s from one of those tiny towns in northern Michigan just a stone’s throw from the Canadian border, but she moved to Ypsilanti, and later to Detroit, where she’s been writing songs and playing in other people’s bands since 2012. She took her songs to the studio where Fred Thomas out of Saturday Looks Good to Me mixed the album and played on some of the songs. It took a long time, but her debut album Messes was released digitally last January and will enjoy a physical release on February 2 via Saddle Creek Records.
If that story about being from a small Michigan town, moving away to go to school, moving to Detroit, writing lot of songs and making lots of four-track recordings while playing in local bands, joining forces with Fred Thomas, and having a debut album out on February 2 sounds familiar, it should. That’s the same story I just told when I wrote about Anna Burch the other day. But there’s more…. Two years ago, Stef Chura and Anna Burch released a split EP with Stef’s songs on side A and Anna’s on side B.
The label emailed me about the forthcoming release, and although I had never heard of Stef Chura, and there wasn’t anything in the email that screamed out at me, I clicked straight through simply because it was from Saddle Creek. They were actually repping the video for “Speeding Ticket”, which is pretty great, but I just like this song more.
“You” by Stef Chura

According to her bio, Stef’s influences include Liz Phair, Stevie Nicks, Cat Power, Bikini Kill, Elliot Smith, and many others. I’m hearing something different. I’m hearing, especially in her vocal style, a very young Kristin Hersh. She sings with a bit of tremolo, and a lot of grit. That gets me thinking of Throwing Muses’ sophomore album House Tornado (1988). More specifically, I think of “Mexican Women”, “Run Letter”, and “Downtown”. To be fair, one of the guitar parts in this song reminds me of Kristin’s guitar parts on House Tornado. It’s a little uncanny, actually. And I’m really surprised that I didn’t see the Muses listed as an influence.

You can already buy a download of Messes via Bandcamp here. You can also pre-order your choice of physical format, which comes out next Friday.


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