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.

July 6, 2017 — “The Places We’ve Been” by Lost Horizons (featuring Karen Peris)

Lost Horizons

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “The Places We’ve Been” by Lost Horizons (2017, from the forthcoming album Ojalá).

Lost Horizons is a dream-pop duo formed by Simon Raymonde out of Cocteau Twins and Richard Thomas out of Dif Juz. They have a stable full of guest vocalists including Sharon Van Etten, Marissa Nadler, Tim Smith out of Midlake, Leila Moss out of The Duke Spirit, and Hazel Wilde out of Lanterns on The Lake. Most thrilling, though, is that they also have the inimitable Karen Peris out of The Innocence Mission on one track. Tonight’s track.

Simon Raymonde needs no introduction here.

Richard Thomas was the drummer in Dif Juz, who was also on 4AD records back in the glorious heyday of that label in the mid-1980s. Actually, of the three Dif Juz albums, only the last of them was on 4AD. That record —Extractions
was produced by Robin Guthrie out of the Cocteaus and featured guest vocals by Liz Fraser out of the Cocteaus. Dif Juz was a strange sort of math-y dream-pop/post-punk band that I was never into despite my obsession with the incarnation of 4AD Records that existed at that time.

The Cocteaus disbanded in an inglorious blaze back in 1997. That year, Raymonde put out a solo record that nobody even noticed. He and Guthrie had already started the Bella Union record label, which was meant as a platform for the Cocteaus to self-release their stuff after their fall-out with 4AD boss Ivo Watts-Russell. Unfortunately, by the time they got out from under their contract with 4AD, the band was starting to rot from the inside anyway. So it was all over for the Cocteaus.

Raymonde and Guthrie ran the label together for a while, but now it’s entirely run by Raymonde. While he had his hands in a lot of projects, he pretty much stayed out of the business of writing music until he formed Snowbird in 2014. The one record that band put out was my #13 album of 2014.

Just today, I learned about the Lost Horizons project, and I got very excited when I saw that Karen Peris appears on tonight’s track. It’s a poorly kept secret that I really, really like the Innocence Mission. At least everything from 1989 to 2003. The six records during that time are magnificent. To be fair, I’ve never paid much attention to the three albums that came after that. Glow (1995) is my favourite record of theirs, and it’s really solid from start to finish. My favourite song of theirs, though, is “The Lakes of Canada”, which I’ve written about here. And as a digression that’s well worth your time, Sufjan Stevens famously did a sensational cover of that song, practically making it his own. See that here. Coincidentally, Stephanie Dosen out of the aforementioned Snowbird has also done a cover of “The Lakes of Canada” on her solo record, giving it a more spooky than sad tone here.

Anyway, all of that digression was to the point that Karen Peris is an amazing songwriter and vocalist. That’s on full display here. This is that song:
“The Places We’ve Been” by Lost Horizons

As terrific as the music is, this is all about Karen Peris. Her breathy, high-register vocals, which are small and big at the same time, soar above everything else. And of course this should come as no surprise, but I absolutely love the miles of delay they put on her vocals at the end of each chorus.

As far as I know, this is the only song that’s been released in advance of the album. I’ve seen a track listing, but no details about who sings on which tracks. At any rate, we’ll be very much looking forward to the release of Ojalá on November 3 via Bella Union. You can pre-order digital copies here. No word yet on pre-sale of physical copies.


Melody’s Echo Chamber tour canceled after hospitalization; New album release uncertain

Melody Prochet (Melody’s Echo Chamber)

I’ve been quiet over here for a couple of weeks. Last night, while I was catching up on some emails, listening to a lot of submissions, and just doing some general music research, I stumbled upon some bad news.
Melody Prochet, who is the front of Melody’s Echo Chamber was recently involved in a “serious accident” which has forced her to cancel the band’s scheduled tour of North and South America in the autumn.

You may remember that I first wrote about the Paris-based dream-pop/psychedelic rock band back in the very early days of this blog in 2012. I compared MEC to Broadcast, and Melody Prochet to the late frontwoman of Broadcast, Trish Keenan. I eventually named the Melody’s Echo Chamber eponymous debut album my 10th favourite album of 2012. There was supposed to be a sophomore album in 2014, and we were teased with a single called “Shrim”. For some reason, though, the full album never came to fruition. Back in April of this year, Prochet announced on her birthday a new single called “Cross My Heart”. She also promised that there finally would be a second album — Bon Voyage — and that we would see it later this year. She also announced a tour of North and South America which would have kicked off in October. Unfortunately, this tour has been canceled after Prochet was recently hospitalized.

On June 27, Melody’s family posted via her Facebook page the following message:

Dearest Friends,
Melody suffered a serious accident earlier this month.
We are optimistic, but she needs to be in the hospital
for a few more months.
Due to these circumstances, Melody’s upcoming Tour
has been canceled.
But she is hopeful to be able to play shows again soon
Thank you for your support
– Melody’s Family –

They didn’t offer any further details or divulge any specifics about the nature of the accident. A day later, the family offered a little bit more: in the accident, Melody suffered a brain aneurysm and broken vertebrae. She will remain in hospital and will have surgeries.

This is all the news we have now. We are all, obviously, hoping that Melody makes a full recovery and that she is indeed able to resume touring at some point. I’m hopeful that it happens sooner than later. The album was scheduled to be self-released later this year, but no specific release date was given. At this point, we sort of assume that the release will be delayed. Tour dates and album release dates are much less important than Melody’s health and well-being right now.

The song, by the way, is fantastic. This is that song:
“Cross My Heart” by Melody’s Echo Chamber

There are a lot of different layers and textures to this song, and it almost seems like a couple of different songs. The first bit is dreamy with some nice drums that are crazily reminiscent of Broadcast. The vocals are in English with lots of delay and/or other vocal effects. There’s a strange bit that goes from 1:33 to about 5:03 that has some weird beats and strange dance-y things mixed in. During this bit, the vocals are in French. After that, it goes back to the “dreamy” sound, but with a bit more guitar. At the end of the day, though, it’s a brilliant reminder of how fantastic that first record was and what a magnificent sophomore album we have to look forward to.


June 15, 2017 — “Lake House” by Beverly

Beverly

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Lake House” by Beverly (2016, from the album The Blue Swell).

Beverly is an indie pop/dream-punk band from Brooklyn. The front of the band is Drew Citron (vocals/guitar). She started the band a few years ago with the magnificent Miss Frankie Rose of Vivian Girls and Dum Dum Girls fame. With that lineup, Beverly released the 2014 album Careers, which was my #26 album of the year. Since then, Frankie Rose has left the band, and Citron has enlisted Scott Rosenthal (bass/guitar), who is better known as a producer who has worked with Crystal Stilts among others. I think he also had something to do with the technical stuff on Careers. Citron and Rosenthal are often joined by Kip Berman out of The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, but he’s not an “official” member of the band.

Beverly is currently on tour supporting Berman and the Pains, who have a new record out in September. Speaking of September, Beverly will be performing at this year’s Hopscotch Music Festival in September. There’s a lot for me to look forward to this year, and of the “small print” bands, this is one of the first things that caught my eye the first time I looked at the lineup.

The band’s second record —The Blue Swell— came out last spring, and if I had bothered to make a list last year, it would have been at least in my top 20. It may not have done so well with the press, but I love it. This is one of my favourite songs from the album:

“Lake House” by Beverly

You can buy The Blue Swell via Bandcamp here, or you can buy directly from Kanine Records here.

You can check out the tentative Hopscotch lineup here, and ticket information here.


June 11, 2017 — “New Colors” by Panda Riot

Panda Riot

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “New Colors” by Panda Riot (2017, from the album Infinity Maps).

Panda Riot is a shoegaze/dream pop/noise rock quartet from Chicago. They formed in 2007 in Philadelphia and put out a record as a duo. Years later, they ended up in Chicago with a full lineup. I first learned about them when the band submitted their 2013 album Northern Automatic Music to my mailbag. I immediately fell in love with that album and I eventually named it my #13 album of that year.

I also, almost exactly a year ago, featured the song “Helios (June 20)” while they were working hard on the new album. That new album finally came out on Friday, and it met every high expectation that I had for it. I had the chance to listen to it in its entirety while driving out-of-town on Friday, and I knew that I recognized “Helios”. I thought I had just heard it as an album preview, and I planned and promised to feature it in this post. However, I just discovered that the reason I recognized it was that I had already written about it.

There are a lot of bits in this record and in tonight’s song that remind me of My Bloody Valentine. Specifically, I’m reminded of the latest MBV record m b v. There’s a lot of similar guitar effects and production qualities. There’s a parallel vibe, and the same beautiful noise. And, of course, it has to be said that Rebecca Scott sometimes sounds quite a bit like Bilinda Butcher. While this band definitely wears the MBV influence on their sleeve, they’re not a Valentines rip-off band. They’re definitely doing their own thing.

Here’s tonight’s song:
“New Colors” by Panda Riot

The first 35 seconds are quiet. Dreamy and pretty. When the shoe drops, it’s not an overwhelming tsunami of sound. Rather, it’s a really pleasant wave of noise. While I’ve been known to appreciate deafening “noise for the sake of noise”, this works better here. I like that there’s tons of noise, but you can still hear the difference between the guitar, the other guitar, and the bass. Too often with noise, it sort of all melts together into a big chunk. Like a bag of gummy bears left in the car on a hot summer day.

I also really like that the song ends with an even longer bit of quieter beauty.

You can download the album from Bandcamp
here
. Or Amazon, or whatever place you legally buy and download music. They’ve announced a small tour of seven shows in six cities. It’s like they took the NHL Original Six and replaced Toronto and Montréal with Philadelphia and Milwaukee. No shows down here have been announced yet. I’m still holding out hope.


June 7, 2017 — “Skim” by Torres

Torres

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Skim” by Torres (2017, from the standalone single “Skim” and forthcoming album).

Torres is the stage name for indie rock musician Mackenzie Scott. She’s originally from somewhere in rural Georgia, and she got her start in Nashville. Her 2013 debut TORRES was my second favourite album of that year. Her sophomore release Sprinter was my 18th favourite album of that year. I also had the pleasure of seeing her at the 2013 Hopscotch Music Festival. Read about that here.

I didn’t have it on my radar, but Torres released a single and accompanying video yesterday via 4AD Records. I didn’t even know that she had signed with 4AD until I saw the video pop up in my twitter feed. She hasn’t divulged any details, but there apparently is a new album on the horizon.

I’ve only watched the video about a thousand times since last night. While the first record was more “indie folk” than rock and the second record was more “indie rock” than folk, it sounds like this might be something different entirely. It’s just one song, but this sounds like a new direction for her. This song reminds me quite a bit of St. Vincent’s marvelous 2011 album Strange Mercy. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to learn that Annie Clark played guitar on this. If she didn’t, Torres is taking a page straight out of her book and a line from her page. Incidentally, I think Annie Clark has gotten a little weird since Strange Mercy, but that’s a different story for a different day.

This video has some strange direction, but it’s brilliant. It’s mysterious and sexy and dark and confusing. And I love it.

“Skim” by Torres

I absolutely love the line “There’s no unlit corner of a room I’m in”, and the line “I know every tense in which I cannot exist”. At least I think that’s what the line is.

The video was directed by Ashley Connor, who has directed lots of videos for Angel Olsen, as well as a few for Jenny Lewis, Jenny Hval, Julianna Barwick, and others. She also did the creepy/sexy/magnificent video for “Your Best American Girl” by Mitski. If you haven’t already, you should take the time to watch that video here. Just as she did with “Your Best American Girl”, Connor wants us to feel like creepy, filthy voyeurs with “Skim”. She also wants us to be confused. About a lot of things. No matter what, it’s a wonderfully shot video that has a few surprises in it. Also, as an added bonus, those scenes in the shower are also a subtle echo of some of the press photos from the first album. I like that.

As I said, there’s no word on when the new album is out, or even what it’s called. For the time being, we should just enjoy the video again and again.


June 6, 2017 — “In Undertow” by Alvvays

Alvvays

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “In Undertow” by Alvvays (2017, from the forthcoming album Antisocialites).

Alvvays is a jangle/noise pop band from Toronto. You probably recall that I was obsessed with their 2014 eponymous debut album. So much that I named it my #5 album of the year.

The band formed in 2011 as five members who had been friends for life. Molly Rankin (vocals/guitar) and Kerri MacLellan (keys) were best friends and next door neighbours on Cape Breton Island while Alec O’Hanley (guitar), Brian Murphy (bass) and Phillip MacIsaac (drums) grew up on Prince Edward Island and were friends since diapers. The boys were also in a band called The Danks, but I don’t know anything about that band. The press photos that I’ve seen for the new album show everyone except MacIsaac, but I’m not reading anything into that.

Everything that I’ve read about the new record suggests that it’s going to be as good or better than the first. It’s been described as an album “replete with songs about drinking, drugging, and drowning”. It’s also described as “a multipolar period piece fueled by isolation and loss”. The album has a song about getting kicked out of the Louvre and wandering around Paris with vomit on boots. There’s a song called “Lollipop (Ode to Jim)”, which was inspired by Jim Reid out of The Jesus and Mary Chain. There’s a song that’s described as reminiscent of Cocteau Twins. In other words, this is a record that I’m going to love as much or more than Alvvays.

The new album comes out September 8 via Polyvinyl Records in the US and Royal Mountain Records in Canada. So far, the only song I’ve heard is the album-opening “In Undertow”. This is that song:

“In Undertow” by Alvvays

I love the ringing buzz of what I’m told is a Farfisa. I’m not clever enough to pick one keyboard synth from another without help, but that’s what I’ve read. It’s got the formula that we all loved about “Archie, Marry Me”: fantastic pop sensibilities mixed with a healthy amount of fuzz and feedback. Unlike the first record, though, this one has Rankin’s voice much clearer and front-of-mix.

The band will play Lollapalooza in August before heading over for a UK/EU tour in the late summer. For now, you can pre-order the album via Bandcamp here. There are also loads of bundles you can order via Polyvinyl here.


May 28, 2017 — “Mesa” by Cayetana

Cayetana

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Mesa” by Cayetana (2017, from the album New Kind of Normal).

Cayetana is an indie rock/pop-punk trio from Philadelphia. I don’t know anything about them, but I got something in the mailbag promoting their new sophomore album, and specifically a different song from the album. My attention was grabbed when the email mentioned that these gals will soon be on tour in support of the wonderful Waxahatchee. After listening to that other song and a few others, it makes perfect sense for this band to share a stage with Katie Crutchfield. They have a very comparable sound and some similar themes. Today’s song is about heartache and disappointment, but the rest of the album has bigger themes. According to what I’ve read, the album is about mental illness, learning to live with that, and learning to accept certain things that you can’t change instead of trying to fight against them.

The band is very into DIY, so instead of shopping their album around to labels, they started their own record label –Plum Records– to release this album. It looks like they’re the only band on the label right now, but there may be more to come later.

I haven’t heard the album in its entirety, but I really like a few of the songs. Especially this one:
“Mesa” by Cayetana

As much as I’m reminded of Waxahatchee, I’m also reminded a bit of the Vancouver duo Drawn Ship, who put out two records before vanishing from the face of the earth in 2013.

I like that this is gritty and has some attitude. It’s also simultaneously happy and grim:

Together we made flowers out of weeds
We jumped in garbage instead of leaves

There’s a nice, artistic video for the song here:

The way the girls enter the room through that tiny door sort of reminds me of the Sleater-Kinney video for “Modern Girl”, in which Janet enters the playing space through an open window, while Corin And Carrie are already playing.

Cayetana’s new record was out on May 5, and you can get it here.


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