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.

November 14, 2017 — “Hate to Fall Asleep” by Wy

Wy

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Hate to Fall Asleep” by Wy (2017, from the album Okay).
Wy is a dark and sad dream-pop duo from Malmö, Sweden. Ebba Ågren and Michel Gustafsson formed the band in 2015, and they just released their debut album via Hybris Records. They are young and they are in love with each other. Their bio reads:

We are filled with doubt
But we have no time to be suicidal
So we kiss our wounds
And play sad guitars
Until our fingers chafe

Other than that, I know absolutely nothing about them. I stumbled upon their debut album yesterday, and somewhere I read that Wy was recommended if you like Diiv and Alvvays. I do like those bands, and even though Wy isn’t like either of those, and even though I wouldn’t make that RIYL connection, I sort of get it. If you ask me, Wy is more like the second Zola Jesus record. That’s in no small part because Ebba Ågren sounds a bit like Nika Roza Danilova (Zola Jesus).
It didn’t take long for me to fall quite hard for Wy. Each song is a little different, and each song reminds me of something else. Some bits remind me a bit of Grouper, while other bits remind me of Torres. This one reminds me a lot of Zola Jesus. This is that song:
“Hate to Fall Asleep” by Wy

The guitars on this song are noisier and more effects-laden than most of the other songs, but you’ll never catch me complaining about too much reverb or tremolo or delay on the guitars. I also like the way they treated the vocals. Somehow, Ebba’s voice is small and fragile while also being big and bold. The big picture is dark and beautiful, and it ticks a lot of boxes for me.
I hope that there will be lots more to come from this young band. For now, you can download Okay via Bandcamp here.


November 7, 2017 — “Honey Knows” by Sound and Fury

Sound and Fury

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Honey Knows” by Sound and Fury (2017, from the forthcoming album Sprout).
Sound and Fury is a shoegaze quartet from Chengdu, China.  Inspired by UK shoegaze of the early 1990s, the band formed in 2011.  In 2016, they released an EP called Some of the Songs, and it was met with glowing reviews. Finally, six years after their formation, and after a few lineup changes, they are set to release their debut album Sprout later this month.

I’ve seen a lot of people posting about this band on shoegaze message boards and Facebook groups, and I was thrilled when they exceeded my expectations. While there’s a ton of glorious noise, there’s also lots of melody and lovely coed vocals. I’m reminded a lot of Isn’t Anything. If the rest of the album moves me the same way this song does, it’ll be quite high on my year-end list.

“Honey Knows” by Sound and Fury

I love everything about this. The noise, the melodies, the harmonies, and the neat tidy package. It clocks in at just 2:19, but it feels like a much bigger song than that. There’s a little break from 0:37 to 0:50 that reminds me a little of a similar break in the Pavement song “Baptist Blacktick”. It goes back to the lovely noise and all that, and then there’s a full stop at 2:16. No fade-out. No decrescendo. Just a full-stop. I’ve always loved that kind of thing, and it works perfectly here.

I also recommend the video. It’s pretty standard shoegaze music video stuff, with a mixture of live performance, studio stuff, and the band goofing around. On my third viewing, I spotted something pretty awesome that I feel obligated to point out. At 1:50, you can see a vinyl copy of Heaven up Here proudly displayed. It’s not my favourite record by the Bunnymen, but the album-opening “Show of Strength” is absolutely my favourite song by the Bunnymen. Then at 1:57, they’re having fun with a vinyl copy of Deerhunter’s Microcastle. Then at 2:02, we see a CD copy of the magnificent debut record by Alvvays. This isn’t about Echo and the Bunnymen, though. I’ve written about them a number of times. Nor is it about Alvvays, who is another favourite around here. To tell a secret, I’ve never been a fan of Deerhunter, but it’s still cool to see that album cover. None of that is the point, though. To get back on topic, you should watch the video, and keep your eyes peeled for those albums, starting at the 1:50 mark:

Sprout will be released on November 24 via Boring Production. I have no idea if there will be distribution of physical copies in the US, but I’m sure it’ll be available as a digital download. For now, you can download the song from Bandcamp by naming your price here. You can also grab their 2016 by paying at least $1 USD here.


November 6, 2017 — “Girlfriend” by *repeat repeat

*repeat repeat

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Girlfriend” by *repeat repeat (2017, from the album Floral Canyon).

*repeat repeat is a fuzzy surf rock/indie rock band from Nashville. They refer to their own sound as “surf rock candy”. The heart of the band is the married couple of Jared Corder (guitar/vocals) and Kristyn Corder (vocals/keys), and they are joined by drummer Andy Herrin. They formed in 2014 and have released two albums. Floral Canyon, their sophomore long player, was released in September via Dangerbird Records, and is receiving warm reviews. I didn’t know anything about them until I started getting things in the mail bag about them and the video for today’s song. It’s actually turned out to be one of my favourite mailbag things of all time.

Jared and Kristyn met at a party where Jared was dressed as Tom Cruise’s character in Risky Business. Later, they got engaged. Jared and Andy were working at a record store together and were in a band searching for a female singer. Kristyn sang on some demos, and although she hadn’t planned on joining the band, she did.

Today’s song was written as sort of a response to the brilliant song “Boyfriend” by Best Coast. It was also inspired by events when Jared was courting Kristyn. In the Best Coast song, the protagonist pines for her male friend, who is dating a girl who is “prettier and skinnier” and “has a college degree”. In the *repeat repeat song, the protagonist pines after the girl who isn’t giving him much of a chance.

If you want to revisit the Best Coast song, go watch the video here.

Then, listen to today’s song. “Girlfriend” by *repeat repeat

It’s a glorious pop song with a strong hook in the chorus. I love the coed vocal harmonies, and especially the call-and-response bits. I absolutely adore the heavy fuzz in the second chorus. Another small thing that I love is that the chorus adds a line each time through. It’s silly, but I get a big kick out of the line:

I’ll take you to the airport if you go out of town

There are certainly grander romantic gestures than offering to see someone off at the airport, but I love the image of the slightly desperate guy doing anything he can to win her heart.

Then there’s the line:

I don’t want your maybes
I just want your babies

There’s a line in the final chorus about how the girl teases him, and that’s sort of the theme of the video, which I’ve watched a bunch of times.

The handsome guy meets the mysterious blonde woman at a *repeat repeat show, takes her out and makes sure she gets home safely. Then he does all this “nice guy” charming stuff while she stares blankly, barely giving him the time of day. He carries a million of her shopping bags while she checks herself out in her compact mirror. He carries her ice cream cone out of the shop (and struggles with the door) only to find her already outside with a giant cone. She stares ahead blankly in the photo booth while he does all that lovey-dovey stuff. He’s all weepy when he drops her at the airport, but she won’t even hug him. She teases him at their picnic. My absolute favourite part of the video is when they’re having a pillow fight in the apartment and it cuts to a snowstorm of down feathers at the *repeat repeat show. It’s meta without being pretentious. The whole thing is pretty beautiful. Of course there’s the twist ending and the double twist that Jared and Kristyn were watching that as a movie. It’s brilliant and I can’t stop watching/listening. By the way, the bird on the arm of the sofa is Jared and Kristyn’s pet. They have a whole menagerie, including a horse.

You can buy the album from the Dangerbird Records web store here. Check out the bundles that include tube socks and luggage tags!


November 3, 2017 — “Later Days” by Walrus

Walrus

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Later Days” by Walrus (2017, from the album Family Hangover).

Walrus is a heavy psychedelic/noise rock band from Halifax, Nova Scotia. Although I’ve been getting stuff in the mail bag about them and I’ve heard their name bandied around, I don’t know much about them other than that they have two guys named Keith and two guys named Justin. One of the Justins has a brother in the band called Jordan.
In June, the band released their debut album Family Hangover via Madic Records. That’s a tiny label with only two bands, but it got my attention because it’s an imprint of the Arts & Crafts label and it’s also operated by Dan Mangan.

The bit of press that I’ve seen and the emails that I’ve gotten reference a wide array of bands ranging from The Beach Boys to Black Sabbath. Today’s song actually has a tiny bit of a dream-pop feel to it. For the first minute or so, I’m reminded a bit of Ride.

This is that song:
“Later Days” by Walrus

Right around the 1:00 mark, there’s a big shift from shimmering guitars and wispy drums to loud, heavily affected guitars and thunderous drums. I love big shifts like that. Then, around 1:30, it shifts back and the dreamy, delay-laden vocals come in a little later. The end of the song features a muddy fade-out that I also kind of like. There’s no doubt, though, that my favorite bit is the loud, thundering, squawking bit from 1:00 to 1:30. Looking at the big picture, I’m reminded more of The Catherine Wheel, and that’s always a good thing. The rest of the record has some other reference points, but that’s what I’m getting from this song.

You can buy Family Hangover from Bandcamp here.

There’s also a fun video for the song which you can view here:


October 24, 2017 — “Faulty” by Beliefs

Beliefs

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Faulty” by Beliefs (2017, from the album Habitat).
Beliefs is a post-punk/shoegaze/noise rock duo from Toronto. They formed in 2010, then released a self-titled album in 2013. In 2015, their sophomore album Leaper drew a lot of comparisons to a range of sounds including MBV, Electr-O-Pura-era Yo La Tango, and Mezcal Head-era Swervedriver. Last month, the band released their third long-player —Habitat— via Hand Drawn Dracula.
Josh Korody did most of the heavy lifting on the previous two albums, and the new album was the first time that he and Jesse Crowe wrote material together. He said that they wrote 80 % of it from scratch in a room together over a span of four days. He went on to say that they finished it over a span of 16 more days. No matter what they did, the end result is a little less shoegazey and a little more synth-y and psych-y. Call it whatever you want to. I like it a lot.
There’s a song from the new album called “1994” that Korody says is “sort of a sequel” to their song “1992”, from Leaper. I don’t really hear it. I think “1992” sounds like Dirty-era Sonic Youth while “1994” sounds like a Wye Oak song on LSD. But this isn’t about “1994”, or Sonic Youth, or Swervedriver, or any of those other things. This is about a noisy as hell, post-punk(ish) song called “Faulty”.
This is that song:
“Faulty” by Beliefs

Right from the drop, with that heavy bass, it reminds me of things like the Brooklyn post-punk band Weekend. Later, when the guitars start to work their way in at about 1:15, I’m reminded more of A Place to Bury Strangers. I’m reminded even more of them in the final minute of the song. There’s a humongous wave of heavily delayed guitar, and some rapid drumming with what sounds like some synthetic beats mixed in. It’s all very gloriously noisy. I’ve had this record for a few weeks, but I finally got my first chance to listen to it today as I was driving around doing errands. It sounds fantastic on cruddy car stereo speakers. It also sounds fantastic on good headphones.

This is meant to be played very loudly. I’m sure it’s better in the dark.

You can order Habitat via Bandcamp here, and you should check out some of the other excellent HDD releases here.


October 10, 2017 — “Meadow” by Jessica Lea Mayfield

Jessica Lea Mayfield

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Meadow” by Jessica Lea Mayfield (2017, from the album Sorry is Gone).

Jessica Lea Mayfield is an indie rock singer songwriter from Nashville by way of Kent, Ohio. She has a bit of a storybook background and she has a couple of more recent life chapters that are more like nightmares. I’ve written about most of that before, but I’ll rehash it anyway. Her parents were in a touring bluegrass band, and she grew up on a tour bus. She was homeschooled, and obviously learned a lot about music. She started playing with the family band when she was 8, then she started playing rock shows with her brother David. When she was 15, she got a bedroom-recorded EP in the hands of Dan Auerbach out of Black Keys. He loved it, and got it in someone else’s hands, and she had a record deal just like that. In 2008, at the age of 19, she released her first album With Blasphemy, So Heartfelt, and it got rave reviews. The story goes that the album was about an off-and-on boyfriend who resented being her muse. He hated that the songs were about him even though nobody had any way of knowing that. As the story goes, he would break up with her every time she wrote a new song.

Her next album Tell Me was my first exposure to her, and I ranked it as my 12th favourite non-Canadian album of 2011. It was a very autobiographical record that she described as being about her turning the tables. It’s about her being mean to boys and deliberately breaking their hearts instead of vice versa. That album still had a very alt-folk/alt-country feel, but the next record was quite different.

The 2014 album Make My Head Sing took her in a completely different direction. It was much more rock-oriented, with flavours of grunge and punk. It was also, coincidentally, her first album without the production of Auerbach. Instead, she got her now ex-husband to work the knobs and faders. She had undergone a lot of changes and the album was sort of about change. The press didn’t love it, but I did. I called it #6 on my countdown of my favourite albums of 2014.

Mayfield released a long-awaited fourth album–Sorry is Gone— on September 29 of this year. That album release, unfortunately, was bookended by some events that physically and emotionally injured her. Before the album came out, she was hospitalized with injuries that stemmed from a series of domestic abuse incidents. She had a broken shoulder, which immobilized her arm, which makes playing music really hard. There were other injuries that she had been dealing with for years, but she said that her abusive husband wouldn’t allow her to go to the doctor. Evidently, he was also stealing her money. I don’t know why she stayed with him after the abuse started, or after it persisted, but she finally got out of that relationship.

Last month, just before the album release, she was involved in an automobile accident that resulted in even more injuries. Another driver fell asleep at the wheel, and rear-ended her causing injuries to her neck, ribs, hips, and knees. It didn’t stop the release of the album, and she hoped that she would be able to recover in time to play the east coast shows that were already scheduled for October/November. Yesterday, she announced that those shows have been canceled and that she will need a few more months to go through physical therapy.

All of those physical injuries and emotional trauma are certainly very heavy, but it’s a great album. Once again, it’s a bit different to her folk/bluegrass roots. Just as she did with Make My Head Sing, she opens Sorry is Gone with a lot of noise. The album-opening “Wish You Could See Me Now” is fuzzy and heavy with tons of delay on the vocals. It’s almost, even, shoegazey. I love that song, but it’s not our song of the day. Our song of the day is a perfect blend of her roots and her new “rock” direction. It’s got a bit of 90s college radio sound, and even a bit of a surf-rock sound that reminds me quite a bit of Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet. Of course it’s highlighted by her signature rocky/drawly/sweet/sour voice.

This is that song:
“Meadow” by Jessica Lea Mayfield

I love it more with repeated listens. Strangely, as much as I love her voice, my favourite bit is the minute-long instrumental coda beginning at about 2:20. That’s when you can really hear the really bright, reverb-laden surf-y guitar and the heavy-handed drums.

There’s a video for the song

You can order Sorry Is Gone via ATO Records here.

Her tour has been canceled for now. While we hope that she’s able to reschedule later, we’re more interested in her full recovery from her myriad injuries. We also hope that she’s able to get and afford the care that she needs both physically and emotionally. If you’re interested in that, you can donate to Musicares, a charity that’s been helping her.


September 21, 2017 — “That’s Not All” by Pia Fraus

Pia Fraus

If you only listen to one song today, make it “That’s Not All” by Pia Fraus (2017, from the forthcoming album Field Ceremony).
Pia Fraus is a shoegaze/dream-pop/indie pop quintet from Tallinn, Estonia. Between 2001 and 2008, they released four proper albums. In a previous feature back in 2012, I wrote

I guess you could say that they’re three parts The Swirlies, one part Yo La Tengo, but with the volume low, the windows open, and the light shining in.

I stand by that assessment.

The band took a long hiatus and shuffled the deck just a little bit. After nine years, they’re ready to release their fifth album —Field Ceremony— on October 16. Actually, it’ll be out on October 13 via Shelflife Records in the United States and October 16 in Europe (SekSound Records) and in Japan (Vinyl-Junkie Recordings). They’ve been releasing singles ahead of the album, but those somehow slipped between the cracks until I got something in the mail bag a couple of weeks ago. I was, of course, pleasantly surprised and excited to read about the new album, and I was totally satisfied when I listened to the promo copy.

The melty, gooey guitar with the tons of effects, their magnificent pop sensibilities and the glorious coed vocals reminded us of why we fell in love with Pia Fraus in the first place: they remind us of a lot of familiar and comfortable things while bringing a lot of their own things to the table.

It’s fair to mention that I was also unaware of this development, but Pia Fraus recently recorded a split 7″ single with Rocketship. Check that out here. Rocketship, incidentally, has new record coming out after an 11-year hiatus. You should check out the new song here.

Back on topic, though, the new tune from Pia Fraus is great, and this is that song:
“That’s Not All” by Pia Fraus

I love that they waste no time getting to the melty, gooey guitar awesomeness. No stick clicks or snare hits to count them in, no jangly acoustic intro. Just the warm, gooey stuff right from the drop. My only complaint (and this is a very minor one) is that I wish they were much louder. The noise that they do bring is glorious, but I wish they would turn their amps to elevens.

There’s also a video, which was directed by the band’s former drummer Joosep Volk:


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