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 18, 2018 — “Inhuman” by Oceanator

Elise Okusami (Oceanator)

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Inhuman” by Oceanator (2018, from the Lows EP).

Oceanator is the indie rock solo recording project of Brooklyn-based Elise Okusami. She’s been playing guitar since she was nine years old, and she’s played in bands for several years, but this is her pet project. The first Oceanator EP, simply called EP came out last year, and she followed it with Lows in April of this year. Her influences range from 80s synth pop to surf rock to folk rock to 90s alt-rock and grunge. On this record, I hear a lot of 90s indie rock influences, and I’m frequently reminded of Guided By Voices. Especially on today’s song.

This is another project that I had never heard of until I started my Hopscotch research. It’s a really good lineup this year, and while we don’t know the full schedule, we know that Oceanator is playing on Saturday night. She’s one of many on my short list of bands to see on the last night of the festival. My short list for that night includes Liz Phair on the main stage plus club shows by Grouper, Chad VanGaalen, Ought, Still Corners, and Oceanator. Plus a few others on the long list/”plan B” list. Of course there’s bound to be a conflict or two over the course of the weekend, but Grouper is the only one of that lot that would take precedence over Oceanator if such a conflict exists on Saturday.

While I haven’t spent a lot of time with this EP, I like the whole thing, and today’s song jumped out at me the most. This is that song.

“Inhuman” by Oceanator

It starts off with some gentle strumming and a bit of echo on the vocals. It builds a bit, slowly, and then there’s a pretty heavy shift at around 1:19 when everything crashes in pretty heavily. Up to then, it totally reminds me of GBV. It shifts back to “quiet” for a while, and then back to “loud”, but it doesn’t follow a predictable pattern. The second “quiet” part is a bit louder than the first, and the third “quiet” part has really muted drums. When the chorus comes back around again for the third “loud” part, it’s significantly louder and much more intense, with many more layers than before. From 3:42 all the way to the end, it’s sheer, beautiful noise. Controlled chaos. Of course it comes to an almost full stop right there at the very end, and that’s another thing that makes this amazing.

Oceanator is on Tiny Engines Records along with Illuminati Hotties, which is an amazing solo recording project with what is either the dumbest name or a clever name. That label also features Spirit of the Beehive, who will be playing Hopscotch on Friday, the middle night of the festival.

You can buy Lows via Bandcamp here. While you’re at it, support the label by buying the latest record by The Spirit of the Beehive here, and the amazing debut record by illuminati hotties here.

For details about this year’s Hopscotch lineup, check here. For ticket options, go here.


July 11, 2018 — “FFS” by Deaf Wish

Deaf Wish

If you only listen to one song today, make it “FFS” by Deaf Wish (2018, from the forthcoming album Lithium Zion).
Deaf Wish is a noise rock/post-punk quartet from Melbourne. They’ve released four albums to date, and they have a new one called Lithium Zion coming out on July 27 via Sub Pop. On today’s song, and on many of their other songs, they sound very much like Sonic Youth. There are some songs that sound more like Black Flag or something of that ilk, but it’s really mostly Sonic Youth.

Although I go through phases when all I can write about is Australian bands, and I go through phases when all I can write about is bands in the vein of Sonic Youth, this is a band that I had never heard of until very recently. Deaf Wish is on the roster for the 2018 Hopscotch Music Festival, and as I always do, I’ll be doing a bunch of research and a bunch of writing in advance of the festival so that I’m very familiar with the lineup. Although there will be more bands named later and some inevitable changes to the lineup, this is where it stands right now. We don’t know the schedule yet, and it’s usually posted in August, but we do know that Deaf Wish is scheduled for Thursday night, the first night of the festival. As long as they’re not playing at the same time as Waxahatchee, or in the same time slot as Sonic Youth guitarist Lee Ranaldo, I’m putting these guys high on my list of bands to see. Those are the only potential conflicts that I can imagine that night. Click through this second wave of artist announcements and scroll all the way down for the day-by-day lineup, which includes some names not on the “main list”.

By now, you all know how much I love Hopscotch and how much fun I have every year, so I’m looking forward to another great autumn kickoff.

As I said, I hadn’t ever heard of this band until I was doing more Hopscotch research, but it didn’t take long at all for me to put them way near the top of my list. So far, I’ve only heard two songs from the forthcoming record, and I love them both.

“FFS” by Deaf Wish

The Sonic Youth comparison is an easy one on this song, but there’s also something that makes me think of The Wedding Present’s wildly interpretive cover of the Bow Wow Wow song “Go Wild in the Country”. Take some time to check out the Weddoes blistering cover here compared to the poppy original here.

Back to the matter at hand, one of the many things that I love about “FFS” is the full stop at the end. That’s no surprise to anyone. Another thing that should come as no surprise is that I really love that they play with the stereo field a little bit. The intro is really heavy in the right channel until the drums kick in and the balance is more even. Also, Sarah Hardman really does sound like Kim Gordon.
I love this song, and everything else that I’ve heard from these guys. I’ll look forward to the release, and I encourage you all to pre-order Lithium Zion via Bandcamp here.
Also, the video is worth checking out because it’s really basic, but really awesome:

Remember: Hopscotch is just two months away. Time to buy your tickets and start making your plans.


June 28, 2018 — “Surf Alone” by Ceremony

CEREMONY east coast

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Surf Alone” by Ceremony (2018, from the album East Coast).

Ceremony is a shoegaze/noise pop/post-punk band out of Fredericksburg, Virginia. The project started in 2005, and John Fedowitz is the only permanent member of the band. He used to be in Skywave, which was Oliver Ackermann’s thing before Ackermann started A Place to Bury Strangers in 2002. Fedowitz also played with APTBS on one of their tours.

Ceremony has released five albums including East Coast, which came out in May of this year. The album name is a nod to the fact that the band now goes by the name “CEREMONY east coast”. This is, presumably, to avoid confusion with the Bay Area hardcore punk band Ceremony. I don’t know anything about that west coast band, and I really don’t want to.

You may recall that I really enjoyed the album Distance, which came out in the last week of December 2013. I had already pretty much finished my year-end list because nobody in their right mind releases an album after American Thanksgiving (really though, nobody should release any albums after Canadian Thanksgiving either). Anyway, I liked it so much that I had to shoehorn it in to my top 40 albums that year. However, because I didn’t get to spend enough time with it, and because it was such a late entry, I could only slot it in at number 31. If it had been released before Labor Day, it certainly would have finished in the top 10 that year.

This new album has hit me just as hard as the previous one. It’s heavy as hell with miles and miles of whatever crazy effects pedals he’s using. So much beautiful noise. If you choose to believe the narrative, the songs from the new album were written with acoustic guitar, then they were given the wall of sound treatment.

On today’s song, there’s a comparison that I never thought I would make. I’ve listened to this a ton of times, and every time I listen, I can’t help but think of the Violent Femmes’ “Add it Up”. Listen to the bass guitar and the repetitive, driving drum beat. That’s where it has me thinking of “Add it Up”. Obviously, there’s nothing else about this that is anything like Violent Femmes. This obviously has much more to do with Psychocandy than with Violent Femmes.
This is that song:
“Surf Alone” by CEREMONY east coast

Apart from the bit that sort of makes me think of “Add it Up”, there’s the textbook blistering guitars with the tsunamis of sound coming from the insane pedal boards through the amps, which are turned to eleven. Fedowitz’s vocals are also obscured by tons of effects, and the whole thing makes such a lovely wall of unrelenting sound. Like many things that I post here, people will either love this or hate it. There is no middle ground. Y’all know where I stand.

You can buy East Coast via Bandcamp here.


June 21, 2018 — “Motorcycle” as covered by Bysts

Bysts

If you only listen to one cover song today, make it “Motorcycle”, as covered by Bysts (2018, from the Love and Rockets tribute album Welcome Tomorrow: Love and Rockets in Another View). The original version was done by Love and Rockets on their 1989 eponymous album.
Bysts is a darkwave/psych-rock/shoegaze duo from Salt Lake City. I know very little about them, and they probably like it that way. Their names are Bryan and Stefanie, and they released their debut album Offer Your Throat in the spring of 2017. I remember hearing their cover of The Cure’s “Killing an Arab” on the The Cure in Other Voices tribute album released by The Blog that Celebrates Itself. Here they are again on the tribute to Love and Rockets.

By now, everybody knows how fond I am of the tribute albums they do at TBTCI. Last month, the Brazilian blog/label released another in their long line of fantastic tributes, and that most recent one is an homage to Love and Rockets. Everyone who reads this probably already knows that Love and Rockets emerged from the ashes of goth rock kings Bauhaus. After that band broke up, frontman Peter Murphy had a solo career that was decent while his Bauhaus band mates enjoyed more success, and even some crossover into the mainstream. As you may recall, “So Alive” was a huge hit, even on top 40 radio. The video also got lots of play on MTV even apart from “120 Minutes”.

The Love and Rockets tribute album, like the others in the series, features a bunch of really great covers including some that are pretty inventive. Like the others, it features some covers that are kind of weird. Like the others, it features a lot of bands that I’ve never heard of before. This is one of those bands. While there are some really great covers on this tribute, this one is my favourite. I say that partly because “Motorcycle” is perhaps my favourite Love and Rockets song, but also because this version is really good.

This is that song:

I love that this is a bit lower than the original song and it seems to roar more than the original. At least in the bass guitar and drums. Somehow, in the guitar at least, it’s brighter than the original. So in a weird way, it’s simultaneously heavier and lighter than the original. For the most part, they haven’t done anything crazy with their interpretation of the song, and a lot of times, that’s a good way to go. This cover about 15 seconds longer than the original. Their coda is a bit more drawn out, a bit noisier, and a bit more chaotic than the original. I love it.

On Love and Rockets, the mean, heavy, roaring “Motorcycle” bleeds right into the next album track “I Feel Speed”, which is its very quiet companion piece. Bysts also does a cover of “I Feel Speed”, and it appears on the tribute album, but it’s several songs later in that track listing.

You can get Welcome Tomorrow: Love and Rockets in Another View via Bandcamp by naming your own price here. The whole thing is really worth checking out, but today’s song really is my favourite of the lot.


June 15, 2018 — “Twenty First Road Trip” by The Spirit of the Beehive

The Spirit of the Beehive

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Twenty First Road Trip” by The Spirit of the Beehive (2017, from the album Pleasure Suck).
The Spirit of the Beehive is an experimental indie rock/noise rock band from Philadelphia.
There’s not exactly a bounty of available information about this band, and I only learned about them when I started to do a bit of research for the 2018 Hopscotch Music Festival, which will take place this autumn in downtown Raleigh. What I’ve heard reminds me a bit of the chaotic blissed-out lo-fi shoegaze-y noise of Swirlies and the slightly discordant jams of Pavement. There’s also something that reminds me of Mary Timony’s guitar. I don’t necessarily hear all of those things at once, and I don’t necessarily hear all of those things in today’s song.

It seems like The Spirit of the Beehive is among the many bands who like to keep their bio private. I’ve only found scant details about them, and I couldn’t find anything other than their stage names of “The Hex”, “Buzz”, “Rat”, “Ricky”, and “Pail”. They released their self-titled debut album in 2014, an EP called You Are Arrived (But You’ve Been Cheated) in 2015, and the sophomore album Pleasure Suck last year. While I can’t be certain, I’m guessing that they named themselves after the Spanish film El Espíritu de la Colemna, which translates to “The Spirit of the Beehive”. I’ve never seen the movie, but from what I’ve read, it’s generally regarded as an excellent movie. It’s from the 1970s, and it’s about a little girl in late 1930s just after the Spanish Civil War. The girl becomes obsessed with the film Frankenstein, and she has some Frankenstein-like connection with a “monster” in the form of a wounded Spanish Republican soldier. This isn’t really about that, though.

One of the things that I love about this song is the multiple tempo changes. I love that kind of thing, and to have it happen several times in the course of one song is a lot of fun for me. There’s heavy, buzzy guitar. There’s feedback. There’s some pounding drums. There’s some frequency modulation. There’s chaos. Then it breaks down and there’s some jangly acoustic guitar. And a really abrupt shift into something that sounds like Insecticide-era Nirvana.

This is that song:

“Twenty First Road Trip” by The Spirit of the Beehive

There’s a lot to unpack there. Everything I’ve already mentioned, plus a 60-to-zero full stop. That’s another thing that almost always floats my boat. There are so many strange things going on with this song that it would drive a lot of people crazy. I’m not most people, and I love this.

I had never heard this band until I saw the Hopscotch initial lineup. They announced the headliners and many of the large print bands a month ago, and there are still a few dozen more bands to name. The festival will take place in downtown Raleigh the weekend after Labor Day. Last year, for the first time, they included a slew of shows in Red Hat Amphitheater on Sunday. It looks like they’re going to revert back to the Thursday night through Saturday night format that they used in every year prior. I loved the shows on Sunday afternoon/evening last year, but it was almost too much.

The schedule will be announced much later, and for now, all I can do is a bunch of research on all of the other bands that I’ve never heard of. It’s always a load of fun to “find” new bands during my research. This has certainly been one of those instances.

You can buy Pleasure Suck in physical or digital format via Bandcamp here. Those vinyl pressings look awesome!

After you check out the initial Hopscotch lineup, check out the ticket options here.

Also, you should check out the video for the song:


June 11, 2018 — “125 bpm” by LANZ

Benjamin Lanz

If you only listen to one song today, make it “125 bpm” by LANZ (2018, from the album Hoferlanz II).
LANZ is the Brooklyn-based experimental indie rock project of Benjamin Lanz. He grew up in Hartford, Connecticut, and spent his formative years being influenced by the likes of Sonic Youth, Pixies, Sebadoh, Polvo. He went to college at SUNY-Purchase, where he studied trombone, drums, and something that sounds like sound engineering. While his is not a household name, even in indie rock circles, Ben Lanz has worked with a bunch of people who are indie rock royalty.
In the mid-aughts, Lanz was asked to be an extra horn in a Sufjan Stevens performance. Later, when Stevens was touring in support of an album of outtakes from Illinois, Lanz joined an all-star team of touring musicians. Among the touring band were Annie Clark (aka St. Vincent) and Bryce Dessner out of The National. Through this connection, Lanz became a touring member of The National. Through that connection, he formed a band called LNZNDRF with Scott and Bryan Devendorf out of The National. Lanz also joined the band Beirut right around that time.
Last year, Lanz put out his first album —Hofferlanz I— under the LANZ moniker, and he just released the follow-up via Brassland Records.
I haven’t written anything in a long time, and I’ve been “sort of” keeping up with the mail bag. This is something “new to me” that arrived in the mailbag recently. I was initially directed towards a different song from the new album, and I liked it a lot, but I might like this one better. It’s angular, weird, and multi-tiered. It’s got lots of different textures and flavors.

“125 bpm” by LANZ

I like that the guitar is sort of noodle-y in the beginning. Like some prog rock that one of my college roommates was into.
I like that it builds slowly to a satisfying, slightly kraut-y buzz by the end of the song. At the end, we have the buzzy guitars, the synths, the driving drum pattern, the repeated chorus “This is all I’ll ask for”. It’s all really glorious. There’s something about the whole package that reminds me much less of any of the aforementioned bands and much more of The Beta Band.

You can buy Hoferlanz II via Bandcamp here.


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.


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