Category Archives: 2018 Hopscotch Music Festival

July 25, 2018 — “Grow into a Ghost” by Swearin’

Swearin’

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Grow into a Ghost” by Swearin’ (2018, from the forthcoming album Fall into the Sun).
Swearin’ is an indie pop/cuddlepunk quartet from Philadelphia. The band is fronted by Allison Crutchfield, who is the twin sister of Katie Crutchfield. Katie is, of course, the front of the magnificent Waxahatchee. You’ve heard the story a million times about how they grew up in Alabama and played together in a band called P.S. Eliot. I won’t rehash that story.

Swearin’ put out an album in 2012 and another in 2013, then they took a break. The two Crutchfield sisters played with their respective bands at Hopscotch in 2013. Scheduling problems forced me to miss most of the Waxahatchee set, and I had to skip the Swearin’ set.

Allison made a solo record called Stranger in This Town, which was released last January. She toured in support of that album, and last February, on a very strange night, I went to see her. Although it was no surprise, it was awesome to see her sister come on stage to help her do a marvelous cover of The New Pornographers’ “Letter from an Occupant”.

You may remember that the 2015 Waxahatchee album Ivy Tripp was my #3 record of that year, and that was a banner year for new releases at my house. You may also remember that Katie pinch hit for Owen Pallett at Hopscotch in 2015 and absolutely knocked my socks off.

This year, when the Hopscotch lineup was announced, I was very happy to see both Crutchfield sisters on the card. Waxahatchee plays on Thursday night and Swearin’ on Friday night. I’m not going to miss either one. In addition, both bands have new releases coming out in the autumn. Waxahatchee’s Great Thunder EP will be out on September 7, and the Swearin’ album Fall into the Sun will be out on October 5. Both will be released by my hometown label Merge Records.

So far, I’ve only heard one song from the Swearin’ record, and I really love it. This is that song.

“Grow into a Ghost” by Swearin’

This is, as expected, wonderfully fuzzy indie pop. I’ll say again, as I always do, that I’m reminded very much of That Dog. With that said, it’s a little convenient that my favourite That Dog record is Retreat from the Sun, and this new Swearin’ record is called Fall into the Sun. While it’s fuzzy and wonderful like the previous releases, this is much more polished. It’s better production values, better playing, and simply just better. The previous releases are raw and energetic, full of unchecked emotions, and probably done with limited studio time and limited feet of tape. This song is a bit more sophisticated. All of the values are better and it’s clear that more attention was paid to making it sound great.

One thing I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around is the chorus. The line is

I watch you
I watch you
I watch you

Grow into a ghost

Because she sings these lines with no spacing, and because she puts emphasis on I, rather than on watch, it sort of sounds like she’s singing

Chihuahua
Chihuahua
Chihuahua…

That silly mis-hearing doesn’t change the fact that I love this song, and I’m really looking forward to the new record and to finally seeing Swearin’ at this year’s Hopscotch.

You can and should pre-order Fall into the Sun via Merge here. They say physical copies come with a pair of 3D glasses. From the looks of the gallery, there’s a 3D photo on the back cover of the vinyl and in the liner notes of the CD. There might be something else. Merge promises more details on what the 3D glasses are for.

You should also pre-order the Waxahatchee EP here.

Check out the Hopscotch lineup here, and check out the ticket options here.


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.


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