Recapping Hopscotch17 Day Four

As you all know, I was at the Hopscotch Music Festival all weekend. It was the eighth year of the festival, and for the first time, the festival went all the way into Sunday night. I’m exhausted, but I had a great time.
Read my Thursday recap here, my Friday recap here, and my Saturday recap here.

All of Sunday’s action took place at Red Hat Amphitheatre, so there was no bouncing around to do. It started early, though, and it made for a long day. Oddly enough, staying in one place was more exhausting than moving around a lot.

After checking out of the hotel, I got downtown around 12:30 hoping to grab some lunch at my favourite spot before heading to Red Hat. Unfortunately, they were totally slammed and there was no chance of me getting in there, even at the counter. Sure I could have gone any number of other places, but I decided to head on in to Red Hat and just get a hot dog there.

No One Mind

The music started at 1:15 with a band from Greensboro called No One Mind. I had never heard of them. Their bio calls their sound psych pop, but I think it’s more like post-punk. They were loud and fast and decked out in all black. I liked them. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much memorable about them.

Jenny Besetzt

Next up was the Raleigh post-punk band Jenny Besetzt. They used to call Greensboro home, and they’ve played at Hopscotch at least three different years. They used to be more of a shoegaze band, but they shifted gears, and either way, I like what they do. I’ve always loved their set. Also, every time I see them, I can’t help but think how much their frontman John Wollaber looks like The Rural Alberta Advantage frontman Nils Edenloff. I could go on and on about the RAA, their lineup change and their forthcoming new album, but this isn’t about the RAA.

Dylan Baldi of Cloud Nothings

Next was the Cleveland punk rock band Cloud Nothings. I only have one of their records, and I don’t really know much about them, but this was still high on my list of band to see this weekend. I loved their set. They were really tight and the sound was pretty great. I don’t know if it was intentional, but the bass was heavy in the mix, and I could barely hear the second guitar. No matter, because they were all killing it.
Apparently, the fellas were on a very strange tour. They had been in Butte, Montana on Friday. Then Los Angeles on Saturday. Then Raleigh on Sunday afternoon. That’s a very strange travel itinerary.
I thought they were leaving about ten minutes of their time on the table, but they played a long bit at the end that seemed to have some element of improvisation. I’m not familiar enough with their catalog to know what song it was or if any of it was improvised. No matter what, it was really good.

Mary Timony and Nicole Lawrence

“Mary Timony plays Helium” was next. This was the thing that I was probably the most anticipatory about for the entire festival. Mary Timony is a sort of indie rock goddess. I loved her first band Autoclave. I was a HUGE fan of Helium. The Pirate Prude EP (1994) and the The Dirt of Luck LP (1995) are two of my favourite releases from that glorious decade. In fact, I’ve often said that Pirate Prude is perfect. PERFECT. Their only other album The Magic City (1997) didn’t resonate as much with me, but I still liked it a lot. Also, for some reason, I never fell in love with the Mary Timony solo stuff. Additionally, I’ve never really given her new band Ex Hex much of a chance, but I know that they’re well-liked.
Although I never saw Helium, I did get to see Mary Timony when she was a member of Wild Flag, and that was spectacular. I really wish that band had made more than just that one record.
Anyway, I was very excited to see these Helium songs being played. I kind of wish she had reunited the old band, but she recruited two guys from the band Hospitality and Nicole Lawrence from the band Iyez.
I was hoping for a few songs from Pirate Prude, but I think there was just one. And just a few from The Dirt of Luck. No matter, because it was a really good set.

Mount Moriah

Next up was Mount Moriah. This country-flavoured indie rock band from Durham is fronted by Heather McEntire. She’s a small woman with a big voice and a ton of talent. She’s been in punk bands, and she’s made other types of music, and she’s very quietly become a member of Angel Olsen’s band. She’s most known, though, for being the front of Mount Moriah. In nearly every story that’s written about the band or about her, there’s a comparison to a young Dolly Parton. McEntire’s songwriting is great, but the comparison is mostly about her voice. That’s to say that her voice is big and muscle-bound when she needs it to be, but soft and supple at other times. While she’s the undisputed star of the show, the guitar work of Jenks Miller shouldn’t go unrecognized. He’s recorded a bunch of stuff under his own name and with the band Horseback, but this is his meal ticket.
I had never actually seen Mount Moriah before, so it was a real treat. And they were fantastic. They were scheduled to play for 50 minutes, but they left about 10 minutes on the clock.

Cass McCombs Band

Next was the Cass McCombs Band. The alt-country/alt-rocker from San Francisco has been around since the early 2000s and has put out a bunch of records since then. He’s sort of a big name, and he’s shared the stage with some enormous names, but I had never listened to anything by Cass McCombs. I didn’t know what to expect and I didn’t know any of his songs, but the band played well. The only song I recognized was their variation on the traditional folk song “Cuckoo”. By the end of the set, I was starting to fade, and I wondered if I was even going to make it to the end of the Angel Olsen set.

Angel Olsen

Finally, at 8:00, the finale of the festival was the much-anticipated set by Angel Olsen. I’m a really big fan, and I had only seen her once before. That was at the 2013 Hopscotch festival, where she played a mesmerizing solo set. I must say that even though I love the newest album, my first impression of it was that it’s too polished. Seems like she’s trying hard to cross over to mainstream. Maybe she will. I thought the same thing of the sound and presentation of her set last night. It was really big. Granted, it was in the big amphitheatre, but I still prefer for the sound to be less big and more like an intimate show. That said, it was a great set with a mixture of older and new stuff. There were even a couple of brand new songs. Just as she was the time I saw her before, she was a little bit giggly and a little chatty. I like that. It’s real. It’s more “real” than the big stage production values. I won’t say that I was disappointed, but it didn’t quite meet my very high expectations. Of course my patience may have been tested because I was very tired after a long week of moving from Greensboro to Durham, then immediately heading out the door for Hopscotch.

I had a great time at the festival, but I sort of wish they hadn’t added that fourth night of shows. Although I went to bed early last night and had absolutely nowhere I needed to be today, I’m still completely wiped out.


Recapping Hopscotch17 Day Three

Today was the third day of the Hopscotch Music Festival, where I’ve been all weekend. You can read my coverage of Thursday’s fun here, and my coverage of my insanely busy Friday here.

On Saturday, I decided to give myself a bit of a break. I woke up, did my writing, and went back to sleep for a bit. I didn’t have anything that I was desperate to see at the day parties, so I thought I would get over there at a casual pace. I slept more than I thought I would, and as morning turned into afternoon, I started to think that I might skip the day parties altogether. I slept some more. Then I remembered that I didn’t even need to head over there for the City Plaza show or the Red Hat show. Instead of going down there just so I could wander around drinking, I relaxed in the hotel and watched the US Open Women’s final. I’m really happy that Sloane Stephens won. After that, I watched a little bit of college football before finally heading downtown fully rested and recharged.

Blois Hopscotch17

The first set I went to was Raleigh band Blois, who were kicking off the night over at Kings. I didn’t know anything about them. Just that they’re a dream pop band. There’s a little bit of electronics: some noise modulators and some other synth-like noise. I really liked them. I was reminded a little of Memoryhouse. At least the first Memoryhouse record.

Sound of Ceres

After their set, I walked over to Fletcher for Sound of Ceres. I didn’t know what I was getting into, but I was really pleasantly surprised. As I’ve said, I didn’t really do the amount of homework that I normally do, so I was kind of blind going in. I only knew that the Brooklyn by way of Fort Collins, Colorado band was electro/psych/experimental dream pop. On quick listen, Karen Hover’s voice reminds me a lot of the late Trish Keenan out of Broadcast. And the band’s music kind of reminds me of them, too. I didn’t know that this band features former members of The Apples in Stereo. I also didn’t know that their forthcoming album was produced by Alex Somers in his Reykjavik studio. That guy has produced some really great records by Sigur Rós, Julianna Barwick, and Briana Marela, just to name a few.
The Sound of Ceres set was something I’ve never seen before. They have a mesh screen set up on the stage, on which they project a three-dimensional laser display. Hover interacted with the display all night, and it was really cool. In the picture above, you can see the lasers dancing, and you can just see the silhouette of Karen Hover. I made a video, and maybe later I’ll upload it. I had no expectations at all about that band, and I really loved their thing. Their new album The Twin is coming out on October 6.

Beverly

Next up was Beverly, over at Deep South. Over the years, I’ve only been to a few sets at Deep South, but they’ve all been memorable, including last year’s amazing set by Diet Cig. On records, they’re just a duo, but when they play live, there are five of them. At least there were last night. They were exactly what I was expecting. Energetic and fun. And they sounded great.

Cherry Glazerr

Next, I walked over to The Pour House for Cherry Glazerr. I didn’t know much about the Los Angeles band, but they were a bit heavier than I was expecting. It’s a band that I might have gotten really into if they had existed 20 years ago. I think the frontwoman of the band wasn’t even alive 20 years ago. There’s a lot of howling and heavy guitar punctuated with soft, melodic moments. For the first time all weekend, I needed my VIP wristband to get in. There were other advantages to the wristband, but that was the full house venue that I encountered. I only stayed for a few songs, and the line to get in was pretty long when I left.

I left one totally packed house for another totally packed house. I really needed to see Japanese Breakfast, though. I went to see them open for Mitski last June in Durham, but I didn’t really pay attention to the show. They were scheduled to play last year’s Hopscotch, but they didn’t make it. To be honest, I haven’t spent very much time with the new record, but I loved the 2016 debut record, and I was really excited about this set. When I arrived at the door for Neptune’s, there was one huge line for King’s and one for Neptune’s. I got a bit worried, but once again, my VIP wristband got me in ahead of the rest of the general admission folks. Neptune’s is one of the venues where you can’t see a thing if it’s crowded. The ceilings are fairly low, and they can’t raise the stage, so visibility is bad. A contributing factor is that Michelle Zauner is tiny. Even though I was only about five deep from the stage, I could barely see. I couldn’t get a decent picture. It didn’t matter, though. It was an amazing set. For the second night in a row, I ended my night at Neptune’s, seeing a band for whom I had very high expectations. For the second night in a row, I was very happy. They were on point, they were excited to be part of the festival, and they had the crowd jumping. During their last song, Zauner did a little bit of crowd surfing. I can never get enough of that kind of thing.

So far, this has been a great festival, and there are still a lot of highlights coming today. There are still a bunch of bands playing at Red Hat today, including my two most anticipated shows of the festival: “Mary Timony plays Helium” and Angel Olsen. I was a huge Helium fan, but I never saw them live. I never saw Mary Timony play solo, but I did see her with Wild Flag. She’ll be playing at 4:15.
I’ve only seen Angel Olsen one time, and it was absolutely breathtaking. Here’s the video I made last time:

I’m obviously looking forward to seeing her again tonight at 8.


Recapping Hopscotch17 Day Two

As you all probably know, I’m spending the weekend at the eighth annual Hopscotch Music Festival. You can catch up on my adventures from Thursday here. Friday was a little busier. It was a long day filled with some pleasant surprises, some mild disappointment, and just a lot of fun.

I wasn’t in a real hurry to get down to the day party stuff, so I kind of relaxed a little bit at the hotel, and that was probably a great idea. Again, because of my lax approach to prep this year, I didn’t really know what was going on during the day parties other than that I would eventually end up at Kings. At about 1:30, I made it downtown, grabbed some lunch, and just sort of walked around a bit.

I finally started into the action by going up to Kings. Chuck Johnson was there playing his new ambient stuff.
I don’t know anything about that guy, but he’s been a prolific experimental composer with many albums to his credit. His new album Balsams, which is layered and looped pedal steel guitar, has been getting great reviews, and there was a bit of buzz about this performance. It was beautiful and relaxing, but I wasn’t ready to be put to sleep.

I went downstairs and outside to regroup, but I really had no plan at all. I found out they were doing comedy downstairs at Neptunes, so I went down there for a bit. Although it was structured, it was very much open mic-style. All local guys with very little experience doing short sets. I stayed down there for three comedians. One was really awful, one was decent, and one was really good.

Repressed

I headed back upstairs to Kings just before the start of a set by Mac McCaughan out of Superchunk and Kurt Wagner out of Lambchop. They’ve got a new project called Repressed, and I had absolutely no idea what to expect. And I couldn’t have dreamed up what I saw. I don’t even know how to categorize it. Mac was operating some electronic bits and Kurt was singing. There was vocoder and/or other heavy vocal effects, and it was a bit weird if I’m honest. There were also two girls on clean backing vocals. After a few songs, I left, feeling confused and out of sorts by what I’d just seen. It was time to head into City Plaza for the night’s main stage event.

Birds of Avalon

Local psych rockers Birds of Avalon started things off. I didn’t know anything about them, and although I’d heard their name before, I didn’t really know what to expect. I really liked them though. They were exceptionally loud, and they had really good energy. They use two drummers on full kits. That kind of thing always interests me. I thought I might do that thing where I only watch for a couple of songs, but I got really into it.

The Make Up

The Make Up was next. They’ve been around for a long time. Ian Svenonius, James Canty and Steve Gamboa emerged from the ashes of DC punk band Nation of Ulysses to form The Make Up. The Make Up were active in the late 1990s before disbanding and reforming twice. I thought I had seen them once in 1998 or so, but now I’m beginning to question my memory. Their rock/punk/gospel/surf rock style is certainly unique, but when they disbanded, Svenonius said it was because everyone was co-opting their style. That style includes wearing matching outfits.
Last night, they all wore sparkly champagne-coloured suits. That style also includes Svenonius’ erratic behaviour. He rants and raves and generally acts like a person who is either on drugs or is suffering from mental illness. I’m convinced, though, that although he has some extreme views, he’s just playing a character. Either way, they had a ton of energy, and Svenonius interacts with the crowd a lot and has this incredible bravado on stage. It’s something to behold. I really liked their set, and even more than that, I was impressed by the experience.

Future Islands

Future Islands was next. I saw them a couple of years ago at Hopscotch, and while I appreciate their stage presence, and while I appreciate the fact that they love playing in North Carolina, they just don’t do much for me. I watched for a few songs, then headed out to the club shows.

Aunt Sis

I headed over to Neptunes to catch the Asheville four-piece Aunt Sis. I didn’t really know much about them other than the songs that I listened to in the name of “hopscotch research”. I really liked their set. They had a bit of a sad bastard vibe mixed with a bit of noise. They really had the quiet/loud/quiet thing working. I was reminded a lot of Red House Painters. They may or may not be named after a boutique salsa company in Western North Carolina.

Next, I walked over to Pour House to see King Woman. The band is fronted by Kristina Esfandiari, who used to be in the San Francisco shoegaze band Whirr and the doomgaze band Miserable. King Woman is something totally different, and it’s definitely closer to the doomgaze stuff she’s done in the past. This is loud, sludgy, dark, and a bit aggressive. I was at the side of the room where the double-tiered benches are, sitting on the top. Some dude came along, sat practically on my feet, and immediately fell asleep, sort of using my legs as a pillow. It was super weird, and I hopped up and got out of that spot. I don’t know how he managed to sleep with the intense noise, but he did. Just at that point, Esfandiari asked the crowd to clear a spot so she could set up shop on the floor. It was a great set, and I stayed for most of it.

Mourn

I left that set a little early so I could make the long hike over to CAM so I could see Mourn. They wore matching paint-splattered outfits, which made them look more youthful than they already are. I knew that they’re teenagers, but I was shocked by how young they all look. No matter, because they’re a really good indie rock band with loads of potential. This band is way better than they should be at their age. I had to leave after a few songs because I had a lot more to see, and a bit of a hike to get back to the main footprint of the festival.

For the rest of the night, I only saw bands who I will describe using “formerly known as …”.

Very high on my list for the festival was Preoccupations. The Calgary post-punk band formerly known as Viet Cong, so I headed over to Lincoln to catch as much of their set as possible. Unfortunately, I’m limited by the equipment that I have, and I couldn’t get even a halfway decent picture.
As expected, the band was loud and energetic, but something about it fell short of my expectations. They have a slightly different sound now as compared to what they did on the eponymous Viet Cong record. Frontman Matt Flegel was more screaming than singing, and something else was slightly less than I hoped it would be. Which made it easier for me to leave after four or so songs. Even though it was getting late, I still had two more bands to see.

Songs: Molina

I strolled over to Fletcher because I really wanted to catch Songs:Molina. This is more or less the band formerly known as Magnolia Electric Co. The founder of that band, Jason Molina, passed away in 2013 due to organ failure.
He was in a lot of bands and a lot of solo projects with a lot of different styles. Alt-country, folk, indie rock.
One of his “bands” was Songs: Ohia, after which Songs: Molina is obviously named. Many of his projects had revolving members, but Magnolia Electric Co was consistent. And, to my knowledge, Songs:Molina is pretty much the same as Magnolia Electric. Anyway, they were playing a beautiful, heart-felt set, and they talked a bit about how much they all missed Jason. I couldn’t stay very long, though.

Ó

Last up was Ó. The Brooklyn indie rock quartet band formerly known as Eskimeaux. Fronted by Gabby Smith, the band features Felix Walworth (Told Slant) on a minimal drum kit set really low to the ground. They were absolutely sensational. They were so energetic and they were really enthusiastic about the festival. I know a lot of bands stop through here while they’re on tour, and they can’t stick around, but it’s always a plus for me when I know that the performers are out there enjoying the festival. These guys clearly are. All of that aside, they totally impressed me with their set. I had it high on my list, but I sort of expected it to be a vanilla performance. Plain, but reliable. What we got was some really deluxe flavour of ice cream. I left there in a really good mood. I was reminded of how I felt when I left the Diet Cig show last year.

All in all, it was a great night, and there’s still a lot more Hopscotch to go.


Recapping Hopscotch17 Day One

This long weekend marks the eighth annual Hopscotch Music Festival in downtown Raleigh. For the sixth year in a row, I’ll be here from start to finish. This year is a little different in a couple of ways. I just moved from Greensboro NC to Durham NC, so I’m closer to the festival. Because I was focused on moving, I didn’t get much of a chance to do any Hopscotch prep the way I normally do. So this year, there are a lot of bands about whom I’ve done absolutely no research. It’s still going to be a blast, and it already has been after day one.

Skylar Gudasz

Skylar Gudasz opened the festival in City Plaza. I knew nothing about the Durham indie singer/songwriter, but I had at least previewed a few of her songs. Her set was exactly what I was expecting, but I was having a hard time getting really into it. For the first time in six years, I didn’t meet up with any friends, so I just wandered around the City Plaza checking things out. I ran into a couple who lived across the street from me 10 years ago and who now live in Nashville. We chatted about the Predators for a while, and they encouraged me to stick around for the Margo Price set later. It wasn’t on my list, but there wasn’t anything else on my list at that time, so I said I would.

Big Thief

After Skylar Gudasz was the Brooklyn indie rock quartet Big Thief. This was another band who I didn’t know, but I really liked the songs I previewed. Still, I didn’t know what to expect. I was really impressed, and I kept thinking to myself “Whatever it is I was expecting, this is much better”. They have a new record this year called Capacity, and it’s getting rave reviews. Their first record Masterpiece (2015) did too. Later in the night, I met a guy who told me that those Big Thief records are among his favourite records of the decade. I’m definitely going to get both of them.

Margo Price

Because I had run into my former neighbours, I stuck around for the Margo Price set even though it wasn’t even on my long list. The Nashville singer does straight country. That usually doesn’t work for me, but I had heard and read some things that compared her to Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton, so I was totally up for giving her a fair try. After a few songs, I realized that she was just too country for my taste, so I headed out of the Plaza to get started on the club show portion of the evening.

All the Saints


I had intended to make it to see Memphis psych rockers Spaceface, but I didn’t get there in time. The show was in The Basement, which is the new, cavernous venue in the basement of the Convention Center. It took me a while to find it, and I missed all of Spaceface. I was, though, just in time for Atlanta noise/psych/sludge rock trio All The Saints. I literally knew nothing about them going in, and they weren’t even on my long list. Their set ended up being one of my favourite things of the night. It’s worth mentioning that the frontman reminded me of a beardy Adam Scott. It’s also worth mentioning that the drummer was absolutely pummeling his kit, which was small and mounted low. Not many skins, but a lot of cymbals. I scribbled a note that they were like a sludgier, darker Sonic Youth mixed with a helping of Montréal post-rock. Later on, I read something that mentioned All the Saints and A Place to Bury Strangers in the same breath. I’m not sure about that, but I liked them a lot nonetheless. It’s rare for me to do this at Hopscotch, but I stayed for their entire set, and I’ve marked my planner for their day party show on Saturday.

Phil Elverum

I headed over to Fletcher because I had Shane Parish on my long list and Mount Eerie at the very top of my short list. I arrived just in time for the end of Shane Parish’s set. I didn’t know anything about him, but I liked the songs I previewed. I went in for one song, but I couldn’t get into it, so I went outside and had a bit of a break while waiting for the Mount Eerie set to begin. Mount Eerie is, of course, the work of slowcore giant Phil Elverum. I’ve been a long-time fan of the fiercely independent musician from Anacortes, Washington. His new critically acclaimed record A Crow Looked at Me is amazing, but it’s a really tough listen. The entire album is about the death of his wife Geneviève Castrée. She lost her battle with pancreatic cancer last July. The songs are heavy and candid and real. Songs about receiving a package addressed to her a few days after she died – something she had ordered for their daughter. Songs about the pain of having to throw the garbage from her bathroom away one last time. Songs about having to get up and make eggs for breakfast. Songs about missing the hell out of her. Songs about his own mortality. Those songs must be listened to thoughtfully and without distraction. You can’t listen to them in the car or while you’re at work, or at the gym. They’re painful but beautiful songs. When Phil Elverum writes that stuff, you feel his pain. When Mark Kozelek wrote songs about death and grief for Benji, they came across as cheesy. Plus, Kozelek is a dick.
Most of the audience knew the story of Geneviève’s death. Most of the audience knew the new songs. Still, we didn’t really know what we were going to get. We got the real, raw Phil, and it was absolutely stunning. He didn’t talk much. He knew that we all knew. He really only spoke three times. Once to “apologize” for the tone. He said that he loves playing the songs, but feels bad for the audience. Another time, during a run of new, unreleased songs, he simply asked that we keep our videos to ourselves and not release them on the internet. Phil had, apparently, been slightly heckled by an audience member in Chicago just a couple of days ago. Someone who didn’t want the new stuff. All of us did, and we absolutely loved it. In that quiet, intimate setting of Fletcher, we all felt it very much. There was a lot of sniffling and a lot of teary eyes in the house. I stayed for the entire beautiful set, and I was both physically drained from a long week and emotionally drained from that set. Still, though, there was other music to see.

Anton Newcombe of the Brian Jonestown Massacre

I headed back over to The Basement to see The Brian Jonestown Massacre. If I’m honest, I’m not really a fan of the band, but I totally appreciate the insane genius of Anton Newcombe. He’s the only remaining member of the band from the 1990s that was known for its debauchery and its prolific releases, and its inner turmoil. Back then, there was a reasonable chance that Newcombe was going to fight someone from the audience or someone from his band. He’s sobered up since then, and there’s a totally different lineup, so it’s not at all the same. Still, though, I wanted to see them just to see them. They have a deep love/hate relationship with The Dandy Warhols, whom I’ve seen several times. I just wanted to get the other side of that. Their set was really, extraordinarily loud. Even with my quality ear plugs in, it was loud. And because of the cavernous space, the sound was bouncing around a bit. I stayed for three songs, and I was a bit put off that nobody aside from the drummer seemed to care very much. The other six band members stood motionless. There should have been energy, and there wasn’t. I had one last thing on my list, so I ducked out of that set early.

Sunflower Bean

Finally, I headed over to The Pour House to catch some of Sunflower Bean. The noisy, bouncy Brooklyn-based indie rock trio was just what I needed. They were enthusiastic and energetic and all of that. They sounded great, too. I was a little nervous about going there because that venue is normally packed, and it’s hard to see the stage, and it gets uncomfortable for me pretty quickly in there. As it turns out, they were only about half full, and the crowd that was there was having a great time. Unfortunately, I reached a point where I just couldn’t do anymore. I had to drive back to the hotel and catch some sleep.

It was a great first night, highlighted by the sensational set by Mount Eerie. I’m quite sure that one will end up being in my top two things from the whole festival. There’s still a long way to go, though…. I’m about to head out for the day party stuff and for the long day two.


August 18, 2017 — “I am a Chicken” by Mourn

Mourn

If you only listen to one song today, make it “I am a Chicken” by Mourn (2016, from the album Ha, Ha, He.).

Mourn is an indie rock quartet from Barcelona. The band of teenagers formed in 2014 and they released their eponymous debut later that year. Last year, they released their sophomore album Ha, Ha, He. via Captured Tracks in this country. I remember that I had the album on my radar last year, simply because of their affiliation with Captured Tracks, but I didn’t know anything about the band. I still know very little about them. Then, I saw them on this year’s Hopscotch Music Festival lineup, and when I started doing my Hopscotch homework, I got excited about it.

They say that they’ve been influenced by the Chicago brand of post rock — bands like Tortoise and The Sea and Cake. They also say that they’ve recently found a new influence in Throwing Muses. Any time a band says that they’re influenced by the Muses, I become very, very interested in them. If I’m honest, I don’t really hear much of a Muses sound in their music. Instead, I’m reminded in a lot of ways of the amazing Tsunami. Specifically, the stuff from the first side of Deep End. In a completely different way, I’m reminded of Bully, whose album Feels Like was my seventh favourite album of 2015, and whose show I was shut out of at Hopscotch 15. Oh, and since I’ve brought it up, Bully has a new record coming out on October 20. This isn’t about Bully, though.

In today’s song, I hear a lot of Tsunami, but Mourn’s sound is much better and their production values much higher than those of Tsunami. For some reason, Tsunami wanted their records to sound really muddy, and that was something that always disappointed me very much; they were an incredible band to see live, but their intentionally poor production values make listening to the records much less fun. This isn’t about Tsunami, either. This is about “I am a Chicken”. This is that song:

“I Am a Chicken” by Mourn

Speaking of disappointment, I really like the repeated line “Sorry to disappoint you”. And the layered vocals. Those are my two favourite bits about the song. There’s a really abrupt ending, and it’s not exactly because it segues into the next song on the album. It only sort of segues into the next song. It’s just the way it is.

Tonight’s song is a bit on the short side, and in fact, the entire album clocks in at a very tidy 26:05. Punk rawk.

You can buy Ha, Ha, He. as a download via Bandcamp here, or in physical formats via Captured Tracks here

Mourn is playing on the Friday night of Hopscotch, the second night of the festival. For the first time, the fest will run for four nights. They have the 11:00 slot at CAM, which is a long hike from the rest of the festival footprint, but there’s a lot of great stuff going on at CAM this fest. I don’t have a scheduling conflict in that slot, so it’s a safe bet that I’ll be there.

The Hopscotch Music Festival is in just three weeks. Check out the lineup, the schedule, and the ticket options. As usual, I’ll be there all weekend.


August 16, 2017 — “Wall Watcher” by Sunflower Bean

Sunflower Bean

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Wall Watcher” by Sunflower Bean (2016, from the album Human Ceremony).

Sunflower Bean is an indie rock trio from Brooklyn. They’re young, but they’ve been around the Brooklyn DIY scene for a while. They formed in 2013, and after a series of singles and EPs, they released their debut long player last February on Fat Possum Records. Their sound has elements of dream pop, fuzzy indie rock, psychedelic rock, hard rock, and others. I read a quote from frontwoman Julia Cumming (vocals/bass):

You’re allowed to obsess over Black Sabbath as well as The Cure… It’d be boring if everything was one way or the other

.

Certainly, each of their songs sounds totally different to the others, and some have different sounds within the same song.

I had never heard of this band until I started doing my preparation for the 2017 Hopscotch Music Festival, and now I’m pretty excited that I’ll be seeing them there. They’re playing on Thursday September 7, the first night of the festival. That’ll be a busy night for me, and their set will be the last of the night over at The Pour House. It’s often packed to capacity in there during Hopscotch, but it’s always fun.

Anyway, here’s one of the songs from the debut album:

“Wall Watcher” by Sunflower Bean

It’s part late aughts commercial radio alternative, part late nineties college radio alternative, and still part something else. I’m reminded a little of that song “Tick Tick Boom” by The Hives. I’m also reminded of the first record by Veruca Salt. There’s also something that reminds me just a tiny bit of The History of Apple Pie. And yet, it’s still got its own vibe. And I like it.

Here also is the video for the song:

You can order the album on your choice of format from the Fat Possum store here.

The Hopscotch Music Festival is in just three weeks. Check out the lineup, the schedule, and the ticket options. As usual, I’ll be there all weekend.

Again, if you’re going to Hopscotch, Sunflower Bean is playing on Thursday at 12:30 at the Pour House. There’s actually four different venues I want to be in at that same time, so I can’t say for sure that I’ll be at Pour House, but the Sunflower Bean set is very much on my radar.


August 3, 2017 — “Stupid Things” by Girl Ray

Girl Ray

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Stupid Things” by Girl Ray (2017, from the album Earl Grey).

Girl Ray is an indie pop trio of 19 year-olds from London. They are Poppy Hankin (vocals/guitar), Sophie Moss (bass), and Iris McConnell (drums). I just learned about them this morning because of a friend’s tweet that he was eagerly anticipating the release of the band’s debut record tomorrow (August 4) via Moshi Moshi Music. I’ve listened to a few songs, and I really like what I’ve heard. I’ve done a little bit of research, and I still don’t know much about them.

Some of the things that I’ve read compare them to the c-86 sound and lo-fi twee pop. Some compare them to stuff like Belle and Sebastian. Some are brave enough to mention Hankin and Harriet Wheeler out of The Sundays in the same breath. Some mention Hankin and Nico in the same breath. Every article I’ve read mentions Todd Rundgren. The band say that they’re influenced by Pavement, Pixies, Cate Le Bon, David Bowie, Neutral Milk Hotel, The Beach Boys, ABBA, and others. Also, as a bit of trivia, the girls went to the same high school as Ray and Dave Davies out of The Kinks.

The only really close comparison to twee pop that I might make is to say that I’m reminded of The Softies, or Brave Irene, or any of Rose Melberg’s projects that weren’t called Tiger Trap. There’s a bit in tonight’s song that reminds me A LOT of the hit song “Evil Woman” by Electic Light Orchestra. And in a general sort of way, especially on some of the other songs, I’m reminded of Badfinger. These young gals have a lot of talent, and with the exception of Cate Le Bon, no matter what band you compare them to, it’s from before they were born.

They formed in 2015, and released their first single –“Trouble”– last autumn. They followed with a single for “Preacher” last month. After a lot of rave reviews in the UK music press and a few over here, they’ve generated a lot of buzz around their debut record coming out tomorrow.

Tonight’s song is, from what I’ve read, about having a supercrush (intentional reference back to Tiger Trap) on someone, then doing a bunch of stupid things just to get close or feel close to them. Things like obsessively watching a movie that their crush mentioned in passing, or obsessively eating and drinking stuff that their crush eats and drinks. You know… Standard issue pseudo-stalking.

I don’t know if the Bandcamp clip is an abbreviated version of the real song or if the music video is an extended version, but the Bandcamp version picks up at about 1:10 of the video. Either way, here’s the audio:

“Stupid Things” by Girl Ray

It’s that first bit with the piano and the “Ooh hooo hooooo-oooo” that makes me thing so much of “Evil Woman”. It’s the first thing I thought of as soon as I heard the first few seconds of this song. After that, it doesn’t sound like or remind me of ELO at all.

For good measure, here’s the cinematic video for the song:

They have sold out of the first pressing of the vinyl, but you can still buy the album via Bandcamp on CD or as a download.


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