December 8, 2017 — “Youth Large, Size Small” by Scarp

Scarp

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Youth Large, Size Small” by Scarp (2017, from the EP Like a Dog).

Scarp is a Trans-Tasman dream pop/shoegaze/emo quartet with members from Sydney and Auckland, including a transplanted Englishman. They formed in 2016 as an emo five-piece, and they’ve changed the lineup a little along with changing their style. In an effort to shift away from emo, they recently started incorporating elements of shoegaze and dream pop.

I had never heard of the band until I got something in the mail bag the other day. The band has just released its debut EP, and they expect to put out a full-length album in the first half of 2018. Today’s song is the first song from that EP.

“Youth Large, Size Small” by Scarp

I like the lo-fi quality of it. It makes it sound somewhat exposed and vulnerable. And that works since that’s what they’re going for thematically. They say that the songs are about “the experience of coming to adulthood, experiencing loss and eventually finding serenity in life”. Today’s song is certainly about being in love and being unsure of a lot of things:

It hurts to be and see myself
Comparing myself to the person you want…

You prefer me when I’m naked
I prefer me when I’m alone

These are, after all, young adults. With fickle, fragile hearts.

In the last minute of the song, the tempo picks up a bit, and there’s a weird moment where the timing is a little (perhaps by design) awkward. During that section, in a weird sort of way that I wasn’t expecting at all, I’m reminded of Gala-era Lush. If Lush was on Quaaludes.

You can download Like a Dog via Bandcamp by naming your price here.


December 6, 2017 — “Sure” by Hatchie

Harriette Pilbeam (Hatchie)

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Sure” by Hatchie (from the 2017 standalone single).
Hatchie is the stage name of Brisbane-based indie/dream pop singer/songwriter Harriette Pilbeam. She’s been in the Brisbane music scene for a few years as a member of two other bands, but this is her first project that she’s been the front of. She released a shimmering indie-pop single called “Try” over the summer, and followed that with “Sure” a month ago. She’s set to release her debut EP early next year, and it’s probably safe to assume that this song will be on that record.

I recently got something in the mailbag about this rising star, and the email promised similarities to Slowdive and Cocteau Twins. Those kinds of handy references are thrown around pretty frequently, but it’s not often that I find the lofty comparison to actually work. “Try” doesn’t remind me of those bands at all, but there’s definitely a Robin Guthrie-like quality to the guitars on today’s song. In general, there’s a Milk and Kisses-era Cocteaus feeling. While Milk and Kisses is generally regarded by anyone with any frame of reference to be “lesser Cocteaus”, it’s still a very good album compared to the majority of stuff that passes as “rock music”. There’s also quite a bit of jangly guitars that remind me of the indie rock of the early 90s.
There isn’t a sharable Soundcloud or Bandcamp file, but here’s the video:

Right off the bat, the intro to the song is eerily reminiscent of the intro to a gem from the pre-Copacetic Velocity Girl days. The song “Forgotten Favorite” was on the band’s 1993 self-titled debut EP. It’s absolutely my favourite VG song. In fact, that whole EP is incredible, but it often gets forgotten in the catalog of a band that few people remember anyway.

The video seems to be a deliberate glove-tap to the indie pop videos of the early-mid 1990s. The stripey shirt worn by the guitar player. The jangly acoustic guitar. The bank of TVs with horizontal TV noise and video feedback/recursive image. The classic 8-eye Doc Martens worn by Pilbeam. This is all stuff that takes me back to the golden age of indie pop, when Pilbeam and her mates probably weren’t even born yet.

The song, according to what I’ve read, is about a couple who keep breaking up and getting back together. They’re giving it one last go because they can’t live with or without each other.

All I know about the forthcoming EP is that it’s called Sugar and Spice and that it’s due out “early next year”.


December 5, 2017 — “Falling Stars” by Blankenberge

Blankengerge

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Falling Stars” by Blankenberge (2017, from the album Radiogaze).
Blankenberge is a shoegaze/dream pop quintet from Saint Petersburg, Russia. I wrote about them once last year when they were featured on a compilation of The Cure cover songs, but I still know very little about them. It’s true that the band is named after the Belgian coastal resort town, but that’s everything that I know about them. They released a self-titled EP last spring and the cover of “Pictures of You” last summer. They released their debut album Radiogaze back in June of this year, and it looks like it’s making some year-end lists. At least it’s making year-end lists that are devoted specifically to shoegaze and dream pop. I haven’t spent very much time with the album, but I love what I’ve heard. Especially today’s song.
“Falling Stars” by Blankenberge

I like that there’s no messing around; no quiet intro or anything like that. It’s just beautiful, fuzzy noise from the drop. 48 seconds in, when the vocals come in, it gets much quieter. After that, the heavy fuzz comes back and pretty much drives the car for the majority of the ride. From 3:15 to 4:00, the bass guitar gets its own moment, and then the glorious fuzz takes over. The coda goes on for quite some time, which is in sharp contrast to the lack of any real intro. The whole time, Yana Guselnikova’s angelic vocals soar somewhere in the ether, way above everything else. When she hits the high highs, Her vocals remind me a bit of the first singer out of Hooverphonic. The music, though, reminds me much more of the Just For a Day-era Slowdive. To be fair, though, this is a bit fuzzier and a bit muddier than that.
Radiogaze was released by Elusive Sound Records in June. You can download it in the Bandcamp store for only $5 USD here. Better yet, you can download the entire Blankenberge catalog for only $4.80 USD.


December 1, 2017 — “Ojos en el Carro” by Mint Field

Mint Field

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Ojos en el Carro” by Mint Field (from the forthcoming 2018 album Pasar de las Luces).
Mint Field is a dream pop/shoegaze duo from Tijuana, Mexico. The 21-year olds Estrella Sanchez (vocals/guitar) and Amor Amezcua (drums/synths) released an EP called Primeras Salidas in 2015, and played Coachella and South By Southwest. They went to Detroit to record with Chris Koltay out of Akron/Family, and their debut album Pasar de las Luces will be out on February 23, 2018 via Innovative Leisure.
I don’t really know anything about the band, but I got something in the mailbag, and I’ve read that their sound falls in line with krautrock, shoegaze, dream pop, and stoner rock. Naturally, that piqued my interest. Today’s song reminds me of bands like Beach House and Memoryhouse. I haven’t heard the rest of the album yet, but I really like this song.
“Ojos en el Carro” by Mint Field

I love the glacial pace of it and the dreamy guitars. The drums are really gentle and Sanchez’ angelic vocals are affected with heavy delay. The highlight for me, though, is the sonic sea change at 3:31. It goes from glacial and gauzy to not-so-glacial and loud. By the end, it’s really fuzzy and gritty. I love all of these things, and I can’t wait to hear the rest of the record. It doesn’t really matter to me that Sanchez sings in Spanish, and that I don’t understand a word of it.

You can pre-order Pasar de las Luces here.

You should also enjoy the official video here:


November 30, 2017 — “This is Permanent” by Airiel

Airiel — Molten Young Lovers

If you only listen to one song today, make it “This is Permanent” by Airiel (2017, from the album Molten Young Lovers).

Airiel is a shoegaze/dream pop quartet from Chicago. It started out in 1997 as a two-man project when Jeremy Wrenn (vocals/guitars) and some other guy formed the band in Bloomington Indiana. Over the course of 20 years, the lineup has changed a bunch. All of the founding members of the terrific Chicago shoegaze band Lightfoils were either official members of Airiel, or they made guest appearances on their recordings. Through all of the lineup changes, the only consistent member is frontman Jeremy Wrenn. These days, he’s joined by Andrew Marrah out of the band New Canyons (guitars/synths), Matt Blanton (bass), Nick Bertling out of the Baltimore band Alto Verde (drums). Spencer Kiss was in the band and may still be, but it’s certainly Bertling playing drums in the video for today’s song.

In 2003 and 2004, the band released a series of four critically acclaimed EPs called Winks and Kisses which were later re-released as a boxed set. They released their debut album The Battle of Sealand in the summer of 2007. Five years later, Shelflife Records put out the Kid Games EP. Five more years later, they released the long-awaited sophomore long player.

I still think that the band, and especially Wrenn’s vocals, sound like they’re from the East or Southeast regions of England in the mid 1990s instead of present-day Chicago. I’m thinking Ride and The Catherine Wheel. Lots of delay and flange and fuzz on the guitars. Those guitars have a very bright, chiming quality, but there’s still something that weighs it all down. It’s like breathing fresh air underwater.

The new album came out on October 13, and I’ve had it in my catalog since then, but I didn’t get to spend any real time with it until this week. It was everything I hoped for from a new Airiel record, and actually quite a bit more. I don’t think there’s a bad song or any “filler” on the album, and it certainly made the long wait worthwhile.

This is the album-opening song:
“This is Permanent” by Airiel

In the 30-second intro, the synthetic drums are all over the stereo field, and I love that. That aspect of it reminds me of the drums at the very end of the extended 7″ version of Thomas Dolby’s smash hit “She Blinded Me With Science”. I still remember how much that song, and that trick in the stereo field blew me away as a small boy.

After that intro, the noise kicks in, and it gets even better. Wrenn has told people that his band is “loud… pretty… You can dance to it”. I’m not sure about the dancing part, but it’s certainly loud and pretty.

The aforementioned video is no frills. Pretty much a performance video shot in black & white with a couple of different cameras and lenses. Still though, it’s cool to see the pedal boards they use.

You can buy the album as a digital download or as a 2XLP via Bandcamp here.


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.


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