Tag Archives: audio

July 6, 2017 — “The Places We’ve Been” by Lost Horizons (featuring Karen Peris)

Lost Horizons

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “The Places We’ve Been” by Lost Horizons (2017, from the forthcoming album Ojalá).

Lost Horizons is a dream-pop duo formed by Simon Raymonde out of Cocteau Twins and Richard Thomas out of Dif Juz. They have a stable full of guest vocalists including Sharon Van Etten, Marissa Nadler, Tim Smith out of Midlake, Leila Moss out of The Duke Spirit, and Hazel Wilde out of Lanterns on The Lake. Most thrilling, though, is that they also have the inimitable Karen Peris out of The Innocence Mission on one track. Tonight’s track.

Simon Raymonde needs no introduction here.

Richard Thomas was the drummer in Dif Juz, who was also on 4AD records back in the glorious heyday of that label in the mid-1980s. Actually, of the three Dif Juz albums, only the last of them was on 4AD. That record —Extractions
was produced by Robin Guthrie out of the Cocteaus and featured guest vocals by Liz Fraser out of the Cocteaus. Dif Juz was a strange sort of math-y dream-pop/post-punk band that I was never into despite my obsession with the incarnation of 4AD Records that existed at that time.

The Cocteaus disbanded in an inglorious blaze back in 1997. That year, Raymonde put out a solo record that nobody even noticed. He and Guthrie had already started the Bella Union record label, which was meant as a platform for the Cocteaus to self-release their stuff after their fall-out with 4AD boss Ivo Watts-Russell. Unfortunately, by the time they got out from under their contract with 4AD, the band was starting to rot from the inside anyway. So it was all over for the Cocteaus.

Raymonde and Guthrie ran the label together for a while, but now it’s entirely run by Raymonde. While he had his hands in a lot of projects, he pretty much stayed out of the business of writing music until he formed Snowbird in 2014. The one record that band put out was my #13 album of 2014.

Just today, I learned about the Lost Horizons project, and I got very excited when I saw that Karen Peris appears on tonight’s track. It’s a poorly kept secret that I really, really like the Innocence Mission. At least everything from 1989 to 2003. The six records during that time are magnificent. To be fair, I’ve never paid much attention to the three albums that came after that. Glow (1995) is my favourite record of theirs, and it’s really solid from start to finish. My favourite song of theirs, though, is “The Lakes of Canada”, which I’ve written about here. And as a digression that’s well worth your time, Sufjan Stevens famously did a sensational cover of that song, practically making it his own. See that here. Coincidentally, Stephanie Dosen out of the aforementioned Snowbird has also done a cover of “The Lakes of Canada” on her solo record, giving it a more spooky than sad tone here.

Anyway, all of that digression was to the point that Karen Peris is an amazing songwriter and vocalist. That’s on full display here. This is that song:
“The Places We’ve Been” by Lost Horizons

As terrific as the music is, this is all about Karen Peris. Her breathy, high-register vocals, which are small and big at the same time, soar above everything else. And of course this should come as no surprise, but I absolutely love the miles of delay they put on her vocals at the end of each chorus.

As far as I know, this is the only song that’s been released in advance of the album. I’ve seen a track listing, but no details about who sings on which tracks. At any rate, we’ll be very much looking forward to the release of Ojalá on November 3 via Bella Union. You can pre-order digital copies here. No word yet on pre-sale of physical copies.

June 15, 2017 — “Lake House” by Beverly


If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Lake House” by Beverly (2016, from the album The Blue Swell).

Beverly is an indie pop/dream-punk band from Brooklyn. The front of the band is Drew Citron (vocals/guitar). She started the band a few years ago with the magnificent Miss Frankie Rose of Vivian Girls and Dum Dum Girls fame. With that lineup, Beverly released the 2014 album Careers, which was my #26 album of the year. Since then, Frankie Rose has left the band, and Citron has enlisted Scott Rosenthal (bass/guitar), who is better known as a producer who has worked with Crystal Stilts among others. I think he also had something to do with the technical stuff on Careers. Citron and Rosenthal are often joined by Kip Berman out of The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, but he’s not an “official” member of the band.

Beverly is currently on tour supporting Berman and the Pains, who have a new record out in September. Speaking of September, Beverly will be performing at this year’s Hopscotch Music Festival in September. There’s a lot for me to look forward to this year, and of the “small print” bands, this is one of the first things that caught my eye the first time I looked at the lineup.

The band’s second record —The Blue Swell— came out last spring, and if I had bothered to make a list last year, it would have been at least in my top 20. It may not have done so well with the press, but I love it. This is one of my favourite songs from the album:

“Lake House” by Beverly

You can buy The Blue Swell via Bandcamp here, or you can buy directly from Kanine Records here.

You can check out the tentative Hopscotch lineup here, and ticket information here.

June 11, 2017 — “New Colors” by Panda Riot

Panda Riot

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “New Colors” by Panda Riot (2017, from the album Infinity Maps).

Panda Riot is a shoegaze/dream pop/noise rock quartet from Chicago. They formed in 2007 in Philadelphia and put out a record as a duo. Years later, they ended up in Chicago with a full lineup. I first learned about them when the band submitted their 2013 album Northern Automatic Music to my mailbag. I immediately fell in love with that album and I eventually named it my #13 album of that year.

I also, almost exactly a year ago, featured the song “Helios (June 20)” while they were working hard on the new album. That new album finally came out on Friday, and it met every high expectation that I had for it. I had the chance to listen to it in its entirety while driving out-of-town on Friday, and I knew that I recognized “Helios”. I thought I had just heard it as an album preview, and I planned and promised to feature it in this post. However, I just discovered that the reason I recognized it was that I had already written about it.

There are a lot of bits in this record and in tonight’s song that remind me of My Bloody Valentine. Specifically, I’m reminded of the latest MBV record m b v. There’s a lot of similar guitar effects and production qualities. There’s a parallel vibe, and the same beautiful noise. And, of course, it has to be said that Rebecca Scott sometimes sounds quite a bit like Bilinda Butcher. While this band definitely wears the MBV influence on their sleeve, they’re not a Valentines rip-off band. They’re definitely doing their own thing.

Here’s tonight’s song:
“New Colors” by Panda Riot

The first 35 seconds are quiet. Dreamy and pretty. When the shoe drops, it’s not an overwhelming tsunami of sound. Rather, it’s a really pleasant wave of noise. While I’ve been known to appreciate deafening “noise for the sake of noise”, this works better here. I like that there’s tons of noise, but you can still hear the difference between the guitar, the other guitar, and the bass. Too often with noise, it sort of all melts together into a big chunk. Like a bag of gummy bears left in the car on a hot summer day.

I also really like that the song ends with an even longer bit of quieter beauty.

You can download the album from Bandcamp
. Or Amazon, or whatever place you legally buy and download music. They’ve announced a small tour of seven shows in six cities. It’s like they took the NHL Original Six and replaced Toronto and Montréal with Philadelphia and Milwaukee. No shows down here have been announced yet. I’m still holding out hope.

June 6, 2017 — “In Undertow” by Alvvays


If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “In Undertow” by Alvvays (2017, from the forthcoming album Antisocialites).

Alvvays is a jangle/noise pop band from Toronto. You probably recall that I was obsessed with their 2014 eponymous debut album. So much that I named it my #5 album of the year.

The band formed in 2011 as five members who had been friends for life. Molly Rankin (vocals/guitar) and Kerri MacLellan (keys) were best friends and next door neighbours on Cape Breton Island while Alec O’Hanley (guitar), Brian Murphy (bass) and Phillip MacIsaac (drums) grew up on Prince Edward Island and were friends since diapers. The boys were also in a band called The Danks, but I don’t know anything about that band. The press photos that I’ve seen for the new album show everyone except MacIsaac, but I’m not reading anything into that.

Everything that I’ve read about the new record suggests that it’s going to be as good or better than the first. It’s been described as an album “replete with songs about drinking, drugging, and drowning”. It’s also described as “a multipolar period piece fueled by isolation and loss”. The album has a song about getting kicked out of the Louvre and wandering around Paris with vomit on boots. There’s a song called “Lollipop (Ode to Jim)”, which was inspired by Jim Reid out of The Jesus and Mary Chain. There’s a song that’s described as reminiscent of Cocteau Twins. In other words, this is a record that I’m going to love as much or more than Alvvays.

The new album comes out September 8 via Polyvinyl Records in the US and Royal Mountain Records in Canada. So far, the only song I’ve heard is the album-opening “In Undertow”. This is that song:

“In Undertow” by Alvvays

I love the ringing buzz of what I’m told is a Farfisa. I’m not clever enough to pick one keyboard synth from another without help, but that’s what I’ve read. It’s got the formula that we all loved about “Archie, Marry Me”: fantastic pop sensibilities mixed with a healthy amount of fuzz and feedback. Unlike the first record, though, this one has Rankin’s voice much clearer and front-of-mix.

The band will play Lollapalooza in August before heading over for a UK/EU tour in the late summer. For now, you can pre-order the album via Bandcamp here. There are also loads of bundles you can order via Polyvinyl here.

May 28, 2017 — “Mesa” by Cayetana


If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Mesa” by Cayetana (2017, from the album New Kind of Normal).

Cayetana is an indie rock/pop-punk trio from Philadelphia. I don’t know anything about them, but I got something in the mailbag promoting their new sophomore album, and specifically a different song from the album. My attention was grabbed when the email mentioned that these gals will soon be on tour in support of the wonderful Waxahatchee. After listening to that other song and a few others, it makes perfect sense for this band to share a stage with Katie Crutchfield. They have a very comparable sound and some similar themes. Today’s song is about heartache and disappointment, but the rest of the album has bigger themes. According to what I’ve read, the album is about mental illness, learning to live with that, and learning to accept certain things that you can’t change instead of trying to fight against them.

The band is very into DIY, so instead of shopping their album around to labels, they started their own record label –Plum Records– to release this album. It looks like they’re the only band on the label right now, but there may be more to come later.

I haven’t heard the album in its entirety, but I really like a few of the songs. Especially this one:
“Mesa” by Cayetana

As much as I’m reminded of Waxahatchee, I’m also reminded a bit of the Vancouver duo Drawn Ship, who put out two records before vanishing from the face of the earth in 2013.

I like that this is gritty and has some attitude. It’s also simultaneously happy and grim:

Together we made flowers out of weeds
We jumped in garbage instead of leaves

There’s a nice, artistic video for the song here:

The way the girls enter the room through that tiny door sort of reminds me of the Sleater-Kinney video for “Modern Girl”, in which Janet enters the playing space through an open window, while Corin And Carrie are already playing.

Cayetana’s new record was out on May 5, and you can get it here.

May 21, 2017 — “This Time” by Land of Talk

Elizabeth Powell (Land of Talk)

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “This Time” by Land of Talk (2017, from the album Life After Youth).
Land of Talk is an indie rock band from Toronto. The only real member of the band is Elizabeth Powell, who started the band in 2006. Other members have come and gone, but this band is all about Liz Powell. Her 2008 debut Some Are Lakes was produced by Bon Iver frontman Justin Vernon, and it was longlisted for the 2009 Polaris Music Prize. After that record, she developed some polyps on her vocal chords, and she considered hanging up her skates. After meeting with and receiving advice from Jace Lasek out of Besnard Lakes, she changed her style a little and released her 2010 sophomore album Cloak and Cipher, which was produced by Lasek. That album was longlisted for the 2011 Polaris Music Prize. Powell was very near the top of the mountain, and she was going on some pretty impressive tours, although they were mostly as the support act for much bigger Canadian indie bands.

I loved the first two records so much, and for a while, I simply wouldn’t shut up about Land of Talk.

After Cloak and Cipher, Powell again considered hanging up her skates, but she pressed on and wrote some new stuff. Unfortunately, she lost everything in a laptop crash. Then she decided to take a bit of a break. Then her father fell ill, and she spent a lot of time helping him recover. Then she sort of lost her passion for making music.

Several years after the release of the sophomore album, Powell came out of hibernation to play some shows last year. Then she surprised fans with a third record —Life After Youth— which came out on Friday via Saddle Creek Records.

Like the previous record, this one was recorded and produced by Jace Lasek, who also plays some guitar on the record. On tonight’s song, Lasek’s wife and Besnard Lakes bandmate Olga Goreas plays bass. In addition, there’s some backing vocals by Sharon Van Etten. On a different song, Steve Shelley out of Sonic Youth plays drums.

I haven’t listened to the album in its entirety yet, but I really love this song, and I know I’m going to love the rest of the record.

“This Time” by Land of Talk

On the first record, Powell had some rasp to her voice, which was brought on by some improper singing techniques and compounded by smoking cigarettes. Since then, she stopped smoking and learned to sing properly without straining her vocal chords. The result is a much cleaner, prettier tone without giving up too much of her signature style. In case you’re scoring along at home, this is the same thing that Bob Mould went through years ago. After years of smoking and years of scream-singing as the frontman of Hüsker Dü and doing the same in Sugar, he had to change those things before pushing on with the second round of his solo career. And he’s still doing it well into his 50s. While I could go on for pages about Bob Mould, I won’t.

On this song, I really love the bright shimmering tones in Lasek’s second guitar. Sharon Van Etten’s vocals in the chorus are fantastic. There’s also something about Powell’s lead guitar that reminds me quite a bit of early Throwing Muses. In short: there’s a lot for me to like about this song, and I know I’ll also love the rest of the album.

In June, Land of Talk will go on a limited engagement tour of North America.

You can buy Life After Youth via Bandcamp here.

May 3, 2017 — “Open the Door” by DIV I DED


If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Open the Door” by DIV I DED (2017, from the album Transformation).

DIV I DED is an indie pop/dream pop/shoegaze quartet from Frýdek Místek, Czech Republic. They formed in 2013 and released their debut album Born to Sleep in the autumn of 2014. They followed with their sophomore record Transformation, which came out last month. That’s pretty much all I know about them. I learned about them this morning when I was researching other things and trying to get inspired to start writing more regularly. I heard a bit of a different song, then found this song, which I like even more.

Incidentally, there’s something that I always do when I hear about a band from a small town I’ve never heard of in either Czech, Sweden, or Finland. Just for the sake of learning some trivia, I checked to see if any well-known hockey players are from Frýdek Místek. The only one I could find is Tampa Bay Lightning winger Ondřej Palát, who was selected by the Bolts in the seventh round of the 2011 NHL draft. It’s rare for a player selected in the last round to make it to the NHL at all, and he’s done more than that. He has been an every day player who consistently scores close to 20 goals per season. He also serves as Tampa’s alternate captain, which is another thing you never see from a player who was taken that late. Enough about hockey, though.

I’ve listened to most, but not all of the new record, and there are some bits that remind me of 1960s girl groups. There are some bits that remind me of early 2000s lo-fi pop. There are other bits that remind me of mid 1990s dream pop/shoegaze stuff. Other stuff, too. I guess there’s not really one tidy cubby hole to put them in.

Anyway, I really like this song and everything else I’ve heard:
“Open the Door” by DIV I DED

There’s a lot of vocal effects, which may be disguising something, but I like the end result. I’m always a sucker for the soft, gentle voice layered on itself and treated with bits of delay.

Another thing that I really like about this song is sort of a subtle thing. At the end of the first chorus, there’s an almost unnoticeable bit of clean, jangly acoustic guitar. It’s also there at the end of the second chorus, but it’s buried under a bit of heavy, gazey fuzz which carries us through the middle eight section. Still, under all of that fuzz, you can just hear that jangly guitar bit. But if you’re not paying attention and specifically listening for it, it’s easy to miss.

You can download a copy of Transformation via Bandcamp here. By today’s exchange rate, 100 CZK is equal to about $4.08 USD.

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