Tag Archives: audio

April 18, 2017 — “Rote Learning” by Agent Blå

Agent Blå

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Rote Learning” by Agent Blå (2017, from the forthcoming album Agent Blå).
Agent Blå is an indie pop/post-punk/”death pop” quintet from Gothenburg, Sweden. Blå translates to “blue”, and the band’s name might or might not be a reference to the chemical agent used by the US military in the Vietnam War. Agent Blue was used specifically to kill rice paddies by drying out the plants and leaving the fields unsuitable for replanting. But that’s not why we’re here tonight.

The members of the young band are all between the ages of 17 and 20. They met when Felix Skorvald (guitars), Lucas Gustavsson (guitars) and Emilie Alatalo (vocals) were in one band while Josefine Tack (bass/vocals) and Arvid Christensen (drums) were in another band competing against each other at open mic night. Eventually, they bonded over a mutual love of Joy Division and Slowdive, and they combined forces. They released a 7″ single in 2015, and they’re about to release their debut long player on June 9 via Kanine Records (US/Canada) and Luxury Records (Sweden/EU).

I just learned about the band while I was nosing around the Kanine Records website doing research on something else, and I was quite pleased with the serendipitous discovery. As it turns out, although they were under my radar, they’ve been getting high praise over here in advance of the debut album. In the band’s short iteration, they were already generating a bunch of buzz in Sweden since day one of their existence. Along the way, they got the backing of Gustav Data out of Makthaverskan, who produced the debut record.

I’ve only heard two songs from the record, and I like them both. There’s a lot that’s reminiscent of some of the terrific indie-gaze bands from the east coast of the US in the 1990s, and also some of the newer bands who have been reviving and cultivating that sound. On tonight’s song I’m specifically reminded of a less bouncy Gilded Stars and Zealous Hearts-era Velocity Girl, and also of the more contemporary Alvvays.

This is that song:
“Rote Learning” by Agent Blå

I kind of like the muffled sound, despite the fact that it cloaks Alatalo’s voice. I also really appreciate the phaser/flanger/whatever effect on the guitars layered on top of the other effects. That muffled sound is part of why I’m reminded of the great Velocity Girl. Also, Emilie Alatalo does sound a bit like Sarah Shannon. While I can’t quite make out the lyrics, I like the repeated chorus “Tell me what the fuck we’re doing…”, which is sure to be the bit that audiences sing along with.

I’ll be looking forward to the full album and I can’t wait to see what else the band has in store.

You can pre-order Agent Blå via Bandcamp here. Please note that the US LP will be titled Agent Blue, and that the Swedish/EU LP is limited to 250 copies.


March 16, 2017 — “Welcoming The Flowers” by Spectres

Spectres

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Welcoming The Flowers” by Spectres (2017, from the album Condition).

Spectres is a shoegaze/noise pop quartet from Bristol. It’s often said that Spectres sounds very much like a mix of Psychocandy-era JAMC and the early 90s-era Sonic Youth, with a little A Place to Bury Strangers mixed in. They should not be confused with the Vancouver post-punk five piece of the same name.

Their 2015 debut long player Dying was a massive success for them. The album was very eagerly anticipated by the UK noise/gaze community, and multiple pressings of that record in both vinyl and CD format sold out as fast as they came off the production line. The new album, which came out on March 10 via Sonic Cathedral, was also eagerly anticipated by fans. So far, the press has given the album warm reviews, but these guys care more about what the fans think than what the press thinks.

I haven’t given the entire album a thorough listen, but what I have heard is exactly what I was expecting. Unrelenting noise with occasional bursts of discernible melodies. It’s heavy, sweaty, smokey, and dark. It’s meant to be played very loudly.

There are bits on this new album that swing very close to the Sonic Youth side of their equation, but today’s song is closer to APTBS. This is that song:
“Welcoming The Flowers” by Spectres

Right out of the gate, it’s unapologetic about how loud it is. It’s jarring, and the intro sounds almost like some Japanese black metal band. It shifts gears a little at around 0:12, and there’s a lot more feedback and squelch and other “noise” added. Then when the vocals come in, there’s another tiny gear shift. It maintains its insane noise level by using a lot more drone-y fuzz.

I really like this, but because of the noise factor, it’s one of those things that’s not conducive to consecutive plays and replays. You’ll definitely need a break after listening to this album. That said, you should get the album, and you can do so by visiting these Sonic Cathedral links:
Condition on vinyl
on CD
digital download


March 6, 2017 — “Colour/Blind” by Chain of Flowers

Chain of Flowers

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Colour/Blind” by Chain of Flowers (2015, from the album Chain of Flowers).

Chain of Flowers is a post-punk/shoegaze five-piece from Cardiff. They formed in 2012 and have released a handful of singles and EPs, and they also put out an eponymous album in 2015. They spent three years working on the record, then they spent 96 hours in the studio recording it. They had already made huge waves throughout Wales, so that album was highly anticipated. It was received well with glowing comparisons to the likes of Joy Division, Eagulls, Ceremony, The Cure, and even The Smiths. While I can’t be completely sure of this, my guess is that the band got its name from The Cure’s song “A Chain of Flowers”, which was a b-side on the 12″ UK pressing of “Catch” (1987).

It’s a loud and intense record. It’s very dense and it’s one of those records that imposes itself in your personal space. You don’t float around with it; it occupies you.

In 2016, the album was repressed and the band went on a massive headlining tour of the UK. Right now, they’re touring the USA, with upcoming stops at the Savannah Stopover Festival and SXSW.

I had never heard of the band until I got something in the mailbag today promoting a bunch of Welsh bands who will be at SXSW. Even before reading the description of Chain of Flowers, I saw a photo of the band and immediately thought that the dude in the shades looks an awful lot like Ian Curtis. Of course the description mentioned Joy Division, so I was already sold before I listened to a note.

I’ve listened to most of the album, and I like everything I’ve heard, but this one struck me more than the others.

“Colour/Blind” by Chain of Flowers

I’m certainly reminded of Ceremony and to a lesser extent The Cure. I’m also reminded a bit of A Place To Bury Strangers. And in a very strange way, the singer’s voice reminds me of Steve Kilbey out of The Church.

The band has announced that they’ll be releasing a new 7″ record later this month, and with all this touring, we might guess that there’s a new album on the way, but we don’t really know.

You can order the Chain of Flowers album on clear vinyl or as a digital download via Bandcamp here.


February 28, 2017 — “Teasin'” by Hiccup

Hiccup

Hiccup

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Teasin'” by Hiccup (2017, from the forthcoming album Imaginary Enemies).
Hiccup is a pop-punk/indie rock/garage rock trio from Brooklyn. They released a self-titled EP in 2015, and they’re set to release their debut album via Father/Daughter Records on March 24.

Hallie Bulleit (bass/vocals) and Alex Clute (guitar/vocals) met when they were hired as the house band on The Chris Gethard show, which started out on late night public access TV in NYC, then made it to cable, and is now part of the Funny or Die family. For that show, they wrote silly, poppy, punky 30-seconds songs that never saw the light of day. They decided that they wanted to record some real songs, and they recruited Piyal Basu (drums) to round out the band. The three are huge fans of The Ramones, and claim to be influenced by the likes of The Smoking Popes, Superchunk, and Jawbreaker.

It’s worth mentioning that Bulleit has been in a couple of other bands, but she’s also an actress, percussionist and aerialist with some real chops. On Broadway, she’s been in Stomp, Fuerza Bruta, and Rent. She also was in a Los Angeles production of Rent alongside Neil Patrick Harris.

I got something in the mailbag a couple of weeks ago that was specifically about a different Hiccup song, but I starred the email and put a sticky note on my laptop to write about them “soon”. I liked the video for that song (“Lady Macbeth & Miss Havisham”), and I’ve really been loving the output from Father/Daughter Records lately, so I knew it was a winner. Last night, when I was looking for other stuff, I happened upon the video for tonight’s song, and I liked it and the song so much that I felt some more urgency to write about them.

I haven’t heard the whole album yet, but I love the two songs that I have heard, and I’m looking forward to the March 24 release of their debut album.

Tonight’s song brings to my mind what might happen if Superchunk did a raucous set of Neutral Milk Hotel covers.

This is that song:
“Teasin'” by Hiccup

It’s just a fast and gritty power pop song. It’s all blood, sweat and beer. It’s got great hooks, and really love that middle eight section from 1:26 to 1:36 where it’s just the guitar, and it’s a bit calmer and all muffled. The chorus kicks back in and hell breaks loose again. At least for one more minute.

The video is a bit of fun. A little bit “performance”, but mainly it seems to be about the drudgery of office jobs. Here’s that video:

The album will be out on March 24. You can pre-order physical copies here. There are two different pressings of vinyl. One on “mustard yellow/aqua blue”, and one on translucent “piss yellow”. There’s also a CD version and a digital download version.


February 26, 2017 — “Self-Unemployed” by The Luyas

The Luyas

The Luyas

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Self-Unemployed” by The Luyas (2017, from the album Human Voicing).

The Luyas is an experimental indie rock/krautrock quartet from Toronto. They formed in 2006, and released their debut record Faker Death the next year. They followed with Too Beautiful to Work in 2011 and Animator in 2012. It’s always pointed out, and I’ll do it again, that Luyas frontwoman Jessie Stein, with her small, soft, mildly squeaky voice, sounds VERY MUCH like the late Trish Keenan out of Broadcast. Their music is also reminiscent of stuff like Broadcast and Stereolab.

Way back before I started writing this blog, I called Too Beautiful to Work my third favourite Canadian album of 2011. The next year, over on this blog, I called Animator my fourth favourite album of 2012.

The band took a hiatus after touring with Animator, and to be honest, I didn’t think about them very often during that hiatus. Last year, they finally emerged from their hibernation with an EP called Says You, but it slipped totally under my radar. This year, I was very excited when I learned that they had a new record, which just came out on February 24. I got my ears on a copy of Human Voicing, and it’s everything that I hoped it would be. The first time I listened to the new album, I listened through crappy car stereo speakers, and I really loved it. I was really blown away by tonight’s song, which I had to play again and again and again before moving on to the album’s third song. Now that I’ve had time, I’ve also listened to it on headphones, and of course I like it a lot better that way.

It’s a gloriously noisy piece with a nice motorik beat and some interesting stuff going on in the stereo field. It’s definitely worth your while to listen to this on a quality set of headphones or earbuds. I’ve said that about every record by The Luyas, and I’m not ashamed that I’ve said it again.

I love all eight songs on the new record, but this is the one that got me the most excited. This is that song.

“Self-Unemployed” by The Luyas

It sounds a little bit like it’s been taken out of context; the way the song starts so abruptly sounds like it might be a cross-fade from the previous song. However, that’s just the way the song is. It’s meant to have that jolt. It gets a bit noisy and chaotic, and then at about 0:34, there’s another sudden jolt into the main part of the song. I absolutely love the buzzy synth and the motorik drum bit that pairs with Stein’s nifty bass part. There’s some other percussion mixed in and a lot of other stuff mixed in that almost turns into a wall of sound. It may be a tiny bit chaotic, but I adore the beautiful noise.

Just when you think it might go on for a bit longer, it comes to full stop after a chorus. Again, it’s a bit jarring, but I love it. A lot.

Just as the previous two records did, I imagine this one will finish in at least the top 10 of my year-end list. I know I never published one from 2016, but I’m definitely going to in 2017.

There’s an official video, but I really prefer this live performance video, which is considerably less noisy:

You can order the album via Bandcamp here. They have several different format options, including digital, CD, and a limited edition hot pink vinyl.


February 23, 2017 — “5 Flucloxacillin” by Los Campesinos!

Los Campesinos!

Los Campesinos!

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “5 Flucloxacillin” by Los Campesinos! (2017, from the album Sick Scenes).

Los Campesinos! is a twee pop/indie pop septet from Cardiff. Although they’re based in Wales, none of them is actually Welsh. They also don’t use their surnames in the band. For the purposes of the band they are simply:

  • Gareth Campesinos — lead vocals/glockenspiel
  • Neil Campesinos — guitar
  • Tom Campesinos — lead guitar
  • Kim Campesinos — vocals/keys
  • Rob Campesinos — keys
  • Jason Campesinos — drums
  • Matt Campesinos — bass
  • They formed in 2006 and have released five proper albums and a bunch of other releases. The lineup has changed a bit over the years, but it’s been pretty much the same since founding member Ellen Waddell (bass) tearfully left the band in 2012. The next year, they released a very good album called No Blues, and after a bit of a break, they’re set to release their sixth album Sick Scenes tomorrow via Wichita Recordings.

    For a few weeks now, the band has been releasing songs from the album, and I like them all. It’s all everything that we expect from and love about Los Campesinos!: glorious indie pop with big hooks and lyrics full of clever wordplay.

    Today’s song is about prescription medication, and sometimes the taking of unidentified pills found in the bottom of one’s bag. The title refers to flucloxacillin, which is a type of penicillin. In the lyrics of the song, they name some other medication — salbutamol (for asthma and COPD), sertraline (for depression, OCD, and social anxiety), and tramadol (for severe pain).

    In a nutshell, the song is about how people in their thirties are often heavily medicated and have been for a good part of their lives. And it’s about older people not understanding that.

    There’s also, in the chorus, references to competitive cycling.

    A peloton of (old age pensioners) cycling up behind me
    shouting “step up your paces, we’ve got places to be”
    A pile-on of OAPs crashing in my slipstream
    I shout “shut up your faces, I’m not your domestique”

    I had to look up “domestique”, and it didn’t mean what I thought it might. The domestique is that guy who rides in front of his teammates, setting a pace and creating a slipstream for them to ride in. Eventually, the team, or the team leader, slingshots around the domestique. He works harder than his teammates do, and they get the glory.

    It’s not often that heavy prescription medication and competitive cycling techniques are referenced in the same song. But that’s Los Campesinos! for you.

    This is that song:
    “5 Flucloxacillin” by Los Campesinos!

    The intro sounds a bit like it should be in a beer commercial, but it kicks in at around 0:15 and has the unmistakable sound of Los Campesinos!. To be fair, though, they did have one of their songs in a Budweiser commercial a few years ago.

    Anyway, the structure of the song, Gareth’s voice, the call-and response, the vocal harmonies, the clever and bizarre lyrics. All things that make up the Los Campesinos! signature. You’re not going to mistake one of their songs for a different band.

    There’s also a great video for the song, in which the band members participate in a British game show called “Bargain Hunt”. On that show, teams of contestants buy antiques at shops, then try to sell them at auction for a profit. It’s been on the air for something like 15 years.

    This is that video:

    Worth noting in the video is that Gareth finds a painting of some dude that looks just like him. It’s actually something they worked up for the video. It’s based on “Man Suffering from Delusions of Military Rank”, which was painted in 1822 by the French artist Théodore Géricault. See that painting here. This, by the way, is not a thing that I know. I did some research, including using a cropped screenshot from the video to do a reverse image search of the painting.

    It’s also worth noting that the red team finds a copy of the first Los Campesinos record in a bargain bin. Probably also planted for the purpose of the video.

    Los Campesinos! are touring the US now, and the new record comes out tomorrow. You can buy the album via Bandcamp here.


    February 17, 2017 — “The Embers” by Vagabon

    Lætitia Tamko of Vagabon

    Lætitia Tamko of Vagabon

    If you only listen to one song today, make it “The Embers” by Vagabon (2017, from the forthcoming album Infinite Worlds).

    Vagabon is a lo-fi indie rock/punk/folk recording project for the NYC-based singer/multi-instrumentalist Lætitia Tamko. She was born in Cameroon, and her family moved to New York when she was thirteen. At age 17, she taught herself to play on a guitar that her parents bought at Costco. Years later, when she was off at college, she would tell her parents that she spent every weekend holed up in the library, when in reality, she was out every weekend night playing shows in small clubs. Eventually, at one of those shows, she was approached by the founder of Miscreant Records, who wanted to release a record for her.
    That record was the Persian Garden EP, which was released in November of 2014 and has been out of print for a long time. Some of the songs from that release, including today’s song, have been reworked and renamed for the forthcoming debut long player Infinite Worlds. That record will be released next Friday, February 24 by Father/Daughter Records.

    While Tamko does a lot of the heavy lifting on the album, she has a full backing band and there are a few guest vocalists on the album including Greta Kline, who is also known as Frankie Cosmos.

    “Cold Apartment”, from the forthcoming album reminds me a lot of Torres. It’s just a reworked version of a song called “Cold Apartment Floors” from Persian Garden. Similarly, today’s song is a reworked version of a song called “Sharks” from Persian Garden.

    “The Embers” by Vagabon

    I love the rawness of it. Although it wasn’t recorded in a bedroom, it has that feel to it. It starts with just her voice and a muted guitar, but by the end of the big chorus, it’s a cacophonous lo-fi buzz.

    It’s impossible to write about Vagabon without mentioning two things. One is the opening lyric in today’s song:

    I feel so small
    My feet can barely touch the floor
    On the bus where everybody is tall

    The whole theme of the song is feeling small. Not just in stature but “small” in the grand scheme. Insignificant. I think it’s a running theme throughout many of the songs.

    Run and tell everybody Lætitia is a small fish
    I’m just a small fish
    You’re a shark that hates everything
    You’re a shark that eats every fish

    The other thing that’s impossible not to write about is that she’s not just a black woman, but an African black woman in the world of indie rock and freak-folk, which is a world inhabited almost exclusively by white people. Although being a Cameroonian partially defines who she is as a person, she doesn’t necessarily want her skin colour or the continent where she was born to be part of how she’s described as a musician. She told the Village Voice about this:

    I struggle with wanting to just make music and do my thing and not have a face, but I also want to be visible

    .

    That EP back in 2014 got lots of good reviews and the forthcoming full length record has been eagerly anticipated. If I’m honest, though, I didn’t know about Vagabon until I got something in the mailbag early this morning. You can stream the whole album via NPR First Listen here. I’ve listened to most of it, and I really like it. I’ve listened to today’s song a bunch of times already, and I can’t get enough.

    The album comes out next Friday, and you can pre-order it via Father/Daughter in your choice of formats here.

    Also, for extra credit, here’s a video for the song:


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