Tag Archives: audio

May 28, 2017 — “Mesa” by Cayetana

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

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.


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.


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