Tag Archives: Eskimeaux

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.


May 26, 2016 — “Tsunami” by Told Slant

Felix Walworth (Told Slant)

Felix Walworth (Told Slant)

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Tsunami” by Told Slant (2016, from the forthcoming album Going By).

Told Slant is an indie rock/indie folk/indie punk recording project based in Brooklyn. The band is really not much more than a “solo” project of Eskimeaux drummer Felix Walworth, who is also a founding member of the Epoch Music collective. Walworth prefers the gender neutral pronouns “They” and “them”. They do all of the recording themselves, but when they perform live, Walworth is joined by fellow Epoch members Gabrielle Smith out of Eskimeaux and Emily Sprague out of Florist. Walworth also plays drums in both of those bands and also in another band called Bellows.

As a bit of trivia that will NEVER come up at your local trivia night, Walworth’s father Danny was in a band with Thurston Moore before Moore formed Sonic Youth.

Walworth has a familiar style of singing that might remind the listener of some pretty varied singers. I can hear bits of Matt Pond, bits of Eric Bachmann (not for his work in Archers of Loaf, but for his work in Crooked Fingers). Some reviewers say that the entire Told Slant package reminds them of Bon Iver, or maybe to Bonnie “Prince” Billie.

Told Slant released one album called Still Water in August of 2012, and the sophomore album Going By will be out on June 16 via Double Double Whammy Records. I’ve been getting stuff in the mailbag, and it’s finally time to share what I’ve been hearing.

Here’s the video for tonight’s song:
“Tsunami” by Told Slant

I like the imperfections in the vocals. Of course I love the coed vocal parts in the chorus. I love the banjo. I love that it’s impossible to put this song into a convenient cubby-hole. It’s a little bit of several different genres, and it all mixes together well. This song reminds me a bit of Group of the Altos, who were one of my favorites of Hopscotch 2012.

The album will be out on June 16, and you can pre-order it via DDW here.

Told Slant just started a US tour, which will go through the middle of July. Details are here.


Our favorite albums of 2015 (part 8)

All week long, I’ve been counting down my favorite albums of 2015. I started with a list of 25 honorable mentions, and then got into the countdown. I encourage you to revisit my last seven posts for details on the countdown, which has gone like this:

50)Lower Dens — Escape From Evil
49)Girl Band — Holding Hands With Jamie
48)Creepoid — Cemetery Highrise Slum
47)Thayer Sarrano — Shaky
46)Rachel Grimes — The Clearing
45)Stolen Jars — Kept
44)Hey Anna — Run Koko
43)Speedy Ortiz — Foil Deer
42)Marriages — Salome
41)Haiku Salut — Etch and Etch Deep
40)The Harrow — Silhouettes
39)Casket Girls — The Piano Album
38)Spectres — Dying
37)Eternal Summers — Gold and Stone
36)Esmerine — Lost Voices
35)Diverting Duo — Desire
34)Viet Cong — Viet Cong
33)astrobrite — Deluxer
32)Noveller — Fantastic Planet
31)Godspeed You! Black Emperor — Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress
30)Long Beard — Sleepwalker
29)Hamsas XIII — Encompass
28)Westkust — Last Forever
27)Hop Along — Painted Shut
26)Lanterns On The Lake — Beings
25)Violent Mae — Kid
24)The Black Ryder — The Door Behind The Door
23)Moon King — Secret Life
22)The Soft Moon — Deeper
21)Trementina — Almost Reach the Sun
20)Beach House — Thank Your Lucky Stars
19)No Joy — More Faithful
18)Torres — Sprinter
17)Mount Eerie — Sauna
16)Shana Falana — Set Your Lightning Fire Free

Today, we’re counting down from 15 to 11. As always, you can click on the album art to go to where you can buy the album.

Eskimeaux — O.K.

15)Eskimeaux — O.K.
This is the latest in a long list of releases by the Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter Gabrielle Smith, also known as Eskimeaux. She started using the moniker in 2007 and has released a slew of home-recorded EPs and albums. It’s difficult to put Eskimeaux into a tidy category, especially because each release has a slightly different flavor, but it’s pretty safe to say that it’s mostly indie-folk. There are elements of punk, twee, electronic, dream pop, and other things. However you want to classify it, it’s good stuff, and I’ve played the hell out of it. While the earlier stuff screams DIY, this has much better sound and much better craftsmanship behind it.

Ringo Deathstarr — Pure Mood

14)Ringo Deathstarr — Pure Mood
This is the third album by the shoegaze/noise rock trio from Austin, Texas. Elliott Frazier (guitar/vocals) started the band as a solo project in 2005, and they became a trio when Alex Gehring (bass/vocals) and Dan Coborn (drums) joined in 2008. They quickly became a very big name, and one of the darlings of the genre. Although it’s clear where they got some of their influence, people don’t say “they’re America’s answer to MBV”. They’ve etched their own name very firmly, and they’re the ones who new bands get compared to. They tour a lot, and it seems like they’ve been around longer than they have. If their 2013 EP God’s Dream had been classified as an album, it would have been in the top five of my list that year. This album got tons and tons of play around here, and I almost put it in the top five. The song in this video is really Lush-like, but it’s still got their distinct Ringo sound.

Pinkshinyultrablast — Everything Else Matters

13)Pinkshinyultrablast — Everything Else Matters

This is the long-awaited debut album by the shoegaze/dream pop band from St. Petersburg, Russia. They’ve been around for a few years, and they’ve put out a couple of excellent EPs, but this is their first album. There’s another on the way, scheduled for release in early 2016. They’re certainly influenced by MBV and Ride and stuff of that ilk, but more than anything else, they were inspired by astrobrite. This band is named after the 2005 album by astrobrite, and they say they’ve modeled their sound after the way that album sounds. Particularly the spaces. Make sure you catch astrobrite’s new album, which came in at 33 in my countdown this year. And look for the forthcoming pinkshinyultrablast album to be near the top of my 2016 list. This isn’t the highest ranking debut on my list, but a very good first outing.

SOAK — Before We Forgot How To Dream

12)SOAK — Before We Forgot How To Dream
This is the astonishing debut by 19-year old indie-folk singer/songwriter Bridie Monds-Watson, who comes from Derry, Northern Ireland. She quit school at the age of 16 to pursue a career as a musician, and so far it’s worked out really well. A lot of people compare her to Laura Marling, and that’s totally fine. However, the thing that really sticks with me is the similarity between her voice and that of Victoria Bergman out of The Concretes. I started hearing about SOAK a couple of months before the album came out, and when it finally did, I immediately locked it in to my top 20. If she’s this good at age 19, I can’t wait to see what she does when she’s in her mid-20s. Watch the video below, but also watch her KEXP performance, because it’s freaking brilliant

Thrushes — Exposing Seas

11)Thrushes — Exposing Seas
This is the third album by the Baltimore shoegaze/noise pop quartet. After their 2010 sophomore album Night Falls, they took a hiatus that I thought might be permanent. To my delight, they started to hint at the new album sometime late last year, and as we got into June and July of this year, we heard some of the teasers and previews. The album finally came out on September 18 via New Grenada Records, and I was quite pleased with it. It might not be as upfront with the noise, but I think it’s a much more well-polished record with better peaks and valleys. It’s still got plenty of noise, but somehow I like it better with the juxtaposition of noise with the quiet bits. Yes, they’ve adopted the quiet/loud/quiet thing, and it works beautifully for them. I’m very glad that they’re back.

I’ll be traveling all day tomorrow, and I’ll return on Tuesday with the penultimate chunk of albums.


Eskimeaux reissues debut record

Gabby Smith (Eskimeaux)

One of my favorite new releases this year has been O.K. by NYC bedroom recording artist Eskimeaux. The band is currently a quartet, but it’s mostly the work of Gabrielle “Gabby” Smith. You may recall that I wrote about the song “I Admit I’m Scared” back in May, just before the release of O.K..

As I pointed out in that post, OK is the latest in a pretty long list of Eskimeaux releases, and she records with a slightly different style on every release. There’s no mistaking the DIY bedroom recording quality of the early records, and it’s safe to lump most of the releases in under the broad umbrella of “indie folk”, but there’s something different with each release.

Smith started using the name Eskimeaux in 2007, and recorded some experimental stuff for a few years. In 2011, she released her proper debut, called Two Mountains, which had some elements of electronics and remnants of her experimental stuff. It also had some elements of that dreamy indie-folk. Something between an extremely low-budget Bjõrk and Grouper. That album was originally released digitally, and the only physical copies were a very limited run of CD. Last week, Yellow K Records reissued the album, meaning that it’s available on vinyl (and cassette) for the first time.

I committed to covering the re-issue, but it sort of slipped my mind until I was writing about Frankie Cosmos yesterday. Gabby Smith is also in that band, which is fronted by the daughter of Phoebe Cates and Kevin Kline.

Here, you can enjoy one of the songs from the album.
“For Power Animal” by Eskimeaux

I really like the tuned percussion. I also really like the loops and layers. This particular song also uses Julianna Barwick-like vocal riffs rather than proper vocals, and I kinda like that. And whatever that is that’s been manipulated and looped to sound like boots marching? I love it. That might be a record in the runoff groove, it might be something else.

This particular song doesn’t have it, but other songs feature a theremin. Or maybe a tannerin. I’m always a fan of that. Overall, it’s a very different record to the new one. It’s also very good.

The Yellow K reissue is not a remaster or a “deluxe” reissue. It’s merely a re-release. It was pressed on regular black vinyl and also on clear vinyl. The clear one sold out very quickly. The black vinyl is available, but it looks like it won’t ship out until the middle of November. I assume that the CD and cassette formats will also become available on November 13. For now, you can buy an instant download or pre-order the standard vinyl via bandcamp here.


10.29.2015 — “Sand” by Frankie Cosmos

Frankie Cosmos

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Sand” by Frankie Cosmos (2015, from the forthcoming EP Fit Me In).

Frankie Cosmos is the stage name for NYC-based lo-fi indie-folk/indie rock singer-songwriter Greta Simone Kline. She’s the daughter of actor Kevin Kline and former actress Phoebe Cates. Kevin Kline is an Academy Award winner, and Phoebe Cates is famous for her topless scene in Fast Times At Ridgemont High.

The 21-year old singer/songwriter began writing and recording songs in 2009 under the name Ingrid Superstar. In 2011, she started recording as a duo under the name Frankie Cosmos. These days, she has a four-piece band that features Gabrielle Smith, who is better known as the frontwoman for Eskimeaux.

In total, counting the different band names, Kline has released something like 40 records. Most of them are singles that were made on the fly. A few EPs and a few full-length albums. To be fair, though, her 2014 album Zentropy was the first that was done in a studio, and most people refer to it as her debut. She’ll have another proper album coming out in 2016, and a four-song EP coming out on November 13 via Bayonet Records. She’s also part of the Double Double Whammy family.

Today’s song is the fourth song from the forthcoming EP. All of her songs are short. Most are sub-2:00. This is only 48 seconds in length, but it’s pretty marvelous.

“Sand” by Frankie Cosmos

This reminds me a bit of Julie Doiron. Some of her older stuff, particularly the stuff from Zentropy, is much more like Julie Doiron. The organ part is a tiny bit Cure-esque.

I’ve listened to this short song a bunch of times in a row, and I’ll be looking forward to the EP in two weeks, and the album in early 2016.


05.07.2015 — “I Admit I’m Scared” by Eskimeaux

Gabrielle Smith (Eskimeaux)

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “I Admit I’m Scared” by Eskimeaux (2015, from the forthcoming album O.K.).

Eskimeaux is a Brooklyn-based recording project started by New Jerseyite Gabrielle Smith in 2007. She’s recorded a couple of albums and EPs, and will have a new one coming out on May 12 via Double Double Whammy. When she performs live, she’s joined by some guys who are all in the collective of artists and musicians called The Epoch.

I had never heard of Eskimeaux until I got a few emails starting about three weeks ago. All of her stuff has been bedroom recording project stuff, but apparently, the style has been a bit different each time. This time, it’s a bit folk, a bit lo-fi cuddle-punk, a bit noise, a bit electronic, a bit twee. It’s Olympia and DC in the early 1990s and Glasgow in the mid 20-aughts.

“I Admit I’m Scared” by Eskimeaux

I love how the first 1:22 is just the gently strummed guitar and Gabrielle’s dulcet voice. It gets real quiet for a second before the guitar, bass, drums, and keys all come in together. And right there at that change, there’s a lot that reminds me of “Teenager” by Camera Obscura. It’s something about the way the vocals are way out front in the mix and treated with just a little bit of reverb or delay or whatever. There’s something, too, about the way the drums are treated. I’ve listened to that song “Teenager” about a quarter of a trillion times, and I never get tired of it (although I’ve grown to hate everything post-Let’s Get Out of This Country). There’s something about the song that also reminds me in a less specific way of things like Lois and Tiger Trap stuff of that post-riot grrrl ilk. If you knew me in the mid-to-late 1990s, you know how much of a thing I had for Lois Maffeo, so I’m not throwing this comparison around lightly. Gabrielle Smith doesn’t sing like Lois Maffeo, but there’s something to the fact that these are songs about being desperately in love. Here’s a line from “Broken Necks”, which is another song from the forthcoming album:

While you were breaking your neck just to keep your head up
I was breaking my neck just to stick it out for you

It’s stuff like that, and this line about the mad love coupled with some uncertainty, from tonight’s song:

If I had a dime for every time I freaked out
We could fly around the world, or just get out of your parents’ house

The album will come out on May 12 via Double Double Whammy. You can pre-order from bandcamp here, and you’ll get instant downloads of “I Admit I’m Scared” and “Broken Necks”.


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