Tag Archives: mail bag

April 11, 2017 — “Blurred” by Voices from Deep Below

Voices from Deep Below

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Blurred” by Voices from Deep Below (2017, from the album I Want to Stand Where the Sun Himself Shakes with Fear).

Voices From Deep below is a shoegaze/dreampop/post-rock recording project of Dale Humphries. He’s a Londoner who relocated to NYC several years ago and has been recording as Voices from Deep Below since. I wrote about this project once before a couple of years ago here, and since He’s just released the fifth album, here we are again.

On the other records, Humphries did most, if not all, of the work. On this one, there’s a full band credited, but I think we still talk about Humphries and the band interchangeably.

Although I haven’t been writing much lately, I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth and I am trying to pay attention to the mailbag. This one came from the mailbag, which is bulging with unread messages and audio files. I’ll get to that some day.

From what I’ve heard, the previous stuff has some ambient edges and I was reminded just a bit of lovesliescrushing and things of that ilk. On this new one, there’s much more noise. Less pillows. More bricks. Also, the other records have songs of “standard” running times. Most are in the five-minute neighbourhood. The new record has just five songs, and they’re all “long”. Today’s song clocks in at 8:48, and it’s the shortest of the lot.

There’s plenty of the aforementioned “noise” and “bricks”, but there’s also some intermittent softness and serenity. It’s not completely devoid of pillows. Although I’m listening on headphones, I’m sure this is fantastic when played loudly through real speakers.

“Blurred” by Voices from Deep Below

I like the vocals, which are provided by Gioia Lea Gerber, and I like some of the Slowdive-esque guitar bits, but I really like the bits that get really loud. All the different layers upon layers of fuzz and heavily affected guitars at 7:01. That’s my favourite part.

As is the case with the other Voices from Deep Below releases, you can download I Want to Stand Where the Sun Himself Shakes with Fear completely free of charge via Bandcamp here.


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 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:


February 13, 2017 — “Listerine” by Luxury Death

Luxury Death

Luxury Death

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Listerine” by Luxury Death (2017, from the forthcoming EP Glue).

Luxury Death is a lo-fi indie pop band from Manchester. At the center of the band is Meg Williams (vocals/keys) and Ben Thompson (vocals/guitars). They date each other, play in this band together, and produce an art magazine which is also called Luxury Death. Thompson used to be in a slacker punk band called Nai Harvest, and the dissolution of that band gave rise to this one. They’ll be releasing their debut EP Glue via Punk Slime Recordings on February 24.

They definitely have some influences from the mid-late 90s. To me it sounds like there might be a lot of Merge Records influence. I hear part Butterglory, part Portastatic.

I got something in the mailbag today about the forthcoming EP and specifically about tonight’s song. The release listed plenty of links to high praise from the indie music press. Many of the clips said things like “nihilistic” and “recalls the era when post-punk was just starting to morph into new wave”. Those kinds of quotes pique my interest, but really it was the quote from Noisey when they reviewed a song six months ago that got me:

Radiator Face” is the sound of waking up with a crushing hangover and a comedown, but lying sweatily next to the one you snog

It’s a really colorful, but appropriate way to describe that song, but this isn’t about that song. This is about “Listerine” This is that song:

“Listerine” by Luxury Death

I love the lo-fi punk-pop sound, and I love the coed vocals. There’s something about the way the lyrics are treated that makes them nearly impossible to understand. From what I’ve read, though, the lyrics have some pretty clever wordplay. I’m always a fan of clever wordplay.

One of my favourite bits in the song is at the 2:27 mark when it goes from being a little buzzy but mostly quiet to being pretty loud and much busier. Just before that, there’s a tiny little hiccup where it goes dead quiet for just a fraction of a second. Normally, I really like that kind of thing. I’m not sure that I love it here, but I like the rest of the song so much that I’ll let it slide.

After I got the email about this song, I listened to all of the other songs, and I really like this EP. I can’t wait to see what else this band has in store.

You can pre-order the EP on pink vinyl via Punk Slime here, or you can pre-order a digital download via Bandcamp here.


February 9, 2017 — “Babes Never Die” by Honeyblood

Honeyblood

Honeyblood

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Babes Never Die” by Honeyblood (2016, from the album Babes Never Die).

Honeyblood is a pop-punk/pseudo-grunge duo from Glasgow. They formed in 2012 and released their self-titled debut in 2014. The original lineup was Shona McVicar (drums/vocals) and Stina Marie Claire Tweeddale (vocals/guitar). They intended to fill the band out with other members, but they found that people liked them as a duo. Shortly after their formation, McVicar left the band to pursue a degree in dentistry, and she was replaced by Cat Myers. They released their sophomore album last November, and it’s been getting good reviews.

People have said that their sound brings to mind stuff from the 90s like Juliana Hatfield and The Breeders. I sort of get that, but if they remind me of the 90s, it’s more like That Dog and the first Veruca Salt record. They’re a little fuzzy, a little punky, and plenty loud. At the end of the day, though, they make excellent pop music with tons of “cute factor”.

I had actually never heard the band until I recently got something in the mailbag about the newly released video for tonight’s song. This is that song.

“Babes Never Die” by Honeyblood

This is full of well-polished hooks and driving drums that remind me a little of David Narcizo out of Throwing Muses. Both vocal parts are fantastic, but it’s all about the fine-tuned powerful but sweet voice of Stina Tweeddale. It’s also amazingly bouncy. All of that means that it reminds me very much of the girl-fronted indie rock of the 90s.

They say that they write songs about “things (they) really hate and things that are okay”. As best as I can make out, this is about silencing haters. It seems like there’s some reference to witch trials, but I can’t be sure about that. Either way, it’s a song that I like a lot, and it’s tons of fun.

Here’s the video, which is how I got here in the first place. It, too, is a lot of fun.

You can buy a digital download of Babes Never Die via Bandcamp here. You can buy it in physical form via Fat Cat Records here.


February 8, 2017 — “I’m in Grace” by Sonic Jesus

Sonic Jesus

Sonic Jesus

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “I’m in Grace” by Sonic Jesus (2017, from the forthcoming album Grace).

Sonic Jesus is the darkwave/post-punk recording project of Italian multi-instrumentalist/composer Tiziano Veronese and vocalist Marco Baldassari. They formed in 2012, and immediately signed to Fuzz Club Records. Before they even had a record out, they were playing sold-out shows and getting rave reviews. In 2015, they released a double album of noise/psychedelic rock stuff called Neither Virtue Nor Anger, which earned them even more praise. Despite that, I had never heard of them until I got something in the mail bag the other day. They’re set to release their highly anticipated sophomore album Grace via Fuzz Club on March 10.

The new record is getting lots of advance praise, and some folks are saying that it’s reminiscent of Interpol and Editors. I got a preview copy in the mailbag, and although I haven’t given the entire album a proper listen, I really like what I’ve heard. It’s got the elegance of The National combined with the grit of Joy Division, with some wonderful 80s synth pop mixed in.

In a way, on tonight’s song anyway, I’m also reminded a bit of the marvelous album Hospice by The Antlers. This is that song.

“I’m in Grace” by Sonic Jesus

Talking about The Antlers, there’s something about the way the chorus of tonight’s song comes in really heavily that reminds me of when the chorus of “Sylvia” comes in like a million tons of wet bricks. I don’t know what tonight’s song is about, but I’m guessing that it’s not as heavy as “Sylvia” or the rest of Hospice. The stuff on Grace sounds dark, but not heavy.

The record is out on March 10, and you can pre-order it via Fuzz Club here.


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