Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Thinking California

Growing up in Brooklyn in the mid to late 80's meant I loved two things: hair metal and MTV. This is back when bands were all about decadence. An era when Aquanet, bad guitar solos, and power ballads ruled. To an impressionable kid entering his teenage years, Los Angeles became the place to be-- the glitz, the glamour, the Sunset Strip. I wanted to be there. As the years wore on, LA became less of a mythical utopia. As a life-long East Coast dweller, California would turn into a state that lured close friends away from me. My love for California lessened. But there is that rare occasion when trekking out West is necessary. The times when you're on the verge of crumbling and an escape, and a change of scenery is the only cure, even if it's for an all-too-brief amount of time. That time is now...well, two days from now, really. The countdown is on and the anticipation is high for a much-needed break from real life. So naturally, that calls for a mixtape. A collection of songs that may not exactly be love-letters to LA, hell some on here even proclaim an utter disdain (Wild Light's "California On My Mind," The Magnetic Fields' "California Girls.") But love it or hate it, I can't help but get excited to enter the city of angels. And who knows? Maybe there won't be a need to save me from the Hollywood life. Anything is possible.


(No explanations necessary. Just a handful of songs that have gotten me in the California mood.)
1. Wild Light, "California On My Mind"
2. Delta Spirit, "California"
3. Wolf Parade, "California Dreamer"
4. Crocodiles, "Groove Is In The Heart / California Girls"
5. The Magnetic Fields, "California Girls"
6. The Raveonettes (feat. Ronnie Spector), "Ode To L.A."
7. Marina and The Diamonds, "Hollywood"
8. Suede, "This Hollywood Life"
9. Concrete Blonde, "Still In Hollywood"
10. Band Of Skulls, "Hollywood Bowl" (note: Oddly, this song isn't in Spotify)
11. Sleater-Kinney, "Hollywood Ending"

Monday, September 24, 2012

Monday Afternoon Album Stream: Happy New Year "Happy New Year" + 3 Bonus Tracks

Some Mondays are better than others. Especially the ones that are filled with unexpected, awesome new music both from new discoveries and from artists that have quickly become favorites.

First up, is Eleanor Logan, an Australian-born Brooklyn artist who records and performs under the impossible-to-Google name, Happy New Year. I stumbled upon her self-titled debut album solely because it was described to me as being "dark dreampop." And to be honest, that's a pretty accurate assessment. There's plenty of lush, guitar and synth textures throughout but things do work best when the mood darkens just a bit as heard on the punchy beats of the hazy "Cranes" or on the slight goth swirl of "Gold Medallion." Give it a try below:

Weekend, "Sirens"
Keeping up with the "Difficult-To-Google"-theme, is Weekend. Not to be confused with indie/R&B Drake associates, The Weeknd, this Bay Area trio literally made a lot of noise with their great 2010 album, Sports and it's equally excellent follow-up EP, Red. "Sirens" is the first track to emerge from a forthcoming album due out in 2013 and while the volume seems to be toned down, the song's focus becomes its rumbling bassline and distant, echoing guitar chimes showcasing some new found restraint. Proof that Weekend can be just as much about the pop, as they are about the noise.

AVOXBLUE, "Stop Trying To Start Things Over (Parasols Remix)"
Up next, is one of my favorite local Boston electronic artists, AVOXBLUE. Earlier this year, AVOX mastermind, Jimmy Rossi, Jr. (also of awesome noisy shoegazers, The December Sound) released A Place Without Time, a collection of infectious, dreamy electropop. A remix companion is in the works but before the entire thing sees the light of day, he's given us a couple of glimpses as to what can be expected. He previously shared the pulsing AndrĂ© Obin remix of "Dreaming Thru Your Eyes" (which you can listen to here.) Now comes Parasol's hauntingly gorgeous synth-goth remix of the EP's title track, now renamed as "Stop Trying To Start Things Over (Parasols Remix of AVOXBLUE)."

Cold Cave, "A Little Death To Laugh"
Finally, a brand new one from an act that became a favorite fairly instantaneously. I was won over completely by the title track to Cold Cave's 2009 debut, Love Comes Close with its nods to both Joy Division and New Order. But it was the lead single to Cherish The Light Years, the industrialized "The Great Pan Is Dead" that had me pledge my undying loyalty to this band. Now with a new lineup in tow and a new album in the works, Wesley Eisold unleashes this bit of icy coldwave-pop recorded solo prior to assembling his new band and inspired by the late poet, Tristan Cobriere.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

August Backtracks

Here it is, the beginning of a new season and it just so happens to coincide with our August Backtracks mixtape. So as the weather begins to cool, we turn the calendar back one page and take a listen to the songs that got the "overplayed" treatment. Taking a look at what made the cut on this playlist is a good indicator of the kind of month August ended up becoming -- at times pretty and swirling and at times ugly and abrasive (at least, in the case of one of the selections.) Either way, it's all worthy of turning the volume up as loud as it goes.


August 2012 Mixtape
1. Lykke Li, "Silver Springs": Full disclosure #1 - I hate Fleetwood Mac. I wish I could say otherwise, but I'd be lying. A few years ago while going through old records at my family's house, I found Rumours and brought it back to Boston with me but upon listening to it, I realized how much I can't stand them. Full disclosure #2 - I love Lykke Li. Now, put the two things together, and it turns out my love of Lykke Li outweighs my hatred of Fleetwood Mac.

2. Swans, "The Seer Returns": Michael Gira's Swans is one of those bands I consider to be a "hard sell" to friends. Which is another way of saying that they're an acquired taste. My first exposure to the band was their appropriately titled, 1994 album, The Great Annihilator. An album so intensely dark that I often described it as "making Disintegration sound like Pet Sounds." The Seer, the second album since Gira reformed Swans, overflows with two hours of music spread out over two discs (3 of the albums 10 tracks clock in at over 19 minutes each.) It's challenging to say the least -- at one moment plodding and suffocating, and during others exhilarating and cathartic. "The Seer Returns" is a droning yet hypnotic, 6-minute piece that serves as a brief respite from the rest of the album's smothering nature.

3. Moon King, "Only Child":  File Moon King with the handful of bands I discovered via Pitchfork. In all honesty, they're a bit of a mystery to me. The only thing I really know of them is that they feature a member of the band Doldrums. What I do know is that their latest EP Obsession I is a great collection of dark, dreamy, yet driving indie rock that takes its influences from Cocteau Twins and Siouxsie & The Banshees.

4. Wild Nothing, "Paradise": Virginia isn't known for being a hotbed for shoegaze and dreampop, yet that's exactly where Jack Tatum, the mastermind behind Wild Nothing, calls home. His band's 2010 debut, Gemini was a promising and at times, lo-fi collection of 80's-inspired indie pop. But on the follow-up, Nocturne, the production quality is drastically improved resulting in some of Wild Nothing's  best work. On "Paradise," shades of indie rock's past are still present, but like much of Nocturne, the blurry sight-lines are greatly cleared up.

5. Spector, "Twenty Nothing": Despite a difficult-to-Google band name, London five-piece, Spector have all the makings of a quick-on-the-rise UK band. After 4 impressive singles, they finally released a debut album, Enjoy It While It Lasts, a jolt of whip-smart, heart-on-the-sleeve songs. "Twenty Nothing" is one of the albums instantly catchy offerings, somehow finding a comfortable middle ground between The Killers' bravado and Pulp's wise-cracking sass.

6. Kitten, "Cut It Out": It's hard to believe that singer Chloe Chaidez of LA buzz band, Kitten, is only 17 years old, still a few years away from being old enough to legally drink alcohol. Yet, like much of their latest self-titled EP, the single "Cut It Out" is a lacerating slab of gritty yet catchy indie pop. At such a young age, Chaidez has a shot at becoming the next Karen O or Robyn; either option would be more than commendable.

7. Divine Fits, "Baby Gets Worse": This indie supergroup's first single appeared here just last month (or more accurately on last month's July Backtracks). Quickly following "My Love Is Real" with a full-length, A Thing Called Divine Fits, it's apparent that it took no time for Spoon's Britt Daniel, Wolf Parade/Handsome Furs' Dan Bockner, and New Bomb Turk, Sam Brown to gel in the studio. New Wave synths saturate much of the album (in a good way, of course) resulting in some of the most invigorating material from everyone involved. The scuffed-up synthpop of "Baby Gets Worse" is one of the album's many standout tracks.

8. Niki & The Dove, "Somebody": Speaking of synthpop, Stockholm's Niki & The Dove finally surface with their debut album, Instinct. And while their initial singles framed the duo as a more pop-oriented version of fellow Swedes, The Knife, the rest of their output reveals a wider range of influences. With "Somebody," they show off a warm-blooded synth-funk pulse almost paying homage to Prince. And that's a very good thing.

9. Factory Floor, "Two Different Ways (Perc Remix)": We close out this Monthly Backtracks mixtape with UK trio, Factory Floor. Their mix of post-punk, minimal electro, coldwave, and industrial music is just the right combination of all things I love so it should come as no surprise at how instantly obsessed I became. The original version of "Two Different Ways" came out last year on DFA but this throbbing techno mix may have just outdone it.

So there you have it. Summer ends, Autumn begins, everything gets cooler, even the music. As always, listen loud and become immersed.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Tuesday Night Album Stream: Ringo Deathstarr "Mauve"

It's that rare instance where procrastination actually worked in my favor. I'd been putting off posting the August Backtracks mixtape for no reason in particular. And I had every intention of getting that done tonight but just as I was about to sit down and actually begin, I found this stream of Mauve, the brand new album from Austin, Texas' Ringo Deathstarr. I'll admit, I only got into this band in the last two years, and honestly, it had a lot to do with the band name since I do have a thing for clever names (see Japandroids.) But after my first listen to them, I was completely won over. Sure, their influences were clear -- almost an homage to noise-pop touchstones like The Jesus And Mary Chain and My Bloody Valentine. What makes them instantly likeable is the plain fact that Ringo Deathstarr writes great songs.

Now a little over a year after their last album, Colour Trip, they're set to return with Mauve due out on September 25th. And going by first impressions, it sounds like Ringo Deathstarr are stepping away from the JAMC and MBV comparisons and coming into their own as shimmering guitar fuzz and hazy vocals swirl together forming sounds that are timely yet timeless in their own right. If ever there was a time to listen loud and become immersed, this would be it.

Hats off to Hype Machine for posting this.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Saturday Clouds

There's hardly such a thing as a "Quiet Saturday Night." Even those occasions when there isn't much in the way of actually going out there's at least some sound to get lost inside of.  

The Soft Moon - "Insides" & "Die Life"
Oakland's The Soft Moon joins Soft Kill and Soft Metals on the short list of "Soft" bands that I've fallen for over in the last year or so. But unlike the coldwave/minimal electro/old-school EBM of Soft Metals or the sleek synth-goth of Soft Kill, Luis Vasquez' The Soft Moon explores darker territories where post-punk and guttural industrial textures meet. It's a wonder it took this long for me to really become enamored by their music, but going by the two advance tracks off the forthcoming Zeros (due out on October 30 on Captured Tracks), The Soft Moon is on the fast track of becoming a full-fledged obsession.

Io Echo - "Ministry Of Love"
LA-based shoegazers, Io Echo have the distinction of being handpicked to open for Nine Inch Nails during their final show back in 2009. Now, they've got a new EP entitled Ministry Of Love due out on October 16th on IAMSOUND. Both the soaring title track as well as the equally awesome "Carnation" (featuring an assist from Johnny Pierce of The Drums) are filled with rumbling basslines, shimmering guitars, and the enchanting vocals of Ionna Gika. 

earthquake party! - Let's Rock, OK? EP
A quick blast of fuzzed out noise punk from one of my favorite Boston bands, earthquake party! The trio manages to make the most of the EP's 3-song/4-minute span squeezing out something catchy and worthy of repeated listens.

Bonus Video:

The Joy Formidable - "Cholla"
I'll take any excuse to post something by The Joy Formidable. They're easily one of my new favorite bands from the last 2 years or so. "Cholla" is the first proper single off JoyFo's forthcoming 2nd album, Wolf's Law, due out in January 2013. A loud, buzzsaw of a song that settles into a nice gallop -- big-sounding without being overindulgent. Take a peek at the video below and turn up the volume as far as it goes.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Monday Night Album Stream: TOY "TOY"

Sometimes the hardest question someone can ask me about discovering new bands is as simple as "How did you find out about them?" Such is the case with TOY. The simple answer is that someone I'm Facebook friends with posted about them and made a comparison to the album, Skying by The Horrors. That was good enough for me since that was my favorite album of 2011. TOY's debut single, the awesome "Left Myself Behind" was downright hypnotic upon my first listen all the way back in January. Now over 8 months and two singles later, this UK band emerges with their self-titled debut album (due out on September 10th on Heavenly and the following day stateside.) The record is a great mix of shoegaze, Krautrock, and psych rock. Dizzying and hazy in the best ways possible. Have an advanced listen below and get lost in their music. Headphones strongly recommended for a full experience.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Late Night Album Stream: BEAK> "BEAK>>"

There are some long weekends tailor-made for non-stop partying, but then there are those that are perfect for hiding out from the outside world. This happens to be the latter. Admittedly, hiding out on September 1st in Boston is almost advisable since it also happens to be a big move-in day for the seemingly endless amount of students returning to the area. It's a good reason to become immersed in new music. So this late night soundtrack comes from a UK trio known as BEAK>. They're one of those bands I'd been meaning to check out, mainly because one of their members happens to be Geoff Barrow of Portishead. The band's second album, BEAK>> is a hypnotic collection of droning Krautrock. A very logical move from Barrow considering the motorik pulse that found its way onto Portishead's Third and its subsequent follow-up single, "Chase The Tear." But its the album's surprising twists-- the warped guitars and psychedelic haze of "Wulfstan II" or the gurgling electronics of "Yatton"-- that calls for repeated listens. Give BEAK>> a try below.