Sunday, August 18, 2013

July 2013 Backtracks

With it being already midway through August, now is as good a time as any to revisit the previous month and take a listen to some of the songs that made July worthwhile in spite of the crazy heat. Looking back, not much in the way of awesome new music really hit. It seems that many artists are holding off on releasing some of the more anticipated stuff in the fall (i.e. NIN, Youth Code, Gary Numan, and yes, even Arcade Fire.) That's not to say that July has been a throwaway month of music. As the July 2013 Backtracks mixtape shows, we still got a good dose of noisy guitars and sparkling synths - the only kind of sounds we need anyway.


July 2013 Backtracks
1.The Joy Formidable, "Silent Treatment (William Orbit Mix)": Seeing that William Orbit remixed "Silent Treatment" had me worried for a bit. He could have easily transformed one of The Joy Formidable's quietest moments into a club banger. Thankfully, he kept the mood and the pace somber adding a slight rhythm and bright synth flourishes helping push the song skyward.

2. Heaven, "Mountains Move": With a name like Heaven, one expects great things from them. Luckily, this Brooklyn band delivers as their boldly chosen name is more of a description to their sound as heavenly dreampop mixes seamlessly with touches of Britpop and even a little bit of New Wave. Their debut, Telepathic Love boasts a lush sound, but even more importantly memorable songs. "Mountains Move" was the first song of theirs that drew me in.

3. The Happy Hollows, "Amethyst": The Happy Hollows is a band I know nothing about. In all honesty, the only reason I checked out their music in the first place is that they were sharing bills with another LA band I love, Nightmare Air. I was pleasantly surprised by what I heard as, like Nightmare Air, The Happy Hollows make soaring guitar rock that is at times, dreamy, and at times loud and fuzzy. 

4. Weekend, "Scream Queen": My love for the band, Weekend has only gotten greater. Their first album, Sports was as noisy as it was melodic. On their sophomore effort, Jinx, the trio that has now relocated from the Bay Area to Brooklyn, pushes their more melodic side to the forefront without shedding the noise. The result is their most immediately likable material since the stopgap Red EP. "Scream Queen" is one of the record's highlights showing off Weekend's greatest strengths.

5. Fuck Buttons, "Sentients": Aside from the fact that I instantly would like a band that calls themselves Fuck Buttons, the fact that they create some great sounds is a bonus. Their latest album, Slow Focus comes hot off the heels of their material being featured in last year's Olympics. It's a surprisingly engrossing collection of electronic music made for dancefloors set in dark, cavernous warehouses. "Sentients" is a droning dirge that manages to burrow its way out of your skull like the soundtrack to the most violent scene in Bladerunner that never seemed to happen.

6. Gauntlet Hair, "Bad Apple": As of this writing, indie duo, Gauntlet Hair broke up. It's too bad because their second album, Stills found them slowly moving towards darker territories. "Bad Apple" is one of the highlights, as distant vocals attempt to detach themselves from the sticky beats that hold everything together. 

7. Soft Metals, "Tell Me": Portland duo, Soft Metals makes clanging electropop that veers closer to old-school EBM. Not surprising since they also do an awesome cover of Throbbing Gristle's industrial classic, "Hot On The Heels Of Love." Their latest album, Lenses is full of spiky synths and cooing vocals. "Tell Me" is simultaneously sexy yet detached like the ice queen's heart slowly beginning to melt away.

8. Pet Shop Boys, "Inside A Dream": What's more surprising? The fact that the Pet Shop Boys would land on a Monthly Backtracks Mixtape on the strength of a great album or the fact that they're not on here because of respectful nostalgia? Fact is their latest, Electric finds them rejuvenated. Gone are the midtempo ballads of their previous effort which showed a band attempting to age gracefully. Instead, Electric is a rebirth. "Inside A Dream" finds the disco pop duo at their most energized showing the EDM masses just how it's done. Not a bad trick from the elder statesmen of synthpop.

There you have it. July is now behind us. What lies ahead is quite possibly one of the most exciting times in music. Here's to hoping that they hype is worth it. In the meantime, listen loud and become immersed.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Late Friday Night Sounds

With August already in full-swing and July's Monthly Backtracks Mixtape looming in the not-too-distant-future now seems like a good time to share some songs on the verge of coming out that have already left a mark. Coincidentally today was another dreary Friday where a 3-hour nap took up most of my day which is odd since the last time I shared new sounds it was also a rainy Friday. That's one to think about.

Nine Inch Nails, "Copy Of A"
It's pretty much a well-known fact that I'm a big Nine Inch Nails fan. To say that 2013 has been a big year for me as a fan of both NIN and Trent Reznor is putting it mildly. We already got an album by Reznor's other musical project, How to destroy angels. And even better than that, I got to open for HTDA when they played in Boston and got to meet both Trent and Atticus Ross. So when my birthday came around the announcement that NIN had a new album and tour felt like a personal gift to me. Hesitation Marks (due out in September) is shaping up to be the most anticipated NIN release since With Teeth. "Copy Of A" tops the previously released single, "Came Back Haunted," mostly due to the fact that the song has been the opener for NIN's recent festival appearances and has stunned audiences with its minimal electronics and pounding beats. Its catchy chorus also helps.

** And as of midnight on 8/12/13, the studio version of "Copy Of A" just got posted, so here is an updated version of the song which as it turns out will be the 2nd single off of Hesitation Marks. **

Gary Numan, "I Am Dust"
Another one of my all-time favorite artists, Gary Numan, is poised to release his brand new album entitled Splinter (Songs From A Broken Mind) in October. I can still remember getting the 45 single for "Cars" when I was a kid. It's one of my prized possessions. In recent years, Gary Numan's output has been darker, sporting a more industrialized sound. Which is to say, I love it. "I Am Dust" is streaked with shadowy synths and razor-sharp guitars, a sound influenced greatly by Nine Inch Nails but with Gary Numan's familiar, strangely seductive vocals.

Factory Floor, "Turn It Up"
This UK trio has been in constant rotation here on Random Ramblings and Mixtapes. Judging by how their music has evolved, it's not a shock that I would fall for Factory Floor. They've moved from dark, Joy Division-indebted post-punk to fractured electronics with an old-school industrial influence. And all that without releasing a full-length. That changes in September when DFA Records puts out the band's long-awaited debut album. "Turn It Up" is practically a slow burner compared to recent singles like the excellent "Fall Back" and the equally awesome "Two Different Ways." That's not to say that "Turn It Up" is any less addictive with its percolating rhythms and ghostly voices.

Cut Copy, "Let Me Show You"
Seeing Cut Copy get bigger with every album is something that makes me a little happy. Mainly because I get to brag about how I saw them when nobody knew who they were back when they opened for Franz Ferdinand. But the honest truth is I love their music. Their latest single, "Let Me Show You" is almost a ballad when compared to their bigger material, however there is a cool house music groove that seeps up from underneath it all. It's almost as if they're trying to do their best Happy Mondays impression.

Psychic Teens, "H#TE"
All it took was reading a review that dropped the "g" word (that word of course, being "goth.") I'm pretty sure the review also compared this Philadelphia trio to Bauhaus which of course made me want to listen to "H#TE" repeatedly. There's plenty of grinding guitars in Psychic Teen's brand of guttural post-punk which makes me really look forward to their forthcoming second album, COME.

So there you have it: another 5 songs worthy of turning things up to 11. Until next time, listen loud and become immersed.