Tag Archives: indie rock

Check out “Pictures”, from London, ON’s Never Betters

Never Betters are a new (to me) quartet from London (the Ontario one), who self-describe as “pop punk”.  In the interest of full disclosure I must admit, as a crusty old hardcore kid, that the proximity of “pop” and “punk” in the same sentence often makes me run for the hills, but it was worth overcoming my phobia to check out the band’s new track, “Pictures”.

Taken from the band’s half of Guns + Roses’ Roses, the mouthful of a split EP with local cohorts Grievances (both bands share members), “Pictures” is a storming, 90s/early 2000s-inflected indie rock swagger fest.  Never Betters come on like a rougher-hewn version of fellow Canucks, Alvvays, a less angsty Maktaverskhan, a less stoned Dinosaur Jr. (check the closing guitar freakout), a less English Ned’s Atomic Dustbin (?!), April Romano’s sung-wailed vocals trailing back through the open windows of a car passing by at speed.  It’s the kind of jam we could envision playing in The Bronze, while Never Betters’ bio proffers the song as the “theme song for some high school drama tv show” and the band as prom headliners – we can dig it.

Guns + Roses’ Roses releases March 16 through fellow apostrophe enthusiasts Grooves Records’ Records, and is available to pre-order here. You can also shadow all Never Betters’ online movements on fbook and the twitt, while checking out the video for “Pictures”, here.

Track Review: S A Reyners, Saturday Afternoon

S. A. Reyners, “Saturday Afternoon” (Self Released, 7/11/2015)

A jaunty slice of quirky, melodic, sophisticated pop from S A Reyners, Wellington, New Zealand’s own “one man band” (though drums here are credited to Kiel Feher).

Reyners cites, as influences, bands like Sparks and Aztec Camera.  These come through loud and clear on “Saturday Afternoon”, the second single from a soon to be released debut EP of the same name – the former in his vocal range and phrasing (which also recalls Matt Johnson of The The); and both in stylistic mish mash of the arrangement, which recalls the 80s integration of tropicalia and Caribbean music, as well as 60s style r&b.

I also a heard a fair amount of bands like Orange Juice and Haircut 100, in both the track’s breezy, effortless charm, as well as the sly wit and wordplay of the lyrics, describing the high of chancing upon an attractive girl you’d seen on the street at a local bar, followed swiftly the low of discovering she’s there with her soon to be fiancé.

Here’s hoping more pearls from EP are cast soon.  In the meantime, check M. Reyners on his Facebook page, on Soundcloud and on Bandcamp.

New Track: Makthaverskan, Witness

Makthaverskan, “Witness” (Luxury Gbg, 3/3/2015)

New single from this Gothenburg, Sweden-based group, whose excellent album from last year, II, provided a lesson in loud, strident, angst-ridden post-punk.

The band recently unveiled new tour single, “Witness” (backed by an instrumental, jazz noir take on II track, “No Mercy”).  While certainly not short on the kind of raw emotion which permeated II, this track feels less like a screamed series of diary entries.  The band goes long on the Siouxsie and the Banshees-inspired aspects of their sound – the song could almost pass for a lost b-side from the Hyaena sessions – and it totally works.  Swirling guitars and tribal, kinetic percussion are whipped into a frenzy by the matured (but not blunted) vocals of singer Maja Milner, a force of nature in the vein Mme. Sioux herself.

Check out the band on their Facebook page, and be sure to go see them as they tour in the US for the first time – some dates were changed due to visa issues, so be sure to check their page for the most recent itinerary.

Band to Watch: Communions

Communions “Cobblestones” ep (4/23/2014, Posh Isolation); “So Long Sun/Love Stands Still” (Tough Love, 11/10/14)

First wide releases by this young Danish band, based out of Copenhagen and comprised of two brothers (Martin and Mads Rehof) and two others (Jacob van Deurs Formann and Frederik Lind Köppen), both released in 2014.  A part of the much-discussed “Copenhagen scene” (patent pending), Communions do share similarities with bands like Iceage:  drunken vocal phrasing, reverb-heavy post-punk married (on newer material) with travellin’, road-song aspects of older country – but come across as more wistfully romantic (with all of the heart warming and rending that this entails).

Much of Cobblestones takes 60s and 80s jangle indie/college rock (early Smiths, late Joy Division/early New Order), post-punk and even a bit of punk urgency (the insistent drum and bass on the title track are reminiscent of “God Save the Queen”), and buries them ‘neath a heavy coverlet of reverb.  A strong effort – particular faves being the final two tracks, “Children” and “You Go On”.

So Long Sun/Love Stands Still shows a good deal of growth in a short period of time.  “Sun”, begins with a bright, John Squirely guitar hook, before the bass and drums crash along as Martin Rehof’s vocals seem exhaled through a hookah (the higher register he employs on this single made it almost impossible for me to believe it was, in fact, the same vocalist).  “Love” might be my fave of all, though – it is, in fact, quite lovely – Rehof adding a falsetto over a straight ahead rhythm and melody recalling the jauntier moments of The Smiths.

Very much looking forward to more from these guys in 2015 (and beyond).  Check them out on Facebook and on their website.

Track Review: Interpol, All the Rage Back Home

Interpol, “All the Rage Back Home”

Last week, Interpol released the video (below) for this song, the lead single from forthcoming fifth full length (‘allo, alliteration!), El Pintor, due September 9 in North America and September 8 in the rest of the world.  All in all, a very “Interpol-y” song, harkening back to their first few records – a good thing, since recent output suggested a band running out of gas.  Idling along on singer Paul Banks’ baritone, crooning dolorous over an organ and shimmering guitar line, the song quickly shifts gear through a chugging bass line (courtesy of Banks) and straight ahead beat.  Slimming down to a three-piece seems, on this evidence, to have reinvigorated the band.  Minor quibbles with the production (would like to hear Sam Fogarino’s drums pushed forward in the mix) and length (the ‘hey, hey, hey’ thing starts getting old towards the end) aside, this has me looking forward to hearing more from the new album.

Album Review: The Fresh & Onlys, House of Spirits

The Fresh & Onlys, House of Spirits (Mexican Summer, 06/10/2014)

The Fresh & Onlys are a four-piece out of San Francisco.  Their latest, House of Spirits, is their sixth full length (the band has also released a couple of EPs). On prior releases, the band honed a sound including elements of psychedelia, garage rock, 70s SoCal country-tinged pop, and a bit of Paisley Underground and Brit-influenced 80s indie rock.  House feels like an attempt to broaden this sonic palette further, introducing more drone and ambient textures and hues to broaden the scope.

For this review, I thought I’d try something different and attempt to share my (slightly cleaned up) initial reactions to the each track on the album. Here goes:

“Home is Where” – opens with church organ; crooning vocals over piano, then morphs into a steady rocker – kind of reminds me of Doves.  Retains updated 60s via 80s sound. The dreamy, reverbed vocals once the song harken back to the days of “college radio” and import singles from some great UK band.

“Who Let the Devil” – intro bass/drum line sounds like Lords of the New Church a bit (probably just me…). Dreamy guitar arpeggio laces around muffled, Tim Cohen’s underwater vocals – ‘who let the devil walk into my house/ when i was born dying’.  Something about the melody reminds me of a Neil Young song, but I can”t figure out which one – it’s driving me crazy.  Is that a zither? autoharp? in the chorus?

“Bells of Paonia” – strobed guitar drone, ambient textures over pulsating bass line and lyrics about the effects of a pill.  Druggy, Spiritualized hushed gospel feel overlaid with Warm Jets-era Eno. Invites repeated listening to peel the onion.

“Animal of One” -“the point of forgiving/is so you forget/that being forgiven/is all in your mind”.  Seventies, SoCal country-tinged pop vibe.  Song (quietly) explodes into an absolutely lovely chorus around the 2:30 mark.

“I’m Awake” – to be honest, this song didn’t really grab me.  Was a bit disappointed by the chorus after an encouraging opening melody.

“Hummingbird” – an out and out rocker.  Chugging bassline and straight ahead drums bring echoes of 80s brit/indie – maybe a less dramatic Icicle Works? Interplay between the lead guitar and vocals is great.

“April Fools” – sweet, airy vocal melodies over chimey guitars – not a million miles away from San Francisco psychedelic pop legacy.  Love the guitar line in the chorus.  Could use a bridge/transition somewhere, though.

“Ballerina” – country infused.  A road trip through somewhere flat, where the reference points in the horizon never seem to get closer.  Vocals (here, I believe, by guitarist Wymond Miles) evoke a world weary Roger Miller.

“Candy” – opens with a playful, swinging beat. A slow grower.  Would be nice of the guitars were pushed more to the fore to bring the chorus out of it’s shell a bit.

“Madness” – (closer). intro reminds me of the beginning to “Disappear” by INXS (this is not a bad thing).  Similar in feel with “Bells” – a more languid, ambient arrangement crashes against a rocky shore of heavily distorted guitars.

Highlights include: “Bells of Paonia”, “Who Let the Devil”, “Animal of One”.