First things first: I count myself a massive Cocteau Twins fan. So much so that when I read/hear bands compared sonically or otherwise with them, it’s met with a healthy skepticism. Few, either during the contemporaneous rise of dream pop and shoegaze or during their more recent revivals, seem to match the visceral thrill, the desolate euphoria, gleaned from the original. While I grew to like many of these bands over time it was in spite of, rather than due to, their supposed level of “Cocteausiness”.
Which leads me to Britain, the duo of Joey Cobb and Katie Drew that I recently stumbled across (thanks to an email blast from the good folks over at Heavenly). They come bearing Cocteau comparisons – and it’s easy enough to see why on first listen to the demo for track, “Day by Day”: the glistening guitar cascades, crisp drum machine patter, even an ending that sounds as though the song’s been suddenly unplugged – it’s all there. Yet, in spite of my decidedly caveat emptor approach to such things, I was immediately swept up and carried off by “Day by Day”.
Much of this is down to Drew’s vocal performance, which matches not only the wispy end of Elizabeth Fraser’s delivery but, more importantly, its soulfulness. So, yes, it does sound like the Cocteaus – but “Day by Day” is no mere pastiche. The light and dark in the track’s woozy melody gives a feel like the reveal of sun through a slowly lifting fog. It’s also incredibly fully-formed for a ‘demo’ – so hopefully, if included on their forthcoming debut, it won’t be messed with. A second track, “Tried to Call”, can be heard by watching their “Stay Fresh” session over at theskinny. Building from a similar 4AD building block, “Tried to Call” ratchets up the psych in a way that reminds of Lost Souls-era Doves (a band Britain name check as an influence in the corresponding interview).
Per the bio on fbook and the twitt, Britain are currently working on their debut, which will be released on Heavenly. Stay tuned, and catch them out on tour with Jane Weaver this autumn in the UK (dates here).
Baked, “Midnight Junkie” (Exploding in Sound)
This just in from the local weather bureau – a.k.a., my window. It’s windy. I mean like, shit is creaking and banging and I don’t even know what it is windy. It’s also wondrously sunny – like, over-exposed 9mm film of an old road trip sunny.
So, as I’m sitting here, squinting and expecting the Wicked Witch of the West to cycle by any moment, I stumble upon this gem of a track – “Midnight Junkie”, by Brooklyn five-piece Baked – and it all clicks. The track is a magnificent howl, with a glowing melody at its heart that leaves you seeing spots and a guitar shred at around 2 minutes like they don’t make much of anymore, all held tenuously earthbound by a dolorous, Jim Reid-esque croon. It’s the perfect aural accompaniment to the arboreal bowing and scraping taking place outside under the watchful glare of an ever nearing fireball.
“Midnight Junkie” is taken from Baked’s latest long-player, Farnham, which was released last week on Exploding in Sound and which I can’t wait to dig further into. If you’re headed to SXSW, you can catch Baked at the Exploding in Sound showcase March 16 at The Velveeta Room. Follow Baked on fbook bandcamp and the twitt.
Glitter Veils, “Gossamer Folds”; “Soft Touch” (Flexible)
Photo credit: Savvy Creative.
Australian duo Luke Zahnleiter and Michael Whitney make music as Glitter Veils. Their album, Figures in Sight, is due this Friday (2/10) from Flexible Records (an imprint of Terrible), who have been kind enough to provide teasers in the form of “Gossamer Folds” and “Soft Touch”.
A pleasantly disorienting, almost vertiginous, feel wafts from these tracks. Like a liquid motion toy’s suspended, colored drops fusing, detaching, and reforming in slightly different ways, familiar threads – the Guthrie-esque guitar wash in ‘Gossamer Folds’; the early industrial heft to the programmed beats underpinning the peyote-fueled western glitter ball of ‘Soft Touch’; a dream pop feel here, a bit of JAMC menace there; whispered, droning vocals reminiscent of Spacemen 3 or Massive Attack – blend, separate and reconvene in novel ways. “Gossamer” is my personal favorite, its bent guitar lines, slightly ooky fun house-style synths and lurching beat tracing lazy arcs in the sky. Definitely looking forward to hearing the rest.
You can find (a bit) more things Glitter Veils on soundcloud and fbook. Figures in Sight can be pre-ordered now on Flexible’s bandcamp page. Tune in, drop &etc.
Posted in Reviews
Tagged australia, brisbane, dream pop, electro, figures in sight, flexible records, glitter veils, gossamer folds, indie, noir, psych, review, shoegaze, soft touch, terrible records
Winter, “Wherever You Are” (self-released 8/18/16)
LA’s Winter is a musical project of vocalist/guitarist Samira Winter, with recording and live work from David Yorr, Garren Orr and Matt Hogan. “Wherever You Are” is a new release from the band – with it, they’ve crafted a woozy, sinuous track fit snugly at the intersection of psych- and dream pop.
Opening with a kaleidoscopic, Vangelis-like keyboard intro, “Wherever” features Winter’s feather light, whispered vocals amid arpeggioed, thrumming guitar lines and layered effects, all building towards an absolute skyscraper of a chorus. Musical sign posts abound, from ones you might expect (Pale Saints, Cocteau Twins (the phaser/delay effect at the 3:45 is particularly Guthrie-esque), MBV, the airier edge of trip hop), to some you might not (there’s hints of the more wide open, arena ready psych of Spiritualized, as well as a something that reminded me of “Us and Them” by Pink Floyd).
The notes on the group’s Bandcamp page indicate the song was initially recorded in the singer’s bedroom. This makes sense, as there’s a feeling here akin to staring out of the window into the night sky, searching for answers or a new way. Goodnight, (dark side of the) moon.
“Wherever You Are” is available to download (for $1!) via Bandcamp. From some of the posts on Winter’s fbook page (you can also check them on the twitt), it would appear the band is at work on a new full length. Here’s hoping.
Cassettes on Tape, Anywhere (self-released, 7/14/16)
We love a band that wears their influences proudly. Cassettes on Tape is a four-piece hailing from Chicago, with a declared fondness for “shoegazy guitars and new wavey hooks”. On their new long-player, Anywhere, the band stays true to their school(s).
Anywhere finds the band taking a musical journey through mid-80s to mid-90s indie music, recalling everything from 80s ‘college radio’, new wave, shoegaze, early 90s indie pop and even britpop. It’s a wide range of (admittedly intertwined) sounds, and the band pulls it off by writing hook-filled tunes played with a super-charged emotion. Jangling, resonant guitars courtesy of lead guitarist Shyam Telikicherla build epic sound scapes to match the dramatic vocals of singer Joe Kozak, who comes off like a cross between Suede’s Brett Anderson (minus the falsetto) and a less raspy Richard Butler of the Psych Furs. Songs like album highlight “Shattered” manage to marry 80s indie restraint to Britpop rafter rattling, while “Modern Love” carries an “I Am the Resurrection” shuffle. While the hi nrg tracks are great, the lovely slow burn of “Diamonds” and “Liquid Television” (above) are equally satisfying. Great stuff.
Anywhere is out now, and available through the Cassettes on Tape Bandcamp page. You can also check them out on the fbook, the twit and Instagram (don’t have a ‘witty’ shortcut reference for that one…yet). The band also have a show coming up on August 5 at the Bottom Lounge in Chicago – check it out if you’re local.
Lowtide, “Held” (Opposite Number)
We loved “Wedding Ring”, the first taster of the forthcoming debut album from Melbourne’s Lowtide. Now, we’re hearing “Held” for the first time (the band shared the track back in 2014), and we’ve fallen in love all over again. [Our thanks to the always great The Line of Best Fit blog for the initial introduction.]
Since we never got off our duff long enough to write about “Wedding Ring” when we first heard it a few months ago, let’s rectify that first. The track is truly massive, channeling the epic end of the shoegaze/dreampop spectrum – think later period Cocteau Twins (the phased guitars are charmingly Guthrie-esque) and bands like Pale Saints and Slowdive – with an uptempo groove and a bridge at the 1:40 mark that, if it doesn’t make you smile and/or tear up, you should seek immediate medical attention.
“Held” is no less grand, even while seemingly a bit less epic. Wtf?, you may say. Our explanation lies in the layers underneath the skyscraping boy/girl vocal tradeoffs. Where “Wedding Ring” started from a lush, shogazed underpinning, “Held” feels like the kind of anthemic, later period post-punk that wasn’t afraid to pin its heart to its denim jacketed sleeve – we’re thinking here of past greats like the brilliant Chameleons, Pink Turns Blue, and Brighter Than a Thousand Suns-era Killing Joke, on through to new bands like another thegrindinghalt fave, Communions. The upper register is no less blissful, but the slow burning guitar and absolutely churning rhythms here provide a bit of cloud cover to an otherwise purely sun-dappled experience.
Opposite Number Records will release the band’s debut full length on August 5. In the meantime, you can check out the band’s fbook, Bandcamp and SoundCloud pages for news and other music.
The Raveonettes, “Junko Ozawa” (self-released, 4/29/16)
We’ve been fans of The Raveonettes for ages – they had us at “Attack of the Ghost Riders” and we’ve never let go. “Junko Ozawa” is both the band’s latest release and the April installment of their “Rave-Sound-of-the-Month” club, which sees the band releasing new material, well, monthly (Ed – cheers, Capt. Obvi). This one’s named in honor of a noted Japanese video game music composer. That’s her picture, above; the official, lyric video is below.
“Junko” represents a potent marriage of the JAMC-meets-Eddie-Cochran sound of their earlier material and the newer, sleeker noir/shoegaze/surf (shurfnoir?) dance party of their more recent output. The track features a tight, minimalist electronic sound paired with blips, bleeps and bloops suitable for one of its eponym’s games. Sune Rose Wagner’s treated, helium vocals – which sound a bit like Prince in his “Camille” days – begin unfettered, then are gradually weighed down by static and other distortive noises, as he sings “the friends I lost/were never meant to be”. Game over.
“Junko” is my joint favorite of the four monthly tracks released by the band thus far, together with January’s icily beautiful, 808 inflected, “This World Is Empty (Without You)” – don’t make me choose! Check that one out, here.
Happily, The Raveonettes singles club for the 21st century project looks to be turning into a full-blown full-length. Head over to the band’s Pledgemusic page for more info. Rave on.
Follow along with the band, and sign up to receive monthly ‘sounds’, on their website.
The December Sound, Real Reign (self-released, 3/11/2016)
Fantastic news that this long dormant Boston band has once again resurfaced. Real Reign is a new, two-track release from The December Sound: here’s hoping it’s a sign of more new things to come.
Lead track, “Speaking From Tomorrow” is a typically noisy cloudburst of a track. Showcasing the band’s aural fission of shoegaze, industrial, drone and even a bit of britpop, the track thrums with a narcotic drumbeat, wall of noise guitars, and whispered vocals in the vein of Robert del Naja. Second cut, “Just Let Go” shows a softer side, a psych drone and slow burning bassline reminiscent of Spacemen 3 or Loop slowly moprhing into a kaleidoscopic churn of, er, looped guitar effects and a mantra-like repetition of the titular refrain.
Real Reign is available now through on the band’s bandcamp. In addition, you can – nay, should – now order The December Sound’s excellent 2007 debut, The Silver Album, directly from the band by messaging them via their Facebook page.
The Manhattan Love Suicides, Bikini Party/Birthday Kill 7” (Odd Box Records, 1/15/2016)
We here at thegrindinghalt have been remiss in not expressing our joy at the return of Leeds, UK’s Manhattan Love Suicides, a band we loved during their first run; in particular, their eponymous 2006 debut and the follow-on extended single for “Kick It Back”. The band’s new 7”, featuring a-side “Bikini Party/Birthday Kill”, comes hot on the heels of last summer’s excellent return album, More Heat! More Panic!
“Bikini” features paint-scraping peals of feedback and distortion o’er a whipcrack drum sound reminiscent of the JAMC. Singer Caroline’s sneering vocals reply “unable to attend” (in a not-so-nice way) to the aforementioned party in favor of a “good birthday kill”. Emily Post would not approve. Emily Post can do one.
The very ‘80s hardcore-titled, composite b-side (so many slashes!) “Deserted Coastal Town/Action&Memory/What Am I Supposed To Do?” – think of it like the indie rock version of a German compound word – showcase different sides of the band. The book ends here are both highlights: ballad “Deserted” has bit of a Smiths vibe with its jangled chords and orchestrated chorus, while “What” is a delightfully short, sweet, fuzzy kick in the face.
The single is available now at the MLS bandcamp page, via Odd Box Records. You can also check out the band here. Earlier releases can be found via Magic Marker Records and Squirrel Records – do yourself the favor.
bummed, “smoking jewels” 7” (self-released, 3/13/2016)
A lovely slice of swooning dream-pop/shoegaze from Somerville, MA’s bummed (we’ve retained the band’s e.e. cummings approach to punctuation – please refrain from rioting with pitchforks and copies of Strunk & White).
This new single sees the band moving away from the more lo-fi aspects of their 2014 self-titled release (which is also well worth checking out). A-side, “smoking jewels” features a jangly, finger-picked guitar melody over a muscular, start/stop rhythm; sheer, largely indecipherable vocals are dead center in the mix, swaddled in reverb. B-side, “no reward” adds peals of feedback and a more steady, driving beat.
The 7” – as well as a digital version – is available now via the band’s Bandcamp page; hopefully, it’s a teaser for a new long-player. Check them out there, and here.