Category Archives: Reviews

Catching Up on 2019: Neon, Special Friend, The Comes Reissue, Modern Nature, Daisies

The Comes, No Side (La Vida Es Un Mus)

Great reissue from the always fabulous La Vida Es Un Mus label of classic, Japanese hardcore from the early 80s. Must admit I’d never heard of The Comes, but was unsurprised to discover they came up alongside bands like GISM, who I’d run across in years’ past on various comps (notably, this). The Comes seem similar in sound and overall feel, as the tracks on No Side share a penchant for strident/batshit crazy vocals paired with music that tilts and twirls like someone’s changing the record from 33 to 45 (and back), mid-track. Fantastic record and a welcome introduction.

Out now, courtesy of La Vida Es Un Mus.

Web: label 

Daisies, What Are You Waiting For?, 2 (Perennial Death; JGAP) 

Daisies are an Olympia, WA-based trio, featuring members of CCFX and TransFx that, over the course of four releases, have quickly become something of an obsession. Their two long-players from 2019 – What Are You Waiting For? (which included previous singles, “Just Yesterday” and “Anyone’s Style”) and, fittingly, 2 – provide a musical roadmap through most of what was interesting on the dancier end of 90s indie. What? is a glorious run through Madchester/‘baggy’, druggy trip hop and swinging, jangled sophsti-pop. 2 hits a bit harder, adding jungle and drum and bass snap and crackle to the still heady mix. Valerie Warren’s multi-layered vocals are pitch perfect and the arrangements bring moments of absolute bliss – plus, 2’s “Paradise” pairs d’nb’s tactile energy with lyrics from “Pure Imagination”. St. Etienne, Primal Scream (esp. Screamadelica), Goldie, Baby Fox, The Rebirth of Cool series – if any of these mean something to you, do yourself a favor and dig into Daisies.

Both albums are out now, What Are You Waiting For? courtesy of Perennial Death and 2 via JGAP.

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Modern Nature How to Live (Bella Union)

Featuring members of Ultimate Painting, >Beak and others, Modern Nature’s debut, How to Live, is a slow burning walkabout. Throughout, the band expertly molds a color palette involving motorik, trip hop, jazz, drone and psych – squishing them through one of those Playdoh contraptions that kind of looked like a mini meat grinder and was used to style rainbow ‘hair’. Vocalist Jack Cooper’s voice has a kind of hushed, tremulous quality reminiscent of Syd Barrett and Colin Newman, while the arrangements call to mind bands like Spiritualized (“Turbulence”), Radiohead (“Peradam”), and Pink Floyd (“Criminals”). At its best, as on the aforementioned “Turbulence”, Modern Nature’s music creates a mood so tangible it seems inhabitable, with a cinematic quality that makes the melodies visual as much as aural. Punchier tracks like “Nature” blow out the cobwebs, a bit, while retaining the pleasant haze. Very much recommended.

How to Live is out now, courtesy of Bella Union, and Modern Nature are in the midst of a tour in the US of A, dates here.

Web: label bcamp fbook twitt

Neon, s-t (self-released) 

Neon is an Oakland, CA-based quartet who presented us (and the world) with some of the best, most thrillingly messy punk to cross our radars last year with their self-titled album (cheers to Bryony Beynon for including it in her year-end wrap up for Maximum r’nr and, thereby, reminding us). Piercing feedback gives way to post-punk angularity while rhythms start, stop and wreck like bumper cars. The spoken/sung/wailed vocals pair diffidence with strident takedowns of our glorious modern times, including the effects of corporatism on art creation/consumption (“everybody/likes to see/money on the walls”, from ‘Modern Art’) and gentrification (“build it/tear it down/build it…those poor people/crushed by the weight of their own hard work”, from “Contained”). There’s threads of Olympia-bay area synergy in the arrangements, hints of bands like The Fall in the antagonistic repetition – and it’s exhaustingly affecting. Must be a treat to catch live.

Out now and available on Neon’s bandcamp.

Web: bcamp 

Special Friend, Special Friend EP (Hidden Bay; Howlin’ Banana; Buddy; Gravity Music)

Special Friend are a duo comprising Guillaume Siracusa (guitar, vocals) and Erica Ashleson (drums, vocals). Their debut, self-titled EP is a beautifully lo-fi work, showcasing a dexterity with both the wistful lushness of jangle and dream pop as well as the rugged stomp of garage rock. Tracks like opener, ‘Before’, feel like a walk on a northern beach on an overcast day, and calls to mind the less bombastic side of Prefab Sprout. Uptempo cuts like ‘Mean Street’ are the upturned collar on a black leather jacket, bearing traces of bands like The Vaselines, The Raveonettes or early White Stripes. The lack of gloss on the production and resulting demo feel lends warmth and intimacy, allowing the dueling male/female vocals to take center stage. Great set of songs – can’t wait to hear what they do next.  

The Special Friend EP is available now, a joint release of French labels Hidden Bay, Howlin’ Banana , Buddy Records, and Gravity Music.

Web: label label label label fbook  

New Year, New Decade, New Playlist

Here are some tracks we’ve enjoyed over the last several months (and that were on soundcloud)!

Here, Hear Some Great New Tracks from OMD, The Orielles, Routine Death, Katy J. Pearson, and Siamese Twins

It’s been a long time, we shouldn’t have left you, &etc. Please accept our apologies for the wait between posts, in the form of some phenomenal new tracks.

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, “Don’t Go” (Universal/UMG)

“Don’t Go” represents the 40th, and most recent, single from new wave legends Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD), whose music has been a constant companion to yours truly for longer than I care to admit. “Don’t Go” glides in on an arpeggiated melody that carries with it a whiff of Yaz(oo), but the achingly romantic textures are quintessential OMD. Andy McCluskey’s voice (which is in amazing form) remains as shot through with desperate emotion as ever. Paul Humphreys’ arrangement is stellar – the fill at the 1:25 is tear-inducing, either from the wistful tug of memory or the fresh pain of something more recent. Feels like it would fit equally well alongside tracks like “Hold You” (from 1985’s Crush) as with more recent tracks like “Metroland” from 2013’s English Electric. Gorgeous.

“Don’t Go” serves as 2019’s musical corollary to 1988’s “Dreaming” – i.e., the new track appended to OMD’s new (and massive), greatest hits collection, Souvenir, which is out now.

Web: site fbook twitt 

Routine Death, “Tubeway Revolution” (Fuzz Club)

Routine Death are the husband/wife duo of Lisa and Dustin (also in Holy Wave) Zozaya. The track “Tubeway Revolution” is taken from their sophomore long-player, 2 Weeks to 4 Months (the follow-up to 2018’s excellent Parallel Universes), and it’s a great mélange of the hypnotic and the terse. Tensile synths and a woozy bassline lull you in before a jagged guitar scrawl jars you awake – while Lisa’s multi-tracked vocals beguile throughout.  There’s a bit of a “lost 80’s” vibe in the arrangement, its icy cool goth-new wave veneer peppered with with exhales of psych vapor. The press release accompanying the track mentions a shared drive through a desert as a catalyst for the song, and it feels apt for anyone who’s experienced time in such vastness.

From 2 Weeks to 4 Months, which is out now on Fuzz Club.

Web: label fbook

The Orielles, “Come Down on Jupiter”

The Orielles are, without doubt, one of our favorite new(er) bands here at tgh hq. From the first time we heard 2017’s “Sugar Tastes Like Salt” we were hooked, and the band haven’t let us wriggle free since. Excitement, then, for “Come Down on Jupiter”, the (now) quartet’s dizzying new track – and it proves justified. While adding depth in its arrangement, the track happily retains the insouciant charm of earlier efforts. As with those previous tracks, “Jupiter” sees the band donning several musical styles over the span of 5 minutes or so – bouncing back and forth between cinematic psych that sounds like the soundtrack to an impossibly cool, 60s bohemian movie, the dreamiest, Lush dream pop, and a full-on freakout of an extended outro – and doing so seamlessly. It’s marvelous, each member in top form – though, for my money the (not so) secret killer is Sidonie Hand-Halford’s drumming, which rearranges each of these scene changes with aplomb. Can’t wait for the record.  

Taken from forthcoming long-player, Disco Volador, due February 28, 2020 from Heavenly and available for pre-order here.

Web: label site (store) fbook twitt insta

Katy J Pearson, “Tonight”

Bristol, UK’s Katy J. Pearson recently released the brilliant single, “Tonight” – billed as her first solo effort following the end of a joint project with her brother.  Arriving on an inspired, strings-based melody, the track weaves a vignette in which the characters are made to choose whether to take the proverbial leap, in spite of all while being “so vulnerable/in the eyes of our beholder”. Pearson’s voice is sweet without being saccharine and, while carrying a bit of a twang, the song isn’t country – I kept hearing a bit of Gwen Stefani, a dash of Kirsty MacColl. The chorus will follow you around for days, and you won’t mind a bit. It’s light (but not lightweight) indie pop that should be popular – make it so. 

“Tonight” arrives November 15, courtesy of Heavenly, and will be paired with a cover of “Poison Cup”, by M. Ward.

Web: label fbook bcamp twitt insta

Siamese Twins, “Listless/Second Skin” 7” (self-released)

Siamese Twins are a “cross-continental” band, currently based out of Leverett and Cambridge, MA and Chicago, IL and featuring members of bands including Ampere and Libyans (a personal fave). Their bio suggests that the group “don’t get together often”, which helps to explain why new 7” single, “Listless/Second Skin” is arriving roughly five years on from their debut full-length, Still Corners. However long it took, it was well worth the wait for these two new tracks. Both feature haunting vocal interplay and guitar melodies reminiscent of early Cure under heavy washes of synth. Slight edge goes to the b-side, which adds rockabilly noir to an otherwise wistful beauty. Death-dream rock? If Beauty and the Beat had been produced by Martin Hannett? Ladytron goth? You decide – I’m going to keep listening. 

Out now – get yours here.

Web: fbook bcamp site

Check Out “Some Beautiful Species Left”, the New Album from Melbourne’s EXEK

Cover photo by Robyn Daly

EXEK, Some Beautiful Species Left (SDZ; Anti-Fade; Digital Regress)

Melbourne, AUS five-piece EXEK released their latest long-player, Some Beautiful Species Left,  last month. A follow up to last year’s double, A Casual Assembly and Ahead of Two Thoughts, the album finds the band further fine-tuning their kitchen sink production approach (the promo for the album mentions use of kitchen appliances in the recording, so I couldn’t resist) – and the results are phenomenal.

“Hobbyist” opens the proceedings along a discordant whine that sounds produced by something hand-cranked, unfurling into a full-on motorik headbuzz. Amidst the din, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Albert Wolski teasingly invites the listener to ‘go on/have a second guess’, like a spaced out Mark E. Smith fronting Clinic. It’s a fittingly bewildering start to a record that’s equal turns arresting, unsettling, chaotic, caustically hilarious and inspiring. Strings, horns, guitars, bass, drums, and persistent echo chambah effects swirl into a musical trail mix including dub, abrasive post-punk (pre-Brix The Fall, Wire, Metal Box-era PiL), jazz, and Syd-led Floyd experimentalism.

Highlights are many: the jittery dub of “Lobbyist”; the intriguing guitar/vibraphone (I think?) interplay on “Plastic Sword Retractable”; “Iron Efficiency”’s rugged narco-psych; the lightheaded, infectious melody of “Unetiquetted”. Instruments traditional and non- at times sound as if they’re being played forwards and backward simultaneously, Wolski’s gnomic sing-chant recalling bits of the aforementioned Barrett and Smith, Robyn Hitchcock and Jah Wobble in tone. 

The magic of Some Beautiful Species Left lies in how it all hangs together – even for a listener who maybe has a more punk-inclined/birdlike musical attention span (cough). Veering from sprawling to terse, short blasts, the album’s eight tracks go in many directions. But for all the experimentalism on display, EXEK’s jammier tendencies enthrall rather than disappear too far into the navel. Perhaps a cheeky reference can be found in closer, “How the Curve Helps” (at 8:11, the longest track on the album), Wolski intoning ‘about an hour ago/I should have left’. We’re good to hang out longer.

Some Beautiful Species Left is out now, courtesy of the good folks at SDZ (Europe/Africa), Anti-Fade (AUS/Asia) and Digital Regress (North America).

Highlights include: “Iron Efficiency”; “Commercial Fishing”; “Lobbyist”; “Unetiquetted”.

Web: bcamp fbook label label label

Fade Into “Gun” and “On the Attack”, from Moon Panda

Moon Panda, “Gun”; “On the Attack” (self-released)

Moon Panda is a quartet based in London and Brighton, UK. Led by vocalist/bassist Maddy Myers and guitarist Gustav Moltke (George Godwin and Alfie Webber round out the set), the band features members from the US, Denmark and the UK. They’ve self-released a trio of singles over the past year plus, including the two latest – “Gun” and “On the Attack”.

The group describe themselves as making ‘dreamy space pop for dreamy space people”, and you can’t accuse them of false advertising. The gauzy feel of “Gun” pushes the band towards a sound reminiscent of trip hop bands like Morcheeba or Zero 7, as well as Parachute-era Coldplay. Myers’ fragile, whispery vocals complement the mood, a pleasingly dark undertone provided by lyrical musings on the non-greeting card aspects of love (‘even the sweetest thoughts/get twisted’). The slightly more in focus “On the Attack” comes off a bit like a velvet-gloved PJ Harvey, a psych nibble on quietly lush chords invoking Bête Noire-era Bryan Ferry.

Both tracks illustrate Moon Panda’s aptitude for building engrossing tunes on serpentine grooves and echo-laden melodies. The band’s website mentions that these tracks, together with others, will be released as the Pastel Pools EP later in 2019. Looking forward to it.

Web: site fbook soundcloud youtube bcamp twitt

Check Out “Manic Static”, from New Zealand’s Warm Leather

Cover art by MF Joyce

Warm Leather, Manic Static/Vocabulary 7” (self-released)

Warm Leather are a trio of initialed gentlemen hailing from Auckland, New Zealand (to be more precise, AT (guitars/vocals, JP (drums) and MF (er, ropes?)). We don’t know much about them, aside from what’s on their fbook and the fact they recently played Gonerfest, which is how we had our heads turned by their excellent debut single, Manic Static.

Don’t let any preconceptions of Warm Leather’s home country lead you astray – this is defo not the jangle-pop you’re listening for when you reflexively think of bands hailing from this part of the world. Instead, what you get is a punch straight in the gob (that’s the right term, n’est pas?). The a-side charges in on a riff that had me thinking of a heavy take on ‘Rock Lobster’, AT weaving a tale of insomnia  (“I got a buzzin’ in my head/tossin’ and turnin’ in my bed/… but the needle keeps on swinging into the red”) over rough guitars and a heavy, compact rhythm section (the drum sound, in particular, packs a wallop). The band cite such luminaries as The Birthday Party and Wire as influences, and who are we to argue? But the rather maniacal breaking point in AT’s vocal delivery on both tracks (b-side, “Vocabulary”, is equally good) reminds of Kurt Cobain at his weirdest/best (see, e.g., “Turnaround”). In fact, that’s what this single felt like most – early Nirvana, at their rawest. Tuneful, yes, but shot through with a paranoid energy. All good; rec’d.

The Manic Static single is available now, order your copy here. Warm Leather have a show upcoming November 1, at Cupid Bar in Port Chevalier, New Zealand – details here.

Web: fbook bcamp

Follow North Carolina’s ISS Down the “Elevator Shaft”

ISS, “Elevator Shaft” (Sorry State)

ISS is the North Cacalack-based duo of Rich Ivey and Eddie Schneider. Vets of local punk bands like Whatever Brains and Brain F# (a/k/a ‘Brain Flannel’), as ISS they make ‘punk’ (in the ‘outsider’ sense as much as, if not more so, rote musical form) that is among the more interesting out there. 

The band’s forthcoming long-player, Alles 3rd Gut (reference to third release and all’s good? I only took German in high school) features the streamable preview track, “Elevator Shaft”. It sounds like a brilliant, lost 80s cut, built around a conversation between Ivey – laying prone at the bottom of the titular shaft – and guest vocalist, Miss Lady (sounding a bit like Victoria Jackson). Questions abound: how did he fall (doesn’t remember)?; any damage done (lots of blood, gnarly looking ankles)?; will she lend a hand (maybe…or maybe she’ll push him back in)? A risible take on poppy, guy-girl indie, “Elevator Shaft” seems like what Jane Wiedlin might have done if she’d collaborated with Whammy-era B-52s, instead of Sparks. Righteous. 

Alles 3rd Gut will be released on Sorry State Records.

Web: bcamp label

Playlist for a Long Weekend!

Long weekends call for a long(er than usual, for us anyway) playlist! Here’s some of our current favorites that could be found on soundcloud:

Check Out “Mind Cancer”, from Virvon Varvon

ARTWORK BY @deuteromali ON INSTAGRAM

Virvon Varvon, Mind Cancer (Girlsville)


Assuming the internet isn’t lying to me (again, bastard), the words “virvon, varvon” form part of a ‘spell’ cast by young Finnish children dressed as witches during Easter, by which they offer decorated willow twigs in exchange for candy or other rewards. Fascinating, no? More pertinent to this review, Virvon Varvon are a five-piece wrecking crew of a band based – I think – in London (reading between the lines of a fine feature over at 50thirdand3rd.com). They’re debut EP, Mind Cancer, was released last month, and it’s been on repeat here at tgh hq ever since. 

Mind Cancer is chock full o’ turgid, roiling tracks best described by the umbrella term ‘rock and roll’. Like fellow travelers including NYC’s Vanity, Olympia’s VEXX (rip) and Perth’s Zerodent, Virvon Varvon decant a heady mix of punk (the hardcore, ℅ ’77, proto- and post- varietals), NWOBHM, guitar-oriented new wave (see, the chiming guitars in ‘Listen’), and 70s ‘hard rock’. At various points, I heard bits of Dead Boys, B52s, Black Flag, Judas Priest, Love Battery, and the Damned. While there’s plenty of roughness on display, some absolute melodic gems can be uncovered by sifting through the production’s layers of dust – but the real revelation here are the vocals of Hanne Highway, who has a knack for a tuneful roar. 

Highlight, “Radical”’s opening riff sounds like a revved up “Livin’ After Midnight”, guy/girl vocals rapidly going off in different directions – like trying to listen to two people simultaneously describe how that fist fight last night really started. Another personal fave, “What Did You Say?”, marries a Damned-worthy drum crunch underneath a B52s-y guitar melody, all crescendoing to an absolute rager of a chorus. There’s even a rousing shout-along about allergies. The whole thing is damn good and, flying by in a little under 20 minutes, doesn’t overstay it’s welcome. Go get it. 

Mind Cancer is available now, courtesy of the good people over at Girlsville. Haven’t seen anything yet about a tour, but would be great to hear these tunes live.

Web: label

The hooks leave a mark on “EP2”, from Sydney’s Body Type


Sydney-based quartet Body Type was a ‘new to us’ band when we stumbled upon their fantastic EP2. Released in May, it’s quickly become a favorite here at tgh hq.

Self-described as “scuzz//rock” (or, alternately, “scuzzzzzzz”), the tracks on EP2 trace a majestic arc through driving, mid-90s indie rock to spikier, more 80s indebted post-punk. The blistering opener, ‘Stingray’, sets the tone nicely – the band’s taut, bright hooks counterposed against Sophie McComish’s vocal delivery, whose languid quality thinly veils a sneer as she warns that the titular, spineless fish is nonetheless able to “sting just fine”. Elsewhere, the slower pace of standout tracks like ‘Insomnia’ feel almost humid, but never cloying. The lead guitar melodies – in particular – are transfixing throughout and will rattle around in your brain for days. Sounding a bit more polished than last October’s EP1, there is more than enough of a Breeders-y off-kilter approach to the arrangements to keep it from feeling too safe.

EP2 is out now, courtesy of Partisan Records and Inertia Music. Head over to Partisan’s website, and you can purchase both EP1 and EP2 as one, long-playing vinyl release. Long live the “two ‘fer”!

Highlights include: “Stingray”; “Insomnia”; “UMA”.

Web: label label bcamp fbook twitt insta

Check out the video for ‘UMA’: