Melbourne, AUS-based Mystery Guest recently put out one of our favorites of the year, so far, with their debut full-length. Starting with the current sitch-appropriate line “are you feeling stressed?”, the title track opener serves as a kind of starchild meets ‘1984’ informercial. For those pining for “the roundness of a circle, and the structure of a square – at the same time” here for your pleasure, ladies and gents, is Octagon City.
Comprised of Patrick Telfer and Caitlyn Lesiuk, Mystery Guest make trippy, louche dance music with a decidedly downtown feel. Part of a continuum stretching back to the art damaged Lower East Side of the 70s, the jubilant DIY disco of a leftfield Factory Records signing, through bohemian dance like Deee-Lite and Luscious Jackson, and on to current arch-stylists like International Teachers of Pop, the album’s nine tracks groove, tease, and slap – all the while taking pleasure, from a distance, at the goofy grin forming on your face.
Highlights are many. ‘Redeem’ has a sultry grooviness that calls to mind 80s r&b and The Style Council-esque mod pop. The back-to-back one-two of ‘Get Up’ and ‘Red Dance’ are slow motion bangers; the former adding hints of afropop to the arrangement, the latter riding a seriously elastic bassline. ‘Mystery Party’ comes off as a sensual re-drawing of ‘Vogue’ – “lift your skirts/hertz by hertz” is one of the best dance floor commands of this or any year, and the track is currently tied with Too Free’s ‘Gold’ in our 2020 “best use of 808 cowbell” awards. ‘Moon, Moon’ feels positively Roxy in its decayed romance – “our celestial bodies/making the waves/singing to drown/the church upon the knaves” (is that a hint of ‘Always, Forever’ at the one minute mark?). All this groove is beautifully anchored by Lesiuk’s unflustered vocals. Oozing charisma, I love the way she reshapes and stretches certain syllables, adding to the grandeur.
Beguiling and a bit cheeky, Octagon City is very highly recommended. The shape of their love is an octagon – step on in.
Quarantine. The days of wine and more wine – oh, and bleach. Looking back through these past bleary weeks, we’ve mostly been putting out playlists. While fun, this seems to have detracted from actually putting some words out around the music we’ve been enjoying lately. While we love them all, we wanted to focus on just a few of the tracks from those lists here – be sure to take a listen to all the great artists and visit our Spotify page.
Special Interest, ‘Don’t Kiss Me in Public’ (Night School; Thrilling Living)
One of the most exciting bands to emerge in the last few years, New Orleans’ Special Interest released their latest single, ‘Don’t Kiss Me in Public’, on Valentine’s Day. Their 2018 debut, Spiraling, ground together elements of punk, new wave and no wave into a thrilling mash. ‘Don’t’ doesn’t waste time picking up where Spiraling left off, riding a rugged, industrial dance beat and messy stabs of guitar. What’s more noticeable to me on this track is funk. There have been many bands down the years mining inspiration from both punk and funk, but Special Interest set themselves apart by more deeply engaging with the ‘funk’ portion of that formula. Funk’s gritty, greasy qualities – the ‘staink’ (if anyone still says that) – is a remarkably powerful unifier with punk’s at times desperate intensity. Both are fully throttled on this track, with Alli Logout’s vocal pleas crescendoing like some kind of studded leather-clad Teddy Pendergrass. It’s sweaty, cathartic, and amazing – and it’s out now, courtesy of the remarkable labels Night School and Thrilling Living.
While you’re at it, do yourself the immense favor of checking out Spiraling, which was re-released last year on Anxious Music and remains on regular rotation here at tgh hq. Hoping for more from them soon.
Leeds-based quintet bdrmm has been releasing music for a couple of years now, but we’ve only just caught up with them now, through ‘Happy’. Serving as a taster for the band’s debut full-length, Bedroom, the track is a shiny blast of dreamy post-punk along the lines of DIIV. The track’s hushed opening bars, all lithe bassline, whiplash drums and flanged guitars, call to mind classics like ‘A Forest’. This greyscale beginning, however, soon morfs into a kaleidoscopic arrangement – lyrics painting a picture of separation, realizing you might have done more but now just want the ‘other’ to be happy – before dissolving into a soaring instrumental outro and extended solo. It’s a great track which bodes well for Bedroom, due July 3 on Sonic Cathedral.
Check bdrmm’s bandcamp page for more tracks, and be sure to stick around long enough to hear a phenomenal remix of ‘Happy’ by one our favorites, the mighty International Teachers of Pop.
New music from Melbourne, AUS-based Dianas. The band’s first since 2017’s Leave Love, ‘Million Dollar Baby’ is life-affirming jangle. From the first hard-strummed chords, the track recalls dreamy 60s ‘girl group’ pop up through bands like Vivian Girls and Terry. Lush, intertwined vocal lines stay tethered in the measures before the string is released into a heady chorus, a psych edge keeping things beautifully off-kilter. Lyrically, Dianas focus attention towards making someone see their own self-worth (“you’re only failing/in your own head”) – something we could all use more of.
‘Million Dollar Baby’ is taken from Dianas’ forthcoming long-player, Baby Baby, due May 4 courtesy of Blossom Rot, a new label run by Nathalie from Dianas and Sophie from Body Type. Pre-order yours here.
The track serves as the opener to the great Stay Inside – Songs from the Great Indoors compilation, a coordinated effort of Blossom Rot and several other Aussie labels – including Dinosaur City, Osborne Again, Spunk, Hotel Motel and Inertia Music. All proceeds go directly to the artists.
In support of his forthcoming full-length, A Tear in the Fabric (his first in six years), Devon Williams has graced our ears with ‘In Babylon’. A masterclass in charming, dreamy indie pop, the track is all elevataed emotion. Guitars chime and jangle, the bass veritiably glows, drums swish, all pushed skyward by a gossamer thin synth line. Dead center in the mix is Williams, sounding like a lost Finn brother, his vocal melody tripping lightly amidst the song’s delicate intricacy. There’s more than a bit of the more glossy end of the ‘college radio’ genre in feel and tone – think The Church, Prefab Sprout – together with more newer emotive pop like Cherry Ghost.
It’s our favorite of the taster tracks for the new album, so far – though they’re all very good. Roll on May 1, when A Tear in the Fabric is released by the fine folks at Slumberland. In the meantime, why not pre-order your copy.
A new group from Hebden Bridge, UK, The Lounge Society recently unleashed a track full of gritty, totemic post-punk in the form of ‘Generation Game’. Lyrically, themes are heavy: a generation under siege and ignored (the band’s members are all students, between the ages of 16 and 17); a general lack of empathy amongst the ‘humans’; a retreat and reliance upon false comforts (poisonous beliefs) and falser idols (looking towards the U.S. to “save our soul”). Musically, the track builds from a gentle strum to a boisterous roil as frustrations are catalogued, takes to the skies for a spacey (but, far from light) bridge, before landing a four to the floor ending. The track bears audible similarities to contemporaries like The Murder Capital, but I also heard a bit of older heads like The Stranglers or The Godfathers. It’s an eye-opener of a debut, and one that has us looking forward to more.
‘Generation Game’ is out now, courtesy of Speedy Wunderground.
Difficult to know what, when, how much to post these days. We find solace in music, and hope that you find some somewhere amongst these new lists. Curated over the past several, bewildering weeks, there’s a range of emotion on display, which seems appropriate.
We also now have a Spotify page, so click the button top left of the homepage if you’re into following. Thanks, and stay safe.
P.E. is a new quintet comprised of former members of Pill and current members of Eaters. Two teasers from their forthcoming debut long-player, Person – namely, ‘Soft Dance’ and ‘Hot Ticket’ – have stoked much anticipation for the record here at tgh hq.
‘Soft Dance’ is a taut, deconstructed body mover. The bassline and sparse rhythm will have you grooving, but it feels almost detached from the rest of the arrangement – the lyric “the roots make shapes/interwoven – interwoven” sums it all up rather nicely. Veronica Torres’ vocals are reminiscent of Bjork in ‘oh so quiet’ before the storm’ mode, but here the storm doesn’t quite make it, just a plea to not “forget to have a good time”. ‘Hot Ticket’ rides in on a melody that begins like an interpolation ‘Born to Be Wild’ before heading off the highway to a basement club over a stuttering Kid A rhythm. Here, again, Torres’ slinky, commanding performance steals the show – her message requiring “strict compliance” to follow the groove exhilarating. Head over to the P.E. bandcamp page (link below) to also check a remix of ‘Hot Ticket’ from fellow travelers, Liars.
‘Anticlimax’ is lead track of the latest double a-side single from New York’s Vanity, an outfit which has previously layered elements of punk, glam and straight up rock across their releases like so many ‘suicide’ Slurpees. The new track sees the band flexing its muscles over a glorious slice of riffing power-pop.
The arpeggiated intro is a glorious rush sure to melt even the most frozen of hearts, but there’s more than enough salt to balance the sweetness. Rushing by in a tic under four minutes, ‘Anticlimax’ feels like a lost b-side from first album Cheap Trick, and finds Vanity (who now include former VEXX-er, Mike Liebman, on guitar) at the peak of their powers. Highly recommended. Released, together with ‘A Seat at the Table’ February 28, courtesy of Feel It.
Back in 2017, White Flowers (née, Britain) seemed to blip, fully-formed, across our radar with the tracks ‘Day by Day’ and ‘Tried to Call’. We loved those tracks’ heady mixture of ethereal, Cocteau Twins’ style dream pop and rafters-raising psych reminiscent of early Doves. Fast forward, then to last month, which saw the release of ‘Night Drive’, the Preston, UK duo’s latest – produced by none other than Doves’ guitarist Jez Williams.
Part of a 12″ double-a side (with ‘Portra’) that was released on Valentine’s Day (hooray for the new music, since it appears their older material has been taken down) ‘Night Drive’ feels a step forward. Built on a similar musical foundation, the track’s multiple layers reveal themselves at a considered pace. There’s a directness in the composition that does nothing to blunt the pleasant buzz created by the combination of Katie Drew’s swooning vocals and a kaleidoscopic melody crafted by her and Joey Cobb. Great stuff – the double a-side is out now, courtesy of Tough Love.
Activity, ‘Calls Your Name’; ‘Earth Angel’ (Western Vinyl)
Activity are a new quartet featuring members of Russian Baths, Grooms, and Field Mouse. The band’s debut long-player, Unmask Whoever, is due soon and, based upon the evidence of teaser tracks, ‘Calls Your Name’ and ‘Earth Angel’, it’s going to be very good, indeed.
“Calls Your Name” (check the video, above) carries a hypnotic feel, woozy boy/girl vocals bringing to mind Tricky and Martina Topley-Bird’s work on Maxinquaye, et al. Vocalist Travis Johnson’s repeated invocation of a “lit’ral hell” where “houses spread and swell” is mirrored by the circular feel of the arrangement, underpinned by a sinuously insidious rhythm. “Earth Angel” (inspired by Laughing Stock-era Talk Talk, less so The Penguins’ doo-wop hit) has a bit more sprawl, but with a surface-level tension that adds menace to Johnson’s stated desire to “wanna fuck around” over a roiling, 90s industrial boil and even a bit of Hurting-era Tears for Fears. Both tracks manage to feel both insular and heady, and unsettlingly lovely.
I recently had the opportunity to re-watch Donnie Darko with my oldest (who – proud dad moment – loved it) and, if they ever decided to do a re-make, Activity should contribute to the soundtrack. Unmask Whoever is due March 27, courtesy of Western Vinyl – pre-order a copy here.
Cloth are a Glaswegian three-piece comprising twin guitarists Rachel and Paul Swinton (the former also providing vocals), as well as drummer Clare Gallacher (who, courtesy of a sample pad, also provides the ‘bass’). This past November, they put out one of our favorite records of 2019 in the form of their debut, self-titled, long-player.
The breathy textures on offer throughout Cloth reward close listening, adding more than a dash of psych and soul to an undercurrent of trip hop and dream pop. The XX (the earlier, not overtly club-friendly stuff) is a good point of reference, but I also picked up hints of bands like The Wake, early Doves and a downtempo feel of groups like Sol Seppy as well. A rhythmic current runs through voice-guitar-drum-‘bass’, propelling arrangements which tend towards insular but can flash more broadscale (‘Demo Love’, notably, featuring a mixture of both). It’s a kind of musical chiaroscuro which, particularly during highlights such as ‘Tripp’, ‘Curiosity Door’, and ‘Sleep’, is mesmerizing. Fall, into your speakers’ embrace, and enjoy.
Cloth is out now, courtesy of Last Night from Glasgow.
Featuring members of Homostupids (who we were not familiar with) and Pleasure Leftists (who we greatly enjoy), The Mind came together last year to make some kinda somethin’ on Edge of the Planet. And it was good.
Bleary is the head that attempts to describe something made so intentionally difficult to describe, but here are a few muddled thoughts. ‘Blah Na Nothing’ and ‘Running on my Head’ sound like Joy Division on an extended acid trip. There’s a lot of tape hiss, 60s sci-fi flying saucer f/x, and heady, disorientating sonic explorations anchored, unexpectedly, by sweetly disembodied vocals. There’s elements of dub throughout and trippy ambient tones. Some Devo (‘Space is Binary’), and the guitar bend of ‘Baby Rats’ is disarmingly lovely. It’s all very whacked out in an intriguing and beguiling way. Go check it – you know you want to.
Brisbane (via Melbourne) jangle champs Thigh Master has been developing into a favorite over the past few years here at tgh hq, and their latest long-player, Now for Example, sealed the deal.
Incorporating prior singles ‘BBC’, ‘Pity Run’, and ‘Exodus’ (already a fave), Now for Example is a brilliant example of high-functioning indie rock with more than a whiff of the Flying Nun brigade. Matthew Ford’s delivery veers between sweet and mischievous sneer, delivering bon mots such as “this conversation’s going/south/and you’re pride’s glued to your mouth” (‘Entity’). The band know their way around a hook, pulling off both the intricate (the guitar/rhythmic interplay of ‘BBC’) or straight ahead with equal aplomb, while still finding ways to sneak in an unexpected sound or two (the demented doo-wop backing in ‘Mould Lines’, the tubular synth on highlight ‘Prospect Patent’). Closer ‘The Ballad of the Caxton’ sounds like a more laconic take on the kind of closing time pisstake bands like The Specials used to fling about – and did I mention how much I love ‘Exodus’? Ok, fair do. Brilliance abounds.
Out now, courtesy of the lovely folks at Goner Records (distributed by the equally lovely Tenth Court in AU).
Ben Woods hails from Christchurch, NZ, and has played with/in local bands including Salad Boys. Woods released his debut solo record, Put, last fall and we’ve fallen for its surreal soundscapes incorporating elements of Spiritualized’s heart-crushing psych, slowcore, Velvet-y garage jangle and punk.
Including earlier singles ‘ROMANCY’ (which we wrote about here) and ‘Lozenge’, Put is stunning from beginning to end – both in the sense of being fantastic, but also more literally via the buzz emanating from the album’s nine tracks. Starting with the road-weary haze of ‘MARCHY’, it feels like a series of fractured lullabies, instruments and voice filtering in and out in all directions. There’s a haunted quality in the often muted production, focusing your ears on serpentine melodies that resolve at a deliberate pace. This sense of drain-circling makes the moments of relative clarity so arresting – notably, during ‘LOZENGE’, whose Buzzcocks’ worthy flounce feels like Ty Segall fronting a 60s girl group. ‘PRAISE’ encapsulates all of it beautifully, the track slowly slipping ‘neath the waves until, around the 2:30 mark, resurfacing with a gasp and riding to shore along a Bowie/Reed chug. Highly recommended.
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.
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, TheRebirth 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.
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.
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.
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.