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Here’s Some of Our Favorite Tracks of the Last Few Weeks

In the latest installment of thegrindinghalt.com‘s ongoing  series, “oh crap, we’re behind on a lot of writing”, please enjoy our musings on several of the tracks we’ve been loving these past few weeks (or so…stop judging!). F

Sink Ya Teeth, “Substitutes” (Hey Buffalo)

We love, love, love Sink Ya Teeth, the dynamic duo of Maria Uzor and Gemma Cullingford. “Substitutes”, their latest dancefloor megablast, is a cowbell- propulsed tour d’angleterre. Hypnotic vocals soar above Detroit techno ‘dugga dugga’ synths and a rough and rugged bass line that reminds a bit of Timezone. The 80s electrofunk influence paired with the insouciant cool of peak Ladytron. Taken from Sink Ya Teeth’s debut album on Hey Buffalo. Divine. De-lovely. Diva voce. 

Innocence Mission, “Green Bus” (Bella Union; Badman; P-Vine)

Taken from Sun on the Square, the most recent long-player from long-running dreamy folk-pop group the innocence mission, “Green Bus” is a beguiling new track. Karen Peris’ vocals play like dappled sunlight through an intricate canopy woven by heavily arpeggio’d guitars and lush strings; the overall effect spiritual. Absolutely lovely. Sun On the Square is out now on the veritable Bella Union, Badman Recording (US) and P-Vine Records (JP).

Free Love, “Synchronicity” (Full Ashram)

Free Love – the band formerly known as Happy Meals (we loved their 2014 debut, Apero, via 2016’s glorious Fruit Juice EP) – graced us with “Synchronicity”. Following a detour into trance-like meditiative music, the track – happily, not a The Police cover –  sees the duo of Rodden and Cook return to the wellspring of divine, club-friendly new wave/late disco/electric r&b. Rubber bass, squelched keys and breathy vox.  Out now on the band’s Full Ashram label.

Totally Mild, “Take Today” (Chapter Music)

“Take Today” features on Her, the latest release from Melbourne’s Totally Mild. Opening with the strummy charm of early Ocean Blue dreampop, vocalist Elizabeth Mitchell’s halcyon lilt incorporates a bit of a Gallic touch, bringing in hints of St. Etienne or the poppier side of Stereolab.  A warm embrace of a song, blooming into a veritable endorphin rush of a chorus. “Why wait for a slow decay/take today”. Her is out now on Chapter Music.

Oh Sees, “Overthrown” (Castle Face)

My youngest enjoys the components of a burrito, but not wrapped up together.  In a bougie/“we watch a lot of Cooking Channel so I can” reaction to this, we’ve come to refer to this dish as ‘deconstructed’. Queue hard segue to the latest track from John Dwyer’s mighty Oh Sees (f/k/a Thee Oh Sees), “Overthrown”. The track’s raucous, main portion slashes and burns like a deconstructed thrash opus – the parts are there (jigga-jigga guitar, intense vox pitched up to a scream), but freed from a traditional thrash metal tortilla, er, song structure by virtue of a swinging beat and shards of hazy psych. New album, Smote Reverser, was released last week, courtesy of Castle Face.

The Sueves, “Stare” (Goodbye Boozy)

The lastest from Chicago’s The Sueves, who never fail to disappoint. “Stare”, the a-side to new 7” on the Goodbye Boozy label, is another storming slice of razor-sharp, earworm-worthy garage/punk/rock ’n roll. Vocalist Joe Schorgl sounds a particularly incensed Bon Scott, strangled shouts over brutally downstrummed guitars and a watertight rhythm charge. It’s a fantastic follow on to the band’s spring ’18 full-length, R.I.P. Clearance Event.

Fröst, “Record Still Spinning” (Lost Room)

Fröst is the duo of vocalist Johanna Bramli (who also sang with Stereolab offshoot, Imitation Electric Piano) and Fujiya & Miyagi’s Steve Lewis. Taken from their debut long-player, Matters, “Record Still Spinning” is the first taste, and the influence of the principals’ other projects is evident. The heady mix of a steady, motorik beat augmented by urgent driving bass, minimal synths and breathy vocals call to mind the aforementioned bands, as well as Broadcast and Hooverphonic. Matters releases September 28, courtesy of Lost Room.

Exploded View, “Raven Raven” (Sacred Bones)

Exploded View is an intercontinental project comprising Annika Henderson, Hugo Quezada, and Martin Thulin. “Raven Raven”, taken from the group’s forthcoming sophomore release, Obey, is a vertiginous slab of shuddering, danceable (read: swaying) psych. The lyrical flow reminds a bit of Suicide’s “Cheree”, though here the watcher has become the watched, the titular bird sitting on Henderson’s shoulder, eyeing her ‘every move’. Obey is due for release September 28, courtesy of Sacred Bones. 


Spiritualized Return With “I’m Your Man”

Spiritualized have announced a new album, And Nothing Hurt, by sharing opening tracks “A Perfect Miracle” and “I’m Your Man”. Herein, I focus on the latter.  

“I’m Your Man” builds like a slow-burning lullaby, Stones/Stax/Floyd/gospel excess dropped to earth by the shuffling guile of Pierce’s lyrics. Listening, one imagines a scene: Las Vegas, early summer, 1977. The air, shimmering and oven-like but not quite yet at broil. In the near distance, a jumpsuited Elvis embarks on a spirit walk amidst the desolate barrens outside the desert city. Returning to the Hilton, chastened and mind dutifully expanded, he stuns a crowd of bouffanted housewives by excising the sorry/not sorry of “Always on My Mind” from the setlist, crooning instead…

“I could be …/dependable, on down the line/devoted, all the time/but if you want wasted, loaded/ permanently folded/I’m your man”.

And Nothing Hurt is due September 7, courtesy of Bella Union and Fat Possum. Spiritualized also have a few upcoming tour dates, which can be found here.

Enjoy the Hazy Bliss of “Seeing Is Forgetting”, by Bella Union Debutantes The Beat Escape

You? Who are you?!

You? Who are you?!

The Beat Escape, “Seeing Is Forgetting” (Bella Union)

The Beat Escape are a Montréal-based synth pop/electro duo, recently signed to the formidable (in a nice way) Bella Union.  “Seeing Is Forgetting” is their first single, and it’s a slow burning epic.

“Seeing” is blissfully hypnotic.  A caterpillar’s smoke trail of hushed vocal, melodic bass line, persistent, metronomic beat and analog synthesizer melody. Meditative lines – “looking to forget the time at hand/…underneath a spell of repetition/…hoping for a chance to understand/…waiting for the sun to reappear/…time away from home can give you shelter” – complete a dreamlike effect.  Something akin to Architecture & Morality-era OMD holding hands with The Orb while slow dancing with (fellow 80s-inspired new jacks) Lust for Youth.

“Seeing Is Forgetting” will be released as a 12” single by Bella Union on October 21 – pre-order your copy here.  The Beat Escape can be found on fbook and instagram.

New Track: Ezra Furman, Restless Year

Ezra Furman – “Restless Year” (Bella Union)

The title says it all, really – this song bounces around breathlessly from style to style like that guy trying to bust out of the comic book at the end of that A-ha video:  a 70s cheese ooh-la melody, a bass line that sounds like a spazzy version of the same from a Three Dog Night “classic”, a frenetic bridge that starts off sorta sounding like The The’s “Infected” played on pots and pans and closes with Ezra shrieking over power chords of “death” being his “Tom Sawyer”.  He’s like the guy who gets distracted in the middle of telling a story to start another one – and you go with it.  Ezra Furman’s back, with his Boyfriends – hooray!

From his as yet untitled new album, due this summer on Bella Union.

New (To Me!) Band of the Day: Landshapes

Two new tracks, representing my first exposure to this London-based four piece. Both are taken from sophomore album, Heyoon, to be released by the consistently great Bella Union label.

The first, “Moongee” is trippy, moody, and vaguely psychedelic.  A turn down down a dark, cobblestoned street, lamp posts encircled in fog, the moon creating a corona of misty, distorted light, stalked by a churning rhythm underpinning a swirly interplay between tense guitar work and detached vocals.  Reminds a bit of Mezzanine-era Massive Attack.

The newest, “Stay”, is less languid – all stabby, post-punk guitar shredding and insistent drum/bass work.  Think everything from the Banshees, up to Savages and Wytches, with more than a bit of the low end thump of early Bunnymen and even Interpol.  Music to pogo to, ‘neath the strobes; sweaty, propulsive stuff. Check the video, directed by David Graham.

For a band that, I believe (at least in it’s current iteration), has only been around for 3 years or so, they have a very strong dynamic.  Lead guitarist Jemma Freeman is a revelation; she has the ability to command through both the front and back of the mix.  Vocalist Luisa Gerstein carries a bit of a Joni Mitchell-like vibe with her phrasing and intonation, while the rhythm section of Dan Blackett (drums) and Heloise Tunstall-Behrens (bass) keep it tight.

Their artist bio page on the Bella Union site ends with a suggestion – “climb inside and explore” – I second that emotion.

Heyoon debuts May 4.  Check them out on their Facebook page.

Album Review: Money, Shadow of Heaven

Money – Shadow of Heaven (Bella Union, 5/6/2014)

“If you hold me forever,
I’ll become bored of all of this together,
You can praise and thank the Lord for keeping us apart,
But the Lord ain’t God; he’s something clever,
But that ain’t smart…
Heaven is real” (“Hold Me Forever”)

Money are a four piece hailing from Manchester, England.  The band’s label – the consistently outstanding Bella Union – has made fans on this side of the pond wait several months for a domestic release of debut album Shadow of Heaven (it’s been out in the UK since last Fall).  It was worth it.

God.  Sin.  Religion.  Faith (and the loss thereof). Despair. Hope.  As the title suggests, religious themes abound – the Christ-like pose in the cover photo; the celestial chords of “Hold Me Forever”; the lyric imagery and plaintive, choirboy warble of singer Jamie Lee.  Their label bio states that the band played some of the earliest shows at Manchester’s Sacred Trinity Church – small wonder.

God may be ‘dead’, as the opening track suggests, but remains present throughout – and like his counterpoint, is found often in the details. If we are indeed alone and in charge of each other, where do we search for solace? – sanctuary found in a smile from across a crowded bar; hope gleaned from the sight of a rabbit bounding across cracked and buckled pavement; faith restored as creepers and ivy reclaim abandoned property.  A god of lesser things.  Truth found in the dim, grey light of morning.

There are moments where the arrangements call to mind the early devotional music of composers like Thomas Tallis.  There’s a stark, ethereal quality here; open spaces promoting contemplation – the descending Cloud of Unknowing.  There are also aspects of the earnestness which marked the early output of bands like U2 and Coldplay.  While those bands lost that emotion along the way to world conquering stardom, the emotion on display here is very raw, at times almost disconcerting. Even in the album’s larger moments – including the Clientele on steroids sweep of highlight “Bluebell Fields” – retain an intimacy; grandeur on a small scale.  There is isolation in loneliness, but also peace and quiet and, from this, perhaps solace and rejuvenation.  This is an album to sit with and absorb.

While this is truly a ‘band’ – each member works seamlessly with the others – the centerpiece is Lee’s voice.  Whether pushed to the fore (“Goodnight London”) or awash in a swirl of reverb (“Bluebell Fields”), his voice resonates.  While perhaps not a technically perfect singer, it’s in the bent notes and key drift that much of the powerful emotion is heard – particularly in the title track, where his voice come completely unhinged at its apex.  There is beauty in the imperfection.

Highlights include: “Bluebell Fields”, “Goodnight London”, “Letter to Yesterday”, “The Cruelty of Godliness”.