P22 are a Los Angeles-based quartet comprising Sofia Arreguin, Nicole-Antonia Spagnola, Justin Tenney, and Taylor Thompson. Named for a mountain lion that crossed the notorious 405 interstate to disappear into L.A.’s Griffith Park, the band’s debut full-length, Human Snake, was released in April and it’s fantastic.
While P22 could be generally classified as “punk”, it’s perhaps too restrictive and lazy a label to place on a group who make music that throws so many curves. Yes, there’s plenty of straight up hardcore (of the west coast variety), but swaddled in a hairshirt of different textures and tempos – elements of free jazz, jangle, noise, no wave, and classical pop up, with a vocal delivery that feels as much driven by beat poetry as post-punk. My (admittedly, older) ears kept going back to bands like Flipper, Saccharine Trust – ‘punk’ bands that weren’t interested in only playing something traditionally categorized as such. ‘Intro’ is a good example, starting off sounding like Saint-Saens, before settling into a tense, ominous noir of loosely strummed guitar, then dissolving into some kind of beatnik marching band number and leaving on a deconstructed freakout.
All these twists and turns keep you on your toes, but don’t feel as though they’re forcing the band’s art into artifice. The band’s playing is incredibly tight, a fact that is sometimes missed due to the mesmerizing vocal performance, but shouldn’t be ignored (I particularly enjoyed the basslines throughout – particularly on highlight, ‘Shortly’). Fun bonus: I now know what a ‘terminarch’ is (the last member of a species or subspecies, in case you wondered); #themoreyouknow #edutainment. Highly recommended.
Human Snake is available now, courtesy of Post Present Medium.
Less of Everything is the debut full-length from Es, a London, UK-based four piece comprising vocals, bass, synth and drums. It’s a sharp, gripping collection of goth-infused punk that deserves a wide audience.
Tauter in feel and execution than Object Relations, the band’s great 2016 EP, Es come flying out of the gates with opener, ‘Chemicals’. A roiling, Banshee sounding rhythm and chunky bassline underpin vocalist Maria Cecilia Tedemalm’s lyrical quandary – “what have I acquired/to be getting/so tired” – a musing equally apt in these pandemic times as it is a statement of more general frustration and feeling of uncertainty. Tedemalm sings of an existence where a necessary tough skin becomes “too thick” (‘Foundation’), a sense of “hanging by a thread/uncertainty/lies ahead” (‘Severed’), grasping at straws “with my mind” (‘Hidden Track’), but also a fightback, rising “fully formed” (‘Sesame’) – lines delivered with equal parts withering dismissiveness and rising indignation.
While the band’s various parts and shapes sync to great affect throughout, a particular mention is needed for the amazing bass playing of Katy Cotterell and drumming of Tamsin M. Leach. Being guitarless, Cotterell’s bass plays a dual role of holding down the fort and leading the melodic charge, while the heft and sway of Leach’s drum hones the album’s overall percussively trippy feel. Musical signposts can be heard in the aforementioned Banshees, 17 Seconds-era The Cure, X-Mal Deutschland, Savages – the tension and drama across the nine tracks is palpable. One personal favorite (if I have to pick), ‘Severed’, almost veers into pop territory before the synth turns ominous and pushes the track over the edge and down the rabbit hole. A fantastic debut.
Less of Everything is out now, courtesy of Upset the Rhythm.
Gaffer are a new band out of Perth, Australia, featuring members of powerhouses like Cold Meat and Helta Skelta (the band). Having just formed last year (I think), the band recently released its self-titled demo via Helta Skelta (the label), and it’s a riveting debut.
Each of the tape’s seven tracks sound as if it was recorded live, such is the intensity. The set features raw, determined punk and post-punk sounds whose origins may sound from the mists of time but the tone of which remain sharply relevant. Frustration, isolation, the feel of being under the yoke – an anxiety made palpable by the arrangements and playing, with song titles like ‘Animal’, ‘Skin of Your Teeth’, and ‘Stuck’ serving as signposts. The demo has the diaristic feel of albums from early Black Flag (particularly, Damaged), The Mob, Flux of Pink Indians, or early Killing Joke. The vocalist inhabits a kind of younger Willy Loman character, one being told he’s “got everything to live for” while simultaneously feeling like he’s moving through life “with a noose on”. On ‘Skin of Your Teeth’ – one of many highlights – the not so quiet desperation finds form in lyrics like “can’t do this anymore/getting through by the skin of your teeth…/no real purpose/no real energy/no end product”.
Gaffer’s demo is available now, on cassette, from Helta Skelta. Looking forward to hearing what the band does next. In the meantime, you can check out the video of their first live gig here.
A new band of old hands, Minneapolis (Janet voice)-based Green/Blue present a jagged kind of garage-pop on their self-titled debut. Initially a recording project featuring the guitar/vocal stylings of Jim Blaha (of The Blind Shake) – whose solo basement musings formed the bases for the album’s eleven tracks – and Annie Sparrows (of The Soviettes), the group is now a quartet, having added Danny Henry (drums, also of The Soviettes) and Hideo Takahashi (bass, of The Birthday Suits).
The album is a hodgepodge of familiar sounding styles, blended into something very immediate. According to a press release, the tracks on Green/Blue were born partially from Blaha’s “newfound love of lo-fi pop jangle” (namechecking The Chills), but Green/Blue’s handling of the sound feels similar to the way The Misfits approached late-night 50’s croon or The Jesus and Mary Chain worked with girl-group, surf and other 60’s pop. There’s certainly sugary tones to be found here, the band exhibiting a deft touch for catchy melodies – but the ear candy is often chased with cough syrup, Blaha’s whispery vocals and he and Sparrows’ dual scuzzed up axe attack providing more than a hint of menace to the romance alluded to in many of the lyrics. Highlights ‘Proto Caves’ and ‘Way Down’ throw off a kind of haunted nostalgia, the former sounding like a roughneck Everly Brothers demo in spots – a leather-clad sock hop leading to a fogged up rear window. It’s great how the band are able to infuse so much energy into the boogie chug of ‘That Face’, while the JAMC pyres blaze bright on the brilliant ‘Find a New World’. Qué bella.
Green/Blue is out now, courtesy of Slovenly Recordings. The band also have really rad shirt designs (see here), so hopefully if we’re ever allowed out of our houses again and Green/Blue tour, I’ll snatch one up.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).