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.
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.
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.
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.