Tag Archives: reviews

Reviews: Starchild and the New Romantic; Borzoi; Gen Pop, Rose Mercie; Datenight (US)

Our latest in a series of recaps of albums we loved from the last calendar year…

Starchild and the New Romantic, Language (Ghostly International)

Starchild and the New Romantic is the brainchild of New York-based Maryland transplant, Bryndon Cook. A multi-instrumentalist and vocalist who has also worked with fellow travelers like Devonté Hynes and Solange Knowles, Language is an exemplary slice of lush, 80s-inflected r&b. Drums don’t so much hit as disperse, synths probe longingly, guitars flicker and wane. While the purple one’s haze hangs thick over this set, you also hear the ambitious, heart-on-sleeve arrangements of bands like Force MD’s or the Blue Nile – Cook’s revelatory voice reminiscent of the underlauded Jesse Johnson or Melvin Riley in its plaintive tenor notes. As an added bonus, ‘Only If U Knew’ and ‘Hangin’ On’ might be the best ‘quiet storm’ summoning slow jams I’ve heard in an age. It’s a record that takes things back and pushes them forward simultaneously. Highlights include: “Hangin’ On”; “Language”; “Good Stuff”.

Web: label bcamp fbook soundcloud

Borzoi, A Prayer for War (12XU)


Austin-based trio Borzoi released their latest, A Prayer for War, last September. I’ve listened to it many times since and, though I find it absolutely stunning, I’ve no real idea what to make of it – and that, friends, is what makes it great. Sure, there’s elements of punk, acid-drenched post-punk, funk, a free kinda jazz, noise, dweebs, wasteoids, dickheads, righteous dudes, a fuckin’ partridge in a mother fuckin’ pear tree. All there. In the end, though, the record breaks down to a feeling – and that feeling is “tenuously hinged”. The skittery, jittery atmosphere is shot through, here, with bursts of melody (“Schlock”) and, in many other places, with a heavy boot to the face (“Lizard Men of the Third Reich”). Buckle up. Highlights include: “Schlock”; “Big Pink”; “The Tonsure Twist”.

Web: label fbook bcamp  

Rose Mercie, S-T (SDZ; Monofonus Press)


Rose Mercie is a quartet based in Montreuil, France. Their debut, self-titled album came out last March, and it’s intoxicating. Stripping elements of hypnotic psych, folk and dream pop to their bare essentials – there’s nothing adulterated in the arrangements or production here – then building them up again, with a layer of girl group in the rhythms and vocal interplay. Tracks like highlight, ‘Moyen-Age’, recall a less ornamental Broadcast; elsewhere, ‘The End of Love’ projects The Raincoats jamming in a hazy flat with the Velvet Underground. While largely bucolic in feel, there is a bit of welcome menace “In the Valley” – it’s an album to sit with, the eight tracks unspooling at a deliberate pace. Settle in and listen. Highlights include: “Moyen-Age”; “Floating”; “How Can I Talk”.

Web: label label bcamp fbook soundcloud

Datenight (US),  Comin’ Atcha’ 100mph (Drop Medium)


Nashville, TN trio Datenight (US) serve up garage-punk with a side of power pop hooks and classic, driving midwestern rock on last February’s Comin’ Atcha’ 100mph. It’s an apt title, with no more than half of the dozen tracks in the set clocking in on the high side of two minutes. Each cut, though, leaves a mark; the melodies linger long after the band has roared on to the next. Be it the straight up Sonics’ garage rumble of ‘While it Lasts’, the blissful lo-fi jangle of ‘Poor Exchange’ or the perfected combo of highlight, ‘Tennessee Rider’, the set drips with brio – it’ll have you singing along, even when you don’t know any of the words. Fab. Highlights include: “Tennessee Rider”; “Poor Exchange”; “In and Out”.

Web: label bcamp fbook  

Gen Pop, II (Feel It)


Olympia, WA-based Gen Pop released a six-track EP last May, entitled II. Lifting off from their devastatingly potent debut, On the Screen (released less than a year prior), II offers a virulent slice of old school hardcore for the modern world. Featuring MaryJane Dunphy and Ian Corrigan from the fantastic Vexx, the band manages to push a swirl of sounds into a tight timeframe. [Update: MaryJane Dunphy has left the band. Elle Svete both sings and plays guitar on “No Change”] features tepid vocals transposed over Flex Your Head-summoning musical righteousness, while tracks like ‘Waxing State’ and ‘Din’ inject a bit of post-punk jitter and Buzzcocks’ guitar melodiousness. Highlights include: “No Change”; “Waxing State”.

Web: label bcamp [check out On the Screen here and/or here]

Revel in the Indie Pop Bliss of “Dream About You”, the New Single from London’s The Fireworks

The Fireworks, “Dream About You” (Shelflife/Opposite Number)

London-based trio The Fireworks recently shared a new 7”, “Dream About You”, the first to feature the vocal stylings of new member Beth Arzy (formerly of Trembling Blue Stars and Aberdeen, amongst others).

The single’s three tracks breeze by in a bit more than 8 minutes but, like real pyrotechnics, need but a moment to make a lasting impression.  Close your eyes and you can still hear the brilliant bass countermelody underpinning the title track’s delirious jangle; feel the drum wallop in the candy-colored psycho closer (see what we did there?), “We’ve Been Wasting Time”.  For my money, middle child “Better Without You Now” is the gem, a droll kiss-off backlit by a shimmering, Murmur-era guitar hook.  Fans of JAMC, early REM, Kinks, Shop Assistants, C86, Manhattan Love Suicides and/or well-constructed melodies, look no further.

The “Dream of You” 7” is available now courtesy of two fantastic labels – namely, Opposite Number (in the UK/EU) and Shelflife (everywhere else). Surveil The Fireworks on fbook the twitt and their site, and peruse their back catalogue on bandcamp.  While you’re at it, have a look at the video for “Dream About You”, which premiered over at The Big Takeover.

Experience the Waking Dream of Penelope Isles’ “Cut Your Hair”

Penelope Isles, “Cut Your Hair” (Art Is Hard)

Art Is Hard records’ 2017 singles club aims to provide listeners with a “monthly postcard” from the label’s artists.  The first such missive comes from “Brighton via Cornwall”’s Penelope Isles, who share the beguiling “Cut Your Hair”.  The track sets off on a confrontational tone – short/sharp/stabs of guitar, drum and bass strut, bob and weave, as lyrics describe a decision to settle into a corporate life (after, natch, the titular clip) – before slowly lifting the veil on a crushingly beautiful chorus of arpeggioed upper register and swelling vocals asking, “did you laugh?”.

“Cut Your Hair” is available now, from Art Is Hard.  Discover more of Penelope Isles by queuing up (calmly) and following, on:  fbook, the twittsoundcloud and/or bandcamp.  The band also have a few shows upcoming in the UK (dates below).

2/2 Woodlane Social Club, Falmouth
2/3 Unit 23, Totnes
2/4 The Green Door Store, Brighton
2/7 The Olde Blue Last, London
2/20 The Prince Albert, Brighton

Atlanta’s Death Stuff Share “Surprise Ex”

[Ed. Note:  this was meant to have posted back in November…oops.  Quoth Homer Simpson:  “It’s still good!  It’s still good!”]

Death Stuff, “Surprise Ex” (Monofonus Press)

“Surprise Ex” is a new track from Atlanta three-piece, Death Stuff.  Opening on a riff that threatens to go all ‘Earth AD” the song, instead, roils into propulsive, whirling dervish post-punk before a full-on art-thrash spasm is abruptly euthanized after 2:30 or so.  It’s noisy.  It’s a bit exhausting.  It reminds us of Girl Band, Running and early Butthole Surfers.  It’s great.  Get on it.

“Surprise Ex” is up now on the Death Stuff Bandcamp page – as is a fantastic set of demos from February – and looks to be set for inclusion on a self-titled release due later this fall on auto-correct darlings, Monofonus Press.  I don’t know much more about Death Stuff, except that their first fbook post looks to be from last December and they like to repeat the words ‘death stuff’ on their page – a lot.  Looking forward to more, more, more.