Tag Archives: upset the rhythm

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]

Melbourne’s Terry Returns, Declare “I’m Terry”

Terry, I’m Terry (Upset the Rhythm)

Terry is a name whose Nordic meaning is, apparently, ‘like Thor’. Terry is a soft material used to make luxurious towels and bathrobes. Terry is also (and most importantly) a Melbourne-based quartet comprised of musicians from a veritable smorgasbord of excellent Australian indie groups including UV Race, Total Control, Dick Diver and Primo! (and those are just the ones I already know and like – I’ve got to get busy listening to the rest). Following their early EPs and a duo of excellent albums (2016’s Terry HQ and last year’s Remember Terry), the band return with the fantastic, I’m Terry.

I’m Terry retains many hallmarks of the band’s sound – interchanged and/or tandem vocals (one of the men sounds an awful lot like Robyn Hitchcock to me, but forgive me, dear reader, for I know not whether tis Zephyr Pavey or Al Montfort); a Gun Club-esque perversion of country slide – further enhanced and dynamic than on prior releases. The languid cool veneer is also present, as is the band’s knack for wry, observational lyrics – I was reminded of early Go-Go’s tracks like “This Town” for the ability to match this type of language with a kind of gritty pop (see also bands like The Vaselines and The Fall).

This detachment works particularly well when cracks start to form and the band allows itself to indulge in the sneer underneath, as in the full scale rockouts of closer, “For the Field”, and the conclusions to “Bureau” and ‘needs a dance to go along with it’ “The Whip” (the former ultimately cascading into a blissful fade out). Highlights are many, and include the Ballboy-like stream of consciousness vocals on “Carpe Diem”, which sounds like a kind of warped lullaby, and the aforementioned pogofest that is “The Whip” (just try getting that ‘na-na’ chorus out of your head anytime soon). My personal favorite flits, usually alighting upon the hypnotic “Under Reign”, with its sly bassline amplifying the “reek of reason”; calm recitations emboldened by cinematic synthesizer, creaking under the weight of a crazed saxophone solo. Brilliant.

I’m Terry is released August 31, courtesy of the phenomenal Upset the Rhythm label (seriously, in what world does one roster include Terry, Primo!, The Green Child, Gen Pop, Vexx, Sauna Youth, Vital Idles, The World…crazy). Surveil (in a supportive way) Terry’s online movements on instagram and/or the twitt. The band’s upcoming tour dates in the UK and Ireland can be found here. 

Review: “Candle Power”, by Rat Columns

Rat Columns, Candle Power (Upset the Rhythm)

Rat Columns is the project of NYC-by way of Western Australia’s David West, whose previous work with bands such as Total Control, Rank/Xerox and Lace Curtain, as well as his solo material (most recently, last year’s great Peace or Love), explored different musical territory, from noirish post-punk, new wave imbued rhythmic explorations and dazed and confused psych.

Candle Power, his latest release with Rat Columns, finds West stitching together these various elements into a seamless and truly wondrous indie pop gem.  “Blinded by the Shadow” expands on the Hot Chip (and their 80s antecedents) stomp of Lace Curtain, burnished with the addition of backing vocals from bassist Amber Gempton (featured throughout) and the inspired use of violin to add texture.  “Northern Soul” weds the jittery, gothic post-punk of West’s work with Total Control and Rank/Xerox (I also kept hearing Lords of the New Church) with hazy psych.  The album is shot through with moments of sublime, pop bliss.  Opening one-two, “Someone Else’s Dream” and “She Loves the Rain”, jangled perfection in the spirit of classic Flying Nun on through to The Byrds. Closer, “Dream Tonight” a dancefloor ready mashup of New Order and Prefab Sprout (“Time’s No Vessel” also reminds of a less blissed-out Sprout with a shot of Orange Juice).

A dreamy, sepia-tinted melancholy hangs over the album, showcasing West’s ability to coalesce wide-eyed melodies with urbane, sometimes caustic lyrical takes on love and relationships, which are at variously “like driving a motorbike straight into a wall” (“Is This Really What You’re Like?”), an ephemeral, ‘did that really happen?’ experience (“Someone Else’s Dream”), and portentous “dark cloud that rains down from above” (“Time’s No Vessel”). It’s brilliant.

Candle Power is out now, on Upset the Rhythm.  You can follow along with all things David West on his bandcamp and fbook page.

Highlights include: “Someone Else’s Dream”, “Time’s No Vessel”, “Blinded by the Shadow”, “Dream Tonight”.

 

Check Out “Schedules Align”, from Feature’s Forthcoming Debut, Banishing Ritual

Feature, “Schedules Align” (Upset the Rhythm)

Photo credit: Owen Richards.

“She’ living a dream/you’re willing to wait”

Feature is the UK-based trio of Jen Calleja, Heather Perkins and Liv Willars, whose collective CVs include memberships in such tgh faves as Sauna Youth, Metronomy, and Slowcoaches.  “Schedules Align” is the first track released from the band’s forthcoming debut, Banishing Ritual, and it’s chock full of hi-nrg, shout-along punk.

I stumbled upon this band a few months ago – specifically, 2015’s Tourists EP – working back via one of Calleja’s other bands, Gold Foil, and was immediately hooked.  I then read a brilliant piece she wrote for Queen of the Track magazine discussing her then recent discovery of The Misfits (a band whose initial run I hold near and dear), that was part fan letter and part send-up, filtered through a discussion of the masculine and feminine in harder rock circles, and was even more intrigued.

For these purposes, the focus is her admiration for The Misftis’ blend of cartoonish levels of aggression and violence with music indebted to gentil, 50s crooner rock – blue angels transmogrified into pregnant Mexican women birthing still-born monster babies.  “Schedules” does provide the listener with a taught display of truly fiendworthy (sorry) guitar, bass and drum work which, combined with the extra sung syllable in “ali-I-ign” and doo-wop backing vocals starting around 1:40, reminded of songs like “Hatebreeders”.  Where Danzig and co. would play this on 11, however, Feature juxtapose the arrangement’s raw aggression with a vocal that manages to be both insouciant and breathless.  It’s perfect for pogoing (do people still do that?) and you’ll need some kind of drill to get the giant earworm of a chorus out of your brain, should you want to.  Can’t wait to hear the rest of the album.

Banishing Ritual is due April 7, on Upset the Rhythm; pre-order here.  Follow Feature on fbook and the twitt.

Listen to “The Bridge”, b/w “Blurry Images” by London’s Sauna Youth…Now! Do It, Already!

London's Sauna Youth

London’s Sauna Youth

Sauna Youth, “The Bridge/Blurry Images” (Upset the Rhythm, 1/15/2016)

Better late than never to touch upon this “new” (as of January) single from Sauna Youth, a four-piece out of London whose members also play in other bands we like, including Cold Pumas, Monotony and Primitive Parts.

A-side, “The Bridge”, is a blisteringly fun track, storming out of the gate with a guitar buzz that would sit nicely amidst gabba-neat c/o ‘77 punk , rougher Jam and “waster” Libertines.  B-side (and personal fave), “Blurry Images”, blends the wry, ‘cheeky chappy’ bounce of Modern Life Is Rubbish-era Blur with the starker, repetitive groove-based post-punk of bands like ESG and Delta 5, shout-sung lyrics challenging the listener’s perspective to achieve focus.  Something you can think, fight and groove to at the same time.

“The Bridge” features on new full length, Distractions, which is out now on Upset the Rhythm – so I guess I’d better get going on a review of that, too…oof.  While you await that with baited breath, follow along with Sauna Youth on fbook and the twitt, check out their other musical offerings on Bandcamp and catch them on one of their upcoming tour dates:

9.22.16 – Chicago, IL – The Owl – W/ Kyle Kaos
9.23.16 – Milwaukee, WI – High Dive – W/ Platinum Boys, Midnight Reruns
9.24.16 – Detroit , MI – UFO Factory – W/ Fire Retarded, Growwing Pains
9.25.16 – Cleveland, OH – Now That’s Class
10.1.16 – London, UK – Kamio – W/David West, Score, Middex, General Echo Soundsystem

“Do What You Want To”, the New Single from Olympia’s VEXX, Puts the Strut in Punk

VEXX, “Do What You Want To” (M’Lady’s Records (US): Upset! The Rhythm (EUR/UK))

Olympia’s VEXX made an immediate impact on ears/minds/souls in 2014 with their debut, self-titled EP.  Then followed last year’s equally fantastic, if more nuanced, “Give and Take” 7”, which saw the band stretch their scorched earth punk/hc with touches of the serious blues and r&b riffage hinted at on debut tracks like “Strength” and “Ocean Shores”.

Now, VEXX returns with “Do What You Want To” – the first taste of new EP/mini-LP “The Wild Hunt”.   It’s a groovy amalgam of punk/blues crunch and 70s power-pop strut, with a seriously killer Chuck Berry riff and a rhythmic shimmy evoking visions of spandex jumpsuits and the sounds of The Sex Pistols to Sweet to the Runaways.

If your issue with power-pop is its tendency towards a more mawkish (and male-driven) take on romance/‘getting some’, fear not gentle reader.  For while singer Maryjane Dunphe is enticed by the person who’s caught her eye, they receive the titular line to do as they wish – no falsetto plea to ‘go all the way’, here, as the track begins to unravel before ending abruptly with a shriek.  All killer; no filler.

“The Wild Hunt” is due in October as a joint release of two excellent labels: M’Lady’s Records out of Portland, OR and the UK’s Upset! the Rhythm – and is available for pre-order now via either/or.  Do what you wanna, &etc.  While you’re doing that, you can check out more about VEXX here.