October 13, 2016

Today's Hotness: White Laces, Real Numbers

White Laces -- No Floor (detail)

>> Richmond future-pop leading lights White Laces roll into town tomorrow at the tail end of a week-long east coast tour supporting its long-germinating third album No Floor, which hit new release bins late last month. With its latest and third record, White Laces ventures further into an aesthetic marked by dramatic electronics and vast reverbs that at times eschews live instrumentation almost entirely. The stark contrast between the guitar-centered and relatively angular sound of White Laces' early years and the boundless atmospheres it has conjured for itself more recently is no more apparent than when contrasting a recently released compilation of remastered early track, Sick Of Summer, with No Floor. No Floor is announced by the swirling faux strings and bashing electro beat of "Youth Vote," with fronter Landis Wine dropping the en medias res line "I figured I'd take a ride" as a invocation. Album preview tracks "Dots" and "Cheese" follow with increasingly greater electronic flourishes that deepen the divide between the White Laces of today and the more conventional approach of the band's early years. Indeed, as the chiming opening of "Cheese" -- whose melody echoes faintly the verse of P.I.L.'s "Rise" -- transitions to its own serene verse, it is difficult to identify any non-electronic sounds. Even so, the music never feels synthetic, in large part because Mr. Wine's soulful vocals on No Floor are the most emotionally direct of the band's entire oeuvre. In a departure from prior practice, No Floor was recorded primarily at home, with additional vocal tracking at a studio in Richmond, and it was mixed by Philadelphia hitmaker Jeff Zeigler (Mr. Zeigler had previously tracked White Laces 2014 sophomore set Trance, which we reviewed right here). White Laces performs a Boston-area show Friday night at Trixie's Palace, a non-traditional venue whose coordinates can be ascertained by consulting a knowledgeable punk rock enthusiast. Also on the bill are Jroy Divorbison, We Can All Be Sorry, Jarva Land and The Owens. Richmond-based Egghunt Records released No Floor September 30 on CD, as a digital download, and in a hyper limited edition of 50 vinyl long-playing records; purchase the set in an of its physical manifestations and in various bundles (which can include the aforementioned remaster of Sick Of Summer as well as a pretty bitchin' t-shirt) directly from the label right here.

>> With two particularly hot releases rocketing from its city limits this month, rock fans can only hope that the underpop sounds of Minneapolis are set for a renewed campaign for stylistic supremacy. Private Interests' power-pop revelation, its Only For A Moment EP, hits new release bins at the end of next week. But just tomorrow indie-pop four-piece Real Numbers releases a hotly anticipated and long-awaited full-length debut, despite having toiled in the figurative salt mines of international indie for as long as a decade. The jangle commandos' new C86-indebted collection, Wordless Wonder, is thronged with instant classics touting big melodies, scritchy guitars and maximum pep. Opener "Frank Infatuation" is timeless, and makes for an auspicious start to this high-quality release. The tune is all fuzzy strums, plunky bass, and surfy leads, delivered at a carefree, upbeat tempo, and, sure, there's a formula at work, but when the formula is this fun and well-executed, no ones cares. If you dig "Frank Infatuation" -- and it is undeniable -- make sure to check out this earlier version Real Numbers released as a digital single in 2014. Wordless Wonder's barn-storming "Just So Far Away" is even more potent, hitting hard with a chorus first before blitzkrieging through short verses and right back to the chorus again. The album truly is all killer and no filler, and will likely be featured in a number of year-end lists before 2016 is through. Eternal it-label Slumberland Records releases Wordless Wonder tomorrow on CD, as a digital download, and on white or black vinyl. Purchase your copy of the set in any or all of these formats via Slumberland right here. The record was preceded by a number of 12" EPs, cassette tracks and digital singles, all of which appear to be on offer via the Real Numbers bandcamp dojo right here. Stream the aforementioned "Frank Infatuation" and the equally fun "New Boy" via the Soundcloud embed below.

October 12, 2016

That Was The Show That Was: Japanese Breakfast with Porches, Rivergazer | The Sinclair | 5 Oct.

[PHOTOS: Tiffany Law for Clicky Clicky Music Blog] The reverbed keys and dense shoegazey guitars on Psychopomp, Michelle Zauner's full-length debut with her latest project Japanese Breakfast, represented a sharp stylistic pivot away from the music of her beloved and much-Clicky Clicky'd Philly indie combo Little Big League. That and the fact that Psychopomp was largely inspired by the loss of Ms. Zauner's mother to cancer provided ready-made narratives ahead of the long-player's release. But the big story for Psychopomp, which was issued last spring, has to be its superlative songwriting, which couches concise hooks and earworm choruses within expansive production. It is one of the year's more arresting releases.

Last Wednesday night at Cambridge, Mass.'s Sinclair the band ran through a tight live reworking of the record, while mixing in a number of affirmative nods to certain key influences. Among the live set's highlights were performances of widely heralded album preview tracks. Japanese Breakfast's cover of Birthday Girls' "Everybody Wants To Love You," whose sprightly indie pop guitar leads -- admittedly something of a tonal outlier on record -- practically blossomed in a live setting. Better still was the band's sparkling rendition of "In Heaven," a track that doubles as Psychopomp's thesis statement, and one that felt particularly cathartic presented on stage. Multi-instrumentalist Nick Hawley-Garner flipped between guitar and keys throughout the set, working to animate Psychopomp's lush and at times Smashing Pumpkins-indebted arrangements.

Even so, and aside from a gorgeous cover of The Cranberries' eternal teen-pop smash "Dreams," the night's biggest moment was Japanese Breakfast's set-closer, an as yet-untitled new tune touting bubbly synth and auto-tune styled vocals from Zauner. For this, she abandoned her guitar and bounced around the stage, underscoring this reviewer's hunch that the band may be heading in a poppier, and perhaps thrillingly experimental, direction. Following its show at The Sinclair, Japanese Breakfast played two sold-out "hometown" shows in Brooklyn and Philadelphia; next week the act heads across the ocean for a three-week tour of the UK and Western Europe. Stream all of Psychopomp via the Bandcamp embed below and click through to purchase the set on vinyl, cassette or as a digital download.

Popular New York group Porches headlined the night, proffering plenty of cuts from its moody, swaying Domino Records debut Pool. Bandleader Aaron Maine has grabbed headlines for taking his project in a bolder direction away from its earlier downer folk-rock. He now leads a much looser live outfit, and has become something of an enigmatic focal point: video clips now depict his slightly off-kilter delivery and dance moves. There are few indie groups out there with as strong a stage chemistry, which likely accounts for the incredible live takes on Pool highlights "Car," "Mood," and "Braid." New York alt R&B outfit Rivergazer, whose Kevin Farrant also plays guitar in the Porches live band, opened the night with tasteful numbers from its recent Only 4 U EP. -- Dillon Riley

Japanese Breakfast: Bandcamp | Facebook

Related Coverage:
Review: Little Big League/Ovlov | "Year Of The Sunhouse," "Pure Bliss Choices" b/w "The Great Crocodile"
That Was The Show That Was: Little Big League with Paws, Idiot Genes | Great Scott | 14 Nov.
Today's Hotness: Little Big League

October 7, 2016

Nofuckingwhere Alums Occurrence Release The Past Will Last Forever, First Live Show Tomorrow In New York

Nofuckingwhere Alums Occurrence Release The Past Will Last Forever, First Live Show Tomorrow In New York

New York-based polymath Ken Urban delivered today the latest LP from his shape-shifting musical vehicle Occurrence. The new set, The Past Will Live Forever, marks a return to the dark, dramatic and brooding material of the Occurrence oeuvre of what we can now call the B.W.S.F. [that is, before Wayne S. Feldman] era. Indeed, while the 2013 LP Decks (which we premiered here) and an attendant EP created primarily in partnership with Mr. Feldman were notably bouyant and relatively bright, with his dysphoric new collection Mr. Urban -- along with another former schoolmate, current collaborator Cat Hollyer -- has seemingly retrenched, embracing once more the tension and psychodrama of earlier Occurrence collections. Longtime readers likely recall being first introduced to Occurrence via the act's appearance on our Ride tribute compilation, Nofuckingwhere, for which Mr. Urban crafted an anxious and stinging re-imagining of Nowhere's title cut.

The Past Will Last Forever is at its most agile on the early preview track "My Days And Nights Belong To You," which strings together sharp rhythm patterns and pairs them with bleeping and ambient synth backing, while Ms. Hollyer eerily harmonizes with herself via multitracked vocals. But as with much of Urban's work (which includes scads of very well received plays), the greatest excitement comes from odd and surreal moments and sensibilities. "A Bruised Ivy Grad" opens with quavering, almost unhinged vocals in verses built over a hard beat; sampled voices occasionally intercede, a crumbling sound momentarily intrudes, but the wobbly falsetto always returns. Album highlight "Ghost Free Home" feints with the feigned ease of vibrato cowboy guitar leads, but harsh, monolithic verses serially interject before a remarkable ambient passage takes root in the middle of the song and spreads out in every direction and consumes the balance of its six minutes. Urban, Hollyer and collaborator Johnny Hager perform cuts from The Past Will Last Forever tomorrow night at Rockwood Music Hall in Manhattan, an event that marks six-year-old Occurrence's very first live performance. It's a 7PM show, and to the best of our knowledge tickets remain available, so why not make a night of it? The Past Will Last Forever is available now as a digital download and in a very limited edition of 150 vinyl long-players, all of which can be procured via the Occurrence Bandcamp page right here. Stream the album via the embed below.

Occurrence: Bandcamp | Facebook | Soundcloud

October 3, 2016

Premiere: Emerald Comets | Explore Your Dreams

Premiere: Emerald Comets | Explore Your Dreams

Boston lost one of its most prolific songwriters when Guillermo Sexo and Emerald Comets mastermind Reuben Bettsak decamped for the American South this summer. True to form, he remained productive right up until the end of his local residency; what has since been deemed the final Guillermo Sexo album, the space-rock triumph Eclipse [review], was released in April, and two preview tracks for a forthcoming Emerald Comets set were released to the wilds of the Internerds in August. Today we are pleased to premiere for you the entirety of that set, titled Explore Your Dreams, the first and final Emerald Comets long-player to have been recorded in Massachusetts with Hub-based collaborators Jason Layne, Kristy Foye, and Steve Rowe and with help from Western Mass. hitmaker Justin Pizzoferrato.

It being a solo vehicle, Emerald Comets' music touts a different flavor than that of the better-known Guillermo Sexo. The former has typically been quieter, rawer, and more subdued, but fans will recognize certain stylistic hallmarks, such as the pastoral psychedelia of Explore Your Dreams's placid opener "Monochrome." More so than any other Emerald Comets release to date, Explore Your Dreams feels fully realized. This is perhaps due as much to the set's relatively long gestation period as it is to the efforts of the aforementioned collaborators. The dynamic feel of upbeat early preview single "Fortress" is substantially enhanced by Mr. Pizzoferrato's drumming, and Ms. Foye's cello rests eerily but on point in the center of the mix, at times applying a swaying melodicism, at others boosting the rhythm with bowed chops.

The set ends very strong with back-to-back album highlights "Explore Your Dreams" and "Cornflakes And Stout." The former fizzes with the rough-hewn vim of a Guided By Voices track, while the latter is a gentler, more melodic, and folk rock-tinged strummer in the vein of Ultimate Painting, the quality UK combo whose delightful LP Dusk was released by Trouble In Mind Friday. Longtime readers will recognize Emerald Comets' "Lost In Our Land" and "Revolutionary Earthworms," earlier versions of which came into being as part of our inaugural Regolith songwriting challenge, which of course was undertaken by the indefatigable Bettsak and resulted in the EP Inside Dream Room (still available for free here).

Explore Your Dreams is available now via Bandcamp, and you can stream the entire collection via the embed below. While we expect it will take Mr. Bettsak some time to find collaborators in his new environs, fans in the Greater Hotlanta should certainly keep their eyes on the club listings: we'd wager it won't be too long before Bettsak brings the rock to the denizens of his new home town. We previously premiered Emerald Comets' self-titled EP here in 2014.

Emerald Comets: Bandcamp | Facebook

Previous Coverage:
Review: Guillermo Sexo | Eclipse
That Was The Show That Was: Infinity Girl, Lubec, Guillermo Sexo, Havania Whaal | Great Scott | 9 July
Regolith A1E3: Reuben Bettsak Presents Emerald Comets' Inside Dream Room
Premiere: Emerald Comets | Emerald Comets EP
Review: Guillermo Sexo | Dark Spring
Review: Guillermo Sexo | Bring Down Your Arms EP
That Was The Show That Was: Guillermo Sexo Record Release Show with Soccermom, Night Fruit and Young Adults
Review: Guillermo Sexo | Secret Wild

September 27, 2016

Review: Lubec | Cosmic Debt

Dreamy underpop heroes Lubec return this week with a compelling sophomore sinfonietta, a collection that sees the Portland, Ore. trio table some of the widescreen optimism of its titanic 2014 full-length The Thrall to engage darker, more domestic themes. Although the relatively concise new set Cosmic Debt doesn't sprawl in the same attractively bohemian manner as The Thrall, it nonetheless presents arresting, figurative diversions into rawer emotion and almost provocatively dense production, as well as somewhat more literal diversions in the form of interstitial instrumentals that enhance the set's quasi-narrative arc. The true surprise of Cosmic Debt is not that it expands Lubec's already expansive view of guitar pop, not its beauty, sophistication or ready appeal, but rather that the whipsmart threesome does so many new things despite the record's smaller scale.

Cosmic Debt succeeds at being much more than a transitional effort, but is largely focused on difficult interpersonal transitions. It commences as if waking from a dream, with the steady, serene fade-in of "(high blood pressure)." The composition includes a pastiche of disembodied voices, including a decontextualized remark about the '90s that recalls the opening of Mogwai's classic "CODY." It's a transporting beginning, whose full potency is realized by the segue into "Clipped Wings." While that tune's title echoes somewhat the Icarus imagery from The Thrall's sparkling "Sunburn!," it also announces certain stylistic hallmarks of the album: a nearly saturated stereo field, Caroline Jackson's weighty and distorted piano, dueling and harmonized vocals, and thoughtful guitar playing. The most distinguishing element of Lubec's sonic arsenal, Ms. Jackson's booming, distorted piano, works in tandem with Matt Dressen's tasteful drumming to power the compositions, while fronter Eddie Charlton guitar playing applies more delicate textures. Dylan Wall's big, full production is most apparent in the ambient thrum that populates the space between the instruments and supplies substantial heft to Lubec's songs. Indeed, big reverbs magnify the restlessly creative trio's playing to such an extent it sounds as if it could blanket a large theater; fans can only hope Lubec's fortunes afford it that opportunity.

Lead single "Hard Potential" touts a driving rhythm and breathy vocals from Mr. Charlton, both lures difficult to resist, but the percussive bridge and cheese-grater, bending harmonics suggest the unease of Pac Northwest fellows Modest Mouse. The heretofore uncharacteristic angst on Cosmic Debt rings most true in the thrilling title track, whose serene but truncated verses give way to Charlton and Jackson confessing a seemingly generational bewilderment -- in what may be the band's most punk moment -- "I feel my cosmic debt, I don't know what it is!" Closer "Embers" -- shared with the universe by our friends at Post-Trash Monday -- stands particularly tall. While the tune deals with a particularly meaningful parting, in true Lubec fashion the song focuses on aftermath without dour mourning. Sure: the figurative and titular embers may not provide salvation, but damnation and purgatory are not Lubec's style. Here and elsewhere Cosmic Debt addresses the chasm between youthful optimism and idealism and the sometimes cold reality and necessary pragmatism that come part and parcel with maturity, but the band's resolve for positivity remains.

Cosmic Debt feels like an important step toward Lubec establishing a national profile, and certainly underscores that Lubec casually sips beers from a cooler at the vanguard of American guitar pop. Cosmic Debt will be released Sept. 30 by the Boston-based now label Disposable America; the set is available for pre-order now in a preposterously limited edition of 100 mustard yellow cassettes and will also be on offer as a digital download. An all-ages release show is slated for Saturday, Oct. 1, at Black Water in Portland, with support from fellow scenemakers Two Moons, Talkative, Dog Thieves and Radler. Stream the aforementioned "Hard Potential" via the embed below, and click through to pre-order your copy of Cosmic Debt. We are hearing chatter about an east coast tour this winter, so watch this space for all of your latest and greatest Lubec news.

Lubec: Bandcamp | Faceblorp

Related Coverage:
Today's Hotness: Lubec
That Was The Show That Was: Infinity Girl, Lubec, Guillermo Sexo, Havania Whaal | Great Scott | 9 July
Review: Lubec | The Thrall
Today's Hotness: Lubec
Today's Hotness: Lubec
Review: Lubec | Wilderness Days
Today's Hotness: Lubec
Today's Hotness: Lubec
Be Prepared: Lubec | Nothing Is Enough EP Teaser "Cherry Adair"
Show Us Yours #13: Lubec

September 21, 2016

That Was The Show That Was: Cymbals Eat Guitars with Wildhoney and Field Mouse | Sept. 16 | Great Scott

That Was The Show That Was: Cymbals Eat Guitars with Wildhoney and Field Mouse | Sept. 16 | Great Scott

[PHOTO: Dillon Riley] Indie rock leading lights Cymbals Eat Guitars are established Clicky Clicky favorites, and its latest LP has only burnished our esteem for the east coast troupe. We last caught them opening for the legendary Bob Mould in 2014, when the fourtet dispensed gorgeous takes on tunes from that year's triumphant Lose -- a record considered, at the time at least, a pronounced "classic rock" pivot away from the band's math-ier earlier efforts. Critics fawned over the set, while sales of the Barsuk-released album were, in a word, underwhelming; some less than stellar touring ensued. Last Friday, however, we witnessed the group in high spirits at a thronged Great Scott on the release night of what should be Cymbals Eat Guitars' true pop breakthrough, Pretty Years.

Cymbals Eat Guitars presented a brilliant night of live rock sounds, including several selections off the already-life-affirming Pretty Years (out now on Sinderlyn). Well-regarded album tasters "July 4th," "Wish," and "Have A Heart" all shone brightly. But a clear highlight was the performance of "Close," the most winsome of the new collection's 10 tunes, whose a massive and charging earworm chorus was thrilling live and ranks among the best you'll hear in 2016. Stream "July 4th," "Wish," and "Have A Heart" via the Soundcloud embed below.

The band also offered a healthy sampling of tracks off the aforementioned Lose, including a towering, noise-addled, and set-ending take on that record's woozy centerpiece "Laramie." The sole concession to the group's earlier records was a midset "...And The Hazy Sea," the Why There Are Mountains opener, which somehow manages to fit in the band's sets despite its gangly pace. In spite of relative commercial indifference, Cymbals Eat Guitars' work continues to place it among the elite song shapers in American indie rock. Whether or not Pretty Years achieves the success it rightfully deserves, we can state with complete confidence that the group has become a crucial live act, a belief Friday's performance only reinforced.

Highly touted Baltimore dream-pop quintet Wildhoney opened the evening with its customary savoir faire. While its first EP for hitmakers Topshelf Records, Your Face Sideways, is a neat primer for the group's preternatural melodic gifts, the combo's greatest composition to date came just this summer via Slumberland's tour de force compilation Continental Drift. "Horror Movie," one of Wildhoney's two glorious offerings on Drift, is pop perfection from the grooves, but its live airing Friday evening presented a sharper edge, with the group's dueling guitars cutting across the mix like sabers.

Another of Topshelf's great indie pop concerns, Field Mouse, batted second in the lineup, fresh off the release of their own fantastic new record Episodic. Field Mouse's Rachel Browne (who recently penned a must-read essay for The Talkhouse about touring with a serious illness) is a collected fronter and perfect foil to lead guitarist Andrew Futral's unmic'd and consistently stoked spokesman. Episodic doesn't stray far sonically from the combo's debut Hold Still Life: short, punchy, and compact pop numbers are the rule on both. The complexity of Field Mouse's songs are even more apparent in a live setting: bright keyboard shades from Browne's sister Robin no longer hide in the background din, and the interplay between the two (and sometimes three) guitars is often thrillingly loud and nearly abrasive. It's a good look for a band whose songs sometimes underplay an inherent turmoil. -- Dillon Riley

Cymbals Eat Guitars: Facebook | Internerds

Related Coverage:
That Was The Show That Was: Cymbals Eat Guitars with Bob Mould | Paradise Rock Club | 12 Sept.

September 17, 2016

Review: Preoccupations | Preoccupations

Preoccupations' 2015 debut (under its previous, controversial nom de post-punk Viet Cong) felt like a New Order-esque re-set following the untimely passing of guitarist Chris Reimer of Women -- the brilliant late-aughts band that first brought Preoccupations' Matt Flegel and Mike Wallace (joined here by Danny Christiansen and Scott Munro) to international (underground) acclaim. On its new eponymous sophomore set the band takes another unpredictable stylistic swerve, possibly in response to widespread criticism concerning the cultural insensitivity of its previous name. The rebrand provided a renewed opportunity for the foursome to reconsider its practice, and Preoccupations capitalized strongly by injecting Preoccupations with a dash of New Wave exuberance and structure that reveals another shade of the dark and classic post-punk sound it has explored since 2008.

Opener "Anxiety" churns upon itself in an extended ambient intro before dark synths and fuzzy textures begin to revolve mechanically around Mr. Flegel's low voice. Bright synth notes, entering at the minute-and-a-half mark, illuminate the proceedings and somewhat betray the cold and direct lyrics. Successor "Monotony" takes the approach one step further with billowing and reverberant melody lines and major keys that plot against the bleary song title. The pairing of heavily chorused rhythm guitar -- lurking in the right channel -- and Flegel's considered croon suggests his quartet may be aiming for the morose stateliness of the even-now-underrated The Psychedelic Furs circa Talk Talk Talk. Indeed, at times Flegel's breathless growl is a dead ringer for that of the legendary Richard Butler.

Album centerpiece and highlight "Memory" tackles more dynamic rhythms in its first frame -- a la Viet Cong highlight "Death"-- and also features a super nifty key change at its midpoint; here the band steps back to reveal a modulating synth tone that twists the song up into a falsetto-led groove, further convincing this reviewer that Preoccupations are embracing a subtly more positive and revelatory stance in key moments. The song's ambient outro wisely doubles back to remind the listener that the band have not forgotten their more characteristically pensive contemplation amidst the relative euphoria.

Lead single "Degraded" most closely hearkens back to the massive drum production and propulsive force of the group's first album, but still accommodates its contemporary penchant for single-note, high pitched guitar overdubs in the process. "Sense" uses simple organ and fizzing sound effects for a brief and well-placed change of pace, while "Forbidden" carries on the ambiance into the next track but adds percussion and whirling, carnival-like melodies for another surprising detour that declares the B-side of the record to be just as crucial.

As with every Flegel and Wallace-related release, the closer is always important. On Preoccupations, the band forgoes guitars almost completely for a retro-futuristic pop song that cements the post-Bowie New Wave connection. It's not until a Robert Fripp-styled guitar solo that the instrument even makes an appearance, and there it's in mostly wistful and epic celebration, rather than the morose gloom that had so previously defined this band. This, once more, underscores that Preoccupations has transformed the hurdles that have peppered its path into opportunities to push its boundaries, and as a result the band remains one of the more structurally original and stylistic daring indie rock bands of the day. Preoccupations was released by Jagjaguwar Friday. Purchase it on CD, LP or in a great bundle right here. Preoccupations play The Sinclair in Cambridge, Mass. October 12, and is basically on tour through the end of November. View complete tour dates at the band's web dojo right here. -- Edward Charlton

Preoccupations: Bandcamp | Interpants | Facebook

Related Coverage:
That Was The Show That Was: Viet Cong with TV Ghost, Alosi Den | Great Scott, Boston | 13 July