January 16, 2017

Clicky Clicky's Belated Top Albums of 2016 (Jay Edition)

Clicky Clicky's Belated Top Albums of 2016 (Jay Edition)

So yeah: Hi! It's been a couple months, a couple very busy months during which we were, frankly, quite uncertain that our schedule was ever going to permit a meaningful return to the blog. But we hate not closing a loop. And while we continue to harbor doubts about the long-term prospects for what we've been internally calling "the URL version" of Clicky Clicky (as opposed to the Facebook version), we feel it would be unfair to not give our favorite records of 2016 their due, even if we already did a quick list for Facebook. So leaving our wavering commitment to populating the URL with well-considered words aside, let's round up the best the year-gone-by had to offer.

A quick glance down the list reveals some of the usual suspects -- the great KoomDogg himself chides us about our predilection for placing the mighty Johnny Foreigner at number one each year they do a full-length, and any Lubec release tends to rate high -- but also some new names. This is as it should be. Were it not for those new names we'd grow pretty disinterested in following music as closely as we do. How many articles and books can one read about The Doors, Pink Floyd, even The Clash, after all? We suppose the answer to that question is however many we've already read, but more germane to the point is how exhilarating we found the music of the new and new-to-us respectively Strange Passage and Real Numbers, for example, this year. Legends, veterans, and relative veterans such as David Bowie, Lambchop and Hallelujah The Hills all more than acquitted themselves with releases that are still -- STILL -- in heavy rotation at CCHQ (well, perhaps less so now that The XX's new joint is out).

Before we leave you to digest our thoughts on our 10 favorites below, we'd like to note that it was trying year and one in which we valued music more than ever. Our need for peace and relaxation in the face of substantial work stress made things like Spotify's Steve Reich radio station, or custom stations based on Erik Satie's Gymnopédies or the Lilys oeuvre, reliable, comforting ways to experience music. The bigger message, we suppose, and one that we'd like all readers to take to heart as we work through the new American Political Reality, is that music is there for us. It is always there. Cherish it, and it will be everything you need it to be. Now we'll shut up. Here's the best shit from last year. If you want even more detail, we first revealed our 2016 year-end album picks during a December taping of the podcast tour de force Completely Conspicuous, and the three links below will take you to the three episodes featuring my conversation with podcast proprietor Jay Kumar, the aforementioned KoomDogg.

Completely Conspicuous 452 / Completely Conspicuous 453 / Completely Conspicuous 454
01. Johnny Foreigner -- Mono No Aware -- Alcopop!/Lame-O
There is an astonishing amount of detail packed into its briskly paced 35 minutes, yet Mono No Aware succeeds in every direction. There are the blitzkrieging singles and should-be singles that are Johnny Foreigner's stock-in-trade, such as the brilliant rager "If You Can't Be Honest, Be Awesome" and fiery "The X and the O," respectively. Other successes are perhaps more subtle but substantially more exciting. Even 10 years on the band continues to best itself in terms of songcraft, adding progressive flair to a genre which -- let's be honest -- too often gets to coast on the right chords, the correct pedals. The brightly burning centerpiece of the record is the wild, vivid and deconstructed anthem "Our Lifestyles Incandescent," whose verses feature thrilling vocal arrangements structured around the voice of Chicago polymath Nnamdi Ogbonnaya. [full review].



02. Lambchop -- FLOTUS -- Merge
Sublime.



03. Real Numbers -- Wordless Wonder -- Slumberland
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. [Hotness blurb]



04. Frankie Cosmos -- Next Thing -- Bayonet Records
Entrancing.



05. Lubec -- Cosmic Debt -- Disposable America
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. [full review]



06. David Bowie -- Blackstar -- Columbia Records
Stunning.



07. Preoccupations -- Preoccupations -- Jagjaguwar
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. [full review]



08. Hallelujah The Hills -- A Band Is Something To Figure Out -- Discrete Pageantry
Given the band passed its 10th birthday late last year, we suppose there's a reasonable expectation Hallelujah The Hills should know what it is doing at this point. But that does not dull the dazzle and delight of the smart and agile A Band Is Something To Figure Out, which song-for-song is the band's best outing to date. Its 11 tunes cast fronter Ryan Walsh's engaging studies of the quirks of our shared reality -- the weird truths in plain sight that we can't or won't see -- within rock frameworks that reliably stretch to accommodate subversive, irreverent impulses. [full review]



09. Strange Passage -- Shine And Scatter EP -- Self-released
Shine And Scatter echoes the melodic, guitar-centered sound of the turn-of-the-'90s UK with surprising competence and confidence. Indeed, the short set's four songs echo The House of Love and the early RIDE EPs, and -- more contemporaneously -- are startlingly reminiscent of the massively underrated and short-lived aughts combo The Boyfriends. While there is a thread of shoegaze shot through Strange Passage's alluring brand of guitar pop, and Boston continues to have a strong share of contemporary 'gaze practitioners, Strange Passage's music still feels somewhat delightfully off-trend. [Hotness blurb]



10. Cold Pumas -- The Hanging Valley -- Faux Discx
File under Post-Punk Pleasures. The set includes nine new tracks; based on two fetching preview tunes, the group remains faithful to its favored motorik rhythms and wistful bummer-pop. Leading preview single "A Change of Course" is strikingly more dense and melodic than what we've come to expect from the band; it takes the two-chord pull formula of earlier tunes such as "Sherry Island" and compacts it to fit a sub-three-minute pop framework that echoes the more shoegazey side of early Deerhunter. It may very well be the best thing the Brighton combo has released (to date). Second single "Fugue States" stretches into a longer runtime, and employs open, ringing chords alongside a rambling, Ian Curtis-styled deadpan that reminds listeners that Cold Pumas know their classic gloomy post-punk inside and out. [Hotness blurb]

November 15, 2016

Notes From The Underground: Aüva's Day Two in The Studio at Mad Oak with Benny Grotto

Notes From The Underground: Aüva's Day Two in The Studio at Mad Oak with Benny Grotto

Here we are with the day two reportage from Boston indie pop sextet Aüva's foray into Mad Oak Studio. The band was there Friday, Saturday and Sunday this past weekend with producer extraordinaire Benny Grotto on the dime of an anonymous donor and friend of Clicky Clicky, and the plan is to track and mix three new songs. Yesterday we posted singer and keyboardist Miette Hope's impressions of the first day, but tangentially we'll note that Aüva's Friday didn't stop when that session was over. The band played a show at Make Out Point Friday, Clicky Clicky operatives were there, and we're told Aüva played one new song, and a bunch from this year's LP including "Better" (whose video was also shot in part at the Point) and closing the set with the dreamy pop gem "Into Place." Mixing on the three new tunes is slated to transpire later this month. For now, check out drummer Michael Piccoli's thoughts on the second day of the sessions.
Day 2 in the studio was devoted to tracking guitar, keys and bass. We arrived at noon and started out by listening to all the drum takes from day one with fresh ears before recording other instruments. We were all glad to hear that the drum takes were solid so we were ready to move on. Andy did a great job nailing down the bass parts, and it only took about an hour for him to play all three songs. Benny had different ideas for each song and sent the bass through different combinations of amplifiers and compressors depending on what he thought the song needed. After recording bass we moved onto rhythm guitar which we used a similar approach for. Benny had a few different Reverend guitars in the studio that he let us play on the different songs in order to achieve the best sound for each tune. He also had some ideas for what Jake was playing and we got to use one of his 12-strings to double one of the lead lines and it gave the sound a very vintage mid-'60s sound, reminiscent of The Byrds, which we were all excited about. Moving onto keys, we used our Yamaha MX49 keyboard and created sounds by blending two different instruments and adjusting the sound envelope. We also tracked acoustic piano on a couple of the songs and used two mics behind the piano and one room mic. Overall it was a great day in the studio and tomorrow we plan to move onto vocals, lead guitar, and percussion. -- Michael
Aüva: Bandcamp | Facebook | Internerds

Related coverage:
Notes From The Underground: Aüva's Day One in The Studio at Mad Oak with Benny Grotto
Hey This Weird Thing Happened Where Someone Gave Us Studio Time To Give Away So We Gave It To Aüva And Let's See What Happens, Shall We?
Footage: Aüva's Swaying Surf-Pop Gem "Better"
Together Again: Clicky Clicky Presents Two Nights of Adventurous Electronics And Under-Pop May 18+19

November 14, 2016

Notes From The Underground: Aüva's Day One in The Studio at Mad Oak with Benny Grotto

Notes From The Underground: Aüva's Day One in The Studio at Mad Oak with Benny Grotto

Aloha readers. If you caught our post a few weeks back about sending Aüva into the studio in a mystery donor's dime, and even if you didn't, well it's time for an update. The young and talented Boston indie pop sextet entered the hallowed halls of Mad Oak Studios with esteemed producer Benny Grotto Friday to record new music, and we've got a report from singer and keyboard player Miette. It turns out the band and the studio are neighbors, so Aüva was able to literally just push its gear down the street to make the session, which seems like something The Monkees would have done, so we like it. Anyway, we'll have additional notes from the band in the coming days. For now, read Miette's take on day one.
Our first day in the studio, we pushed all of our gear over in a shopping cart from our house which is actually right down the road. Making our way to the studio we were surprised at how well it was disguised in what looked like a garage from the front right around the corner from the tattoo shop and venues we have all been to before. When we met Benny he was super nice and made us feel very comfortable right off the bat. His conversation was casual but professional and we didn't waste any time in getting right down to business discussing our instrumentation and process. The studio itself was amazing, with gorgeously warm toned wood floors and panels surrounding. The monitors and mixing board were super nice and there were so many different compressors and preamp options throughout the mixing room.

We all took a seat on a black leather couch at the back of the room that was placed perfectly in front of the monitors and talked about our recording plans for the day. After some conversation we collectively decided that it would be best to play through all three of our songs live and focus on getting the best drum takes. We sang the vocals in the mixing room in front of the window in between the live room and mixing room so we could see the rest of the band and they could see us. Benny is also a drummer so he had some cool suggestions for Michael in order to get the best possible drum sound. We played one of the songs without a click to really get the feeling of the way we are used to playing it and it ended up going really well. Another really cool thing about this studio is that the lights in the mixing room had color changing capabilities so we were able to have the room be whatever color we wanted which really helped us get into the feeling of the music a little more. Overall, the first day was very productive and we had such a good time working with Benny and in that space. Can't wait for tomorrow [Saturday -- Ed.], we'll be tracking bass, guitar, and keys. -- Miette
Aüva: Bandcamp | Facebook | Internerds

Related coverage:
Hey This Weird Thing Happened Where Someone Gave Us Studio Time To Give Away So We Gave It To Aüva And Let's See What Happens, Shall We?
Footage: Aüva's Swaying Surf-Pop Gem "Better"
Together Again: Clicky Clicky Presents Two Nights of Adventurous Electronics And Under-Pop May 18+19

October 24, 2016

Hey This Weird Thing Happened Where Someone Gave Us Studio Time To Give Away So We Gave It To Aüva And Let's See What Happens, Shall We?

Hey This Weird Thing Happened Where Someone Gave Us Studio Time To Give Away So We're Giving It To Aüva And Let's See What Happens, Shall We?

[PHOTO: Evan Xiner Hong] So, in case you haven't noticed, we're fans of rising Boston indie pop sextet Aüva. We put the act on a bill for this year's Together fest, wrote about its video clip earlier in July, and have enjoyed listening to its 2016 self-titled LP. And so, when an old friend from the Boston music scene in April presented us with a very intriguing opportunity, we were compelled to think of Aüva yet one more time. Said (very kind) friend provided us with a substantial chunk of studio time in one of the city's top studios -- and with a Boston Music Award-winning engineer nominated yet again this year -- for us to give away (just give away, just like that, like it was a beer or an extra crew neck sweater) to a deserving band. There were a couple caveats we were happy to countenance, the upshot of which was we needed to identify a young, able band that had never recorded in a proper studio before. As Aüva's prior EPs and aforementioned LP were self-recorded, they hit Clicky Clicky's short list quickly, and were the last act standing after the Clicky Clicky Brain Trust's deliberations were complete in mid-summer.

So, here's what's going to happen: next month, Aüva will enter the recently re-everythinged Mad Oak Studios in Allston Rock City for five days to record new music with the great Benny Grotto. The band has graciously agreed to document the recording sessions, which we will share with you, dear reader, in as close to real time as we can manage. What can we expect? 28-minute prog odyssey? A passel of sticky, deafening stoner-rock jams? Probably not. But the point is we don't know, and it will be exciting to find out. After a successful summer tour including a date playing adjacent to Brian Wilson in New Hampshire, Aüva has been primarily woodshedding, but area fans can catch them performing live Nov. 11 at Make Out Point; the bill also includes Amherst, Mass.' Calico Blue. Those unfamiliar with the venue would do well to consult a punk. While we wait for the show and new recordings to roll around, how about taking another listen to Aüva?

Aüva: Bandcamp | Facebook | Internerds

Related coverage:
Footage: Aüva's Swaying Surf-Pop Gem "Better"
Together Again: Clicky Clicky Presents Two Nights of Adventurous Electronics And Under-Pop May 18+19

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