Category Archives: Reviews

Mini-Beats – July 2011 – Edition 46

WarpaintThe Fool (2010, Rough Trade) ♥♥♥
:seems like YEARS ago that bloggers were hard pimpin’ these ladies as ‘the next big thing’…well I’m a little late to the show so this opinion will count for next to nothing now that we’ve not heard a peep from them since they came rolling through here with Zola Jesus and The XX; oh, the music? it’s a muted variety of gothic, dream-pop not unlike those XX cats: (buy vinyl)
Le DaysDead People On Tape (2011, self-released) ♥♥♥½
:sparse and fragile folk from Sweden’s Daniel Hedin (with help from friends); at 78 minutes it runs a bit long but his striking emotional outpouring should keep even the most ADD-afflicted listener on the edge of their seat in anticipation of what will come next:
JesuAscension (2011, Caldo Verde) ♥♥♥½
:this is admittedly my first true experience with anything Justin has ever done so I have no frame of reference to compare this to; with that in mind, I found Ascension more in line with the slow low-end churn of 90’s alt-indie kings Hum than Slint/EITS (amateur Pitchfork reviewer…); tracks 2,3,4 make a killer trio but the album has a tendency to repeat itself and drag on a bit: (buy vinyl)
Snake OilSnake Oil (2011, self-released) ♥♥♥
:groove-based instrumental passages featuring members of Weigh Down & Titles that occasionally sound like Black Moth Super Rainbow/Tobacco outtakes: (buy vinyl)
Victory & AssociatesThese Things Are Facts (2011, self-released) ♥♥♥½
:rowdy but melodic indie rock from San Fran featuring the former singer of Replicator (blast from the past there…); this is a West Coast sound filtered through matter-of-fact, Midwestern mannerisms (dig that alliteration) not unlike The Hold Steady: (buy vinyl)
Closely Watched TrainsClosely Watched Trains (2009, Twin Lakes) ♥♥♥½
:CWT present a hodgepodge of back-porch Americana and quasi-hippie-folk-rock from the burgeoning New Haven, CT scene; this is earnest music at its most refined:
Dignan PorchDeluded (2011, Captured Tracks) ♥♥♥
:another entrant into the long (currently) line of melodic, mid-fi garage pop bands from the UK RIYL Real Estate, Beach Fossils: (buy vinyl)
Jill AndrewsThe Mirror (2011, Liam) ♥♥♥½
:Jill has backed up her beautiful, unmistakable voice with an exceptional batch of songs…I was concerned all of her best work was behind her as a member of the (still-missed) Everybodyfields but that’s not the case; might be easy listening for some but this occupies a niche that I sometimes need to call upon; RIYL Lissie:
Sam BayI Have A Fever (2011, self-released) ♥♥♥½
:Sam may or not be recognizable to BTID readers under his former stage name Sam Skarstad due to his inclusion on one of my all-time fave monthly mixes (December 2005); this is crafty, ‘orchestral’ psyche-folk with gentle guitar plucks, electronic flourishes and trippy lyrical passages; don’t pass up Sam’s new Philly/Brooklyn based project Snakes Say Hisss…pretty impressive for a lad of only 20!:
AustraFeel It Break (2011, Domino/Paper Bag) ♥♥♥♥
:Katie Stelmanis has finally found a bit of recognition with her Polaris Prize nominated Feel; her voice is a perfect fit for these euphoric, goth-pop dance numbers; RIYL Zola Jesus, Crystal Castles: (buy vinyl)
Eddie VedderUkelele Songs (2011, Island) ♥♥♥
:it would appear Vedder is one of the few (if not the only) music pioneers of the 90’s grunge era to artisticly thrive in the post-flannel years; he gets help from Chan Marshall (Cat Power) and Glen Hansard (Frames) but this is mainly his gig with vocals, uke and minor accompaniment plus a few covers:
The Go! TeamRolling Blackouts (2011, Memphis Industries) ♥♥½
:a playful but scatterbrained trip through indie-pop psychedelia and melodic weirdness from this UK collective…couple of knockout tracks but a lot of (instrumental) filler; rumor has it their first two LP’s are more substantial: (buy vinyl)
The LongwallsCareers In Science (2011, Static Motor) ♥♥♥♥
:having been one of Boston’s best kept secrets for years, The Longwalls have crafted a start-to-finish power-pop gem with equal amounts jangle and twang that hopefully extends their audience beyond Beantown; also features BTID favorite Kurt von Stetten on drums:
Here We Go MagicJanuary EP (2011, Secretly Canadian) ♥♥♥
:I felt the same way about this stopgap/leftovers EP as I did the recent LP (Pigeons)…there’s fine moments here (the bubbly post-punkish sound of ‘Backwards Time’) but not a whole lot to keep this on the iPod permanently:
The ACB’sStona Rosa (2011, self-released) ♥♥♥½
:it might be a bit lazy to say a lot of these tracks sound inspired by (or derivative of) Weezer or Fountains Of Wayne but hot-damn catchy tracks like ‘Italian Girls’ rip a page right out of Rivers Cuomo’s diary; RIYL Weezer, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, modern indie power-pop circles:
SkeletonsPeople (2011, Shinkoyo) ♥♥♥½
:noodly and angular avant-rock sprinkled with elements of jazz, folk, weirdness and profanity; add vocalist’s Matt Mehlan’s inviting, matter-of-fact style (Chris Leo of The Van Pelt?) and this becomes strange brew, but an invigorating affair; peeps whose tastes regularly from 4/4 time signatures and verse-chorus-verse formulas will find a lot to love here; RIYL Battles:

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86’d Records

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In my backwards brain I always give a bit more credibility to fan labels. There’s just something about them that emits sincerity and fun, and more often than not they’re a place to find a bunch of stuff that would normally fly under my radar. The two singles here from 86’d Records confirm my line of thinking. First on the turntable is a split from Dead Uncles and The Credentials. Both play the rough melodic punk that bands like Off With Their Heads and Banner Pilot have been chopping away at for a while now. Dead Uncles have some decent jam-action on the guitar, which sets them apart from most of the pack, hopefully they continue to develop in that direction. If they caterwauled as good as the play their instruments they’d be onto something! The Credentials side thumps and blasts and vomits up the epitome of the genre’s lyrics – “I’m so lost, I’m so alone, I’m so drunk. Pick up the phone cause I’m dying here wishing I could disappear like you did.” The song rocks, especially when they barrel to the end. This is music that one should hear, but not listen to (unless you want to get bummed out). Shaving cream companies are reporting record losses by the quarter, and this 7″ will not help their situation.

Go White Bronco supply the other single, and it couldn’t be farther away on the spectrum. “Life as a Monument” starts with soft but clear acoustic plucking, rolls into mid-tempo strumming, and then the singer slides in with a simple but earnest tune. However, it’s the subtle, even haunting backdrop (courtesy of some light french horn and echo-y “oooohs”) that draw me in. The song explodes in the middle, almost to acoustic punk levels, and then sighs back to where it started. The flip offers a shorter cut that’s just as charming, with some harmonies to boot. Nothing is new but everything sounds great. Indie punk is booming right now, and I’m cool with that, but it’s still nice once in a while to find those tiny labels and small releases that fill in the cracks with quality material.
– Mark H.

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Fishboy – Classic Creeps

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Once in a while a release comes along that you just have to tell others about, even if it’s just a funny thing that you want to spread like a joke that gets forwarded in e-mails around the office. Enter Fishboy.

It’s self-proclaimed EPIC POP and I won’t argue with that. Imagine the love child of a classic-era Elephant 6 band and They Might Be Giants. Acoustic and amped, peppy and cute, but with a black comedy side as well. The fact that Happy Happy Birthday To Me is putting this out might also help you calibrate your audio compass. Each song tells the story of a different character, all in some way connected, and as the album progresses the story unravels until a climactic conclusion brings many of the characters together (note: the story involves time travel… and an owl). If it sounds convoluted I assure you that it is not. To lessen the strain on your brain, the album itself is accompanied with a handy-dandy comic, so you can see and read the story as it plays!

Yes, taking note of the gimmick is unavoidable (though it is kinda cool) but luckily the music can stand alone on it’s own. Check the link for the complete album stream and the comic for the full Classic Creeps experience.

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Restorations – S/T LP (2011, Tiny Engines)

I had the chance to make it out to the Restorations record release party last month at Kungfu Necktie. I picked up the LP before the show even started, based solely off the 2 new songs available to stream at the time and the stamp of get-this-shit-now I gave to their previous 12″ on Paper + Plastick. Strange Behavior hinted at the band’s ability to seamlessly cross genres and Restorations sees these guys taking this skill a step further, into a sparsely occupied realm of unclassifiable post-everything-core centered around chiming to cascading guitars, lead singer Jon Loudon’s signature growl and unpredictable twists/turns/ups-downs. Case in point, I was a little caught off guard by the opening track’s dark-alley-crawl into a crescendo of fuck-yeah buzzing, space-guitar action. They also opened the show with this to très maximum effect. Again, you’d think a band with such a steep hardcore/punk-rock pedigree would stray from any sort of sing-along melodies but cuts like ‘Neighborhood Song’ and the anthemic closer ‘When You’re Older’ embed themselves into that certain sweet spot in your brain where great songs go to earn their keep. Don’t take that the wrong way – I’m not playing the aging-punks-write-pussy-mature-rock-album card (I’m probably older than any single member here…) – these guys can rip, on tape and live. If you pine for music with true staying power instead of the standard daily dose of band/song-of-the-moment, hype-machine bullshit then you could stand to set this on repeat to help wash away that excess. The LP can be had for a cool $13 – still available from Tiny Engines in classic black or clear with yellow swirl. Stream and/or purchase the digital version on their Bandcamp. As I write this I think the band is looking for a new practice space in the Fishtown area. If I weren’t renting I’d offer up my basement, considering my neighbor’s kids are as loud as jackhammers at all hours of the day and week.

Neighborhood Song

Val ‘d Or

Official video for When You’re Older


Nonlocality (acoustic) @ Grindcore House

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Closet Drama

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Closet Drama sprung forth from the same TX scene that gave us Joe Jitsu (the new band sharing 2 members of the old band), and now lead singer/songwriter Charlie has, if I may be so presumptuous, finalized his vision. Not that Joe Jitsu were without merit, releasing at least 2 great albums and a superb EP over the course of 10 years, but where that band leaned one way (four-eyed pop punk) and then another (melancholic punk pop), and yet another (Brian Wilson “pure” pop) Closet Drama firmly has it’s sound and style on sure footing. Dream State is a confident declaration of a band that knows what it wants in the studio, and has the chops to deliver. The sheer enjoyment I get from the production is almost ridiculous. Since when do the harmonies and melodies (both top-notch here, natch) and lyrics take a back seat to guitar sound? With me, rarely. Another unlikely but welcome thing about the album is that all 11 tracks clock in over 3 minutes, many close to or over 4 minutes, and yet each song feels half as long. The sequencing makes the album flow so smoothly it’s a nice ride no matter the length. My favorite tune at the moment is the epic album closer, “Faux.” Although there’s a tiny bit of bite and speeds pushing the limits of what can actually be called “mid-tempo” for the most part this is good old crunchy pop. Fans of Lemonheads, the A/V Club, and regular visitors to the Power Pop Madness blog should seek this out post haste.

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The Forms – Derealization EP


I have to say, I am wary when I hear about bands revisiting older material with plans on changing it up and re-releasing them. One of my favorite Arcade Fire songs was ruined that way. However, I can’t begrudge musicians from indulging in the practice; they probably live on taking their own songs and changing them up slightly to sound new and interesting. Otherwise, how mind-numbingly boring would it be to play the same songs exactly the same way all the time?

In this EP release, The Forms, with help from producer Scott Solter, take six previously released songs and not only change the speed, but change words and showcase new elements, most noticeably strings and guest vocals. The guest vocals come from collaborations with Matt Berninger from The National, Andrew Thiboldeaux from Pattern is Movement, and Craig Wedren from Shudder to Think. Nat Baldwin of Dirty Projector and Daniel Hart of St. Vincent lend support with the new string arrangement. I’m a huge sucker for strings so any addition of them is a good thing in my book.

I love this idea of collaborating with other musicians and letting them put a new spin on your material. That instead of sealing your creation up in a vault no one can touch, you are releasing it for others to work their hands over. Most of the new versions see a sped up approach, like the new take of ‘Knowledge in Hand’, here titled ‘Same Path Mantra’, which reminds me of how Pinback significantly speeds up their songs when playing them live. One setback with this is a slightly letdown feeling that the songs end too soon. Overall, I like the re-workings of these previously released songs. It illustrates how versatile musicians can be with their work.

Stand out track for me would have to be Matt Berninger’s take on ‘Red Gun’, here titled ‘Fire to the Ground’. His mellifluous croon coupled with the upbeat string arrangement gives a warmer, fuller tone to a favorite of mine.

Derealization Track List:
01. Fire to the Ground (feat. Matt Berninger)
02. Same Path Mantra
03. Steady Hand (feat. Andrew Thiboldeaux)
04. Alpha Wave
05. Finally (feat. Craig Wedren)
06. Derealization

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