December 1, 2016

Melting pot

A remixed recipe has been added to the indie stew.

Melt is a new selection off the emo entree menu of reputed restaurant Topshelf. The New Jersey foursome roasts racks of reverb revolved around the genre’s organic ingredients, cooking a catchy cuisine peppered with spicy hooks.

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Barely a three-course meal (10 songs ingested in 28 minutes), the band’s first album leaves both a sweet aftertaste and an empty stomach. Riffer serves sizzling appetizers – “Rewind”, “Out of Line”, “Rollaway”, the title track – but the leftovers are a bland buffet. Dishes “There You Go”, “C-Town”, “Saber” and “Stroke” go light on flambé and flavor, making them tougher chews.

Though Riffer isn’t soup of the day, Melt has concocted a palatable palette. A little extra seasoning and it will be mouthwatering.

 


September 1, 2016

Honeymoon

It’s love at first sound for the latest indie heartthrob.

All aflutter with intimate interludes, Moon Loves Honey endear themselves to paramours longing to rekindle euphonic ardor. The Aarhus quartet call to mind credible crushes Dråpe and Star Horse, but their flirtatious fetish (termed “dream rock”) is more attractive and accessible.

MLH

Especially enchanting on the group’s debut is the vocal foreplay between guitarist Jeppe Dengsø and keyboardist Stine Drejer, who are a match made in harmony heaven. The tastiest of these titillating trysts – the mesmerizing “My Friends” –  loops linear lyrics through virile verses and a coital coda, dowering Denmark its most seductive dalliance since Mew‘s “Comforting Sounds.” The rest of the EP runs an orgasmic gamut of frolicking and forlorn fugues.

Moon Loves Honey isn’t just a one-night stand. Walk Apart down the aisle and put a ring on it.

 


May 11, 2015

Lights brigade

A corps of past heroes has joined the present revolution.

Decorated stalwarts and frequent confederates Johnathon Ford (Unwed Sailor) and Bryce Chambers (Ester Drang) took up arms together and enlisted Native Lights in 2010, firing a two-track warning shot that sounded a clarion call for other factions to heed their advance. Ford and Chambers then quietly pulled back and sought refuge in an abandoned cattle auction house, where they marshaled a full-scale offensive. Commenced in March, the self-titled debut lays siege to a battlefield rife with toy soldiers and commissions Native Lights as a formidable force.

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Native Lights charge over the hill with guns blazing. Chambers positions himself along the front line equipped to the essential pedalboard hilt, while Ford lobs an unyielding barrage of bass grenades from his familiar foxhole. They spark the album’s powder keg, “Black Wall Street”, by setting off a deluge of drop-D distortion and detailed delay designed to decimate anything in their path. This blitzkrieg draws white flags well before the final note; nevertheless, Native Lights relentlessly press the strategy forward.

“Blue Star” and “Sun Tzu”, bruising post-rock battering rams, pummel residual opposition into submission. Victory at hand, Ford and Chambers beckon survivors to pledge allegiance to their cause on “La Rosa” and “White Elephant.” The record’s two most tactically tuned turrets turn Native Lights from pillager to peacemaker and proclaim an end to hostilities in a hail of haunting harmonics and Chambers’ vigorous vocal sorties.

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Having dismantled the heavy artillery, Ford and Chambers take time to savor the spoils, christening their conquered land with the invocational “Ruins” and tribalistic “Abuse Arcade.” “Stalin’s Organs” purifies the seizure as Ford leads a triumphant march to remove entrails littering the beachhead.

Native Lights are more than a reinforcement for the indie ranks. The cavalry may have decisively arrived.


October 2, 2014

Power surge

Oil may no longer be Oklahoma’s best energy source.

Shoegazers Power Pyramid are lighting up the Sooner state, overloading its music grid with an electrical storm of fuzz and feedback. Guitarists Daniel Weaver and Trey Millward threw the switch on demos in late 2012 that quickly became the dynamo for a broader songwriting current. The magnetism attracted Jennifer Lynch (bass) and Kilyn Massey (guitar) to 2013’s The God Drums, a full-length debut that lacked voltage but induced enough capacitance to make it resonant.

powerpyramid

Last November, the band added drummer Brent Hodge, who helped ground the highly charged Insomnia EP released through Norman-based substation We Are Nice People at the beginning of this year. July’s self-titled album propagated their largest decibel output so far and phased in James Hammontree as new bass insulation.

Power Pyramid has given the indie circuit a serious jolt.

 


June 27, 2014

On target

Another bullseye notched on the indie dartboard.

Ambitious and ironically branded, Oakland’s The Aimless Never Miss never did in four years before temporarily checking out. They hit the mark early with a double-ring of EPs (2006’s Oh, If They Could Fly and 2007’s The Bright Side), then registered a ton 80 on their self-titled full-length in 2008. Combining previously released tracks and songs conceived for the second EP’s promotional tour, the album was flighted by frontman Jon Latimer’s intricate guitar work and pointed by incredulous lyrics that tackled topics like 9/11, World War II, and the pitfalls of modern technology.

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After losing original members Rosie Steffy and Winston Goertz-Giffen, Latimer continued firing missiles. 2009’s Tran EP, featuring longtime bassist Andrew Macy and drummer Eric Kuhn, was a killer. The band’s most recent leg in 2010 – The High Dive To Lo-Fi, Volume I – saw Latimer going bust to the outer edges of TANM’s sound with past contributors (Steffy chief among them) and several guest performers from the Bay Area.

Latimer has reportedly been writing new material round the clock and finishing a re-mixed version of Tran. Both promise to be just as accurate as his prior throws.

 


May 30, 2014

Norse anthology

Scandinavia has a new deity whose might could dethrone Thor.

With prescient ability to harness mystical sonics, Norway’s Dråpe is bestowing empyreal music upon a mortally tone-deaf planet. The band’s omnipotence was consecrated in 2011 through the self-titled EP gifted by Ketil Myhre, Peter Rasmussen Lubiana, Lars Boquist, Eirik Kirkemyr, and vocalist Hanne Olsen Solem, which reincarnated shoegaze into a maelstrom so miraculous it defies description.

dråpe2

The quintet – now including guitarist Even Hafnor – ascended to higher dimensions last year on Canicular Days, a transfiguration that harkens back to the early wonders performed by Danish indie gods Mew. Illuminated in all their breathtaking glory, Myhre’s transcendent tenor and Solem’s sirenic soprano soar over pristine instrumentation, manifesting the most majestic trinity this side of the afterlife.

Dråpe is simply divine.

 


February 22, 2014

Richter scale

Music topography fault lines can often be as unstable as the San Andreas, swallowing bands and labels into a chasm of debt, corporate influence and popular opinion. The Richter Collective, an Ireland-based epicenter, refused to succumb to those constant rumblings before forces beyond its control necessitated self-implosion in 2012.

The aftershocks of that temblor are still being felt. Instrumental transforms And So I Watch You From Afar and Enemies have ruptured normal tectonics, creating new, impassable boundaries. Stabilized by guitarist Rory Friers and drummer Chris Wee, ASIWYFA’s groundbreaking Gangs shook the indie world in 2011, and last year’s All Hail Bright Futures made just as big an impact.

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Enemies touched off similar seismic events. Guitarists Eoin Whitfield and Lewis Jackson and bassist Mark O’Brien converged with the math rock mechanics of Oisin Trench on 2010’s We’ve Been Talking, which was the precursor to an immense tremor. Embark, Embrace (2013) hit harder than any of their prior releases, reverberating around the globe during tours that spanned Europe, Asia and the U.S.

Both groups’ earth-shattering live shows have generated a tsunami of support and reduced many of their peers to rubble. Richter might be buried, but it triggered two of the most powerful megathrusts to ever crack the surface.

 

 


December 30, 2013

Hella yeah!

A rapidly evolving star in the indie galaxy is ready to explode.

Dormant dwarf turned scintillating supergiant, Hella Comet came streaking practically undetected through Austria’s atmosphere last month. Cosmic shifts from 2010’s Celebrate Your Loss EP spawned Wild Honey, a radiant debut full-length whose nucleus of shoegaze and psychedelic pop obliterates everything else put into orbit during 2013.

Bassist Lea Sonnek’s combustible vocals – an alluring amalgam of Elizabeth Powell and Dolores O’Riordan – sparkle brighter than a solar flare. They’re cloaked by the coma of guitarists Franz Gurt and Jürgen Hochsam and drummer Markus Sworcik, forming a stellar tail filled with lush effects and dazzling dynamics that never fizzle out.

Another musical diffusion of comparable magnitude could be light years away. Don’t let this one pass you by.

 


August 29, 2013

Daydream believer

Spacing out has never sounded so good.

L.A.’s Daydreamer may look like a bunch of beach bums, but their music suggests they’re not your average Spicoli wannabes. In 2012, they made a soundtrack for perpetual slackers everywhere (the because EP), riding waves of heavy distortion and boss bass grooves that could easily get mistaken for Jimmy Eat World cruising the PCH on a bender.


Presently chillin’ with other SoCal groups (e.g., Bad SunsWakon Giant), Daydreamer have indicated they plan to reunite and begin writing again soon. Let’s hope the result is just as much of a trip as because when they do.

 


February 21, 2013

Bear tracks

Typical hibernation lasts four or five months. Bear Colony has been in a nuclear winter.

Originally a 2006 collaboration between Arkansas musicians Brooks Tipton (Unwed Sailor, Colour Revolt) and Vincent Griffin, Bear Colony gradually opened its borders to a host of talented vagabonds. Indie veterans Chase Pagan, Matthew Depper, and Matthew Putman returned home and helped Griffin lay the foundation for 2007’s We Came Here to Die — a debut which, though certainly respectable, felt like a disorganized expedition in the wilderness.

Personal travails (Griffin’s mother suffered a severe health setback in 2009) and the influx of migrants David Huff, Stephen Tucker, Lee Actkinson, and Patrick Ryan caused Griffin to re-calibrate his compass. He blazes a blistering trail with the band’s second excursion, planting a flag that cements Bear Colony as Esperanza Plantation’s most alluring settlement.

Soft Eyes is both easy and enthralling on the ears, a burgeoning melodic metropolis populated by diverse influences neither foreign nor feigned. Its landmark attraction, “Bad Blood”, glistens with harmonies befitting Brian Wilson and climaxes in an exultant, Pixies-style chorus, completing Bear Colony’s de facto Sistine Chapel. Griffin promptly diverges from that blueprint, but keeps the base stanchions intact.

An electronically layered pyramid pulsates throughout “Flask Retort”, wreaking of the best of ELO while retaining modern flair. The group adapts similar designs to “Lights On The Domestic”, “The Hysterics”, and “Break Bones”, three modestly built lo-fi lofts contoured for balance against the album’s more imposing edifices. Two of those towers – “Monster” and “Go Home To Something” – are soldered to contemporary girders often found on Ben Gibbard structures and still blend in seamlessly with the rest of the horizon.

“We Don’t Know Harm I” and “We Don’t Know Harm II” bookend the 13-track borough, opposite windows of one facade reflecting vistas of Jeremy Enigk’s Fire Theft. “Youth Orchestra” is fashioned in the same mold, binded by malleable materials that congeal into a symphonic citadel. Instrumental skyscraper “I Sing Mountains” dwarfs the entire landscape, legitimizing Griffin’s aptitude for complex engineering.

Awake from its lengthy slumber, Bear Colony has staked out wonderfully ambitious terrain. Soft Eyes will bring huddled masses flocking in droves.


May 1, 2012

A league of their own

While baseball season might just be getting started, music’s 2012 schedule is in full swing. And after four months, the farm system has finally produced a strong candidate for “Rookie of the Year.”

Philadelphia’s Little Big League — the city’s most promising indie prospect since mewithoutYou — have stepped up to the plate with their debut delivery. A double play that showcases singer Michelle Zauner’s controlled range of pitches on top of a mound of line-driving melodies, LBL’s self-titled 7″ will make even the casual listener balk at the stop sign.

Leading off with singles “Tokyo Drift” and “St. Johns” has put Little Big League in position to score a call from the majors.

 


April 10, 2011

Floored

If you’ve ever attempted to read a piece of federal legislation, you’ve likely ended up aggravatingly confounded. Similarly affecting is Brooklyn’s The House Floor, an indie trio drafting composition and lyrical laws aimed at reversing the status quo.

Alex Tschan, the band’s prominent speaker, intertwines eclectic social commentary, anxious psychological queries, and ambivalent spiritual diatribes within a cacophony of off-beat, frenetic melodies, supplemented by the precise rhythm structures of bassist Ryan Lee and drummer Peter Chudzik. With that as the platform for their only public contribution to date (2009’s Warship), this fringe caucus has introduced an ideology that, while maybe not polling high with the majority, is spurring a palpable grassroots movement.

This might truly be change we can believe in.

 


July 28, 2010

New York’s finest

Were the NYPD ever to create an indie rock division, Ladycop would be the perfect gumshoe.

The elite Brooklyn unit, headed by bassist Cliff Rawson and drummer Kolby Wade, has been working undercover since 2006, privately recording two EPs — a self-titled sampler and 2008’s We’re Not the Man. Having solidified their sonic swat team with six-string snipers Derek Kretzer and (the appropriately feminine) Anne Carlisle, Ladycop is back on the beat. They’re gearing up for a European tour in September and the much anticipated release of their first full-length.

Packing plenty of psychedelic heat, Ladycop has put the Big Apple on notice: There’s a new sheriff in town.

 

 

UPDATE: Waves, released at the Knitting Factory performance on September 7, is available for download. They’ve also shot a video for “Idea Maker.”

 

 


June 22, 2010

Wombatty

Everyone can get a little crazy on occasion. Indie-pop trio The Wombats have made eccentricity a staple of their daily routine.

Much like their small furry namesake, Liverpool lads Matthew Murphy, Dan Haggis and Tord Øverland-Knudsen are insatiably lovable, too, as evidenced by the large cult following they’ve amassed both in the UK and abroad. They’re on the U.S. side of the pond this month recording a new album, their first since 2007’s widely praised A Guide to Love, Loss and Desparation. Last spring, they released a single that should be one of the select tracks to survive the next full-length’s final cut, if for no other reason than it’s accompanied by one of the coolest videos you’ll ever see.

If “My Circuitboard City” is any indication, The Wombats will continue to be crazy good.


May 30, 2010

Not totally abandoned

Tommy Walter may be the hardest-working man in show business (aside from Ryan Seacrest, of course). The former Eels bassist-turned-Glacier Hiking honcho has a lot on his plate these days, serving as a producer for several young artists and composing tracks for a number of projects on the small and big screens.

Thankfully, Walter has managed to make time for personal pursuits. Last week, he shared studio footage of his work on a new album for Abandoned Pools, a solo endeavor which was left in limbo after his second record, Armed to the Teeth (one of 2005’s best releases) was left hanging by Universal. He’ll be previewing the new material in a performance at L.A.’s Spaceland next month.


February 11, 2010

Smoldering Glacier

With all the hysteria surrounding global climate change, it’s encouraging to discover at least one solid formation isn’t in danger of melting away anytime soon.

Los Angeles natives Tommy Walter and Ross Golan – collectively known as Glacier Hiking – were one of 2009’s hottest commodities, igniting southern California’s prime venues, Texas’ South by Southwest music festival and television channels ranging from SPEED to MTV.

In the midst of a variety of individual projects during the last three years, Walter and Golan collaborated on a series of demos. The process resulted in their first official release, the Color by Number EP, in October. They’re currently putting the finishing touches on a full-length album with renowned rock producer Neal Avron, and have been posting rough versions of the tracks online.

That should keep their fans warm enough until the new record breaks the mainstream ice.


January 20, 2010

Deleted Arrows: Pointing in the right direction

Rhode Island isn’t exactly the first locale that comes to mind when talking about vibrant music hotbeds. However, the union’s smallest state could be harboring the next big thing in Deleted Arrows, an instrumental quartet which seems poised to sling itself right into the discussion.

Daryl Rabidoux and Brent Frattini, formerly of The Cancer Conspiracy, assembled a new ensemble last spring, and have made select live appearances in Providence (as well as Massachusetts and New York) since June’s introductory performance. The band just released a short EP that, while raw and rudimentary, exhibits enough technical prowess and cohesion to warrant inclusion in any serious indie rock conversation.

Hopefully, they’ll be able to put their quaint little corner of the northeast back on the map.


December 31, 2009

Talk of the town

Talk is supposed to be cheap. For Elizabeth Powell, it’s never been more valuable. Or more abundant.

Powell, the girl-next-door diva ruling Montreal’s effervescent Land of Talk, realized just how much her voice was worth when she lost it last year. Luckily for LoT fans, she’s fully healed and has infused her incredibly infectious vocals into the band’s new EP, Fun and Laughter. The four tracks are a fitting complement to 2008’s Some Are Lakes, a beautifully gritty, melancholy, engrossing album that still has people talking.

And positive word of mouth is something you can’t put a price on.


October 31, 2009

Revoltlution

The dearth of competence stateside has forced me to search hither and yon for artists who are more interested in innovation than adulation. This describes Denmark’s Marvins Revolt to a T.

The Copenhagen trio made a sizable splash in 2007 with the progressively poppy Killec. They’re now set to unveil a second album – Patrolling the Heights – on Monday (listen to the full tracks here). They’re kicking off a two-month tour tonight which will take them throughout Europe and Japan in support of the record.


October 10, 2009

The Most Serene Republic … of Motown?

Quick: What do Sergei Rachmaninoff and Diana Ross have in common? The Most Serene Republic think the two are musical equals worthy of the same pedestal, so much so that these critically-acclaimed artists from Toronto spend the entirety of their latest album, … And the Ever Expanding Universe, trying to convince the listener of such an absurd corollary. They don’t come close to successfully defending the assertion; instead, they provide yet another example of artistic hubris – or, more accurately, laziness.

Allow me to backtrack for the uninitiated. TMSR (who derive their name from the Most Serene Republic of Venice) first caught my attention last year with Phages, an experimental EP of sorts that preceded what, in my view, was one of the best releases of the decade: 2007’s Population, a veritable indie rock opera which Rachmaninoff himself would’ve been proud to inspire. And according to TMSR’s Ryan Lenssen, he actually did:

“If you go back to people like Rachmaninoff, and Schoenberg, and Shostakovich, and Prokofiev, those guys all knew how to create a mood and intensity, and I don’t think it’s really something that you can get from a lot of modern music. So it’s necessary to go back and search through history for arguably the most talented and most genius musicians of all time.”

How TMSR decided on Ms. Ross as their next line of historical demarcation is puzzling – especially in light of Population‘s brilliance. The impetus may lie with the always ambiguous internal band turmoil.

The National Post reported that TMSR nearly broke up after returning from extensive touring in 2008 (the departure of prolific drummer Tony Nesbitt-Larking – supposedly of his own volition – was ominous), with Lenssen fearing, “if things didn’t change, it felt like we’d end up on fire or else laid out on the side of some ditch.” (That scenario would have been literal irony for vocalist Emma Ditchburn.) They eventually ended up in the studio with producer Dave Newfeld, who prodded them to make a more “soulful” record.

I don’t much mind TMSR or anyone else exploring new territory. The danger, of course, is the potential compromising of identity. But TMSR have gone a good bit further. They’ve not only compromised it for the sake of “change”; they’ve completely disowned it:

“… there was, however, a conscious effort by the band to make some kind of musical departure—a direction that, on paper any way, seems implausible for the Most Serene Republic.

‘I said I want a record that sounds like the Association,’ Lenssen reveals. ‘I want it to sound like Motown, like Diana Ross and the Supremes, because indie-rock is done; that sound was pretty much 2002-2005.'”

This kind of indolence under the guise of experimentation is as irrational as it is repugnant, and would have Rachmaninoff spinning in his grave. It also roundly contradicts what Lenssen previously espoused:

“If you’re in Cologne, and you see that big cathedral in Cologne that took 300 years to build, you couldn’t get them to do that for money. You need God. Or you need something — you need something that’s bigger to get people to spend their entire lives working on this project and die for this enormous, almost grotesque kind of piece of architecture. And that takes a real focus and a real dedication. Not a sacrifice, but a full want and longing to create something that’s much larger than you are. And I think that’s what this band is for us.”

I lament Lenssen’s about-face from this geniune sentiment. TMSR is the personification of indie rock, a timeless genre (like Rachmaninoff’s) with virtually limitless possibilities. Duplicating their previous masterpiece would have required a “focus and dedication” clearly absent from … And the Ever Expanding Universe. As far as I can tell, TMSR’s universe is now an alternate one.

(Clips from interview by MolesClub)

UPDATE: TMSR’s Adrian Jewett admits the band was “nearly not as hard on ourselves and each other as we were before” during the making of … And the Ever Expanding Universe, confirming an apathetic approach. And if that makes some of their fans unhappy, Lenssen’s response is, in essence, a most serene “f**k you.”


August 18, 2009

Seek Shelter immediately

Instrumental bands have emerged with increasing frequency during the last decade, the most recent evolutions no doubt spurred by the commercial success of Texas’ Explosions in the Sky. Though their recognition on a larger scale was certainly welcome, it led to the inevitable unintended consequence: quantity far exceeding quality (and, in the majority of cases, originality).

Shelter Red, a dynamic duo from Portland, lacks neither. Stephan Hawkes – one of the more inventive musical minds I’ve ever come across – and bassist Austin Crook have been devastating the Pacific Northwest for the better part of six years. In February, they followed up 2007’s independent full-length Masters of the Universe with a seven-song EP debut for Salt Lake City’s Sound Vs Silence. Aptly named, Strike a Mortal Terror not only rattles the instrumental realm to its core, but redefines it in a mere 32 minutes. Terrifying indeed.


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