Iceage – Plowing Into The Field Of Love Album Review
This new third album from Iceage sees a change of style for the band – the scuzzy punk seems to have taken a back seat to more indie experimentalism, with a darker, inward looking mood taking over. While it feels like a band throwing open the doors musically to new avenues and stepping outside their comfort zone to bend those ideas into something different, there has been a backlash of bile from existing fans, accusing the new album of being being a Nick Cave clone. I’m not in agreement with this pointless name calling and would recommend the record. It is a change of direction, yes, but the melodies are very much Iceage, the vocal delivery and lyrics are not much altered and above all this is a collection of great tunes that deserve to be heard.
To my mind this is the sound of a band still experimenting, here they have reigned in their reckless side and used that exhuberant experimentalism to create something chaotically ordered, teetering on the edge but firmly rooted enough to never fall over. Complex structures and discordant riffs sit comfortably alongside perfect country slide guitar and gently sexy brass or keys.
Each track is different – they haven’t done away with the punk completely but it is now just a layer in the sound on this record, in fact at times this album reminds me very much of their Escho label mates Lower and their recently released record Seek Warmer Climes. Iceage have a greater aptitude for melody and hooks however; instillng each track with a vibrant glow – thrilling the listener with a range of feelings – the instant nature of the melodies roots them in your musical memory but the fleeting, dreamlike quality is nicely at odds with the catchy tunes, like smoke, transient yet leaving its mark.
Ohhms – Bloom Album Review
Kent doom/prog five piece unleash two epic length tracks on their new record to be released on 6th October via Holy Roar records. The mix of genres on the record is interesting; often this kind of post-metal is epic and doom laden of course, but UK mob Ohhms obviously have an eclectic mix of influences, as they also drop in anything from classic rock to prog, making it feel very British.
Bad Seed is the opener, hints of classic rock and Prog, in the guitar work, add texture to eighteen minutes of rumbling, heady riffage and rough, very down to earth vocals. The start of this opening tune has a repeated lyric, “I’m not playing with you”, whether intentionally or not, it brings to mind Fugazi’s Blueprint and had me temporarily distracted listening to that – oops. The track takes its time, not building as such but steadily hypnotising you, it was in the last 6 minutes that it really hooked me in though; a change of pace bringing something far more delicate, the drums are complex and controlled and the tune becomes something else entirely – a beautiful come down – it takes its time to gently pull things to a close and leaves you with a distorted rumble from the guitar. Rise of the Herbivore carries over this rumble, adding a sparing, off kilter beat and then a ringing riff. This tune is the winner, a more doom-laden mood falls and takes you somewhere else, in turns dreamy and intensely dark.
The vocals are the wild card on the record to some extent, in this Ohhms can be likened to Isis, especially in their early days, where you either loved or hated the gruff, verging on tuneless shout amongst the beautifuly nasty tunes – in Ohhms case the more varied mix of genres makes the vocals an easier blend, for those with sensitive ears. Some interesting ideas and a heady mix of genres make this an album worth checking out for post-metal and doom fans.
Hoax Hunters – Comfort & Safety Album Review
The Richmond trio’s debut album is a rousing treat; fast-paced guitars, vocal lines you want to sing along to and its all wrapped in a warm and comfortable blanket of scuzz and great melodies.
The vibe is very much late 80s punky indie rock – think Minutemen, Dag Nasty and Husker Dü, so erring on the (old school) punk side although with a certain amount of restraint and finesse injected – the album’s opening track Hoax Hunters is dynamic, upbeat and punchy, sounding like some long lost classic. Breathe is another brilliant tune – an organic sounding melody flies over a tightly penned riff, bliss. Perception of Choice remnds me of Dinosaur Jr. but this may just be the Feel The Pain-ish riff, as when the track takes off its all moody melodic punk again.
Other features of the record are the great bass lines and hypnotic drums – the bass is pushed high in the mix and often drenched in distortion giving tunes like Glitterbomb a richer texture while the drums are relentlessly insistent but with plenty of playful touches – often they lend the tracks a dreamy, hypnotic quality and in tunes like Riskless Business they are pushed to the front and are the clarity amongst the fuzz.
There’s plenty of genre mashing going on throughout the record, the little touches of this and that feeding easily into eachother and creating a lovely warmth – the beautifully scuzzed out sound of 90s indie meets DC hardcore punk is addictive and balanced perfectly by the production (showcased brilliantly in the powerhouse track Erase at the end of the record if you still need any pointers). The album is available on Bandcamp and comes recommended by me.
Cayetana – Nervous Like Me Album Review
I’ve made no secret on this blog that all girl Philly trio Cayetana became one of my new favourite bands as soon as I heard their Demo back in January 2013, so it’s probably no surprise that their debut full length album has been highly anticipated round at mine. In the simplest terms, Cayetana write songs that make me feel glad to be alive and I’d love to be able to write a review that makes each of you reading this want to go out and pick up the record, but I fear I’m not eloquent enough for that – all I can hope to do is make you curious enough to at least take a listen as its shaping up to be one of my albums of the year.
The album’s opening tune is Serious Things Are Stupid, and it’s a strong track; a super catchy melody, sing along vocal lines and slightly scuzzy production make you want to turn it up loud. Even just from this opening tune it’s clear that the trio have grown as a band. Their sound has developed into something warmer and more textured than their early tunes, and this becomes even more obvious on the reworked tracks; Mountain Kids and South Philly, both originally featured on that demo, now sound quite different. On both these tracks the guitar and bass have a fuller, richer sound and the drums are crisp and punchy, but its not just the production; South Philly for instance has more assured vocal delivery and reworked, more complex bass lines pushed higher into the mix – both tunes sound fantastic here and realise the potential of those more minimal versions from the demo.
It’s great to hear that scuzzy punk feel hasn’t left them on tracks like Black Hills which has a nice layer of fuzz on the guitar and a danceable rock and roll rhythm and Animal which punches in all the right places. There is a slight change of tone for the sweet and poppy Dirty Laundry which is great to sing along with and has the juiciest bass line and Scott Get The Van, I’m Moving, combines their rougher edges with another perfect pop melody and spot on vocal delivery – it gets into your head and won’t leave, even when you sing it back at full volume.
This is that rare gem, a debut album from a band with masses of potential which delivers 11 great tracks and lets you hear their continuing development together as a unit; it leaves you both satisfied and excited for what they’ll do next.
Monument – Bros Canoeing! Album Review
I was sad to hear Monument were splitting, but pleased that they left us with this posthumous sophomore album. I reviewed their debut full length Goes Canoeing back in Summer 2011 for Roomthirteen.com and it’s an album I still have on regular rotation, so was eager to hear this new record. Goes Canoeing I described as “raw, emotive and oh so melodic [...] backed by jagged guitars, odd time signatures and complex progressions [...] a distorted, fuzz-laden sing along world of goosebumps and screamed-raw throats and punched fists.” I wont argue with my past self, it was (still is) a great album and this latest offering is, pleasingly, no less emotive, and like its predecessor, promises to be an album I’ll be listening to many times.
The “I’ll find a way” chant at the start of opener 3 Musketeers, backed by fiddly guitars and energetic drums, pulls me back in to their world like I’ve never been away. This is a great way to begin the album: a gloriously uplifting sing along tune with a hint of melancholy, which for me sums up the feel for the rest of the record. The hint of sadness permeates throughout; with little string touches here and there to give you goosebumps and quiet interludes, like the lovely Reggaenomics, it does lack some of the carefree spirit of its predecessor, but this is well balanced by an upbeat core of melody keeping everything grounded.
Bros Canoeing! does have a less frenetic sound than their debut and tones down the raw vocals for slightly softer edges and a more refined feel, but in no way is the record over produced. The band thankfully retains their edge with vocals on the edge of cracking, riffs that are complex but played with assured confidence and odd timings and impressive flourishes from the drums.
It’s hard to know whether finding out the band had split prior to hearing the album has coloured my judgment when listening, but it seems obvious that emotions were running high during the recording process; there’s a kind of ‘fuck it lets go out in style’ attitude which oozes out of every note and makes each tune crackle with energy. This album is a great way to start if you don’t know Monument and is also a must have for fans. Get it.
Buy the album on Bandcamp all proceeds go to Charity.
Dikembe – Mediumship Album Review
Back at the beginning of 2013, I reviewed Gainesville four piece Dikembe’s last album, Broad Shoulders, for Roomthirteen.com; describing it as having “a rough around the edges feel (in a good way), giving the sound an exposed and vulnerable edge – all raw scuzzy guitars and the occasional blast of distortion, but this is all laid over with a sweetness from the great melodies and emotion-filled vocal delivery.” With the release of their latest album Mediumship the band has in some respects kept hold of their essence – solid and often memorable melody is still at the core of each track but their sound has also evolved.
Comparitively, this new album feels like the late night version of Dikembe – where Broad Shoulders felt youthful and had an angsty, scuzzy edge this record feels like it was written in twilight. An introspective mood has taken over; the vocals sound more considered, with a softer tone and the tracks have room to breathe, to grow, and feel expansive, more organic.
The album is just as engaging as their debut, they may have smoothed down those rough edges to some extent but they show they have plenty left in their arsenal, and in fact, this album is more of an instant winner. Meduimship focuses on the tunes rather than the angst and many of the tracks are instantly memorable thanks to their strong melodies; opener Even Bother, which builds to a glorious sing along melody, sticks with you long afterward and the excellent Donuts in a Six Speed mixes dynamics with a lovely dreamy open sound and strong vocal lines.
I think this is a stronger more focussed record than their debut; the expansive sound has leant the tracks an almost epic feel, but they are still very accessible thanks to that melodic core and the excellent vocals. A solid second full length release.
Album Review: Late Bloomer – Things Change
Knowing nothing about the band and having no expectations, apart from liking the great cover art, I put this record on, and was instantly drawn in. North Carolina trio Late Bloomer make me reminisce – bringing back memories of albums I loved in the 90s by Dinosaur Jr. and Galaxie 500 amongst others. Things Change successfully melds the fuzz and distortion of a classic indie/shoegaze outfit with the melodies, riffs and vocals you’d expect to find in catchy indie-rock. However, it must be said, that the joy of the record comes not from the nostalgic feelings created, but the way the band have brought these sounds bang up to date, by mixing in many other things; from warm gruff punkish vocals, to new wave emo and hardcore, there is nothing they’re not afraid to blend in but it’s all constructed in a sympathetic way making many of the tunes here instantly likeable.
One of the clever things the trio does is take a flexible approach to vocals, each band member taking the helm when it suits the track – they each have quite different tones so this enables them to shift the style of each track and try out new things. Listen to Dr. Abernathy and you get the full late 80s/early 90s indie treatment – minimal instrumentation with washes of fuzz, moody vocals and the guitars ringing out with echoes. Mirror opts for more complex beats and discordant, meaty riffage and has a fantastic sing along quality. Title track Things Change goes all gruff on us, punky vocals and a catchy chorus backed by rock guitars, whilst No Mistakes is a poppy number with a surf-rock edge and lighter vocals.
The stable core of fuzzy and melodic indie/rock which holds together the record makes it very cohesive and listenable, but its the variety which gives the band their disctinctive sound and gives the listener something fresh in every bite. Recommended.
Little Big League/Ovlov Split 7″ Review
This is sweet 7″ collaboration from two great bands, both following up their debut 2013 full lengths. Little Big League have two tracks, the first, Year of the Sunhouse, really delivers on melody – Michelle Zauner’s distinctive vocals trip brightly over sweet guitars; it’s so Summery and catchy you’ll want to hit repeat over and over. Pure Bliss Choices is heavier on the guitars – slightly distorted riffs wail over the vocals (in a good way) – it’s just as catchy but with a moodier feel. Both tracks are worth picking up the record for.
Ovlov’s track The Great Crocodile is the longest on the 7″ and it showcases their 90s inspired indie sound brilliantly – fans of Pavement and Dinosaur Jr. should feel right at home. The tune combines dreamy out of step vocals with crunchy guitars and lots of fuzz. it opens with an extended instrumental section of hypnotic beats and guitars, creating a dark mood, before it breaks into J. Mascis-esque vocals and a janglier indie feel takes over. Later on, the track combines both sounds to create a dense but warm wash of noise, topped with cracking drums and an extended guitar solo to finish.
The 7″ is released through Tiny Engines on 15th July. Find it here.
Milo’s Planes – Two feet In A Crowd Single Review
This is the kind of scuzzy, guitar-led, melodic, punky noise I like, so I’m happy to be posting a few words here even just to promote the band’s (free) single launch at Mother’s Ruin in Bristol on 18th July with Gnarwhals.
Two Feet In A Crowd and the four accompanying B-Sides all sport hooky riffs drenched in fuzz and they are super addictive; so much so that i’ve had to put the soundcloud stream on my bookmarks for easy access. These are tunes you can rock out to; the short and very sweet Harnessed To A kick has a fantastic central riff which gets me moving every time but the song is so short, just a snippet really, that i’m always left wishing there was more. King is a punky number with layered backing shouts and some great guitar work. Better off feels like a party tune with a slightly surf-rock edge which is probably down to the echoey guitar sound, and again, that layer of fuzz – it feels fun, dreamy and effortless.
The ‘A’ side is meant to be the the main feature here though, taken from the young band’s debut album to be released later this year, it’s a confident track, breezy and catchy; distorted vocals you can shout along with and a finish that builds nicely. I’m impressed with Milo’s Planes and recommend you check them out.
Lower – Seek Warmer Climes Album Review
Danish four piece Lower released their debut full length record on 16th June. In Denmark they are label mates with Iceage (Escho) and like that band they have also been picked up by Matador for this release.
Lower have more of a moody post-punk sound than their label mates, marked with looping downbeat riffs, occasional moments of dischord and dreamily melancholic vocal lines, however what they do share is a knack for melody, and many of the tracks on this debut will have you echoing the music with languid head bobbing.
My familiarity with Lower only extends as far as owning the Someone’s Got It In For Me / But There Has To Be More and Walk on Heads EPs (both from 2012), and this LP has a somewhat softer edge – smoother lines with a less raw and squally sound, especially when compared to Walk on Heads’ more urgent scuzzy guitars. This softened sound doesn’t actually take anything away from their tunes however, in fact it refines the tracks and makes for a more mature package – the melodies come to the fore, pushed by the excellent vocals. Lost Weight, Perfect Skin is a briliantly constructed post-punk pop song; from the repetitive central guitar riff to the laid back but catchy vocal lines, it sticks in your head and is one of the tracks that will have you coming back to the record.
Much of the rest of the album is more subtle – dark bass lines and dreamy vocals creating a swirling, moody atmosphere (Expanding Horizons) or quietly dischordant and rising to a more intense climax (Tradition). This is one of those records that will catch listeners by surprise – the curious may find themselves becoming entranced with its subtle charms and have it grow into one of their hits of the year. Well worth checking out.