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.
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.
Pissghetti – So Much For My Happy Ending Review
I was convinced I wouldn’t like this mini album; the band name and awful album cover almost made me consign it to the not-a-chance-bin and based on initial appearances I was expecting some generic pop-punk nightmare but I’m glad I gave it a chance.
So Much For My Happy Ending does actually have a pop-punk twang after all, but at the fore is a 90s feel – it owes a debt to Pavement and Weezer amongst others – fuzzy lo-fi production (which muffles things at times) and jangly guitars backed by gently dreamy vocals make the record feel like something that should have appeared on The Adventures of Pete and Pete and that’s something I can really get behind. The middle three tracks are the ones that speak to me the most, flowing almost seamlessly – Earth Sucks Without You has a quietly melancholic feel which takes me back; Surf’s Up takes the pace up a notch but retains that sadness and Tiny Hands, my vote for track of the album, has sweet vocals backed by an oh so danceable beat and guitars that bring to mind all my favourite indie bands of the 90s.
The Virginia Beach four piece deliver great melodies but it’s the warm production and sing along vocal lines which are the real winner here – they are like a comfy old sweater and have had me playing this on repeat.
check out Pissghetti at Bandcamp and grab this album at a price that suits your pocket.
The new EP from British Emo duo Nai Harvest is one that I’ve been listening to a lot recently. Since catching them at Swn festival last year (even despite the terrible sound quality at the venue that night) I’ve been curious to hear some new stuff from them and this record is lovely, really fulfilling my need for something mellow yet upbeat.
The EP has four fantastically catchy tunes, they are so melodic and sing along I’ve been catching myself humming them at random moments and I have no doubt they’ll worm their way into your life in the same way. The vocals are sweet but not sickly and the simple yet effective riffs round things out nicely. Tunes like the opener, Rush, and title track, Hold Open My Head, blossom in all the right places from gentle verse to melodic sing along chorus and I especially love the moments where the 90s inspired guitar takes over; when that classic, full, yet slightly muffled production suddenly morphs into open jangles I always end up with a smile on my face.
Joie de Vivre / Prawn Split EP Review
The three tracks on this split EP from Joie De Vivre are solid; nicely melodic and full of their comfortable miserablist midwestmo. If you’re familiar with them you’ll find nothing unexpected here. As usual I actually find that introspective feel, the downbeat lyrics and the familiarity that comes with them oddly comforting. The tunes all have emotive vocals and a sweet, fuzzy, vaguely Promise Ring feel, my initial favourite is Tenspopet with its lively, jangly guitars and gently poppy tune.
Prawn I’ll confess I’m less familiar with, but initially I’m liking what I hear from them here – an Emo base with some really nice post-rock style dreamy sections to the fore and a clear ringing guitar sound. Parts of Why You Always Leave a Note actually reminded me of Brand New in their quieter moments. Their second tune is much more like the Joie De Vivre tracks on the EP – it fits well with the overall feel of the record but is, a little flat in comparison to the first track featured here. Overall, worth checking out and if you’ve not heard either band before this is a good place to start.
Compared to 2012’s bumper crop of releases, this year has been slim pickings (in my opinion) so I’ve cropped my list down to a modest 6 albums and 5 EPs.
There have been lots of good releases, just not many that have blown me away, The Coltranes new album for example was one I was really looking forward to and while I’ve enjoyed listening to it, it didn’t excite me like their last one did. In fact, many of the records I’ve loved this year have been older releases – Swearin’s 2012 release is a real corker and Make Wave’s 2011 album is an utterly charming slice of indie-surf and was the soundtrack of my summer. Albeit it’s shorter than I’d intended, but for what it’s worth, here is my best of 2013 list, if you don’t agree let me know what I should have been listening to!
Drug Church – Paul Walker
The New York punk-rock five piece released this belter of an album in July, i knew at the time it would make my end of year ‘best of’ list and compared them to Fucked Up, Blacklisters and Slices in my review for Room Thirteen.
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Pariso – Consanguinity
After catching Pariso a couple of years ago at Swn Festival in Cardiff (and being impressed by them) I’ve been checking back on the UK five piece regularly and was pleased to discover they were releasing this full-length album in the Summer. I had this to say about it: The album is never just nasty however, right from the start you have the finesse of the slow, doomy (and dare I say melodic) sections of The Separation to lead you in to the sound of the record and many of the other tracks are peppered with interest.
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Swn Festival Day 3 & 4 highlights
This Is Wreckage opened my Saturday – this is a band that likes to play loud and dirty and the crowd were with them every step of the way. The Swn guide quoted for fans of Big Black and The Jesus Lizard so this was one I couldn’t miss and I was more than pleasantly surprised. the bass was huge and dirty, the guitar was juicy and jagged and the vocals husky and nicely judged.
Swn Festival 2013 – Day 1 & 2 Highlights
Day 1 – Thursday 17th
The Opening band of the weekend for me was His Naked Torso, a discordant, angular duo from Cardiff dealing in noise-rock of the ear shredding variety. The Moon was pretty full of curious onlookers but the duo still managed to make enough noise that I got out my earplugs immediately. They used drums and guitar along with some caustic screams to get their point across and melded in some nice head-bobbing beats to keep us all hooked.