Tag: Shoegaze

Records of the Year 2015

2015 was a year. This is some of the music that got me through it.

 

Albums

Svalbard album cover
Svalbard –
One Day All This Will End
Svalbard produced the album I’d been hoping they would – richly layered and addictive, it holds moments of post-rock beauty, hardcore strength and pure melodies.  A positive, uplifting record and the clear winner this year for me.

 

 

Twisted Utopia
Twisted – Utopia
This album is so good, a close second on the list. It was released in January but I came to it later on. Again this one has great melodies, something I’m a total sucker for, it’s catchy and fun with strong female vocals and punchy punk attitude oozing through on every track.

 

Nervosas st
Nervosas – Nervosas
A more frantic and aggressive sounding release from the Ohio Punks but still with the dark edge and melodies I loved from their last record, the vocals are as goth as always with fantastic female backing, and their sound is as immediate and addictive as ever.

 

all dogs
All Dogs
Kicking Every Day
I love this band. Girl fronted high energy poppy punk tunes, they really know how to put together a great tune with edge and keep you hooked.

 

 

Brother Ghost buried coverBrother/Ghost – Buried
Cinematic, multi layered, genre challenging record, cleverly redefining the sound of this band.  Hints of psych, blues, indie and post-rock, make for an anthemic, rousing listen – it all hangs together so well too, never feeling disjointed or overly complex.  There is so much here to discover and keep you coming back, it’s a real gem.

 

Taman ShudTaman ShudViper Smoke
Viper Smoke creates its own space; an all encompassing spacey zone: the production, epic yet almost claustrophobic at the same time, the distorted vocals, twin bass and gothic atmosphere, create a place you don’t want to step out of, a space away from the banal and mundane, something all the best records manage.

 

 

EnvyEnvyAthiest’s Cornea
Envy are one of my all time favourite bands, so its always a huge treat to get my hands on a new album from them. This record is, dare I say it, more accessible than I’ve heard from them in the past – shorter tracks, very melodic, some actual singing rather than all screams or spoken word, however, none of these are negative observations, this is as huge and dreamy as they’ve ever been.

 

 

ParisoParisoPariso
Pariso’s final record unfortunately – it’s unashamedly shouty male hc, they batter you with noise, but have some great moments of technical finesse, which, along with the heady nastiness is what drew me to them in the first place. The tracks are dark and meaty but with an underlying core of something more dreamy; some of the riffs really soar. Really solid, a fitting end.

 


Hag face rip

Hag Face
R.I.P.
New Hag Face is never a bad hing, The Candadian all girl punk band don’t mess about.  Attitude and a clear message combine with memorable vocals and some great tuneful touches, good stuff.

 

 

drug church hit your headDrug Church – Hit Your Head
The first of two appearances on this list for Drug Church.  The EP below made my list early on and this full length was released in October; so the band managed to bookend my year nicely.  Drug Church are so easy to listen to – melodic, gruff and full of class riffs, but thematically and lyrically they stay pleasingly off centre, giving them nicely rough edges.  Love them.

 

flesh world
Flesh World –
All The Wild Animals In My Life
I consider this a grower compared to their 2013 record, but after a few play-throughs I’m now fully on board.  Abrasive yet melodic post-punk gems, dark and scuzzy yet also quite accessible in its own way

 

 

fist city
Fist City – Everything Is A Mess

This is a very accessible and immediately memorable sophomore album from the Canadian indie-punk four piece. Melodic songs, with excellent off-kilter clipped vocals, are backed by sometimes jangly, sometimes fast and spiky guitars and hypnotic rhythms; the combination is just perfect for rocking out to.

 


steve von till album cover

Steve Von Till –
A Life Unto Itself
Steve Von Till‘s fourth solo outing is a beautiful journey into Americana with his distinctively gruff vocal delivery leading the way along with sparse acoustic guitar sounds.   It is a powerful record, a warm and comforting set of songs.

 

 

Make album cover
Make –
The Golden Veil
Its great to hear an album that plays out as a whole experience, something I seem to come across less and less – this is old school post-rock, taking me back to the days of early Godspeed, Envy, Pelican – a no nonsense, moody record full of all encompassing tunes; huge, heady and powerful, it’s easy to get lost in.

 

the good life
The Good Life –
Everybody’s Coming Down
I’m a total sucker for anything by Tim Kasher, no secret there, this is a great album though despite my predisposition.  Pretty minimal but sporting plenty of fuzzy off-kilter guitars; it doesn’t go as far as dischordant but certainly skirts around it and the guitars ride over some nice melodic touches.

 

Hell Money
Hell Money
Discography
Hell Money are a local Punk/Hardcore band, this was their final offering as a band and It’s a great collection.  The band featured Livi, front woman of Twisted and Leigh from Goodtime Boys, so as you can imagine, it’s scuzzy punk of the highest order. 

 

Employed to ServeEmployed To Serve – Greyer Than You Remember
Greyer Than You Remember is a dark ride; quirky, technical, hardcore with metallic riffage which thunders and squeals under Justine’s powerful screams.  The sound is meaty and often verging on dischordant, not an easy listen then, but this isn’t pop music so you get what you signed up for, on balance it’s nasty and powerful but also full of surprises (in a good way).

 

Asunder Sweet and other Distress
Godspeed You! Black Emperor –
Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress
Not their most spectacular album but still very beautiful and worthy of a place on this list.  Godspeed have been constant companions of mine for so long I can’t imagine not getting excited about new material from them. I’ve played this album many times since its release and wouldn’t be without it.

 

 

EPs

Octaves Caravels Split EP
Octaves/Caravels Split
A cracking split, released early in the year.  Caravels have now gone their separate ways but they certainly went out on a high and this is the best I’ve heard from Octaves in a while. 

 

 

Swell-drug-church-520x520Drug ChurchSwell
This EP continues on where the last album finished and seagues comfortably into the new one – husky vocals, playful lyrics, great melodies, heavy hit drums and rich well-rounded guitars; the whole record is a great package of memorable and addictive tunes with no duds.

 

 

Maths EP Cover ImageMathsThe Fires Courting The Sea
It’s been 4 years since we’ve heard from Maths and this return sees them in great form with a solid release; new EP The Fires Courting The Sea is 6 tracks in just 11 minutes, a fast trip through their brand of screamo/hardcore. It may pass quickly but the journey is a satisfying one – tuneful tracks with great vocal interplay, stop/start rhythms and off kilter riffage.

 

Kindling
Kindling
Galaxies
I love me a bit of scuzzy, dreamy shoegaze and this is top notch stuff from No Idea Records. I feel like I’ve warped back to the 90s and the time of Slowdive et al.

 

 

Alright EPAlrightS/T
Poppy, female-fronted indie punks, Alright, hail from Charlotte, NC and feature members of Late Bloomer and It Looks Sad.  Truthfully it was the Late Bloomer connection that drew me in, in the first place but this self-titled EP is a really sweet release with light fuzz on the guitars, simple yet catchy melodies and a breezy feel.

 

Towanda EP
TowandaBlack Sheep
The super crunchy guitar sound on this EP is brilliant, along with the bratty female vocals, I’m into this.   I thought I’d heard enough of this kind of thing recently but the Montreal trio have really got to me.

 

 

Fleabite cover smallFleabiteTTYL
Jagged yet melodic girl fronted punky pop tunes from Fleabite who are one of my new favourite bands. They have top tunes and this new record is, if anything, even more melodic than their last. Fleabite always have a layer of harsh blown-out fuzz over everything but on this new EP their sound is richer, a little easier on the ears and has a lovely surf-rock quality. Love this.

 

Telepathic coverTelepathicPowers Of Ten
The new 6 track EP from the Bleeding Rainbow folks.   This is not a million miles from their old rockin’ shoegaze sound, if you were a fan of the old band you’ll likely be in to this too.  The EP has great melodies and is nicely heavy on the guitars.

 

 

Rakta em Transe
Rakta Em Transe EP

A bit of a mash up between Rakta and Cadaver em Transe expect dark, dreamy post-punk, with danceable beats and great melodies. Two great bands do their thing.

 

Review: Alright, Self Titled EP

Review: Alright, Self titled EP

Alright EP
Poppy, female-fronted indie punks Alright hail from Charlotte, NC (USA) and feature members of Late Bloomer and It Looks Sad.  Truthfully it was the Late Bloomer connection that drew me in in the first place but this self-titled EP (released on 24th March via Negative Fun) is a really sweet release with light fuzz on the guitars, simple yet catchy melodies and a light, breezy feel.

The more straightforwardly poppy Mixed Signals opens the EP, bouncy, with a punk edge, it’s fun, catchy and easy to sing along with.  Cold Feet is fuzzier and slightly reminiscent of (the recently defunct) Bleeding Rainbow in that it has a more indie/shoegaze feel and unfussy production.

Watercolors is my top pick, it has a cracking melody and doesn’t rush to get going, but when it does it transports you. This track has a moody tone compared to the others and the instrumental section midway wrings goosebumps which continue with the vocal refrain at the close.  The mood is successfully lightened again with Pollen & Allergies for the end of the record, making you want to re-spin it straight away.

This isn’t groundbreaking stuff but I’m hooked;  the sweet, simple honesty of the tracks combined with great vocals and melodies is perfectly balanced.

Records Of The Year 2014

Records of the year 2014
It’s almost the end of the year again, time to share with you some of the records I’ve enjoyed in 2014. I’ve tried to keep it short and sweet, only including those records that I still have on regular rotation; I could also have included albums I enjoyed reviewing – Dikembe’s Mediumship, Hoax Hunters’ Comfort and Safety and numerous others, but I’d be here all next year putting that list together, so I give you my top (random number of) albums with a few bonus EPs and singles to check out – enjoy.

RainGoodtime Boys – Rain
The first full length from this UK hardcore band realised the potential of their previous EPs and singles and expanded their sound, refining the raw heady hardcore into something melodic, well rounded but still with plenty of bite. The album manages to be instant and easy to listen to but doesn’t scrimp on the meaty riffage. Easily makes my best of the year list.

 

acid fast cover imageAcid Fast – Rabid Moon
Released early in 2014 this was an immediate addition to my best of the year list and didn’t get forgotten in the shuffle. The lasting appeal of the album comes from a core of excellent melodies and a backing of solidly hooky bass lines and sing along vocals rounding things out. There is a strong 90s influence, which is reminiscent of bands like Jawbreaker, Superchunk and, to a certain extent, The Breeders, making the album sound like it was released an age ago and has just been discovered in a dusty attic somewhere; never a bad thing in my opinion.

 

Late Bloomer Cover ImageLate Bloomer –  Things Change
Knowing nothing about this 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.

 

Cayetana coverCayetana – Nervous Like Me
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 features high in this list.  In the simplest terms, Cayetana write songs that make me feel glad to be alive and I’ve come back to this album over and over again since its release  and it never fails to lift my sprits with its raw edged but instantly likeable melodies.

 
SolidsSolids – Blame Confusion
This Emo duo from Montreal use plenty of fuzz and rock pretty hard on their debut full length; they’re one of those bands that leaves you wondering how two people can make so much noise. Their sound recalls 90s indie-rock and perfectly straddles the line between shoegaze and punk, but they also lace each tune with a hooky, melodic edge which makes for an addictive album overall – it’s certainly had me coming back for more.

 

Pariso Svalbard splitPariso Svalbard Split LP
It’s not a huge surprise to see these two great bands coming together to make a split album – they’ve toured together many times  and musically its clear they are on a similar wavelength, but even for a split record, Pariso and Svalbard have produced a truly collaborative effort here – going one step futher than most and writing and performing two of the tracks as one band; like a gnarly supergroup of sorts.  All three vocalists from the two bands play a part and there is a healthy amount of the heavy duty power you’d expect from these two, with meaty riffage a feature of course, but there are also some nice lighter touches throughout balancing the sound well.

 

Flesh World cover imageFlesh World – MLP
I read many great reviews for this record this year and quickly found out that all were well deserved – this is a fantastic album.  Post-punk with memorable melodies, wrapped in warm fuzz; it’s dark and moody but also catchy and infectious and I haven’t been able to stop listening to it throughout 2014 and no doubt through the year to come.

 

 

Hag Face, Rag Face Cover ImageHag Face – Rag Face
All girl Canadian punk band Hag Face released this great record in April – it’s only $2 on Bandcamp so no excuses. I’ve been totally won over by their raw edged charm – melodies hide under blown out riffs, feedback squeals and screams.  I love the angsty energy, fantastic vocals and rock and roll rhythms – it all hooks you in so easily, making this a totally addictive record.

 

Bleeding Rainbow Interrupt Album Cover
Bleeding Rainbow – Interrupt
Classy shoegaze from this Philadelphia mob; hooky, melodic and memorable tunes pepper an album with no filler. This band has been around for ages (previously under the Reading Rainbow moniker) but only just made it on to my radar, for shame.

 

The Good Wife Cover Image
The Good Wife –  Love Songs

This is available for free via Bandcamp in an unmastered format as unfortunately The Good Wife is no more.  Apparently the band split up shortly after recording this album but even in its unfinished form it holds some monstrous tracks and serves as a reminder of how great this Brit noise-rock band were.

 

Svin album coverSvin – S/T
Another great record from the Danish avant-garde instrumentalists. This one feels more robust due to some meaty riffage and heavier duty drumming than I’ve heard from them recently.  Less of an emphasis on melody gives the record a more hypnotic, psychadelic feel, with a hint of the industrial in the drum patterns.  They haven’t lost their delicate touch however, the minimal track Alt is heartbreakingly beautiful.

 

Brain F#
Brain F# – Empty Set
Fast, bratty punk from Carolina with great vocals; this is fun and catchy stuff you can dance to. Not entirely sure it has the staying power of a classic album but it’s been a blast to listen to this year – sometimes all you want to do is rock out.

 

 

 Generacion Suicida Todo Termina
Generacion Suicida – Todo Termina
Hardcore punk from Los Angeles with Spanish lyrics. This is an addictive record, the tunes are super catchy and the riffs get you moving. It reminds me of that fantasic Neon Piss album from a couple of years ago – punchy, snappy tunes with heart and melody. So good.

 
Up River - UndertowUp River – Undertow
The first thing you notice about this new record from Brighton post-hardcore four piece Up River is the excellent production, it brings out every nuance, making for a crunchy and raw sound but it also makes the record sound huge rather than minimal – it’s spot on.  Honestly I wasn’t sure what to expect from the cover art, but as soon as you put the album on you are hit with the rich guitars pumping out hooky riffage and emotive yet controlled vocal screams – this is hardcore done very well and it makes you remember what you love about it.

 
Iceage album coverIceage – Plowing Into the Field of Love
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.

 

EPs and Singles
Broncho – It’s On 7″
Hysterics – Can’t I Live EP
Beach Slang – Who Would Ever Want Anything So Broken?
Everyone Goes To Space – Demo
Gag – Locker Room 7″
Primetime – S/T EP
Rakta – S/T 7″

Late Bloomer – Things Change Album Review

Album Review: Late Bloomer – Things Change

Late Bloomer Cover ImageKnowing 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.

Peloton EP Review

Peloton – Unnatural Affection For Hornets EP Review

Peloton EP CoverI just got sent this tape recently as an extra with a copy of the Cover Buzz 7″ I ordered from Cult Culture, and even though it came out in April 2013 I like it enough to write a few lines about it here.  Peloton reconnect some (so I’d thought) long dead synapses;  making me remember how excited I felt at 18 going to sweaty gigs at sticky floored dives only frequented by a select few degenerates like me and home to many underground thrash and h/c bands.

Listening to the EP you feel like you’ve stepped into forbidden territory; there is something incredibly unwholesome about these songs – opener My life As A Sleep Study holds dirty guitars and a schizophrenic duel vocal treatment of shouts and croons that comforts and distances at the same time, it’s also exhilarating and brilliant and I have not been able to stop listening since I first put it on.  Also worth a mention is Static Eyes On The Prize‘s lazy, deep vocal drawl and sludgy pace, which lull you into a dream like state, but there’s no time to get complacent as a break into impassioned shouting and a fantastic little fret twiddle around the 1.50 mark sends a thrill up your spine which pulls you back into the fray.

Billed as shoe-gaze punks on Bandcamp (which I can totally get behind) the Houston mob have managed to combine an infectious urgency with sludgy nastiness and it’s a really heady concoction, this is something special and one of my finds of the year.

Swn Festival 2012 Day 2

After a nice leisurely day of getting ready at home I head in to see Survivalists at O’Neills, for some reason they stamp my hand with annoying black ink on the way in even though I have a four day wrist band…very odd. It immediately smudges everywhere, *sigh*. The crowd for Survivalists is sparse and mainly made up of family and friends. They try their best but don’t hold the attention of the punters at the back and most slink off after about 10 minutes. They suffer a touch from muddy sound with the vocals lost somewhere under the guitars and there isn’t a great deal of variety to be had from tune to tune.

Over to The Moon Club next for The Bent Moustache. Crowd interaction is kept to a cool zero and they seem like they’d just like to get the job done – apart from the brusque too cool for school attitude they have some decent tunes on offer; My Bloody Valentine-ish soundscapes with male/female vocals. The former are an off-key (sometimes slightly too off-key) Mark. E. Smith drawl and the latter a sweet (if nervy) addition.

Up next at The Moon are Rangda, this is why I came out tonight and judging by the way the place fills up it’s the same story for many others. Rangda again are not the chatty type but it feels natural and their tunes don’t really need any introductions anyway – swirling oriental edged waves of loveliness punctuated with heavier blasts. They really capture and hold the attention of almost everyone there – the exception being the two blokes behind me who don’t stop talking all the way through, of course their never ending chatter is totally inane and slightly takes the shine off the set for me unfortunately. There’s always someone.

In The Early 90s I Was Listening To…

 

The early 90s probably still seems like the best time in music to me because I was just coming out of the awful phase of trying to fit in and listening to what everyone else in school thought was good and finally discovering what I actually liked. At this point everything was fresh to me and exciting, it was all new and made a huge impression because I didn’t have that jaded sense of ‘heard it all before’ yet.

My appetite for finding new music to listen to was huge and I raided other people’s collections for records to borrow and scoured the pages of Melody Maker for new bands, reading it from cover to cover, marking gigs coming up and wondering how I would find the money to pay for them.

Pivotal albums for me at the time ranged from the American hardcore of Big Black to the dreamy shoegaze of Galaxie 500. Big Black’s Songs About Fucking for instance was the record that made me realise I had only scratched the surface. I can remember the exact moment – I was coming down the stairs at home and heard that distinctive drum machine sound filtering through from my mum’s record player in the living room – I stopped, spellbound for a moment (by what I now know was Kitty Empire) and that was it, hooked.

At this point though I was relying on hand me downs and copies on cassette tape for the most part, paper covers made by friends with their little handwritten track lists and notes telling me which ones they liked the best, so many of the records I loved were a few years old, and in the case of those bands above had already split up.

Despite the ‘cut and paste’ bad quality copies (or maybe because of them) these records have stuck with me and remain some of my all time favourites – so here I give you an edited list of the records I loved and can still recommend from the time:
Swans – Greed (1986)
Big Black – Songs About Fucking (1987)
Napalm Death – Scum (1987)
Pixies –  Surfa Rosa (1988)
Sonic Youth – Daydream Nation (1988)
My Bloody Valentine – Isn’t Anything (1988)
Dinosaur Jr – Bug (1988)
Fugazi – Fugazi & Margin Walker EPs (1988 & 1989)
Galaxie 500 – On Fire (1989)
Bastro – Diablo Guapo (1989)
Spacemen 3 – Playing With Fire (1989)
The Wedding Present – Bizarro (1989)
Ultra Vivid Scene – self titled (1989)
The Cure – Disintegration (1989)
Ride – Ride & Play EPs (1990)
Mazzy Star – She Hangs Brightly (1990)
The Happy Flowers – Lasterday I Was Been Bad (1990)
New Fast Automatic Daffodils – Big 12″ (1990)
Primal Scream  – Loaded 12″ (1990)
Extreme Noise Terror – Peel Sessions ’87-’90 (1990)
LFO – Frequencies (1991)
Orbital – self titled (1991)
Pavement – Trigger Cut 12″ (1992)