Emotional Response at Backseat Mafia

Still in the glow of the new year and the full flow of obligatory resolutions, its sort of gratifying that pretty much everything about The Safe Distance and their new (sort of) video “Sandpits” has more than a whiff of DIY about it, that old favourite of those new year promises that last not long into the new year.

Given that the band is made up of David Nichols of The Cannanes, Stewart Anderson of Boyracer and Crayola of Sarandon, all three of which are hardly known for their silky smooth production (and damn it, we wouldn’t want them to be). As such, its a riotous slab of indie pop, gloriously DIY in its approach as this trebbly bass thunders and these guitar strum almost percussively as the wiry melody lines cast jagged shadows over the top. It all winds up to the swirling finish thats enough to leave you breathless at the end.

We’re not even sure the video is a premiere, although we think its possible, but given its criminally low views we’ll certainly claim it anyway. It was made, in true DIY fashion, by Crayola’s 9 year old son George.

The music, taken from The Safe Distance’s 7inch EP, is out on Emotional Response and is available from http://www.jenandstew.com

[Link]

Eureka California at Lost in the Cloud

Also among the great garage and punk rock records released this year, Eureka California’s Crunch distinguishes itself with a shelling of persistently energetic, witty and hook-laden gems.  As singer/guitarist Jake Ward confesses in the track of the same name, ‘You put your hand to the pencil and the pencil to the pad, never has anything so sharp ended up so dull and bland … because art is hard‘, good art is indeed difficult.  But I’m pleased to report that Crunch is anything but dull and bland.  Sadly, it seems many reviewers, to their own loss, have largely overlooked this record.  Here at Lost in the Cloud, we [and by ‘we’ I mean ‘I, Elijah’] encourage you not to let this one pass you by as it has so many others!

[Link]

Mind Brains at Just Off the Radar

Click through to stream the show.

[Link]

Black Watch at Dagger

After a million records (and nearly as many labels) it seem like L.A. ‘s Black Watch might have finally settled into a label who can take their reins and go (and now I’m hearing that this will be their final record….damn). Of course I’ve probably mentioned that in other reviews (and don’t go calling the band underrated/underrecognized either as leader John Andrew Frederick will let you know they have a press pack the size of a telephone book). So on this, their umpteenth record (their previous record was last year’s THE END OF WHEN) Frederick goes it alone, at least I think so.  Gone is Steven Schayer (previously in The Chills) and in is….I dunno, it only mentions Fredericks’ name on the cd cover. He’s been doing what he’s been doing for over two decades, writing chiming, literate pop songs that swing n’ sway and sometimes bust wide open. Opening title track adds some cool fuzz to the proceedings (while track #2, “There You Were’ is pure fuzz, his Metal Machine Music if you will) and things really pick up on the excellent, jangly “Scream.” He channels his inner Morrissey/Mark Eitzel on “Dear Dead Love” (if either of them were singing of a woman) and brings it all home on the killer “Darling I’ve Been Meaning To.” The second half of the record is just as strong. I’m wondering what Fredericks’ next move will be, I can’t imagine him giving up music all together, I guess we’ll see, but regardless, SUGARPLUM FAIRY, SUGARPLUM FAIRY is a damn good way to go out.

[Link]

Pinkshinyultrablast at Indie Shuffle

Pinkshinyultrablast might have an aversion to whatever it is they find boring about the Russian indie scene, leading them to play “something radically different.” But they’re headed in a pretty good direction based on what I’m hearing.

The five-piece band from Saint Petersburg, Russia has been together for a couple of years, but they’ve only had an EP out so far, 2009’s humorously-titled Happy Songs for Happy Zombies.

Since then, the group has been a little more active, with the release of a single called “Umi” back in November. And, just a couple days ago, they premiered this song, “Holy Forest,” which you’re, hopefully either listening to now or about to play.

Pinkshinyultrablast’s latest is less aggressive than previous efforts like “Ode to Godzilla” or “Deerland,” and it does bide its time when it comes to progression. Not that it’s bad. The opening has a catchy, rhythmic bounce somewhat akin to Wolf Parade’s “Soldier’s Grin” that ventures into dream pop territory once the keyboards come into play. It’s a good hook, but given the melody, you do wonder whether it’s going to be your typical indie standard, or if it has the potential to be something more.

Thankfully, a little before the minute mark, the track blasts a vivacious haze of distorted guitars along with the reverbed vocals of singer Lyubov Soloveva, delivering a worthy shoegaze anthem that restrains itself for an airy moment before launching into a searing finale.

The band’s debut album Everything Else Matters is set to drop on January 26, 2015, which can currently be pre-ordered on their record label’s site.

[Link]

Fishboy at Magnet

Denton, Texas group Fishboy, which has been described as “twee-core-punk-pop-spazzo-nerd-rock,” offers a free download of “Thomas Alva Waiting,” off new concept album An Elephant. The track is indie-rock bliss with pop/punk vocals centered around strong narratives and a touch of power pop. “Thomas Alva Waiting” explodes with tasty riffs while still keeping the same mood throughout. Download it below.

Click through to stream or download the track.

[Link]

Mind Brains at Magnet

Athens, Ga., experimental/psychedelic group Mind Brains may leave you asking why your mind/brain has turned to mush. They plan to release their self-titled album in January, but for now, check out “Body Horror.” The track is layered with synths and a driving beat to keep it all together as they take you on a journey through the mind(brain). We are proud to premiere “Body Horror” today on magnetmagazine.com. Download it below.

Click through to stream or download the track!

[Link]

Crayon at PureHoney Magazine

Crayon’s “Brick Factory” sounds like the best ‘90s record you never heard. Give it two or three listens, and its lo-fi, occasionally off-key earworms will find permanent residence in your sense memory, not to mention your iPod and your record collection. So much so that you’ll wonder where it’s been all your life—particularly that time in your life when you were discovering your sexuality, hating school and sucking at sports.

Remembered primarily as the musical launching pad for Washington State musicians Sean Tollefson and Jeff Fell, who went on to form the seminal twee band Tullycraft, Crayon was a formidable act in its own right. The trio issued a self-released cassette, six 7-inch singles and its lone album, Brick Factory, in its four years of existence at the dawn of the 1990s. Today, the music sounds like lightning in a bottle, a singular yet familiar noise-pop brew that was utterly of its time, suggesting, at various points, Treepeople, Superchunk, the Dead Milkmen and Beat Happening.

The album has been out of print for most of the past 20 years, its reputation exceeding its availability. But in honor of its 20th anniversary, the venerable Happy Happy Birthday to Me label has released a limited-edition LP and bonus-track cassette with digital downloads; purchase both and you’ll get pretty much the entire Crayon discography.

At first, Tollefson, who played bass in Crayon, was apprehensive about releasing the reissue, because the band’s breakup still clouded his memories of it. But, he says, “when I finally sat down and listened to Brick Factory with fresh ears I thought, ‘Wow! Who are these kids? They’re crazy. It sounded surprisingly fresh to me. It felt like music being frantically made by passionate people I didn’t know. There are, of course, a couple points that make me cringe while listening to my younger self, but that’s to be expected. Honestly, I think the record actually stands up quite well.”

“I still don’t like my voice,” adds guitarist Brad Roberts, who split vocal duties with Tollefson. “And I wish the guitar sounded heavier on the album. There were some songs that definitely clicked, though. Jeff’s drumming is flawless throughout, and Sean had some great lyrics that still hold up.”

Part of the memorable tension in Brick Factory is its two divergent directions—the punk sensibility, which shone through on Roberts’ songs, and the proto-Tullycraft twee, which manifested in Tollefson’s. The trio was listening to music ranging from ethereal Sarah Records pop to the skull-crushing heaviness of Big Black, and integrated all of it into the teenage angst of Crayon.

“Our influences along with our lack of musical ability were mixed together in a naive cauldron,” Tollefson says. “If we had been better musicians, I’m positive the music we made would have been terrible. We were easily one of the more amateurish bands in [Bellingham, Washington], and we were also one of the most confident. At the time, I was convinced that we were one of the best bands in that local scene, but this sentiment wasn’t shared by most. We could headline and sell out the Middle East in Boston, but in Bellingham we were almost always the opening band for the opening band. It didn’t make any sense to us, and I think our songs benefited from this anxiety.”

Because the record never caught on in its time—the perennial fate of the cult classic—Crayon disbanded in 1994 with Roberts’ decision to leave.

“We had just gotten home from a six-week tour with The Softies, and we were about to go on another tour with Cub across Canada,” Tollefson recalls. “I don’t think Brad was having much fun being in the band and being on the road so much, so he decided to quit. At the time, I really wanted to continue, but in hindsight I think Crayon actually ended at the right point.”

“Part of me wonders, why was I so bummed out at the time?” Roberts says. “I was in a great band (pardon my delusions).” But, he says, “we were all very conscious of many people, especially local bar bands and indie-pop purists not liking us, and that gave us a bit of a chip on our shoulders. I think we were a very honest band that really tried to write good songs that would connect with people. I’m grateful that there are still some people who want to hear this record.”

Brick Factory is available now at www.hhbtm.com

[Link]

Crayon at When You Motor Away

Hey pop collectors.  Here is a rare and wonderful album from the first half of the ’90s.  The Pacific Northwest, was banging its collective head to grunge and other forms of alternative rock.  The Southeast had R.E.M, The dBs and its own brand of swampy jangle.  But amid it all, there was a spot for a noisy, lo-fi, merger of twee, punk and noise pop.  Born in the college and lumber town of Bellingham, Washington, there was Crayon.  Consisting of Brad Roberts (guitar/vocals), Sean Tollefson (bass/vocals) and Jeff Fell (drums), the band recorded a few singles and one album, Brick Factory, released in 1994 on Harriet Records.  By the middle of the decade, they had disbanded, with Tollefson and Fell leaving to found Tullycraft.  As the release of Brick Factory hits its 20th anniversary, HHBTM Records has issued a limited edition vinyl version of the album, which comes with a digital download with including 20 bonus tracks.  There is a cassette version with some bonus material as well.

The songs on Brick Factory deftly capture the awkwardness of young adulthood, the delight in the commonplace, the trickiness of romance, and wrapping it in distorted guitar, coy lyrics and bratty vocals.  The performances are energetic, and the music begs to be played at a high volume.  The record has been out of print and much sought after for years, so its resurrection is bound to delight old and new fans.  It may never come around again.

[Link]

Eureka California at Dandelion Radio

Eureka California recorded a session for Dandelion Radio while on tour in the UK last month.

[Link]