Eureka California at Power of Pop

Background
Hailing from Athens, Georgia, Eureka California is a self-described ‘catchy garagey rock and roll band’.  Eureka California has existed in some form or fashion since 2007, but closer to this version since 2010 viz. Jake Ward – guitar/vocals & Marie A. Uhler – drums. Versusis the duo’s third LP.

Strengths
Straightforward alt-rock songs that recall 90s ‘slacker’ rock. Every song sounds like a unique entity in its own right, with thought and effort going into the tunes and arrangements. But if attitude is all, then Eureka California trumps most of the hipster poseurs out there. They come across like the real deal i.e. out of the 90s!

Highlights
“Eureka California’s Night In”, “Sign My Name with an X”, “Sober Sister”, “Fear and Loathing in the Classic City”.

Sounds Like
Dinosaur Jr, Lemonheads, Teenage Fanclub, Gumball, Eugenius.

Bottom Line
A glorious revocation of the early 90s when alt-rock suddenly ruled the airwaves.

Information
Official Site: http://eurekacaliforniaband.com/

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Eureka California at the Red & Black

Athens-based band Eureka California doesn’t boast supreme vocal abilities or particularly complicated instrumentation, yet it succeeds in spite of this.

With the band’s latest album release “Versus,” they exhibit the versatility to embody the original punk movement of the ‘70s as well as its rebirth in ‘90s grunge, while simultaneously making listeners comfortable in the garage-rock scenario that the band thrives in.

Although almost all of the album carries a similar sense of hopelessness and an understanding that society is much less than perfect, it is extremely dynamic otherwise.

The second track “Sign My Name With An X,” feels as though it could have been played at the classic New York City punk club CBGB with an instrumentation that is best described as loud, gritty and in-your-face. With only three unique lines of lyrics, “Oh I’ll show you where I hide/Cause I guess you couldn’t guess/Sign my name with an X,” the track is simple and straightforward at its core, which is characteristic of the punk movement.

On the other hand, “I Will Write Mine Over Potomac” contains a self-aware characteristic of grunge. From the lines, “Is this the way the future’s meant to be/It looks a lot like yesterday to me,” to “Cause sometimes you just want to go/Where nobody knows your name,” the track carries the sense of disenchantment with both society and the future that could also be found in tracks done by the poster-child of grunge, Nirvana. This track also contains a beautifully picked introduction that separates it from others in the album and adds a simplicity to the song.

The ability of the band to represent two unique genres in one album without feeling disjointed is certainly something to note.

Another important success to note in “Versus” is the band’s ability to keep the album relatable, especially to those living in Athens. The track “Fear and Loathing in the Classic City” not only gives a dark narration to the fears of the average 20-something trying to get established, but also ties it back to Athens fairly directly. This song is also the closest thing to acoustic on the album, and it actually works surprisingly well.

Also in the category of relatable is the song “Sober Sister.” Although quite upbeat, it offers a fairly disheartening description of what seems to be the downtown scene that Athens is known quite well for.

Though Eureka California’s latest album carries a similar sense of hopelessness throughout, the album remains dynamic. With it’s often relatable, albeit dark, lyrics, the album is likely to attract listeners from the Classic City as well as elsewhere.

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Eureka California at Mad Mackerel

Versus is Athens GA duo Eureka California’s third album in three years – a white-knuckle ride through a tattered psyche and a brain that just won’t shut up.

Too smart for self-pity and too drunk to think clearly, it is endlessly self-referential and endlessly self-destructive, stuck on a non-stop treadmill of tension and release, of megalomania and doubt.

Versus is agoraphobic fight songs, songs about loving television more than people because people always let you down and the static from the set makes more sense than the static coming out of their mouths. EC songs exist in a world where ordering a pizza is fraught with anxiety and you have to laugh to keep from dying.

Click through to stream the track!

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High Violets at Treble Zine

Portland, Oregon’s The High Violets haven’t released an album in six years, 2010’s Cinema being their last. In that downtime, and even leading up to it, swaths of younger artists were taking a look back at music they were just barely old enough to absorb when released, channeling dream pop and shoegaze greats of the late ’80s and early ’90s and funneling both genres back into the forefront of indie rock consciousness. Labels such as Mexican Summer andCaptured Tracks flourished under the spotlight, while other equally talented groups churned out catchy tunes with incredibly textured instrumentation and never received the same attention. The High Violets is one such group in the latter camp, but their latest album,Heroes and Halos, is a welcome return from the veterans and an opportunity to right that wrong.

The High Violets have an incredibly well-rounded approach to shoegaze. It’s far too easy these days to turn up the reverb and delay and leave it at that, focusing narrow-mindedly on guitars and sonic tenets rather than crafting strong, enduring songs. Heroes and Halos, though, is incredibly sturdy, no doubt attributable to the fact that there seems to be no dominant emphasis here in terms of musician or part. Sure, Kaitlyn Ni Donovan’s voice possesses that pointedly entrancing and beautiful quality that other contemporaries strive to replicate, but a similar compliment could be paid to any other member on any of the album’s ten tracks.

Coming off more tempered and confident than ever before, the record plays out at mid-tempo for the first few tracks, each individual section of their songs’ structures flowing seamlessly together. Early standouts include “Dum Dum”’s chorus, with its four-on-the-floor rhythm and Donovan’s repeated “dum dum” refrain, and “Break a Heart” with its soft, lovelorn delivery and soaring guitar figure. The album steadily builds steam as it progresses; the title-track, just past the album’s midpoint, is a jubilant push and pull where each instrument in the band’s employ layers on top of the other, creating a perfectly executed cascade of starry sound. Closer “Hearts In Our Throats” is a soothing, drum machine-led waltz that provides an excellent cap to the album, with its comparatively sparse, open arrangement.

After years of silence, The High Violets return refined and deserving of the same praise awarded to acts some ten years their junior. Introductory hype-cycles, over saturation and tabloid-worthy press ordeals shouldn’t be the key to listeners’ awareness, but so often that’s the case. For consistent quality, though, look no further than these Portland gazers, whose Heroes and Halos is yet another great addition to their already superb catalog.

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High Violets at Stereo Embers

Sometimes the problem with being local heroes is eventually you get taken for granted, washed over by the ceaseless tide of the new. Ironically, this is especially true, it seems, when you’re as consistently excellent as the High Violets have been.

Jump-started back in 1998 by Clint Sargent and Luke Strahota following the collapse of also popular Portland band Bella Low, the Violets present their fourth studio album Heroes and Haloes amid a long-established, constant – and constantly high – level of expectation and of course it’s an exemplary forty minutes of shoedream gazepop, sculpting away at all those loftily-erected contours as usual, but by all means don’t let that predictability preclude your curiosity. That would be unwise, that would border on the tragically negligent. Not toward the band but toward yourself, as you’d miss the instant career-defining dynamism of “How I Love (everything about you)” as it blasts off from two sharp, treated snare slaps into a jetstream of roilingly ecstatic romanticism, singer Kaitlyn ni Donovan presiding with supernal calm over a ringing roar full of bright burbling synths, a passing ghost chorus of background vox and the guitar riff of the year, a simple two-toned slide pattern that bestows upon the track instant classic status and that’s just the first cut.

You’d also miss “Dum Dum”‘s sweet but heavy pop sway as it deftly layers Donovan’s damning lilt of a vocal over Sargent’s dark shards of guitar, the smoothly pulsing “Longitude” the melody of which attaches itself unshakably to that hook-craving part of your brain that insists on humming it back to itself without end, the shimmering assault of poignant loveliness that is the title track, sweeping over you in shudders and pounding waves, its sound a thing you succumb to and more-than-willingly. You’d miss all that and more and we are quite very sure indeed you do not want to do that.

Matured yet as fuel-injected as ever (check out the tumultuous beauty of “Comfort in Light), as capable of bewitching mystery as ever (the shoegazey gauze of “Ease On”), as imperishably groove-melodic as ever (“Break A Heart” is St Etienne fronted by Dusty Springfield only with a John Squire guitar break), on Heroes and Haloes (available April 1st on Saint Marie) the High Violets return full force as the band again reach effortless crests that all the new(er)comers would be wise to aspire to.

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deardarkhead at Raised by Gypsies

There comes a time in every person’s life- I believe- where they have to admit that music does not need vocals/words to be good.   You can go all the way back to classical music if you really want to, but if you prefer to stay closer to the present then I suggest not looking any further than Deardarkhead’s “Strange Weather”, an EP full of instrumental numbers which are more powerful than a lot of songs with words I’ve heard before.

Of course I struggle to find a genre to put Deardarkhead in simply because they don’t have vocals and I tend to feel like the singing style of someone can dictate where to put them if you, say, own a record store.   For the most part, these songs are a throwback to earlier years but not too long ago- maybe the 1980’s or early 1990’s.   It’s what I would call post-punk if I believed punk was dead, pulling influences in from Thursday (without the -core) and in their own way Deardarkhead even manages to sound a bit like an upbeat version of The Cure.

Aside from the fact that you could think of any number of bands such as Modern English to compare this with- depending upon your own personal influences growing up- I think you just have to sit back and admire the pure musicianship of it all.   The fourth song really begins to sing on its own, even without vocals, and that’s something not many bands can or have ever been able to pull off.

It should go without saying that the musical instruments are the stars of this EP (Well, the humans playing them technically) but if you don’t feel these thunderous bass lines, infectious guitar riffs or just the all around stellar drum work on “Strange Weather” then you are really not listening to it properly.   It’s not like you have to find it hiding behind vocals about whatever– it’s all just right there, in your face (specifically your ears) and it’s very easy for me to have this serve as a soundtrack to my life.

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High Violets at Philthy Mag

Although they may not quite be a household name, Portland, Oregon’s The High Violets have been kicking out wonderfully lush and fuzzy dream pop and shoegaze jams since the late ‘90s, and this Friday, April 1st, will see the release of their fifth full-length, Heroes and Halos, courtesy of Saint Marie Records.  The album would seem to be their most accomplished yet and in a recent chat with The High Violets’ mainpeople/songwriters Clint Sargent and Kaitlyn ni Donovan the two tell me that the album is essentially the culmination of both all the processes and sounds they’ve worked with over the years.

Izzy Cihak: I’m just realizing that you’ve been together for almost 20 years now, which is sort of insane:  What have been some of the biggest highlights of the band over the past two decades, whether it be experiences, reactions to your work, or anything else that really stood out to you?

Clint Sargent: There have definitely been some good highlights, but I would say the overall reaction to our work has been the most satisfying. With fans continuously reaching out and letting us know they appreciate what we do. That, as much as anything, keeps you going.

Izzy: What do you think is the biggest difference between the mindset of the band now, compared to when you first got together?

Clint: In the beginning we viewed the band as a solid collective. We had regular rehearsal nights in Luke’s basement and considered everyone involved with the song writing. As time went on and people came and went and came back it became clear that Kaitlyn and I were composing the majority of the music. And this was certainly the case on Heroes. So this is our mindset currently.

Izzy: How is Portland’s music and arts scene at the moment?  There always seems to be tons of really cool and really diverse things going on there.

Clint: In years past it has been the case for sure, but honestly at the moment I wonder myself. We barely got this album done before I could no longer afford my rent. The last few years have seen so much change with people moving there and the cost of living going up. Many artists have moved out to the suburbs or are crowding into houses. Anyway, it’s a good question. The scene will always live on in some capacity.

Izzy: You’re about to release Heroes and Halos.  How do you feel it compares to previous releases?

Kaitlyn ni Donovan: I feel Heroes echoes the maturing between our beginnings in traditional shoegaze and our last release, Cínema. Cinema leaned more into straight dream pop. Heroes… seems to bridge the two. If you listen to the first side of the LP, you may noticed a distinctly dream pop feel, while the second side lends a darker tone with our shoegaze background.

Izzy: What would you consider to be the album’s most significant influences, both musical and otherwise?

Kaitlyn: I try my best not to be influenced by other’s music when I write, but rather images that arise as if in a dream, fictional story, or film whilst, forming the first melodic foundations of a song. To me it keeps the music pure and not overly influenced by trends or other’s muses.

Izzy: I especially dig “Longitude,” which just reminds me of so much of the mid-90s’ best alt rock, so I’m curious how that particular track came about.

Kaitlyn: “Longitude” came into fruition at a lightning pace, though I was disabled with a back injury and unable to play any instruments. Consequently, for the first time in my musical career, while laid up on a couch, I turned to composing with a drum machine and sang the vocal melody in one pass that you hear on the album. It all very happily stuck. The lyrics came later, (not so quickly) which are from the perspective of a bee, but also reflect the feelings of one in a manic phase of bipolar disorder. In the final fleshing out we included analogue drums, synthesizers, and Clint’s gorgeous guitar.

Izzy: Finally, what are you planning and hoping for in 2016?  Any chance we might get to see you on the road in the near future?

Clint: We’ve put the album out and we’ll see what comes down the pike? What might be? It’s been so long since we played live. No plans at this time. Perhaps at some point we can dust off the hiatus?

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High Violets at Collapse Board

Through my job, I’ve seen more gourmet cakes in six months than in my 25 years of admiring cakes. The real luxury in these confections usually isn’t the cake itself, but the two-inch glove of gummy fondant frosting, often curled into pink ribbons atop the solid white base. Now, most guests just can’t handle that much sweetness at once, and so we wind up trashing dozens of icing crusts and sugar ribbons. That’s the risk that some musicians face when they take on the sun-drenched side of their art – too much bliss, and the listener could tune out. But as veteran purveyors of dreamy indie rock, The High Violets know how to temper their dulcet tones, and Heroes and Halos, their fifth LP, showcases that finesse. Granted, it’s no three-tier wedding cake, but it’ll still sate a crowd.

Click through for the rest of the post!

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Jeff Runnings at Collapse Board

Come to think of it, “dreampop” is a horrible tag. Rarely anything that the indie world perceives as “pop” is ever popular, and then the stuff we perceive as “dreamy” rarely lulls us into any dream-like state of bliss. Mired in the existential angst of post-punk, “dreampop” done right leads us further into ourselves, to examine what fears hold us back, and drive us to forks between epiphany and manic depression. For me, no one was ever there to guide me through, so I drifted between the two poles. Lowlife steered me to the latter. For Against brought me to the former.

Biographical details are boring, so I won’t flesh them out here, but know that in college I fell out of time, and bands that existed 30 years ago defined my existence back then. For Against’s Echelons was one of those albums that I needed to subsist, to affirm that others could fall out from society and struggle to define themselves in a world that hustled past introspection. And while I’m not stuck in the 80s anymore, I haven’t really found a way out of the labyrinth in me, either. Adulthood is the biggest lie ever told – like religion, it gives us the illusion that we’ll reach some finishing line, and gives us things to do so that we don’t have time to stop and think. (I’ve a dim memory of some philosopher saying something to this effect regarding vacations – Montaigne? Or was it Machiavelli?) All this to say, it’s four years now since college and I’m still a hopeless drifting mess.

It soothes me, then, that Jeff Runnings of For Against still sounds like he’s trying to figure out the world around him, decades after Echelons. His edge has dulled, but then he wasn’t much for cutting anyway; no, for Primitive and Smalls the camera zooms in closer, so that dust motes swirl in the light and every leaf in the tree waves at us instead of one green blur. The subject material seems unremarkable on first glance – often Runnings focuses on how people connect, how they interact with each other, how they let each other down – but the very 4AD-like wash of frosted synths bewitches the scenes.

Now, “Travelogue” isn’t the best example of this enchantment – in fact, it’s one of the liveliest tracks on the record – but it proves another point. The gentle pulse and airy marble aesthetic invoke the black rose romance of Clan of Xymox, but Runnings doesn’t curl into the same submissive behavior – rather, he enacts the role of an everyday predator: ”you know there are things about you I wish you wouldn’t hide / when I found you I had hoped for an interesting ride”. There’s something sinister about that desire – and not the catacombs and corpse brides kind of sinister that the Clan was always hung up on, either. Runnings’ protagonist presents a far more mundane threat, uncertain but ever encroaching; the whispered “I was here” tucked under the last refrain emphasizes the unpleasant ending that lies under the synthy glaze.

Perhaps “dreampop” works, then. Dreams, after all, often resemble our own world, but simple gestures and words there resonate with meanings that we might never fully grasp. That’s exactly how Primitives and Smalls feels.

Primitives and Smalls is out on Saint Marie on May 8th. Pre-order here if ya fancy.

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Eureka California at When You Motor Away

You might think that a band called Eureka California is from California.  You would be wrong.  The band is a duo comprised of Jake Ward (vocals/guitar) and Marie Uhler (drums), and they are based in Athens, Georgia.  Of course, the location really doesn’t matter.  What matters is that when is comes to punk pop and ’90s influenced noise pop, this band delivers the goods on their new third album, Versus.  At times they sound like a fierce four-piece garage band, which certainly is a tribute to Jake’s guitar.  But it also is a tribute to Marie, whose drumming more than holds its own against the shredding.  And when they dial it back and get slow, reflective and acoustic they are just as adept as when they are making four-piece level rock.

Eureka California has always been a good band, but on Versus they have perfected their stripped-down brand of pop punk into a very impressive guitar/drum triumph that may become a permanent resident on your daily playlist.  A few streams are provided below, and you can listen to the entire album at the Bandcamp link.  Trust me, you’ll like it.

Versus was released on March 25 via HHBTM Records, and is available in CD, vinyl, and digital formats.

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