Emily Rodgers at Austin Town Hall

Be forewarned. Listening to this Emily Rodgers track takes some time. Not because you’ll not be immediately struck by Rodgers’ voice, but because the song sprawls over 7 minutes. In order for you to fully capture the emotion within, you’ll need to stay tuned til the end. Clearly, the voice is the star here, but I don’t think it could really shine as brightly without the various touches placed here and there; you’ll hear a slide guitar shifting towards the sunset, but a guitar with a different tone hits just after the 3.5 minute mark, building yet another layer. Oh, and Kramer (who recorded Low and Galaxie 500) did the recording of this new record, so you know it’s going to be great. The album is titled 2 years and will be released by Misra on June 10th.

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High Violets at Dagger Zine

I’ve never been a hardcore shoegaze disciple or anything but I do like the genre and this American label, out of Texas, has quietly been releasing some of the best stuff the past few years (also check out the new EP from New Jersey’s Deardarkhead). Anywho, funny thing about this band is that they’re based in Portland , a place I lived from 2002-2012, and I remember seeing this bunch once live and liked it ok and all but didn’t dig deeper for some reason. You go the their Bandcamp page and they’ve got a ton of records for sale, at least one dating back to 1999 (and it looks like the band’s most recent release prior to this was 2010’s Cinema). Which brings us to Heroes and Halos which I really like. I’ve been listening to it quite a bit lately, pulling it out of the stack of cds when other ones I like are right beside it. The band still adds a bit o’ mystery and intrigue to their lush, dreampop songs mostly thanks to vocalist Kaitlyn ni Donovan who has this goddess-like voice from the heavens (think the gal from Lush or Rachel from Slowdive…two bands who I’m reminded of while listening to the High Violets). Also, let’s not forget guitarist Clint Sargent bringing the noise with some tasty ax work . First cut “How I Love (everyting about you)” is a terrific opener with swirling guitar, rock-solid rhythms and Donovan’s fluttery vocals while “Dum Dum,” still with Donovan’s vocals out front, is where the mystery comes in (same on “Bells”). The title track almost created this dizzying effect on me (luckily I was sitting down) and ‘Ease On” has these great whispery (and wispy) vocals before bursting into a glorious chorus. All the way through Heroes and Halos the High Violets never forget the importance of the song, heading into orbit at times, but never getting lost in the outer space. This one’ll have plenty more plays on my house.www.saintmarierecords.com

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High Violets at Impose

 

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Witching Waves at Stereo Embers

These being the days they are, where every man woman child and mother in the indie world are clambering onto a bandwagon laden with carelessly spangled neo-lysergic tropes of every dredged-up variety, its understandable that one could hear the band name ‘Witching Waves’ and be immediately beset by mis-impression, ie assume them to be some sort of, I dunno, wiccan psych or whatever the hell. With great concision of purpose Crystal Cafe, at least as much if not more forcefully as did their 2014 debut Fear of Falling Down, answer any such presumptuous errancy with three simple words: Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

A mercilessly basic trio – Emma Wigham, Mark Jasper, Ed Shellard – punching their way out of London, theirs are not the type waves that roll in pacific and pretty but more the pounding crashing kind. Now you might want to think – and I nearly wrote these words without qualification – that WW have seemingly jumped out of a Nuggets (UK-style) garage and landed in the second decade of the new millennium but, accurate as that may be in some respects – the drive, the unconcern for studio trickery or effects of any kind, just their overall ‘tude – it too lazily overlooks the raging modernity at the heart of this album. Sure, there’s some amp-scarring buzz, there’s some frayed and righteous fuzz, more than a little tumble and roar, and I’ve little doubt the band themselves would mind being thus categorized, but the fact is Crystal Cafe is steeped in 21st C. seethe.

“Seeing Double,” kicking at the pricks of its own youthful frustrations, unsettled, anxious, emerges from a pinched-nerve wince of feedback to tear its anxieties to shreds amidst a kind of guitar-led charge of the dark brigade, its innate paranoia met with a petulant unflinchingness and I think we can call that a draw. “Pitiless,” while attacking (or so it appears) the zombified slicksters that now roam our streets in heartless droves, gentrifying everything that falls under their gaze, does so with a savagely melodic charm, its hook relentless like power pop gone feral, still tightly coiled and all but abrasive in all the right places. Needless to say it’s not a love song. Nor, big surprise, is “The Threat,” which at times suggests to your swooning correspondent a touch of that Opposite Sex album from a few years back (see also the quirkier poppier “Make It Up” and opener “Twister”), boasting that same kind of breathlessly hurtling-forward rhythm and zestful, pop-tinged incorrigibility though here, of course, we’re redder of claw and fiercer of heart. Nor is “Receiver,” another buzz-sawing rama-lama stab at dissecting that universal twenty-something stew of doubt and yearning, ennui and isolation, choosing as its weapons of expression the fusillade rhythm of the Undertones (at their rawest earliest) and the snarled energy of the Stooges.

In short, what I’m sorta saying here, folks – and not to put too fine an edge on it – is that this is punk rock crucially hooked inside the careening corpus of a rock’n’roll sensibility. Jasper’s riffage is healthy, the customary structures are in place – these are all very well-built songs – Shellard’s bass is most often a rumbling menace in its own pocket, but regardless the venom inside the vulnerability is unmistakable. When Emma’s on the mic her tone tends to fall between ‘composure kept’ and a pissed-off panache, sounding certain of herself in an uncertain world, or to put it another way, more Damned Damned Girls than Dum Dum Girls (“Pitiless” even reminds in its racing finish ofArctic Flowers), while Mark’s vocal takes hew toward a sense of desperation, there’s an impatient persuasion straining inside his voice as it crackles with the absurdities of life and a simmering disbelief that said absurdity isn’t obvious to everyone with a couple of brain cells to rub together. So, yeah, don’t get psyched out over their band name. This is, I repeat, punk rock, not by design but because it can’t help but be. Anger (or hurt, or alienation, or…) is an energy, and Crystal Cafe brims with it.

 

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Witching Waves at Finest Kiss

Full of buzzing noisy guitars that trace their lineage back through a jagged line connected byth’ Faith Healers, Pixies and Wire, Witching Waves second album Crystal Cafe is sure to of interest for folks who like noise rock with gashes of melody and ambient interludes. The band have professed a love of Sleater-Kinney, Dischord Records and Beat Happening and there is certainly a DIY aesthetic to their music. It’s raw sounding but their talent shines and rounds a lot of the rougher edges. Opener Twister features a swirling riff and Emma Wigham singing. Seeing Double switches to Mark Jasper singing /shouting. Back and forth it goes at a herky-jerky pace with a couple instrumental interludes that give you some time take stock and reflect right in the middle of the maelstrom.

If Kurt Cobain were still alive I could see him championing Witching Waves either by sporting a WW t-shirt or mentioning them in passing during an interview. As it is, they’ll have to rely on a few blogs and the digital underground to pass the word on about how great this is.

Crystal Cafe is out on HHBTM in the US and Soft Power in the UK.

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Witching Waves at Dagger

This U.K. trio’s 2014 debut, Fear of  Falling Down completely passed me by, but this one, a domestic release on HHBTM, surely didn’t. Along with bands like Joanna Gruesome and Veronica Falls they’d seem to have some cacophonous brethren in their homeland and I also hear bits of Sonic Youth, The Vaselines and Shop Assistants to name a few elder statesmen (mostly S.Y.). In other words Emma, Mark and Ed might be young but they know their history and cuts like “Twister,” “Red Light Loop” and “Make It Up” show a band that blast on their foot pedals when they want to and show a little restraint whne thee time’s right (sometimes in the same song….especially “Make It Up” …his vocal even remind me a lot of Thurston Moore). Keep listening and make sure ntot to miss ace cuts like “The Threat” and the record-ending “Flowers.’ Not sure if they’ve made it to our shores in the past but 2016 is shaping up to be a great year gig-wise and if these guys make it over then it’ll make the year even better.

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Try the Pie at Independent Clauses

Try The Pie’s latest album, Rest, departs from their slightly heavier punk sound from previous albums. Recorded in frontwoman Bean Tupou’s San Francisco bedroom, Rest has a refreshingly raw acoustic-punk sound. The tracks contain lovely acoustic guitar instrumentation with layered female vocals and an occasional dying smoke detector.

The idea of Rest is simple: the album is a rest or a break from a heavier sound. There seems to be less pressure, rules, and instruments within this album, compared to their previous works. With the exception of “Willing” and “Root to Branch,” each song begins with the acoustic guitar, giving them an immediately relaxing feel. The small additions of percussive elements provide layers to the tracks. For example, “‘Alu A” begins with the guitar, and as the track progresses, more and more surprising percussive elements enter in. The whole track feels like a DIY version of The War On Drugs. “‘Alu A” has a really chill vibe that makes it one of my favorites from Rest.

My other favorite element of Rest is the vocalization. Many of the songs feature more than one female vocal, and they all come together to make a refreshingly dissonant combination. The vocalization is akin to other punk bands like Amanda X. “Please! Please! Please!” brings in the multiple vocals almost immediately. It sounds like there’s about three female vocals looping and overlapping in a perfectly wonky way–the vocal dissonance pairs well with the old reliable acoustic guitar.

The raw nature of Rest makes me love it even more. The tracks are so short, yet so powerful. Take “Eight,” for example: a seemingly simple song about a spider. Yet, if you take a look at the lyrics, they explore what happens when you get in “sticky” situations where “the net gets so sticky/ and I can’t get out of it/ but I still try.”  The final lyric–“when you are using all eight it seems so dull/ to know that you are superior over all”–drops a metaphorical bomb that makes you want to read the lyrics all over again to try and understand it. “Eight” actually ends with a disgruntled “God damn it,” which I’m assuming was Bean’s response to the earlier-heard dying smoke detector.

Try The Pie’s latest release is a beautifully unassuming album with a slightly grainy music quality and a nonchalance toward interruptions. My recommendation is to relax, sit back and enjoy a little Rest. –Krisann Janowitz

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Bloody Knives at Highwire Daze

Suffocating surrounded by a filthy poisonous haze. Drowning at the bottom of an icy lake with a brick tied to your ankle. Held hostage with a gun to your head. Bloody Knives latest record I Will Cut Your Heart Out For This exists in a world of forgotten places, the dark corners of empty cities, decaying buildings filled with vacant people, in the world of the lost and broken.

The album nods to the nihilistic abandon of the Birthday Party, the passionate desperation of The Sound, the dense filth of Merzbow, the electric disquiet of Christian Death, and the pummeling beauty of My Bloody Valentine. There are moments of intense beauty, of atmospheric filth, icy vocals, nasty synths, buzzing noise, pummeling drums and driving bass creating a feeling of moving at breakneck speed while standing still, of being comfortable lost in the chaos.

Adding Jack Ohara Harris (guitar), Ritchard Napierkowski (synth), and Martin McCreadie (synth) to the band’s already explosive live show has turned it into a chaotic decibel heavy experience, creating an intense ethereal atmosphere dependent less on pure volume and more on sonic density.

Recorded by Preston Maddox and Ian Rundell (Dead Space, Ghetto Ghouls, Xetas), then meticulously mixed and mastered by Adam Stilson (New Canyons, Airiel, The March Violets), the album is exactly as the band envisioned their sound being represented in a record, with fidelity unmatched by its predecessors.

Ambient, cryptic, unhinged, and ethereal, I Will Cut Your Heart Out For This is bold move forward for a genre bending band that already escapes definition.

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Bloody Knives at Sound and Vision

Bloody Knives es como la versión enojada y súper agresiva del shoegaze (muy de acuerdo a su nombre). Desde su primer aporte en 2009 con su EP homónimo, pasando por varias entregas de corta y larga duración, le han dado al aire una densidad de notarse y temerse con voces que al menos en sus primeras entregas no se escondían en el ruido ni se susurraban; por el contrario incluso llegaban a escucharse como gritos muy rebeldes. Es, sin duda, una propuesta interesante y un poco diferente a lo que nos hemos acostumbrado en este género. Algo así como ver una riña entre A Place to Bury Strangers y Seasurfer.

Ahora están promocionando la salida de su tercera placa discográfica para el mes de abril, vía Saint Marie Records. Su título es I Will Cut Your Heart Out for This (¿Ven? Están enfadados con alguien) y hoy podemos anticiparlo con dos punzocortantes cortes que les harán hervir la sangre. Se trata de“Poison Halo” y “Reflection Lies” (videoclip). Disfrútenlos a continuación:

Click through to stream a track!

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deardarkhead at Examiner

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