Posts Tagged ‘allmusic’

Eureka California at AllMusic

Over the course of two albums, the Athens, Georgia duo Eureka California staked out a place as breezy, fast-working punk-poppers with a foot in the twee pop world and a healthy obsession with the slacker noise of the early to mid-’90s. Their third album, Versus, is still firmly in that realm, but singer/guitarist Jake Ward and drummer Marie A. Uhler have upgraded in two important ways. Firstly, their songwriting keeps getting better. The first two albums were catchy and fun, occasionally very sticky. This time around, almost all of them sound like half-forgotten gems from the ’90s or tracks that would brighten any modern noise pop mixtape. Secondly, the sound of the album is worlds ahead of the first two. It’s their first done in a real studio and the production by HookwormsMJ gives them a huge sound, with Ward’s guitar nothing short of immense. It sounds like he dropped his amp down a flight of stairs and shook everything loose in all the right ways. Another guitarist may have taken it into the shop for repairs; Ward cranks it up all the way instead. It’s fuzzy, thick, and heavy, and threatens to drown every song in gooey noise. Luckily, Uhler is up to the task of battling Ward’s noise and their duel is a thrilling thing to hear. Ward has to up his vocal game too, something that only gives the album more urgency and drama. Songs like “Cobwebs on the Wind” and “Sign My Name with an X” jump out of the speakers, ready to bludgeon everything in sight with frantic abandon. Others have a less energetic approach. “Realizing Your Actuality” and “I Will Write Mine Over Potomac” have some resigned restraint, though the guitar never stops sounding like a deranged and broken beast of some kind. Only the acoustic songs on the second half of the album give the listener a breather. Overall, the album is a giant leap forward for Eureka California, giving the duo’s fun songs and peppy outlook a welcome dose of slime and live-wire energy. Versus is a thrilling, skillfully done makeover that took a good band and pushed it in the direction of great.

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deardarkhead at AllMusic

Active since the late ’80s, New Jersey-based dream poppers Deardarkhead only have a handful of releases to their name, and merely one of them is a proper full-length. That album, Unlock the Valves of Feeling, appeared back in 1998; since then, the group’s original bass player and vocalist Michael Amper departed from the group in 2009, and the band soldiered on as a vocal-free trio along with replacement bassist Kevin McCauley, who joined in 2010. Following Captured Tracks’ 2011 anthology of the group’s early-’90s EPs (Oceanside: 1991-1993), Strange Weather is Deardarkhead‘s first newly released material of the 21st century, and it reveals them as an impressive instrumental unit with no apparent need for useless, empty words. The EP is far more focused than one might expect of an instrumental EP from a band that formerly had a vocalist. The group’s music has often had an urgency to it — they’ve never been the type of shoegaze band to stick to hazy, stoned-sounding slow tempos — and here they sound positively energized and vibrant. There’s a bit of a post-punk, Cure-esque jangle to the guitars, but they don’t drown them in effects. The melodies are clear and upfront, and strangely enough, it almost seems like the band has gained more of a pop sensibility since losing its vocalist. All of the tracks sound different, from the thundering toms of “March Hares” to the slightly heavier, more psychedelic guitar textures of “Thinking Back,” so the songs all have distinct personalities rather than just sounding like variations on a similar groove. There’s a tinge of wistfulness to the melodies, but overall they sound bright and summery. Deardarkhead are commendable for their preference of the EP format, as their releases usually don’t wear out their welcome. Strange Weather feels like a fresh new start, even if it’s been at least half a decade in the making.

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deardarkhead at AllMusic

​Long-running New Jersey shoegaze band deardarkhead gives us an exclusive first listen, plus a track-by-track rundown of their new EP, Strange Weather. Now an instrumental act, the band delivers six new tracks of propulsive, psychedelic rock, with plenty of big, ringing guitars and driving drums. So press play, then scroll down for commentary from drummer Robert Weiss. Strange Weather is due out March 25 on Saint Marie Records.

When our vocalist/bassist, Michael Amper, left at the end of 2009, Kevin Harrington (guitars) and myself were unsure about the future of the band. Although we had been seeking the right person to replace Mike, we had no luck finding anyone that could hold a candle to him, let alone make it to the audition. By the fall of 2010, Kevin McCauley had joined as our new bass player and we were determined to move forward as an instrumental, three piece. We’ve always done instrumentals in the past, but the lack of a vocalist is a constraint that has forced us to work harder in order to make things interesting. The guitar has to do all the heavy lifting melodically and I think the songs have become more complex because of that. Ultimately we try and write songs that we find entertaining, so we like to change it up from song to song.

The great thing about instrumental music is that you can decide what the songs mean to you as the vibe is the crucial thing. Usually when we write, one of us will create a rough Garageband demo and present it to the rest of the band. After that we all work on the song together, exploring ideas, adding new parts and finalizing an arrangement. The finished song is an evolution of the initial concept and it’s a collaborative, creative process. The end result is often very different from where we started. You can hear some of the demo work at ourSoundCloud page.

“Falling Upward”

This track started off as demo that Mr. Harrington created. He typically records many different lead sections and subtle variations on a theme, which he then refines down to his final parts. This one immediately felt like the opener for the EP, with the long and building guitar intro. We ran that part through a filter effect and added in some further atmosphere using more effects on a whistling tube that you twirl around at different speeds to create different pitches. The driving rhythm of the song, coupled with all the different section changes, creates a trippy, disorienting, dynamic tension. When we play it live I imagine the floor giving way and everything falling upward.

“Sunshine Through the Rain”

The title of this song is named after a segment from Akira Kurosawa’s movie Dreams. It’s a bit like a dark fairytale. There is an old legend in Japan that states that when the sun is shining through the rain, the kitsune (foxes) have their weddings. They do not like humans observing their ceremony. I felt the dreamy Cocteau Twins-esque quality of the chords worked well with the imagery from the film, which ends unresolved, on a somewhat sinister note. This is one of the first songs we did after going all instrumental. The guitar leads in the middle make me think of a Bond song for some reason.

“Juxta Mare”

“Juxta Mare” is Latin for “by the sea.” I’ve always lived by the Atlantic Ocean and it has been an underlying influence on me since I can remember. It’s expansive, dark and mysterious. We’ve often used underwater imagery in the past and this song is no different. Mr. Harrington plays a 12 string on this track and I especially love the long leads that he plays during the middle of the song, which propels everything towards the climax. It has a bit of a Cure/Echo and the Bunnymen feel to me. It came out a lot more hard driving than I had imagined. I picture being in a small boat that’s tossed about by crashing waves, narrowly avoiding being dashed on the rocks.

“March Hares”

I’m huge fan of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and I’ve always been intrigued by the phrase “mad as a March hare”.

“A long-held view is that the hare will behave strangely and excitedly throughout its breeding season, which in Europe is the month of March (but which in fact extends over several months beyond March). This odd behavior includes boxing at other hares, jumping vertically for seemingly no reason and generally displaying abnormal behavior.”

Something about the pounding drum beat suggested marching or perhaps hopping wildly out of control, hence March Hares. It’s a bit unrelenting and somewhat anthemic in tone. The main part of the song is basically a blues progression, but with the guitar played in a droning, psychedelic, sitar-like manner it takes on a very different feel.

“Ice Age”

Not necessarily about a geological period of long-term reduction in the temperature of the Earth’s surface and atmosphere, but more of a personal cooling down. As one gets older, and hopefully wiser, the passion of youth settles down a bit. Things change, but that doesn’t mean you have to go quietly. I think that’s what it’s all about. The melodic bass line Mr. McCauley plays is a big part of the song. When we were demoing this, we kept adding more and more guitar leads toll the song just grew. It definitely has a dramatic, sense of urgency.

“Thinking Back”

Much like Falling Upward, this one automatically sounded like the closing track. Mr.Harrington worked tirelessly on this one, arranging and rearranging things till I was totally confused. There was a method to his madness though and I’m glad he persisted, as this is one of my favorite tracks. Going into the studio I was a bit nervous on this one, but I think it came out beautifully. It sounds shimmering, expansive and perhaps a bit nostalgic. It makes for great driving and sounds like classic DDH to me.

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Witching Waves at AllMusic

Witching Waves‘ first album, 2014’s Fear of Falling Down, was built around sprightly, noisy indie pop like that which the Vaselines used to play in the late ’80s. It was a good sound for the London trio, showing off their bouncy male/female vocals and youthful enthusiasm. A couple years later and they sound all grown up and tougher. Their second record, Crystal Cafe, is a heavy, pounding beast of a record. Emma Wigham sounds like she’s hitting her drums and cymbals with every last ounce of power in her body, Mark Jasper‘s guitars slice and tear at the air like angry animals, and the duo’s vocals have a nasty bite that wasn’t on the surface before. This kind of raging indie rock is also a good look for them. Listening to the album from beginning to end is like being pummeled by a very persistent street fighter; each song is like a blow to the head or a sock in the gut. The pain is tempered by very hooky choruses and the occasional track that lays off just enough so some oxygen can return to the lungs; a few even sound like twisted pop songs instead of songs that are trying to twist the listener’s head off. “Make It Up” has an almost polite beat and a singsong vocal part that’s hard to resist, and the album-ending “Flowers” dials the aggression way back in favor of an ominous hum that threatens violence but never delivers anything except a nice moody pop song. Despite these diversions — and a couple of short, arty instrumentals — the album thrives on the loud-to-the-point-of-feedback guitars, their burning energy, and the brute strength of the songs and sound. It’s been done before by loads of bands, butWitching Waves make a noise that feels fresh and not like a boring retread. Whatever made them mad and inspired them to crank up the guitars and passion, hopefully they bottled it for use on the next couple albums as well.

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Great Lakes at AllMusic

Less than a minute into 2016’s Wild Vision, the fifth full-length album from Great Lakes, group leaderBen Crum and bandmate Suzanne Nienaber join their voices and sing, “I say fare thee well/To all of trouble, to all of care/Let’s breathe the purer air/All the old sadness won’t be there.” However, it’s not hard to get the feeling they’re fibbing a bit; Wild Vision doesn’t wallow in despondency from beginning to end, but it hardly sounds cheerful either, with most of the songs drifting by in a solemn midtempo as drummer Kevin Shea stirs the soup at a deliberate pace. It’s been a long time since Crum has been involved with the Elephant 6 collective, and it makes sense that Wild Vision has little to do with his previous off-kilter pop; in 2016, his music has everything to do with moody but melodic visions with a country undertow brought to the surface by judicious use of acoustic guitars, mandolins, and pedal steel. Lyrically, disappointment seems to be a common thread in these songs, though Crum‘s approach is often impressionistic enough that literal meanings take a back seat to tone, and the tone of this material hardly sounds like Crum‘s characters are doing well in life. (And the gloomy, murmuring singsong of his voice, recalling Seth Tiven of Dumptruck on a sad day, does nothing to enliven the tunes.) From a musical standpoint, Wild Vision feels like a fine rainy-day listen, full of dour but subtly satisfying melodies performed with a gentle touch by Crum and his accompanists, and it’s a shame that the leader’s lyrics and vocals aren’t as consistently pleasing as the rest of this set, though since six years separated Wild Vision and Great Lakes‘ previous album, Ways of Escape, fans are most likely happy that Crum is still delivering new music at all.

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SPC ECO at AllMusic

Dark Matter is the sixth full-length album by SPC ECO, a project centered around former Curveguitarist Dean Garcia and his daughter Rose Berlin, with contributions from numerous guest musicians. While the group started out making noisy yet poppy electronic-tinged shoegaze in the vein of Garcia‘s former band, it abandoned guitars for its 2014 album, The Art of Pop, embracing more of an icy synth pop sound. Dark Matter finds the group morphing further into dark, moody trip-hop, with thick, slithering beats and heavy, echo-covered bass enveloping Berlin‘s occasionally Auto-Tuned vocals. Her voice inevitably brings to mind Curve‘s Toni Halliday, but there’s a fair bit of ’90s-eraElizabeth Fraser in her as well, and plenty of this album (particularly the swirling, intoxicating standout “Let It Be Always”) suggests what might have happened if the former Cocteau Twins chanteuse had started a side project with members of Massive Attack following the success of their 1998 classicMezzanine. Berlin‘s lyrics live up to the album’s title, with subject matter typically concerning loneliness, regret, paranoia, and heartbreak. Tense, creeping ballads such as “Meteor” and “Under My Skin” (which ends with the line “all I fear is dying alone”) find Berlin at her most aching and vulnerable, while the trap-influenced beats of “Down Low” prove that trip-hop can successfully be updated for the post-Purity Ring era of downtempo electronic pop music.

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Knowlton Bourne at AllMusic

The debut long-player from the Jackson, Mississippi-based singer/songwriter with a name that sounds like it should adorn the cover of an Antebellum-era etiquette guide, Songs From Motel 43 findsKnowlton Bourne wrestling with twenty-something wanderlust by offering up a Deep South rendering of breezy Southern California power/slacker pop that conjures up images of lost small-town weekends and old federal highway farm stands while invoking the names of decidedly non-regional artists likeKurt Vile and Ty Segall. Bourne‘s Bible Belt-oblivious Americana is rich with classic rock undercurrents and nods to early-’90s indie rock, but his laconic drawl and penchant for punctuations with distant, freight train blasts of reverb-laden harmonica lend a distinctly rural timbre to the nine-song set. In his bio Bourne cites a childhood spent listening to, among other things, Brian Eno, who looms heavy on the album’s more ambient-minded cuts like “Gallup, New Mexico” and the back half of “I Can’t Tell/Run,” the latter of which is pure stoner Lindsey Buckingham, but for the most part Bourne is content to keep things relatively straightforward, with highlights arriving via the aptly named “Summer Sun” and its like-minded Modern Lovers-esque counterpart “Hangin’ Around,” both of which occur early on. Much of the remainder of the set is devoted to largely pastoral folk-pop pieces like “Done Movin’ On,” “Greyhound,” and the evocative title cut, all of which have a tendency to drag a little but manage to skate by on atmosphere alone. A sprightly 23 years old at the time of its making, Bournesounds both boyish and bruised, cocky and hesitant, but never does he sound musically conflicted, and that’s what ultimately makes Songs From Motel 43 feel so authentic.

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Static Daydream at AllMusic

Static Daydream are a noise pop duo led by Paul Baker, previously known as the frontman for cult favorites Skywave and the underappreciated Ceremony (the shoegaze one, not the hardcore one that eventually signed to Matador), along with his girlfriend, Jamie Casey. Like those bands, Static Daydream follow the Psychocandy formula of taking Phil Spector‘s Wall of Sound to its violent extreme, marrying girl group pop hooks and pounding, insistent rhythms with painfully loud, serrated guitar noise, often jacking the tempo up to punk speed. Lyrically, both of those bands expressed harsh feelings of inescapable alienation, bitter solitude, and hopelessness to the point of suicidal thoughts.Static Daydream continue this, with Baker spending nearly every song on the album begging a lover to stay or attempting to run away from isolation. The emotions are as piercing as the barbed-wire guitars, but the songs manage to go down as bittersweet sonic ear candy due to the abundance of well-crafted hooks, as well as flourishes like the sugary keyboard lines twinkling beneath the fiery guitars, plus the sweet vocal harmonies by Casey. As with Ceremony, there’s a sense of melancholy that rivals the Cure or Depeche Mode, and Baker‘s deep vocals (as well has melodic sense) often resemble the Magnetic FieldsStephin Merritt circa Holiday covered in distortion. The duo does deviate from the relentless, punishing sound for a few moments, beginning the midtempo “Just Stay” with dubby echoing drums and acoustic guitars, and calming down the six-minute “Until You’re Mine” at the halfway point, lulling from a fierce, light-speed scorcher to a slower, quieter section with trip-hop-like beats. “When I Turn Around You’re Gone” follows in a similar suit, relentlessly blazing for four intense minutes before stepping back to breathe for the final two, letting echo-covered beats reverberate around the dazed guitars. The album logically ends when Baker has lost all hope and has ruined every last chance, declaring “I’ve destroyed everything, all that’s left is nothing” over a driving rhythm and a guitar riff that oddly seems to echo Ozzy Osbourne‘s “Crazy Train.” Static Daydream is a soul-crushing, exhilarating album from a duo led by a noise pop/shoegaze lifer who has long been an expert at turning overwhelming frustration and loneliness into powerful, affecting art.

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Marshmallow Coast at AllMusic

Nearly two decades into his career, indie pop auteur Andy Gonzales returns with Vangelis Rides Again, his ninth LP under the Marshmallow Coast banner. Mysterious, with a murky, almost sensual attitude, Vangelis runs the Coast‘s typically clever popcraft through a midnight-blue filter, resulting in nine attractive explorations that evoke the magic hours before dawn. The deep, mellow grooves of “Hash Out Cash Out” and the synth-weighted title cut cast a strange spell and the woozy “Hills Are Alive,” a sly play on Rodgers & Hammerstein‘s Sound of Music theme, is quietly dazzling. “Mystical Shit” plays on the band’s psych/prog tendencies while the closer, “Forever,” sounds like a literal translation of the album’s name. Jarringly brief, Vangelis clocks in at a mere 20 minutes, making it either an elaborate, mood-heavy EP or a hallucinatory trip that ends too soon. Either way, it’s a solid effort with plenty of heft.

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Fireworks at AllMusic

Noise pop combo the Fireworks have an impressive pedigree, sporting vocals from Emma Hall ofPocketbooks, guitar and vocals by Big Pink Cake’s Matthew Rimell, and drums by Shaun Charman ofthe Wedding Present and Popguns. They take inspiration from the long line of great noise pop bands the U.K. has churned out over the years, from Buzzcocks to Shop Assistants to the Charlottes and up to the present day with bands like Strawberry Whiplash. The quartet’s debut album, Switch Me On, is a tightly wound, energetic blast of fuzzy guitars, thumping bass, and smartly stuck drums, topped with Hall‘s candy-sweet-on-the-outside, tough-as-wire-on-the inside vocals. Rimell chimes in the occasional vocal for some balance, and when their sound starts firing on all cylinders, the band come very close to the high level of quality of their hero’s finest work. At the Fireworks‘ best, like on the rampaging tracks “Runaround” and “On and On,” the group wed the energy of punk with the sharp hooks of indie pop with skill gained from years of practice in other bands. Most of the album sticks close to this Shangri-Las-backed-by-the Ramones template, with slight variations from song to song. They show that they have skills that stretch beyond these simple charms on the few songs that bring down the noise level and cut the tempo, like the jangling ballad “Let You Know” and the slowly strummed “In the Morning.” It adds a nice dimension to the album, but really, the core competencies the band exhibit on the cranked-up rockers are so impressive, they don’t need it. Speaking of needing though, if you like your pop loud and tight with hooks that will cut through you like a rock through a window, the Fireworks are a band you need to check out and Switch Me On is a strong introduction to their brand-new retro sound.

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