Posts Tagged ‘soundsxp’

Marshmallow Coast at SoundsXP

We first came across Marshmallow Coast in the early noughties when the Marshmallows toured with Of Montreal and Andy Gonzalez played in that band too. The line up currently is Andy G, Derek Almstead (also ex-Of Montreal), Emily Gowden, Sara Kirkpatrick and Carlton Owens. We’ve lost touch with the more recent output, including their temporary name change to M Coast, but they’re back and we thought we ought to hear what they sounded like now, now that they’ve reached album number 9.

You couldn’t pin them down on this evidence; ‘Hash Out Cash Out’ has a touch of chillwave cool, especially in the repeated breathy refrain “on those psychedelic nights, can we turn out the lights?” while ‘Vangelis Rides Again’ (much better than the original line “black Dennis rides again”) sounds like a synthed-up Steely Dan, a very strange form of easy listening, slightly jazzy but compellingly catchy. ‘Mystical Shit’ is the best track here, a Derek Almstead composition that has a touch of off-kilter Of Montreal strangeness but a melodic heart, with weird subject matter: “she’s into mystical shit/ she’s got her crystals and special stones”. However, the tropicalia twitterings of ‘Homeless Baby’ comes close to matching it, Emily Growden singing a sultry tale of New York’s bleak streets that channels and subverts the melody and meaning of the Mann/Weill composition ‘On Broadway’, and the record ends with the gorgeous, drifting ambient Harmonia pop of ‘Forever’. It’s a slowly unfolding record that probably needs late nights in lonely hotel rooms or travel around deserted 2am ring roads to work its magic completely. But magic it has.

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Throwing Muses at SoundsXP

You hear it a lot. Mention Throwing Muses and someone will marvel that they once toured supported by the Pixies (decisions on whether to use a definite article are going to be a nightmare here…). As if such a thing were unthinkable. Rubbish.

Now, being over 40 and possessed of ears, I love the Pixies of course. Their highs might even be a teensy bit higher, but the Muses were always their equals. And there’s no question who you’d rather go see in 2014. Especially in the lovely Holmfirth Picturedrome with Tanya Donelly in support and joining back in for a few songs.

Tanya’s songs were always, by her own admission, a bit more straightforward. There’s nothing wrong with that when you’re any good though. And tonight, with a percussion free backing she gives full rein to fabulous voice and proves that she is (like there was any doubt). Chucking in a couple of her own Throwing Muses songs at the end doesn’t do any harm either.

Throwing Muses were always just too odd and spiky to be properly popular. They’re not quirky like college rock – there’s a thankful lack of irony and while there’s tunes, there’s no ditties. They don’t embrace the showbiz side of performing either, unlike many subsequent US ‘alternative’ acts. ‘Punk’ might not be the right word, but it’s just the songs – nothing else matters. They’re not studiously odd either, unlike contemporaries on this side of the Atlantic. They don’t batter with noise. You don’t get the sense that there’s any conscious experimentation in the songs. Just an effort to get them to sound like they should. So to see Tanya and Bernard Georges playing an entire song with one hand twisting the tuning pegs isn’t pushing boundaries. It’s just what you have to do to play Throwing Muses. Add to it Kristin Hersh’s tendency to mix real snarl and bite into the loveliness and melancholy and you’ve got a proper, proper band that’s a going concern – not a nostalgia-fest (despite the slightly greying audience). There is comfort in the songs, but it’s of a hard won sort. The sort to inspire devotion. And tonight they didn’t just renew that devotion, they reminded you how few others are worthy of it.

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Close Lobsters at SoundsXP

Close Lobsters were one of the indie jangly bands that featured on NME’s C86 cassette, released a couple of classic albums in the late 80s (Foxheads Stalk This Land and Headache Rhetoric) and then gave up as the world pulled on the plaid and went grunge. They only broke their musical fast of 23 years when they played together again in 2012 but a listen to the six-minute ‘Now Time’ takes you back to that psychedelic janglepop sound of the late ‘80s, as the guitars change gear from ‘purr’ to ‘roar’ and the song starts soaring, like some indie-club anthem from 1989. 

Meanwhile, ‘New York City in Space’ is a super-jangly hymn to their spiritual homeland, complete with sweet melodies, nostalgic mentions of CBGBs and the Bowery, typically obscure lyrics (“thinking of the space that lies between Elvis and us”), and arrangements as big and bold as the “canyons of NYC” that they’re singing about. What is there to smile about? asked the Close Lobsters in 1988; in 2014, the answer is: the return of the Close Lobsters.

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Casper & The Cookies at SoundsXP

A band from Athens, Georgia who’ve been around since 1998, this is their fourth album of smart, hooky pop. The “Casper” of the name is Jason NeSmith, who was part of the touring band for Of Montreal around Satanic Panic in the Attic, and the Elephant 6 connection that this suggests is partially confirmed when you hear Dingbats, but equally there’s a strong echo of 80s/90s US college rock. Crucial touchstones include the DBs (‘Sleep Defence’ especially), Game Theory’s quirky alt.rock and XTC’s strange, melodic pop. ‘Drug Facts’ has scattergun lyrics and myriad twists and turns while the weirdness of ‘Omni’ combines crazy Devo-ish 80s zig-zag rhythms with some of Apples in Stereo’s freakier moments (“I’m omni-directional/ the source is you”). The standout track ‘Lemon Horses’ wins for its superb catchy chorus and howling, showing that for all the oddness there’s a catchy core to this odd-pop.

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