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Formed in 1988, the Atlantic City based trio deardarkhead simultaneously represents the very best of the classic shoegaze movement, as well as the contemporary one – their sound is timeless and beautiful, and their output has been consistently stellar right from the start. “Ice Age” is taken from the band’s forthcoming LP, Strange Weather, which is set to be released via Saint Marie Records on March 25 – you can pre-order it here.
If you haven’t heard of deardarkhead yet, now is the time.
You can read the interview WTSH did with the band in 2011 here.
We’re delighted to premiere the new, second single titled Falling Upwards, to be taken from darkdarkdarkhead’s new EP Strange Weather, which drops on March 25th via Saint Marie.
Already having been the subject of a retrospective via Captured Trakcs, the band have continued to make slightly psychedelic shoegaze despite the band’s singer leaving in 2009. It’s just now that it’s this shifting, almost post-rock, slightly unsettling instrumental music, open to all its power and interpretation.
Falling Upwards displays much of that, with evocative electronics giving way to this shimmering guitar work that shifts and twists and morphs throughout. Check it out, here.
We’ve always felt there’s been a void in the world of music since The Fastbacks released their unbelievable string of knockout albums in the 1980s and 1990s. There was something particularly appealing about the band’s genuinely delivered loud fuzz pop injected with sinfully addictive hooks. This is the first time in a long time that a band has given us the same general feeling we get when listening to The Fastbacks…and that band is London, England’s Witching Waves. Like most artists on the always entertaining Happy Happy Birthday To Me label, these folks have a nice raw rockin’ sound that has very little in common with present day processed Cheese Whiz. The songs on Crystal Cafe are presented using only the most basic essential ingredients: drums, bass, guitar, and vocals. And that’s all you really need, of course, because it’s the songs that matter most. These eleven tracks have a slight bubblegummy sound that we particularly love, but most folks probably won’t notice this because of the volume and intensity. Witching Waves is the trio comprised of Emma Wigham, Mark Jasper, and Ed Shellard. We sure hope these folks get the reaction they deserve from this album. In a world of calm and dullness, bands like Witching Waves are keeping the spark alive. Groovy buzzsaw cuts include “Twister,” “Red Light Loop,” “The Threat,” and “Receiver.” Totally cool stuff. Top pick.
Soaring, lush, beautiful, modern dreamy pop played with style. Heroes and Halos is yet another resounding success for the folks in The High Violets. This is the fifth full-length release from this Portland, Oregon quartet. In some ways the tracks on this album remind us of Ivy but with more of an atmospheric overall slant. The High Violets areClint Sargent (lead guitar, vocals), Kaitlyn Donovan (vocals, guitar), Luke Strahota (drums, percussion), and Colin Sheridan (bass guitar). These folks make music that can best be described as pop, but it’s not the kind of predictable dribble that you might normally associate with the word. While these tracks are hummable and accessible, they are also creative and strikingly intelligent. We love the understated elements. Instead of pushing or forcing, these folks just let the music flow from their veins. And it is this natural flow that makes these tracks sound so wonderfully smooth and slightly surreal. Ten perceptive compositions here including “How I Love,” “Break A Heart,” “Bells,” and “Hearts In Our Throats.” Recommended. Top pick.
Hard to believe the group Great Lakes has been around since 1996. But yup, the band has now been around for two decades…and they’re showing no signs of letting up. Originally based in Athens, Georgia, the players are now based in Brooklyn, New York. But even though the geographic location has changed, the sound remains remarkably similar and familiar. The band is driven by the songwriting skills of Ben Crum, a fellow who writes tunes that can pretty much be appreciated by anyone. Crum comes across sounding mighty relaxed and comfortable on Wild Vision, presenting smooth organic tracks that blend elements from folk, pop, and Americana. In addition to Crum the band also includes Kevin Shea on drums, David Lerner on bass, Joe McGinty on keyboards, Phillip Sterk on pedal steel, Heather McIntosh on cello, and Suzanne Nienaber on vocals (the same basic lineup that played on the 2010 release Ways of Escape). Cool, melodic, reflective…if you like the sound of real people playing real music, there’s an excellent possibility you’ll totally dig this stuff. Nine solid tracks including “Swim the River,” “Wild Again,” “I Stay, You Go,” and “Blood On My Tooth.”
Real true gritty loud rock isn’t dead…it’s just hibernating beneath the surface while most folks prefer to drink diluted gunk from a baby bottle. Eureka California is one of the brave bands out there playing music that’s just too raw and real for the masses. These folks have hit another home run with Versus. If you love the sound of guitar bands from the late 1980s right on through the 1990s when everyone seemed to be turning up and turning on, there’s a very good chance you’ll totally dig the sound of these tracks. This is the band’s third full-length release but the first to be recorded in a real recording studio. Thankfully none of the band’s edge has been salvaged in the process. Eureka California is the duo of Jake Ward and Marie A. Uhler. Like most of their new releases, the folks at Happy Happy Birthday To Me have released this on a beautifully designed 12″ vinyl LP, complete with a handy dandy download card. Cool rhythms…groovy guitars in overdrive…and lyrics sung with appropriate abandon…what’s not to love here? Ten gripping cuts including “Another Song About TV,” “Fear and Loathing in the Classic City,” “Caffeine,” and “I Will Write Mine Over Potomac.” Wildly neat. Love it. Top pick.
The guys in DearDarkHead have been making music since 1988, so we’re kinda embarrassed to admit that we’ve never heard ’em until now. Don’t expect anything retro-1980s here, because retro-1980s these guys are not. This album features instrumentals that combine elements from hard rock and underground shoegazer drone. The band’s music once featured vocals but now that both of the previous vocalists are no longer with the band they are (at least temporarily) an all-instrumental band. Considering this fact, you may be very surprised at how powerful these songs are. The band is now comprised of Kevin Harrington on guitar, Robert Weiss on drums, and Kevin McCauleyon bass. For a three piece band these guys have a great big sound. This is a short album that clocks in at just over twenty-five minutes. But in that amount of time, these guys make it perfectly clear they’re in it for the long run. Groovy, compelling, and hypnotic.
When their singer left the band in 2009 Deardarkhead gave up on finding a replacement pretty quickly and reinvented themselves as an instrumental post-tock shoegaze trio. Based in Atlantic City, a place of ill repute whose glory days are long gone, they let the music do the talking with the song titles hinting at what particular meaning lies hidden beneath the washes of guitar, bass and drums.
Their latest album Stranger Weather was inspired by Lewis Caroll (March Hares) and meteorological phenomena (Sunshine Through The Rain, Ice Age. Intense and captivating music with multi-layered textures unfolding slowly. Sometimes lyrics can get in the way of the flow of a track and Deardarkhead have managed to write poetry without using actual words. Not bad for a band who named themselves after a line from the Samuel Ferguson poem Cean Dubh Dilis.
Apparently Deardarkhead having been going since 1988 and have somehow totally passed me by until I was sent the band’s latest album Strange Weather to review. How did that happen?
Oh well, let’s start at the beginning It appears that this is a band who decided that after their original singer left it was better to not replace him and become an instrumental shoegaze band instead which is at least a novel approach as to how to deal with such a predicament.
This also means that to this listener the album’s 6 tracks over 26 minutes becomes pretty much one suite of music; a kind of aural backwash that reminds me in places of one of the only other instrumental shoegaze bands that spring to mind which is Atlases. Only Deardarkhead seem to play a little bit quicker than the aforementioned combo and they also remind me in places of the instrumental passages that Amusement Parks On Fire often have in their songs.
The opening piece may be called Falling Upward but it feels to me like we are descending slowly down a long spiral staircase into a dark room in which all sorts of odd things might be happening. Like seeing the Sunshine Through The Rain, meanwhile, seems to have sped up an old Magic Hour tune and taken some of the acid drenching out of it almost like it’s been rinsed in the rain. Is That A Nightmare, asks the next song. Well of course not, as Juxta Mare unfolds across the widescreen of the listeners mind enveloping them in the soundscape.
Then about halfway through March Hares they bring in the sort of repeating motif you might find on some of Band Of Susans’ instrumentals. But either way this is an album of well-constructed sonic architecture and soundscapes of the sort that you sometimes hear in the closing five minutes or so of any number of American procedural TV series as they finally find out who did the murder on Cold Case or as the killer looks back on what might have been on CSI as if This is The Real Ice Age: a tune that owes a small debt to the Joy Division song it shares a name with but only a very small debt as this conjures up feelings of longing for what’s been lost.
The Album closer Thinking Back seems perfect for driving late at night through a forest in the pouring rain hoping for some respite and that you won’t have to drive much longer, but wherever it sends you, it’s a fine finish to an intriguing album.
DearDarkHead’s Mini LP Strange Weather is a six song ethereal journey into the post-shoegazing landscape. This instrumental record is utterly gorgeous and features some of the best guitar work I’ve heard on an instrumental work in a really long time. And while the musicianship on this record is top notch or higher, it’s one of the few atmospheric albums that I’ve heard that would benefit immensely from vocals.
If you ever wondered what the Stone Roses would sound like without Ian Brown, Strange Weather answers that question. It’s a crisp record that jangles, jumps, jams and shimmers in the sunlight. The songs are memorable, danceable, and ready for a vocalist to take them into the stratosphere. Not really post rock, not really ambient, not really anything related to anything similar DDH seems to be a band that simply couldn’t find a vocalist. That being said, if they ever were to find one suited to their tastes DearDarkHead could be a band with an arsenal of killer singles and world domination at their feet. Until then bliss out to Strange Weather and enjoy its post-shoegazing atmospherics.