2/07/2016

Review: Phargo - "Rende's"

Phargo - Rende's
(2015 Ozona)

Sneakily concealing a surprising amount of depth beneath its ramshackle crust, Rende's is the sort of Bandcamp release that takes full advantage of its lo-fi, underground autonomy. The debut full-length effort of Louisiana quartet Phargo takes listeners for a county fair thrill ride's worth of whiplash-inducing twists into new ideas and genres - its first ten minutes contain a jazzy lattice of midwestern emo guitaristry ("The Opening Scene In Tokyo-3"), a riff-riddled slacker-rock anthem that recalls Yuck's melodic sludginess ("Cool Guy Has A Chill Day"), a funereal garage ballad that slowly builds up to a cinematic post-rock crescendo ("Who's Line Is It Anyway?") and an undulating waterbed of gloomy guitar noodlings ("Untitled"). No matter what texture or emotion you're in the mood for, Rende's diverse menu of flavors is sure to offer its own twist on your order, swaddled in a batter of noise, reverb and unabashedly pop-punk vibes - it musters the dynamic range and theatrical bombast of Mogwai's Mr. Beast and condenses it into a manageable 33 minutes of memorable hooks and teen angst. Despite this terseness, Rende's offers quite a bit of replay value in the form of outliers like the incredibly dense "Thanks, Kojima!", pummeled with flange pedal psychedelia, and the Velvet Underground-esque minimalism of "Josh Zirkle's Dosh Circle". As hip as its laundry list of sonic influences and as lovably geeky as the video games and goofy YouTube videos it references, Phargo's debut is a timeless emo record for all seasons, for all ages, for all feelings.  

2/02/2016

Review: DIIV - "Is the Is Are"

DIIV - Is the Is Are
(2016 Captured Tracks)

Chugging krautrock grooves; Cocteau Twins-ian dream-pop drones; patchwork scraps of failed jams and studio outtakes; polished pop gems familiar to their rabid fans who scour the barnacled surface of Youtube for distorted peeks at new material; no-wave freakouts that channel Sonic Youth's ectoplasmic waves of static... 

Is the Is Are, pressed nearly four years following DIIV's critically-acclaimed debut, Oshin, more closely resembles a retrospective compilation than a sophomore effort - a proud demonstration of the myriad textures and hooks frontman Cole Smith and Co.are able to assemble with impressive frugality - over the course of 17 tracks, the Brooklyn quintet vividly illustrates a half-decade's worth of frustration (arrests, addictions, severe cases of writer's block) and 30 years' worth of post-punk innovation with a few choice brushstrokes. Is The Is Are is a beautifully monochromatic record, a grey Rothko canvas lavished with rough, charcoal distortion, impasto layers of gooey reverb and a shimmery coat of chorus-pedal lacquer.

The brighter side of the grey spectrum is occupied by Oshin throwbacks like twangy opener "Out Of Mind" or the blisteringly pretty "Loose Ends", its summery lead riff a trickle of butter through gloomy lumps of mashed potato clouds. Though fans will likely find such tracks quite structurally similar to their 2012 predecessors (staccato melodies layered carefully atop wefts of wiry guitar), Smith's vocals are more confident and expressive than ever, the rhythm sections noticeably more propulsive and arresting. Is the Is Are's darkest moments are just as compelling - "Dust" slowly pulls listeners into a void - a downward spiral - of funereal bass and keening peals of lead guitar while Smith hacks spoken words into the microphone like pneumonic mucus. The song is pale, sickly and surprisingly catchy, a last-ditch burst of life-force leading into closing cut "Waste of Breath", a formless, aqueous shoegaze tune in the vein of Slowdive that lies somewhere between a buildup of nervous tension and the closure of release. It never commits to either side, concluding on a curiously ambiguous note.

It's this grey area of greyness where DIIV seems most at home, most satisfying - the counterbalance of somber arpeggios and cozy trills played high on the neck of guitar on "Healthy Moon", the title track's bassy rumblings, Sky Ferreira's Kim Gordon-esque incantations atop "Blue Boredom" - Is the Is Are is full of murky confusion, a the fog that conceals hidden nuggets of beauty and catharsis. Highly recommended and a major improvement over the already-solid Oshin

1/27/2016

Review: Orange Cake Mix - "At The Record Shop"

Orange Cake Mix - At the Record Shop
(Why the Tapes Play 2016)

It's the grade-school notebook you find rummaging through your dresser drawers, riddled with absent-minded doodles and penciled tessellations that meander across its wide-ruled pages. Mostly improvised and scrawled onto 4-track tape, Orange Cake Mix's At the Record Shop is a gallery of charming song sketches, terse and skeletal, that revel in their own raw spontaneity. Recorded at the turn of the millennium, Jim Rao's lo-fi transmissions sound neither dated nor overly hip - they instead lie in a snug middle ground between Sentridoh's percussive folk strummers and the emogaze of Teen Suicide - the tape is chock-full of tinny lead guitars that melt atop warm vocal harmonies. Imagine the fusion of a higher-fi Barlow and a twangier Mac Demarco: Orange Cake Mix is timeless, unobtrusive and perfect for zoning out to in the late evening.

Fuzz-soaked space rock drones like "Movement of Light" and the woozy "Space I'm In" are the tape's best first impressions, but lately I've been returning to the handful of new-agey synth-scapes that litter the record. "Theme From Certron" crackles with retro sci-fi fuzz, sending aqueous tones out into a reverb abyss while "Casio Drone" swirls with Atari sound effects like a Van Gogh night sky. Acting as the glue that holds At The Record Shop together, these atmospheric meditations give the listener room to breathe admist the smattering of fractured ideas. It's a beautiful mess that's a joy to traverse.

The cassette edition of the album comes in a sturdy cardboard sleeve, hand-painted polka dots gracing its cover. You can grab your copy here

1/22/2016

Review: Chocofriendz - "hi ANGEL"

chocofriendz - hi ANGEL
(2015 Self-Released)

I've reviewed quite a decent portion of Chocofriendz's prolific output over the years, and for good reason: the warm, woolly textures that seep from his keyboard speakers blend impeccably with his skeletal compositions like a sweater over a friendly ghost. Acutely minimal and intense, his songcraft resides on the fine line between powerful emotion and lovably cornball sentimentality that transports me back to my early childhood, more specifically reminding me of the sort of books and VHS tapes that would have filled me with a strange mix of sadness and warmth at the time (Where the Red Fern Grows, this weird Christian educational videotape about talking donut puppet, the Sesame Street Christmas Special...). Imagine a less cynical/angsty take on Teen Suicide's "Haunt Me (3x)" and you'll get the picture - there's something scarily pure and honest about Choco's music that makes it difficult, yet rewarding, to confront.

His latest effort, hi ANGEL, is a musical take on the Magical Realist literary tradition, carefully cutting heroes and anthropomorphic creatures from the modern Western mythological canon - (children's literature, cartoons;], video games) - and pasting them into an eerily barren simulacrum of suburbia. To the tune of glassy keyboard drones, Fritz the Cat, Maisy Mouse and characters from Sailor Moon materialize like cel-shaded phantoms, haunting the "empty swimming pools" and "abandoned golf carts" of Choco's hometown. Jean Baudrillard suggests we visit imaginary worlds like Disneyland to create a distinction between the imaginary and the real - to reassure ourselves that the world outside its borders is free of the childishness of our past selves. hi ANGEL acts as a reverse-Disneyland of sorts, a pair of magic goggles that let the juvenile flights of fancy jammed deep into one's conscious free from the junk drawers they were left in. If the puerile bedroom pop of Beat Happening and Daniel Johnston appeals to you, you'll adore this record.

1/16/2016

Single Review: Suicide, Part 2 - "SP2"

suicide, part 2 - love letters drenched in gasoline
(Self-Released 2015)

Much of my blog's content to date has been plucked from the murky depths of Bandcamp's "new arrivals" section, an imposing wall of data that convenes a ragtag bunch of polished full band recordings, solo demo tapes and half-hearted vaporwave records alike. The listener may sift their search for hidden gems through a filter of genre tags, but the quest for new and exciting sounds is mainly left up to the internet archaeologist behind the keyboard: Bandcamp's biggest limitation - its tough-to-navigate search function - is actually what brings me back to the site day after day for another plunge into the abyss. Thinking about it that way, perhaps my Bandcamp habit stems from the same crevices of the brain that fuel a gambling addiction. The new morning brings a department store window's worth of album covers to scrutinize, each a portal to a miniature universe that orbits around its creator, the artist, and to select one over the other is a gamble. Some expeditions produce little result, and some uncover hidden works of concentrated beauty. The thrill of the hunt is just as satisfying as the discovery of art, yet perhaps a bit more fleeting.

In recent months, however, I've been more drawn in to the world of Soundcloud when tracking down material to quench my thirst for new art. While Bandcamp is mainly inhabited by mid-fi cassettes pressed by suburban garage bands and 4-track recordings slaved over in upstairs bedrooms, Soundcloud offers a glance at other colors on the spectrum of self-released music. Side by side sit sleek remixes of pop tunes, fuzzed-out song sketches strummed out on acoustic guitars often recorded to cell phones and an unbelievably enormous glut of cloud rap mixtapes. While Bandcamp's appeal lies in its seemingly infinite yet impenetrable wealth of material, a trip to Soundcloud offers a more fluid search for music (albeit one that focuses more on singles than full records) - an explorer of the site can search through tunes that an artist has liked or reposted in addition to their uploaded sounds. A look through my friend Aaron's "liked" tracks, for example, can lead me to the woozy, grime-influenced hip-hop production of London-based beat-maker MISOGI, which in turn introduces me to Suicide, Part 2, his twee-pop project that blurs the distinction between hi-fi and lo-fi. 

With the help of his friend Teddy, (who uploads cloud rap and Spooky Black-esque R+B to his own Soundcloud), MISOGI is able to seamlessly introduce the textural ideas explored in his previous work to the shambolic c86 punk of Boyracer. "Dead By Christmas", the first of the two halves of their debut self-titled EP, starts with an initial layer of growling power chords and mumbled vocals that are gradually buffeted by crisp, vaporous bass and minimal digital percussion. Deceptively simple, the cut manages to construct a catchy single of anthem proportions out of a small handful of carefully crafted musical ideas. A trebly lead guitar riff (which sounds as if it were recorded to an old Nokia TracFone) joins the fray a third of the way into the song, adding a beautifully fragile layer of crunchiness to the nervous ball of musical potential energy. The combination sparks a chemical reaction - "Dead By Christmas" explodes into a powder of shoegaze dreamdust - the result is frission-inducing.

B-Side "Love Letters Drenched In Gasoline" fuses a guitar riff strangely reminiscent of Blink-182's "What's My Age Again?" with the glistening, glassy production of Wild Nothing's Golden Haze, resulting in a hard-hitting take on old-school gothic pop - the lead solo that concludes the song is wonderfully expressive, triumphant yet tinged with melancholy.

Melodic, well-produced and infectiously catchy, DS2 will delight cloud-rap diehards and shoegazers alike.

1/10/2016

Review: unhappybirthday - "Schauer"

unhappybirthday - Schauer
(2015 Night-People)

They may share a name with the second gloomiest track on Strangeways Here We Come, but this German jangle-pop trio much more closely resembles the sinewy punch of New Order than the Smiths' somber rockabilly grooves when it comes to their Manchesterian influences. Wafer-thin layers of grainy synths and percussive, shimmering guitar chords add a delicate contrast to blunt, sturdy basslines, all glued together by detached vocals that recall Robert Sumner's stoic mumble. Filtered through the trebly hiss of an old four-track recorder, unhappybirthday puts a unique, crunchy spin on 80s dream pop - the same consistency as a handful of Pringles and just as easily consumed. Schauer's interestingly brittle mix is quite reminiscent of Sarah Records' Field Mice - perhaps the record's even closer in tone to late 80s twee pop than to post-punk? Unhappybirthday make the already blurred lines between the two virtually indistinguishable. 

Despite its uniform coat of reverb-laden twang and wobbly bass, there's a wealth of ideas and rich songcraft throughout Schauer - there are straightforward strummers like "Taipeh" that resemble the soupy shoegaze of Minks' 2011 debut Beyond the Hedge, kaleidoscopic neo-psych transmissions ("Keanu") and even "Elephant", a slow burning alt-rock tune à la Yuck or Smashing Pumpkins. Despite one or two missteps that fall flat, this tape is loaded back to front with infectious riffs and lovely impressionist textures. 

1/05/2016

Review: Earth Boys - "Welcome 2 Earth"

Earth Boys - Welcome 2 Earth
(2015 1080p Collection)

Don't get it twisted: there's nothing noticeably terrestrial about this collaboration between minimalist graphic designer Julian Duron and "techno fantasy" producer Michael Sherburn. That's not to describe it as "atmospheric", though. The four cuts of austere normcore house pressed to the  vinyl grooves of Welcome 2 Earth are plenty grounded, rooting sublimed vapors of smooth jazz and gooey keyboard chords to a surface of prominent and slightly lo-fi, (but by no means grimy), break-beats, four-on-the-floor kicks and lumbering basslines - combined, the resulting product is a conflation of chilled surreality and blunt percussion that prevents the listener from drifting too far off into dreamland.

When I say that the record isn't terrestrial, what I do mean is that the planet that gravitationally holds Earth Boys' music together only resembles the planet pulling us towards us core to a certain degree - a flawed imitation of sorts. Perhaps this quatrain of narcotic club jams refers not to the Earth that's likely pulling you towards its core, but to a close virtual simulation of it. Welcome 2 Earth wouldn't feel too out-of-place in the background of a Sims game, suave but non-threatening; inviting, yet sinister in a lonely, empty sort of way. Maybe it's a distorted reflection of the Earth, viewed through the retinal mirrors of the two Boys in question à-la Neon Genesis Evangelion. The sphere on Welcome 2 Earth's cover is too vague and colorless to tell for sure. But it's this strange ambiguity that gives Earth Boys' sound such a strangely fascinating aura - it exists in grey areas, in the shadows of emotion and feeling. The pretty trellises of saxophone and pointillist synth melodies on "Spring Fling" feel more hollow than morose. "Catch Life" resides somewhere between intensity and spaciousness. There are no real absolutes. The emotions evoked by Welcome 2 Earth are frightening, but at times relaxation-inducing. What they are not is familiar, however common the sounds that construct them may be. If you're down to feel some post-human gloom and zone out to some grade-A old school techno, give Earth Boys' new material a spin.

12/31/2015

Half-Gifts Issue 16 + New Year's Comp OUT NOW


Includes an in-depth look back at my favorite records of the year and a handful of guest retrospectives done by my friends.

12/23/2015

Review: Chestnut Bakery - "Diaries"

Chestnut Bakery - Diaries
(2015 BoringProductions/Full Label)

The internet has mysterious ways of bending the dimensions of time and space, most interestingly in terms of culture/subculture - in the realm of music it offers such a glut of material for enthusiasts to chew on and digest via Bandcamp/Soundcloud/Discogs that the areas and ideas within this cultural dominion that I focus on seem to be in a constant solvent state. This acidic breakdown encourages scenes to fracture into tiny pockets of influence, creating an accessible space for bold individuals to experiment with new sounds and letting fans get to know band members better as individuals (to the point where New England jangle-pop outfit Real Estate houses three solo artists who released material this year). Rapid as this solvency may be, there is always a gluey, adhesive force of equal power that scrambles to attach the scattered debris back to the Cultural Web, building infinitely smaller, more niche nodes within the web's outer border, keeping its fluctuation of size in check. This regeneration forms fascinating, small-scale collectives like Full Label, a Cantonese digital-only imprint dedicated to reviving the elegantly fragile indie-pop of early 90s UK-based label Sarah Records. The latest (and most polished) twee transmission from the Guangdong province is Diaries: the debut effort of Chestnut Bakery that's as warm and feathery as its cover art and band's name suggests. It's western-influenced guitar pop that's actually a  improvement over its British source material - a modern marvel that it exists and a greater on that I'm hearing it from the comfort of my own home a hemisphere away.

The quartet hails from Shenzhen, China's equivalent of Silicon Valley, and has dubbed themselves "the most 90s shoegaze band in [the country]", a claim that they back up with substantial evidence: Diaries acts as a sampler platter of late 20th century dream pop textures. The band uses a generous hand with reverb on "Saturday Afternoon", flooding the atmosphere with glistening guitar while letting its nimble basslines handle the brunt of expression - the gentle twang of strummed six-strings paired with frontwoman Rye's hushed delivery recall a creamier version of The Sundays' prickly punch of c86 pop. 7-minute centerpiece "Moon Palace" explores the dreamy psychedelia of Slowdive - perhaps even Julee Cruise(?) - slowly building from a muffled, phase-shifted drone to a post-rock fireworks display of explosive lead guitar theatrics. "Tunnel Party" and "Cream Soda" ratchet up the distortion, crafting Melberg-ian punk soundscapes. Though much of Diaries is noticeably derivative, I find the amount of the Cultural Web's surface area that it covers to be quite impressive: though Chestnut Bakery holds firm to a single guitar tone and overall aesthetic, no two songs of theirs sound quite alike. That's what makes Diaries such a satisfying and polished debut. Definitely worth a listen and multiple replays. 

12/16/2015

Retrospective: Earl Sweatshirt - "I Don't Like..."

Earl Sweatshirt - I Don't Like        I Don't Go Outside
(Columbia 2k15)
Whether under or above ground, hip-hop was dripping in gloomy melancholia in 2k15, and none of the year’s releases personifies the genre’s funereal sub-aesthetics more than Earl Sweatshirt’s IDLSIDGO – his flow brusque and his self-production ramshackle. Tinny kick drums squelch like death rattles while the occasional piano sample or splash of chord organ whines in the background. Dark ambient loops haunt “Grief” like a wintry draft through the crack between a window’s pane and sill. Chopped-and-slowed jazz trickles through clumsy percussion on “AM // RADIO”. The record’s instrumentals are centered more around the empty spaces they leave behind than the sounds they create. Earl seems to emerge from these empty shadows rather than jump into them with enthusiasm – he lives inside the beats. Each new track is a vouyeristic look into the worlds he inhabits. They’re high-school diorama projects. We peek through the portal and catch him mid-breakdown on “Grief”, an introspective, realistic portrayal of anxiety that finds Earl “stranded in a mob”, retreating from the crowd of “snakes” to take refuge in a Xanax canister. He prays for his phone to break on “Faucet”, a track birthed from the tension between Earl and his mother after leaving home as a teenager. He and RATKING’s Wiki reminisce about childhood on the aforementioned “AM // RADIO” before Earl expresses his apathy towards his raving cult fanbase. This record is a perfect portrait of the sort of anxiety that stems from the vast interconnectivity of our day-to-day lives, be it online or in real life. The distinction between the two is getting blurrier, anyhow. In an interview with Pitchfork back in 2013, Earl expressed his disgust with Twitter, but to this day he’s quite active on the site. For the socially anxious, the pull away from social interaction is often weaker than the forces that pull us back into the realm of communication. IDLSIDGO demonstrates that feeling of frustration, of bitter aloneness perfectly. I am part of the first generation to have no memory of a time when the internet was not in widespread youth and I'm looking quite forward to analyzing more of the sort of art that stems from this new paradigm.

12/10/2015

Retrospective: Belle and Sebastian - "Fold Your Hands..."

Belle and Sebastian - Fold Your Hands Child You Walk Like a Peasant
(2000 Jeepster)

Belle and Sebastian frontman Stuart Murdoch has the uncanny knack for writing Salingerian coming-of-age tunes that grow alongside the listener. I’d first encountered the Scottish twee-pop outfit’s work in my early elementary school career through my parents’ small but gem-riddled CD collection that followed our family on minivan expeditions to school or church. Even among the likes of Cocteau Twins’ Heaven or Las Vegas or a Simon and Garfunkel hits compilation, it was Belle and Sebastian’s If You’re Feeling Sinister that always demanded my attention, its cover a brooding, bruised red and its title vague and cryptic. The music swirled in my dreamy child mind, Guaraldi-esque jazz arrangements accompanying the cozy imagery of “foxes in the snow”, “boys on bikes” and the uniformed valor of high-school track and field stars. They bobbed and danced through my imagination like shadow puppets across a blank wall, magical and innocent. One of my most vivid childhood memories – age 8 - places me in the living room of my current home, empty, save for a television and a Gamecube that sprouted from the wooden flooring like an art gallery installation. My sister and I played Kirby Air Ride as mom and dad maneuvered couches and mattresses through the front door. All the while, I whispered the lyrics of the album to myself. Nothing felt so comforting.

As I aged, the album’s warm, flannel-ly imagery became somewhat tainted as teenage world-weariness seeped into my bloodstream. I began to see the “sinister” nature that loomed beneath the façade of its woodland animals and schoolyard rhymes. Murdoch’s songwriting dealt with dejection, deviancy and experimentation as much as it did the excitement of a snow day or the hum of insects on a muggy summer evening. It was all-encompassing, microcosmic even. There’s a quotable lyric tucked away in the liner notes of Sinister for by someone of any age or mindset.

Perhaps it’s the childhood nostalgia I reflected on back in issue 15 of my zine, a fear that I’ve grown up too fast, that sends me back to Belle and Sebastian in 2015. The twee playfulness that oozes from Murdoch’s tunesmithery allows me a sense of childlike wonder, while there’s enough rich subtext to keep my late-teenage mind properly stimulated. Lately, I’ve been revisiting the band’s 4th effort, Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like A Peasant, 15 years after its original release date. It may lack some of the consistency and coherence that makes Sinister so legendarily satisfying, but it makes up for it in creativity and sheer pluck. Most notably, it contains standout cut “The Model”, which charges forward on nimble harpsichord melodies and a groovy rock n’ roll rhythm section. But there are many other highlights. Guitarist Stevie Jackson strums out an awkward-yet-tender ballad on “Beyond the Sunrise” while cellist Isobel Campbell lends her feathery vocal to “Family Tree”, a lovely bit of chamber-pop doo-wop that leads into the record’s triumphant closer, “There’s Too Much Love”. Though often overlooked, Fold Your Hands is a beautifully collaborative effort that stands up strong in a B+S catalogue filled with hits - it's the sort of record that may not top a list of your all-time favorites but will always remain a constant in your rotation, sneaking into your conscious when it's most needed

12/05/2015

Taking Submissions For Christmas Compilation Vol 3

It's that time of year again! This year's holiday season will mark the third anniversary of the Half-Gifts Christmas Compilation and the series' most interesting installment to date - this time around, rather than collecting your covers of traditional Christmas tunes, I'm looking to curate a collection of ambient soundscapes that clock in at 90 seconds or less. Whether your track is a sound collage, field recording or vaporwave loop, just make sure it's laced with winter frost and falls within the time limit. Get creative and try to bottle the essence of December in your compositions.

Deadline for submission is December 21. Email me at jude.noel3@gmail.com when you have something to send my way!

11/29/2015

Review: Alex Bleeker and the Freaks - Country Agenda

Alex Bleeker and the Freaks - Country Agenda
(2015 Sinderlyn)

I have plenty of love for the dreamy, folk-tinged "bourgeois-pop" that Martin Courtney and Matt Mondanile crank out at a robotically consistent rate when they're not working on new Real Estate material, but I do find it a shame that the sideline venture of the band's bassist, Alex Bleeker, is often overlooked by fans. Rather than searching for influence in the twinkling lead-guitar constellations of Pavement's Terror Twilight or the cigarette-stained mustiness of 70's soft rock records, Bleeker's quintet of Freaks seek to reclaim the sound of The Grateful Dead's American Beauty, seasoning the mix with just enough airy shimmer to satiate jangle pop die-hards. Their latest output, Country Agenda, is an act of careful sonic surgery that extracts the "jam band-iness" from the jam bands of yore, transplanting them into the instantly-recognizable, reverby songcraft of Captured Tracks affiliates like Mac Demarco and Wild Nothing. 

The Freaks are at the top of their game on "Portrait", a cavernous cut that seems to effortlessly form an all-consuming atmosphere of post-rainstorm summer mugginess - peals of slide guitar and splashes of jazzy keyboard drip like condensation down the edge of an unobtrusive rhythm section that provides just enough space for the sneakily pretty vocal harmonies that surface in the tune's infectious chorus, but it's outliers like the bluesy "Honey I Don't Know" and "Turtle Dove", a gospel groove that provides the record some goofy anti-gravitas, that make this record such a joy to re-visit again and again. I wouldn't consider myself a Dead Head by any stretch of the imagination, but to detect their influence incorporated into an indie rock record without a speck of irony is quite refreshing, especially at the tail end of a year teeming with post-modern pop pastiches. Country Agenda is the late evening cooldown after months of gorging myself on the futurist pop of A.G. Cook and Le1f - it's beautifully sincere.

11/25/2015

Single Review: Wild Nothing - "TV Queen"

Wild Nothing - "TV Queen"
(Captured Tracks 2015)

Jack Tatum's 6-year career as the frontman of Wild Nothing serves as a model of artistic progression done the right way in indie rock. He seldom strays from the core influences and timbres employed in past ventures - the amorphous goth-pop gloom of GeminiNocturne's shimmering devotion to Rumors-era Fleetwood Mac; the forceful new-wave elegance found throughout much of Empty Estate - and continues to shuffle them back into his deck of ideas, adding new cards along the way. "TV Queen" deals listeners the better hand of the two tracks Tatum recently released in anticipation of his forthcoming LP, Life of Pause, and seems to borrow some inspiration from the mixtape of smoky Italian lounge music he posted on his soundcloud page last year. The tune is somewhat sour, coating cyclical string melodies and splashes of guitar in an acidic chorus effect. This tartness is offset, however, by mellow-yet-solid bass and lazily played saxophone that floats in the backdrop. "TV Queen" offers the satisfaction of an after-dinner dessert - patient with the build-ups to the emotional high of its chorus. The song is filled with flavor but not over-stuffed with clutter. 

11/20/2015

Review: Beauty Camp - La chaleur de l'amour

Beauty Camp - La chaleur de l'amour
(2015 Self-Released)

Talk about your descriptive album titles: few phrases could sum up the most recent effort of French psychedelia triumvirate Beauty Camp as succinctly and accurately as La chaleur de l'amour - "the warmth of love". Though its sound centers heavily around the traditional recipe for krautrock (lumbering basslines, tight rhythms and gobs of reverb), Beauty Camp takes care to define its own trademark take on the subgenre that culls textural influence from the guitar tone of early 90's noise rock icons like Sebadoh and Sonic Youth, makes great use of sudden starts and stops to make for fractured, unpredictable songcraft, and employs keyboard in place of bass guitar to craft brooding, Doors-ian atmospheres that slowly pull listeners into the void - a surprisingly cozy and inviting void, that is. The record's fifth and self-titled cut is its most satisfying, evolving from a funky surf-pop ditty into a a towering wall of post-rock shoegazery. Its successor, "Bonne Pioche" also scores points for originality, pairing infectious guitar/steel-drum harmonies with a shuffling beat. It's a fun closing tune that reminds me of the theme song from Nickelodeon's Doug. Overall, this is a fascinating EP that re-creates the sound and atmosphere of a good house show.