The final installment in a list of influential and interesting cassettes. 2003-2013
Hair Police - Obedience Cuts
(2004 Hanson Records)
Lexington, Kentucky harsh noise unit Hair Police have been destroying eardrums since 2001, and Obedience Cassettes is just one of many solid tapes put out by the band. It was their debut on the infamous Hanson Records label and also happens to be their most accessible effort to date. Underneath the layers of screeching noise and grimy tape manipulations, one can hear the faint echo of shouted vocals and meaty bass guitar on songs like "Bee Scrape" and "Let's See Who's Here and Who's Not". Only the truly brave will listen to this with the volume cranked up to the max.
Vehicle Blues - Pizza
I think just about everybody reading this can agree that the inventions of both shoegaze and pizza are two of mandkind's greatest achievements, and here they are, housed in the same cassette. Pizza is the debut tape single of bedroom pop project Vehicle Blues, two tracks that combine the influences of My Bloody Valentine and krautrock, creating a stagnant pool of reverb-washed sludge that doesn't do much but stew in its own juices. That's totally ok though, as elements like the "Dancing In the Dark"-esque keyboards on "But What You Feel Is" make for a relaxing and unique listen. This tape is a brain massage, and if you ever get the chance to get your oven mitts on this personal Pizza, by all means do so.
Kevin Greenspon/Cloud Nothings - Split
(2010 Cass/Flick + Bridgetown)
Yeah, you read that right. You may not have known it, but Dylan Baldi's Cloud Nothings have a few tapes in their back catalog, which rank among the finest selections in his discography. This split with Bridgetown Records founder Kevin Greenspon offers two sides of deep-fried fuzz pop. Greenspon's tracks combine the sounds of the Go-Gos and early Dinosaur Jr, while Baldi's side takes on a more modernist garage rock approach, which should appeal to fans of the Orwells and Beach Fossils. "I Apologize" is a noise-laden gem, and is my current favorite Cloud Nothings song.
Yu(c)k - Weakend
(2010 Mirror Universe)
Here's another currently well-known artist who got their start releasing tapes. Yu(c)k was the short-lived side project of Yuck's former frontman Daniel Blumberg. More in tune with "Shook Down" than "Get Away", Weakend is a collection of four dreamy piano tracks recorded in Daniel's flat. Each of the cuts is haunting, from the shoegazey "Daughter" to the stark "Automatic". Perfect in nearly every way.
Abuela - Self Titled EP
(2012 Swan City Sounds)
Abuela's 2012 debut tape served as my introduction to the world of cassette culture, a humble cassingle I happened upon by chance on a Bandcamp binge over fall break last year. Though only eight minutes long, Abuela's tape is a powerful listen. It's extremely raw, with its simple acoustic finger picking, handclaps and stomps, yet it's not particularly noisy or "lo-fi". It relies on sparsity and emotion, not sound quality to capture the attention of the listener. Ramon Crespo's gravelly falsetto is heart piercing, and gives life to each of the three somber tunes on the EP. If this cassette doesn't strike a chord with you, then I don't know what will.
Julia Brown - To Be Close To You
If any current cassette culture band is going to make it big, it's Julia Brown. to be close to you is a lo-fi masterpiece, squeezing strings, watery keyboards, twangy guitars and super tight vocal harmonies all on to one little tape. There's no filler to be found on this album, as it's one of the best overall releases of the year. Read my review of it here: http://half-gifts.blogspot.com/2013/02/review-julia-brown-to-be-close-to-you.html