Twenty-five years after their last release, Erotica, this South Wales band returns with their melodic pop intact. Spurred by the positive response to several reunion shows, the band regrouped for this four song EP, with original vocalist Andrea Lewis Jarvis and bassist Chris McDonagh supported by â€˜90s-incarnation guitarists Matt Gray and Paul â€œChazâ€ Watkins, and drummer Erik Stams. Released on 10â€ vinyl and cassette (and for the modern set, digital), the four songs are highlighted by Jarvisâ€™ breezy vocals. The effect is both nostalgic and, amid todayâ€™s inhumanely exaggerated autotuning, refreshing. Fans will enjoy hearing the band again, and those looking for a respite from modern chart popâ€™s mechanization will enjoy the sweetness of Jarvisâ€™ voice, melodies that linger in your head, and the analog sounds of electric guitars, bass and drums. [Â©2017 Hyperbolium]
Inventively marketed free EP of tuneful fuzz-pop
Dutch Barn is neither Dutch (they’re English) nor a dutch barn (they’re a five-piece pop band), but their new three-song release – two originals and a cover of Tearjerker’s “So Dead” – is both a good record (they call it as a single with two bonus tracks, but you might consider it an EP) and an original piece of marketing. Working with EardrumsPop and illustrator Estelle Morris, the band’s put together a rich digital package that augments the three new recordings (available as either high-quality MP3s or lossless FLAC files) with original cover art and a PDF booklet. The latter includes profiles (of both Dutch Barn and Tearjerker), an interview with the Â illustrator, and an inventive band interview in which the group answers questions by composing photos. Musically, Dutch Barn produces the sort of fuzz-heavy pop-rock that first found favor in the early 90s – think Teenage Fanclub and Stereolab – and continues to thrive on Slumberland, spinART and (of course) EarDrumsPop. [Â©2014 Hyperbolium]
Lo-fi can be effective as a chosen aesthetic, waving an aural banner that lays an artist’s money on songs and performances, rather than on production. But that aesthetic is even more powerful when it’s forced upon an artist by circumstance, such as a lack of budget, an inescapable urge to get music on tape and material whose intimacy might be smothered in a recording studio. Such was the case for this 2002 set by singer-songwriter John Darnielle. Recorded through the condenser mic of his trusty Panasonic RX-FT500 boombox, the album is almost purposeful in its throwback to the raw energy of his earlier work. The songs find their personality in personal details (“I am healthy, I am whole, but I have poor impulse control”) rather than their themes of troubled childhoods, misadventures and varying romantic temperatures. The lo-fi acoustics, including background noise from the boombox’s transport, magnify the feel of an artist’s notebook, and with songs that were often recorded within minutes or hours of being written, the performances have the urgency of a diary. Merge’s 2013 reissue was re-mastered from the original 1/4-inch transfers of the boombox tapes, and adds seven contemporaneous pieces from additional cassette sources. [Â©2013 Hyperbolium]
An excellent cover of Brenda Lee’s “Christmas Will Be Just Another Lonely Day” by Wye Oak, live in The Onion’s A.V. Club studio.
Sorry for the short commercial in front of the music; that’s how The Onion helps pay the bills.
If the Brill Building had lasted into the twenty-first century, one could only hope theyâ€™d be turning out pieces of pop perfection like the Perishersâ€™ â€œSpectre.â€ The song builds from a lovely guitar riff, gently strummed acoustics and an infectious vocal melody, and by time the drummer kicks in with Hal Blaineâ€™s iconic â€œBe My Babyâ€ beat, the strums have gained force, the bass line has grown insistent and the guitar solo chimes with simple authority. The songâ€™s lyrics are slight but potent, particularly the line â€œI have always loved this sound,â€ a sentiment that will ring in the ears of anyone who loves great pop music. The album makes good on its opening statement, with Who-like moments from the rhythm section on â€œIâ€™ll Denyâ€ and a variety of rock, indie-pop and vocal harmonies that bring to mind Teenage Fanclub, the Byrds (in their folk-, psych- and country-rock phases), Velvet Crush and other indie- and power-pop favorites. Donâ€™t confuse this London-based quartet with the Swedish alt-rock group of the same name, as their albums are often interspersed in on-line catalogs. [Â©2011 hyperbolium dot com]
Thereâ€™s little to prepare you for the textural mash that makes up this quintetâ€™s music. Mixing guitar, xylophone, and drums with deeply layered vocals and atmospheric harmonium, the band is at once driving and pastoral, dreamy and nightmarish, relaxing and angsty, languorous and jittery. The opening â€œGenerator ^ First Floorâ€ mixes indie pop with rich vocals andâ€¦ a banjo. The five-string reappears throughout the album, offering mood-setting introductions, and solos lackadaisically plucked against thickly pulsating backgrounds. Stereolab meets the Grand Olâ€™ Opry. But what sets Freelance Whales apart is the clarity of Judah Dadoneâ€™s tenor, feinting towards the tone of teen-pop at times, but offering something deeper amidst the lushly, unusually instrumented arrangements. Thereâ€™s a great deal of craft here, including deftly engineered recordings and several atmospheric instrumentals, but itâ€™s Dadoneâ€™s voice that holds your ear. Well thatâ€¦ and the banjo. [Â©2010 hyperbolium dot com]
Casey Chandlerâ€™s follow-up to 2009â€™s Our Lost Generation finds him once again working alone in his studio, overdubbing his vocals with guitar, ukulele, bass, drums, chimes and layers of falsetto harmonies. He depends less on his uke here, and the results are less wound-up and more contemplative. The opening â€œAlonerâ€ sounds like one of Chris Bellâ€™s down-tempo numbers, with quiet hints of Clem Snideâ€™s â€œMoment in the Sun,â€ and a terrific closing flourish. The tempo picks up to a trot for the strummed country-folk â€œBeauty of Birds,â€ the plea â€œDonâ€™t Go & Break My Heart,â€ and the Celtic-tinged guitar instrumental â€œSolemn.â€ Chandlerâ€™s lyrics tend to the poetic as he seems to contemplate isolation, loneliness, malignant behavior and self-preservation. The title trackâ€™s synthesizers, rock â€˜nâ€™ roll drums, guitars and bass show some interesting versatility, even if the volume provides a startling punctuation mark at the EPâ€™s end. Galapaghost may soon morph into a group, as Chandlerâ€™s moving to Austin where his two EPs will serve as calling cards to hopefully like-minded bandmates. [Â©2010 hyperbolium dot com]
Galapaghost is multi-instrumentalist Casey Chandler alone with his studio craft (and not to be confused with the Galapaghost Trio). Like most â€œbandsâ€ assembled through overdubbing, thereâ€™s a charming insularity born of one set of hands repeatedly tugging on the beat. Chandlerâ€™s assemblages are enchanting, particularly how the emotions of his vocals â€“ lead and harmonies â€“ interact with his ukulele. Chandlerâ€™s four-string opens the album with harp-like plucked notes before turning to strumming alongside drums, bass and guitar; his vocal slides from note to note like a trombone, punctuated with a few Buddy Holly-styled hiccups. His combination of ukulele and falsetto sidesteps the early twentieth-century vibrato of Tiny Tim, though a few excursions into his top end suggest the delicacy of Art Garfunkel, the brooding of Del Shannon and the bittersweetness of Neil Young. The toy-like tone of the ukulele lends innocence to Chandlerâ€™s music, even when his vocals are sorrowful or bereft. The contrast of chipper strings, chimes and tambourine with Chandlerâ€™s forlorn vocalizations is emphasized by his productions, thoughtfully layering the instruments and voices, and often introducing them serially as the song builds. Chandler released Our Lost Generation at the end of 2009, and followed with another EP, Neptunes, only a few months later; heâ€™ll soon relocate from upstate New York to Austin where heâ€™ll put together a band. Letâ€™s hope he can guide like-minded musicians to the same magic results he creates by himself in the studio. [Â©2010 hyperbolium dot com]
After releasing their second album, The Knot, just last year, this Baltimore duo returns with a five song EP that adds new dimension to their guitar-and-drums indie-pop. The quiet-loud contrasts, downbeat mood and buried vocals are replaced by a more outgoing tone on the opening â€œMy Neighbor,â€ a romping waltz that sounds like a modern-rock version of Fragile-era Yes. The quiet/loud is reversed with the hard-charging verse and sedate chorus of â€œEmmylou,â€ driven by manic guitars and harmonica that give way in an instant to a cool moment of closing flute; it feels like a television station signing off with the national anthem cutting to a test pattern . Jenn Wasnerâ€™s vocals are audible but the lyrics still remain elusive; â€œI Hope You Dieâ€ has moments of aggression in its tone, but also an emotive air of contemplation, so itâ€™s anyoneâ€™s guess if the title is hateful, ironic or something else. A closing remix of â€œThat I Doâ€ breaks the originalâ€™s mood of measured confrontation with a rap section that feels intrusive. The added layers give these productions a thickness one wouldnâ€™t usually expect from a duo, but there are sparse moments to remind you this is a duet rather than an ensemble â€“ a conversation amid the din of a manufactured crowd. [Â©2010 hyperbolium dot com]
The Chicago indie-rock trio, The Layaways, have extended their three-song 2006 Christmas EP with seven new tracks. The productions retain the same homemade feel, exuding warmth and a dash of holiday melancholy. The album mixes vocal and instrumental tracks, layering folk-rock harmonies on acoustic guitars, and adding some heavier neo-psych sounds. â€œAuld Lang Syneâ€ channels the mood of the Long Ryders, while the throbbing bass line and subliminal lead guitar of â€œSilent Nightâ€ suggests the end of a long night of egg nog. The backward guitar of â€œAway in a Mangerâ€ adds a contemplative Eastern tinge, and the album finishes with the short, meditative instrumental raga â€œRepeating the Sounds of Joy.â€ This is a sweet treat, deliciously musical without being over baked for mass media consumption. [Â©2009 hyperbolium dot com]