Further evidence that Chicago is the place to be when it comes to interesting new bands sprouting up constantly. Me Jane is a quartet that met in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood and has since released a demo and a single, and now their debut full-length entitled “ISON.”
The production is stripped down and transparent, making the overall sound of the songs reminiscent of Wire’s “Pink Flag,” or early Cure, but the songs here have a tendency to be somewhat more ebullient at times, alternating with inquisitive melancholy – or at least nostalgia. Me Jane walks a tightrope, balancing the stark production with touches of dream-pop and deeply affecting guitar leads.
Take the track “Ghost” for example. As the guitars fade in and the synth emerges from the background a multi-layered song structure is beginning to take shape. More instrumental than lyrical, I think the band’s ensemble work and craftsmanship really shines on “Ghost.” I can’t help but feel that, on the track that immediately follows, “Racket,” the singer is channeling a bit of Wild Flag era Carrie Brownstein. The sharp crescendos that punctuate each vocal phrase, and just the delivery in general – with the backing vocals also owing to the Wild Flag sound – borrows elements from a style, without coming off at all like a cheap imitation.
It’s the moments where the guitar breaks free a little bit, with a kind of reverbed surf-rock tone, that really define Me Jane’s sound. They seem to be testing out a bunch of different approaches across the album, but their distinctive and original voice is most certainly coming through loud and clear.
“ISON” came out this past May and can be purchased either digitally from their bandcamp page, or on limited edition white vinyl directly from the Me Jane site. They also have a few shows coming up in September in Chicago if you happen to be in the area. Dates and other things can be found at their awesomely named website: mejaneyoulisten.com
I can’t tell you why I’ve been sitting on this one for so long. I think that either my mind is slowly (or quickly) decaying or I’m just really disorganized, or maybe it’s a little from column A and a little from column B.
The Microdance is a band based out of London that is creating some really great, textured rock. Shoegaze elements play an important part, to be sure, and are combined with a heavy new wave influence. Think The Cure and MBV getting together to create an album. Really, it isn’t quite as simple as that, there is more to it, of course.
There are a few things that stick out to me in “Moopy Moop.” The first of these is the way that to vocal goes from gently pleading in breathy gasps, to a straight up blood-curdling scream that makes my own throat hurt in sympathy. The other thing is that there is one particular chord change that reminds me of something off of The Smashing Pumpkins’ “Machina II” album. The Microdance captures that really bombastic and expansive guitar drenched sound in a similar fashion to Corgan and Co., but as I mentioned before they tend a little more toward the shoegaze side of things. It only makes sense, though, one listen to Gish and you’ll hear some of the same new wave/shoegaze interminglings going on. It wasn’t until Siamese Dream that the wall of aggressive, distorted, metal-ish guitars came into play.
“Skulduggery,” has a bit more of a shape to it than it’s flip-side. Dynamics play a more important role, and the vocal delivery maintains its breathiness throughout. The latter third of the track, before returning to the chorus, shows the band willing to play a little bit within formal song structure, stretching out the loud-soft-loud template.
This double-A side single is currently available for download from The Microdance’s bandcamp site. You can also find out more about them on Facebook and their soundcloud page.
First thing’s first, I’ve got a couple tracks today from artists with albums that have just come out. The first is a video that comes to us from Jack Name, one of the guitarists currently working with (one of my personal favorites) White Fence. The album, “Light Show,” is out now on Drag City through Ty Segall’s “God?” imprint. There are samples of each of the songs over on the Drag City site, but over on Youtube there is a video for the track “Out of Sight.” The video is basically a collage of what seems to be part found footage, part Live-Leak videos and other such ephemera. The song matches the video in tone, or I suppose that it’s the other way around, but either way there is an air of darkness all over both. A monotonously repeated melodic pattern on a gritty sounding analog synth supports the entire track with a vocal that is haunting in its higher register. Everything about this track and the accompanying video is elegiac and hypnotic. For me, it called to mind the work of Paul A Rosales and Wonder Wheel. You can check out that video below.
Next up is a band from Athens, not Georgia, but the real Athens. Yuri’s Accident may not be dark in the same way that Jack Name’s tracks are, but there is an aura of 80’s dance-pop that comes off sounding a little darker. That the band has relocated to London before releasing these tunes explains them sounding a bit, maybe, like Depeche Mode with guitars, or earlier songs by The Cure; or maybe I’m picking up a little more on a post-punk/Interpol kind of vibe. Either way it’s kind of two heads from the same coin. Dark-ish, brooding guitar driven rock. This 2 track single was also released earlier this week, on January 20th and you can check it out below. There’s a video for A-side “Lights (on her eyes)” as well. The single is available for download from the Yuri’s Accident bandcamp, which can be found here.
Both albums are available now so check out the links in the post above and head over to Drag City to pick up Jack Name’s album on vinyl or as an MP3 or FLAC file. You can also head over to bandcamp to download the Yuri’s Accident tracks.
The Switchable Kid is a band from Memphis that creates low(-ish)-fi, moody rock with a retro tinge. In a few words their sound can be described as sounding like a toned-down A Place To Bury Strangers, with a little Joy Division and The Cure thrown into the mix with its brooding vocal, driving and mechanical rhythms and phased-out and delayed guitar textures.
“For All the Sad Bastards” might lack a bit in the continuity department, with variances of recording technique from song to song. The album, released this past October 8 on Miss Molly Records, is actually a collection of previously (incredibly difficult to find) rarities and unreleased tracks. From the band’s bancdamp page: “For All The Sad Bastards-Songs I’ve passed around on CDRs and cassettes to friends from 2002-2012. A collection of unreleased 7″ singles compiled for an album. A real Bonadrag!”
I am going to need to find ways to fit “bonadrag” into my everyday conversations now. It’s only natural.
The collection is available as a download (of course) as well as 12″ vinyl, and CD. Head over to the bandcamp page, or listen above, to all of the tracks in full. Skip to the catchy and dark “Hey Beauty,” and “The Young Don’t Cry;” and then move to the punk attitude of “Sore Subjects.” And, despite some of the continuity concerns that I raised above, this collection actually does still span a range of sounds that transcend the garage and punk influences. “Blue,” which closes out the album, is slow and thoughtful, with an extra touch added by the use of some brass and the jangling of acoustic guitar strings.
If dark and gritty rock with vocals awash in reverb is as much your thing as it is mine, you won’t be disappointed here.
Portland’s own Field Hymns Records has some new fall releases from two of the city’s own.
First up is Mattress with 6 tracks of deep baritone and synths swirling around creating a dark haze. The release is bottom heavy, pulsating and drowning in a sea of menacing sounds. Rex Marshall’s voice can sound like James Murphy one second (“Beautiful Moment”) and then Scott Walker and Nick Cave’s lovechild the next. He inhabits a world somewhere in between the two. Yes, that would be a truly strange world, like the strangest dance party in history.
The title track picks up the pace a bit, with bouncier analog synths. Marshall’s voice on that track gets anthemic as he states the refrain, “fuck the future. fuck the future,” with an urgency in his voice before returning to a flatter affect. Most of the other tracks are built in a similar manner to this one, where there is a basic repeated pattern that circles around the penetrative vocals. At times it can sound as though all hope is gone, while at others it’s perhaps maybe open to the idea that maybe at one time there was a memory that there was a possibility that there may have been hope at one time or another, but now is currently not that time.
The soundworld in which the songs exist fall somewhere between the Cure and Joy Division. The guitar in “Arrested” points toward the former while “Pretend” is evidence of the latter.
“Fuck the Future” is music for people that have made peace with the fact that everything is coming to an end. But the album is only, maybe, that dark on the outside. There are some hints at light, like the chorus of “Pretend,” that provide a contingency plan. Check out the track “Arrested” below and then head over to Field Hymns and grab the tape.