You may remember my post from a few years back about the fantastic prog-pop psych-rock band Sprïng, or you may not. I can refresh your memory briefly: they were great. Unfortunately they are no longer, though they did trickle out some new material after the release of their brilliant “Celebrations,” it seems there won’t be a follow-up.
However, and thankfully, Sprïng’s former guitarist Elliot has recently released a great five-song EP under the name Freak Dream. The release explodes right out of the gate, with synths and driving guitars combining to create a fusion of the industrial and hardcore punk sounds. Opening tracks “Let Me Out” and “Almost Gone” create a sense of space with more understated prog breakdowns before launching back into the more aggressive sounds favored throughout most of the EP.
The persistent kick of “How Can I” immediately calls to mind Big Black, though again Elliot creates more depth through his ability to pull everything back before piling on the noise again. Although, you’d never find a song like “Breathe II” on any Big Black album. That track’s mode shifting piano and delicate, feedback-driven, atmospherics not only lend the perfect amount of contrast to the collection, but show the range of Elliot’s interests and the palette he’s working with. It lays the groundwork nicely for the final track “Get Up” which is basically a really great, straight ahead rock tune. “Get Up” even manages to touch upon glam with its soaring coda emerging from dreamier, echoes of guitar.
You can listen to the entire EP above, or on the Freak Dream bandcamp page. If you head over to that page you can name your own price for a digital download, or get a CD with an 8-page, color zine for $5 Canadian.
Last year I posted about the new album by Vancouver’s Sprïng. That album, “Celebrations,” went on to become one of my most listened to albums of 2014. The combination of rock and prog elements with pop melodies and wickedly amazing musicianship was definitely a nice surprise.
As it turns out, not very long after I heard about and wrote about Sprïng, they happened to be coming through town. I checked them out and am still so glad that I did. Recounting the show to my friend a few days later I was sure to relay all the details to him in order to make him suitably jealous and angry that he wasn’t here to catch the show. What I heard and saw was actually pretty stunning. The songs all translated really well live, and seeing the band pull off the musical acrobatics necessary to get through their very unique approach left my jaw on the floor.
A few months ago they sent out a link for this new video for the song “Levvee.” It’s another exciting rush of rush of energy from the Canadian quartet. Plenty of dense textures, “OK Computer”-era guitar tones, and jagged edges all with an understated vocal floating over top. It’s a really great and catchy tune, but no news on a new album from what I can tell. I’m taking this video to mean that at least they are working on stuff and that we’ll have something new coming our way very soon. I seriously don’t understand how everyone is not talking about this band. It just doesn’t make any sense.
Until then, you can check out “Celebrations” on Sprïng’s bandcamp page, and watch the stop-motion video for “Levvee” above.
How can one band so deftly switch from crunchy, distortion laden spastic bursts of rhythmic intensity to dreamy neo-psychedelic vocals? You’ll have to ask Vancouver’s Sprïng. Their most recent release, March’s “Celebrations,” starts off with the track “To Accuse” that does just that. We’re first met with an onslaught of guitars before it takes about 30 steps back, where sweet vocal harmonies enter only to be destroyed by the guitars again.
That seems to be pretty much their M.O. It’s the loud/quiet/loud that we’ve heard so many times before, but there is so much complexity in the louder parts, and so much subtle craftsmanship in the quieter parts that Sprïng’s music is fairly resistant to any genre shoehorning.
Intricate layers of fingerpicked guitars wander through a free flowing progression, while sharply shifting harmonies undercut changes in texture throughout “Show don’t…” and “Follow.” Pulling back a bit it’s interesting to note that Sprïng doesn’t seem interested so much in conventional song forms as they are interested in developing ideas from beginning to end. That’s not to say that there aren’t catchy hooks planted in each track – because there most certainly are – but equally exciting are the instrumental arrangements. If I was going to attempt to compare Sprïng to another band it would probably have to be Akron/Family. Both have a similar style of experimental, noise injected psych freak-outs usually followed by crisp, clear acoustic textures. Both bands seem to be interested in capturing the same overall atmosphere of intimacy with sometimes hushed vocals and clean, up front guitars.
You can stream the entire album above (highly recommended), and check out their latest video for single “Pax Calx” below. The band is also currently on a West Coast tour (lucky for me), dates of which can be seen here, and “Celebrations” is also currently available on vinyl and CD (lucky for you. And me. Us.).
When a band sort of falls off the radar for a little bit it’s natural to feel worried. In today’s musical climate a band only stays relevant for as long as they can pump out song after song and album after album. It’s even more worrisome when a band like Japandroids – a band so exciting, energetic, and original, and with such a talent for writing catchy, shout-along choruses – seems to be puttering to a standstill. The Vancouver pair seemed to be disappearing into memories, stretching themselves thin touring 475 days a year, and leaving us hanging with spare singles and cover songs to tide us over.
The problem with such an approach is that the expectation for something truly epic, something that will exceed all previous efforts increases exponentially. And this is the part of the post where I let you know what you are hoping: they have.
On Celebration Rock Brian King’s voice is a little bit more crackly and weather-worn, no doubt the result of all of the aforementioned touring, but all of the energy and shouts are still there; not only are they still there, they are surprisingly better, more earnest, and more filled with joy. After Post-Nothing I think we all figured that it was safe to assume that there was no way this band could continue on in the same manner. In order to remain relevant, they would have to try to do something different, branch out, and add things to their sound. Well, here’s Japandroids proving us wrong.
Celebration Rock is comprised of 8 songs that fly by in a frenzy, never letting up for a second. The album opens and closes with the sound of fireworks, and every song is propelled forward like it’s been shot out of a cannon. The steady drumbeat of “The Nights of Wine and Roses” fades in, and King can hardly contain his excitement as the guitar enters the mix, swaying a bit against David Prowse’s solid backbeat. Things pick up from there, building until the bottom suddenly falls out, and the pair’s most jubilant string of interjections is extended over the following thirty seconds.
Usually I would say that a good album needs to have a shape to it – the ups, the downs, the entire emotional landscape, you know. Albums need to take us on a journey and allow us to get lost as listeners. But with Celebration Rock, there is absolutely no room for complaint. Japandroids is rocking harder than ever before; they are clearly excited by their music, and they are unapologetic for it. Every single song is comprised of hooks that seem so effortlessly strung together. Between the energy, the hooks, and the nostalgic impact of the lyrics, it’s easy to get lost in Japandroids’ oeuvre. The songs sound new and familiar, capturing the fleeting idea of reminiscence that we all find ourselves feeling from time to time.
The album also features one of the most fantastic one-two rock punches in recent memory, placing “Younger Us” and “The House That Heaven Built” one after the other, the latter of which is a standout track among an album of standout tracks.
The pair is currently on tour, but from what I have heard tickets are selling incredibly fast, and with good reason. Seeing a Japandroids show is a great experience, and one that comes highly recommended. Check their website to see if they are coming to a town near you, and to order the album for yourself.
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