Sometimes I don’t know how, and there is no need, to go on for more than a few words about how much I like an album and why. This is the case with Drinking Flowers. I could just say that it’s got tons of hooks with some great, psychedelic production. I could say that they have a sound that successfully melds the swirling, droning hypnotics of Brian Jonestown Massacre with some of the post-modern grit of White Fence, and even the noise of My Bloody Valentine at times. I think if I just said those things that it would be enough for any reasonable person to understand that “Shadow Show” is something that they should be listening to.
The motorik foundation of “Melt Your Mind” is a noisy one-parter with vocals intoned in a mod-like sneer and contrasts greatly from the opening track that revels in excited melodies and backing harmonies. “Pop Underground” comes closest to giving us an anthem, with the repeated monotone of “the international pop underground.” The way that song flips from krautrock repetitiveness to true pop hook chorus shows the range of Drinking Flowers, and their ability to weave in and out of garage-rock, shoegaze, post-punk, krautrock and psychedelia at will, and make it all make sense. Just listen for yourself.
The album is available now through Lolipop Records, and on Drinking Flowers’ Bandcamp page. They are finishing up the last few dates on the West Coast with Corners so check their Facebook page for more info on where they’ll be and what they are up to next.
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.
I have a few different things that I’m working on right now that are going to take some more time to write than I have right now, but luckily I have an inbox full of music that I am trying to get through. I figure that now, toward the end of the year where new releases are getting fewer and farther between that I would do some housecleaning and share with you some of the very worthwhile stuff that I have been checking out.
First up is some heavy garage rock coming from our friends at Permanent Records in Chicago and L.A. The band is Basic Cable and the release is titled “I’m Good to Drive.” Officially released just two days ago “I’m good to drive” is the 39th release on Permanent Records’ own label. The track is a lot cleaner in production than other garagey offerings coming our way from the P-rex crew, but still delivers all the noise and reckless abandon that anyone could hope for. Take a listen to the track “Blonde Ambition” below.
Next up: what kind of a week would it be if Thee Oh Sees didn’t release something. The stream of non-stop ass-kickers continues with “What You Need (The Porch Boogie Thing),” reminding us that the band has released their 3rd singles collection, available now from Castle Face, there are still a few copies of the Pepto Pink vinyl left, as well as CDs. Listen to the track below, it’s exactly what you’d expect from Thee Oh Sees, and they are never ones to disappoint. Oh, and while you are over there at Castle Face, why not pick up a copy of the new White Fence Live in San Francisco recording, and I should add that I picked up the Fuzz EP live from the San Francisco Eagle, and that record (recorded direct to tape) sounds amazing. Guitar crunch and gut punching bass for days.
And now for something completely different. The Delay in the Universal Loop is from Benevento, Italy and they just released an album this past week entitled “Disarmonia.” The track below is “Spasmodica,” a song which starts off delicately enough, but takes a few twists and turns in the course of 4 minutes. The 17 year old Dylan Luliano is responsible for every aspect of the album, playing all the instruments, singing and writing all of the songs. More information and tons of links can be found here. “Disarmonia” is available worldwide right now. And you should maybe act fast because apparently there are an extremely (30?!) limited number of physical copies available. Head to the bandcamp page to check it out.
Enjoy those, and follow the links to some of the other stuff available from the Factum Est and Permanent Records soundcloud pages. Lots of worth stuff there.
I find it hard to believe that I haven’t written about this album already. I’ve had it for so long that I couldn’t even remember if it came out this year or last, but how could I have forgotten that 2012 was the year of “Family Perfume Vols. 1 and 2”?
Never before has consistency felt so good. On “Cyclops Reap” we’re given 11 more tracks of maximum grit and garage-folk. Probably the best work that we’ve heard from Tim Presley to date. Every song on here would be at home on a year end mix.
I’m going to be talking about the Foxygen album that came out this year as well, soon, but for those of you that have heard that album you’d know that they share a post-modern take on indie rock. It’s definitely been mentioned on many blogs other than mine that White Fence takes its cues from The Left Banke, which is a route that I don’t think many other people have been taking lately. The fact that Presley is attached to the San Francisco scene that also includes the likes of Ty Segall and Thee Oh Sees provides connections between those diverse acts in ways that are improbable, though when White Fence and Ty Segall worked together on “Hair” a few years ago, Ty injected some serious noise and energy into White Fence’s sometime lulling, folk sound.
Songs like “Beat” shamble through the speakers in an endless verse with no real beginning and no real ending. “Cyclops Reap,” like all previous material from White Fence comes off sounding like a mixtape that a friend has handed you of stuff that they have been working on at home on their 4-track tape-recorder. The only difference here being that this is worth listening to. The fragmented nature of some of the songs lends a lot to the sound. One simple idea per song, and sometimes that idea is developed a little further in the next. It’s a stream of consciousness of sorts that carries the listener through the album.
There is a lot more lead guitar action on this album than previous. Whenever there are no lyrics, there is a guitar soloing around in the background, lending an added layer that I don’t think has been explored too much on “Family Perfume” or “…Is Growing Faith.” Take “Trouble is Trouble Never Seen.” The wildly strummed acoustic guitar is doubled by a static distorted electric, and a simple 2-part melody, until the lead line comes in and the song immediately begins to fall apart. Twice. Beautifully.
Following “Trouble is Trouble Never Seen,” “Live On Genevieve” begins with several of the aforementioned fragments cutting in and out. But I think that my favorite track off of “Cyclops Reap” has to be “To the Boy I Jumped in the Hemlock Alley.” The slide guitar melody that comes in and out of play, the incessant interruptions from the overly reverb drenched organ. The whole thing ends up sounding like 60’s psych folk one second and then demented country music the next.
If you haven’t gotten on board with White Fence then start here. Or, alternatively, you could wait maybe another month or two, as I’m sure that Presley won’t be able to not release anything for very long.
Speaking of which, he has recently put out a live album on John Dwyer’s (Thee Oh Sees) Castleface Records. “White Fence Live in San Francisco” was released earlier this month (November 5, 2013) and you can pick up a copy from Midheaven mailorder here. Though I haven’t caught him/them live yet, I’m sure that when I do it is going to be one to remember.
Continuing with my trend of posting streams of gritty garage rock, now we’ve arrived at Scraper.
This is the first full length release from the San Francisco garage punks. What makes this even more exciting is that the LP has been released in a super limited run of only 500 copies, through Cut-Rate Records. Unfortunately the bandcamp page only allows us to listen to 30 or so seconds of each track, but it is more than enough to let us know what kind of jams we can expect from the album.
The singer is clearly taking some cues from Joey Ramone (not at all anything wrong with that), and the guitars are coming through loud (maybe too loud?) and clear. Everything in the mix is overdriven to the point of distortion, and I actually had to check more than once to see if it was just some coincidence that both of my speakers blew as I was listening. (They hadn’t).
For those of you paying attention, it seems like San Francisco is the place to be right now, for the music scene alone. There’s Ty Segall and Thee Oh Sees throwin’ down copious amounts of punk thrash, then there is White Fence, somehow lumped into the whole mess with his retro tape-noise laden Left Banke reminiscent tunes, and then there are the even grittier, unpolished acts that make all the aforementioned sound down right radio-friendly like Terry Malts and these guys, Scraper.
Head over to the Cut-Rate Records bandcamp page to listen to the samples and then grab the super limited album. You can also find Cut-Rate Records on Facebook.
This album is old news by now. It’s been out for several months and every music blog on the internet has already reviewed it. But I’ve been away for a while and this album is deserving of all the praise that can be heaped onto it.
Yes, we all know that the San Francisco music scene (Thee Oh Sees, Ty Segall, White Fence) tends to churn out several albums a year each, sometimes even collaborating on albums like Ty and White Fence’s “Hair,” a record that I adore.
Like I’ve probably mentioned before, after seeing Thee Oh Sees once I was absolutely hooked. They’ve released two albums since then, “Putrifiers II” and before the amps had even cooled down from recording that John Dwyer gives us “Floating Coffin.”
An absolute assault. Nobody does the gentle-verse-juxtaposed-with-thrashing-chorus better than JPD and Co. To me, this is one of the main reasons why all their albums have such a high replay value. The songs are always, without fail, both catchy and bristling with energy. This makes for a pretty intense live experience, and at a show a few months back in San Francisco I learned the hard way that a hometown show for Thee Oh Sees is nothing to be messed with. Easily the 2nd most insane pit since I caught a Lightning Bolt show in 2007.
From the initial buildup of “I Come From the Mountain” straight through to “Tunnel Time,” the album is a non-stop force. It’s notable that the tempo of many of these songs rates a bit higher than usual on their records. My hypothesis is that touring non-stop after the release of “Putrifiers II” and then immediately rushing back into the studio to record this helped them to keep their energy up. I remember after seeing them for the first time and bringing home “Carrion Crawler/The Dream” and wondering why all the songs on the record were so slow. “Floating Coffin” truly captures the band’s live energy. I don’t know how they do it night after night, going crazy up there, and playing brilliantly at the same time for two hours at a go.
Highlights include “Toe Cutter – Thumb Buster” with a squeal of feedback to start and a brutal instrumental chorus that is matched by an equally brutal, not to mention visually stunning, video. This is perhaps in a close tie with “No Spell” for favorite tracks on the album, which has a fairly exaggerated instance of their soft-loud-soft Pixies on crack aesthetic. Again, this song features an instrumental chorus that, to me, is pretty blissful. Sometimes you just get that perfect combination of 4 chords and that is all you need. There isn’t a reason why you have to constantly have multiple layers of guitars all over the place. Simple is better. Stripped down is better. Thee Oh Sees know this all too well and exploit it to great affect.
The album is available on the traditional black vinyl, as well as “Space Lego Green” that comes with a bonus flexi that you can purchase here.
And if that doesn’t convince you that you need to buy this album, I don’t know what will.
And now, as an extra added bonus, is a video of John Dwyer beating a guy to pulp with his guitar in 2004 in Toronto while playing as a two piece called Hospitals (0:40 second mark if you are that impatient) :
For the past few years the retro-60’s sound has been featured very prominently in several albums that have made a lot of music fans stand up and take notice. Take for example Best Coast, Caribou, Deerhunter, MGMT and the list goes on. Well, all of that can stop now because White Fence has given us the peak of perfection when it comes to that retro sound.
Specifically stated White Fence’s album, “Is Growing Faith” is, at first glance, freak folk. The freakiest of freak folk. I would even dare to say that at some points this album borders upon sounding like outsider music a la Jandek, or Daniel Johnston in its strange, almost uninviting sound. The fact that their sound is reminiscent of Buffalo Springfield, early Dylan and The Left Banke while at the same time sounding as if it was all recorded on the shoddiest of equipment in a bedroom somewhere truly places this album in a category of its own. To say that it didn’t initially kind of frighten me would be a lie. There are, however, really catchy tracks on this album and its like no other album I have heard, or at least it doesn’t sound like anything I’ve heard done recently.
The lo-fi to the extreme approach in some of the songs is, admittedly, something that needs to be listened-through at first. There is a bit of a learning curve, or “accessibility curve” to this album. Like I said, it’s not outwardly inviting, but if you stick with it and really surrender to the world in which the music exists then there really are some hidden gems to be found. “A Pearl is not a Diamond” has an early psychedelic folk-rock feel to it with ethereal vocals and overdriven guitar that pans wildly from one side to the other while “Tumble, Lies and Honesty” strips everything back to just acoustic guitar, an early sounding vintage synth with its monotone buzz vibrating in the background throughout and tongue clucks used for percussion. Some of the songs sound as if at any minute they are going to fall apart completely, for example “Lillian (Won’t You Play Drums?)” with its off kilter drum machine and synth from the song it follows sounding off an atonal line that is buried beneath everything.
Imagine The Beatles discovering LSD while they were working on their first albums. What would “Love Me Do” sound like if John was taking acid? I suppose one could say that is what early Pink Floyd sort of sounded like with Syd Barrett at the helm. There is a taste of the west-coast surf rock vibe added to the mix via a good amount of the requisite reverb on everything, adding yet another dimension to the music. The guitars are rarely distorted, instead a clean and twangy tone is used throughout. The singing style of Tim Presley, the mastermind behind White Fence, even sounds like something from British Invasion era rock and roll.
The DIY element seems evident at the beginning and ending of nearly every song where snippets of other songs appear and are abruptly cut off. The tape stretches and warbles throughout, throwing the tempo askew and generally having a disorienting effect. The tempo shifts from the varying tape speed are not the only disorienting part of the album. It is quite an interesting experience listening to this work because my mind is telling me the whole time that there is now way that this was not created in the 60’s. I start to make up reasons as to why it is only being released now: Perhaps this is some lost or forgotten tape. But then a song like “Body Cold”, that is a little harder driving, begins and I’m torn by its farfeesa organ sound combined with a sinewy hard rock guitar. Then there are other moments like in the song “When There is No Crowd” when the lyrics speak of “[the] Summer of 2000, six years past the date and I wondered if I would come back…” which takes me completely out of focus for a few seconds each time I hear it. Up until that point in the album I find that I am completely immersed to the point where I have actually convinced myself that I am listening to an album from the 60’s. There is also “The Mexican Twins” which sounds to me to be directly influenced by The Mothers of Invention’s 1968 album “We’re Only in it for the Money”.
“Your Last Friend Alive” runs directly into “Enthusiasm”, the latter song actually starting before the prior song finishes. The tape then fades out and back in again as if it was a last minute decision to leave the song in, or as if it is Presley improvising on the chord progression and later coming up with a use for it. Things like this give the album the feeling of it being produced as a home tape, distributed to friends. The track “Enthusiasm” really captures that surf-rock sound, though with a lot of background noise added to the mix and wild, erratic drumming while the country swagger of “Stranger Things Have Happened (To You)” is one of the most immediately inviting songs, complete with a catchy hook and bridge.
White Fence has outdone everyone with their retro stylings. Though, like Zappa, there may be “no commercial potential” for this album it is most certainly a statement being made about returning to core songwriting elements. The songs fit together like a run on sentence, or more like a stream of consciousness. The lo-fi, DIY sound, though initially offputting, actually grows to make the album to feel more like an intimate, homemade and tape-traded affair. If you spend some time with this album you will be rewarded.
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