Apex Manor :: "Under The Gun"

Out of the ashes of the Broken West, Ross Flournoy moved out of Silverlake and into Pasadena. And then his car broke down and he was poking around the house, dying in the suburbs and (now these are his words) drinking tall boys with the gardeners. Suffering stasis and writer's block, at some point the pressure didn't break him, despite what the title of first single, "Under The Gun" might indicate. Instead, under the name Apex Manor, Flournoy churned out a new batch of songs, The Year of Magical Drinking, due after the first of the year on Merge. "Under The Gun" listens like a Wolf Parade demo that lost its way in the wilderness, found a major highway and asked to drive your car into a jersey barrier. Wild, but quite directed, Apex Manor has a pounding aesthetic and a penchant big moments, suburban boredom ripped into a million fracturing pieces.

Listen :: Apex Manor - "Under The Gun"


Failed Novelist :: "Love Like A Knife"

Only a project so perfectly shabby, so rye, so unannoyingly ironic would call itself Failed Novelist. The creation of Luke Dsico, "Love Like A Knife" shimmers like a 70s dance cut with vocals that evoke a more sultry Casiotone For The Painfully Alone or a sexy Dominant Legs. The lyrical motif, "hey, baby," siezes attention like two blinks and a stare from across a crowded room. The name implies some kind of alternate dream, the artistic shrug of a man who set out to be a write and ended up making music, but that blinking stare comes with a wink. While Luke Dscio might like you to think this was an accident, the crafting is too delicate for that to be true. It just might not be as cool to call your band Underappreciated Musician.

Listen :: Failed Novelist - "Love Like A Knife"
Listen :: Failed Novelist - "Tangled"


Various Cruelties - "If It Wasn't For You"

A shabby, very nearly motown progression is the backbone of Various Cruelties' "If It Wasn't For You." The bass line is the critical element, both most obviously foundational and methodical without seeming uninspired. The chorus is a take-off, a level up and away from the ground as the arrangement swirls and fills around one of the most immediately catchy hooks of the year. The easiest comparison would be Arctic Monkey's throwback side-project, Last Shadow Puppets, but this is quite completely better than that. The final chorus is an expression of all that is fun and moving about music, expressing a conditional statement in terms that neither feel unfilling or particularly hypothetical.

Various Cruelties - "If It Wasnt For You" by 32feet


Tiny Victories :: "Get Lost Mr. Bones"

Brooklyn's Tiny Victories are so low on the horizon that you couldn't necessarily be blamed for missing them. With one song in circulation, "Get Lost Mr. Bones" and less than a thousand views on their myspace, they are just embarking on what seems to promise a bright future. The brainchild of two Brooklyn samplers and keyboard-heads, "Get Lost Mr. Bones" listens like a mixture of LCD's "All My Friends" (to the point where you can almost hear, "you're blowing eighty-five days in the middle of France" in the melody) and the looping, crashing thunder of Dans Le Sac and Scroobius Pip's "Thou Shalt Always Kill". And in this case, the result is stunning first single and a crushing last line, "they've got a million different ways to make you pay." This is a reference to the price of getting into a metaphorical heaven (it also could be a nightclub/Golden Calf). It is a romantic and disastrous vision of New York City, a place we've come to know, and the perfect spot for Tiny Victories.

Get Lost Mr Bones by Tiny Victories

Listen :: Tiny Victories - "Get Lost Mr. Bones" [Mediafire]


[CMJ]White Belt Yellow Tag :: "Remains"

It seems sometimes that rock and roll has lost its sense of size. In 2010, especially at a music festival ironically known for "breaking artists big," it is almost heresy to play big rock music built for large groups and maybe mass appeal. Far easier, in today's climate, to build a few decks of keyboards and sampling machines, make music that sounds like it was recorded at the end of a wind tunnel and do the whole thing with a straight, miserable face [Editor's note: I also like a lot of this type of music]. But, where is the room for the big bands making something maybe more ambitious? White Belt Yellow Tag are in this second category, with an enormous promotional mp3, "Remains," and by all reports, a stunner of a live show. Gravitating toward the post-punk end of things, it is at once big, thundering and completely awesome, if the last two minutes of Airborne Toxic Event's "Sometime Around Midnight" were re-imagined by Editors. The question is whether or not a music festival as big as CMJ has room for a band this size?

Listen :: White Belt Yellow Tag - "Remains"

White Belt Yellow Tag play their last CMJ show tonight at Drom at 10:30.


[CMJ] On The List :: Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., Magic Bullets, Blair, LESANDS

Only at CMJ is the guitarist of Magic Bullets waiting for one of the members of Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. to leave the bathroom so they can play their set at Bruar Falls. The lead singer of Dominant Legs is in the front row, relaying the score of the San Francisco Giants playoff game (they would go on to win in dramatic fashion). It is a proper noun hurricane of too many bands, maybe even too many great bands, all stuffed together in venues that don't always suit them, in time slots that push the boundaries of what is possible.

Earnhardt Jr. Jr. won the night with a stripped down 8pm set at Bruar Falls and the promise of destruction later at Santos. Playing effectively "unplugged," the boys usually accustomed to their jumpsuits, electronics and drummer, channeled something closer to Simon and Garfunkel or Grizzly Bear, using rich harmonies and delicate instrumentals to craft something quiet and brilliant. They confessed before the show, "we only agreed to this because I said if we didn't play three shows in a day, I wasn't coming." This was more than moderately sarcastic. The stage was too small and they were too pressed for time, only playing three songs. Magic Bullets take the stage almost imediately and prove every bit the post-Lucksmiths pop you might think them to be. The Earnhardt boys are packing their gear and their frustration, heading for Santos and the blocks below Canal.

Later at Rock Shop, the bill was again packed.  Blair played her set of extremely winning pop songs in the 9:30 slot. Her record, Die Young, is still one of the year's finest and her stage show, with tie-dyed backing band, chooses delicacy over bombast. LESANDS would take the stage from San Diego. Their lead-singer chuckles and mumbles, "ha, yeah, sun." It is glimmering synths and packaged loops for the next half hour as LESANDS prove every bit of the potential we caught in LA over the summer. The night closes with Beach Fossils well after 1am. Enough ink has been spilled on their behalf to not merit further working here, but suffice it to say their surf-rock progressions owe more than a little to early-career Cure. As the Rock Shop crowd headed out to the ungently gentrifying 4th Avenue landscape, it was another night full of bands, too many photographers and too much good music.

Listen :: Magic Bullets - "Lying Around"
Listen :: Blair - "Hearts"
Listen :: Blair - "Hello Halo"
Listen :: LESANDS - "Pretenders"


[CMJ] US Royalty :: "Equestrian"

US Royalty are one of those mercurial acts that you weren't quite sure would take off as big as their music sounds; at times unclear if they were flying or falling. In a past moment of revealing clarity, their lead singer confessed to me that they had forgotten to promote the show they had just played at Mercury Lounge. No matter, forty minutes earlier, Noah and I walked into as explosive a set of songs as you can find in a room with only twenty other people. This was the show, and maybe the band, that promotion forgot. Maybe it was because their music was never particularly interested in one aesthetic or another, the type of driving rock music that drew from a wide catalogue of influences and earnestly pursued elevating moments. On latest single, "Equestrian," off debut full length, Mirrors, they sound more spatial, like a hybrid of Local Natives and the early-career Kings of Leon hooks that fueled their EPs. The song reaches a spinning conclusion in its final minute, riding to the top of the sky to melt on their wax wings. This is, of course, better than dying on the ground.

Listen :: US Royalty - "Equestrian"

US Royalty play official CMJ  on Friday night, in addition to a Steve Allen In-Store on Thursday and the Robert St. James Party at the Red Bull Space on Saturday night.


Generationals :: "Trust"

In an opening that evokes Bishop Allen and an upwardly mobile chord progression, one of our favorites, Generationals return to play in the indie-pop backyard. The lyrics drive at something different, far darker, charting the outer limits of a fractured trust. And it is this disjoint, cast in such intense relief that gives the song its subtlety and its power. You shake your head, put your coffee down and look up from your book. Did that sunny, little slice of music really just have the lyrics, ""Do you feel like you're living with a curse then?/Are you making it worse then?/Can you take any more?" At its most optimistic, it is pragmatic. At its most depressed, hiding in the feathers of bright guitars and playful bass lines, it is downright crushing.

Listen :: Generationals - "Trust"


[Elevator CMJ] The Jezabels - "Mace Spray"

Already written about in a million little places, The Jezabels are making their bid for something real in the next few hundred hours. With a three EPs released over the last 18-months, the band bring their latest, Dark Storm, to New York for CMJ where they are one of our odds on favorites to emerge with serious buzz and the interest of a rain-making label here in the States. On "Mace Spray," the band doesn't break down any musical boundaries, only reinforcing and polishing old ones. The immediate reaction is Kate Bush, a more modern and, frankly, less weird version, but with the same gift for soaring melody, a curator of the space over our heads, all in the vehicle of a powerful and achingly unique female vocal. The Jezabels will play this city in the next few days and you can assume that all this fractal rhetoric will end up somewhere over our heads.

Listen :: The Jezabels - "Mace Spray"


On The List :: Wolf Gang @ Glasslands [10.14.10]

It was nearly midnight in a bit of industrial wasteland tucked against the East River before Wolf Gang took the stage. Seeing the band in these circumstances is seeing the reflection of the murky and quite possibly brilliant future of Wolf Gang and front man Max McElligot. Opening with 2009 single, "Pieces of You," it was obvious that, yes, this band might easily grow to level the pop landscape and yes, right now, they are only playing in an art space in Williamsburg. You pause. Then again, this is likely the moment before The Moment; the second before the drums kick in, the clouds open and the whole thing makes undeniable sense. Wolf Gang are about to be almost nothing you see in this moment at Glasslands in the last months of 2010.

The band plays the same set they pitched at Santos the night before, this being their second ever New York gig. Hitting "Nightflying," their first demo, early in the set before finishing with "Back to Back," absolute stunner, "The King And All Of His Men," and a new, profoundly Talking Heads-ish, cut sandwiched before closer, "Lions In Their Cages, there was a clear momentum to the methodology. Even with none of the lush strings of the originals, McElligot's sense of melody fills the space before the band packs their things to return to the UK. They will be back, a record out in the coming months, with room to grow and expand into the space between what you see in this place and what is left to come. This is, after all, the moment before The Moment. Wolf Gang will never be back here and that is not entirely unfortunate.

Listen :: Wolf Gang - "Lions In Their Cages"
Listen :: Wolf Gang - "The King And All Of His Men"
Listen :: Wolf Gang - "Pieces Of You"
Listen :: Wolf Gang - "Back To Back"
Listen :: Wolf Gang - "Nightflying"


Interview :: Wolf Gang [10.13.10]

Max McElligot, front man and mastermind of Wolf Gang traded emails with us last week on the eve of his first two New York shows. With a string of fantastic singles and a stunning full length on the way, Wolf Gang take to Glasslands tonight for McElligot's last show in New York until his tickets are hard to come by and he's playing with a full string quartet. Don't say we didn't warn you.

32feet: Top 5 Desert Island Records?

Wolf Gang:

Paul Simon's 'Graceland'
Joni Mitchell 'Turbulent Indigo'
Jimi Hendrix 'Are You Experienced'
Kate Bush 'Hounds Of Love'
Miles Davis 'Kind Of Blue'

ps this answer would change on a daily basis...

From the beginning the Wolf Gang demos were incredibly ambitious, but "Lions In Cages" has clearly gone to another level after the recording here in the States. What was the journey like, working with Atlantic and moving toward this LP release?

Signing to Atlantic gave me the opportunity to record the album in America, which I could never have afforded to do otherwise, so it was really exciting to be given that chance. I was trying out recordings in London with a couple of producers but wasn't really finding the character and personality that I had sort of unwittingly captured in the bedroom demos. When I listened to the things Dave had produced I got pretty excited by the prospect of going out there and working with him, and by the time he was talking to me on the phone telling me to pack my snow boots I had a strong inkling it was going to sound interesting. Now a few months down the line with it all wrapped up, I'm very excited for people to hear the finished thing.

Was there ever a frustration at the pace from the Spring '09 to now?

There were definitely times when I wanted things to be moving quicker, but I think so many artists have their project rushed by their label, and get sort of spat out only half formed, so I count myself lucky that everyone was patient and willing to wait until I was completely ready.

Let us in your process a bit, how does a Wolf Gang song take shape?

I'll usually have an idea of a melody or chord progression in my head, then it's just a case of sitting down and recording the various parts in my bedroom, guitar, piano, then bass and drums, etc. I'll have some vague notion of what the lyrics might be, but these get refined constantly right up until when I'm laying down the vocals on the final recording. But the whole process is a very natural one, I'm never more happy than when I'm in the middle of writing a song.

What are the influences in your music that no one ever picks up on? (And consider I mixed you in with The Police, Kate Bush and Arcade Fire, so clearly I was grasping at straws)

I think I find quite a lot of influence in classical music actually, the layering up of instruments and chord progressions can be pretty incredible, and so charged with emotion, my mother is a violinist so I've always been exposed to the genre from a really young age. But then I think you can also hear a classical influence on the three artists you mention above too, it is a constant source of inspiration for a lot of musicians of all genres.

What is one thing people don't know about Wolf Gang that they should absolutely never forget?

I much prefer Winter to Summer and have a totally irrational fear that if I swim in a lake I might get eaten by a stray shark.

Wolf Gang - "Lions In Cages" by 32feet


Silverswans :: "Secrets" and "Anyone's Ghost"

Downtown somewhere there is a stairwell that goes underground. This is where you find Silverswans playing their slow-drive Gothic chamber pop that both evokes and destroys references to post-punk bands and their more modern, cold medicine cousin, the xx. Of course, this is that mythical downtown which, were it not to exist, would be created in the minds and hearts of girls with unsmiling bangs and guys serious enough about themselves to wear women's clothing. The lights are turned down low to obfuscate definite boundaries and Silverswans turn up "Secrets" before shuffling into the shimmering beautiful of the National cover, "Anyone's Ghost." Welcome to living underwater for more than a month. Just take the stairs.

Listen :: Silverswans - "Secret"
Listen :: Silverswans - "Anyone's Ghost"


Bravestation :: "White Wolves"

Lost in some austere and freezing cold corner of the musical frontier, Bravestation tap the textural angularity of Foals and the wide open arrangements of Local Natives. The aesthetics drive to the center of something unrequited, in the chorus represented as critical metaphor, "you're missing the rain/you're wishing for rain," while not necessarily promising resolution or the hint of hope on the horizon. The choosing of imagery for this desolation is arbitrary and in its indiscriminatness, it is beautiful. The song, all these moving parts and pebbled rhythms, trembles toward an inward collapse before holding together and threatening to explode, all alone in the middle of nowhere.

<a href="http://bravestation.bandcamp.com/track/white-wolves">White Wolves by Bravestation</a>


California Wives :: "Blood Red Youth"

An ode to the breathless energy of younger days, "Blood Red Youth," from California Wives finds itself at once nostalgic and troubled. The influences range from the ethereal bass lines of the earliest days of post-punk to the hi-fi guitars and synthesizers of a Phoenix record, and for most of five minutes they seem to be fighting for the very soul of the track. But the guitars gain texture, asserting more and more authority, finally wrestling to an upbeat hegemony in the song's final 90 seconds. The chorus soars up an octave, part of a satisfying down-shift take-off, hushed vocals turning into the vagueries of a battle cry, "not what those people did to you in your blood red youth." Oblique lyrics notwithstanding, the final message is at best unclear, energized, dark, lost and alive.

Listen :: California Wives - "Blood Red Youth"


La Sera :: "Never Come Around"

Vivian Girls member Katy Goodman split to do a solo record under the moniker La Sera. On debut single, "Never Come Around," she evokes a bygone pop, full of methodical drums and wistful guitars, held in an arrangement that accordion folds and unfolds like a crumpled shred of notebook paper containing only the most local secrets. Goodman's whispering vocals nonetheless deliver with tumbling, rapid precision in the verses, giving way to an ethereal anti-chorus like a Raveonettes cut that climbed the fence and now wanders the streets and fields alone.

Listen :: La Sera - "Never Come Around"


Interview :: Computer Magic [10.6.10]

Computer Magic has been absolutely crushing the last few months and recently, she was kind of enough to shoot some emails back and forth.. Fresh-faced with an ear for melody that recalls the unremembered 1980s, her digitized anthems are the marching orders for a new generation of kids who don't need to be told which leather jacket to wear or which Molly Ringwald flick to identify with. Like Computer Magic, they'd rather do it themselves.

32feet: Top 5 Desert Island records?

Computer Magic: Not in any particular order: All Things Must Pass - George Harrison, Their Satanic Majesties Second Request - The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Tigermilk - Belle & Sebastian, Pink Moon - Nick Drake, Face to Face - The Kinks. Of course my mind would probably change once the situation arose.

Describe your music in three words.

Good, I hope.

Loneliness and isolation seem to be running lyrical and sonic themes in your music so far. What are you after?

Whenever I compose a song, the lyrics come last. They're all made up after I've completed a track, so no song is ever intentionally created to be about something specific; the isolation themes are somewhat on accident. Also, I always feel better listening to songs I can relate to, so I just try and make songs that someone else could.

What is the one thing people don't know but should absolutely remember about your music?

They should remember that I've only just started making music less than half a year ago, so there will be a lot more of it.

Listen :: Computer Magic - "Victory Gin"


Wolf Gang - "Lions In Cages"

Wolf Gang suggested a dense potential from the first Max McElligot demos to hit the Internet two springs ago. With an uncanny sense of melody, he attracted the interest of major label scouts, eventually signing with Atlantic records who funded a wildly isolated recording process in upstate New York. Of course, in the interim, he unleashed single after single of a style of pop that is both old old fashioned and absolutely new. As an English sentence, this is what The Police would sound like if Kate Bush wrote their songs and they had spent their formative years in post 9/11 Montreal listening to Arcade Fire records. With reshaped and re-recorded single, "Lions In Cages" debuting yesterday, McElligot is officially the fully-rendered version of himself that he only sketched 18-months ago. Try not to stare.

Wolf Gang - Lions In Cages by radarmaker


Small Black :: "Search Party"

Rock music got officially confusing a few years back. Last spring during the recording of debut LP, New Chain, Brooklyn's Small Black insisted on using absolutely no guitars. James Murphy summed this up tension in 2002 when he drew the parallel as, "I hear that you and your band have sold your guitars and bought turntables/I hear that you and your band have sold your turntables and bought guitars." And with that rock music found its soft center, a second layer, whereby its rebelliousness would no longer be contained in a single aesthetic, but rather in the abiding challenge to the prevailing aesthetics, whatever they were. Of course, despite the shimmering brilliance of "Search Party," the latest mp3 off Small Black's above-mentioned LP, they are undeniably part of a movement of synth-wave bands that have pushed listeners underwater and out into space. Meaning this is the moment before the twist, the second before the chain turns back on itself and destroys everything that built the new New Order.

Listen :: Small Black - "Search Party"
Listen :: Small Black - "Photojournalist"
Listen :: Small Black - "Despicable Dogs"


On The List :: Belle & Sebastian @ Williamsburg Waterfront [9.30.10]

In the most telling moment of the evening Belle & Sebastian front man, Stuart Murdoch invited several fans on stage to help clap along with "Write About Love," a song off their new LP of the same name. In the twee version of affirmative action, Murdoch stared into the audience selecting audience members based on their outward appearance. "Well, you're the tallest ... and you, you with the 'fro ... and you in the yellow." The result was an eclectic, if profoundly anti-rhythmic group clustered to stage left. They ran the gamut from chubby to skinny, ebullient and maudlin, animated and awkward, like a musically well-heeled reality television cast.

At the final chords of "Write About Love," Murdoch stared at his collection and said, "Oh, you aren't done yet," before breaking into the first strains of "The Boy With The Arab Strap." The group of super-fans moved to center stage as Murdoch retreated to a piano behind them. To the uninitiated observer, the band now looked like a mess of a fans fronting Belle & Sebastian, as the real band played back-up. These seven strangers spun in place, imitating Murdoch's springing dance steps, at least one with hands jammed awkwardly in his pockets and another impulsively grabbing a tambourine.

The real front man would eventually leave his piano to come dance with his followers in one of those explosive, "I'm okay! You're okay!" moments. It was winning and Murdoch took care to hug each audience member-turned-contributor as they left the stage, but not before bestowing medals around their necks in a weird, last-day-of-camp-everyone's-a-winner pathos. It is the essence of the band, the awkward inner-workings, the liberating weirdness of it all, these anthems for people who sat in the back of the library and now stood in front of 5,000 friends. Murdoch noted earlier in the evening that he wished for an enormous mirror so we could see the New York skyline behind us. In truth, he would have liked us to see him and ourselves at the same time, weird and all. (Setlist)

09 The Boy With The Arab Strap by Nathan Stern

[Preview] First Rate People @ Knitting Factory and Bowery Ballroom [October 1-2]

First Rate People make their New York debut opening for Born Ruffians on back-to-back nights at the Knitting Factory and then the Bowery Ballroom. A disjointed and pleasant dream, the band pens hook-heavy, pop collisions where genres swirl together and dissolve like all these perfectly heated molecules. Bluntly, we couldn't be more excited. The band shared a live snipet of "It's Never Not Happening (Part 2)" last week, bearing out the fact that they will sound undeniably louder and better in person. We're happy to celebrate their New York debut with brand new, never-been-heard demo "Half Nelson." We would call it an exclusive, but, the truth is, this will be everywhere before you know it. Just like this band, make sure you hear it first.

FIRST RATE PEOPLE - "Full Nelson (Demo)" by 32feet