Letting Up Despite Great Faults :: "Teenage Tide"

A floral dress confidently above a tanned knee offers both an abstraction and a definitive tableau of a coming summer season. Whoever this girl is, whatever this next turn brings, it will be seen with the impressionists' squint at perfection, utterly blurry and entirely scintillating. Letting Up Despite Great Faults made no mistake with the cover art on their woozy new EP, Paper Crush, or new single, "Teenage Tide". The sound washes some of the color back into the picture, trafficking dizzy melodies and feedback while still discovering a late back beat and soaring guitar lines that wouldn't be uncomfortable in Robert Smith's notebook. The band's song writing has here jagged away from some of their early chillwave flirtations, choosing instead the twee-post-punk direction of another wordy band, Pains Of Being Pure At Heart. The soft focus of LUDGF's obvious influences take nothing away from "Teenage Tide", one of those finger-tapping, windows down singles in the spirit of "In Between Days", "The Boy With The Thorn In His Side" and "Young Adult Friction". You know, the songs you put on the mixtape for the girl in the cover art.

Letting Up Despite Great Faults - Teenage Tide by lettingup


Typhoon :: "Summer Home"

Return to your childhood home, the dare goes, and see how small everything is; how small you must have been for all this to seem so large. This nostalgia grows metastatic on the most delicate heartbreak, played out over a lush five minutes and 18 seconds, as Typhoon spins one of those unforgettable anti-anthems, "Summer Home". Far from a battle cry, lilting guitars and mournful horns open an arrangement that fits in the soft center between the horns of Beirut and the festival folk of Local Natives. The topic, nostos, reflecting, "Can you ever be home again?" The question in this case contains a promise, the bridge reflecting a weepy prediction, "That's how we start over." This is about lost family, contained in metaphors about candles burning down and the tombs of childhood, with the promise of a coming summer and the hope of a lost and returning sister. The second-floor landing isn't nearly the height you remember jumping from, and the attic steps, warm and musky still, contain less of a mystery. The final organ chord, only a resolution by half, full of rosy memories and new rips in the fabric.

Listen :: Typhoon - "Summer Home"


Handsome Furs :: "Repatriated"

What if you got lost and never came home? Wolf Parade side-project Handsome Furs, the brain child of Dan Boeckner, reflects on this question, eventually arriving at a new set of conclusions. Home has nothing to do with residence or passports or jingoism, it is a concept of the heart, and for Boeckner this center has moved to where the blaring pop music comes out of Chinese bodegas (you can't make this up; it is in their press release) and the places where hi-fi spins out of cranked, tinny speakers, calling revolution. The icy synths recall his Wolf Parade work but the back beat represents something playful and insistent. This matches Boeckner's intense final declaration, "I'll never be repatriated." He isn't coming home, this much is obvious. He belongs to something else.

Listen :: Handsome Furs - "Repatriated"
Listen :: Handsome Furs - "What About Us"


French Films :: "Convict"

French Films only release new music on the eve of summer. Now, rather than explaining what makes latest single, "Convict" so compelling - the backing vocals, the rollicking bass line, the fuzzy vocals, I could go on - I will make a few dying, seasonal metaphors. These will all boil down to the simple fact that in the northern hemisphere, it is getting warmer outside and isn't this just the perfect song for (fill in the blank) the million different things you'll do under such temperate circumstances (insert reference to rooftops or sunsets here)? Of course, this will be no good without a cursory reference to other bands that play similarly summery music, and here I suspect calling French Films a "mod-squad version of the Drums" would suffice. None of this would remove the simple fact that "Convict" is an obliteratingly perfect song for summer. But, I would be remiss if I didn't at least provide a second layer of meaning: a criticism of the analysis recast as the new analysis. Got it? Now, if you're doing your job, you'll reject such bifurcated meta-bullshit and listen to the five kids out of Finland who make music like the sun is never going to set on the rooftop of your perfect summer afternoon.

Convict by French Films


Auditorium :: "Sunday"

Will Sheff's "The Presidents Dead" remains one of the best (and weirdest) weekend songs of all time, describing the dilating wake up; bacon hissing, coffee great, spring on the wind, all against the backdrop of a fictional assassination. Auditorium opens "Sunday" with a similar lyric, "Sunday, we woke up and you made us coffee/I don't tend to drink it/but everything that touches your hands/is slowly becoming the things that I want and need to be part of the plan." This is, of course, not love in a time of loss, but rather love on Prospect Park West, where the city sings and skies open up with the massing crowd, one that we imagine is now moving and singing in time. Opening whistles evoke a Chutes Too Narrow-era Shins but Auditorium spins something far more baroque and layered. The instrumentation boils down to compartmentalized acoustic guitar progression with the fireworks taking the form of three and four part vocal harmonies. Think of Fleet Foxes directed to singing original a cappella arrangements in the archway of their college dormitory, and, oddly enough, this is a compliment to Auditorium's throw back pop. Blinking awake, scents of coffee from the kitchen, sun blazing optimism through the curtains, it only takes 2:03 to realize how perfect this all is.


Kyla La Grange :: "Been Better"

Second single from new UK burner Kyla La Grange will be out on Chess Club on July 11th but it will hit the Internet earlier, considerably - this morning, in fact. "Been Better" stomps furiously out of the gates, an ode to the gripping conclusion of "Walk Through Walls" single b-side "Courage". La Grange, as always, feels built to blow the doors off any spatial constraints, somehow bound to find the swollen and thrashing boundaries of whatever arrangement she builds for her listeners. Lyrically, this is a declaration of independence, a favorite topic of this moment in the singer's early career. She proves more than willing to channel her own emotional nadirs in the hopes of inverting them into apexes; what Issac Brock deemed, "taking heartache with hard work." This trick isn't new, but the tiny blond girl holding all of the cards (and the talent) knows how to play it well.

Been Better by kylalagrange


Washed Out :: "Eyes Be Closed"

Ernest Greene broke onto the scene in 2009, riding the crest of chillwave hype as it broke on the beach of chillwave backlash, with a name that both referenced what his music sounded like and a coy reference to how little he thought these genre specific terms of relevance mattered: Washed Out. After a slow drive summer single, "Feel It All Around", Greene signed to Sub Pop and prepared to either sink or swim with the legitimacy of a major independent label. By 2011 it had been two years and chillwave was firmly out of the discussion with even the most solipsistic bands of the genre like Small Black removed from the conversation (including by this writer). Ernest Green was, in short, a long shot before he ever released his first full album, one of those typically confusing moments in modern music.

Washed Out proves more durable with first single, "Eyes Be Closed" off coming LP Within and Without, featuring rippling, cold medicine synths and an intentionally undersold hook. The overt sexuality of the cover art grabs all the attention, but it is Greene's big arrangement and pop sensibility in a sea of swimming electronics that endure beyond genre labeling and the attention deficit tastes of this decade. In the final 90 seconds of "Eyes Be Closed", the song swells around the listener, unexpectedly overwhelming and beyond the boundaries of what seemed possible, a triumphant ode to human connection; waking up on the beach in Ibiza in 1988, not entirely sure how you got there.

Listen :: Washed Out - "Eyes Be Closed"


Under Electric Light :: "Someone Somewhere"

Entering like a dull highway hum, the Montreal pop-shoegaze outfit Under Electric Light eventually lives up to its name with a glittering array of synths drifting over a low fuzz. "Someone Somewhere" communicates a sort of wistfulness in oblique lyrics like, "It's not as easy as I thought to be someone else", to go with the - and this seems to happen all at once - shiny and dull tones of electro-pop drenched in haze. Of course, this isn't terribly experimental, one of those perfect songs that comes on during the first hour of an overnight drive, your car and the sun crashing westward into the horizon. If you enjoyed the work of a band like Pallers, Under Electric Light will be the perfect antidote for whatever long-form thoughts you're working through. On, "Someone Somewhere" the chorus, just a slight and still obvious elevation, echos memorably from the back of chamber, "I don't mind what they see" as a new and casual refrain, perfect for the moment between personal triumphs and hiding your head in the sand.

Listen :: Under Electric Light - "Someone Somewhere"


On The List :: Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. @ Mercury Lounge [5.11.11]

This review runs live and in color on Bowery's House List Blog.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. sound-checked in street clothes but took the stage in stock-car jumpsuits last night. The band’s name already steeped in a few layers of irony, this represented its traditional performance attire: a winking ode to a NASCAR culture that we can only assume the group has absolutely no serious interest in. However, on this night at a very sold-out Mercury Lounge, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. possessed a second wrinkle, unzipping their race suits to unveil real business suits, one of them of the three-piece variety. The two frontmen sealed this reveal with a completely straight-faced handshake, lips pursed and brows furrowed for maximum impact—a kind of poststructuralist irony so serious that it could never be, and so planned and willfully wry that it could not help being all business.

Opening with “Morning Thought,” the first single off the forthcoming LP, It’s a Corporate World, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. pounded through an arrangement of delicate two-part harmonies and slamming drums. The main lyric, “I’m not thinking about it,” proved to be a useful antimantra for a band that so carefully plans so many of its moves (and here it is worth noting that the group tours with gigantic homemade wooden letters that light up and spell “JR”).

The band then shifted back into material from last year’s outstanding Horse Power EP, playing “Simple Girl,” blending immediately into “Vocal Chords,” a love song that doesn’t feel solipsistic or indulgent, resting instead on inevitability: “Well, it’s got to be the way it is.” The fourth song of the night was unknown to the crowd, a cut off their upcoming LP, but in the bridge the band ad-libbed the now-famous “New York, I love you,” a reference to the now-defunct LCD Soundsystem’s ode to the city of the same name. It was a slice of earnest irony before the band played a completely self-serious and quite excellent cover of the Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows.” It would have been absolutely serious if everyone in the crowd hadn’t been smiling so hard.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. - Morning Thought by Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.


GROUPLOVE :: "Itchin' On A Photograph"

GROUPLOVE's Atlantic/Canvasback LP will be out later this summer with lead single, "Itchin' On A Photograph" due June 19th. If we recall all the way back to the band's first single, "Colours" when there were only a few of us writing about this curious little LA outfit with the big song and the sticky hooks, it was 13-months ago and even then they seemed destined for this type of break out. "Itchin' On A Photograph" is rooted in a simple downward progression, some hand claps and, most importantly, Christian Zucconi's soaring vocal, one of those busting-the-veins-in-your-neck, half-screams that takes us to the top of the room and stays there. This is the summer where a ton of kids who have no idea who this band is will learn of and then love them. This is the summer where you, if you've been with them since last spring, will need to stick by the band because their ethic has always been about communal understanding of affection. It will be a season of the more the merrier. This is, as always, just the start of something and the end of something else.

beat radio :: "beautiful one"

Latest beat radio single, "beautiful one", strays as close as possible to being a straight forward love song. Written by the band's lead singer Brian Sendrowitz for his wife - and this grants the chorus something stronger and more enduring than your average, hey-pretty-lady pop - it represents an immediate and linear understanding of love, like one of those things you write on the back of a receipt because you absolutely don't want to forget it. The second verse veers into Sun Also Rises territory, with a quick meditation about a Spanish matador, the power of glances, the implied deftness of raising the stakes and dodging the blow. All of this is draped in the wax-paper vocals and chimes of beat radio's perfect indie pop, making it an imperfect love song wrapped in a superlative, "I always thought you were the most beautiful one," a straight line between the beginning and ever.

Listen :: beat radio - "beautiful one"


Amanda Mair :: "House"

It is both the year of Kate Bush and the year where an astute observer can rightly ask, "Can someone be inspired by Kate Bush if they were born in 1995?" New Labrador signee and one without a driver's license, 16 year old Amanda Mair spins a percocious and delicate web on first single, "House". What begins as a lilting, anti-lullabye shifts into higher gear, trading reverent hush for rolling drums, surging strings and a melody that easily could have cracked Bush's The Kick Inside in 1978. Of course, today Bush is preparing to release an album of remastered material, backed by a troubled single, "Deeper Understanding" which features a terrifying autotuned chorus and truly bizarre lyrical content addressing our intimacy with machines. Kate Bush isn't even Kate Bush anymore. Amanda Mair will carve out her own version of this legacy of big, orchestral pop, making it less the year of any of set of influences and more the year of whoever is bold enough to pick up and re-light the torches.

Listen :: Amanda Mair - "House"


Fucked Up :: "Queen Of Hearts"

Has rage ever sounded so sweet? Or has love ever sounded so angry? The last of the the four pre-release singles from Fucked Up's coming 18-track punk opera, David Comes To Life, "Queen Of Hearts" is undeniably the most romantic of the bunch. Of course, the word, "romantic" is used loosely, as Damien Abraham screams lyrics like, "Hello, my name is David," an introduction to the central character in a story about lost love in an lightbulb factory town in Thatcher-era Britain. Abraham continues in brutal didacticism, "Your name is Veronica. Let's be together 'til the stars go out," a bristling roar before the arrangment shifts gears and gives way to the same intoxicating (and lilting) female vocalist, Maddy from Cults, also featured on "The Other Shoe". She offers a term of engagement no less terminal than "til the stars go out", singing, "let's be together until the world swallows us." The arrangment rips along like a terribly serrated Hold Steady track, only with Craig Finn held hostage in Abraham's basement, traded out for road gravel vocals and a blurry, narrative love story. But, love is nothing if it isn't yelled at the top of your voice; no one said it had to have an ounce of melody.

Listen :: Fucked Up - "Queen Of Hearts"

[Elevator] Theme Park :: "Milk" and "A Mountain We Love"

An exciting and very new band out of the UK, Theme Park have only been making their exotic pop since the beginning of this calendar year. However, the first two available songs, "Milk", available for stream and download below and "A Mountain We Love", the video for which you find above and rife with 1990s found footage, represent one of those intensely strong entries that we find ourselves linking back to 18-24 months later. Put as a simple English sentence: Theme Park isn't on anyone's radar right now (a cursory search of blog aggregators reveals that this will be the first post about the band), but they are about to be. The flavor is that miasma of international style that David Byrne (Talking Heads fans will either find this music charming or offensive, always hard to tell) used so successfully, with the same bright guitars and poly-rhythmic impulses with which Two Door Cinema Club more recently architected their rise out of Northern Ireland. The arrangements dilate and weave themselves together like one of those dexterous little girls doing Cat's Cradle over and over and over. You will be hearing a great deal more about Theme Park, popsmiths with a slight eye for the weird and hooks that are only just beginning to take hold.

Listen :: Theme Park - "Milk"


Interview :: Mikel Jollett of Airborne Toxic Event [5.3.11]

Mikel Jollett, writer and singer behind Airborne Toxic Event, charged into the crowd no less than three times last night at Piano's, possessed with all of the energy of the same guy, though then considerably less traveled and famous, who took the stage in the same place three years ago. As part of the band's "origins" shows, they've returned to all the small clubs they played when they were first touring as a band, you know, before KROQ added "Sometime Around Midnight" and before everyone had the same thought all at once: Is it possible he wrote this song for and about me? Earlier yesterday, Jollett reflected to us about life in his band, making his new and outstanding record, All At Once and what it means to make music. Our questions and his answers after the jump.


On The List :: Lord Huron @ Mercury Lounge [4.28.11]

This review runs live and in color on Bowery's House List blog.

It was after 11 p.m. at a rapidly filling Mercury Lounge and we were at least three layers down in the world-music permafrost. The first dulcet tones of Lord Huron’s stunning single “Mighty” played over the PA as the band marshaled itself slowly and even a little deliberately to the stage. The sound was post-colonial, of the same type that Paul Simon used so effortlessly on Graceland and Rhythm of the Saints—the same beautiful simulacra of Eastern and Southern Hemispheres that Vampire Weekend used later, although with an admittedly updated set of influences.

Lord Huron, an L.A. band I’m certain a hack music publicist would describe as Silverlake Soweto, proved to be both of and above this venerable cannon of White Guys Playing World Pop. “Mighty” swelled big enough, like many of the band’s compositions, to melt any frosty comparisons to old bands, even if the derivation was obvious and unhidden. The crowd rollicked to the band’s first two songs, the aforementioned “Mighty” and the upstroke “Into the Sun.”

The sound was very nearly too big, given that many of the melodies rely on group vocals of two or more members, in addition to some of the delicacy of the recordings turning into more punched-up electric numbers live. But Lord Huron slowly screwed themselves into tighter and tighter progressions, shedding some of the early muddiness for clarity and crystalline Afrobeat guitar lines. On “Son of a Gun,” vocalist Ben Schneider turned a pedantic cliché into something meaningful, his brand of graciousness and earnestness not necessarily practiced and also entirely intentional. Most important, given the tradition of world music being co-opted by the West, this didn’t feel a bit dishonest, even if the themes were unapologetically neocolonial.

Listen :: Lord Huron - "Mighty"