Long Walks On The Beach :: "We're Growing Up"

There is no good way to leave the world and only few good ways to get old in it. Long Walks On The Beach, one of our favorite projects for myriad reasons, offer a case for maturity that is both clear-eyed and stupidly romantic. The lyrical references chart territory regarding the power of "moonlight", and lines like "in our dreams, the crowd swells" all over shabby guitars and crystalline strings. The final shambling conclusion brings the arrangement to a moment of self-actualization around the tautology of the title, "We're Growing Up". Never has this felt more true and more valuable and, blessedly, without the specter of nagging injuries, day jobs, consumer debt, the grinding uncertainties of adult life that never make the cut at college commencement addresses. If there exists a good way to get old, this is surely it, three minutes of perfect pop music and a sense that all cannot be lost when so much unfolds to the vanishing points forward.

Fast Years :: "Young Heart"

Brooklyn's Fast Years and their debut single, "Young Heart" intimate the kind of awesomely poor choices made between adolescence and adulthood. This is the brand of rock that suits whipping days of hard living and fatalist romances. The band prescribes this type of love with a general shrug, "Let's fall apart", an edict that seems to operate as general and specific. Broadly, the project here is to romanticize and enliven the experiences of the young, an area that certainly needs no romanticizing or enlivening. So, perhaps, the charm of "Young Heart" is in its chorus and doe-eyed assumptions that anyone needs to be encouraged to have their heart trashed by another in mortal post-adolescent combat. In the same way the drums and surf guitars merge with the clap track and the refrain, the band expects that the young speed on a collision course toward one another. This much is obvious, the wreckage though, they estimate, is entirely necessary.



TRAILS AND WAYS return with a second promotional single from their coming LP, Trilingual. This, entitled, "Nunca", Spanish for "never", opens with tape fuzz and street noise before breaking into an ebullient, warm guitar hook, like Vampire Weekend drenched full of sunshine and dried in the breeze on a clothesline. The aesthetic moves south from there, featuring an increasingly Brazilian bossanova influence that the band says was inspired by a warm day in Sao Paulo spent listening to Drake. And the vagaries of R&B creep their way in at the edges, a male-female trade-off that sounds like Stars with Amy Milan transplanted toward the equator. But the guitar hook carries the arrangement, one of those sounds that explains the reasoning for indie rock imperializing World Music in the first place: pretty and exotic without losing its urbanity (here to mean: "sophistication" not as a synonym for "urban"). The party, the Good Life, is out there somewhere, likely south and it sounds exactly like this.


She's So Rad :: "Confetti"

The montage always works best in slow motion. Nothing lands in this half-speed universe, objects taking off and soaring in infinity. She's So Rad from Auckland, New Zealand have a perfect handle on this aesthetic, slowing their lead single, "Confetti" down a third from what most modern record producers would recommend. "Confetti" slides along with the Dramamine haze that would have never survived most band's rehearsal phase, let alone the increased tempo, audio compression, double-tracked vocals and a chorus that has to appear in the first 40 seconds at the recommendation of the staff of most modern music production houses. This is more languid until it isn't. When the drums hit, they come from every side, an ode to the early New Order singles to which this song's rhythm section owes so much. The power lies squarely in the lyrical imagery of the title, a confetti cannon exploding as the credits roll, the BMPs slow, everything suspended and spinning in defiance of all conceivable natural law.


Jinja Safari :: "Head In A Blender"

Afro-pop turns beautifully glossy in the hands of Sydney, Australia band Jinja Safari. A blend of Mumford and Sons harmonies, Jonquil's Graceland affectations and the holier-than-thou elevation of bands like Lord Huron and Local Natives, Jinja and "Head In A Blender" aren't only the latest to do this type of miasmatic world music, but they might be one of the best. With a string of one-off singles on their Soundcloud page that are as unexpectedly charming as any band since Fanfarlo's debut demos, the band channels a pleasant tribalism as unoriginal as it is entirely satisfying, the kind of thing that reminds A&Rs why they have a rolling office chair to push back from their desks. "Head In A Blender" features an austere little guitar line behind layers and layers of vocals, a marching beat setting the stakes for a sort of journey where there are stories in the soil and where the lyrics "got caught up in the bloody pursuit of truth" mean absolutely everything. The final movement swings and sways before hurling itself out into the ether, chimes and echos left to sort out the details.


Holograms :: "Chasing My Mind"

A bizarre intersection of garage rock and hi-fi synths, Sweden's Holograms emit an energy that is both confusing and infectious on lead single, "Chasing My Mind". The lead synthesizer line, a motif introduced early and expanded upon with an increasingly tweaking treble, has been given a voice all its own. Notably offset from the lead vocal, the synth hook operates as the chorus, orbiting spasmodically around the melody with the gravitas of an over-caffeinated elementary schooler saying, "Mom look, look Mom, Mom look." Perhaps it is just the right dose of youthful energy for a band who looks to blow far past the green copper rooftops of Stockholm.


California Wives :: "Marianne"

The surprise isn't how charming and singable California Wives' music can be, it's how easy they make it all sound. Like you and three acquaintances could go down to Guitar Center, learn a few chords, pick up some equipment and then sign a deal with Vagrant Records. On "Marianne", they update their stylistic direction from inheritors to the Stills' throne to something closer to Pains Of Being Pure At Heart - and here it doesn't help that the second word of the first verse is "heartbreak" and fourth, "teenage". The big chiming synthesizers in post-chorus back the band's trademark driving guitars (see: "Blood Red Youth" and "Tokyo") all around fatalist lyrics like, "They will find you out, even though you tried". The chorus, one of those refrains still rooted in proper nouns for when bands are young and still write about cities and girls, is charming and accessible, a final trip through those big guitars and huge booming synths, democratic enough to feel like anyone could have written them and elitist enough that no one did.


Pure Bathing Culture :: "Silver's Shore Lake"

Justin Vernon's "Beth/Rest" changed everything in 2011. It was suddenly and completely acceptable for an artist to make music that sounded like it belonged in the closing credits of the Karate Kid franchise. Vernon, for his part, doubled-down on the artistic choices, the Michael McDonald guitars and piano, the saxophone, calling it, "the most important song on the record" and bristling at questions of style and substance. It was the last song on the record that would help Vernon win a Grammy. It was weird and, somehow, it was both good and fine. Pure Bathing Culture, a wonderful band who make wonderful music, have little to do with Vernon's choices, other than the fact that their latest song, "Silver's Shore Lake" shares a certain aesthetic sensibility with "Beth/Rest". Its echoes are glossy and the style is from more than two decades in the past. But, like "Beth/Rest", "Silver's Shore Lake" possesses song-writing of a quality to render some of these questions of derivation completely irrelevant. When the singer pleads, "I wish my heart was deep enough, so deep that I could keep you, love" the debate of acceptable use of the 1980s becomes asinine and you'll wish your heart was a little deeper too.

Download :: Pure Bathing Culture - "Silver's Shore Lake"


Thieving Irons :: "Poison"

You would be hard pressed to reach full maturity without at least once reflecting, "I've got poison in my head", as Brooklyn's Thieving Irons do so brilliantly on coming single, "Poison." This wouldn't have to be the self-medicated, over-the-counter poison of the suburbs, light American-style lagers in parking lots and basements. It wouldn't have to be the poison you can get prescribed to you by a medical doctor if you say the right things or complain of "recurrent and debilitating pain". It wouldn't have to be the poison that is the beauty and stupidity of youth. It wouldn't have to be poison of toxic relationships and the vague schadenfreude that creeps wearily at the edges of adult life. It might just be Poison, a feedback loop for which there is no milk to drink, no control center to call, no doctor's couch on which to crawl, no 12-step program to engage. "You were always on my mind", the band intones over the top of insistent, down-stroke guitars as the arrangement pounds away, suggesting a different sort of self-imposed and inescapable toxicity. The song crashes toward its conclusion, lost and found somewhere between the finishing kick of "All My Friends" and the Tom Petty-footnotes of War On Drugs, sick, tired, pretty and cathartic.

Listen :: Thieving Irons - "Poison"


On The List :: M83 @ Terminal 5 [5.10.12]

This runs live and in color, with amazing photographs by Diana Wong on Bowery's House List blog.

To some, M83 has always had an uncanny resemblance to the John Hughes classic The Breakfast Club. This has nothing to do with the aesthetic reality that the band plays music with influences from the enormous synthesizers that so dominated mid-1980s pop music. Frontman Anthony Gonzalez possesses a knack for distilling human experience down to one frozen moment: a fist raised against a cloudy sky, a human story of difference and commonality, to say everything all at once, a frozen slice of self-actualization. Gonzalez’s gift for this type of tableau universality emerged immediately, taking the stage in full costume of the band’s creepy cover art from 2011 double LP Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. It was doubtful this thing, somewhere between Donnie Darko and Maurice Sendak, was Gonzalez himself (he took the stage far too quickly after the bit of theater concluded) as the character, creepy and triumphant, slowly raised his arms in a crosshatch between invocation and professional wrestling introductory pageant.

The creature departed and the band took the stage as the opening notes of “Intro” leaked from the speakers. It was simple: Bring your cover art onstage in full dress, play the first song from your most recent record—form meets function. Now everybody freeze. Some in the crowd turned to their phones starting a brief but erroneous Twitter rumor that Zola Jesus, who sings on the album version of “Intro,” was in the house and singing the hook. M83, unwitting to this secondary narrative, ran through the enormous “Teen Angst” and “Graveyard Girl,” both of which possess an even more affirming quality with live drums and, at high volume, an urging to stop commenting and simply experience.

The middle of the set slowed as Gonzalez effusively thanked the audience in his French-accented impeccable English. The band played “Reunion” and “Wait,” the latter featuring an enormous duet between Gonzalez and his female keyboardist. Everything stopped for a moment. This was what the audience wanted. Next was “Midnight City,” a song with no more than four serious notes, which appeared to lift the crowd toward the top of the room, snapping digital images against the blinking stage strobes, an attempt to save this and keep it, an aperture big enough to capture the desire to feel this affirmed always.


Oberhofer :: "Runaway" [Kanye West cover]

Bradley Oberhofer has a thing about leaving. On first break-though 2010 demo, "I Could Go", Oberhofer, yelped about the need for some kind of escape velocity, the kind of thing you imagine a 19-year old thinks about before they become a minor establishment on the New York indie rock circuit. With a full length debut out on Glassnote, Oberhofer now turns his attention to the haunting piano hooks of Kanye West's "Runaway". It is a predictably self-loathing affair, opening with high-fret guitars before finally settling into a falsetto chorus that could almost merge with a half-the-BPMs version of, "I Could Go". As the piano chimes against the grubby little guitars you can almost hear the brittle and fractious Oberhofer yelping out, "I could go ... away" against the real lyrics about "douche bags" and "assholes". At once faithful and playful, Oberhofer's version is gorgeous in spurts and ironic without cracking a smile. Either way, honest or not, he and Kanye are both certain about needing to get away from everyone, maybe even themselves.

Tango In The Attic :: "Mona Lisa Overdrive"

If Tokyo Police Club took their signing bonus from Saddle Creek in 2006 and moved to Scotland with the intention of playing nothing but surf-rock and post-punk, they might have become Tango In The Attic and written their glittering and awesomely shabby single, "Mona Lisa Overdrive". It is washed out, angular guitar pop with the same vaguely confessional vocals that sound like something broadcast through wax microphones and tin can telephones. Vibration is the operating principle as the song crashes to its conclusion, at once full of unrealized potential and enough seemingly unintentional hooks to stick in the consciousness and remain lodged there. It is the same kind of shabbiness and energy that made "Nature Of The Experiment" function in 2006. "We're halfway up the bracket," you remember the first couplet of the second verse from six years ago, before mouthing, "the rain comes through my jacket", another in a long list of things that are instantly memorable whether they mean to be or not: "Mona Lisa Overdrive".


Big Wave Riders :: "Waiting In The Wings"

The lyric at the end of the chorus, so European, so post-punk, so cloudy that you can barely discern its outline, is the instruction: "Take me to the future now". It is a moan, a sigh, a veritable get-me-over heave toward to whatever comes next. For Big Wave Riders, a band gearing to release their debut LP, the lead single, "Waiting In The Wings", draws the aperture broad enough to let us see just what this future might hold. Aesthetically, the exterior faithfully updates early Cure singles, something like "Killing An Arab" that would have viewed a song like "Friday I'm In Love" as a sort anathema. Big Wave Riders do this sort of plagiarism with reverence and a bit of sonic thickening, filling in the gaps of the Robert Smith narrative with big, echoing claps and chasing guitars. The next thing, as usual, is just something old, made new in the enthusiastic hands of the present.


Tu Fawning :: "Anchor"

Tu Fawning's latest single, "Anchor" from their forthcoming sophomore LP, A Monument takes nearly four minutes to get fully underway. When it does, full of overlapping melody and ratatat tams, the song swells like storm surge puffing itself full of a bit of terrible megalomania. The opening moments portend only slivers of this danger, rumbling drums and falsetto vocals, a sparseness that foretells of something to come. The nautical imagery runs through more than just the title, a refrain that bobs against the forces of nature - the drums and the washing guitars - that threaten to destroy it, all before the arrangement unhinges, giving into what has always been hidden below, washing in with the tide.

Download :: Tu Fawning - "Anchor"


Here We Go Magic :: "How Do I Know"

Here We Go Magic, sounding a bit like Fleet Foxes trapped in loop pedal on latest single, "How Do I Know", open with the tragic and difficult question, "How do I know if I love you?" The song unfolds new iterations of this interrogative, as central and important as any, the arrangement mirroring this topical substance, pitching layers upon layers of keyboards, guitars and backing vocals. Eventually the song unwinds itself into a haze, the type of dizzy and pleasantly collapsing sound that must accompany the discussion of the question contained in the title. For all this anxiety, for all this not knowing, and this has everything to do with love, Here We Go Magic have that unique optimism that comes with the very asking of the question. The answer, after all, might be yes, and this is the richest of all possible maybes.

Listen :: Here We Go Magic - "How Do I Know"
Listen :: Here We Go Magic - "Make Up Your Mind"


Warships :: "Sleeper Hold"

Warships are the latest Los Angeles band to inherent the responsibility of exporting glossy, American pastoral pop. On first single, "Sleeper Hold", not surprisingly using the same producer as Local Natives, the band relies on flickering guitars and a big swimming chorus. The references trend more toward the "best coast" vision of California as laid out long ago by the Mamas and the Papas (or the more recent plagiarisms of Family Of The Year) as the refrain gets drunk on itself, big "oohs", modulated and instantly singable notation. The title, "Sleeper Hold" purports to wax philosophical about the pleasures of unconsciousness, the most memorable lyric being, "tonight you sleep alone", before the arrangement sweeps back across the viewfinder, drifting to the top of the room under its own power and deserved grandiosity. 


Resistor :: "Lighting And Distance"

In the spirit of Dntel's blip-pop, Philadelphia's Resistor builds arrangements bordering on 8-bit cacophony, like a keyboard graveyard where at night the electronic carcasses come to life to haunt one another. "Lighting and Distance" pokes and prods itself toward a crystalline chorus of, "so tell me lies, little lies", a satisfying and hook-driven slice of treble before breaking down into a baroque chord resolution ("and the sun will always rise") like Louis XIV furiously writing revenue policy on a Casio. If it is instantly digestible and a healthy share anachronistic, it is rich for its knowingly blind optimism: satisfying, mercurial and more than a bit wry.