Posted on 06 November 2012 by Bowlegs
The debut from Naomi Punk actually dropped back in the Spring via Couple Skate Records – but it probably didn’t hit your radar then. Thankfully Captured Tracks have picked up the Seattle band, and their music, and given it a much deserved re-release. Grunge, Punk and big-ass guitars all play a part on this one.
I love how ‘slow’ this music is. It’s as though the band are sort of tripping over one another, it takes a while for a complete lap to occur sometimes. I dig the wonky odd structures and the nice pretty vocal sort of ‘dumped’ on top. Very nice.
The songs have hooks. I can’t say I’ve been singing them to myself as I walk around, but I always like coming home and hitting the play button to remind me what I was listening to before I went out – and then finding it was Naomi Punk. It’s also cool that they use a girl’s name – because it makes you think about girls which is always good.
Brave mastering makes for a decidedly stomping experience when listening. I sort of remember Sunn 0))) when I reach the final track for some reason… it’s pretty slow man! My Favourite track must be Burned Body. That’s track five by the way.
Posted on 26 October 2012 by Bowlegs
A well-thought out and focused follow up to his self titled album, Luis Vasquez, with the aid of a full band, immediately throws us into a seedy, dark world with nervous machine gun snares, warbly synths and the desperate hard breaths of a man searching for a way out. The skittish opening track sets the ominous mood for this, seemingly, conceptual sophomore outing.
Bordering on the line of sci-fi film score and 70′s grindhouse horror soundtrack, Vasquez and creepy cohorts call upon the sonic spirits of early post-punk/Goth heros. Using hypnotic buzzsaw synths reminiscent of Killing Joke, the driving dark grooves of Bauhaus and rich chorus effects so thick they could cure just about any Robert Smith lost in the fog.
Vasquez has aligned The Soft Moon to be a band that makes decisions with purpose. There is no real resolve that comes with this collection of tracks and they act more like individual sound beds for a unified concept album, but all the tones are held accountable and are working towards a common goal: to let people know that the soft moon in the sky is the only thing that knows what lurks in the dark.
-Christopher G. Perez-
Posted on 11 October 2012 by Bowlegs
So, Mr Mac DeMarco – here we are again! What we have here is a slightly cleaned up version, or rather, an expansion on what was released earlier this year. And I really loved what I heard first time round.
Not much has changed. we’re still loving the wonky, sliding guitars. His lyrics are also really well set in a nest of lo fi production. “Life moves slowly – just try to let it go” – wise advice for the opening track of such a young man.
Much of this music borrows from 70s/80s chorus guitar pop rock… stuff like ELO / Santana / Squeeze / 10CC… this is an update on what we can consider Mac’s reference points. It felt like Elvis last time round.
All the tracks share a similar beat, rhythm, and mood – slightly ‘edge of the mouth snigger’ with a jaunty attitude. There’s the wonky guitar FX, the lo – fi, clearly tape recorded production, simple drums… great start to the day music… a serious hark back to the hits of the 70s. But we can site plenty of contemporary references as well, Blur, even The Lion King in Still Together – seriously! Check it out.
Posted on 26 September 2012 by Bowlegs
Overgrown Path is a slow starter – Monad and Solitude have a downbeat persona – almost akin to Elliott Smith at his most inward. It’s a sound non-synonymous with the usual Captured Tracks ethos – a disconcerting start to the record if you will.
Yet progress further and Caller No 99 changes the course- it is a gorgeous, psychedelic track, with an oddball calypso-synth solo and jazz-like soul. Endearingly weird! Roller-coaster Rider meanwhile boasts some flowing electric piano and busy bass – both set off by a tweedy guitar snapping at the headroom with some impressive finger-action.
Cohen is clearly a master musician (his craft honed through years playing in bands such as Deerhoof and Haunted Graffiti), his talent allowing him to explore beyond the basic root notes and avoid simple chord-play. His melodies playfully complement each other, never incongruous or self indulgent, and always with a purpose.
Cohen delivers lyrics casually, never melodically momentous, but always in sympathy with other instruments. Yet the best moments on the album seem to appear when Cohen isn’t singing, usually in the final minute of his songs – heʼs got the knack of creating outstanding outros.
This album has the confidence that perhaps you wouldnʼt expect from an artist who has remained in the shadows for so many years. It has a complexity rare in solo albums which often crumble under the weight of labour. In this case, Cohenʼs ubiquity over the album is its greatest asset.
Posted on 22 August 2012 by Bowlegs
Jack Tatum’s Wild Nothing started life as an after school project – recorded in Garageband Gemini was a personal set of songs with a purposeful nod to the UK 80s indie scene. Of course we know what happened – the album became a bit of a hit and stirred up an already steady influx of 80s indie impersonators.
But Jack Tatum isn’t concerned with current trends – he’s been far too busy touring the shit out of Gemini before holing up in Savannah, scribbling down new ideas deep into the early hours. His aim was to make a heavenly pop record, an album of wistful hooks and weightless arrangements that lose themselves in a hazy undertow.
Nocturne was recorded in a studio and the lift in production is immediately noticeable, the soft focus acoustics and tightly compressed drums are perfectly captured, the swooning synths in the mid-section of Shadow constructed purely for pop melancholy.
The progression in song-writing isn’t as obvious, but Tatum seems to be finishing what he started rather than reaching out for new ground. His Gemini blueprint is fully realised on tracks like Only Heather, the words as willing as the instrumentation to exist only in the realm of the pop song – ie there is no Heather – just a proven Tatum formula.
More highs come in the shape of the title track – Tatum’s normally passive delivery threatens to break into an emotive performance. It hints that Tatum is starting to let go, lose himself in the music rather than keeping a calculated distance. It leaves an air of excitement on what might come next, as life starts to kick him about some more I’ve got a feeling Tatum will kick back with his best record yet. Though for now I’m more than happy with the pop-inhabited Nocturne.
Posted on 03 August 2012 by Bowlegs
London’s Dignan Porch have always displayed a certain charm in their lo-fi guitar shaped pop. Their 2010 debut Tendrils was a DIY product housing a set of strummed guitars, tumbling rhythms and reverb-heavy hooks. We liked it.
We’ve had an EP in the interim but Nothing Bad Will Ever Happen is clearly a natural progression. The four piece have found their way to a studio this time, which has indeed improved the recording process. They aren’t about to relinquish their lo-fi roots just because they’re paying for a room with better mics, however. The album still free-wheels on a loose vibe and sounds all the more human for it.
Trouble is they’ve not got enough songs, ideas or Dignan magic to spread across the record. Pretty much every track has the same arrangement. What with the trebly electric guitar strums, spaced out guitar solos, rolling beat and repetitive vocal melodies there are probably four or five songs here, the rest feeling like decent enough variations, but variations all the same.
It starts with Picking Up Dust, a track playing to all their strengths. It flows so naturally it could circle me all day long, frontman Joe Walsh quietly repeating the title’s words before an effected guitar solo slews across. Sad Shape finds a new tension, the drums roll for the verse’s full duration, allowing the refrains to create a release, a nicely contained space for rocking-out.
Closer You Win You Win is the most affecting track the band have put down. The vocal melody finds a touching melancholy in its progression, the guitars building to a blown out distortion. It feels like emotional turmoil captured almost accidently by a band running with their strengths and stumbling upon an absolute gem.
Such highlights should keep Dignan Porch on the radar, and their inability to record anything less than decent is a plus. It’s just a shame they’ve not stretched their songwriting abilities here and at least tested the boundaries – maybe next time.
Posted on 23 July 2012 by Bowlegs
Heavenly Beat, aka Beach Fossils bassist John Pena, isn’t exactly breaking new ground on his debut for Captured Tracks. Bedroom pop created within the test tubes of the 80’s gene pool is happening behind many a closed door. It doesn’t help that he’s sharing a label with Wild Nothing – a man packing more than his fair share of melodic heartache via retro vibes and old school British indie: Jack Tatum, you’re making them all look bad.
That’s not to say I’m not digging the record – Lust is a nice enough opener, with synth pads and guitars sharing the same riff before the whispered vocal and acoustic delicacies pretty the place up.
As Talent progresses you do start to get a sense of Pena’s pop sensibilities, and these are clearly of a more delicate construction. Check Hurting with its fresh and playful tones. It shares more in common with the next Swedish pop import than with the 80’s generation. The icy and unburdened guitar strings atop the soft-kicking drum machines are a fresh breeze, if a little lightweight.
But it’s the lightweight factor that floods too much of the record – these songs are wistful to a point of feeling a like a teenage diary scribbling from a far removed reality. At its worse, Talent starts to feel far too dainty, losing touch with any real direction. Influence for instance opens like a hushed remix of The Girl from Ipanema.
There is a real lack of strong hooks here – it leaves the record suspended in a state of the pleasant rather than pushing for the vital.
Posted on 04 July 2012 by Bowlegs
Riding high on the back of last year’s Nordic Oik movement (a term coined by the NME for anything Scandinavian and loud) Holograms’ self-titled debut seems to be the logical progression for fans of Iceage’s stunning debut New Brigade.
Holograms’ production seems to mirror the Stockholm band’s attitude. It has been some time since I have heard an album with such a raw DIY feel. It truly feels like Holograms have gathered whatever instruments they could get a hold of to use as an outlet for their angst and aggression. One of the most brilliant things about it is the band’s use of synth, which at times feels so out of place you couldn’t imagine it being anywhere else.
At times Holograms’ influences are quite apparent, with several moments that are reminiscent of Joy Division. Stand out tracks on the album for me have to be Orpheo, ABC City and Stress. It is here that the awkwardness of Holograms comes to life, a band that doesn’t quite seem comfortable in their own skin and we should love them for it.
The album is a relentless assault on the eardrums and although there is not much variation throughout their debut, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Just as a listener may be getting a bit complacent, Stress kicks and really gets the blood pumping. This record should have a place in the collection of any post-punk and noise fans.
Posted on 20 June 2012 by Bowlegs
Beach Fossils guitarist Zachary Cole Smith clearly needed an outlet to craft music of his own – so DIIV was created (actually Dive was created but he has since changed the name)). His proclaimed cultural diet during the writing process included the likes of Faust, Nirvana and the writings of N. Scott Momaday and James Welsh, an indicator of the artist’s wide spectrum of inspiration.
He soon recruited a band, including ex-Smith Westerns’ drummer Colby Hewitt, to create what sounds like a drug-induced daydream of tomorrow and yesterday. Imaginary cameos from early Creation Records, The Cure and other such 80s guitar-pop all appear in spirit .
But don’t get me wrong, Oshin was built for now: the reverb, the haze, and the traces of vocal melody are swept onwards with the continuous stream of glistening guitar lines. Music today isn’t just about instantaneity, you can take the time to build a mood, an ambience, and Smith is knowingly aware of the revised perimeters.
So following the hook-shimmering How Long Have You Known is Wait, a place where synths and guitars house the calling voices only to move upfront whenever the vocals fall back off-radar. Distorted waves build momentum, words are unimportant, it is in the motion.
Then there is the urgency within Doused‘s bassline and frenetic, six-string comedown, getting closer to the ground with a post-punk backline. The second half drops a continual climax of exhilarating riff repetition and infectious rhythm.
I’m not saying there isn’t room to grow, there always is, but DIIV’s debut is a record you can get lost in, with songs that float on the periphery rather than existing in plain grey reality. It makes for some otherworldly pop that might just offer the escape that, more often than not, we need nowadays.
Posted on 28 March 2012 by Bowlegs
There’s a sense of optimism consistently throughout this album. It sounds like an Elvis tribute with Pixies slur and 2012 urban dream guitar pop. Not to be taken seriously, the album is full of notions indicating Mac DeMarco doesn’t take himself so. The lo-fi sound on the album is of the trend potentially defining this decade.
The two short ‘radio’ snippet interludes exemplify DeMarco’s desire to communicate satirical aesthetics through music. This bleeds through other facets of the album like the lo-fi production value, which help the album seem genuine by adding buzzes and hisses.
Elvis references litter the album. Is DeMarco an Elvis fan? I almost don’t want DeMarco to be real – it’s going to ruin the image of Elvis fronting The Pixies.
All song titles are literally lifted from lyrics of songs. The songs (which take their titles from lyics of other songs) sound spontaneous, improvised without due consideration to how they’re being marketed. I’m a Man bumbles a rap vocal, exploiting further the over-used delay/reverb pedal. It remains out of tune until we hit a lush choral vocal of, you guessed it, “I’m a Maaaaaaan”. It’s an unchallenging mood softener.
Me and Mine and bonus track bonus Only You finish the album – the latter a drone like warbling tape compressed 60s Motown exercise in ketamine fuelled youthful playfulness.
Posted on 16 March 2012 by Bowlegs
Thieves Like Us on this, their fourth record, show allegorical wit. The cover art displays the extent to which we bleed: at its most horrific we look into the shards of a broken mirror, almost Jean Marais-like. Do we see a constellation of fractured reflections and cut ourselves adrift at exponential rates until the blood runs cold? There is unquestioned beauty in this questioning of what our nature is – and almost every track encourages a true faith in this often unexplored idea.
Bleed Bleed Bleed prowls silently, like a high-minded protagonist – a mute muse cut from an Eckhart Schmidt movie. It plays upon flittering, starlight cadences (“There must be someone telling a lie/There must be someone telling a lie to me.”) that bridle a severe chill, like the ones that radiate off each moon that orbits Saturn.
Still Life is similar in syncopated vocal style to Desire – an outstanding track from 2008’s Play Music. Fatima is ‘filter house’ and reggae-leaning in extremis. It is also flirtatious with the chord progression. All these romanticisms have a point, as it is, after all, a love song.
Your Love Runs Still’s words briefly remind us of the emotional human traps we invariably struggle to remember ourselves ever getting in. Themes of this magnitude are perversely and wonderfully condensed by the minimal arrangement.
Thieves Like Us are an educational experience. Their music charters a sonic terrain that brings into light our earthly qualities, which are often pitted to such drama it’s inescapable. A soundtrack to assorted Berlin films of the 1980s, but a much needed one nonetheless. Its themes are undying.
Posted on 09 December 2011 by Bowlegs
Between 1988-93 the UK was in the midst of the dance music explosion. The only way that guitar music seemed at all relevant was in its extremity. My Bloody Valentine, Rapeman, Pitchshifter, and Butthole Surfers were all trying different types of amphetamine injections into the tired old beast of rock. By 1990 the majors were co-opting the next generation of bliss-out guitar bands, and song-craft predictably came back to the fore, manifested in bands such as Ride, Swervedriver and Catherine Wheel – bands which began to be known as shoegaze. The term was pejorative at the time, an invitation to a critical kicking. As with all genres, twenty years have made shoegaze a comfortable nostalgic tonal flavour that can be aimed for.
This re-issue of an album from 1991-93 by lost US act Deardarkhead reveals a band fully immersed in the possibilities of the time, but it does come from that more melodic end of the spectrum. The songs lack the polish of the larger indie label releases of the time, showing a band in its early stage of development. There is a wiry pared down determination sure, but it is pretty predictable stuff, so opposite to the arsequake of the 1988 trailblazers. Still, as a listen it chimes more with playing through old cassette demos of your college band. We have a bunch of them in our loft. There’s something very affecting about dusting off cassettes in the cold, and Captured Tracks have got that emotion nailed, even going as far as offering Deardarkhead as a limited edition cassette.
There’s a heavy influence from early Cure, so its contemporary appeal may be sympathy from the neo-gothic Donnie Darko fanclub. Heavy chorusing on the guitar and bass – check; deep Curtis-inflected vocal – check; bar chords – check; fuzz – check; reverb – check.
If you experienced it at the time, this release may cause a wince or two, but for the teens just discovering this genre, these underworked recordings could offer a whole set of possibilities and potential improvements. The weird thing is that both ways of listening have so little to do with the content. A confusing contemporary phenomenon.
Posted on 23 November 2011 by Bowlegs
Fittingly for a reissue in Captured Tracks’ Shoegazing Archives series, the history of A Folding Sieve is slightly hazy. The Austin trio’s album first appeared in 1995 as a six song EP credited to shiFt, on their hometown’s tiny ND records. Following a subsequent 7” single (a delicate run through The Jean-Paul Sartre Experience’s lonesome Own Two Feet, included here), shiFt renamed themselves Should, releasing an expanded – and now out of print – version of the album on their own Words On Music label in 2002. This new reissue loses a couple of songs from that edition (including an 18th Dye cover), but adds half a dozen more.
In 1994, when A Folded Sieve was recorded, shoegazing was already out of favour in its British birthplace, as most of the first wave of UK bands moved beyond the genre’s effects pedals and fringes clichés into commercial indie or further abstraction, or simply faded away. A Folded Sieve shows that shiFt were aware of the forces shaping shoegaze across the Atlantic. The EP is bookended by two sparse tunes, Rolling and Pulling, that owe more to ambient electronica than guitars, in the vein of Slowdive’s hook-up with Brian Eno and Chapterhouse’s Global Communication collaborations of the previous year.
The intervening tracks glide from Spacemen 3 hypnotism (Resonate) to MBV/Ride homage (Feels Like Morning). Marc Ostermeier and Tanya Maus divide lead vocal duties, their voices mixing together smoothly like colours in an oil wheel projector on the melodically liquid Clean.
The numerous bonus tracks inevitably dilute the impact of A Folded Sieve’s symmetrical beauty, although there are a few gems to be found, notably the heavier psych of Brass Burn and lurching guitar pop of Collide.
It’s not quite a lost classic, but following the release of Should’s third album – the crystalline pop suite Like a Fire Without Sound – earlier this year, A Folded Sieve’s re-availability is welcome.
Posted on 24 October 2011 by Bowlegs
Portland three-piece Blouse have made an alluring debut full of low-down bass, eerie synth work and hushed vocals – perfectly wrapped in electronic dance attitude. It’s not hard to see why Captured Tracks picked up the group after hearing a couple of tunes on Bandcamp – this is right up their industrial-edged, electronic side-street.
The voice is that of Charlie Hilton, and her well-spoken and heavenly tones take the record on a ethereal journey, managing to soften even the coldest, and more stripped 80s dance, that the duo occasional drop by. On tracks like healwaysflysaway she comes across like a modern day Nico, undeterred by the rhythmic and funk-edged bass-line and ominous analogues.
The drum patterns here set the tone of each track. On the excellent Timetravel they take off on a more upbeat pace – almost fashioning a motorik-like vibe. On Controller the keyboards waver like Joy Division’s Closer, but here they are led by Wilson’s tones, rather than the tortured soul of Ian Curtis.
It may be that Hilton’s voice is too chilled to ever create any real intensity, but it successfully aids the record’s engaging ambience. The other members, Patrick Adams and Jacob Portrait, certainly has a knack for varying rhythms and effective keyboard work to back up each track. And with the use of live guitars songs like Ghostdreams take on an old-school Cure vibe.
Tune-wise they could do with a few more big hitters to lift them a little higher beyond the mass of trendy duos currently thieving from days gone by. Or maybe a few more dramatic arrangement choices just to jolt the listener on the odd occasion. But that doesn’t take away that we are still left with a mightily impressive debut that slowly, but surely, creates its own space and time.
Posted on 03 August 2011 by Bowlegs
Opening with the heavenly voice of singer Molly Hamilton and breaking with a stripped and occasionally coarse run of guitars and drums – Widowspeak turn in a balanced debut of blissful, darkened and exposed sounds.
Occasionally the guitars wilfully respect the dreamy haze Molly is spinning, like on ‘Harsh Realm’ where their singular notes shimmer and fall around the singer’s warm tones. At other junctures they set the tone, like on ‘Nightcrawlers’ where they strum in an edgy, 50s-style fashion – only to launch into a double-time chorus.
The Brooklyn-based trio work with noir-like atmospherics – mainly to the electric’s distorted lead riffs, like a lo-fi David Lynch soundtrack. Check the excellent ‘In The Pines’ for further evidence.
The songs shy away from out and out melodies, homing in on attitude and ambience. ‘Limbs’ is little more than a cyclical guitar and low-end hum, Hamilton’s tones a serene sadness calling from above. ‘Ghost Boy’ meanwhile hangs in the realm of Velvet Underground and Nico, the tambourine percussion and ominous, staccato guitars come across like a drug-induced haze.
Yet tracks like ‘Gun Shy’ – a beautiful, acoustic-running track – have a brighter feel, turning to rolling toms, calling harmonies and lively solos, and letting in the light a little. And ‘Half Awake’ and ‘Fir Coat’ run on a faster beat, threatening a pop side to the record’s persona, though never straying quite that far.
Hamilton’s voice and the restless guitars join the dots throughout the set, and even if the hooks are a little too subtle at times, the sounds here are never anything less then engrossing.
Posted on 24 July 2011 by Bowlegs
Imagine Mazzy Star reborn in a garage – welcome to Widowspeak – our favorite new band. The trio, who formed in Brooklyn, like it rough and smooth – the smooth being the ethereal beauty that is frontwoman Molly Hamilton’s voice. The guitars (played by Robert Earl Thomas) take care of the rest – strummed, bent, burnt and dosed with atmosphere – they blur the lines between light and dark.
The band started off with a self-released a home-recorded cassette entitled ‘October Tape’ which found its way into the Captured Tracks offices, shortly after they were signing on the dotted line. The label soon got a 7″ out of them – ‘Harsh Realm’ – which you can get below.
The album, which is out very soon, was recorded at Rear House Studios with Woods man Jarvis Taveniere and promises to offer up heartache and reeling guitars in equal measure – we for one can’t wait.
Head here to get ‘Harsh Realm’ – Widowspeak – ‘Harsh Realm’
Posted on 14 July 2011 by Bowlegs
On the debut album from Soft Metals the duo draw on various, cultured influences to create their music. The press release talks about the controversial bridge between science and the soul via Carl Sagan and Ray Kurzweil. This may well sound like it’s all getting a little high-brow. Yet play the record, and, in a sense, the band do fall somewhere between science and soul. The science here is the cold machinery, industrial edge, the digital age – the soul is singer Patricia Hall’s vocal and ethereal delivery, which attempts to blur the edges between human emotion and the 0s and 1s.
So as ‘Psychic Driving’ opens with a Human League wave of filtered synths and analogue bliss (played by the band’s other half, Ian Hicks), Hall draws out her angelic tones, creating a more heavenly atmosphere to the sound.
Colder surfaces do come to the fore on tracks like ‘The Cold World Melts’, as the electro rhythms build, becoming embellished with varying retro keyboards – the song is more a series of calls from the singer (as is much of the record in fact), all conveyed across the driving electronics.
The choral keys provide the softer edge on the instrumental ‘Celestial Call’, the drums mutated beyond any recognition. Another instrumental, ‘In Throes’, has a hint of darker intentions: wavering notes bend, crash and obstruct to an effective end.
‘Always’ again uses the long sweeps, be it voice or synth, atop beeping bass-lines and old-school drum machines – making for a particular highlight on what is an effective record.
But if you are looking for big hooks then you may need to look elsewhere – Soft Metals don’t really have any (or don’t need any). And be warned, this record may well go over your head – and that’s not us being condescending, it’s just the record has an ethereal shine that floats high within the grey skies above.
Posted on 29 March 2011 by Bowlegs
If, lately, you’ve been dying for a massive fix of dreamy nostalgic pop music full of guitar chords laced over pulsating synth melodies and drum rhythms, then your ship has come in with Craft Spells, otherwise known as Justin Paul Vallesteros of California. But, as they say, be careful what you wish for.
Track one, ‘For the Ages’, is sunny, upbeat indie pop with a strong retro 80s sound. It’s also in four/four time. Nearly every track is four/four, with heavy reverb, sunny, upbeat synths and a central hook to differentiate one from another. Once you’ve heard the first few bars of each track, you’ve pretty much heard the whole thing.
Welcome to every three chord garage-band track ever written, Bowlegs hears you cry. Well yes, it is true. Yet historically, when this formula works, it’s usually because there’s something else to make up for the lacking. Some teeth. Some magic. Here, we get the same guitar synth hook repeated thirty times in two minutes, with the same drum machine rhythm – without any interesting vocals or variation in arrangement. Multiply that into 11 tracks and Vallesteros has mistaken creating catchy earworms with producing an interesting album of songs.
His voice also tends to sound as though it’s being strained through a muddy puddle, leaving the vocals virtually irrelevant beyond being another texture of sound. Every now and then you catch a vague romantic reference, as on ‘After the Moment’, leaving you in little doubt these are love songs of one kind or another, yet overall Bowlegs can’t shake the feeling that ‘Idle Labor’ has a very one dimensional vibe. Granted it’s a very twee dimension, but if we’re going to shell out for an album’s worth of Indie Pop music in the 21st Century, we demand more. Pleasant listening just doesn’t cut it. KT
Posted on 18 March 2011 by Bowlegs
The Fresh and Onlys front-man Tim Cohen is a prolific songwriter, and this is both a blessing and curse. Taking a break for the moment from his band, he has retired to his home studio and created not only this album but also the ‘Bad Blood’ EP.
It is tempting to blame this split release for the mixed results here. First, ‘Magic Trick’ is swathed in a very home-studio sound – which is no bad thing. The lo-fi recording can be charmingly shambolic, but it can detract from the effect Cohen is going for. With his deadpan delivery and pedestrian strumming, a kind of skewiff country is an obvious template.
Not that the songs deserve precious treatment – Cohen’s prolific nature means that the tunes here are more endearing than enduring. The majority of ‘Magic Trick’ is just that, one trick. Songs begin and end in a delicate whimsy that falls short of any intended weirdness – keeping them on a straight and narrow path – which is a bit of shame.
The girl-group singing that backs ‘Don’t Give Up’ bucks the trend for a moment, achieving a synthesis of Motown and country, but its impression dulls slightly when the exact same arrangement appears again on ‘I Looked Up’.
You should never give up on a workaholic, though, and Cohen closes with a run of songs that rattle with some of the intensity and knowing dumbness of the Fresh and Onlys. ‘Top on Tight’, in particular, is a song that plays the old trick of being enjoyably sweet with a deliciously dark sense of threat to the lyrics.
The album is intriguing; you cannot deny Cohen’s natural gift for pop songs. But we do wonder whether artists should always be allowed to dictate the running orders of their work. The strong finish does tip the scales in Cohen’s favour and ensures ‘Magic Trick’ is worthwhile venture – though we suspect there is better to come. JM.
Posted on 09 March 2011 by Bowlegs
Ever wondered what would happen if some of the leaders of Hazy Pop got together for a song? Well wonder no longer cos it just happened on Beach Fossils’ excellent new EP ‘What a Pleasure’. The track is ‘Out in the Way’ and features Wild Nothing’s Jack Tatum. It’s just one of seven tracks that shimmer and jangle in unadulterated Beach Fossil style. ‘Calyer’ is a fast-paced, down-beat gem – guitars reflecting the groups dreamy presence. Softly produced drums and gentle vocals are a Fossil trademark, and the band are perfecting it with every release. The Smiths are taken from Manchester and dropped onto warm beach under a glowing Sun for the title track. Other moments, like ‘Adversity’, slowly whisper in your ear- making sure you hear just enough. Beach Fossils have quietly constructed another fine release that is well worth checking.
Posted on 24 February 2011 by Bowlegs
The Soft Moon plays out like a Cronenberg Horror from the mid 80s – the dark industrial beats, analogue synths and filmic passages make for a thrilling, if ominous ride. So effective is the music you are almost tempted to write a script around it, though it may well end up as an extended, dimly lit, chase scene. That’s not to say there isn’t more to the record than a series of running drums and adrenaline, because there is, a bucket-load of atmosphere as it happens.
The Soft Moon is one-man-band Luis Vasquez. His production is crystal clear, maxed out with suspense, noise and steady rhythm. Influences include Joy Division, whose styled frantic beat and post-punk bassline runs through the excellent ‘Breathe the Fire’. Guitars come and go, as do the distant outline of vocals – both of which appear in ‘When it’s Over’, a track that slowly draws you into a slowly blurring past, present and future.
Each track uses drawn-out keyboards, from the fluctuating ‘Parallels’ to the industrial noise that is ‘We are We’, each coloured with a different shade of grey or black. And as the suspense, or frantic energy seems to have reached a plateau we enter the realms of ‘Sewer Sickness’, a title that maybe suggests its anarchic content. The simulated heavy breathing, the screaming, heavily filtered guitars and pounding drums offer little in the way of comfort – but much in the way of torn and distressed ambience.
So while the record may follow a fairly rigid template, it also manages to raise the pulse rate. And as the uneasy and agitated beat becomes buried beneath the surging and heaving synths within ‘Tiny Spiders’, it is hard not to be so intrigued that you dare yourself to take another look. BW
Posted on 10 January 2011 by Bowlegs
Those of you of a certain age and persuasion would be forgiven for, when first hearing the name The Beets, automatically thinking of the psychedelic, cartoon band from the TV show ‘Doug’.
The Beets of Queens, New York, could not be more different from the Nickelodeon comedy band with which they share their name. They are a garage rock outfit that style themselves on the Beetles and Ramones rather than the regular indie scene. ‘Stay Home’ is their second LP, following their first album ‘Spit in the Faces of People Who Don’t Want to be Cool’.
The album starts with the intensely catchy ‘Cold Lips’ with the next two tracks, ‘Dead’ and ‘Hens and Roosters’, continuing the fast paced beginning. There are influences from various music genres, from 60s garage rock to vague early 90s grunge references, in tracks like ‘Just a Whim’ and ‘Dead’, with a brief visit to 80s punk in ‘Floating’. There are also some very noticeable early White Stripes elements in songs like ‘Pops N’ Me’, ‘Let it Dim’ and ‘Young Girl’. But the guitar riffs are much less heavy then any grunge or punk sound, with no vicious bass or drum beats. It’s a simpler lo-fi form: think of many of the tracks as kind of de-punked Pixies, with vocals, that have an agonising Neil Young type folk quality, which are almost chanted rather then sung.
The Beets are a very likable band; they have a laid-back style to their lyrics and music with artwork and vocals that are full of edgy emotion yet with a humorous, playful side. It just seems they need one or two really classic tracks that will give them their hook, as their blend of retro mellow rock with a modern folk vibe would be attractive to a wider audience looking for a new take on the often homogenous mainstream indie scene. CD
Posted on 02 January 2011 by Bowlegs
New York duo Minks operate a picture-heavy blog that announces a band equally in thrall to American scuzz punk and classic British indie, but it’s the Anglophile side that dominates their debut album ‘By the Hedge’.
Multi-instrumentalists Sean (sometimes Shaun) Kilfoyle and Amalie Bruun have pitched up with a slightly greater than lo-fi production which cunningly approximates the ‘as good as it gets’ sound of ambitious mid-80s guitar-pop. While budget-constricted musicians of that era strived to rise above the limitations of the cheap studios and jobbing engineers that they were saddled with in their attempts to break out of the ‘perfect pop’ underground (think of all those would-be stars struggling along on Cherry Red or early Creation Records, or their Antipodean counterparts inadvertently conjuring up the Dunedin Sound on Flying Nun), Minks stick to a deliberate home studio ethic in homage to a sound that never wanted to exist in such a ghetto. However, by doing so, Minks have succeeded in creating an album with bucketfuls of understated charm and a near perfect run of tunes. Barring a couple of downbeat moments (the almost self-explanatory dirge ‘Out of Tune’ and the slurred Dylan/Felt parody verses of ‘Funeral Song’), ‘By the Hedge’ soars highly on uplifting dream-pop (cards-on-the-table opener ‘Kusmi’) and never-never indie-pop fantasy (such as ‘Juniper’ – perhaps a nod to The Pastels’ ‘Juniper Beri-Beri’ fanzine).
Throughout ‘By the Hedge’, Kilfoyle and Bruun’s vocals are mixed with just enough reverb to obscure any clear phrasing, making the album already sound like it’s been taped for the listener by a well-meaning friend with a far from top-of-the-range record deck. Fittingly, Minks also manage to slip in a note-perfect Flying Saucer Attack-style instrumental, ‘Indian Ocean’ (title borrowed from The Field Mice), early on without disrupting the album’s tuneful flow. In Minks’ heads it may forever be a rainy 80s afternoon in Leamington Spa, but ‘By the Hedge’ is still a pop triumph. SH
Posted on 08 October 2010 by Bowlegs
Blank Dogs, aka Mike Sniper, is the man behind the excellent Captured Tracks label. Yet somehow he still finds the time to release his own records, and ‘Land and Fixed’ is probably his best yet. Sniper is clearly not after any sort of mainstream appeal – his latest release a synthetic extension of the ‘Phrases’ EP released earlier in the year. Electronic beats, notes and passageways lead us astray from the big melodies and climaxing choruses – even the beat happy ‘Northern Lands’ refuses to become all string laden and cosy.
The music is out to corrupt rather than seduce – singular synths with a double, triple, quadruple tracked vocal (we are not really sure how many Snipers are used to create the masked vocal) work on what is otherwise is a fairly empty canvas. And if all that Bowlegs has said so far sounds less than appealing then we apologise – this is in fact rather good. Creating an atmosphere, continuity and a sound is far from an easy task – yet Sniper achieves it with 12 similar, yet dissimilar, moments. There is cut and paste from The Cure’s ‘Disintegration’ on ‘Longlights’; keyboard led Post Punk on ‘Blurred Tonight’; and the gentler and more exposed ‘Out the Door’. The latter finds the musician dropping the vocal effects (to a degree) and letting the real Mike Sniper stand up.
Most tracks here hit a steady, but far from frantic pace; flashes of effected guitar accentuate an eighties influence – vocal hooks keeping it a more modern day affair. It is slightly cold and hollow at times, but it is always captivating. And while we can thank Sniper for all the bands and music he releases through Captured Tracks, it just so happens his own isn’t half bad either. HG
Posted on 03 June 2010 by Bowlegs
Wild Nothing’s debut, at times, plays out like a great indie record that never was; an undiscovered gem from twenty odd years back. Yet its hazy melodic charm is right in the moment, the nostalgic atmosphere ably backed with a host of memorable tracks. These songs won’t just evaporate into their dream like surroundings – which seems to be a recurring issue for some – instead they will effortlessly drift through your consciousness as gentle reminders. The clean guitars that run so much of the set drive the songs and elevate the record above the pretenders, respectfully borrowing from The Smiths and New Order and more 80s pop you can’t quite place. The thickly layered reverb production calls on The Cocteau Twins and My Bloody Valentine; for further reading hear ‘Drifter’s’ blurring lines and cascading notes. Jack Tatum is the one-man-band behind the music; the Virginian born musician has a knack for the nostalgic and melodious. The excellent ‘Live in Dreams’ for one, hooks around Tatum’s realisation that in reality nothing lasts forever. ‘Bored Games’ has a more retro electronic persona; the singer’s softly conveyed words carry the melancholy – as the synths fire out a more dance fuelled backing. The closely entwined vocal and guitar lines of ‘Our Composition Book’ float atop the upbeat rhythm, the glistening guitars branching off for solos and a feel-good vibe. And as title track ‘Gemini’ opens with a nod to Johnny Marr’s tuneful strums the closing moment amasses an all encompassing set of guitar strings and warm moving keyboards. As someone in their early twenties, playing every instrument and writing every note, Jack Tatum seems to have staked his claim for one of the albums of the summer; Bowlegs for one will enjoy basking in its ambient guitar gliding beauty for a long while yet. GW
Posted on 20 May 2010 by Bowlegs
There’s a certain sound that’s very in vogue right now amidst the current slew of US (NY in particular) indie guitar bands: a kind of reverb-centric, cut-crystal, jangly guitar based surf-pop, of which Bowleg’s favourite Real Estate are a shining example. Beach Fossils fall easily into this camp; with last year’s teaser single, ‘Daydream’ (which also features on the album here) showcasing their alluring knack for producing neat little hooky riffs, and up tempo, off beat drumming, combined with some hazily distorted vocals. Now they come to us with their debut, self-titled album, featuring eleven evenly balanced tracks which drift and dissolve into each other amidst a confident blurring of heat and light. These are songs heard from beneath a diffusive prism of crashing waves (quite literally in the case of ‘Gathering’, which features a sample of the sea) and plumes of summery smoke. The only slight problem is, they’re obviously so keen to perfect this one sound, the album never really develops much beyond it in terms of song-writing, meaning there’s a distinct lack of any extra dimension here, beyond the singular – like eleven parts of the same one song. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Indeed, in some ways it makes the album feel like a symphonic soundtrack to a movie that’s never been made. And maybe, just maybe, if that movie were to be made, it would be something concerning the end of the last summer, the one before everything changes; not necessarily from youth to adulthood, but simply a sense of irrevocable movement into an unknown direction. The great thing about such a prospect is that, despite being background music, in a sense, the album is so vague and intangible, Beach Fossils could easily become the carbon paper for more than just a single moment in your life. KT
Posted on 24 March 2010 by Bowlegs
With the obvious homage the name implies, you’d expect Hanoi Janes to be a group of riot grrrl angnsty types, displaced in time by about 20 odd years. Having taken on the nickname given to Jane Fonda in the 70s because of her anti-war stance on Vietnam, these girls would be all bent up about, well you know, stuff. You’d expect that, but you’d be wrong. It is in fact primarily the work of one guy from Sachen, Germany – Oliver Scharf.
But then Hanoi Janes’ album, ‘Year of Panic’, is able to inspire all kinds of misconceptions. Name of the band aside, would you expect a German guy (who’s a bit handy with an eight-track) to produce a series of beautifully lo-fi, sub two-minute, surf-pop tracks, full of buzzing guitar and bubblegum spirit. Maybe – maybe not. But that’s just what Scharf has done.
The sound is distinctly garage, reminiscent of a 70s surf sound, and like The 5. 6. 7. 8’s, Hanoi Janes are able to launch into the genre with the luxury of being removed from the scene itself. Tracks like opener, ‘The Boys Are Out’ and ‘Beach Kids’ are unashamedly infectious, utilising catchy hooks, hand claps and the odd ‘Ooo ooo ooo’ to great effect. The production is fuzzy, but that only adds to the overall charm of the album.
Because charming is what it is, as Hanoi Janes have packed ‘Year of Panic’ with some real gems. ‘Summer of Panic’ offers something tinted with psychedelic sounds; ‘Our Lives’ could have been an early track by The Strokes had they been influenced by the Californian sun rather than the New York shadows; ‘Good Bone’ is a track which can only be performed if there are several oversized surf-boards nearby.
‘Year of Panic’ is lo-fi, scuzzy garage surf-pop at its finest and it deserves to be the sound-track of your summer. DS
Posted on 17 March 2010 by Bowlegs
The first Bowlegs heard of Dignan Porch was last year’s ‘Two of Us’ single, and it was great – the band’s lo-fi aesthetic unable to restrict a grand gesture in song-writing; it could be an anthem for all the bedroom studios around the country.
‘Tendrils’, the band’s debut, has more such delights moving within the murky production; they even throw in the odd crisp and clear acoustic guitar as a beacon of clarity among the swamp of distortion and muffled drums.
The four-piece are London based – Tooting to be precise – and consist of brothers Joe and Sam, along with Phillipa on drums and Ben on Bass. That’s about it on the background info.
As the album crackles and hums in the opening few seconds it is apparent that polished production is low on the agenda. ‘The Game We Made’ has a swirling acoustic and bending effects, the beyond distorted vocals relay a catchy and gentle melody. It takes us to ‘As You Were’, the band’s latest release; its undeniable tune sits contently upon a simple backing, the downward strums and high voice veering a little close to the lo-fi mastery of Woods.
Where the record is so successful is the musicians’ knack for melody – the songs average two minutes a piece, and whatever is encapsulated within those homemade moments the hook stands clear from the blurry production.
If these songs have enough to last beyond their brief visits is debateable, yet the signs are there. ‘We Sat on the Hill’ has a more thought out manner, merging solo’s and sounds, while ‘Like it Was’ could be their next single, even breaking the three minute barrier.
Like Woods, Dignan Porch will keep developing and growing in style and sound, and may even give Phillipa a few more harmonies (we hope so anyway). In the meantime the low key charm of ‘Tendrils’ is as refreshing as it is rough and ready.