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Hockey Dad – “Homely Feeling”

Aussie faves Hockey Dad return with a new one on Kanine that’s keeping the label’s penchant for skate culture alive and kicking. The band cranks out a terse burner, swollen with hooks and ready to blow, giving some good upfront feeling for their sophomore LP. They drain the pool for a full Dogtown-tipped video, culminating in a party that’s enviable in its raucous revelry. The vibes are a lot heavier on this track than they’ve hit in the past, feeling like a new tributary off of their indie-punk sound. Can’t wait to get the full rundown, but for now, this one remains on repeat.

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Swiftumz – Game Six

You’d be forgiven for having missed Swiftumz’ two LPs over the years. Despite crafting consecutive albums of homespun pop that shimmers brightly, Chris McVicker’s output has slipped all too quietly out into the world via the Holy Mountain and Melters labels. Its a shame though, because both records captured an artist who is at ease with his corner of the world – tumbling through a muted brand of power pop, glimmering jangle-pop and slicing through the bleary-eyed glories of American Indie with a rather precise knife. So, it’s with the release of McVicker’s latest single that SF’s Fruits & Flowers posts their second essential release of the year.

“Game Six” is pure jangled glory, spillin’ sunshine out of its pockets like quarters on laundry day. Like most of MicVicker’s songs it sounds so effortlessly intuitive you’d almost swear you’ve heard it before. He’s a student of the late ’80s and early ’90s and given a good time shift would most certainly have been pulling down some zine ink. This track alone is worth the price of admission, but he backs it up with a b-side that’s also tipping the gold standard. Shifting into melted-amber Indie-pop mode here and threading his way through Galaxie 500 and Yo La Tango vibes as felt through the soul of the late great Brightblack Morning Light, he’s letting things fade into a sherbet sunset – glowing an orange aura around the track to the very end. Both songs are on endless repeat around here and you’d do well to snag one too.

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John Maus

Maus has always been something other – an enigma bundled in unassuming strands of Oxford cloth, baiting your expectations and then blowing past them with an acerbic beauty. In the past he’s issued albums that cut to the bone, gnawing on the gleaming remains of your toughest sinews. His synthpop was spare and his shows even more-so – a man with a CD player publicly crumbling at the seams for the audience’s benefit. His songs were intense, but not altogether without a shining shard of pop lodged in their throats, a scratch that was never quite satisfied but always present. Now he’s crossed out of the catacombs of solitary, tortured synth and brought on a band, but his vision remains consistent as a bleak acid bath of sound.

He’s working his way out of a hiatus of sorts, Maus is back and while at heart he’s his same old self, he’s racheted up the production surrounding his dystopian stranglehold. As his recent gig at Basilica Soundscape proved, his addition of a full band has stoked the fire present in his songs full force. Where once he was an aching nerve, raw and scraping at the subconscious, now he’s taking the minimal wave vision of sinister synth to a new level. Screen Memories is Maus blown up into massive retro-futurist heights – throbbing with distended basslines, surreal synths and Maus’ own voice echoing around the sphere, equal parts dream-struck (“Decide Decide,” “Sensitive Recollections”) and perturbed (“The Combine,” “Pets”). Something tells me there’s a larger patchwork at play in the fact that the universe has delivered a new Blade Runner and John Maus record in the same slice of time, but we’re all probably best to stay out of whatever wormhole opened its maw to deliver tandem poles of glistening futurist melancholy anyhow.

The album arrives just as the idea of sinking back into an oil slick of anxious, seething irritation seems like the only option. If there were an artist for our times, it’s Maus. The album is twitching, roiling, and constantly assaulting the senses. It’s as much a reflection of daily life in a world where the news cycle one-ups itself with horrors for clicks and pain for pay as anything might claim to be. Maus’ brand of disembodied pop is a kind of salve, but only so much so in that you know that he’s feeling the slow, anxious burn run up the back of his spine as well. He’s a compatriot in anguish who can sometimes remind you that there are slight slivers of beauty in that polluted sky, but more often than not he punctuates the pain with a reminder that on top of your petty list of worries, your pets are going to die before you. Maus gets it. We’re all screwed, lets dance out some pain.




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Colleen – “Winter Dawn”

Perennial Thrill Jockey favorite Colleen is back and sinking deeper into the Kosmiche end of the pool. Ahead of her upcoming album A Flame My Love, A Frequency, she’s released a slow, mesmerizing video to the track “Winter Dawn”. Where before, Cécile Schott had worked through rippling compositions full of strings and built on an abundance of open atmospheres, now she takes as turn towards buzzing synths closing in her world with the rhythmic hum of a mechanical heartbeat. With her cave-echoed delivery, the song feels as vital as she’s ever been, taking a plunge toward analog psychedelics with a composer’s heart. The video, filled with gorgeously composed oil works by Connor R. Burke, is an absolutely engrossing watch that pairs perfectly with her new reliance on paced thrum.



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Premiere: Frankie & The Witch Fingers – “Sunshine Earthquake”

As they head out on tour L.A.’s Frankie & The Witch Fingers offer up a peek into the psych-soul revival that threads its way throughout their fizzing new album, Brain Telephone. The band has always had a knack for the video format, from the LSD Alice in Wonderland of “Get Down” to the psychedelic noir of “Merry Go Round” and the latest clip just piles on the exploded neon psych vibes that have kept them runnin’ all these years. If you haven’t gotten a chance to check the album, give it a spin and if they’re landing near you, be sure to go get a breath of the real thing. The stage is where they truly shine.

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Ecstatic Union – “Illuminator”

L.A. psych rockers Ecstatic Union slipped a solid release out on Lollipop recently and their single “Illuminator” encapsulates the feel good summer vibes that soak the entire record. Huge pop hooks are doused in the kind of glowing ’60s pop that permeated the Elephant Six catalog, taken even bigger by graduates like Beulah and The Sunshine Fix. The video has fun with a rapscallion beach rat character that brings a smile to any viewer. The rest of the record is worth a run as well. Get down with some sunshine vibes before they’re all gone.



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Beaches

Aussie psych unit Beaches has built a carefully paced career, releasing just three albums since 2007. Doesn’t sound like much of a feat, but in an album a year environment (or five a year like some of their countrymen), the editing process doesn’t always come so naturally these days. Second of Spring plays to their strengths – atmosphere and hypnotic chug lead the way. They drop a dose of shoegaze, Krautrock, and psych in the blender then whip to a froth. The resulting double album is a hazy mountain of sound that proves to push the band to new heights.

Perhaps most refreshing is that, for a band that’s somewhat rooted in pop, this isn’t just an overstuffed collection of tracks that found their way floating to the top of the pile. They construct an arc of tonality that pushes past hooks and into using the album as environment, a larger canvass to work out their sonic swirl. They swerve through eddies of echo, with vocals so lost in the surrounding swamp they barely register. The next minute they kick up the rhythms to a motorik grind that practically pushes the angles into neon relief. Then they smack down the obfuscation altogether for a crush of pop, that’s certainly not pristine, but shining of its own accord.

The duality of shrouded vs. palpable, gauzy vs. catchy is what drives the album into psych-pop’s pantheon, marking this as the band’s best. Its no slight listen and that makes it worth going back to for repeated examinations of the elaborate folds the band pulls off here. Beaches have spent time honing their craft and it shows on Second Of Spring. If you’re looking for a breezy run, maybe hit up another Beach themed outfit, this one’s gonna make you take the climb to find the perfect wave.




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ORB – “A Man In The Sand”

ORB are returning to the fold again, picking up their Sabbath-drenched saddlebags from the the stables of Flightless and Castleface. Though the album proper is drenched in a thick fuzz, shining up some old favorites into truly towering fare, they seem to be leading with an approach that highlights their willingness to bend from the expected lean on doom fuzz. The first track is rightly compared to their labelmates King Gizzard, and while it’s worthwhile knotty psych, it hews too close to their contemporaries’ sound. This one riles up the powerfuzz Syd Barett approach, which actually comes off like an S.F. Sorrow-era Pretty Things b-side. It sits alongside the album’s bong rattlers as a nice bit of respite and gives them some range. For those hoping that ORB still had some power in their pedals, fear not (more on that later). For now, find some joy in Alex McLaren’s kaleidoscopic cut-n-paste video which does the track well.



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Maston – “Swans”

After a solid LP a few years back on Trouble In Mind and an EP/Rarities collection Frank Maston is back under his surname as a psych-pop provocateur on his own imprint Phonoscope. In the interim he’s been busy as a touring member of Jacco Gardner’s band and working with several members of The Allah-Las on side projects.

The first cut from his upcoming LP Tulips sees the songwriter again working in a vein of whimsical soft psych that pulls from Brian Wilson to The Focus Group in its approach to childlike wonder. The accompanying video and graphics play up the ’60s connection nicely with a faded filmstrip feel and some BBC echoing design. This track feels entirely like its part of a larger whole, and while nice on its own, it will be intriguing to know how this fits into Maston’s larger picture.



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Wireheads – “Indian Pacific Express’

Getting to be a regular occurance around here, Wireheads have an album on the way via Tenth Court. The first cut is even more refined than I’ve heard them in the past – janglin’, plunking piano and a smooth keel running through Dom Trimboli’s vocals. This sounds like a natural progression from the material they’d cut into on Arrive, Alive, clean burning Aussie jangle with just the right touch of vulnerability and visceral punch. Definitely got eyes out for the new album.


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