Posts Tagged ‘Alternative’

Weak Signal

I’ve been enjoying the arc traced by Weak Signal over the last couple of years, scraping out of the skeletal bones of their 2018 debut through a very solid split with Endless Boogie earlier in the year. Keeping us all on our toes, they lobbed a surprise album out last Friday and it thickens up the gravy they’ve been stewing over the past couple of years. Bianca amplifies the guitar growl that’s been festering beneath the floorboards of their sound but doesn’t discard the sinewy, sly bass work that’s marked their work as well. What they’ve mastered on their second album is a sense of heaviness with an appreciation for pop. There’s a wasteland scuzz that buzzes behind Weak Signal, sickened and malcontent, but the band doesn’t growl on top of the turbulence. They preen and linger, they find the quiet cool and bring it bubbling to the surface before skimming off a few indelible pop hooks.

While still sounding like a band that’s completely contemporary, Weak Signal funnel a certain brand of familiarity into their work. Bianca sounds like it could have existed in the verdant valley between SST and Touch and Go as ’89 wafted into ’90, or at least like it’s found solace in those catalogs during its conception. The album chews on the gristle of post-punk and post-hardcore, but it’s beyond them both, merely using the genres as fuel for a more noxious and yet intoxicating mix that gets into the blood with ill intentions. As with their past records, Weak Signal seem to only exist at night. The pre-dawn hours fuel their impulses. Streaks of sunlight could only dim the glow of their tube-lit saturnine souls. As the dawn decorates the horizon, Bianca dissipates into the ether with a static crackle of feedback and a reverberating hum. The band’s been aching for a breakout and with Bianca that moment seems like it may finally be here.



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Silver Scrolls – “Walk Two (I – Nature’s Promise)”

Offering up a new cut today from the debut album from Silver Scrolls. The band is the latest work from David Brylawski (Polvo, Black Taj) and Brian Quast (Polvo) and centers around a meditation on walks, and their connection to free association and waking dreams inspired by The Christopher Bollas Reader. Gnarled and inherently rhythmic, the songs beat like an internal metronome, but spiral off into vibrating tangents of sound, both tense and amniotic. While some songs lean on the idea of walking as an escape from inner turmoil, some let that turmoil spill out into the streets and back in again. Honestly, its a rather prescient concept for a record in a time when movement is coupled with anxiety and allowable space has become a constant force in so many lives.

For this particular track, Brylawski explains, “The overall conceit is a person who goes for a city walk then anxiety comes in and (he) decides that a nature walk is what is called for – Nature’s Promise, a ‘Doom Blues’.  However, he realizes anxiety has entered this walk as well – nature does not guarantee tranquility, so (he) must seek something else.   This part of the album, the nature walk, was influenced by an actual walk my family took in Montana a year ago.  There was a sign saying ‘last bear sighting 5 days ago’ and someone had crossed that out and wrote ‘three days ago’.  My family started on the walk but as the path became more narrow and the forest became dense – my wife and I at the same time became worried about our kids and literally running into a bear so we turned tail and got the heck out of the trail.” The album lands July 10th on Three Lobed.



 

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Woolen Men – “Alley Cat”

Always good to hear a new one from those cats in Woolen Men and the start of a singles’ club coinciding with a revenue share day on Bandcamp seems like a damn good reason to get over and pick this one up. “Alley Cat” is a straightforward chugger with a lightly toasted twang that ought to get your head noddin’ and the grooves stuck squarely in your head. Northwest indie goodness filling up the speakers on a Friday afternoon. Can’t ask for too much more than that these days. Nab this one and keep an eye out for the rest of the series.





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Sachet

The new LP from Aussies Sachet threads the needle of ‘90s nostalgia, but winds up pulling its thread through some of the more admirable moments along the way. The band’s sound is fuzzed, and lightly flecked with an angst that soaks up the discomfort of the decade, while lacing Nets with a head-nodding melodicism that burrows under the skin to stay. Interlaced guitars, a thick froth of feedback, make the record a formidable contender, but they push it past the threshold with the quiet cool of Lani Crooks’ delivery. Her vocals add a coiled approach to the record, steady but always ready to strike with a hook that hurts and heals. In the past I’ve brought up Kay Hanley and Anna Waronker as touchstones for her sound and aside from the flashpoint closer of “Arncliffe Babylon,” the comparison sticks to the whole LP as well. Crooks slots herself in as a sly striker whose hooks take a minute to manifest but latch on for keeps.

The band grew out of the soft slip-away of Day Ravies, which contained both Lani and the band’s Sam Wilkinson. Where’ their previous band was more caught into the coven of jangles that’s spread far and wide across their homeland, with Sachet they’re moving into a thicker porridge. There’s a slower tempo, like the jangles were caught in humidity and then shocked to live with the gnarl of fuzz and froth. Despite the dodgy name, Day Ravies had an infectious reach, but Sachet seems to be the realization of what they were reaching towards all along. Reverence to an older sound can sometimes sink a band, but their influences and how they digest ‘em seem to make Sachet soar, making Nets one of the low-key charmers of 2020 that deserves a sight more attention. Friday’s a Bandcamp support day, give ‘em some love eh?



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Modern Nature – “Harvest”

Modern Nature rev up the release of their new EP with yet another taste from the ranks, this time featuring fellow RSTB fave Itasca (Kayla Cohen) on vocals. As with the bulk of their previous album, the track is built on a low-slung tension that seems to simmer and steam through the speakers. This time, though they build a symbiosis with Cohen turning a yearning folktale into a vibrating mass of sound that’s streaked with melancholy. The song has the feeling of staring into your reflection in a fogged up mirror — immersive, meditative, but obscured by a layer that distorts the truth. This is one of the most complete visions from the band, turning their haunted pop into an aching three-minutes of salvation. The EP is out June 5th.

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Flat Worms

There’s something fitting about Flat Worms naming their sophomore album after the last safe space in the world from a human contact perspective, while also naming it after one that’s in dire danger from humanity at large. Antarctica is a brittle, brutal, and quite honestly fair assessment of the predicaments we all find ourselves facing in 2020. Even before the proverbial rug was pulled from the amassed nations of the world, the band found themselves in a pessimistic crouch, uncompromising and unrepentant. Who else to bring these brutalities to fruition, then, but the patron saint of disposition himself, Steve Albini. The veteran producer gives little in the way of softness to the band and, in turn, they give little back. The record is fashioned in the mold of ‘90s rock that seeks to bring on a full body itch like an unwashed wool sweater. Though that doesn’t mean its not without comfort.

There are certainly hooks dug into their disdain, but they wear their frustrations on the surface first and foremost. The fire is warm here, but the smell of lighter fluid makes it unpleasant all the same. The L.A. band has been steadily building their sound over the past few EPs and singles — working up a ferocity that breaks loose on Antarctica. Their debut was lean and lanky, but this one’s put on muscle. The bass thunders but keeps its hips limber. They lay down a bedrock of metal bitten rhythm that traces the tail of the Northwest down a rabbit hole lined with Wipers singles, Mudhoney deep cuts, and Green River nihilism. The leads scream from the strain of feedback and bile. There’s been a revival of ‘90s impulses lately, it was bound to happen, but few of the revivalists have dug into what made the crux of grunge vital like this trio has. With this album Flat Worms find that same match strike that melds the hip-thrust hunger of metal with the careening trajectory of punk. Nostalgia be damned, this one feels like its got a talon in ya, and the twisting is both brutal and glorious all at once.



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Romy Vager on Psychedelic Furs – Forever Now

Still plenty of essentials on the way in this strange timeline we’re on and RVG’s sophomore LP is pretty high on that list. The band’s debut was an emotionally fraught, tumultuous record that stood high with ‘80s classics from Echo and the Bunnymen, The Go-Betweens, or Siousxie Sioux. The band has only refined and expanded on that sound with their follow-up, out soon on Fire Records and Feral aims to be one of the best of the year. Naturally, that put the band’s songwriter and driving force Romy Vager high atop the list of inquiries for a Hidden Gems, and she digs further into that ‘80s influence with a spotlight on Psychedelic Furs’ mid-period gem Forever Now. While its predecessor may have gotten all the acclaim for the John Hughes tie-in, this one begs further exploration and Vager explains how it came into her life and the impact its had on her own writing.

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Lewsberg

Dutch quartet Lewsberg will draw constant VU comparisons. Its inevitable, and largely, I don’t think the band is shirking the comparison. While they embrace the sparse, dry confidence of the band in their early days over the course of In This House, its unfair to hang this and this alone on them. They’re picking at quite a few other scars of the ‘60s and ‘70s as well and making it all simmer down to a rather tasty roux of rock that’s unfettered and yet instantly engaging. In the same way that the early aughts fought the rising tide of complexity in rock by embracing the lower rungs of fidelity and bringing the studio home, the band strips away any excess that may have built up in the past decade or so. They chip away production and chisel hooks down to their most primal qualities. They don’t forgo beauty or charm to do it, and that’s where the Velvets come in. The setup is simple, but in something like the swaying jangle of “At Lunch” there’s the same kernel of pop that made “Candy Says” a staple of mixtapes for generation after generation.

Elsewhere, the band falls into the same sonic baskets The Feelies, who were translating these impulses long before them, but still found a way to make the crisp collars of jangle pop feel necessary. The hum of the band’s gears is audible in the mix, but it only endears them further to the listener. The band wields the elastic snap of guitars and the brittle delivery of matter of fact hooks in the same manner that Parquet Courts have made their bedrock, but they soften the edges to make it seem almost effortless. Within the confines of In This House, despite it dredging up all these comparisons, there’s the feeling that the band just organically landed here. They’re unencumbered because they don’t feel the need to dress up the melodies with distraction. They’re straightforward with their songwriting because clutter makes them cringe and less is indeed more. There’s a reason that sounds like this have their own gravitational pull. We’re attracted to the sounds that don’t need us, the records that couldn’t seem to care if you listen or leave and that’s exactly what’s here. Its a record that exists of its own volition. If you engage, all the better, but Lewsberg are going to saw at the raw nerves valley that exists between punk, pop, and poetry all the same.



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Sachet – “Arncliffe Babylon”

Mid-last year Aussies Sachet released the standalone single “Nets,” which would not seem to be an actor piece and the title track of their upcoming album for Tenth Court. This week the quartet have a new low simmer jangler and its pushing Nets up the anticipated pile for sure. “Arncliffe Babylon” has an undeniable ‘90s quality to it, or rather, it has several that all pile together for a song that’s hitting several tips of the tongue at once. There’s the low-slung baseline that rips its riff straight out of slacker-punk pages – loping and bobbing with a bubbled indifference. The guitars are over toasted like an afternoon snack forgotten in the toaster over and just caught before the flames take hold. Then there’s the vocals of Lani Crooks, who’s delivery is wedged somewhere between the alt-rock quiet cool of Kay Hanley and Anna Waronker. There’s been plenty of ‘90s revivalism, but somehow the soft-punch and loosely braided melodies of Sachet feel like the right impulses are making their way back around. The album is out shortly on Tenth Court.


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Flat Worms – “The Aughts”

This upcoming Flat Worms LP continues to be one of the year’s gnarliest scorchers and that’s only further proven with the release of “The Aughts.” With Steve Albini at the controls the band laid down a single-take topper that’s raw and ravaged and fueled by the crumble of a ruling class long gone. The song is built to break — rumbling tension that blows through the restraints in sickened guitar tones and ball peen drum damage. The band issues a very bare bones video, but it works well with the song’s lean and lithe vision of what rock might be in the rubbled remains of 2020. The band’s full length is coming April 10th on Drag City imprint God? Records. Definitely one to put on the list of necessary pickups.



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