Posts Tagged ‘Indie Rock’

Pearl Charles

If you’ve been hanging around the halls of Raven for the past few months, then Pearl Charles’ name should feel familiar. Following a long run of excellent singles, Charles’ new album Magic Mirror is finally here and fueling dreams of dodging out 2021 in the arms of an alternate universe 1971 instead. The record springboards off of the zipwaxed pop of her previous album, with a country-rock rework of “Night Tides” eking out midway through last year that gave some inclinations of how her significantly her sound had shifted. The record begins in a post-disco comedown, still in thrall to the a neon halo of slicked pop that gives way to the country comedowns that permeate the bulk of the rest of the album. Packing its possessions in the car and leaving the ABBA LPs on the counter with a note for the next tenant to take care of them, Charles heads for the Canyon calm of Linda Ronstadt channeling Young and Anderson, The Burritos lamenting “Four Days of Rain” and a touch of Fleetwood Mac’s studio sheen.

The record’s hooks are hung in macrame, but there’s still a timelessness about the album. It’s one of those rare records in which the influences lay so bare on its sleeves — exposed and uncontested – and yet it allows itself to acquire the evergreen qualities of Charles’ heroes rather than wind up a blurred copy of the past. Some of the credit has to go to the assembled players around Charles — Michael Rault, Ryan Miller, Dustin Bookatz, and Nigel Wilson — who bring her vision and songwriting to life like a modern day Wrecking Crew. The sounds here are rendered in Kodachrome perfection that hangs in the room like a photograph that brings a wistful smile every time it gets passed.

Pearl and the band are able to weave across genre lines with a studied hand that belies the songwriter’s youth. Like Jenny Lewis before her, she’s a modern troubadour with soft spots for introspection matched by hooks that hang in the back of the mind when they’re not trapped in a bittersweet sigh in the chest. Along the way on Magic Mirror Pearl explores themes of slipping away from a partner, slipping away from oneself, and aging into the best version of oneself. It’s a coming of age record that’s going to feel as welcome during the turbulence of youth as it does in the hindsight of age. It’s hard to had down a declaration that one of the best records of 2021 has landed in the first couple of weeks, but all I’m saying is you all better remember this one come next December.

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Styrofoam Winos – “Stuck In A Museum”

Despite forming in 2016 and gigging extensively through their native Nashville music scene, 2021 marks the debut from Styrofoam Winos. The band’s an egalitarian collective of music minds that bounce around the indie spectrum with chameleonic glee. On the first taste of the eponymous player, due out in February from Sophomore Lounge, the band is in full tilt New Wave jangle, wrapping their strums in some synth frizzle and lobbing vocals between members with ease. “Stuck In A Museum” is swerving the pavement with an itching engine of nail-bitten guitars that are soothed by the sweet sweat of vocal harmonies. Real glad this one is on the horizon for the new year. Keep this high atop the anticipated queue.




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Jeanines – “Been In The Dark”

Last year NYC’s Jeanines put out a charming burst of jangle-pop sunshine on Slumberland. The band, which paired songwriter Alicia Jeanine with veteran jangler Jed Smith (My Teenage Stride, Mick Trouble), is back with a new single for the UK imprint Where It’s At Is Where You Are. While the label name’s a mouthful, the first taste of the single is another delight from the duo. “Been In The Dark” swoons back and forth in a sunbeam of strings, a bubble wrap ratatat of drums and Alicia’s bittersweet vocals that tie it all together with the timeless pop bounce of bands like Look Blue Go Purple, Shop Assistants, or newer faves like Veronica Falls (minus the three part harms). The addition of violin sway gives it a particularly plucky feeling and its hard to not want this one to soundtrack every sunny day from here until August. The single is out March 6th. Nab one while you can.



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The Men

While a longtime fan of The Men, I have to say I slipped on the last record and didn’t get it into my life when it came out in 2018. That proved a mistake, as they trio picks up the journey began there among the glowing embers of Mercy. The band, led by Nick Chiericozzi, has never been tied to a genre wholesale – mining the bittersweet, and often dark underbelly of rock that moved from their noise-laden beginnings to the last whiskey, jukebox bombast of Tomorrow’s Hits and New Moon. Drift brought down the lights quite a bit from where they were positioned prior to 2018. There’s a lonesomeness to the record, but also a coiled danger that’s considerably palpable. They brought the sax that had opened up the wooden dancefloors of their ’13-’14 run to a new oil-slicked prominence. Notably, the record also let in a few other new impulses – country sway and a tendency to push the guitars deep into the crimson.

The impulses that were forming like rain over Drift pour down on Mercy with a cool simplicity. The band careens a country calm on opener “Cool Water,” while ushering their acoustic moments into turns of bottomless desperation and ache in “Fallin’ Thru” and the shuttered twilight of the title track. In these songs there’s a stillness that’s escaped the band’s past catalog. These songs are scars but wear it well. The other side of the album brings as much heat as The Men ever have, though. While their noise-coated early days certainly had teeth, there’s something much more savage lurking in the guitars on “Wading in Dirty Water” and “Children All Over The World.”

While portions of this might fit in well with the current crop of the Cosmic Americana seated set, the band’s almost an inverse of the sound. They find the same grooves and hit the same body high burn, but there’s a darkness here, not unbridled joy, rather the exhumation of demons through the wires of a thrice fixed amp. The vapors of carcinogenic choogle burning through tubes at a ferocious frequency. There are many points of entry for a band with the longevity of The Men, but this chapter, begun with Drift and flung open wide with Mercy seems to be one of the band’s most potent.



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Lavender Flu

With the new Lavender Flu LP now locked on the table, the band moves from their hunker-down home recorders to a proper studio, and while the fidelity cops less crackle, their gutpunch rock still remains. They exorcised the bulk of the noise in their heads with last year’s imrov jammer Admiration for A Dancer. Now, they’re following the scuzz laylines that were unearthed on Mow The Glass and this next chapter’s just as sunk in glorious muck. No surprise that Gunn had some noise shivers to shake out, with a past spent in The Hospitals, the sounds in Lavender Flu are practically radio pop by comparison. Yet, like Philly’s feedback chewers Purling Hiss, he’s taken the project from low-fi amp burning habitats to cleaner confines without losing that spark that set it alight in the first place.

The record even contains what might amount to The Flu’s most tender moment on “No One Remembers Your Name.” The standout acts as an oasis of ache within the confines of Barbarian Dust, dredging up some nice Johnny Thunders moments of quiet desperation. The rest of the record isn’t quite the calm respite that this presents, with the band riding thick fuzz riffs and the curdled comfort of hooks that owe more to New Zealand pop by way of the volume punish pulse of Afflicted Man and Volcano Sun than they do to any modern sunny day strums. Gunn and co. slide through the motor oil VapoRub vibes of the record before finally descednding into darkness. Then, after the comedown dirge of “In League With Satan,” the band caps the whole record with a bit of the crusted Cakekitchen-like jangles that cropped up on Mow The Grass. This is definitely the clearest vision of the band.

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King Tuff – “I’m Free”

Well, I’m nothing if not a sucker for more music from King Tuff. This one’s a nice curio that recasts a cut Kyle wrote for Ty Segall’s Freedom’s Goblin. The song’s always been a highlight of that pop Frankenstein, and there’s definitely an air of Tuff’s charm smeared between the bars. For this one-off single version KT gives the song a more pastoral rendition, still capitalizing on the sunny strums but subbing in some plaintive piano and airy whispers of wind threaded throughout. The Segall version acts as a respite from some of the sunburn blasts of Freedom’s Goblin, but here, on its own, the song is a cool drink of water in parched times. It’s got a fuller firmament in Tuff’s version, taking back the track and giving it a wash of his latter-day pop instincts. Good to have even a little bit of Tuff on hand, though I’d take news of a new album anytime this year if that’s what this is hinting at.



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RVG – “I Used To Love You”

Couldn’t be more excited for this one. Aussies RVG released an instant classic LP in 2017 – a record that was draped in emotional weight almost to the point of breaking, but so steadfastly resilient that it seemed like a life preserver flung into a sea of sadness. As is fitting, others responded to the sweeping grandiosity and laid bare honesty of Romy Vager and her band and they shot from the small scale to larger avenues. With a new LP on the way from Fire Records, produced by Victor Van Vught (PJ Harvey, Nick Cave) the band follows up one of their most crushing singles, “Alexandra,” (also on the album) with a taste of what’s to come.

While it’s hard to top the heart wrenching “can’t go home again” anguish of “Alexandra,” RVG still come to stun with the quiet composure of “I Used To Love You.” The song doesn’t crack into the emotional dam break that some of their past singles have, instead opting to operate as if holding back tears, not giving the subject of the song the satisfaction of seeing them suffer. There’s the feeling that after the dying notes of the song at least a few tears are shed for self-preservation, but the rest is a brave face cushioned in the resolve to move on to better things. The new LP is out April 24th.



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Melenas – “3 Segundos”

Have to say, pretty much everything that I’ve found emanating out of the Spanish underground has been a charmer, from punk blasts to indie strums the bands have a way of making the most of their sound. Usually the offerings are coming from the heart of Barcelona, but Melenas hail from Pamplona and aim to make it a hub of its own. “3 Segundos” is a tightly wound tub of indie-pop with a lock-step drum beat anchoring fuzz guitars at full froth and an incessant chorus full of sing-song ‘ba ba ba ba’ refrains. They pair it up with a memorable video that slices together childhood television memories into green screen chaos. It’s a nice hook into what the Spanish four-piece or proffering on their upcoming LP for Trouble in Mind, out May 1st.



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Rosey Dust

While its unlikely that Kevin Klausen is a name rolling off your tongue, the sense of familiarity on Rosey Dust’s debut is palpable. You don’t know Rosey Dust, but you know Rosey Dust’s record collection. There’s a sewn-in feeling that’s threaded with the spirit of American indie rock, pounding out wistful strummers, power pop solos, and guitar-grained angst and ennui that would serve as a syllabus intro to the late 80s and early 90s. Recorded with veteran producer Tim Green behind the boards, the record laps at Dinosaur Jr.’s string-strangled bite and the Replacements’ hangdog charm. The album doesn’t shy away from the disillusion that permeated the times either, mulling the meaning in empty aches and lingering feelings of loneliness. Klausen keeps his influences on his sleeve, but he colors in the lines well.

The single that slipped out in April “Keep For Life” takes its place alongside a complete collection of left-of-the-dial dalliances that seem set on bringing the guitar back to the fore as a personal crusade. Klausen’s always waiting to hit those solos, but like Mascis he makes ‘em count. They feel like anchors rather than albatrosses around his weathered indie odes. The set slips away into the late night linger of low-end radio static with a Chris Bell-ish sigh into acoustic territory. Tape is out on Gulcher records. It’s a tight, 8-song sojourn through what is and what never was. Definitely one to keep an eye on.






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Huevos II – “My Time Is Gone”

A jangled gem out of Massachusetts gives off glimmers of ‘90s practioners of the palette. There’s a hooky, harmonious feeling to Huevos II’s rose-colored collapse and it’s littered with the debris of The Pastels, The Chills, and The Sneetches. Like those, the band exhumes some ennui, though theirs seems to be a more American brand of sadness than these others, perhaps snagging a few Eric’s Trip allusions on their way out of the speakers. “My Time Is Gone” is a delightful downer that sinks into the marrow and mellows. The song sets up the band’s upcoming LP for Sophomore Lounge with some nice expectations. The debut EP lands on January 24th. Get that one on the wishlist.




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