Posts Tagged ‘Jangle-pop’

Blades of Joy

San Francisco’s Melter’s doesn’t embrace the kind of breakneck scheduling that some of their indie contemporaries keep. They’ve rounded up a tight roster of musicians who embody the spirit of their city and keep its pulse clicking, but the trickle of releases is capped at one or two a year. The austerity breeds quality, though, and from Tony Molina to Marbled Eye to Swiftumz, the ranks are filled with the match strike moments from some of the city’s best. The debut from Blades of Joy picks up this tradition amiably, with their eponymous album bleeding noise-pop from its pores, dredging up washes of Felt, and sense memory flashbacks of Galaxie 500 and Chapterhouse if they were further smudged by the sun.

The band swaddles their sound in a soft foam of feedback that won’t break, a fuzz that hesitates just near the edge of oblivion but never quite lets go of its last finger hold on composure. The anticipation of emotional spillover keeps the listener perched and percolating, giving the album a lush and luxuriant tension. They succeed in dipping the kind of jangle-pop that would find itself right at home on Slumberland into the shoegaze deep end of Creation and 4AD.

While they’re working with tried and true brushes, Blades of Joy reinvigorate the bliss that comes from melting their indipop in the sun. The album’s short but sure seven tracks evoke a lost, endless summer. Its the kind that exists without the heavy yoke of responsibility, lived without consequence in a blur of heat and haze and nights that stretch on forever. There’s a feeling that the record exists as either a fleeting moment never to be captured again as the band evaporates as quickly as they coalesced, or it winds up like so many Melters releases as the beacon to guide the faithful to Blades’ doorstep. Either way, burn or build, its a shining debut.



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The Chills

Second winds for bands can always come with a flinch. Will the band capture any of the magic that drew us to them the first time around? Will time twist your favorite songwriter out of view? Age has a funny way of changing the equation, just ask Smiths fans. So, with that idea in mind, when legendary Kiwi-pop forefathers The Chills returned with Silver Bullets after a 19-year hiatus, it was a rush to hear Martin Phillips still walking the lines between heaven and hope. The band was still braiding their jangles into biting hooks, still making lit-pop for the hopeless devotees of earnest intent. They proved that post-punks could grow up without wearing their past like a costume.

Not looking to lose more time, The Chills are back with another addition to their second coming and it’s continuing the quality streak they picked up a couple years back. Stuffed with new wave nods – neon cooled keys, a jumble of jangles and galloping rhythms – the record is a fine companion to Submarine Bells’ massive pop footprint. While age hasn’t pushed the pop scope of The Chills too far off of their original pedestal, there’s a lyrical lash at work here that might not have always been present in the past. Phillips looks back, not in anger, but with a skepticism, ennui and strained sadness. Snow Bound is coming to terms with the hope that a young band held and how short the world fell from those expectations.

The band has often existed as a South-Hemi counterpart to R.E.M. and Echo, albeit with a much more condensed catalog. Along with countrymen The Bats and Aussies the Go-Betweens, they guarded a pop vision that remained timeless while nailing the best hallmarks of the decade in which they surfaced. After decades of leading young bands to the right roads, The Chills are still building new avenues of their own. With Snow Bound, its clear that their legacy is on solid ground.



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The Goon Sax

When The Goon Sax wrote their first album they were still walking the halls of high school, and that album captured the restless stakes of youth in all their impatient, unpolished glory. The record both fit with and jostled against the strain of underground indie that’s pocked the Aussie scene. It was confessional and off the cuff like many of their contemporaries, but without the day job drag and disillusioned squirm of adulthood in their bellies, it betrayed the typically shaggy Aussie brand with a bit of hopefulness and a brash know-it-all-ism that can only be captured at the height of adolescence. As the band approaches their sophomore LP two years down the road – graduated, but not ground down – they’ve had to make the choice between letting responsibilities sway their sound or keeping on with their thread of wide-eyed, emotionally bare exoticisms of pop.

Thankfully they’ve chosen to keep the faith and while they work their loose-knit pop into a bit of a polish aesthetically, they’ve managed to keep the lyrical core raw and trembling and the songwriting tipping towards twee. They’re still caught up in a jumble of jangles, but the band have moved from tripping over them like shoelaces to fencing them in with a renewed purpose. Their new production sees strings swell and horns color in the lines, but its still as human and humble an album as their first. They don’t miss an opportunity to throw in a bedroom recording between the brilliance as well, just to change the shading, but the uneven landscape works as the listener backs away to take in the album in total.

The band has grown a confidence in songwriting and execution and they tie the record together into something that far surpasses their promising debut. Where they once brought sketchbook souls to life, now they’re painting with warm colors and a steadier hand. There’s a sense that the band could tenure track this sound over the next few years into something mature and rich, but for now the immediacy of youth is doing just fine.



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Woolen Men

Portland’s constantly underrated Woolen Men are back with their fifth album and it’s the best incarnation of their ‘80s and ‘90s excavations yet. Built on a bedrock of knotty guitars and bone-dry vocals, the band finds a new arrow in its arsenal with the addition of sprightly, motorik-leaning rhythms. The combo gives the band’s sound a good shove in the direction of the sun and further towards indie pop than they’ve ever strayed. To be honest, indie pop wouldn’t have ever been a term I thought would apply to the veteran Northwesterners, but here we are. The band’s had a documented dedication to following their muse and rebuffing the trends towards the grunge legacy of their surroundings, but they’ve often strayed towards the dingier side of the past when trailing that muse.

They’ve powered through a period of angular post-punk, bouts of college rock that kicked at the doors of Pavement and Husker Du alike, but now they’re finding their groove stapling early Go-Betweens basslines to R.E.M. fallout and Feelies vibes. Its as upbeat an album as they’ve ever issued, and in a year when anger rules the racks that’s somewhat of a refreshing offer. The sound on Post (a winking nod of a title if there ever was one) is as crisp as they’ve ever sounded, on par with their previous high-water mark Temporary Monument. Though while the two albums may share a love of clarity, Post is the calm water coolout to Temp’s agitator itch.

Style and genre don’t seem to hold a place of permanence in their mindset, but a mark of quality always haunts any Woolen Men record. Post is no different, the band proves that they can jangle just as well as they can wrap their guitars around the rubbery wrath of The Fall. Woolen Men have now been knocking around Portland long enough to see waves of bands filter through fast fad life cycles, and while they themselves band may still be holding down day jobs, their dedication to doing what brings them joy has given them a longevity that contemporaries would likely envy. This may be the band’s finest hour, I’d advise paying close attention.



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EZTV – “Daytime”

A nice little one off from RSTB faves EZTV today. The band is about to embark on a scant East Coast tour with Ex Hex and the video serves as non-album bonus in preparation. The song is breezy as hell, dipping into their well of jangles full force. “Daytime” is swelling with ennui, recounting the pleasures of wandering aimlessly. While its no new album proper, its a great extra from an oft underrated band. The accompanying video has a day in the life quality of touring, which is pleasant, but mostly just serves as some nice drapery on a great track.

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The Wolfhounds – Hands In The Till

As with many, I might imagine, my introduction to The Wolfhounds came at the hand of the C86 compilation. Though the comp is rather cohesive in its rounding up of the UK janglepop picture at the time there are a few outliers that stick out simply because they’re not as gentle as the majority of the fodder on the fabled collection. Chief among these aberrations are Half Man Half Biscuit, The Shrubs and The Wolfhounds. The latter actually lands close to the scope of many of the band’s but there’s a danger present in their sound that begs closer inspection. The band followed their excellent ’86 material with the biting “Anti-Midas Touch” EP starting off a noise-pop journey that’s still going.

As could only be expected of a quality UK band, they were participants in John Peel Sessions, leaving behind four sessions worth of incredible performances that sound surprisingly smooth all lined up. Given that the band was torn apart and reformed a few times over the span of the sessions, that’s no small feat. The comp covers a lot of ground and is notable for stringing together quite a bit of non-album singles material, touching on cuts from the Me, Cruelty, and Happy Shopper 7″s. The band have always remained admirable for swaying from the easy road, they’d captured their jangly beginnings in Unseen Ripples from a Pebble and the subsequent singles but turned around and drove the noise to the forefront with Blown Away, which likely dropped a few fair weather fans. This comp, sitting in the context of their excellent catalog proves that, like their peers in The Fall, McCarthy and The Wedding Present, they were an essential band carving out their own unique take on England’s rose. This is an excellent primer for the unfamiliar and an essential pickup for the ardent fan.



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Terry

Third time ‘round the track and Terry show no signs of flagging their penchant for bending twang rifled post-punk into an album of essentials. Fulla strums, that don’t blow too breezy and guitar tones that squeeze uneasy, the band pairs their whip-smart pop with a bleak wink at Aussie life and the drudgery that’s unavoidable. Like many these days they’ve got the income gap and the party politic in mind and its not looking good for any of us. Terry at least know that a stomach sick riff and some creeping ambiance can distract from the anemic self-worth of the powers that be.

With each new album, the band seems to dig further into their own warped groove. Al Montfort and Amy Hill have a drinker’s rapport and their vocal swaps and lyrical gang-ups give the record the same loose-knit feel that have long endeared Terry to listeners. That open accessibility pairs well with their brand of itchy hooks, and its not long before the band gets under your skin in the best of ways. They offset their charms with lyrical bites, and half-hug invitations are met with caustic jabs at this mess we’ve collectively found ourselves in. While Terry might not have the answers, they’re down to commiserate and “roast the rich.”

As with quite a few other of their countrymen, Terry’s play on post-punk’ isn’t overstuffed. The band’s economical use of space makes every nuance count. When they deploy the saw of violin or the gentle jingle of bells, its damn well with purpose. In turn, when they flip the pace from laconic to frazzled, every inch of fuzz rattles the listeners down to the ribosomes. I’m Terry is short, but packs a punch and three for three, I’d wager there’s not a Terry release you should do without.




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Rays – “Yesterday’s Faces”

More excellent news from the Bay Area today, as Rays return with a news of an album this winter. The band’s previous album knocked down a lovable corridor of post-punk that was particularly jangle jostled, bringing to mind the curdled pop of The Soft Boys and the brash honesty of Television Personalities. They show no signs of dropping those jangles from their arsenal on the upcoming, You Can Get There From Here, employing the very same tactics that have thrown their South Hemi counterparts in Australia and New Zealand head over heels for the sonics of past, with a laconic lyrical view on the present. On the excellent first single, “Yesterday’s Faces” the band even touches down in OZ to pick at the shaggy licks of The Clean, then welds them to the urgency of Wake in the ’90s.

Allusions to other bands aside, it’s a crackling track that’s balancing the upbeat tangle of strings with a sighed sadness that sticks like a lump in the throat for days gone past. The keys buzz like bar-light neon and Stanley Martinez’ vocals are flecked with a detached disillusionment that gives the track its bite. The band’s debut showed promise and with this track they’re definitely making good on it. Gonna want to keep an ear out for this one when it lands in November.

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Blades of Joy – “Be Kind”

To be honest, I’ll trust Melters to pick out the best new SF nuggets any day, and they don’t disappoint with news of the upcoming LP from Blades of Joy. Featuring members of Swanox and Dissolve, the band couches jangles in a soft sea of reverb haze, poking at Sarah Records memories and Creation cravings. The label’s gone ahead and done the service of name checking Rain Parade, which sounds about right here. “Be Kind” revels in a kind of orange-pink glow rising off of the water, endlessly rippled and delightfully cool. If the band continues to capture half the pillowy ease of this one, then the rest of the album threatens to be just the Autumn companion I’ve been searching for.



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Monnone Alone – “Cut Knuckle”

Lost and Lonesome cut through the fray yet again with another great band that’s winning my heart. Monnone Alone, is not, as the name would imply, a solo venture from songwriter Mark Monnone (Lucksmiths) but rather a full band featuring members of Architecture in Helsinki and Mid-State Orange. The first single from the group’s upcoming LP, Summer of the Mosquito, is the absolutely swimming “Cut Knuckle,” a gorgeously catchy jangler filled with 12-string strums and a chorus that seems ready to poke through the sky. The song stands alongside new cuts from The Chills and The Bats as an extension of the Aus/NZ jangle-pop prominence that bubbled over between ’86 and ’90. While the song will appear on the band’s upcoming sophomore outing, they’re issuing it as a standalone as well with the decidedly more reserved “Difficult Boy” on the flip.

The b-side is still besot with jangles, but this time they’re set to saunter and Monnone keeps the hook subtle, though no less affecting. The pair of tracks makes a strong case for the upcoming LP, out next year. There are plenty of good vibes rising out of Melbourne these days, but few are as arresting as the charms on “Cut Knuckle.” The band is making all the right moves here and I can’t wait to see where they go next.




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