Posts Tagged ‘Slumberland’

Business of Dreams – “Keep The Blues Away”

Business of Dreams’ debut was a favorite around here when it came out a couple of years back, so its good to see Corey Cunningham (Terry Malts, Smokescreens) get the bump up to Slumberland from his own Parked in Hell label for album number two. The first taste of Ripe For Anarchy swims in similar waters to that debut – rifling through the racks of C86 alumni, Creation Records deep cuts and Sarah Records compilation faves for just the right pang. “Keep The Blues Away” is smeared and dreaming, rolling on the bed in heartache and procrastinating the thought of going out for fear of being overwhelmed. Cunningham has a penchant for pop, but he buries the bursts under a half ton of velvet curtains in the guise of Business of Dreams. I’m all for the advancement of introvert synthpop in 2019. Can’t wait for more of this.




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RSTB Best of 2018

So, it seems that 2018 is finally coming to an end. It’s been a hell of a year by most standards, but musically its been damn entertaining. Perhaps its fair that there’s some bright spot in all the chaos. Not to diminish the chaos, but when the negativity is at an all-pervasive fever pitch, its feels good to have something to hold onto. I’ll choose to remember 2018 as a banner year for music and for the birth of my second daughter rather than the year that page refresh politics threatened to give me an ulcer any day. Below are my favorite albums of the year, taking care to highlight some that might otherwise get forgotten. They’re in (quasi) alphabetical order with no other particular weight on the list. Keep your eyes out for a few more year-end features this week before I reset for the new year. As always, thanks for sticking with RSTB for these 12-odd years or so.

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Rat Columns – “Sometimes We’re Friends”

Those promised Slumberland SLR30 singles are beginning to land and that’s good news for fans of David West’s output. West’s Rat Columns issued a criminally underrated album on Upset The Rhythm last year, and to top it he also put out an equally excellent album of his own on Tough Love a few months later. This short form release for Slumberland picks up where both of those left off. Just as bleary-eyed and blissful as the previous Rat Columns tracks, the single starts off with the hazy strummer “Sometimes We’re Friends.” Caught in the crossfire between jangle-pops bright bounce and shoegaze’s gauzy confusion, the track is an extended descent into headphone glory.

The flip showcases the more pristine aspects of West’s songwriting. “Astral Lover” is a bittersweet bit of pop perfection that hangs its heartbroken hook on a sea of strings and two-part harmonies that place this alongside many of the best moments of Candle Power. They wind the single up with the rainy-day sleeper, “Waiting To Die,” a track that’s not nearly as goth as that title might lead one to believe. Instead the track lopes along on a shuffle of drums and some softly tangled strums, with West pining for the end in a surprisingly upbeat fashion. I’d recommend picking this up alongside the rest of the 30 yr set, since there are limited colors at hand an the promise of a Black Tambourine exclusive tied to the set.



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Papercuts

Jason Quever has done the indie arc, working up from charming scrappers like Antenna Farm and Gnomonsong to bigger players like Sub Pop and Easy Sound. Now he’s settling into his seventh album for Slumberland and it feels like a perfect fit. Quever has always straddled the lines between folk-pop and dream pop but he’s never quite blurred the borders like he has here. The record opens with the narcotic, hazy strains of “Mattress on the Floor,” a half-dreamt attempt to work the sleep out of his eyes, but from there he grabs hold of hooks like a man with conviction. Quever conjures melodies to his aid with the deft hand of a seasoned musician, The album is full of strums and swoons, heartbreaks and hubris and each piece of the puzzle has the potential to hook into listeners with a wave of primrose pinpricks. Its an album about leaving behind a life that was supposed to pan out for a new venture that’s no sure thing. As Quever is crushed, so are we but he’s not always playing his hand straight.

The soft focus approach here is what gives Papercuts such purchase in the Slumberland ranks. There’s a jangled core that’s not too far from the folk shores he’s often populated, but this time each song is smudged at the edges like a photo faded by time, colored by the orange and brown hues that eat at old Kodak prints, clouded by dust and fingerprints to the point where the shapes remain, but the details are lost. In the same way he looks back on a relationship set adrift, the mistakes smudged the same as his strums and the details lost by one’s own dusty biases and emotional gaslighting. Parallel Universe Blues is a strong entry to the Papercuts catalog – dreamy and working its way into your life with subtle earworms that are as strong as any at his command. While the album is about leaving pain behind, its also a comforting companion to those who ache and a salve in times of need. Its proof that Quever was never just a tangential folk voice, but a vital one that never quite got his day.



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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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Papercuts – “Laughing Man”

Slumberland’s having quite a year so far and with new releases on the way from Peel Dream Magazine, Wolfhounds and now Papercuts, its looking to get that much better. Its been about four years since Jason Quever graced the world with a Papercuts LP, though he’s been plenty busy in the meantime – working with Luna, Beach House, Elisa Ambrogio and producing this year’s great Massage LP. After bouncing around from Gnomonsong to Sub Pop and Easy Sound, Slumberland seems like a good fit for the lush sounds of Parallel Universe Blues. The first cut from the album, “Laughing Man,” sees Quever working under a gorgeous haze. The song steps down on muted jangles but they’re lost in an elusive tangle of warm fuzz and echoed bliss. Good to have Jason back on the scene and looking forward to where the rest of Blues leads.



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Tony Molina

I continue to be floored by how much punch Tony Molina can pack into about fifteen full minutes of material. His albums are exercises in self-restraint, picking out heartbreaking hooks and using them once or twice before the man walks away leaving audiences wanting much, much more. His songs never sound half-finished though – despite their length – they simply breeze into all of our lives, soften our hearts and flutter on back home to Tony’s power pop soul. Call them indie pop jingles or compact-size singles, but Molina remains a master craftsman of the sort of digestible pop that can be absorbed in full over the course of a state mandated fifteen-minute retail break.

As has been well noted, here and elsewhere, the second album, like the EP that preceded it has softened the crunch from Molina’s Ocasek-era Weezer / early Fanclub leanings. He’s dug out the twelve-string here and has clearly been listening to the most tender-hearted moments of the Byrds catalog. He’s sopping up the tears shed by teens finding solace in Elliott Smith’s oeuvre and he’s still not done with the likes of Norman Blake and the boys in Fanclub’s van. He’s just moved on to their own softer side. On Kill The Lights Molina combines all these influences into a power pop pit stop that’s bittersweet, but blissful, and absolutely one of the most touching albums of the year.

More than a punk in folk’s clothing, Molina has grafted the economical length of punk’s attention span to lush arrangements that are anything but frugal when it comes to production. These are mini-epics of pop squeezed into snow globes and they dazzle with their ornate details. Every time this album comes to an end I find myself turning it back on all over again. The songs on Kill The Lights are stunners one and all and I’m pretty sure this could just be set on a loop and keep a room at attention for well past an hour. Tony might dole out his gifts in small packages, but he’s an argument in favor of quality over quantity to say the least.



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Roxanne Clifford on Shirley Collins and Davy Graham – Folk Roots, New Routes

I’m excited to say that this series now boasts two members of longtime RSTB fave Veronica Falls. Though the band has gone on to new ventures, their taut indie pop will forever be embedded in my heart. One of the band’s greatest strengths was songwriter and singer Roxanne Clifford and she’s brought that same spirit, albeit with an ear towards synth-pop strains over jangles, to her band Patience. With a clutch of great singles already in her catalog, the band has already proven indispensable. So, I was eager to see what Roxanne would pick as deserving of another listen and some time under the spotlight. She’s reached back to a folk classic, the homespun folk of Shirley Collins and Davy Grahams’s – Folk Roots, New Routes. Check out how this found its way into her collection.

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Slumberland SL30 Singles Series

It should come as no surprise that Slumberland is a favorite label around here, so the news that they’re prepping a 30th anniversary singles series comes with a lot of excitement. The singles will be shipped between now and December 2019, around the actual anniversary of the label. The first couple start strong out of the gate, with an offering from David West’s Rat Columns and ’90s indie-poppers The Suncharms. The rest of the series is no slouch either, focusing on atypical Slumberland artists with a goal of showcasing non-roster material that fans might be missing out on. The lineup includes Dolly Dream (featuring Meg Remy from U.S. Girl), Baltimore’s Wildhoney, Pale Lights and Lake Ruth from NYC, Failed Flowers (Anna Burch and Fred Thomas), David Callahan (of The Wolfhound) and RSTB fave and Fruits & Flowers alum Odd Hope.

At $100 shipped and shelved the package is a great deal from one of the leading lights in janglepop and indie pop for the past three decades. Check out the label for the details: HERE.

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Tony Molina – “Wrong Town”

Every new bit from Tony is better than the last. His upcoming sophomore LP for Slumberland is fully entrenched in his acoustic persona, wedging his songs between the heartbroken strains of Elliott Smith, Emmitt Rhodes and the gentlest bits of the Davies brothers. “Wrong Town” is practically begging for Wes Anderson to write the scene it belongs in, throwing the bittersweet gauntlet down in a one minute challenge. From the sounds of the first couple of tracks off of this Molina is well on his way to a newly minted classic. As usual each song gets its hooks into and then fades away like a memory gone too soon. Damned evil in that way, leaving the listener always wanting just a touch more.

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