Posts Tagged ‘Slumberland’

Papercuts – “Blues Run The Game”

Last year’s Paralell Universe Blues was a highlight among Papercuts’ fairly stuffed catalog, adding a dose of hazy gaze to Jason Quever’s always welcome folk-pop. On the eve of embarking on a European tour supporting Steve Gun, the band is releasing the EP Kathleen Says, which rounds up that standout from the 2018 LP alongside a dreamy version of the Jackson C. Frank classic “Blues Run The Game” and a stripped down version of new song, “Comb In Your Hair.”

Long covered as a folk staple, Quever gives Frank’s version a lush treatment that lets glints of sun in through billowing clouds. Though its hard to stand out among versions by everyone from Bert Jansch to Nick Drake, Papercuts gives the song a modern update that’s swirled in closing time twinges of sadness – the purple stage lights flickering and just a taste of dry ice on the air as the last of the bottle caps are swept into the corner. The EP is out this Friday and the tour heads out on the 19th. Give a first listen to the cover below.

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Boyracer – “Strong Arms / Teardrops”

Emotional Response continues to be a lifeline to Sarah Records in the here and now. After a string of reissues, including Even As We Speak, Action Painting, and Boyracer’s own earl EPs, the label is now working with the band on a new album due out later in the year But, bonus on bonus, these two non-album cuts have found their way out into the world early via a 75-run lathe cut single. “Strong Arms” is picks up nicely where vintage Boyracer left off, pinning a splash of fuzz to the jangle that long pervaded the Sarah roster. The song tumbles over itself in pure exhumeerance, veering wildly in its lane and spilling confetti out of the windows as it speeds away. The flip isn’t quite as breathless, but its a jolt of joy nontheless, if you can wrap old habits around Boyracer sneering about streaming albums. For fans of the band’s career (which stretched long after the seminal label folded through Slumberland, A Turntable Friend and Fluff Records) this is another great entry to their pristine run.



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Business of Dreams

I was surprised and delighted to see Corey Cunningham back at the controls of Business of Dreams so quickly. His eponymous LP from 2017 showed a deep love for the smeared and smudged end of the Creation catalog and more than a blushing brush with indie pop conduits Sarah, Postcard and Subway Organization. Folding back into his onetime home at Slumberland, where he previously worked in Terry Malts, the songwriter is riffling through the same single stacks as last time with a touch more polish and a slight step out into the sun. Where his previous album seemed custom made for long nights alone, the curl of fog around lamplight, and the drawn bedroom curtains, there’s a bittersweet edge to Ripe For Anarchy.

Blurred against the blare of the sun, the album’s still gum-stuck to the skitter of drum machines and hung on melancholia, but it’s also a perfect companion for enjoying the day and shirking off the lingering pang of depression that gnaws at the belly. Cunningham dips into the jar of jangles more often here, and even slips the beat altogether to croon against the soft pad of synths entangled in nylon strings with a heartsick heavenliness. While Business of Dreams might not be fully beach ready, RFA is out of the darkness and living for the little moments.

There’s something inherently perfect about synthpop for dealing with love and loss, and for every band that nails the nuance, ten more miss the mark horribly. On his sophomore outing, Cunningham proves to be not only an adept crafter of hooks, but an artist gifted with the ability to tap into just the right mix and measure of self-loathing, celebration, joy and frustration to make the genre work. He coats it all in an earworm bliss that’s hard to shake, making this an essential listen for the start of 2019, and likely a habitual home to return to as the year progresses.



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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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