Posts Tagged ‘Terry Malts’

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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Smokescreens

Drawing breath from their love of Kiwi pop, Smokescreens’ second album bumps up the stakes and sharpens focus to match the exuberance and quirks inherit in albums from The Clean, 3Ds or The Great Unwashed. In tune with the wave of artists who made up the inaugural class of Flying Nun, Smokescreens have built their sound on a bedrock of jangles made to ring off the clouds, a relaxed lyrical style not overly fussed with cleanliness, and a close-quarters recording approach that makes the band sound like they’re playing from the comfort of your couch. Owing to members Corey Cunningham and Chris Rosi spending their off time in a few other bands (Terry Malts and Plateaus respectively), there’s more than a little punk and power pop that finds its way into the mix as well. Though much like the current crop of Aussie and NZ scrappers that have popped up in the wake of the Nun of late, the addition of a broader bent takes the record from pale imitation to interesting interpretation more often than not.

All this homage is nothing without the songs though, is it? Thankfully Smokescreens have a good handle on pop hooks and they stuff Used To Yesterday well full of them. From the bittersweet pine of the title track to the chewy nougat bounce on “Waiting For Summer” the record doesn’t spend much of its time weighing the listener down. Buoyancy abounds and its hard not to feel a slight sense of carefree bliss during the thirty minutes it takes for this one to wind its way through the speakers. In the best sense of South Hemi janglers and their UK counterparts, even when the record’s a bit somber its still pretty damn fun. They take cues from blissful mopers The Wake or McCarthy in this regard, turning their heartbreak into earworms for all to enjoy. Vaulting a head and a half above the songs on their debut, this is Smokescreens coming into their own even while they’re living out that life in thrift store shoes borrowed from friends of another era. They might not be wholly working in fresh kicks, but it looks and sounds good on them so we might as well all just enjoy the breezy results.



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Corey Cunningham on Tom Diabo – Dark Star

Corey Cunningham is one of those artists who has popped up on RSTB so often it seems silly he’s just now finding his way to Hidden Gems. With great releases from Terry Malts and Business of Dreams packed in his catalog he’s making a mark on 2018 with the sophomore release from Smokescreens, a collaboration with Chris Rosi of Plateaus. The through line in all of Cunningham’s work has been an effervescent brand of pop that bubbles to the surface over and over again. As such, I wondered what records he’d been harboring in his sphere of influences. Corey’s picked one more hidden than most in this series, the 1988 small press LP from Tom Diabo.

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Smokescreens – “Someone New”

While the band had me at “formed to honor their love of Kiwi pop bands” the fact that Smokescreens contains members of two long-running RSTB faves Terry Malts and Plateaus seals this for me. Their first LP came out on Corey Cunningham’s Parked In Hell records, and I’m quite sorry to have missed that, but consider me in for the long haul on their second album which is close approaching on Slumberand. “Someone New” is upfront about its love for The Clean but the band wrangles in bits of The Wake as well on this cut. The balance of jangle and fuzz is formidable and its close to bubbling over with frothy goodness. The cut is addictively re-playable and given its earworm tendencies, bodes well for a full album of fizz from the band.



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Magic Bullets – Young Man’s Fancy

Young Man’s Fancy, a deposed album from lost summer janglers Magic Bullets, is only from about a decade ago but the influence stretches back to the heart of new wave and jangle-pop. It feels like a collection wrenched out of time, heir apparent to records from Echo to Orange Juice to The Chesterfields and, naturally, The Smiths. The band is nothing if not studied in it’s appropriation of their predecessors’ complete trappings. The members would dilute their devotion to this level of absolute homage with stints in Terry Malts, Real Estate, The Mantles, Girls, Dominant Legs and Wild Nothing, but here, lodged between their two albums, they are rabid in their affection and affectation of the ’80s own heartbeats.

While the stylistic devotion is definitely something that dogged the band, they wore their love on their sleeve, wholeheartedly starry eyed but striving. The songs crib largely from material that would end up on their sophomore release, but in earlier forms here, it’s’ still pristine but somehow also unpolished in it’s delivery. The band would splinter years later with members going on to larger acclaim, but this is a picture of their youth incarnate. Corey Cunningham’s (Terry Malts, Business of Dreams) Parked in Hell has a tape version of the collection available now for those that have missed out. Close your eyes and any of these could slot right into a mix of your own favorite gems from the ’80s underground, and as a whole, its pretty solid as scrappers looking to capture a time they missed.






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Business of Dreams

Taking a sidestep from the crunch-pop of his day gig in Terry Malts, Corry Cunningham dives longingly into synthpop with convincing conviction. The eponymous album, released on his own imprint, Parked In Hell, captures an aesthetic that mines the early aughts’ love for the mid-80s. He’s got all the right hints of smeared window pane synth, 2 A.M. headspace-wandering jangles and lightly lapping beats that nudge the feet forward but don’t inspire any dance breakouts. Now on their own, those are hallmarks that dog-eared many acts in the wake of Ben Gibbard’s sudden affection for crying over keys vs. strings, and the shift has clotheslined many well-intentioned songwriters over the years. But getting it right, without feeling overly sappy or bogged down in influences takes a hard case.

Cunningham brushes off the flys of doubt, divining the core melancholy that makes this sort of synthpop work and he combines it with an approach that goes for subtlety over flash. He’s not necessarily reaching for hits territory, but he’s found a home between texture and temperance. The record winds up as aural comfort food, a smirking nod to those that always return to certain corners of the Factory, Creation and Sarah Records shelf when things look dour. In that regard I think the only true praise here is just a wordless nod in the night as we pass Cunningham walking around, hat pulled tight and breath rising cold into the street lamps. He might be right, “the world wasn’t made for us.”



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