Posts Tagged ‘Tough Love’

Big Supermarket

If you’ve had an eye on Australia over the last year, then it would be difficult to ignore the lot of talent that’s been bubbling out of Hobbies Galore’s corner of the country. The label’s given us excellent records from Possible Humans, Alex McFarlane, Blank Realm, The Green Child, The Stroppies, and Blank Statements and they slipped this little gem out from Big Supermaket last year. The issue in the States has always been that Hobbies G’s works are hard to come by, so its always good news when someone like Tough Love gives a wider bullhorn to their bands (they’ve also issued Blank Statements and Stroppies records). Big Supermarket shares a great deal of aesthetics with their labelmates – employing the jangle vs. jitter of keys that The Stroppies prefer and the low-key charisma employed by MacFarlane on his own solo works.

The band’s an offshoot of Aussie stalwarts The Stevens, with songwriter Travis Macdonald taking the lead here. mumbling his way through the obfuscation and clawing at the haze of pop through a plastic bag. Worth noting that The Stevens also features MacFarlane (who runs Hobbies) so it’s all in the family here. There’s a more muffled charm to Big Supermarket than MacDonald’s previous haunts though, turning down the scrappy jangle for a more introverted wade into the lonely waters of downer pop. Compared to their compatriots they’re exploring a murkier muck at times, hiding their soapbox behind a soap-scummed shower curtain of bluster and noise. Big Supermarket’s drums lope and stumble, the keys lurch and the guitars scrape the dead skin secrets out of the back of the mind. There’s a discomfort that puts the band more in league with Total Control’s nihilistic scrape or Native Cats’ anxious anthems. If you missed this the first time around, then Tough Love’s giving you a second chance to creep into the bath, crank the transistor static and submerge for a listen to 1800.




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The Stroppies

Melbourne’s Stroppies have been building to their debut album for a couple of years, issuing a couple of great EPs for Hobbies Galore and another for Tough Love, who pick up their new LP, Whoosh, as well. Culling talent from South-Hemi bands Boomgates, Twerps, Blank Statements, Primetime and quite a few others, the band’s practically dipped to the pits in jangle-pop’s pedigree and they don’t disappoint on the longform listen. The band has a particular fondness for Flying Nun’s sweet n’ shaggy shake on the genre and they flip through shades of The Clean, Able Tasmans, The Bats, The Verlaines and even a touch of Look Blue Go Purple over two sides of sprightly strums and woozy organs.

The playful hand-off of vocals between Gus Lord and Claudia Serfaty adds a breeziness to their sounds, and like many of the best in the Nun stable before them, they aren’t content to be crowded into the corner with your ten-a-penny janglers. They purloin from many of the bags belonging to bands that laid the groundwork for this type of sound – letting the strings ring one minute, then buttoning them down into a rubbery twang the next. They splash enough organ on a few of the tracks (like the excellent “Cellophane Car”) that it seems the speakers will get slick with sound. They speckle the record with hooks, but aren’t too hung up on crafting anything approaching pristine.

Besides bouncing the lead back and forth between Lord and Serfaty, the band embraces the kind of dented harmonies that have long found a home among the Aussie underground. They all lend a hand in giving the sing-a-longs a sense of perfect imperfection. Which, come to think of it, seems to be the crux of The Stroppies sound altogether. The band is like a gorgeous vacation shot hung slightly askew, steeped in nostalgia, calm, and charm. Which isn’t to say that the album retreads the past. The Stroppies know their influences and use them as anchor points, but they let Whoosh soar of its own accord. The band has created an album that feels worn in, but worthy of keeping on repeat. I’d snag it now before it winds up collector fodder for future generations.



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The Stroppies – “Nothing At All”

Bummed that not enough people have been prattling on about The Stroppies, but that’ll catch up to them later. The band’s proper debut is out in March on Tough Love and the second single clinches the quality of this jangle-high strummer. “Nothing At All” sees co-vocalist Claudia Serfaty take over and the keys that permeated their previous single, “Cellophane Car,” take a backseat. There’s more than a little love for Flying Nun in the driving rhythms and a boundless energy that’s beggin’ to break free. Perfectly swung pop that prickles with life over a bittersweet core. If you’ve been sleeping on the short format releases the band has proffered up to this point, then its time to get familiar with Whoosh.

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The Stroppies – Cellophane Car”

Great news arrives from the South Hemi today with the announcement that Melbourne’s Stroppies have a proper debut on the way from Tough Love in March. The band’s been charming fans of wobble-pop and Kiwi-leanin’ jangle for some time, spitting out a lauded EP and a couple of choice 7”s over the past couple of years. The band’s sound is largely indebted to The Clean but retains many other slacker-smirk hallmarks that pock marked members’ previous bands (Boomgates, Twerps, Blank Statements, Pimetime). The first single is nothing short of another stunner from the band’s expanding catalog – sprightly jangles pinned to sauntering organ with not a spot of polish in sight. Their embrace of the shaggy dog ethos of Aussie’s best indie gives the album a lived-in earnestness and keeps them counted among the most endearing proponents of jangle in a field stuffed with competition in their homeland.

Check the video for “Cellophane Car” above and get ready for Whoosh in March.

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The Stroppies – “Maddest Moments”

Melbourne’s Stroppies have been hashing things out in the short format following their debut cassette (and subsequent vinyl reissue on Tough Love). The a-side to their latest single “Maddest Moments” solidifies their rough-edged, smoke-ring sound but ekes in a promise of something more to come. It’s a no-frills jangler that chews on social anxieties, brimming with a subtle sweetness. This, along with their “It’s A Hit” platter from Hobbies Galore show the band working through the kitchen studio recording process and off the cuff riffs, but heading back towards the softer blows of their deubt. The video riffs on the live band clips that stack the channels, but with a pinprick of malaise that shows the band being bored by their own process. Looking to see where these guy are headed, but enjoying the journey just the same.



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The Stroppies

Sadly, The Stroppies eponymous tape slipped out in May and I was wrapped up elsewhere and missed it. Then I dropped the ball again when Tough Love picked it up for a painfully brief run of 100 on LP a few months back. Third times a charm though, right? Another scant run from TL puts this one back on the radar and pretty high on the “records you missed out on in 2017” list. As with pretty much the entirety of the Aussie underground, the members of The Stroppies find themselves in many of your other favorite bands – Dick Diver, Boomgates, and The Stevens to name a few, but this lineup begs them entry to the quickly evolving Antipodean canon of jangles and misanthropes in the South Hemi.

The record was cobbled together in kitchen recordings, but doesn’t suffer for it’s humble beginnings. There’s plenty of snap strutting through these tracks, but also a a kind of easy warmth that feels like some friends finding fun in their common loves. Built on a bed of jangles, the band expands the typical young Aussie sound with the addition of tottering keys and gnawing stings that pull this ever so slightly towards the new wave and college rock impulses of The Go-Betweens. It’s a solid set for a debut, pocked with a bit of hiss that makes it feel like a well-kept secret. The Stroppies leaves plenty of wonder as to where they’ll go next. This feels like the early days of Dick Diver and despite the obvious carry-over of Steph Hughes between both bands, it’s ticking off a lot of the same boxes that endeared that band to me with each successive record. These guys are ones to watch for sure.



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David West with Teardrops

Ah goddamnit, just when the term supergroup lost its last shred of meaning, David West had to go and assemble The Teardrops, a backing band that would fit the term if they really needed a set in stone label. Thing is, they don’t. The record plays like a collaboration of friends sketching out the best Aussie pop that’s been hurtled down the belt this year. Featuring Bob Jones of Eaters, Louis Hooper of Rat Columns, Mikey Young of Total Control/Eddy Current Suppression Ring and Raven Mahon of Grass Widow, the friends in particular flesh out a well-oiled pop machine that churns hooks and makes it all just look effortless. It would be impressive on its own if West hadn’t also cobbled together the charming new Rat Columns record earlier in the year, making this his second spotless classic of 2017.

Cherry On Willow is rife with cream-thick basslines that squirm underneath a frothing batch of new wave pop cut high with enough sparkling pleasures to fill out any dream playlist. Taken together, though, the album zigs though the many tessellations that made new wave and post-punk such indefinable genres. He’s dubbing out to blissed atmospheres one minute and cutting us down with knife-edge guitars in the next. West is a master pop chameleon, but his most enduring quality might be his ability to stitch stylistic gaps without making an album sound woefully disjointed.

Cherry On Willow sounds like an arc, a journey mapped out by someone writing a soundtrack rather than an album. He’s put together the highs and lows with precision. West nails down the euphoria and giddy sheen on the title track, then dives into melancholy on “Time To Forget” and the haunting “Swan’s Beat.” There’s plenty to love on his third solo album proper, and for those that are already in David’s corner this album comes as no real surprise, but a pleasure nonetheless.




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David West with Teardrops – “Swan’s Beat”

After already turning in a great releases with his bands Rat Columns and Rank/Xerox earlier this year, David West goes for the triple with a new one from his solo (yet very collaborative) band The Teardrops. The record pulls in members from Eaters, Rat Columns, Total Control, Eddy Current Suppression Ring and Grass Widow. “Swan’s Beat” looks to the big, syncopated drums and outsized guitars of the ’80s that would also serve as fodder for 90s hip-hop samples. Though, as much as he claims a Billy Squire influence here, West tempers the excess with cold n’ humid vocals a la Martin Rev and some flecks of dub that give the track a very modern take with a hot flash of nostalgia rattling around in your ears. This actually doesn’t fall too far from the spooky ambience of his standout from Rat Columns, “Blinded By The Shadow,” and its leaving me very eager to get more of this record on the speakers.




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Ulrika Spacek

This London band scoops in enough buzzing Krautrock groove to qualify for their fully licensed psych credentials, but they don’t lean on it as their only weapon. Alternating between bouts of sandpaper hooks and chiming, punctuated guitar, the band knows how to wield atmosphere and pop sheen as easily as the barbs. Packed into the album’s ten tracks are washes and swells that on longer tracks stretch their arms out into winding fuzz breakdowns. These sometimes seem at odds with the shorter, crisp collared pop-psych that makes up the album’s other face. The band sounds as if they’re honing down how to put the influences at hand in just the right order, but they’re at their best when they shy away from some of the more subdued moments that recall Deerhunter’s finer brushes and instead steer headlong into spacier territory fraught with fuzz. Finer details aside though, there are plenty more hits than misses for them on The Album Paranoia and I’d say that a debut this strong merits keeping more than one eye on them for the future.




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