Posts Tagged ‘UK Indie’

Doe – “Heated”

UK trio Doe follow on their 2016 album, Some Things Last Longer Than You, with a sophomore record for Glasgow’s Big Scary Monsters (on Topshelf in the US). The album embraces themes of getting older, finding freedom in maturity and solace in death. While the subject matter is heavy, there’s still plenty of room for hooks. The first track, “Heated,” dredges up visions of ’90s crunch pop from Veruca Salt and they’re picking at a lot of the same alt bones that drove last year’s standout from Charley Bliss. The band aren’t content to be backed into a genre corner, though. The track pushes and pulls between quiet, grinning contempt and explosive fuzz riffs that push for the kind of catharsis that fits their aim of growing up without letting the anchor of youth weigh you down or tie you up. Gonna want to hear some more of this record, but this is a nice opening shot and a step up from their DIY past.

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Our Girl – “In My Head”

UK indie trio Our Girl have had some excellent run up singles in advance of their debut, Stranger Today. They pair their latest cut, “In My Head,” a dark, rumbling burner slashed by moody guitars, with a surreal cut n’ paste video that drops the second Michel Gondry reference of the day. The band cites The Science of Sleep as an inspiration and it’s easy to see how the collage work pulls from his melancholy love story. The track is a sobering tale of miscommunication with a cooldown hook and a frothing scratch of feedback that threatens menace from behind the somber vocals. The band’s record arrives next month and this video serves as a pretty strong argument in favor of putting in on the ol’ wishlist.

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Sauna Youth – “Percentages”

UK DIY outfit Sauna Youth are headed back to record store shelves this fall with their latest LP Deaths. The first cut finds the band in bracing, raised hackles punk position – blaring air raid siren riffs undercut with breathless rhythm work. The track feels as if it might burst into flame at any moment. In under a minute twenty-five the band boils the blood and gets listener’s ready to careen into just about anything in their paths. Their last LP, 2015’s Distractions was sorely (almost criminally) overlooked on this side of the Atlantic, so let’s try not to make the same mistake this time around. The record lands on September 7th.



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Vital Idles

Glasgow’s Vital Idles sketch out the bare bones of post-punk on their debut for Upset The Rhythm, but even without a hefty whallop in their collective pockets, the band remains utterly captivating. In the grand tradition of Young Marble Giants or Tallulah Gosh the group makes the most of the basics, imbuing their songs with a driving heart that chews on jangles until they fray like unkempt guitar strings. True purveyors of the aesthetics over expertise approach, Vital Idles have bundled their urgency and wiry worry into an art school folio that pulls straight from the last waves of cool fleeing the class of ’79. It’s a package that’s built to crash but holding tight. That fragile edge gives the band, for lack of a better term, a vitality and its absolutely infectious.

Eschewing many of their modern contemporaries’ reliance on rhythm as the driving force behind post-punk preferences, the Idles pin their charms on the junk shop shapes of their jangles and the asymmetrical bite of Jessica Higgins’ vocals. While there are some fine hooks holed up on the album, its Higgins that elevates Left Hand from practice space sketches to something with a whole lot more mettle. The recordings crackle life. The songs never feel worked over – practiced, sure, but almost certainly fresh in the band’s repertoire when they hit the tape. In the end, that’s the best quality of post-punk. Rubber legged bass is fun but exhausting in quantity, hangovers of dub tend to dissipate, but the hook that snags the hardest is that feeling that it could all fall apart at any moment. Vital Idles embody that fragility, bearing the scars of past scrapes on their knees like badges, signaling all the likeminded souls that they’re versed and ready for another go.

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Vinyl Staircase – “Cherry”

Over here in The States, the rolodex of young British bands can sometimes go unchecked – people seem to get stuck in the old “if I can’t see ‘em who gives a crap” mentality. But weaving among the overhyped excess across the pond there are still plenty of young’uns with their hearts and guitars in the right place. Vinyl Staircases’ debut EP culls together four rather infectious tracks, with lead single “Cherry” leading the way. The track is wholeheartedly in the pocket ‘90s holdovers, but mixing their clans in a nice way, reimagining the Blur crowd mixing it up with The Dandy Warhols and BJM for a Britpop that swings a bit more paisley than mod. The track and vid are a whole lot of fun, and along with follow-up single “Dandelion Wine” the EP shows a band that’s got a lot more to give.

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Vital Idles – “Solid States”

Glasgow DIY-ers Vital Idles give a warm up to their upcoming album with the stark, bristly “Solid States.” The band have nailed the less is more punk aesthetic that drove classics from Young Marble Giants and The Slits and they bring that vibe out in full force here. There’s a detached quality to the song, ably reflected in the accompanying video of the band looking sullen at best and bored for the majority of the clip. The song is calm at first blush, but revels in a kind of below the surface restlessness that’s crackling with static electricity – bone dry but ready to bite when you least expect it. Looking forward to more from these folks.



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Dog Chocolate – “Tesco Flag”

OK I’ll be the first to admit I’ve often balked at UK noise-poppers Dog Chocolate based on that name alone. It’s abhorrent, but not wholly off base on the sound of a band that’s enticing yet corrosive in nature. The band’s latest single, “Tesco Flag,” is scotch taped to a clanking rhythm that gives way to nauseous waves of synth overload, rusted through guitar tones and vocal chaos. Propulsive, disjointed and ripped to shreds by the last note, the song boasts plenty to love. The band pairs this amphetamine noise-dive with a bonkers video of the band dressed as nits tearing it up in the woods (though I suppose those trees are meant to be hair, eh). Either way it’s a corker of a song and gives me pause on my years of write-off on the band based on superficial means.


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The Wave Pictures – “Jim”

One of last years most undeservedly glossed over releases had to be the eponymous debut from The Surfing Magazines. It was a step back into indie’s heyday, throwing a touch of surf’s veneer into a stretched and snapped web of toughened hooks that proved guitar rock still had some legs in 2018. The backbone of The Surfing Mags was the trio normally filed under The Wave Pictures, they just pop in ringer Charles Watson from The Slow Club to make the transition. Now back to their old tricks, The Wave Pictures have two new albums on the way for 2018 and first up is Brushes With Happiness, an off-the-cuff recording that the band did in one day. The second offering promises a bigger pop picture but “Jim,” the first cut from Brushes speaks to the marked difference between the two albums. This is a pure product of the band’s blues séance held one January night.

The track is sparse, but still glowing with the guitar tones of Dave Tattersall, who seems to have a strange wrangle on the lizard writhe of rock. The track slinks in and huffs the firelight out of the room, feeling full of detached cool, – the kind of track that would underpin a killer’s saunter into a nest of unfortunate victims in a film with any taste. It’s all preamble here, though, and part of me wants it to explode at the end into a shambolic arc of metallic shred but somehow that’s not what I feel is at foot on this record. I’ll be eager to see if it’s all held breath and hushed menace like “Jim.”




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Hookworms

On their third album proper, Hookworms have found their way to pop. Not that it’s been entirely absent from their work, but up until now the band has let a prevailing wind of noise and a frantic energy steer the rudder of their sound, burying the Easter Eggs of pop below the horizon line of their mix. Considering that the band’s driving force, MJ, has practically carved out an arm of UK indie around his production, it’s always been intriguing that he’s saved some of the more palatable touches for those under his studio wing (Martha, Menace Beach, Joanna Gruesome, TRAAMS, Pinact). However, on Microshift he’s taken the band to much catchier climes, leaving behind almost entirely the crusted foam of The Hum and Pearl Mystic.

In place of that foam he’s embraced the insistent chug of Krautrock and a swooning clarity that brings melody to the forefront on a permanent scale. At first, I blanched on this 90-degree shift. Admittedly I’d often found Hookworms endearing for their love of noise and their seemingly defiant shun of clean lines. It often felt like the band was signed on MJ’s promise as a producer and that any label looking to pony up was always hoping this was a turn the band would make. Now that they’d conceded to pop, it seemed time to shout down the cave in.

But the more time I’ve spent with the record that seems premature. Times change and the noise-pop wave that Hookworms crested in on and help foster might be on the wane, though I’ll always hope that noise-pop has a permanent place in the indie pantheon. So, it seems that the band should evolve. Stagnation is bad for the blood, bad for any artist. They’d done what needed to be done with the sheet of static and now they’re playing with the studio as sixth man. There still remains a hangover of experimental impulses and MJ and the band fold them into what works out to be a pretty solid indie record, though it’s one that’s not shredding the dominant paradigm so much as its trying to stretch it from the inside out. Here’s hoping they keep pushing.




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The Surfing Magazines

The Surfing Magazines knot their slackened indie impulses through a slow-simmer debut filled with rope-burn riffs and a midnight vocal slink. The London foursome drags the line directly from the VU and Jonathan Richmond schools of aloofness, swaggering through songs with an innate eloquence that hasn’t really been felt since guitar rock’s mid-aughts bubble. They embody the essence of detached cool, strumming with a purposeful, but decidedly laconic touch that flicks out frayed runs with a sigh that seems at odds with the lacerations they leave. If this were another era, one could only imagine a cigarette dangling unperturbed from the mouths of players in forgotten accessory.

However, while they find roots in an American past, there’s something indelibly British about the album – a stateliness that hangs in the air as the notes decay behind the fold. And thankfully there’s very little actual surf influence here, aside from the loungey instrumental “A Fran Escaped,” it’s kept to just a flourish and a name. Instead, the band projects an image of art-dallianced mod rockers whose jazz friends have come to rock a horn session, beefing up their stripped bare rumblers with equal doses of swing and skronk. Somehow they make it sound refreshing and, while there’s definitely a note of pretension here, like VU they get away with it since their charms outweigh their indulgences

The bones of the band crib decisively from the Wave Pictures half of the members’ background, with no real shreds of Slow Club’s lush indie-pop in sight. Though, what they’ve done with the same basic structure far outstrips Tattersall and Rozycki’s previous catalog. It’s hard to hammer at the essence of The Surfing Magazine’s sound without acknowledging that it carries deep debts to tried and true tropes, but what makes their version stand out is that they pull it off effortlessly and with such a cocked smile that the listener just has to appreciate their confidence and nod with appreciation.




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