Chastity (Brandon Williams) hails from Whitby, Ontario, a suburb well removed - both physically and emblematically - from the stirring city of Toronto. Chastity channels the angst of small town isolation, but focuses most on the bursting, earnest connections formed among suburban, blue-collar youth. The genre bending music of Chastity hovers in a space of oscillating urgency, both melodic and noisey, juxtaposing themes of collectivity and isolation. It is, in short, a perpetual ode to youth culture that winds in and out of the darkest and lightest edges of the self, and ultimately celebrates all it has to offer.
Before there was The Cleaners from Venus, prolific singer-songwriter and national treasure of Wivenhoe, England, Martin Newell was in a band called The Stray Trolleys. In 1980, he and a few youngish unknowns got together in a little home-built country studio and recorded a handful of songs for an album that eventually emerged on a DIY cassette, Barricades and Angels. They weren't perfect, but there is something very special about this collection. The music captures a time. Just listen.
The Luna Long Players Box Set gathers the band's five albums from the 90's as well as a compilation of demos and B-sides recorded contemporaneously. They are all housed in a beautiful textured canvas box. Accompanying the records is a 12" x 12" book featuring archival imagery, an interview with Dean Wareham conducted by Noah Baumbach, and an oral history with the band and their producers. As the majority of these records were never released on vinyl outside of limited pressings, this is a boon to longtime fans and new listeners alike.
Year after year the New York City we know, in constant flux, changes with some parts disappearing altogether. The Brooklyn venue where the three-piece EZTV played their first show two years ago? Gone. The East Village record store that stocked the band's first tape - shuttered. As the band watch their compatriots move out of the city to cheaper pastures, it's as if New York itself is saying: "Drop dead." But the shining "High Flying Faith" -- the first song written for the album -- is a refutation of urban weariness, it's title acting as a makeshift motto for the optimism (and stubbornness) that is key to New York bands like EZTV. It's a song that best shows how EZTV operate: toeing the line between past and present, with a keen ear for experimentation that never lets the songs hew too far into genre nostalgia. Many of the band's foundational inspirations -- the Feelies' jangle, the upside-down pop architecture of Arthur Russell's The Necessaries, Shoes' aching harmonies -- are back in play on their sophomore album, though new instruments and feels abound throughout. The advantage to living in New York? Eventually all your friends come to visit. EZTV invited some like-minds into the studio -- Jenny Lewis, Chris Cohen, Martin Courtney and Matt Kallman of Real Estate, John Andrews of Quilt, Nic Hessler and Mega Bog -- to guest. Aptly recorded on a tape machine purchased from a Lower East Side Studio that was going out of business, in a space where the New York City skyline both loomed and inspired through its glass windows, High in Place is an album of ten golden pop songs worthy of any era.
After relocating from Asheville to Austin, Molly Burch found herself reflecting back on past lives and past relationships. Drawing inspiration from Dusty Springfield, Patsy Cline, The Shirelles, and The Everly Brothers, she recorded a mature set of tracks full of vintage atmosphere and dreamy melancholy. Downhearted is a melodic, soulful introduction which dives into the depths of love and lovesickness, giving voice to the desires that separate the two.
This is her debut 7" for Captured Tracks. A full-length is expected in early 2017.
By late May of 1989, Cleaners from Venus man Martin Newell and Peter Nice a/k/a Nelson finished their first album, Lizardland, and handed it over to upstart indie Deltic Records. Though there is a fair amount of Cleaners from Venus DNA in the mix due to the charms of the definitely lo-fi recording methods, the music of the Brotherhood of Lizards has a sharp sound all its own. And, the story doesn't stop there.
Towards the end of 1989, label head Andy McQueen, who knew Newell's aversion to touring, asked if there was any possibility that the duo might go on a promotional tour. Newell replied, "Only by bicycle." Soon after, whilst studying a map of England and its regional radio stations, it struck Newell that a bicycle tour might be a real possibility. Thus, amazingly, in early October, the two set off on bicycles, instruments on backs, tiny amps in front carriers, for a 600-mile busking tour of the entire southern half of England. The media became unexpectedly interested. More through sheer eccentricity than eco-activism, at the turn of a turbulent decade, the Lizards had unwittingly hitched a ride on a brand new zeitgeist. They were called "The First Eco Rock Band" and the tour became the subject of a number of news items.
As 1990 rolled around, however, there was one big problem, for Newell at least: while the Lizards cycled and busked, an EMI employee saw Nelson on TV and thought he would be great replacement bass player for New Model Army. Nelson attended and passed the New Model Army audition and stayed with that band for well over two decades, although it spelled the end of the Brotherhood of Lizards. In spring of 1990, almost two years after they had begun, it was all over. They travelled over a thousand miles on bikes, busked their way around England and made all of the music contained here in this collection.
Milk 'n' Cookies are the stuff of legends - or would be legends. Forming in the early 70s in Long Island, New York, this power pop group was originally signed to Island Records and seemed destined for greatness. Yet, through many cases of "wrong place, wrong time," the band never managed to break. The core line-up of the band was made up of Ian North, Justin Strauss, Sal Maida and Mike Ruiz and, in their time, they played classic NYC venues like CBGB's and Max's Kansas City. They shared bills with everyone from Talking Heads to The Ramones and have amassed a cult following, influencing the likes of Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth) and Debbie Harry (Blondie).
After working extensively with the band members, Milk 'n' Cookies is a lavish reissue of the group's entire recorded output. Housed in a deluxe slipcase is the band's original legendary LP, a 2xLP featuring rare and unreleased tracks, as well as a book that chronicles the full history of the band's wild ride through the music biz - as told by the band themselves, through accounts from their many (in)famous admirers and through never-before-seen photographs.
Ha, Ha, He. has all the twists and turns of Post-Rock from its Chicago heyday bolstered by the melodic quirkiness of a new influence for the band, Throwing Muses. On "Brother, Brother" and "Howard," we see MOURN through a pop lens: undeniably catchy, but intricately performed and still somehow heavy. This is a band that can play around with the pop format in a way that doesn't degrade their song-writing talent to the lowest common denominator. Not an easy task. Further on, the track "Storyteller" goes on it's own trip through downtempo drudgery, into a melodic bridge, and concludes with anthemic sing-screaming. On the equally challenging-yet-beautiful "Second Sage," it becomes apparent that MOURN have begun to carve out their own niche and their songs are no longer fits of inspiration indebted to their heroes, but just the band being themselves.
As If Apart, the long-awaited sequel to Chris Cohen's 2012 soft psych garden of unearthly alter-pop earworms and studio-sonic delights Overgrown Path, follows on its predecessor with another bittersweet ensemble of dreamy, complex songs. Pushing the idiosyncrasies of Cohen's melodic and rhythmic approach into even more fractured, shifting spaces, As if Apart unsettles lazy pop conventions, upending jaded heads and hearts with an expansive, moody psychedelia. Where Overgrown Path plunged within, As if Apart voyages out. And up.
Dinner is Danish producer and singer Anders Rhedin. Dinner leads a nomadic existence, dividing his time between Los Angeles, Copenhagen and Berlin. So far, Dinner has 3 EPs and a guided hypnosis tape under his belt. This April sees the release of his debut album Psychic Lovers.
Whether the finished album lives up to Dinner's vision only Dinner knows. Musically, the album exists in its own space between the 80's, 90's and the present. The songs are pop songs held together by somewhat idiosyncratic arrangements. Opener "Cool As Ice" sounds like the soundtrack to David Lynch directing Miami Vice with overdriven synthetic strings and an equally eerie and funky slap bass that slowly grow into a pop structure. "Turn Me On" invokes the feeling of Sade recorded on VHS fronted by Klaus Nomi's baryton-possessed ghost, or a warped jingle from The Home Shopping Network. The song "Lie" has distinct Nico-esque undertones and John Cale-ish overtones wrapped in 80's melancholy, while "Wake Up" and "The World" explore inverted 90's Euro-pop. In the words of mix-engineer Filip Nicolic (Poolside), "The whole album sounds like Chimo Bayo produced by Marquis de Sade." An even more concise definition of Dinner comes from label-mate Mac Demarco: "Great face, great body, great tunes."
Jamil Rashad, a/k/a Boulevards, is the embodiment of funk. Taking queues from pioneers such as Prince, Rick James, and Earth Wind & Fire, Boulevards seamlessly delivers cheeky, party-themed jams that range from raw and risque to soulful on his debut LP Groove!
Boulevards evokes a spirit from a time that combined intricate production with a focus on rhythm and getting people back on the dance floor. With Groove!, Boulevards does just that. On tracks like "Patience," Rashad melds pop with vintage hip-hop elements -- think Eddie Murphy meets The Sugarhill Gang -- and it just works. "Cold Call" introduces a slow hypnotic groove before a symphony of synths, creating a rhythmic cadence that stays with you even after the party is over. However, to give Groove! merit solely based on nostalgia would be a mistake. Groove! is not just a rework of a classic sound - it is an intelligent collection, an evolution to reign in a new era of funk - heard via the disco pulses on tracks like "Weekend Love" and "Up On Your Love," nodding to industry giants like Pharrell and Breakbot.
Three psychos that came to be through fate by way of necessity, B Boys offer up to the world their sonic manifesto, No Worry No Mind. A relief from the mania, an expression of duality, an extension of Dada. Abstraction takes a triangular form: effortless guitar melodies, undulating bass lines, deep swirling grooves. Interlocking vocals bob and weave over top, resounding their mantras. You’ve got something growing out your neck, my friend. Open your self to the frequencies, and let the vibrations illuminate your being.
When Jack Tatum began work on Life of Pause, his third full-length to date, he had lofty ambitions: Don't just write another album; create another world. One with enough detail and texture and dimension that a listener could step inside, explore, and inhabit it as they see fit. "I desperately wanted for this to be the kind of record that would displace me," he says. "I'm terrified by the idea of being any one thing, or being of any one genre. And whether or not I accomplish that, I know that my only hope of getting there is to constantly reinvent. That reinvention doesn’t need to be drastic, but every new record has to have its own identity, and it has to have a separate set of goals from what came before."
What came before: a rightfully acclaimed, much beloved display of singular pop craftsmanship. Tatum's dreamy, unexpected 2010 debut, Gemini, was written while he was still a student at Virginia Tech University. Its equally disarming follow-up, 2012's Nocturne, marked the first time he'd been able to bring his bedroom recordings into a studio, to be performed and fully realized with the help of other musicians. There has been a set of wonderfully expansive EPs in between - each hinting at new directions and punctuating previous ideas - but with Life of Pause, Tatum delivers what he describes as his most "honest" and "mature" work yet, an exquisitely arranged and beautifully recorded collection of songs that marry the immediate with the indefinable. "I allowed myself to go down every route I could imagine even if it ended up not working for me," he says. "I owe it to myself to take as many risks as possible. Songs are songs and you have to allow yourself to be open to everything."
After a prolonged period of writing and experimentation, recording took place over several weeks in both Los Angeles and Stockholm, with producer Thom Monahan (Devendra Banhart, Beachwood Sparks) helping Tatum in his search for a more natural and organically textured sound. In Sweden, in a studio once owned by ABBA, they enlisted Peter, Bjorn and John drummer John Ericsson and fellow Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra veteran TK, to contribute drums and marimba. In California, at Monahan's home, Tatum collaborated with Medicine guitarist Brad Laner and a crew of saxophonists. From the hypnotic polyrhythms of "Reichpop" to the sugary howl of "Japanese Alice" to the hallucinogenic R&B of "A Woman's Wisdom", the result is a complete, fully immersive listening environment. "I just kept things really simple, writing as ideas came to me," he says. "There's definitely a different kind of 'self' in the picture this time around. There's no real love lost, it's much more a record of coming to terms and defining what it is that you have - your place, your relationships. I view every record as an opportunity to write better songs. At the end of the day it still sounds like me, just new."
Is the Is Are, the highly-anticipated sophomore release from Brooklyn-based DIIV, is an album years and many personal struggles in the making for it's architect, Zachary Cole Smith. Recorded and mixed in various locations in Brooklyn, it showcases everything you know and love about DIIV, and many things you did not, all with an added nuance and depth. It is a 17-song, double-album statement intended to resonate with its audience in much the same way that Bad Moon Rising or Tago Mago has for Smith himself.
An extension and deepening of the musical ideas first expressed on 2012's critically-lauded Oshin, Is the Is Are yields a multiplicity of textures, lyrical themes, and moods. It is a more diverse world than Oshin, with different parameters and ideals. Dark and honest to a fault, the new songs are dynamic, loud, quiet, sad; they are songs that hiss and snarl; songs that, as Smith wrote recently, represent "the real me." Smith's vocals, too, are much closer to the foreground, layered legibly on top of tidal waves of shimmering guitar and melodic bass weaving in and out, leaving a distinct and indelible imprint.
As we age, a growing and ever changing identity is something we never shake. The distance between the magic and awe of a child's mind to the mentality of a teenager is palpable. When you hit your 20s, it's safe to say a few things are different from that time you were 16. Though she maintains some reservations about the implications of something as abstract as identity, Charlie Hilton, known up until now for her work in the band Blouse, has now forged a new one with her debut solo album, Palana.
Enlisting Unknown Mortal Orchestra's Jacob Portrait as producer, Hilton freely experimented with diverse sounds and moods - some minimal and some cacophonous - out of the confines of a band structure. "Funny Anyway" is truly stark, featuring only string accompaniments, with Hilton assuming a role akin to a confessional French chanteuse, while "Let's Go to a Party" is Hilton's cheeky take on an icy dance track with thick, bouncing synths and a chorus that echoes "I'm only happy when I'm dancing." Alternatively, tracks like "Pony" harken back to the psychedelic strengths of Blouse, saluting bands like Broadcast and United States of America, and then there's "100 Million," the sole track produced by Woods' Jarvis Taveniere that rounds out the album in a soft, acoustic and light-hearted way with labelmate Mac DeMarco lending his talents on percussion and back-up vocals.
Housed in a Gatefold Jacket with two Eurosleeves, we offer up a period of The Wake which has not been available on vinyl since its initial pressings on Factory Records two and a half decades ago.
Long considered their masterwork, Here Comes Everybody is post-punk at its most lush and alluring. With an underlying urgency peppered with a frost of delicate melody, the influence of the Wake can be seen in a myriad of sub-genres within the independent community and is often cited as a key influence on our own label roster. This impeccable LP is bolstered by the equally inspired EPs and Singles that surrounded it: Talk About the Past, Of The Matter and Something That No One Else Can Bring have long been difficult finds for an aspiring record collector, until now. Remastered.
DIIV is the nom-de-plume of Z. Cole Smith, musical provocateur and frontman of an atmospheric and autumnally-charged new Brooklyn four-piece. Recently inked to the uber-reliable Captured Tracks imprint, DIIV created instant vibrations in the blog-world with their impressionistic debut "Sometime"; finding it's way onto the esteemed pages of Pitchfork and Altered Zones a mere matter of weeks after the group's formation. Enlisting the aid of NYC indie-scene-luminary, Devin Ruben Perez, former Smith Westerns drummer Colby Hewitt, and Mr. Smith-s childhood friend Andrew Bailey, DIIV craft a sound that is at once familial and frost-bitten. Indebted to classic kraut, dreamy Creation-records psychedelia, and the primitive-crunch of late-80s Seattle, the band walk a divisive yet perfectly fused patch of classic-underground influence.
Widowspeak has grown up in a lot of ways. The band's third album, All Yours, is one that could only come from Molly Hamilton and Robert Earl Thomas: a honed and elegant interweaving of dream-pop and slowcore rock and roll, easygoing melodies and dusty, snaking guitars. It's also their finest release to date: ten beautiful songs that are refreshingly straightforward yet built from the same well-chosen and deftly used tools the band has always worked with.
Like the days of Steely Dan or Harry Nilsson releasing a classic album every year (or less) comes Mac DeMarco's Another One, a Mini-LP announced one year after the release of the meteorically successful Salad Days. Written and recorded during the downtime between a relentless touring schedule, Another One is an eight-track release that expands the arsenal of Mac's already impressive catalog, showing the maturity of Mac's progression as songwriter: it's a bit more refined, a bit more sophisticated, but nonetheless retains the guts and soul of classic Mac.
Despite working at the same pace as artists like Creedence and The Rolling Stones, coupled with an equally unending schedule of touring and press, it's odd that Mac is labeled as a slacker. With two full-lengths and two EPs released and hundreds of sold out shows performed in the last several years, a recent late night television debut on Conan following a special performance on The Eric Andre Show, it seems, as Mac nears his 25th birthday, there's not a slack bone in the man's body. Great songwriters don't need to reinvent themselves; they just need to keep going and let the songs out in the world. Thus, here's Another One.
Since before he was even able to play an instrument, Martin Newell was messing around with home-recordings. Having grown up in the Far East, Newell returned to his home of England at age 13 with just a little 3-inch spool tape-recorder and his first guitar. At age 14 he wrote his first song, not even knowing any chords. His song writing continued through is teens and into his 20s, when he purchased a Sony reel-to-reel recorder and 12 string guitar. It is this early songwriting that led him working with a wide variety of musicians, recording in beautiful studios and forming his many projects such as Cleaners from Venus and Brotherhood of Lizards. But it was this early songwriting and recording that led him to find that he was happiest when recording by himself, with minimal equipment. As Newell often says, "Actually, I preferred the demos".
Having upgraded himself from reel-to-reel to a Tascam Pocketstudio and digitizing some of his archaic recording knowledge, Newell set out to begin home recording again. The tracks on this collection run from 2010 to mid 2014. Some are recordings loosely based on movie themes and soundtracks for imaginary films. Some are instrumentals from a collection called The Late District, while others are from a recent album Return to Bohemia, which saw a small release in England. This recent resurgence in creative strength, along with the success and newfound popularity of Cleaners from Venus, have all led up to Teatime Assortment. Think of it as a "Best of New Newell". A true wordsmith, Newell himself has put simply why one might be compelled to take a listen here: "If you're the sort of person who likes this kind of thin, then this is the sort of thing you'll probably like."
It wouldn't be entirely accurate to say that EZTV met while trying out for J. Spaceman's latest US touring line-up of Spiritualized, but it's not far from the truth. Songwriter Ezra Tenenbaum had been casually working on solo home recordings in the vein of Shoes, Emitt Rhodes and Cleaners For Venus, and, in a desire to round things out, he enlisted bassist Shane O'Connell and drummer Michael Stasiak (formerly of Widowspeak). As it happened, the trio's first chance to play together was an audition for the American touring version of Spiritualized (they didn't get the job). But, the trio kept meeting and working, turning Ezra recording as a solo artist into Ezra, Shane and Michael playing as a band; thus, EZTV was formed.
With Jarvis Taveniere (Woods) onboard to produce, the band headed to Thump Studios in Brooklyn to record their debut LP. The result is Calling Out, a cohesive 12-song statement in the long tradition of fully realized debuts, stripped of artifice, but full of hooks and songwriting chops. With one foot firmly planted in classic American power-pop and college rock while the other utilizes more left-of-the-dial sonic experimentation, the result is a sound that's both familiar and new, but always about the songs.
Who Me? is the next chapter in the ongoing story of Juan Wauters. Whereas his debut solo record was recorded casually over the course of one year, his new album was crafted in under two weeks at Future Apple Tree in Rock Island, Illinois. Inspired by both the arrangements of Uruguayan songwriter Jaime Roos and the production of American master Dr. Dre, this collection of songs presents his continued approach to existential questioning through pop music. Tracks like "She Might Get Shot" and "I Was Well," which may seem like wisdom addressed to the listener, are in fact part of Juan's reciprocal process of self-actualization through songwriting and performing. Bringing new sounds to his repertoire, "This Is I" and "Through That Red" add a spiritual tone with ethereal string arrangements. Juan's voice - which has risen to the forefront of his music since his first recordings with The Beets - intensifies with added nuance. This year Juan Wauters will continue to tour the world in support of his second solo record.