The first thing that jumped into my mind when I heard this album by Lovers is the ’90s era. A few of the songs seem like they should have been featured on The Perks of Being a Wallflower soundtrack, or that they should be the music featured in a scene of a My So-Called Life.
Lovers is a band that continues to feed the ‘successful band’ mentality that people associate with the Pacific Northwest, and they sound as if they have been influenced by other bands in the region, such as Postal Service or Death Cab for Cutie.
A Friend In the World has a somewhat electronic, psychedelic feel that is beautifully fused with gorgeous vocals and a touch of acoustic instrumentation. These themes are threaded throughout the entire album, and it’s easy to fall in love with all of the songs instantly. The group seems to strike the ideal balance of technology and nature with their latest record.
Lovers had the opportunity to work with a number of producers who have, in turn, worked with other highly successful groups such as R.E.M., Starfucker, She & Him and Bright Eyes. The group’s opportunity to work with these producers has surely boosted the beauty of their album and should speak to the quality of A Friend In the World.
Lovers A Friend In the World
(Badman Recording Co.) Recorded at Type Foundry Studios, Portland, OR Mixed by Andy LeMaster Mastered by Timothy Stollenwerk www.loversarelovers.com
New York-based indie rock quartet Ula Ruth is gearing up to release their new EP Restless Nights on January 14, 2014. Excitement is already building for the release and we’ve got the EXCLUSIVE video premiere right here at Performer.
According to the band,”There’s a lot of videos out there that show people getting burned in relationships. In our video we wanted to show revenge. It’s very uncomfortable to watch someone go completely insane. We’ve all felt like this, but our character actually goes through with it.”
“Energized, experimental chamber pop with summer-vocals and shimmering guitars”
Cambridge, MA’s Friendly People tapped twenty musicians to record Shake. The result edges the quartet closer to the experimental horizon, more Dirty Projectors than Vampire Weekend, yet both influences can are heard.
The strength of Shake lies in the use of complex instrumentation, which rhythmically swirls and folds melodies around ambushing instrumentation and tempo changes (“Here We Are” and “Maps”).
The difficulty in writing big songs lies in honing succinctness. Most songs on Shake clock in over five minutes. Certainly, some could dive in sooner, but the extraordinary variance and melodic character rises above any residual self-aggrandizing; the songs are catchy.
Stylishly employed guitars, banjo, percussion and horns are scattered throughout Shake, baring the specter of Americana roots while the band surveys the edges of pop and experimental genres. Singer Pat McCusker approximates Ezra Koenig (Vampire Weekend) in his boyish lyrical interplay with fiery heaves of instrumentation, uniting and bridging the rambling background. “Branches” showcases one of the album’s strongest songs, which initially tugs the heels of bedroom folk, slowly throbbing into a dazzling arch of acoustic and electric guitars, pounding rhythms and warm harmonic embers. Shake offers a blissful crunch of pop-listenability and furtive experimental tinkering, resulting in surprising cohesiveness.
Friendly People Shake
(Self-Released) Produced & Engineered by Friendly People Recorded at the Record Company and The Friendly House by Friendly People Mixed at The Friendly House by Mitchell Stewart and Andrew Sarlo Mastered at Peerless Mastering by Jeff Lipton www.friendlypeoplemusic.com
Warring is among the most stunning and inspired albums of the millennium, on par with Arcade Fire’s Funeral and Interpol’s Turn on the Bright Lights. The third installment for the Toronto art-rock quartet pairs heavy and foreboding instrumentation with deafening rhythm and hook-filled songwriting.
Somewhere in the venue of the Dears and the Doves, the Darcys impose a glum indie rock trinity (electric guitar, bass and drums) with a dim spotlight centered singer/keyboardist Jason Couse.
Often daring the falsetto, Couse is reined in and controlled, imparting subtle emotional pulls while maintaining a long cool delivery. “The Pacific Theatre” is an understated deviation from the album’s forceful up-tempo core (think Jeff Buckley’s version of “Hallelujah”). A lone piano murmurs with Couse’s fertile octaves: “I know rain soaked through / And our hearts bleed wanting a new day / Pack up your fears.”
Unconventional turns, pacing and novel songwriting (“Hunting” and “Itchy Blood”) rewards Warring with listenability and artistic nuance. It’s an album distinguished for implacable understatement. A song like “Pretty Girls” goes by unassuming, romping with rhythmic energy. Closer attention notes the stark, fluid mood changes and deep volatile vocal colors underscored by barely-there harmonies and flourishing crescendos.
(Arts & Crafts Records)
Produced & Engineered by Tom McFall at Mushroom Studios
The ripples of the reverb sway back and forth like the tides. This is surf music, an American tradition passed down to us from Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello’s bandstand romps on the beach. But the bikinis and Wayfarers have a darker tint today, shaded by the towering redwoods and scattered driftwood on the shores. There’s no suntan to be spoken of; it’s much too cloudy. Frankie and Annette might have to throw on an extra layer if it gets any darker.
Traditionally, surf rock isn’t a genre laden with realism. It’s escapist at its core, an urge to run, not walk, board in hand to get away to the beach for a while. But in the Pacific Northwest, you’ll be a little harder pressed to find every day so sunny.
That’s where Seattle surf quartet La Luz comes into play. While the name translates to “the light,” the band’s debut full-length It’s Alive veers ironically into the darker side of surf, dropping expressive, damaged vocals over frenetically paced psychedelia.
“It’s not just like sunny California pop,” says the band’s lead singer and guitarist Shana Cleveland. “I think of surf music as having a gothic vibe to it. The surf rock I like to listen to the most is Link Wray and Dick Dale and stuff like that. It seems like it always has a darker side than, like, the Beach Boys.”
Supplementing Cleveland’s tenacious guitar hooks and blackened lyrical tone is a full-on assault of all-female vocal harmonies, drawing a haunting, lo-fidelity alternative to the glossy style of ’60s girl-group pop.
While the marriage of raging surf rock and glistening girl group could drown in overproduction, the band’s lo-fi attitude carries over into the recording process, a nod to Cleveland’s passion for cassette-tape aesthetics and the grimy garage style of artists like Shannon and the Clams, The Shivas and Ty Segall.
“When I was first writing the music for this band, [for] the first few songs that we played I was mostly inspired by stuff that was on cassette tapes,” Cleveland says. “It makes a lot of sense that we use kind of a lo-fi kind of recording because a lot of stuff I was listening to at the time I was hearing on cassette, so it was all kind of gritty and lo-fi.”
The band recorded It’s Alive, out now on Sub Pop’s sister label Hardly Art, in the same place as 2012’s Damp Face EP: a trailer park bedroom on the outskirts of Seattle. But Cleveland says the band was sure to take more care with the full-length to hammer out the particulars.
“We recorded the EP in a day and kind of mixed it in one more day,” Cleveland explains. “[We] just blew through it as fast as we could, just to have some tracks recorded. We went back over a couple weeks and did overdubs and spent a lot of time so we could have it mixed as we wanted.”
That wasn’t the only change that La Luz undertook, however. Although It’s Alive shares a few tracks in common with the group’s earlier EP, the band added Alice Sandahl’s organ chops to its lineup in an effort to round out the surf vibe of the record.
“When I heard the EP I thought, ‘Holy shit, I love this shit and I need to be a part of this shit.’ I really loved hanging out with them and it’s been a magical experience,” Sandahl says.
Despite Sandahl’s reckless abandon en route to joining La Luz, the project has been years in the making. Cleveland and drummer Marian Li Pino had played the Seattle scene in K Records’ garage outfit The Curious Mystery, so when Cleveland set out to assemble an all-female band, Li Pino was a natural choice.
“I really liked the way we worked together, so when she asked me I was totally down,” Li Pino says. “It seemed like it would be really fun to play in this band, too.”
The addition of bassist Abbey Blackwell took more legwork, but once approached she was game.
“Shana was just looking for girl bass players and I kind of almost knew her,” Blackwell says to the laughter of her bandmates. “I’d heard her music before and I thought she was super cool so I was like ‘Yeah, sure, I’ll hang out with you guys and play music.’ ”
The creative process for La Luz has followed suit, with Cleveland handling songwriting duties before presenting ideas to the band for arranging.
“It ends up changing or evolving based on what people think makes sense,” Cleveland says. “I don’t have a hard or fast idea of how the song’s gonna go. We definitely have a lot of collaboration.”
One of the most crucial steps for the band, especially given its girl-group aesthetic, is combining sultry vocal harmonies to the instrumental backbone of its surf sound.
“Those are two of my favorite things to hear in music,” Cleveland says. “I have a feeling that backup vocals are coming back.”
Cleveland’s affinity for tender harmonies layers distinctively against the band’s aggressive, guitar-driven surf backbone. But she enjoys the dynamic, the druggy haze of the band’s beach buzz, allowing her lyrics to shine between her ripping guitar solos. Suddenly, La Luz has carved out a unique style no Dick Dale or Diana Ross can lay claim to.
“I think there’s only benefits to having our own unique sound,” Cleveland says. “I feel like it’s pretty accessible music. It’s the kind of music that appeals to a lot of different kinds of people.”
After the band’s album release, the ladies will take to the road to open for psych-pop legends Of Montreal, turning their Pacific Northwest brand of goth-surf into a coast-to-coast wave. Blackwell describes the sudden rise in notoriety as something of a surprise. “I don’t think any one of us expected it to become this successful,” she says. “I had no idea what I was getting into, so how could I know?”
The Bay Area’s premier indie music and arts festival Noise Pop will celebrate its 22nd anniversary of championing independent culture this February, and has just announced the initial music lineup! The festivities will take place throughout San Francisco February 25th through March 2nd, 2014, with an incredible lineup featuring Mark Kozelek, Lord Huron, Bob Mould, No Age, Cayucas, and more. A list of confirmed performers so far can be found below, with more to be announced shortly. Watch this space for more on lineup announcements: www.noisepop.com/2014
Mark Kozelek (of Sun Kil Moon & Red House Painters)
Bob Mould (25 Years of ‘Workbook’)
Free Salamander Exhibit
And many, many more to be announced!
A limited amount of Early Bird badges are on sale NOW for $125. PRESS HERE to get yours today! Once they are gone, Regular Badges will become available for $150. Badges grant access to all general admission (non-seated) concerts, films, happy hours, Culture Club and other events during the festival, as well as an official screen-printed Festival poster and an invitation to a badge holder-only Happy Hour, details TBA.
This year, there will also be a limited amount of Super Fan Badges. At $350, you can have everything the Regular Badge has to offer, in addition to an official Festival merchandise package, Drink Tickets to select events, rideshare coupons, guaranteed entry to any non-seated show, and a Noise Pop Fest representative available for assistance during the Festival. Act fast, because there are only a very limited number of Super Fan Badges available!
ALSO Noise Pop’s next monthly music trivia night, Musical Pursuit will serve as the official lineup announcement party. It takes place next Tuesday October 29th, 2013 from 6-10pm at 1772 Market Street and will feature a grand prize giveaway of a pair of Noise Pop badges.
Stay tuned for more line-up announcements and single day ticket sales!
Recovering from the brief loss of his voice and relishing in the final day of the Newport Folk Festival, John McCauley and his Deer Tick bandmates are in rare form as they discuss their careers, the evolution of their sound and life in the band. There is seriousness to their tone, but also a content joy, joking around and soaking up the surroundings. When asked what their favorite instruments are, it’s hard to get a clear answer.
As a collective they are surprisingly soft-spoken, no one wanting to outshine the other. They dance around the question with answers like ‘wine bottles’ and ‘milk jugs,’ giving the impression of being happy to play whatever they can and enjoying a good joke or two in the process. Bassist Christopher Dale Ryan, however, expresses an earnest interest in owning a “left-handed Stratocaster from the Paul McCartney era. I’m a lefty and that would be a dream.”
While the jokes are abundant, it’s clear they mean business when it comes to their music. After the release of numerous albums, they’ve honed in on a style of play that not only suits them but also entices fans, and yet they’re still able to experiment with texture and style – never getting pinned into one place.
“We have a sound that our fans like; that’s clear. But we want to try new things to see if something else fits,” says John Joseph McCauley, the band’s primary singer/songwriter. Their new album, Negativity,gives fans a taste of old and new. “It’s definitely helped with this album that the band has stayed the same. That continuity and the fact that we’re rehearsing and practicing more seriously has given the album a different sound,” says guitarist Ian O’Neil. “Yeah, I actually know all the songs on this album,” jokes McCauley. “But seriously, it’s a bit of a departure but in a good way. We’re really happy with it.”
Negativity introduces listeners to the incorporation of horns, something new for the band and covers the wide array of topics that they’re known for exploring. “There isn’t a lot we won’t write or sing about,” says McCauley. “Politics, I guess. My dad was in politics and I won’t write about that kind of stuff, or the weather,” he adds.
While many artists tend to take an either strictly collaborative or independent approach to the songwriting process, Deer Tick opts for more of a hybrid, allowing each member to take the lead when it feel right. It’s this approach, they feel, that allows their music to evolve organically. “The songs usually come together in a way that makes sense to everyone,” says O’Neil. He continues, “Sometimes one of us will just run with it, but everyone gives their feedback and then we just have something we like.”
“It’s not really about the process, but the quality of the songwriting. The final product is what’s most important,” echoes McCauley. In the case of Deer Tick, everyone seems more than pleased with the set up and with how it’s materialized on Negativity. “We’re really excited about this album. It’s not always easy to take an album to the live stage; we work hard on that and I think with this [record] it’s going to be really great,” says Rob Crowell (keys, sax).
There seems to be a collective pride over the journey the band has taken. They’ve fought hard to get where they are and yet don’t seem to take things too seriously. “I think it’s a mix of luck and perseverance. I’m not sure you can have one without the other,” says McCauley. “Although, I’m not sure what we did to get here, other than work our asses off.”
While originally from Rhode Island, the band members now call many places (including Nashville and New York) home. “I don’t think there’s ever been any pressure to relocate. I don’t think geography played a crucial role in our careers, it’s just where it all started,” says McCauley. “Its not really about where you are, so much as why you’re doing this,” Crowell comments. “I don’t think any of us would be here if this isn’t what we wanted to be doing”
Whether at Newport Folk Fest, a small venue in New York or hammering out tracks in the recording studio, Deer Tick has hit their stride. Their gravelly and gritty sound is universally recognizable and despite a sometimes-rotating line up, they never fail to produce music that’s both captivating and provoking.
Songs: Ohia was the band name Jason Molina used for most of his musical output from 1996 to 2003, when he formed Magnolia Electric Company. Coming between his first and second albums (S/T and Impala, respectively) in 1998, the Hecla & Griper EP is constantly overshadowed by those two works.
This 15th Anniversary release was prepared by Molina before his death in March, as the first in a series meant to draw attention to his more obscure releases.
Later in Molina’s Songs: Ohia career, he would reinvent the band to suit the material. Each album would be dramatically different from the one before it. His earlier work, however, is all cut from the same cloth: the slowest possible groove, spare arrangements centered on Molina’s baritone guitar, lyrics that recall the language of ancient Anglo-Celt balladry and a self-eviscerating portrait in first-person that addressed what happens after the fuck-up.
From the start, Molina had images and subjects that he explored through all of his work: ghosts, anthropomorphic creatures, classism, bad love, birds, highway lights and halos. Hecla & Griper has all of these touchstones in its eight miniature songs (this edition has four added songs, for twelve total).
The first track on Hecla & Griper, “Pass,” lasts sixty-six seconds. In that short time, Molina illustrates a much scarier version of the Muse, specifically the type Neil Young writes about in his autobiography. For Young, the muse is a mystical, positive force that must be honored and followed. Molina writes about his fear of betraying that Muse, and the punishment that would follow. Neil’s muse is New Testament; Molina’s is Old Testament. Pretty good for eight lines of lyrics.
Songs: Ohia Hecla & Griper 15th Anniversary Edition
(Secretly Canadian) Produced by Daniel Burton www.songsohia.com
“Indie-pop that comes barreling out of your speakers at warp speed”
Canadian-bred Poor Young Things have just released their new LP, The Heart. The Head. The End., an album built on driving guitar chords, indie harmonies and sing-along choruses about the growing pains of life. The eleven pop-rock ballads compiled on this latest endeavor are a bit systematic, but they pack a wallop of intensity and passion.
The album shows a clear penchant for fervent composition and flows with a dynamic energy. From the opening track “Dress it Up” to later songs like “The State” and “Ghost Notes,” things don’t slow down. Even on the more polished tracks like “Revolver,” the band maintains a level of rawness and drive. The lyrics, at times sung by hoarse and strained vocals, explore common themes – love, loss and soul searching – but they do so in an unpretentious and unassuming way. They fit perfectly against the backdrop of heavy bass lines and crashing drums.
The release of The Heart. The Head. The End. comes hot on the heels of the band’s latest EP and demonstrates a prolific nature to their creative process and an eagerness to grow as musicians. The album barrels on until the very end with driving force and talent.
Poor Young Things The Heart. The Head. The End. Thunder Bay, ON
(Bumstead Recordings) Produced by Jon Drew Mastered by Joao Carvalho www.pooryoungthings.com