Veronica Falls’ second full release, Waiting for Something to Happen, is a moody, sordid love affair with jangly guitar leads and atmospheric vocals. The girl/guy vocal interplay plays up the adolescent angst as much as possible while also sounding earnest and vulnerable. The London quartet refrains from experimenting too much, for the most part. They hone their focus with tangible, straightforward hooks and structure recalling many of their contemporaries such as the Pains of Being Pure At Heart or Frankie Rose.
Personally, songs like “Shooting Star” and “Last Conversation” do a wonderful job of pulling their talents together under one roof. Here, they delve darker, deeper, and more intimate, providing a distinct and warm balance. As is often the case, great music often finds its way out from restlessness and change. If you’re waiting for something to happen today, tomorrow, or next year; let this album be your guide.
It was the band name the drew me in, but it was the enigmatic modern shoegaze that kept me engaged. The dynamic mind trip in Ringo Deathstarr’s second proper album, Mauve, is something to behold. Fuzz-drenched guitars are balanced behind pillowy, tranquil female vocals. This is a wall of noise you’ll want to be trapped under.
“Nap Time” is the most experimental song in the lot, and it’s a druggy, psychedelic mixture. There are ambitious pieces to this song which the group probably wouldn’t have attempted on earlier releases, but pull it off nicely. They even trend into an electronic glow just a little with “Drag.”
All in all, they stood more to lose with a release that trended more on the noise-pop level, but Mauve is relentless, rewarding, and over much too soon.
Here’s one of those moments. A relatively unknown group (stateside at least) blindsides us with a debut album that will rank as one of 2012’s finest. Saturated in London’s savage gloom and shimmery shoegaze heritage, TOY’s self-titled debut album is intensely gratifying from beginning to end. There’s the krautrock explorations in “Dead and Gone” that bleeds with a sort of quiet discomfort as well as the surprisingly eerie, heartfelt ode “My Heart Skips a Beat.” Everything about this album sounds fresh, but so familiar. They’ve really connected with the ability to be sparse when the lyrics call for it and then, inversely, pull the blinds and let the psychedelic distortion completely fly.
Woods have always presented the sort of rough and ready craftsmanship our jaded musical age has needed. With Jeremy Earl leading the way, their albums have leaned on layers of psychedelic folk and down to earth poetry. And on their most realized album to date, Bend Beyond, Jeremy Earl’s enigmatic lyrics are pumped full of sunshine and jangly melody. The album is crafted with sounds of old rickety chairs, winding country roads, and rock and roll fuzz. Earl’s sullen lyrical sanctuary languishes in some of the darkest places he’s ever been. But, he’s also mastered the two and a half minute pop song with bursts of whimsical buzz, lifting such tracks “Is It Honest?.”
Woods continue to capture their maturation process beautifully, Bend Beyond is yet more proof.
Like their predecessors in Pavement or Teenage Fanclub, Dumb Talk command a guttural mix of melody and punk on their self-titled debut. Even though the album’s vocals trend slightly in the slacker direction, they’re eagerly displaying their lo-fi power pop sensibilities simultaneously. Songs like “Sliced White” or “Bully” are powered with a nostalgia for 90’s era angst and sound particularly raw and fluid. On “Nail Polish” the guitar chords sway carefully while a dejected lead singer sounds powerless to stop himself from the romantic overture of a certain lucky lady.
For me, the album drops off slightly in the second half, but for a young band like Dumb Talk, they’re clearly ready to cut through the B.S. and build on an effective debut album.
Let it be known that I love the descriptors I get to use when describing surf music. Just listening to Y Niwl gives me the hypnotic rush of a salty ocean breeze on my face, bikinis, and of course, surfers catapulting through enormous waves. Each song embraces a thick, colorful surf guitar twang and salty percussion. But at the same time they’ve allowed enough room for the solos to breath and the thumping coastal rhythm to permeate.
You’re probably wondering, as did I, where on the West Coast did these wonderful young men form their early 60’s love for Dick Dale and all things surf? Not California and not even stateside. Kiwis, maybe, but Welsh? That’s right, Y Niwl (meaning, ‘the Fog’) hail from North Wales, England. From its cold and foggy shores, they’ve created roaring, glowing embers of freewheeling surf pop instrumentals with textures as smooth as a the open water.
Y Niwl may not have the surfer mystique that often coincides with an instrumental surf-rock band, but what they’re channeling is absolutely terrific.
Released back in March, the Throwing Up EP is a highly combustible affair. Don’t allow the vomit reference deter your interest, the album is actually a wonderful ode to the late 70’s modern rock/punk movement with a well-rounded appreciation for the Beach Boys. Hailing from Sheffield, England, Best Friends capture a vibrant convergence of these two eras.
It’s no wonder that “Break My Neck” goes hard for a classic 60’s pop jaunt and “Wasting Time” is peppered with distorted guitars that squeal and squirm with a Ramones-like intensity. The dynamics at play stray outside tried and true methods to help engage listeners in a playful noise pop junction.
Best Friends remind me that three chords, snarly vocals, and a cascade of melody are all that’s needed to sustain life.
Electric Hawaii is a candy-coated mix of atmospheric beats, psychedelic ponds, and roving guitars. Opossom brainchild, Kody Nielsen, is also the younger brother of Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s main man Ruben Nielsen. UMO also incorporates a heavy amount of sampling and organic electronics, but Opossom extends the acid-soaked production to next rung. Songs like “Cola Elixir” swing back and forth between the transcendent explorations of 60’s psych-rock and a blitz of modern day influences. “Outer Space” is exactly as you might expect a song with such a title to sound. Nielsen’s vocals quiver and shine like the sun reflecting in a muddy puddle, while keyboards and distorted guitars circle him in one long beautiful trip.
Electric Hawaii seeks to challenge and to invigorate, simultaneously. And in the end you’ll find pleasure, pain, and a verifiable love for pop music without boundaries.
On their sophomore album, If You Wanna Die Then I Wanna Die, the Cosmonauts use pile driving riffs and electric fuzz soaked in sludge to first grab your attention, and then hold it mercilessly for the next 30 minutes.
I’m hesitant to refer to them as Punk with such a heavy, psychedelic spin to their songs, but their attitude is Punk 200%. “Flowerbomb,” for instance, clearly falls into one of those ear shattering, guitar shredding, speed opus’ where punk has always thrived. But the Cosmonauts consistently shine when reverb is applied generously while the guitars bend and bleed with piles of distortion. For instance, “Dreamboat” snarls and shakes like a pissed off Wolverine. For fans of the Black Angels or scuzz rock and roll, the Cosmonauts want to be your friends.
Amid the swirling, sensory overload mounted in TEEN’s debut album, In Limbo, the Brooklyn quartet put forth one of the years most alluring avant garde-pop album. Each track seems to swell organically through repetitions of psychedelic exit music and spaced out vocals.
The album has this genuine classic pop sensibility in songs like “Charlie,” but also a really informal wash of electronics and layered vocals as present in “Sleep Is Noise.” Much of the album is constructed similarly. “Why, Why, Why” is a powerful romantic plea that climaxes for a full 2 minutes with gorgeous vocals, shattered guitars, and a brigade of industrial effects. Clearly, one of the most exciting songs released in 2012.
You may try to convince yourself you’ve heard TEEN’s sampling, vocal styles, or musical structure before. Check your ego at the door and feel free to get lost in wave after wave of atmospheric pop.