Tuesday, July 22, 2014


“Bud” 7”

When I first heard Honeyblood’s single “Bud,” back on a very chilly evening last winter, I instantly fell in love.  They somehow captured the momentous bright shining energy of Belly’s “Feed the Tree” and crossed it with the lazy hot summer afternoon vibe of Mazzy Star’s “Halah.”  For anyone that has known me for a long time, they most likely know that I played those two songs to death upon their respective releases twenty plus years ago.  These were songs that I simply could not get enough of.  Over and over again, I’d play them.  “Bud” has been exactly the same.  The vinyl may have to be replaced soon, because the chiming guitar, crashing cymbals and soaring dual vocal chorus of Stina Tweeddale and Shona McVicar reminding me that “it’s not your fault at all” have been like a blissful narcotic, but the grooves are starting to dull from overuse.  When I was lucky enough to see Honeyblood open for We Were Promised Jetpacks back in February, I was noticeably disappointed that they didn’t follow their performance of “Bud” with a second one, because I always listen to it at least twice.  If there are any copies of the single left, I highly recommend tracking down the vinyl, but at least snag the download, because the B-side “Kissing on You” is also a wonderful piece of pure pop a la Best Coast, but as filtered through early Spinanes (think “Suffice” or ‘Spitfire”) guitar/drum simplicity.

Honeyblood "Bud"

It seems like it’s been eons since I’ve been waiting for Honeyblood’s album to finally be released, but finally it has arrived and it does not disappoint.  This Glasgow duo’s self-titled debut lives up to the promise of “Bud” and has me brimming with excitement.  I’ve never been one to take much stock in historical heritage, but sometimes I wonder if the bit of Scottish in my family’s bloodline is why I love so many Scottish bands and why I approach almost anything that I love with at least a small touch of dread and trepidation.  The opening song “Fall Forever” begins with an urgent guitar strum before bursting into a Pale Saints-like hazy and grinding fuzz of beautiful noise that somehow both finds comfort and solace in the early excitement of a fresh new crush, yet the lyrics are filled with harsh images of blood, lambs to the slaughter, punching and scratching.  In other words, this song is pretty much perfect.  It simply continues on from there.  Stina’s vocals and lyrics effortlessly roll off her tongue in such a natural conversational way.  In “(I’d Rather Be) Anywhere but Here,” she rattles off her escape plans from her childhood locale and common theme, but here it sounds so tangibly identifiable and the music is absolutely brilliant.  The echo-laden guitar layers and steady heavy beat evoke the huge sound of Whipping Boy’s 1995 masterpiece Heartworm.  The similar sounding “Biro” presents us with allusions to frustrations and the futility of writing about the human condition (“If I threw my pen into the sea / I know there will be someone to write after me”).  When does one cross the line from identifiable troubles to simply whining? 

“Bud” reappears on the album in an altered state, which of course, gives me ample excuse to begin listening to it as much as I did last winter.  Peter Katis’ production on this version is interesting, because he strips away the Mazzy Star blur, which gives Stina’s vocals a softer plaintive feel and Shona’s drums a bigger impact.  Luckily, Katis does not mess with the glory of that spectacular chorus.  Newest single “Super Rat,” is a vicious indictment of someone who has wronged them in love and with zero subtlety with a chorus of “I will hate you forever” and this: “SCUMBAG!  SLEAZE!  SLIMEBALL!  GREASE!  You really do disgust me!!” 

The second half of this album loses zero momentum.  “Choker” begins with a classic rock riff and pounding rock drums, all while providing a sinister peak into a troubling relationship (“What doesn’t kill you / just makes you stronger”).  Meanwhile, “No Spare Key” provides one of the sparest arrangements, Stina’s free flowing words, and a bridge to die for.  The pure pop side of Honeyblood shines through as “Joey” comes in with a bounce in its step and some fantastic vocal melodies, as does the handclaps and pop waltz of the breezy “Fortune Cookie.”  They also bring on song straight ahead rock with the shout-along ‘Killer Bangs” and another diss with “All Dragged Up” (“Why won’t you grow up?”). 

“Braidburn Valley” closes this incredible debut with a moody isolated autumnal walk outside that slowly reveals some kind of deep hurt, before breaking into a blistering buzz revealing that the hurt is both mental and physical (“Another fucking bruise / This one looks just like a rose”).  The simple imagery is amazing and intriguing and tells so much more than the thrifty use of lyrics.

All I can say is: get the album, see them live, and support this music.

Honeyblood "Super Rat"


Sunday, July 20, 2014

Produit Collecté

Produit Collecté

Wow!  BNLX are overwhelming me right now.  What started out as an introduction via Big Takeover magazine (Produit Collecté landed at #26 in Jack Rabid’s semi-annual top 40 in the most recent issue - #74) has turned into an onslaught of new music to listen to.  This late 2013 album is actually a kind of best of collection culled from this Minneapolis trio’s first eight (EIGHT?!) EP’s and now I’m frantically trying to catch up.

It turns out that vocalist/guitarist Ed Ackerson has a long history in music.  He’s the co-founder of the indie label Susstones, former frontman of Polara (who I have faint memories of hearing at some point), and long time producer and engineer by way of his Flowers Studio. Thankfully, this history hasn’t dulled his creativity, because BNLX is brimming with exciting and absolutely electric songs.  BNLX is comprised of Ackerson, bassist/vocalist Ashley Ackerson and drummer David Jarnstrom and this trio lock down into some seriously tight good old fashioned Midwest post-punk.

What makes BNLX’s Produit Collecté so refreshing is the simple way they touch on all kinds of underground genres with such ease.  Even though these 14 songs are culled from eight different releases and all kinds of different sounds, they seamlessly fit together.  I guess the most obvious touchstone is their fantastic sing-along trade-off vocals of the Ackerson’s that hint at early X or even Eleventh Dream Day.  But I cannot emphasize enough how great it is to hear music like this again.  Listening to this collection reminds me of tuning into an especially great stretch of college radio back in the late 80s, where one might run into straight ahead US punk rock pounders like “Rise Above” and “Vaporize,” or a UK raincoat rock song that brings in beautiful atmospheric guitar textures and dreamy bass-lines like “Blue and Gold.”  I can easily imagine recent song (opening song from EP #8) “Opposites Attract” getting airplay on MTV’s 120 Minutes with its three minutes of a dance beat, squalling guitar line, and addictive chorus.  And speaking of addictive, every song they seem to write is freaking catchy as can be and there is a sense of fun.  They aren’t afraid to throw their own name in to a song (“BNLX Today”), or even the video game “Frogger,” or write a deadpan text message inspired song titled “LMAO (CMEO),” whose shout-along chorus is once again flawlessly fun and will get endlessly stuck in your head – and in this case, that’s a great thing.  I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the amazing highs that come from repeated listens to the soaring “Where is the Love,” the relentless 50s shuffle via industrial feedback beauty that is “Over the Horizon,” and the breathtaking “You Left Me Here.”  Really, this collection improves with each listen.

Oh, how do I love this!  I am late to the game and, as I mentioned earlier, am in the process of trying to catch up with this band.  What I haven’t mentioned is that purchase of Produit Collecté will arrive with a download of all 32 songs from the eight EP’s – totaling 32 songs!!!  This is why I am so overwhelmed.  There is so much great music that it actually takes some time to absorb it all.  BNLX also released a debut full length LP back in 2012, which I need to get next, because it sounds as great as all of this.  I cannot recommend this enough – it is never too late to discover incredible music.

BNLX "Opposites Attract"


Monday, July 7, 2014

How to Keep from Falling off a Mountain

How to Keep from Falling Off a Mountain
(Blue Aurora)

Last summer I read a glowing review of For Those Who Wish to See the Glass Half Full – the debut album from San Francisco band Slowness in the venerable Big Takeover magazine.  As I do while perusing each massive issue, I wrote the name down on a list and checked out their music online and then excitedly sought out the vinyl only release (sorry digital as well, but that is never my first option) at all the record stores I ventured into.  Unfortunately, time slipped by and I still had not tracked down a copy of the album.  Not until recently when the band announced the release of a new (vinyl) release when I knew I had better get my act together and order the new LP, as well as download their previous work. 

There’s something mysterious and lovely about Slowness.  Their name evokes ideas of the so-dubbed slo-core “scene” of the early to mid 90s, and though they share some of the transcendent qualities of some of those artists, they are really something completely different.  In fact their two earlier releases (including the 2013 LP and the 2011 EP Hopeless but Otherwise) are really straight forward affairs.  Musically, the band weaves a very attractive intricate guitar work to create pretty damn catchy songs.  I’ve heard them lumped in with the other modern ‘shoegaze’ bands, which is fitting, but their free flowing sound also reminds me of the dreamy post punk who favored chiming guitars and nice vocal harmonies.

On the latest LP, How to Keep from Falling off a Mountain, Slowness (Julie Lynn and Geoffrey Scott and guests) has decided to stretch their sound.  They have not lost their classy touch with creating enticing repetitive foundations for their songs, but here their power of drawing the listener into a wholly immersive near trance is astounding.  Almost every song on the album is the same steady tempo and the constant driving and drifting atmosphere is both soothing and intriguing.

“Mountains” begins the album as a perfect bridge from their earlier work to where they’re heading.  The soft vocals and glittering guitars sound like they could be taken from the first Stone Roses album and yet as the song continues, the edges sharpen, the keyboards begin to take on an increasingly menacing tone and by the end the coldness of Closer – era Joy Division begins to take hold of the song (check out that scratchy guitar).  “Division” rumbles in next and reminds of early Saturnine or (whatever happened to) UK’s Engineers from a few years back.  The near seven minute “Illuminate” closes out side one and is truly the most repetitive of all of these songs.  The Velvets-like buzz and relentless unchanging beat is both a little jolting and comforting. 

The second side of the LP is named “Anon, A Requiem in Four Parts,” and is the highlight of the album.  These four distinct, yet perfectly matched songs (fantastic production, by the way) flow so seamlessly that it’s almost hard to believe that 18 minutes have passed when the needle lifts away from the record.  The second part (“Anon, part II”) has the most wonderful side-winding bass-line and an oddly danceable groove, which is reprised in “Anon, Part IV,” but instead in a much darker and heavier light.  But it’s the entire voyage that makes this album so special.  It reveals new insights with each listen and transports the listener to another world.

This is a band that has quietly and quickly amassed a pretty special selection of music, which is deserving of a lot more attention.  Don’t be like me last summer.  Contact the band and buy the vinyl (it comes with a free download) before it’s gone.