Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Start at the End



Wild Signals
Start at the End EP
(self-released)

“Don’t worry about it / Don’t worry at all” concludes the third song on this spectacular debut EP from L.A. based four piece Wild Signals.  They may be instructing us to start at the end, but I’m going straight to the middle.  “Restless” is my favorite song here amidst five greats, because it encapsulates all of their strengths together into one perfect song.  Vocalists/guitarists Noël Brydebell and Nicole Ridgely display mastery by weaving beautiful soundscapes with chiming, heavily reverbed guitars that will entice any shoegaze fans, while drummer Josh Renkow, and bassist Ben Keysaer add another dimension.  In this case, a powerful thumping groove that matches the floating quality of the song where you can actually “feel your pulse,” but then at the climax of the song, this rhythm section goes a little off the rails with speedy drum fills and a sliding bass line that brings the song to an explosive conclusion, exemplifying the restlessness inferred in the title, despite the calming words.

The busy drums are display elsewhere, giving this band a unique spin on this wonderful style.  “Home” opens this EP with a slow peaceful opening, majestic guitars (reminding of the time I first heard Fur’s “Camomile”), and a stunning vocal, before a bouncing bass kicks in.  Before we know it, the song jumps into a remarkably high speed buzzsaw, while the vocals and guitars remain at their original pace.  It’s an intriguing twist.

“Vauxhall” also has busy drums in contrast to the Habitants-style epic dreaminess of the song’s framework.  It’s as if Renkow is infusing the drum mania of first album Icicle Works (“Bird’s Fly,” “Nirvana”) and Thunder and Consolation New Model Army (“I Love the World,” etc.) to the intricate and deliberate setting.  This might be distracting to some, but I happen to love all of those things.

In case this sounds a little much for you, “Space” is a much more languid song that stretches out nicely providing an opportunity for Brydebell and Ridgely to crank up some string busting noise in what would be an amazing live set closer.

This EP ends with “The Bat,” which is epic and downright stratospheric in its various stages of dramatic development.  I can easily say that this debut has me wanting to hear more.  This may be a debut release, and they are clearly hungry and inspired, and yet they sound like seasoned veterans.  Excellent!





Wild Signals "Vauxhall"




Sunday, February 3, 2019

Tallies




Tallies
Tallies
(Kanine)

This is the debut album from Toronto band Tallies and it feels like I should’ve been listening to this for years already.  Their brand of bright intricate catchy melodies with sharp lyrics is the type of thing I’ve always hungrily sought out since about the time I first heard The Sundays, so this new album already feels like an old friend. 

The album opens with “Trouble,” which begins with a sole drum beat fading in before it suddenly bursts into bright chiming guitars and a rumbling bass and Sarah Cogan warning us poetically that we all need to be more careful and heed signs of potential trouble.    And we’re off to the races, as “Trouble” melts right into the first single “Mother” – an impeccable tune that continues that lesson of questioning things that are going on around us and finding the right path.  Two songs on in and this album had me giddy because it evokes the greatness of the afore-mentioned Sundays (check out the huge guitar strum and bass groove of “Midnight”), The Innocence Mission, and mostly the short-lived Delicious Monster.  Cogan’s strong vocals remind me of a cross between Kristin Hersh and Rachel Mayfield, while Dylan Franklin creates instantly memorable, detailed guitar lines that make this pairing instantly crucial.  Though I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the tight and versatile playing of Stephen Pitman and Cian O'Niell on bass and drums respectively.  The next two songs are maybe my two favorite songs on the album.  “Have You” has Cogan wondering if her partner is really getting her.  The repetitiveness of the “Have You” chorus works well in its building anger and frustration.  I dare you not to let it get to you as well as get it stuck in your head.  “Not So Proud” is where Cogan really shines as she belts out her words with an urgent intensity.

There are plenty of highlights to be found in the second half of Tallies.  “Eden” is a breezy sounding classic with a bridge and chorus to die for, while “Beat the Heart “is instantly addictive and another showcase of talent.  “Giving Up” shifts up the sound a bit with an almost flamenco rhythm.  The album closer, “Easy Enough,” comes out with a stream-lined wide open feel, like the band should be performing on a wind-swept cliff looming over the ocean.  A song like this makes me wonder why the entire world isn’t singing along.

Aside from the crisp sounding “Mother,” most of these songs are washed in a gauzy rainy day haze that reminds of the debut albums from The Ocean Blue and Trashcan Sinatras, which is high praise, but it makes me wonder what this album would be like without the Vaseline on the lens.  Whatever the case, this is an amazing debut and I’m pretty sure I’ll be listening to this one for years and years to come.  I encourage you to explore for yourself.  By the way, the physical versions come with a very pretty additional song “Trains and Snow.” 





Tallies "Mother"


Monday, January 28, 2019

Permanent



Fawns of Love
Permanent
(Test Pattern)

Sacramento based label Test Pattern Records is on fire!  I swear I’ve amassed just about every record they’ve released over the last several years, but this new one, may already be the record of 2019 and we’re just getting started.  I had not previously heard of Fawns of Love until their beautiful, wistful, and lush single “Zine Days” early last year, but it made me an instant fan.  However, much like label mates, Soft Science and their incredible album Maps from last summer, this new release takes all of the band’s best elements and presents them in a wide open clear and concise space.  All of the songs sound huge and vibrant.

Fawns of Love are Jenny and Joseph Andreotti, and Permanent sounds like they snuck into New Order’s recording studio in 1986, right after they recorded “Bizarre Love Triangle,” borrowed their equipment, and laid down a bunch of brilliant songs.  Please don’t misunderstand this.  It is meant as the highest praise.  I cut my musical teeth on that 12” single as a young teenager and vividly remember the day (before weeks passed like days) I purchased it and rushed home to listen to it over and over.  I love the heavy prominent dance beats and that mid-range bass as melodic lead and never tire of it.  The major difference here is that Jenny’s vocals mix with washes of dreamy atmospherics giving this entire album a sincere reflective feel that takes things to another level. 

The album opens with the single they shared late last year, “Someday,” which floats atop a wash of keyboards, a sharp dance beat, and some great percussion.  This is maybe what it would sound like if Julee Cruise release a dance single (I don’t know, maybe she has).  Similarly, “December” continues this thread.  That insistent beat combined with strong atmospherics.  Perhaps the best of the pre-LP singles is “Mournful Eyes,” which builds an incredible amount of jittery anticipation leading up to the warm sing-along multi-tracked vocal of the chorus. 

My early favorite songs (I can’t decide on one) include the majestic sounding “Horoscope,” which reminds me of all-time favorite New Order song “Your Silent Face,” if it had been graced by a vocal from Elizabeth Frazier, along with the sheer catchiness of the title track, “Permanent” (I cannot stop humming the ooohs from the chorus), and I cannot leave out the stunning “Divine,” which is so pleasantly dream-like that it is a shame when it ends.  Every song is fantastic and though there isn’t a huge variety here, the album works very well as a whole and its 30 minutes or so keeps any fatigue from setting in.

In my tiny circle, Fawns of Love are getting a lot of well-deserved attention.  I hope that it continues to grow.  This is magical music that needs to be heard.  The vinyl is limited, so please pick up a copy while you can! 





Fawns of Love "Mournful Eyes"



Monday, January 14, 2019

Don't Look


Young Romance
Don’t Look
(Banquet)

I’ve had a hell of a time getting this review started.  Don’t Look was released back in early November, I first learned of the band in late November, immediately fell in love with what I heard, ordered a copy of the album, received it midway through December and have listened to it over and over again.  I want to spread the word as best I can, because it seems like there has been little attention paid to this deserving record, but the words have not come, so please bear with me.

Maybe it’s in my DNA, as a Pacific North Westerner, but I do love me some guitar/drums two-pieces, and this UK pair are Paolo Ruiu on guitar and Claire Heywood on drums and vocals.  There’s always been at least a few on my radar at any one time, like The Spinanes, Some Velvet Sidewalk, MOTO, early Eux Autres, and Honeyblood – just off the top of my head.  I love the clarity.  The simplicity.  The energy.  Young Romance’s second full length, Don’t Look, hits all of those marks in spades.  There is a singular focus to this album, both lyrically and musically that is appealing.  It has a certain feeling of heartbreak crossed with a powerful determination.

Nearly the entirety of this record is about breaking free of relationships.  This is honestly not something I strongly relate to, not being the dumper very often, and loyal to a fault.  However, this direct collection of songs are easy to jump into and get behind.  The brief opener sets the stage as Claire tells the straight truth to “Alice” that her significant other is a phony (“I know he said he’d change / oh no”) over the top of a grinding guitar line.  The absolutely sublime mid-tempo “Dark of My Shadow” comes on with the line “Where I go try not to follow,” as Claire provides a gentle, but clear and firm goodbye.  I have absolutely fallen in love with Claire’s voice, and this song is where she shines brightest.  Her voice oozes emotion, proving that this decision isn’t easy.  “Prying Eye” comes on like “In Your Head” by Dum Dum Girls before shifting into its pounding and soaring chorus.  It is even more defiant in its message (“I better leave this place / where I can’t see your face”).  The first side closes with the burning two minute scorcher, “Ramona,” which continues the thread of escaping a toxic situation, as she opens the song with the line “I’ll never waste another day with you” in case there’s any doubt. 

Elsewhere, the downbeat “Toughen Up,” is the tender side, or at least more melancholy side of the letting go, as we learn of the struggle – the conflict – and the previous efforts to keep on (“We go over and over and over and over our flaws / but we’re tired of lying and keeping from crying / when all that we know of our life is tattered and torn”).  The endlessly catchy “PDS” comes on like gangbusters as Claire tells us that she’s “leaving here…’cause you know it’s never enough.”  I think you get the point.  This is the end.

My earlier reference to Dum Dum Girls is actually specifically in regards to their Only in Dreams album.  A handful of those songs evoke that early girl group with a modern twist feel and both albums are about goodbyes.  That album has been one of the most powerful for me personally in the last ten years, so this is meant as the highest of praise.  Hell, I haven’t even mentioned three of my favorite songs on the record: the straightforward rocker “By My Side,” the breezy sounding, but heart wrenchingly sad “Bruise Easy,” and the closing “All I know.”

I missed out completely on their debut in 2016 and have since ordered a copy of that.  In the meantime, I will keep this one on heavy rotation.  I recommend you do the same.




Young Romance "Dark of My Shadow"