Song Of The Week (8/11/17) // See Through Dresses – “Lucy’s Arm”

See Through Dresses – “Lucy’s Arm”

From Tiny Engines:

See Through Dresses released its Tiny Engines debut End of Days in the Fall of 2015, introducing a wider audience to a sound both intrinsic and environmental, with stark contrasts between its principal songwriters’ devastatingly riff-heavy jams and endearingly honest confessionals. It showcased what the band can do in spaces where guitars and rhythms rule the roost.

If End of Days is its rock record, Horse of the Other World, out June 14th, is See Through Dresses’ dreamy opus. Recorded in 2016 in two locations — ARC Studios with Ben Brodin (Pile, First Aid Kit, The Good Life) and at the band’s home studio, Little Machine, by Mathew Carroll — it signals a sonic leap into a more ethereal, soundscape-driven aesthetic.

Reverb-drenched and synth-laden, Horse of the Other World blends Carroll and Bertuldo’s masterful mood creation and technical prowess while further exploring the depths of the band’s dynamics. “Pretty Police” mixes sparkle and bounce with brood, while “Violet” cuts sharply via crystalline keys and arpeggiated chords. Bassist Alex Kirts pumps the album’s bleeding heart and drummer Nate Van Fleet is tactical and creative. Their playing shines as the foundation of songs like “Lucy’s Arm” and “Herbivore,” whose climaxes are textbook See Through Dresses.

See Through Dresses are one of the best examples of modern post-punk. They mix classic shoegaze and dream pop elements with driving punk rock. They make art without getting pretentious.

Horse of the Other World is an A+ record from front to back. “Lucy’s Arm” is a hell of a single. Those shared vocals on the verses are fantastic.

See Through Dresses
Tiny Engines


Song Of The Week (8/4/17) // Sheer – “Stutter”

Sheer – “Stutter”

From The Native Sound:

A year and a half since the release of their debut album, and two member changes later, Sheer are back.

With their new EP Psychic Quarry, Sheer embrace a change that finds the band at their most relaxed and inspired. While their debut LP Uneasy introduced the band as one with a kinship for dreamy, reverb-induced soundscapes, Psychic Quarry is a much more catchy, and indie rock-informed affair.

The six songs on Psychic Quarry cover a lot of ground – feelings of anxiety and depression, the vulnerability of intimacy, and even the post-election shock many of found ourselves coping with.

Stutter isn’t a single. I don’t know that it’s really a thing to share here in this space. I really like this band. Psychic Quarry is a great record. It came out back in April, and I probably should have talked about it then.

Anyway, go grab the damn thing.

The Native Sound

REVIEW: Second Date – “Second Date”



Second Date are a young band coming out of Virginia. Their eponymous EP, also their debut, has a lot going for it. It is definitely worth some attention. They come out with a sound that takes from 90s alternative and the more modern incarnation of dream pop and shoegaze. They do it really well for the most part. “Bored” and “Ghost” are both very dynamic songs. They have a definite Lush by way of Pity Sex sound to them.

Second Date do fall into some common traps though. This is hardly unexpected for the genre, especially given their pop influence. “Flake” is the most obvious example. It’s not a bad song, but not as strong as the other two. It lacks a bit of bite, due to slightly weaker lyrics and some strange music choices. It has this weird funk-esque guitar line and a really out of place solo at the end.

That bullshit aside, Second Date is promising band that has a bright future. There are some things they can improve on, but there are also things that they’re totally nailing. But, y’know, that is a common thing for young bands.

Second Date
Tape Modulator
Buy It

REVIEW: Field Mouse – “Hold Still Life”

fieldmouseI was briefly in Brooklyn last December. I was hoping that, in the week I was out, I’d be able to find out why there are so many great bands from there. My research was inconclusive. Let’s credit it to bridges or something. But, instead of a terrible conclusion based on terrible research skills, let’s talk about Field Mouse. Coming from the very fertile music scene in Brooklyn, they have made a record that will stand out from the pack. While the music they’re making fall into some very well tread tropes, they have managed to make the music their own.

Hold Still Life is a record that eschewed genre rules. You can call it a regular, adjective free indie rock record. You can call it an indie pop record. You can call it shoegaze, dream pop, or a million other genre tags that only nerds like me give a fuck about. All that shit aside, it is a good record. Hell, it’s a great record.

It’s the mixture of things that make it work. It’s an almost seamless mixture of straight ahead indie rock and dream pop/shoegaze. Songs can go from being driving to more dreamy and reverb heavy at the drop of a hat. You can have a song that is carried by guitars and drums lead into a song that is more reliant on synthesizers without missing a beat. The disparate styles are held together perfectly by the fantastic vocals of Rachel Browne. It’s driving and catchy, but then also a bit fuzzy and drawn out. Field Mouse is a band that exists in this weird open space where things that shouldn’t work somehow work.

The first three songs are a great example of the record as a whole. “A Place You Return To In A Dream” is a very straightforward rock song. “Water In The Valley” starts of with a great bass line, and has a more 90’s alternative (think The Breeders) sound to it. “Two Ships” is more driven by effects. It is a bit more spacey. And, really, the record carries on in this way for the remaining nine songs. “Netsuke,” which is right in the middle of the record, is all those things at once. Hold Still Life features a little from column A, and a little from column B. Then they throw in shit from column C through Z. Field Mouse are able to make it all work, and make it all make sense.

But, hell. It’s obvious that I really like this record. Field Mouse made a record that has so many things I love in one package. I mean, honestly. Hold Still Life is a record that you really should be listening to. Like, right now.

Field Mouse
Topshelf Record
Buy It

REVIEW: Pity Sex – "Feast Of Love"

Pity Sex had to put out a great full length. There are a lot of bands doing this post-punk/shoegaze influenced thing right now, and to stand out in that field is a feat in and of itself. Pity Sex was able to do that here. They proved they had the chops to do it on the Dark World EP last year. Feast Of Love only pushes that further. They were able to build on that, and refine it further. The final product is really a treat to listen to.

Something has clicked on this record. It manages to play in the effect laden and heavily distorted stuff without getting lost in it. There are still great pop moments. It never gets as dense as some shoegaze bands typically do. It walks the line between the two worlds well. On the previous EP there was a disconnect between the songs Brennan Greaves sang lead on versus the songs Britty Drake sang lead on. That is no longer the case on this record. Everything feels more cohesive. The band sounding more unified really makes this record work.

But, while on the subject of the dual vocals, I really wish there was more interplay. That is my only issue. They only really share one song (“Drown Me Out”), save for a few choruses or whatever here and there. Even on that song it is just splitting up the verses. They fully utilize everything else. The dual guitars, though heavily distorted for the most part, are able to work together to create an interesting sound. The strong rhythm section is able to shine through and play a great part. The vocals sound great, but it feels like they are missing something.

But, that said, this is still a great record. It can jump around to various styles and genres without getting disjointed. There is some great 90’s alternative influence on songs like “Keep,” which gets as close to The Breeders territory as anything I’ve heard in awhile. There is the kind of indie/punk style showing on “Honey Pot.” There is some clean, shimmery guitar work on “Hollow Body.” While jumping around too much can lead to an unfocused record, they are able to keep it reigned in enough. It all works together. There really is a little bit here for everyone. You can call this indie rock, post-punk, dream pop, shoegaze, or really any other genre name you want. It does a disservice to say it is only one or the other though. It’s a record that showcases and melds many things together, but never sounds disjointed. That’s really the best thing about it.

Pity Sex
Run For Cover Records
Buy It

REVIEW: Belgrade – "Belgrade"

Belgrade has produced a great LP here. Taking cues from various genres, they have melded together a really satisfying full length. This is an almost picture perfect indie rock. While it plays a little like one of those throwback type records that were popular a few years ago, it never sounds shitty and dated. The sincerity is there.

Going with the retro-y indie pop, all the hallmarks are there. It never gets too dense, so it avoids becoming shoegaze. There is still a lot of fuzz effects. It also fluctuates over to a more spacey type of production. The echo and reverb are turned up. The guitars get pretty fucking shimmery at points.
A lazy point of comparison would be Pershing era Someone Still  Loves You Boris Yeltsin. Specifically on the the third song, “Truth Serum.” It reminds me a little of “Modern Mystery.” However, this manages to walk that line without crossing over. There is enough going on here to avoid it getting too kitschy. It’s got a vintage sound, by way of 1990’s alternative/indie. The record feels similar to those old post-punk records that Flood used to produce back in the day. It’s clean, but not sterile. The songs feature extended instrumental breaks, usually in regards to an into or outro. It stays consistently midtempo and restrained. The vocals are spot on. The harmonies are great. The backing vocals are strong, but never overwhelming.

Overall, this is a solid record. It has an appeal for all shades of indie rock and alternative fans. Given the line up of this band, that is really no surprise. There are former/current members of various Philly and Jersey bands. With the experience comes the ability to make tightly crafted songs with pop hooks and appeal. Check it out.

REVIEW: Center Of The Sun – "Machine Gun"

I feel like the new wave of shoegaze influenced bands get needlessly criticized. I guess the reason is because how revolutionary the genre was when it first started. I mean, come on, some of those shambling British bands just came way the fuck out of left field. In recent years we have seen a lot of bands mixing more spacious indie rock with the dense, fuzzed out shoegaze stuff. The Joy Formidable and The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart are great examples. In a similar way, Center Of The Sun has crafted a hell of a record.

Machine Gun is, at it’s heart, a pop record. While there are clear earmarks of the whole nouveau shoegaze thing, it never really insists on itself in the way some of these records do. While playing around with the genre norms, Center Of The Sun are able to maintain a pop edge. It can get kind of dense and gloomy sounding in spots, but there are some great melodies shining through.
What really makes this band so interesting is the very disparate range of bands all the members have been (or are currently in). Other projects run the gamut from metal to noise rock, to electro-pop. That such a wide array of projects could offshoot into something as fucking solid as this is kind of surprising.Everything just seems to mesh. Rick Contes’ and Chris Nolen’s guitars blend perfectly with Ally Hoffmann’s voice. The interplay is really fantastic. This shines through on songs like “Cease” and “Reckless Sea.” The rhythm section of Joe Elmore and Ben Gascho keep everything tight and moving.
For fans of the genre, there is absolutely something here for you. There are some great melodic, spacey bits in songs like “Turnabout.” There are some heavy, guitar led songs like “Reckless Sea” and “Home.” No matter what mood you’re in, they got you covered. Just great gloomy, fuzzy songs. There is a lot to like here.
In short, this record will appeal to all sorts of people. Indie rock fans, shoegaze fans, and even those chillwave nerds can get down to this. Check it out.

REVIEW: The Dandelion War – "We Were Always Loyal To Lost Causes"

It seems like the longer I do this blog, the farther I get away from what people would consider “punk.” I deal with a whole bunch of post-(insert genre) bands and records. I find most of these releases to be more interesting than a lot of other things. The Dandelion War is one such band.

We Were Always Loyal To Lost Causes is a fine example of, I guess, post-rock. It is full of lush instrumentation. It is a record of space. Instead of coming at the listener, it invites the listener to get lost in the atmosphere. This is the strongest part of it. The Dandelion War provide an escape. Everyday life is full of distractions and a million things happening at once, so there is a lot to be said for getting lost in the music.

While it would be easy to pigeon hole this band as one of many genres, it doesn’t quite seem fair. There is a pop sensibility, but dream pop doesn’t quite work. There are plenty of effects, but it doesn’t get as dense as shoegaze. In the same way that Sigur Rós can mix and match, so too does this band. If you pull out your ambient rock bingo card, there is a little bit of everything involved.

All genre buzzwords aside, this album is great. Emphasis on album. While most bands are content to throw 13 potential singles together and call it a full length, The Dandelion War have clearly worked to make this a cohesive album. This might make it hard to single out a few songs as standouts, but it makes the end product so much better. Even coming in just this side of an hour, We Were Always Loyal To Lost Causes never overstays it’s welcome. It is ambient, inviting, and moving.

The Dandelion War
Deep Elm
Stream/Buy It (Bandcamp)
Buy It (Physical)

REVIEW: Beach House – "Bloom"

I don’t tend to review this genre very often. I know that seems kind of dumb, but I just find it hard to do. That said, Beach House is one of the bands on the forefront of the whole dream pop resurgence thing. And, by god, they really should be. This genre lends itself to some rather trite bullshit, and to be a band who can do it solidly says something.  Never mind being able to do it consistently through four full albums (and countless EPs and singles).

Bloom is nothing if not ambient as fuck. There is a great level of space in these songs. Most are very drawn out, slow burns. The blending of the instruments feeds this. And, honestly, that is the strength of this band and this album. You can put this record on and just feel it. Where punk bands make their bread and butter by stirring the listener up, this just flows along.

What makes Bloom great is that it actually feels like a proper album. A whole lot of bands seem content to make albums that are disjointed, but have a lot of potential singles. Beach House has delivered an album that is seemingly full of single, but retains a cohesive vibe throughout. That is something that deserves praise.

Damn near every music site has fallen all over themselves throwing praise at this record. Let me join in. This shit rules.

Beach House
Sub Pop Records
Buy It

REVIEW: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – "Belong"

After a great debut release, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart had set the bar pretty high. Their 2009 self titled record was an incredibly solid take on indie pop. Mixing together the heavily distorted guitars of The Jesus and Mary Chain, the effect heavy wall of sound of shoegaze, and the genre expected perishing alt rock voice. All in all, an enjoyable half hour of music.

In that same year, the “Higher Than the Stars” EP was released. It was kind of split as far as the sound. Some songs sounded like they could have been on the previous full length, but some were a little cleaner sounding. There was more straight forward pop songs to be found here.

In that vein, we have the new full length. Produced by Flood and mixed by Alan Moulder, this record sounds like it should have been released back during the 90’s post-grunge, alternative rock scene. This release has more in common with The Smashing Pumpkins’ “Siamese Dream” (or the more poppy stuff on “Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness”), than it does The Jesus and Mary Chain (or My Bloody Valentine). However, this is all tempered with a heavy dose of new wave synthesizer, and a touch of the poppier side of The Cure.

The songs are still either slow or midtempo, the lyrics are still hit or miss, the general twee guidelines are still met, but it is a cleaner sound. Kip Berman shows he his vocals have range beyond a monotone drone. Peggy Wang steps up with the keyboard use. They have taken the next step musically while still falling well within the dream pop thing (by the by, how many subgenres does this type of music need?).

Lyrics are the tripping point here. With the cleaner production, comes clearer vocals. Realistically, the lyrics on these types of records are usually twee. But, with dense production, heavy music effects, and a general vocal drone, they tend to not stand out over the instrumentation. Unfortunately, that is not the case here. From the titular song (and album opener), we get the line “tell yourself / it’s not yourself / but, no one else / can make me know there’s no one else.” From “Girl of 1,000 Dreams” we get this “I know everything is so-so / I know you could just fly solo / But come on, we are gonna go go around the world, ’cause you’re the girl of 1,000 dreams.” Lyrically, this is what we are dealing with most of the album. But, pop music (indie or otherwise) has never been know for it’s lyrical prowess.

But, the album is not all bad. While “My Terrible Friend” suffers from dubious lyrical content, it more than makes up for it musically. It might be one of the catchiest songs on the album. “Heart in Your Heartbreak” is another stand out track for similar reasons. Catchy instrumentation might not save a record from poor songwriting, but it can certainly help.

Also, I want to make special mention of the album cover. It is simple, but good. Their last full length had this overly contrasted photo. It looked like something Tim Armstrong of Rancid would shit out for whatever band was releasing something on Hellcat Records. This is a major step up.

This is a generally good album. Maybe a little too poppy. Lyrically, it needs a lot of help. But, if you are a person who has a soft spot for twee, check this out. Not the finest example of indie pop, but certainly not the worst either.

Official Site
Buy It (Slumberland Records)