Bill’s Indie Basement (2/16): the week in classic indie, college rock, and more
Hello everybody and welcome to this special Valentine’s Day Week edition of Indie Basement where I ignore the holiday entirely and keep things business as usual. It is a bumper crop this week, with an extra item (though really it’s two related items so more like five and a half this week). Anyway, we’ve got the debut album from a new French artist I’m pretty excited about, Halo Maud, the great debut album from young UK trio The Orielles, plus new records from Brooklyn’s Bambara and Detroit’s Bonny Doon. There’s also a new issue of beloved indie zine chickfactor, and a reissue of a ’90s cult classic from Kicking Giant.
If you need more Basement approved music: this week sees the release of U.S. Girls’ great In a Poem Unlimited (my favorite LP of 2018 so far) and Superchunk’s terrific What A Time to Be Alive; plus Cate Le Bon and Tim Presley are back with a new DRINKS album; Kelley Stoltz is touring; those all-analog My Bloody Valentine reissues finally arrived (with a surprise).
Gail O’Hara and Pam Berry’s influential ’90s indiepop zine chickfactor celebrated its 25th anniversary last year with parties in London, NYC and Portland, and now we’re getting the first new issue in six years. For the first time ever, they’re printing it with two different covers — one with The Softies and Alvvays, and the other with The Softies and Kendra Smith (Opal, Dream Syndicate). There are also features and interviews with former Go-Betweens members Lindy Morrison and Amanda Brown, Girl Ray, Frances McKee (The Vaselines), Gerard Love (Teenage Fanclub), a “jukebox jury” with members of The Jicks, Thermals, and Minders, plus reviews, chickfactor‘s famous polls, and lots more. It’s out in March and you can preorder it via Kickstarter with some cool options, like mix CDs and a chickfactor 25 poster designed by Tae Won Yu.
Kicking Giant – Halo vinyl reissue
As mentioned just above, Tae Won Yu did the poster for chickfactor 25, and you may recognize his distinct style from the cover art to Built to Spill’s Perfect from Now On and Keep it Like a Secret, and he’s done work for K Records, Portlandia and more.
Tae Won Yu was also one half of Kicking Giant, along with drummer Rachel Carns, who formed in NYC in 1989 and later moved to Olympia, Washington. The band played around in different related styles — winsome indiepop a la Small Factory, raging Riot Grrl, shoegaze — and what they lacked in skill they made up for with creativity, enthusiasm, and hooks. As the band say:
In 1989 Tae was making 4-track recordings in his East Village apartment, obsessively going to shows and generally slacking as a student when he spied Rachel wearing a Einstürzende Neubauten shirt at the school wood shop. Recruiting her as a drummer for his idea of a minimalist, experimental punk duo, Kicking Giant would commence activities as soon as they could find a drum for Rachel. Their first set up was only a floor tom without a stand which was wedged into a low stool. Tae played guitar and sang, Rachel had never played drums before.
Songs from Kicking Giant’s first three cassette-only releases were compiled into a 1993 CD called Halo and that got its first-ever vinyl release back in November. The packaging on it, as you might imagine, is stellar, with loads of old photos and flyers, and the songs — admittedly all-over-the-place stylistically — still hold up. You can stream the whole record below and order your copy here.
Halo Maud – “Tu Sais Comme Je Suis”
You may remember in one of the early editions of Indie Basement we premiered a collaborative single from French artist Halo Maud and Montreal’s Corridor. Halo Maud, the nom de pop of Parisian musician Maud Nadal, has now announced her debut album, Je Suis Une île, will be out May 25 via Heavenly. Maud used to play in Melody’s Echo Chamber and Moodoïd, and her sound definitely fits in with their Franco-psych-ual prog pop, but she may have the most promise of them all. She’s rooted all the touchstones of those who came before but her sound is very modern.
The Du Pouvoir EP from last year was a terrific appetizer, and with the new album announcement comes the gorgeous, ethereal single “Tu Sais Comme Je Suis” (“You Know How I Am”) which is part Bjork, part Blonde Redhead and features production that is just so. There’s snap to the drums, the bass line juts out high on the neck, and her vocals (sometimes in French, sometimes in English) and lush harmonies fill in any cracks. Listen to that, and watch the video for percussion-heavy “Baptisme” (which first appeared on the Du Pouvoir EP but is also on the album), below
Halo Maud – Je Suis Une île – tracklist:
2. Du Pouvoir/Power
5. Tu Sais Comme Je Suis
6. De Retour
9. Je Suis Une Île
10. Proche Proche Proche
11. Dans La Nuit
12. Des Bras
The Orielles – Silver Dollar Moment
The Orielles hail from Halifax, West Yorkshire (not Halifax, Nova Scotia) and are made up of sisters Sidonie B and Esmé Dee Hand-Halford and their best friend Henry Carlyle Wade, and are 21, 18 and 17 respectively. Their influences are post-punk indie (Orange Juice, Dolly Mixture, Pastels) but there is an undeniable, joyful exuberance to their songs that really transcends the reference points. They excel at breezy, jangly pop but my favorite songs are the funky ones like “Blue Suitcase (Disco Wrist)” which is like ABBA covering Delta 5 — the kind of music I’d like to hear on a cruise ship. Their debut album, Silver Dollar Moment, is out today via Heavenly and the whole thing is great. You can listen to the whole thing:
The Orielles will be at SXSW this year — no word on shows outside Austin.
Bonny Doon – “A Lotta Things” & “I Am Here (I Am Alive)”
Detroit’s Bonny Doon are back with their second album, titled Longwave, which is their first for Woodsist. (It’s out March 23.) The band’s laid back style — strummy, lightly twangy, steeped in VU and their descendants — is a perfect fit for the label that has been home to, over the years, Woods, Kevin Morby, Real Estate and Kurt Vile.
The just-released single for the album, “Lotta Things,” will remind some of Pavement as there’s a certain inflection to Bill Lennox’s vocals that definitely recalls Stephen Malkmus. Musically, too, especially with the loping gate of this song, they’re in the same mellow ballpark. But this stuff, when done right (and Bonny Doon do it right), is rather timeless, as are the song’s themes of being adrift in your 20s. Even better is the first single, “I Am Here (I Am Alive),” which explores similar ideas but has a cozier vibe thanks to warm electric piano. Listen to them both:
Bonny Doon – Longwave tracklist:
1. Long Wave
2. A Lotta Things
3. I Am Here (I Am Alive)
4. Take Me Away
5. Where Do You Go
7. Saw a Light
8. Try to Be
9. Part of Me
Bambara – “Jose Tries to Leave”
Bambara have been with us for most of this decade, making dark, stark, loud post-punk with a wide swath of romance. The band spent much of 2017 backing Angus Andrew in the new live lineup of Liars and they were a natural fit — if you told me Bambara were Australian I’d believe you. Bambara are back in action on their own, and set to release new LP Shadow on Everything on April 6 via Warfcat. They’re calling this a “Western Gothic concept album.”
They have not elucidated further on this concept, but you can hear the wide open desert on first single “Jose Tries to Leave.” The kick-ass rhythm section drives things as usual, but the guitar-work here is wonderfully atmospheric and Reid Bateh’s vocals are dripping with attitude. There’s serious black-clad swagger to this one:
Bambara play Brooklyn’s Union Pool on March 2 which is the first of two record release shows for The Men’s new LP, and then they play Alphaville on March 3 with Canadian band Frigs, plus Weeping Icon, Reverent, and Dean Cercone. Tickets to both are on sale now.
Bambara – Shadow On Everything tracklist
1. Dark Circles
2. Doe-Eyed Girl
3. Jose Tries to Leave
4. Night’s Changing
6. The Door Between Her Teeth
7. Human Hair
8. Steel Dust Ocean
9. Sunbleached Skulls
10. Wild Fires
12. Back Home