Bill’s Indie Basement (4/13): the week in classic indie, college rock, and more
In the world of preview streams and advance listens, I find myself not knowing when any record actually comes out. It’s an embarrassing statement to make for a person in my position (currently: sitting, in my kitchen), not to mention what I do for a living. Anyway, the point I’m getting to is that a couple of the records this week actually came out last week. Maybe this is a plus, with a week to dig into these, do I need to say “spoiler alert”?
Actually, two of the records this week apparently came out…19 and 20 years ago? That doesn’t seem right, but that’s what the press release says. Two of the records in today’s column actually are out this week, and we’ve also got the premiere of a music video that is my favorite Lord of the Flies homage since The Simpsons‘ ninth season episode, “Das Bus.” This one, too, tastes like burning. What the hell am I talking about? Clues lie in the hastily assembled collage above, but answers lie below.
More Basement-approved music: I’m digging Johnny Marr’s new single “The Tracers“; ditto Cherry Glazer’s new single “Juicy Socks” (despite an unfortunate title); and the BrooklynVegan Northside show has a very Basement-friendly initial lineup of Protomartyr and Deerhoof.
Destroyer – City of Daughters & Thief reissues
Destroyer albums these days are pretty lush affairs — like Kaputt or last year’s Ken — but in the early days of the late ’90s it was more of a One Dan band, but Bejar’s way with a melody, a “bah bah” or “doo doo” chorus, and savvy Bowie-isms transcended the more DIY aspects of the recordings. Two of those early records, 1998’s City of Daughters and 1999’s Thief, are getting vinyl reissues by Merge Records on May 25. It’s the first time City of Daughters has been available on wax in the U.S. and both are one-time limited colored vinyl pressings. So don’t dawdle — preorders are available now and there’s a bundle where you get both records along with a t-shirt.
The low-to-mid-fi sound of both of these records actually kind of works in their favor and both hold up well, though Thief is the better record by far. (I prefer it to the cheap-synth fantasy that is Streethawk: A Seduction though I am in a minority there.) You can stream both in full below.
Sloan – 12
Let’s raise a glass to Sloan who have been together for 27 years with the same lineup where all four members write and sing. Also raise a glass to having now made 12 albums, all of which are worth hearing (just don’t start with Action Pact if you’re new to their world). Having four distinct songwriters also takes a bit of the pressure off any one member even though though bassist Chris Murphy and guitarist Patrick Pentland tend to write the “hits.”
In general: Patrick writes the big riff rockers; Murphy is pure power-pop with clever-clever wordplay (and some bad puns); guitarist Jay Ferguson keeps it light in a ’70s way; and drummer Andrew Scott is the wildcard who isn’t scared to try reggae or bring in a children’s choir for a 17-minute song. At this point I can almost tell who wrote what before they start singing but new album 12 offers the most cross-pollination from Sloan’s members since probably Never Hear the End of It (but maybe since 1999’s Between the Bridges). While all four members contribute three songs each, Murphy pops up to sing a line or two on just about everyone’s songs. and Pentland shows up on Murphy’s “Wish Upon a Satellite.” It gives 12 a cohesiveness that 2014’s Commonwealth (which purposefully gave each member his own side of the double LP) did not. It’s also one of Sloan’s glossiest records, with the band’s harmonies shimmering as a central instrument, be it on Ferguson’s effervescent “Right to Roam” and “The Lion’s Share,” Pentland’s “Have Faith” or Murphy’s “Spin Our Wheels.”
While everyone brings good songs to the table, I have to give the MVP award to Andrew Scott whose songs, which float on rolling basslines and dreamlike melodies, are clearly personal: “Gone for Good” looks at the emotional wreckage of divorce, and “44 Teenagers” (the album’s best song) reflects on the death of Gord Downie of The Tragically Hip. It’s acid that satisfyingly cuts the richness of of a concise enjoyable record by one of the most consistent groups of the last 30 years.
A Place to Bury Strangers – Pinned
I’m gonna keep this one short as we also talked with APTBS’ Oliver Ackermann today and you should read that (and listen to the Space Signals playlist the band made for us), but I think Pinned is the best record A Place to Bury Strangers have made in a while. There are new textures this time around, it’s more minimal, and new drummer Lia Braswell really adds a lot. Having her sing or share lead on tracks like “There’s Only One of Us,” “Frustrated Operator” and “Was it Electric” adds a welcome new element to their dark, psych/postpunk sound.
For superfans, there’s a special “Brainwashed” edition of the vinyl/CD that comes with a bonus album of unreleased songs they recorded while on tour.
As good as the record is, you really just need to see them live when they play near you (wear earplugs).
MIEN – S/T
If the new APTBS album isn’t enough dark, hazy psych for you, the debut album from supergroup MIEN should do the trick. Featuring The Black Angels’ Alex Maas, The Horrors’ Tom Furse, Elephant Stone’s Rishi Dhir and The Earlies’ John-Mark Lapham. Made by four strong personalities — albeit mostly via the internet — you might think it would make for a disjointed record, but this record holds together well, and doesn’t really sound like any of the members respective bands. “Earth Moon,” krautrock groovin’ “Black Habit” and the claustrophobic “You Dreamt” stick with you, though MIEN are more about the mood than the melody.
MIEN will make their live debut this month at Austin’s Levitation festival.
Collapsing Scenery – “Let’s Burn Down the Cornfield (feat. James Chance)” video
Collapsing Scenery, the music and art project of Don Devore (Ink & Dagger, The Icarus Line, Amazing Baby, Lilys, Sick Feeling) and Reggie Debris, are back with a new single: a cover of Randy Newman’s “Let’s Burn Down the Cornfield.” They take the minimal, bluesy original and give it the glammy Marc Bolan treatment. James Chance providing some no wave sax edge is icing on the cake. With it comes a video, directed by Kansas Bowling (B.C. Butcher), a twisted take on William Golding’s classic 1954 novel, Lord of the Flies. Says Reggie Debris:
I’d been a fan of director Kansas Bowling from afar, and we immediately clicked creatively when we met in person. Her idea was simply a gender flipped riff on ‘Lord of the Flies’. There are so many memorable set pieces in that novel, including the fallen paratroopers, which inspired the costuming for me and Don.
The video premieres in this post and you can watch that here:
Collapsing Scenery have a few Los Angeles shows coming up, and are promising a NYC date soon. All dates are here.
Mouse on Mars – Dimensional People
For 25 years Andi Toma and Jan St. Werner have been making music as Mouse on Mars, taking influence from techno, house, modern classical, avant-garde composers, jazz, and fellow German artists like Kraftwerk, Neu! and Can, all the while defying easy description. “Easy” is not a word used with Mouse on Mars too much; sometimes it feels like their music is intended to be studied as much as it is enjoyed.
The press release for their new album, Dimensional People, which came out today on Thrill Jockey, may cause some eyes to glaze over. Here’s a little bit:
Dimensional People, initially titled new konstruktivist socialism, gives each participating guest a platform to imprint the album as whoever or whatever they want to be: a narrator, a perfect moment, a jam, an ensemble member, an abstract sound, a multiple persona, a mood, a soloist. Originally premiering as a spatial composition using object-based mixing technology playing with the possibilities of sonic design and collective musicianship, the recording expands upon these ideas.
I’ve read that paragraph (and the ones around it) a few times and am still not sure what it means, but the record plays to me like a fever dream where someone keeps spinning the radio dial as you drift in and out of consciousness. In a good way! It also features an impressive list of collaborators, including Justin Vernon (Bon Iver), Aaron and Bryce Dessner (The National), Zach Condon (Beirut), Spank Rock, Swamp Dogg, Eric D. Clark, Lisa Hannigan, Amanda Blank, Sam Amidon, and Ensemble Musikfabrik. Tracks lean sonically toward who’s working on them, so you go from the three-part dreamy indie-classical title track (featuring Vernon and the Dessners), to the head-in-the-clouds soul of “Aviation” with Spank Rock, Condon and Blank, to the experimental “Parliament of Angels” which features Aaron Dessner, Amidon and Rob Moose. The album’s poppiest moments come courtesy of Condon, who sings on “Daylight” and the delightful closing track, “Sydney in a Cup.” You could dissect Dimensional People all day, or you just listen. It’s well worth doing so:
Mouse on Mars will bring their Sonic Robots (really) to Moogfest in May.