Bill’s Indie Basement (5/25): the week in classic indie, college rock, and more
As we dive into Memorial Day Weekend, we’ve got a selection of records here in the basement worthy of a three-day weekend: Smokescreens (featuring Corey from Terry Malts), a new single from Sweden’s Les Big Byrd, yet another sequel to the classic C-86 comp, the lush ’80s moods of Arp, and Chicago’s crisp-yet-melted Deeper.
Smokescreens – “Someone New”
Chris Rosi and Corey Cunningham have been friends since their bands Plateaus and Terry Malts toured together in 2011. They started making music together as Smokescreens and released their debut album in 2017. Now with drummer Brice Bradley and bassist Jenny Moffett, Smokescreens will release their second album, Used to Yesterday, on July 13 via Slumberland. Their sound — jangly but roaring with super-catchy melodies and harmonies — fits right in on the label that has put out records by The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Aislers Set, Black Tambourine, LIlys (and Terry Malts).
We’ve got the premiere of the album’s anthemic, ringning opening cut, “Someone New,” which Corey says is “a classic tale of that person you know who has it all. Good at everything, lucky and successful. Despite seeming to have everything they ever wanted, the one thing they can’t have is the love of the one they yearn for.” This is superior indiepop, as Corey’s bands tend to be and, spoiler alert, the whole record is great. (Also: heads up fans of The Clean, you’re gonna like this LP.) You can stream “Someone New” right here:
You can pre-order Used to Yesterday now and Smokescreens have a few shows coming up, mostly in the Los Angeles area. All dates are here.
Various Artists – C89 Box Set
For better or worse, the free cassette compilation C-86 that came with an issue of the NME in 1986 remains a touchstone for a lot of shambolic, jangly underground indie rock today (see Smokescreens above). As an artifact on the time it’s essential, even if some of it is fun but forgettable (as are a lot of the groups inspired by the scene.) Cherry Red turned C86 into a box set in 2014, and has since gone on to document the UK indie scene with C87 and C88 boxes, too. And they’re not stopping, as the three-disc C89 box is due out July 27.
To set the scene: My Bloody Valentine’s Isn’t Anything had come out the year before and its influence was instantly felt; meanwhile there was a rising neo-psychedelic scene that would spawn both Madchester and Britpop. So here we get early shoegaze (The Bardots, The Telescopes, The Seers, The Charlottes), bands with bowl cut hairdos cribbing from the Byrds (The Stone Roses, Milltown Brothers, Mock Turtles), as well as sensitive, bookish groups that were part of the twee Sarah Records scene (Brighter, The Orchids, Another Sunny Day, Christine’s Cat).
C89 also has one of the quintessential nerdy indiepop singles (The Pooh Sticks‘ “I Know Someone Who Knows Someone Who Knows Alan McGee Quite Well”), as well as drum machine grebo punk duo Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine, Mark Burgess’ post-Chameleons band The Sun & The Moon, Treebound Story (featuring a young Richard Hawley), underrated buzzsaw poppers The Family Cat, and at least 30 bands I’ve never heard of before in my life (and am anxious to check out). Will we get a C90? Stay tuned and check out the full tracklist here and listen to a few classics from the comp below:
Les Big Byrd – “A Little More Numb”
Swedish psych heads Les Big Byrd, which features Joakim Åhlund (Caesars, Teddybears) and Frans Johansson (Fireside), are back with a new 7″ out June 29 via PNKSLM Records. The A-side is an original titled “A Little More Numb” and features Spacemen 3’s Sonic Boom, and the b-side is a cover of The Lemon Drops’ “I Live in the Springtime.” Sonic Boom’s influence is strong on “Numb” with gently droning modulated keyboards that offer a through-line amid LBB’s two-chord guitar racket. Have a listen:
“A Little More Numb” is also the first single from Les Big Byrd’s new album which is due out this fall.
Deeper – S/T
Chicago band Deeper make angular guitar pop that at times sounds like like a less dour version of what Preoccupations do, though it’s probably closer to both Georgia’s Omni or Montreal’s Corridor in style and execution. There’s not a lot of strumming; instead it’s more a web of intertwining guitar lines that is both crisp and melty, Does that make them the baked macaroni and cheese of indie rock?
I’m gonna let that question and metaphor just lie there but say that Deeper released their debut album today via Fire Talk, and it’s a terrific batch of off-kilter mutant pop that ranges from nervy punk to a few languid, pretty songs (where singer/guitarist Nic Gohl sounds just a tad like Robert Smith), with the group’s snaky guitar interplay being the connective tissue that holds it all together.
Arp – “Fluorescences”
NYC artist/musician Alexis Georgopoulos is back with Zebra, his first Arp record in four years, which is out June 22 via Mexican Summer. While I appreciate Oneohtrix Point Never’s soundscape textures (and forays into actual songwriting on new album Age Of), when it comes to New Age-y pop, this is much more my thing. According to the the press release, Arp apparently pulls influence from “80s Japanese avant pop, Compass Point synth funk and Brazilian rainforest textures,” and first single “Fluorescences” bears that out, a bouncy number that glows green like phosphorescent frogs from deep in the amazon who may have been given their luminescent qualities by some extraterrestrial being…in 1984. It’s all there, a tangerine dream of lush worlds filled with synth pizzicato strings, fat elastic double bass and glistening keyboard washes. Pure moods, baby, in the best possible way. Check out the video, shot on Super-8 and co-directed by Shawn Brackbill, Monica Hofstadter, and Georgopoulos himself, below: