Bill’s Indie Basement (3/2): the week in classic indie, college rock, and more
Will it ever stop raining? Perhaps it is sunny where you are. Here are five new things to hopefully brighten your day, including the return of Ladytron, a wigged-out new single from Wand; Memphis punk cult legends The Klitz; the jangly slacker style of San Francisco’s The Love Birds; and Gwenno asks an important question on her terrific new album. Check it out below.
More Basement-approved music/news: The Last Splash lineup of The Breeders just released their first new album since Last Splash; Sheer Agony frontman Jackson MacIntosh‘s solo debut; Simian Mobile Disco‘s collaborative new album with vocal ensemble Deep Throat Choir; the highly-quotable debut single from nervy post-punks Bodega (who were just added to BrooklynVegan’s Official SXSW Showcase); Yo La Tengo‘s new song “For You Too” is a great example of what they do best; and I’m super psyched that BV is presenting Girl Ray (who have a new single) at Union Pool on March 25 (tickets are going quick).
Ladytron – “The Animals”
It’s been seven years since Liverpool synthwave quartet Ladytron put out Gravity the Seducer but they are finally back, and will release their sixth album later this year. Details haven’t been revealed yet but this week they released the record’s first single, “The Animal,” which was produced by Jim Abbis who worked on 2005’s great The Witching Hour, home to “Destroy Everything You Touch” and “Sugar.” This is the Ladytron you remember, sleek and icy, with a wall of synthesizers barreling their way toward you, driven by a teutonic disco beat while Helen Marnie, disaffected as ever, intones “There’s no wrong, there’s no God.” If there aren’t surprises, that’s ok. For me at least, this is what I want from Ladytron. Listen:
Ladytron’s new album is available for preorder, in a variety of bundles, via Pledgemusic.
Wand – “The Gift”
Los Angeles group Wand continue to evolve at an exponential rate. They never quite fit in with the fuzzed-out psych circle they traveled in originally — unavoidable though, given frontman Corey Hanson played in Ty Segall’s band for a while. The first time I saw them they did an absolutely stratospheric cover of Brian Eno’s “Here Come the Warm Jets” which definitely made me think they were on a different path. They’ve morphed with every new record and there’s barely a whiff of the garage on “The Gift,” the rather epic centerpiece of their new EP, Perfume, which is out May 25 via Drag City.
In its four minutes, “The Gift” overflows with creative ambition, widescreen rock that makes at least a couple left turns, including a great piano breakdown that leads to a towering guitar solo. There’s more than a little ’70s prog here (which might remind some of OK Computer-era Radiohead) but “retro” is not a word that comes to mind. Killer.
Gwenno – “Eus Keus”
Gwenno, who used to be in ’00s-era neo-girl group The Pipettes, went into outer space upon the group’s dissolution, or at least somewhere in Wales that resembled it. Her solo debut, Y Dydd Olaf, was based on a dystopian sci-fi novel and sung almost entirely in Welsh, and now she’s just released Le Kov, which is an ode to Cornwall, UK and the area’s near-extinct Cornish language. It’s utterly gorgeous, mossy and alien, existing outside space and time, yet very human. Plus: if anyone is going to sell you on the Cornish language it’s Gwenno whose breathy vocals draw you in immediately.
There’s a song on Le Kov that takes inspiration from Aphex Twin, and another that features Super Furry Animals’ Gruff Rhys, but my favorite song on the album, bar none, is “Eus Keus,” which translates to “Is There Cheese?” Gwenno says she found the phrase in a book that was from the 18th century: “We’re calling on the pagan gods.They’re in the earth, we need to wake them up and this song’s going to do it.” It’s a krautrock pop banger and its chorus is brimming with joy…and cheese. One of my favorite songs of the year so far.
The Klitz – Rocking The Memphis Underground 1978-1980
The Klitz are the stuff of Memphis punk legend, and certainly have an interesting list of footnotes even before you get to their music. Bandleader Lesa Aldridge dated Alex Chilton (who guided the group through their short career), was apparently the title inspiration (along with her sibling Holliday) for Big Star’s Sister Lovers, was photographed by William Eggleston, let The Cramps crash on her floor while they were recording their debut album…it goes on.
The group itself barely lasted two years, making raw, primitive rock n’ roll, and released almost nothing, though they went into the studio with Chilton and Jim Dickinson to cut a record that never materialized. (They also reformed briefly in the mid-’00s.) What recordings there are have been dug up, dusted off and compiled for Rocking The Memphis Underground 1978-1980 which is out March 23 via Mono-Tone. While these recordings are shambolic to say the least, there is an undeniable electricity, and an attitude that cannot be faked. You can check out “Two Chords,” which is The Klitz in a nutshell:
The Love-Birds – “Hit My Head”
San Francisco’s The Love-Birds make guitar pop that splits the difference between Teenage Fanclub-style jangle-pop and Pavement’s tossed-off anthems. The group’s Trouble in Mind debut, In the Lover’s Corner, is out May 25 and features a lot of notable names (at least maybe to readers of this column) behind the scenes. They recorded the record with Kelley Stoltz and Glenn Donaldson (Art Museums, Skygreen Leopards). The album was mastered by actual Teenage Fanclub member Norman Blake, and the artwork is by Shayde Sartin (Fresh & Onlys, Peacers, Sonny & The Sunsets).
The chiming TFC/Big Star guitars are front and center on first single “Hit My Head,” but with a half-spoken singing style and cheap organ that pulls things into Paisley Underground territory. (They’re also reminiscent of early ’90s Philly indie rock band Barnabys if anyone remembers them.) Add in a rave-up finish and you’ve got me.