Indie Basement (8/26): the week in classic indie, college rock, and more
Indie Basement's quiet but very hot August continues, and this week includes: the swaggering debut album from Speedy Wunderground-signed The Lounge Society; new DFA signees JJULIUS; cinematic guitarist Rachika Nayar; Ezra Furman finds empathy at the edge of the apocalypse; Pantha du Prince gets one with nature; and '90s electronica producer William Orbit returns with his first album in eight years featuring Beth Orton and more.
Things are decidedly more jumpin' in Notable Releases as Andrew listens to albums from Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith,Stella Donnelly, Julia Jacklin, and more.
If you need more Basement-adjacent BV content: The Smithereens and Melody's Echo Chamber announced "lost albums; La Femme are finally making a record not in French (to quote the NBC Peacock, "It's in Spanish"); I caught Spoon's tour warm-up show; and I made a list of 30 Famous Actors Who've Appeared in Indie Music Videos.
Jaimie Branch, rest in peace.
Over in the Indie Basement basement of the BrooklynVegan shop, the virtual shelves are stocked with records by Stereolab, Broadcast, Mazzy Star, Beach House, Wet Leg, Kevin Morby, Yard Act, Cocteau Twins, The Beths, Aldous Harding, The Cure, Can, Neu!, Mazzy Star, Talking Heads, Just Mustard, Midlake, Pixies, Sparks, Liars, The Kinks, The Zombies, The Monkees, and lots more.
Head below for this week's reviews.
The Lounge Society - Tired of Liberty (Speedy Wunderground)
Ambitious, impressive, swaggering debut album from this young British band on Dan Carey's label
Like a lot of the groups associated with Dan Carey's Speedy Wunderground label (black midi, Black Country New Road), The Lounge Society have a lot going on in their sound, and aren't afraid to take wild swings. Following two EPs, the Yorkshire band have delivered their debut, an ambitious, politically minded concept album about a society that crumbles apart over the course of the record. The Lounge Society's trump card is swagger, and the album recalls everything from The Libertines to Modest Mouse, Joseph K, These New Puritans, and Iceage. Sometimes all within one song. The band are young, not that far out of high school, and that youthful abandon and idealism comes across in these 11 songs that crackle with electricity. You get the feeling they were trying to cram in every idea they've ever wanted to use, all on one 40-minute album. Maybe too many ideas, but more often than not the results are thrilling -- see "Blood Money," "Remains," the pretty, introspective "Upheaval," and the nervously funky "Boredom is a Drug." Boredom, by the way, is not a problem here.
Rachika Nayar - Heaven Come (NNA Tapes)
Brooklyn guitarist weaves cinematic tapestries with her instrument while dabbling in dance music, too
Rachika Nayar is a guitarist, but one like Sarah Lipstate or Robin Guthrie who transform their instrument so much, through looping and other electronic manipulation, that you might not be able to tell what instrument created these celestial sounds. It's transportive, Music of the Spheres level liftoff, but Nayar also sneaks in some guitar heroics, too, playing like distant shooting stars that remind you she can shred. Her new album, Heaven Come, is an on-the-nose title for music like this that is so evocative and sweepingly cinematic, Iceland might make her an honorary citizen. She also dabbles in dance music here, which results in the album's most tantalizing moment, "Heaven Come Crashing," which features choral ahhs from Maria BC and a dizzying drum-n-bass breakbeat that hits halfway through. When it does, the albums explodes into orchestral, ethereal bliss that continues through valleys and peaks across the last three songs, wrapping up with another high, "Our Wretched Fate." Would the album have been better with more of those moments throughout? Perhaps, but it's all the more heavenly when you wait.
JJULIUS - "VOL.2" (DFA / Mammas Mysteriska Jukebox)
Kitchen sink DIY production elivens this Swedish producer's new album -- which is also the first DFA release in three years
JJULIUS is the nom-de-rock of Swedish musician and producer Julius Pierstorff, who also runs Gothenburg indie label Mammas Mysteriska Jukebox with Elin Engström (together they make music as Monokultur). While JJULIUS' music defies easy categorization, most of the sounds stem from post-punk influences: cheap keybaords and drum machines, intentionally naive elements alongside deft production, free jazz, dub, krautrock, industrial, etc. His second album, which is out in the US via DFA (the label's first release since co-founder Jonathan Galkin's exit), feels like the kind of album that might have come out in 1980 on Rough Trade, Postcard or Swisswave label Off Course. What Vol 2 lacks in big hooks, it makes up for in vibe, sounding like an impromptu jam between Einsturzende Neubauten, Young Marble Giants and Liliput, which is a party I'd personally like to attend.
Pantha du Prince - Garden Gaia (Modern Recordings)
German producer Hendrik Weber becomes one with nature on this rainforest rave of a record
As Pantha du Prince, German producer Hendrik Weber has made all kinds of electronic music over the years, from techno and house, to ambient and experimental noise. (Most of his records, though, are pretty chill.) His latest, Garden Gaia, is a third chapter in his series exploring the idea of "humans as nature," which he previously investigated on 2013's Elements of Light and 2020’s Conference of Trees. “My music is about raising consciousness, about describing the reality of life and the lost paradise through the means of music," says Hendrik. "It’s about entering a free space and developing a maximum degree of openness and sensitivity to our bodies – to our mental states and the atmosphere that surrounds us. It’s about mindfulness and a high level of awareness towards what’s happening around and within us.” With all that mindfulness in mind, Pantha Du Prince has made a meditative, flowing album of verdant dance music, perfect for a rainforest rave that's gentle enough not to upset the ecosystem (or the neighbors, which in this case might be brightly colored lizards). Cicadas and babbling brooks cozy up to relaxed rhythms but Hendrik's skill and good taste keep things out of Deep Forest / Pure Moods territory.
Ezra Furman - All of Us Flames (ANTI- / Bella Union)
Ezra explores an apocalyptic vision in her signature anthemic, empathetic style
"This is a first person plural album," Ezra Furman says of her ninth album. "It's a queer album for the stage of life when you start to understand that you are not a lone wolf, but depend on finding your family, your people, how you work as part of a larger whole. I wanted to make songs for use by threatened communities, and particularly the ones I belong to: trans people and Jews." All of Us in Flames is the final installment in the trilogy that began with 2018's Transangelic Exodus and 2019's Twelve Nudes and musically continues in those records' '80s-inspired anthemic, synth-injected rock style. (Springsteen remains a big influence.) Ezra wrote the songs in the the early stages of the pandemic, made the record with John Congleton who helped bring this hopeful, apocalyptic vision to fiery life. Flames is right -- this is a hot sounding record, with levels pushed into the diode-melting red, especially Furman's impassioned vocals, which sound like they're trying to rip out of your speakers and shake you by the shoulders out of a stupor. It all adds to the us-vs-the-world intensity of these anthems -- "Forever in Sunset," "Point Me Toward the Real" and "Temple of Broken Dreams" -- from one of our more underrated, empathetic songwriters and performers.
William Orbit - The Painter (Warner Music)
Producer of albums by Madonna and Blur returns with his first album in eight years, featuring Beth Orton, Georgia, Lido Pimienta, more
In the '90s, William Orbit was one of the go-tos if you were a rock or pop artist that wanted to add a little de rigueur electronica to your sound. He produced his then-girlfriend Beth Orton's 1993 debut album, Superpinkymandy, helped Madonna revitalize her sound on 1998 album Ray of Light, produced Blur's 1999 album, 13, and has also worked with everyone from U2 to Ricky Martin. This is his first album in eight years and follows a period of his life where, entering his 60s, he took up painting...and drugs. “I’d always been quite drug-averse,” he recalls. “Then one day I was at a New Year’s party, and I thought I’d try some cocaine. I recall joking to everyone: ‘Remember this in a year, when I’m in rehab!��� And then I thought: ‘Hmm, this is rather nice.” Orbit suffered a psychotic break at a festival and bottomed out later when, according to his official biography for this album, he barricaded himself in his home while "convinced he was working for the royal family and in danger of being assassinated by the Church of England." He's straightened himself out and opened his contacts app to call upon many of his previous collaborators, including Orton and Katie Melua, plus Georgia, Lido Pimienta, Polly Scattergood and more. Orbit is a skilled producer, but most of the sounds here feel stuck in the slick sounds of the turn of the millennium, though the album rises and falls somewhat depending on who is singing. (Georgia? Pretty good. Katie Melua? Notsomuch.) However, the two songs with Orton, especially the dubby"I Paint What I Can See," still have that spark, even if they mainly evoke waves of nostalgia.
Looking for more? Browse the Indie Basement archives.
And check out what's new in our shop.