Indie Basement (10/28): the week in classic indie, college rock, and more
After a very overstuffed last two months, it's a relatively subdued release week in Indie Basement, but still lots of great new music. Weirdly, this week mirrors March 6, 2020 when we had the debut albums from Honey Harper and the duo of Luke Haines & Peter Buck, both of whom release their follow-ups today. There's also the debut album from DC's Hammered Hulls, featuring Alex MacKaye and Mary Timony, plus the throwback '70s sounds of Drugdealer, Norway's I Was a King, quirky DIY artist NANCY, and the third King Gizzard album of this month.
It's a much, much bigger week in Notable Releases with Andrew looking at 15 (!) records including Fred again.., Aoife Nessa Frances, Cakes Da Killa and a dozen more.
Here's more Basement-adjacent news from this week: Quasi announced their first new album in a decade; Victoria Bergsman is back with a new Taken By Trees EP that's all Colin Blunstone covers; Metronomy are releasing what's shaping up to be a very cool remix album; veteran Warp electronic duo Plaid are back; and Happy Mondays are finally returning to the US (fingers crossed).
Have you visited the Indie Basement section of the BV shop recently? It's jam-packed with vinyl and merch from King Gizzard, Pavement, Wet Leg, Parquet Courts, Beach House, Broadcast, Stereolab, Belle & Sebastian, Talking Heads, Spoon, Lilys, Cocteau Twins, Can, Dinosaur Jr and lots, lots more.
ALBUM OF THE WEEK: Luke Haines & Peter Buck - All the Kids Are Super Bummed Out (Cherry Red)
The Auteurs frontman and R.E.M.'s guitarist reteam for a fever dream double LP that betters their debut
The pairing of Indie Basement Hall of Famer Luke Haines (The Auteurs, Black Box Recorder) and R.E.M.'s Peter Buck first came about after Buck somewhat randomly bought one of Haines' paintings of Lou Reed, and they hit it off and collaborated on 2020's Beat Poetry for Survivalists which was one of the best records either had made in a while. Happily, this inspired combination was not a one-time occurrence.
All the Kids Are Super Bummed Out, which is an amazing title for this or any record, ups the ante in every way, a double album that weaves in conspiracy theories, terrorist plots, the Iranian hostage crisis, English painter Richard Dadd, revolutionaries and cult leaders from throughout history, the Red Scare, Korean cheerleaders, hacks, UFOs, and lots more into its paranoid, LSD-doused punk rock fever dream. All set to very catchy tunes, it should be said, from the simmering psych of "Sunstroke" to chant-a-long garage rock burner "Psychedelic Sitar Casual," the glammy "Subterranean Earth Stomp," and the fiery "Flying People." I don't know what most of it means but it's a blast to try and keep up, and Haines litters these songs with witty poison pen bon mots.
The album should really be also attributed to Scott McCaughey, Buck's frequent collaborator (going back to '90s R.E.M.) who was also part of Beat Poetry for Survivalists and co-wrote every song here and co-produced as well. Linda Pitmon, who is Buck and McCaughey's bandmate in Filthy Friends, is back to play drums, too. Both of these albums are great, and you can tell everyone involved is having a good time, so can they just become a real band already?
Honey Harper - Honey Harper & The Infinite Sky (ATO)
Second outing from Honey Harper shakes off dreampop atmosphere for a pure country feel
William Fussell spent most of the 2010s leading various dreampop groups (including Mood Rings and Promise Keeper) before moving to London, embracing his Georgia heritage and reinventing himself as country artist Honey Harper. His debut, Starmaker, was a bit of an interdimensional portal, sounding like a country album where Cocteau Twins' Robin Guthrie was lead guitarist.
His second album marks a progression in his sound and finds Fussell playing it most straight. Cofounder and keyboardist Alana Pagnutti plays a bigger role in songwriting, and band The Infinite Sky is an impressive assemblage of L.A. indie scenester that you might not associate with pure country, including pianist John Carroll Kirby (Solange, Steve Lacy), Spoon keyboardist Alex Fischel, guitarist Jackson MacIntosh (Drugdealer, Jessica Pratt), pedal-steel player Connor Gallaher (Black Lips, Calexico), bassist Mick Mayer, and TOPS drummer Riley Fleck, not to mention mixing engineer Joel Ford (Autre Ne Veut, Alex Cameron, more).
Given his collaborators, you might wonder if Honey Harper & The Infinite Sky is delivered with a bottleneck slide and a big wink, but Fussell is sincere in his songwriting and love of classic country, even while dropping references to Baudrillard and Bowie, and making videos that reference The Terminator and Westworld. "With country music, every former generation questions the authenticity of the new guard: in the ’60s all the players from the ’50s said, ‘That’s not real country music,’ and that way of thinking has kept repeating itself to this day" Fussell said. "With this record we wanted to question and play with the idea of authenticity, to push against the limits of country and hopefully create something that’s never been done before.”
The songs really speak for themselves, as does Fussell's voice which is perfectly inflected with tears and twang, and highlights include bittersweet ode to his father "Ain't No Cowboys in Georgia," swaying ballads "One Thing" and "The World Moves," and rambling rocker "Hard to Make a Living." A few songs on the album -- some of the best, too -- do still feel like they could've been on Starmaker: "Broken Token," which mixes in Spiritualized-style gospeldelia with one of it's Southern-fried melodies; the shimmering, nostalgic "Crystal Heart," and the glitter-coated "Boots Mine Gold" that owes much to peak '70s Barry Gibb strut. While it's good to let go of the past, Honey Harper is at his best when still gazing at the stars.
Hammered Hulls - Careening (Dischord)
Featuring members of Ignition, Helium, The Make Up and more, Hammered Hulls have DC punk cred running through their veins on their debut album
Formed in 2018 by DC punk vets Alec MacKaye (Untouchables, The Faith, Ignition, etc) and Mary Timony (Autoclave, Helium, Wild Flag, Ex Hex, etc), along with Mark Cisneros (Kid Congo, The Make-Up) and Chris Wilson (Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, Titus Andronicus), Hammered Hulls played their first show as part of The Black Cat's 25th anniversary and released their debut EP in 2019 on Dischord Records. Three years and one global pandemic later, Hammered Hulls have released their debut album that does not sound like a bunch of aging punks staring down their 50s. This is frenetic, angsty, and tightly wound arty punk, and MacKaye brings the same unhinged spiel energy he did to Ignition. It's a very DC/Dischord album all around, with Alex's brother Ian MacKaye producing and it was made at the famed (and now defunct) Inner Ear studio with owner/engineer Don Zientara behind the board. On songs like "Not Gone" and the churning "Pilot Light" you can almost smell the old 9:30 Club.
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard - Changes (KGLW)
The Australian overachievers' third album of October is also their friendliest
I reviewed this one last week but King Gizzard's third album of October is actually out today. You can read that here, but this one is the friendliest of the three, full of poppy melodies, danceable grooves and shorter song lengths and every song is based around the same two chords, yet KG manage to get a lot of mileage out of them.
Changes is out 10/28. Pick it up and other King Gizzard albums on vinyl
I Was A King - Follow Me Home (Coastal Town Recordings)
Norwegian indie rock vets trade Teenage Fanclub worship for autumnal folk on their ninth album
When last we checked in with Norway's I Was a King, the group had taken their Teenage Fanclub worship -- early single "Norman Bleik" was an ode the the Scottish band's singer/guitarist -- to its logical conclusion by getting Norman Blake to produce their 2019 album Slow Century. Following 2021's Grand Hotel, which they called a companion to Slow Century, Anne Lise Frøkedal and Frode Strømstad have taken I Was a King in a new direction on the group's ninth album. Frøkedal, who also led underrated 2010s band Harrys Gym, seems to take reigns on this one a little more, giving this more of an atmospheric, melancholy feel, cut with some unexpected instrumentation (hello, banjo!) amongst the brooding, still harmony-laden and catchy indie rock. Follow Me Home makes for a lovely soundtrack to an overcast autumn as the days grow shorter and the leaves fall from the trees.
NANCY - English Leather (Blame Recordings)
Quirky, impressive debut album from Brighton based DIY indie artist
NANCY is the nom-de-rock of Jamie Hall, who is also in Brighton UK band Tigercub, makes melodramatic DIY pop that feels like it was born out of the mid-'70s, in particular that era when glam met goth (think Jim Steinman, The Phantom of the Paradise). In his words, his full-length debut is "a psychedelic portrait of repression, self-denial and introspection, with a perverted underbelly of indulgence and depravity at its core. After all, it’s the English way." English Leather thankfully never crosses over into Bat Out of Hell levels of bombast, but there are some of those dark shadows and misunderstood mad genius vibes going on here. The songs are all very catchy, complete with impressive production and arrangements, and it's all the better on tracks like "Judy" and "Driftwood" that tip into 10cc/Nilsson baroque-n-roll territory and fare better than the glowering "I Hate Rock N' Roll" and the Bolan-eque title track, though even those are playful and fun. A future rock opera does not seem out of the question, and I for one want to hear it.
Drugdealer - Hiding In Plain Sight (Mexican Summer)
Michael Collins third album as Drugdealer is an impressive, if unnecessary, recreation of '70s AM Gold
Speaking of the mid-'70s, Michael Collins' third album as Drugdealer could not be more indebtetted to the smooth AM Gold of the Me Decade that gave us Michael McDonald, Steely Dan, England Dan & John Ford Coley, and other breezy practitioners of soft rock. If you have a fondness for that kind of stuff, Bob Welch's "Sentimental Lady" for example, Hiding in Plain Sight is a pretty enjoyable record that could pass for a lost cult classic waiting to be unearthed on a new volume of Too Slow to Disco. Featuring much of the same crew who worked on the Honey Harper album (see above), including Jackson McIntosh and John Carroll Kirby, and featuring appearances by Kate Bollinger, Tim Presley (White Fence), Mac DeMarco and others, it's an impressive recreation of the earth tone leisure suit era. If nothing hits the level of OG jams like "Bad Sneakers," "Sara Smile," or "I'd Really Love to See You Tonight," it all goes down easy and the one-two sitar/sax solo in "New Fascination" is pretty sweet.
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