Bill’s Indie Basement (3/13): the week in classic indie, college rock, and more
What to even say? You can't get sick from listening to music -- tinnitus notwithstanding -- so here are five records I dig that may hopefully distract you from the absolute insanity of the world as we know it. There's what is vying for my favorite album of the year so far (Porridge Radio's Every Bad), a new EP from Jeanines, the debut album from Brooklyn's sleek, synthy and angular The Wants, UK psych band Wax Machine, and a very cool UK early-'80s synthpop compilation curated by Saint Etienne's Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs.
If you need more new album reviews, Andrew writes about the new Four Tet, Ultraísta (Nigel Godrich, Joey Waronker, Laura Bettinson) and more in Notable Releases. Elsewhere: did you hear the new Protomartyr? If you're looking to see some live music in NYC this weekend...well. Maybe it's time to stay in, snuggle up on the couch are rewatch The Wire. After washing your hands!
This week's Basement picks are below.
Porridge Radio - Every Bad
One of the most powerful, memorable rock records of the year. It's a knockout.
I reviewed the amazing new Porridge Radio album elsewhere on the site, but here's an excerpt:
Misery loves company -- just look at arenas full of Cure, Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails fans -- and sometimes you just want to wallow with someone that's down there too. Please welcome Porridge Radio to the stage. Singer/songwriter/guitarist Dana Margolin is wallowing, stewing, obsessing and generally spending too much time in her own thoughts across the whole of Every Bad, the band's brilliant new album. "I am waiting for you to get out of my mind," she wails on "Don't Ask Me Twice," one of 11 visceral, memorable songs on the record that aims straight for the gut.
Read the whole thing here and listen to the album right now:
The Wants - Container
Bodega guitarist Madison Velding-VanDam leads this sleek post-punk trio with deadpan laser-focus, making for a catchy, memorable and danceable debut.
Brooklyn band The Wants have been around for three years or so, with a fluxuating lineup centered around singer/guitarist Madison Velding-VanDam and drummer Jason Gates. Madison, who plays in Bodega, is tall and lanky, with anvil-esque features, and just looks like a guy who plays his guitar like Andy Gill. There is definitely some some Gang of Four in what The Wants do, but it's more of a modern approach: sleek and synthetic, dark and danceable, poppy but paranoid.
The Wants' debut album, Container, is not miles away from the most recent iteration of Gang of Four, embracing the digital, with drum machines and synthesizers playing as big a part as those angular guitars. This is a young band, though, and they bring their own spin and energy to the table that feels very now, as opposed to an old band trying to learn new tricks. (The group also now includes Bodega's Heather Elle on bass.) The sense of unease that runs through the entire album is very Gang of Four, a similar mindset to "At Home He Feels Like a Tourist" or "Anthrax."
At its poppiest, Container is hard to deny, with four-on-the-floor beats, driving basslines, and gleaming synths and big hooks to go along with those angular guitars. Madison's a pretty good singer, too. "Fear My Society," the most immediate song on the record, reminds me of the glossy pop of the first Zoot Woman album. The album could use more where that came from -- "Clearly a Crisis," "Ape Trap" and "The Motor" are all not far behind -- as it feels a little padded out by instrumentals, interludes and a couple underbaked songs. But the good stuff is very good, and I want to hear more from The Wants.
Jeanines - Things Change EP
Four more moments of strummy imperfectly perfect indiepop perfection, now with slightly higher fidelity
Having released their fantastic debut album back in June, NYC duo Jeanines are already back with this new EP featuring four more offerings of jangly, ultra-melodic indiepop. While Alicia Jeanine's songs -- recalling The Go-Betweens, Veronica Falls and The Velvet Underground -- are cut from the same cloth as their album, the production is noticeably different. Fidelity is higher, reverb has been dialed back, and there are lots of acoustic guitars, organ and even violin. All four songs are great -- especially the wistful and sweet opening cut "Everyone Should Be Warned" -- and at only seven minutes, it's highly replayable.
Wax Machine - Earthsong of Silence
Flower children bucolic UK psych with help from Kikagaku Moyo's Go Kurosawa. Let there be flutes!
Do you like your psych on the baroque side with a good helping of flute and a dash of tropicalia? You will probably like Brighton, UK's Wax Machine who are set to release their debut album, Earthsong of Silence, on March 20 via Beyond Beyond is Beyond. They remind me of another UK band, The Soundcarriers, but are decidedly more far out and lost in the groove. How far out? Brazilian-born, Italian/English-raised Lau Ro, who leads the band, says the album is an "exploration into paradoxes, meditation and magic, predicated on the underlying idea of becoming one with nature and in harmony with the environment.”
Earthsong of Silence was produced by Kikagaku Moyo's Go Kurosawa who brings an extra level of wigginess to the party. There are three songs to check out right now which give you a pretty good idea of what to expect from the rest: "Shade" and "Birdsong" are more on the sunshine pop side of things, with the latter heavy on flute odyssey; "Truth" is acid-dipped and pretty heavy, with Kurosawa lending a hand on guitar. Dig it:
Various Artists - Bob Stanley & Pete Wiggs Present The Tears Of Technology
Saint Etienne's Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs have been putting together compilations for Ace Records for a couple years now, and they're all pretty great explorations of microgenres from early '70s baroque psych, French pop from 1968, or the years leading up to UK punk. With The Tears of Technology, they put early-'80s UK synthpop under the microscope and it's another winner, mixing deep cuts from familiar names (The Human League, Soft Cell, OMD, Simple Minds, John Foxx) with artists who didn't make it much past one single, if even that, all with the great curatorial ear of Bob & Pete. These two really are a trademark of quality.
As Bob writes in the liner notes, synthesizers used to be prohibitively expensive -- "rock stars had to choose between a new synth or a Rolls Royce" -- but the price dropped in the late '70s and with post-punk's anything-goes M.O., it was a whole new world. If you like what now is referred to as minimal wave or synthwave (or even darkwave),The Tears of Technology is across-the-board great. Some of the gems here: Throbbing Gristle offshoot Chris & Cosey's wonderful "October (Love Song)," China Crisis' pastoral "Jean Walks in Fresh Fields," Eyeless in Gaza's eerie "LIghts of April" and Oppenheimer Analysis' gothy, funky "Behind the Shades" which was from a cassette that was only sold at a David Bowie fan convention (!). There's also The Teardrop Explodes' dreamy "Tiny Children" and that band's David Balfe, under the name The Winds, with their lone single, the sweeping and vaguely celtic "The Turquoise Swimming Pools."
All these Ace comps come with great liner notes and rare photos, and they are not streaming, but someone was nice enough to create a playlist with all but three songs:
Looking for more? Browse the Indie Basement archives.