Indie Basement (4/14): the week in classic indie, college rock, and more
This week in Indie Basement we've got the debut album from London band Pynch, a new EP from Basement faves audiobooks, the fourth album from Melbourne's Terry, the second solo album from Eternal Summers' Nicole Yun, the latest glitchy creation from John Vanderslice, and a deluxe, 20th anniversary reissue of The Hidden Cameras' The Smell of Our Own.
Over in Notable Releases, Andrew reviews new albums from Feist, Feist, Fruit Bats, Jesus Piece, and more. If you need more Basement-friendly content this week gave us lots: Love and Rockets announced more tour dates (including Brooklyn!); there were new album announcements from King Krule, Girl Ray, The Baseball Project, The Lilac Time, and Snõõper.
Tax Day is this weekend and if you got a big refund and are looking to blow some dough, might I suggest the Indie Basement corner of the BrooklynVegan shop? It's packed with vinyl and merch from Primal Scream, Love & Rockets, Caribou, The Raincoats, King Gizzard, Cocteau Twins, Grant Lee Buffalo, The Lemonheads, DEBBY FRIDAY, Sleaford Mods, Belle & Sebastian, New Pornographers, Naima Bock, Stereolab, Protomartyr, Mogwai, The Flaming Lips, Bowie, and lots more.
Head below for this week's reviews...
Pynch - Howling at a Concrete Moon (Chillburn Recordings)
2000s nostalgia and future fears mix with big indie rock hooks on London band's excellent debut album
"I'm gonna dye my hair and listen to heavy metal / And skate down to the edge of the world," Pynch's Spencer Enoch sings on "2009," a sweet and very catchy bit of nostalgia mixed with early onset midlife crisis. When the future doesn't seem so bright, retreat to a happier place, skating, drinking Dr Pepper and getting high. "The days start to pixelate / a month too soon, a year too late / the beautiful chaos of it all."
There's a definitely a late-'00s feel to Pynch's debut album, Howling at a Concrete Moon. The London band cited indie label Captured Tracks as an influence, and you can hear touches of Beach Fossils, Wild Nothing, and Spectrals in the album's guitar tones and melodies. But no artist on C/T then had as much to say as frontman Spencer Enock does now, who drops knowing, witty couplets throughout the record. Across 10 songs, Enoch chronicles mid-20s ennui and fears with introspection and a dash of self-aware humor, whether it's a night of "karaoke while the sky is falling," conflicting feelings of city life, or portraits of the pretentious and underemployed.
Pynch sweep together a few different indie genres -- including a healthy dose of the post-Libertines UK scene that gave us Arctic Monkeys and The Cribs -- into their breezy style, which goes down easy but is also confident and considered. The band rose up through Speedy Wunderground producer Dan Carey's label, but this album was produced by Stereolab drummer Andy Ramsay who helps the band hone what they've got as opposed to trying to steer them into other territory, though closing song "Somebody Else" does ride a synth-forward motorik beat. On Howling at a Concrete Moon, Pynch sound like they've got it all figured out, except for where their life goes next.
audiobooks - Gulliver (Heavenly Recordings)
UK duo remain brilliantly bonkers on this new EP
Makers of my third favorite album of 2018 and my favorite album of 2021, UK duo audiobooks are back with this new EP that makes for a nice encapsulation of what they do and where they're going. Evangeline Ling and David Wrench are an unusual pairing; he's an in-demand mixing engineer who's worked with everybody from Frank Ocean to Spiritualized, and she's an artist and model whose all-in vocal style straddles performance art and "proper singing." Sometimes they'll remind you of The Human League, other times The Fall or Tangerine Dream. There's nobody else like them. Gulliver has two pop songs both of which are fantastic. "Tryna Tryna Take Control" finds Ling in Mark E Smith mode and adds just a touch of breezy tropicalia to the mix, while "Burnt Pictures" is a total banger with a great guest verse by Mancunian rapper OneDa. The other two tracks fall more into structured spoken word but are also great: "Beekeeper" is an atmospheric, airy account of apiculture, while "Milan Fashion Week" is a wickedly funny tale direct from the runway with piano-heavy Britpop backing. My only criticism with this EP is that it's not an album, but there's still plenty of time this year for something else to drop.
Cindy - Why Not Now? (Mt.St.Mtn)
San Francisco slowcore outfit keep it quiet on album #4
Karina Gill has led San Francisco group Cindy for half a decade or so, making hushed creations that fall somewhere between slowcore and indiepop. (This Cindy is also not to be confused with Cindy Lee, aka former Women leader Patrick Flegel, even though it is confusing.) After two albums, Gill blew up the group's status quo, jettisoning the quartet lineup for new players, including keyboardist Aaron Diko. “Some of these songs were first recorded as demos alone in my basement," Gill says. "I think that process set the tone for the record...Maybe it set up a kind of starkness." Cindy have always been spare in sound, but Why Not Now? is austere and more than a little lonely, with the gentle tones of guitar and keyboard drifting weightlessly like particles of dust in a shaft of early morning light, with Gill singing like she's trying not to wake someone in the next room. It's beautiful stuff, full of eerie waltzes where even the more full band tracks feel intimate. Gill as a lyricist is an astute observer, and those listening closely will hear lines like "Everyone’s hoping that nobody sees / all our little efforts at dignity."
Nicole Yun - Matter (Kanine)
Eternal Summers' singer-guitarist makes her most personal statement yet on her second solo album
What's the difference between a solo album and a group record when the singer and songwriter and general style is the same? It's pretty clear on Eternal Summers leader Nicole Yun's second solo album which is much more of a personal statement than she's ever made with her band. "My personal experience in the past few years during the pandemic with these feelings were most heightened in the cross section of my identity being both Asian and a woman," Nicole said, "Fears for my safety, feelings of not belonging in the United States even though I was born here, disappointment and sadness that so many viewed Asian women as objects of fetishization and objects for violence and not as complete human beings." Songs hit hard, but Nicole always pairs the message with melody and the hooks are just as sharp as the lyrics. Backed by a crack band including Joe Boyer (Cloud Nothings), Jacob Sloan (The Pains of Being Pure at Heart), Tom Barrett (Overlake) and Duncan Lloyd (Maximo Park), Yun delivers on seriously tasty trad-style indie rock. When the ragged solo on opening track "Heavy Voices" kicks in, for example, it makes for extremely satisfying listening.
Terry - Call Me Terry (Upset the Rhythm)
Fourth album from this Melbourne band takes aim at Australia's entitled colonialism
Melbourne band Terry, who actually formed in Mexico City oddly enough, is one of many bands who are part of the Total Control Extended Universe, with key player Al Montefort (UV Race, Dick Diver), alongside Amy Hill, Xanthe Waite and Zephyr Pavey. The quartet had their distinctive sound -- minimalist to the point of naive instrumentation, with all four members singing in unison -- nailed down on their debut album, and their fourth long player doesn't mess with the formula, though they do incorporate strings and horns on a few songs like "Gold Duck" and "Centuries." Lyrically, things are a little more complex and pointed, ripping into Australia's colonialist history and encouraging action. "Words are nice," they sing, but also offer an alternative. "Burn the flag."
John Vanderslice - CRYSTALS 3.0 (Tiny Telephone)
The pixels have revolted and are winning on John Vanderslice's glitchy synth-folk hybrid.
“Songwriting is inherently conservative, and I just don’t have the mindset to write something like ‘Exodus Damage’ again," John Vanderslice said announcing this new album. “I want to make music that poses more questions than it answers.” His previous couple records are decidedly weirder than CRYSTALS 3.0 and fans of Pixel Revolt era JV will find moments of familiarity in glitchy acoustic tracks like "Crystals 26," but much of this album's brief, 19-minute running time is glitchier than ever, with those folkier numbers sounding like they got fried in a major hard drive malfunction. If his goal for this was indeed to pose more questions than it answers, mission accomplished.
The Hidden Cameras - The Smell Of Our Own 20th Anniversary Edition (Rough Trade)
Toronto "gay church folk music" pioneers give their 2003 breakthrough album the 20th anniversary treatment with a second disc of bonus material
Led by Joel Gibb, Toronto's Hidden Cameras pioneered what he called "gay church folk music." Like a lot of other Canadian bands at the time, there were a lot of them, into the double digits at times -- including, at various points, Owen Pallett and cellist and Arcade Fire collaborator Michael Peter Olsen -- and shows were often theatrical, involving ski-masked go-go-dancers and more. The band were modeled on a choir but left the robes to the Polyphonic Spree, and their strummy, orchestral hymns -- that tipped a hat to Flying Nun band The Clean and The Bats -- included "Heavy Flow Of Evil," "Ban Marriage," and "Music Is My Boyfriend." The Hidden Cameras have never broken up but have been mostly quiet since 2016's Home On Native Land. but are slightly back in action with this deluxe 20th anniversary edition of their 2003 breakthrough, The Smell of Our Own. It's been a while since I've pulled this one out, but the album holds up really well. Gibb's songs -- including "Ban Marriage," "Golden Streams," and "Smells Like Happiness" -- are great and the production and arrangements are lush without ever going over the top. The bonus material is good too, including choice b-sides like tongue-in-cheek "Fear O Zine Failure," plus a live CBC session, and a few demos that show how in control of The Hidden Cameras' sound Gibb was. This old time religion still sounds great.
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