Indie Basement (4/22): the week in classic indie, college rock, and more
April showers are bringing reviews of lots of anticipated new albums this week, including Spiritualized, Fontaines D.C., and King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, as well as Jeanines, Jane Inc, and Tess Roby. It's a good week in the Basement!
If you need more album reviews, Andrew highlights eight, including Pusha T, Undeath, Joshua Hedley, and more in Notable Releases.
If you need more Basement-y stuff to read, we got a bunch of musicians -- including Dan Bejar, Nada Surf's Matthew Caws and Horsegirl -- to tell us about the influence of Pavement's Slanted and Enchanted, which turned 30 this week. I also rounded up some notable covers of Pavement songs from the last three decades. Also: there's a new 30th anniversary edition of Slanted and Enchanted on splatter vinyl that looks pretty sweet (preorder).
If you're flush with tax refund money, might I suggest visiting the Indie Basement corner of the BV shop? You can preorder the Wilco Yankee Hotel Foxtrot box set, and pick up new albums by Fontaines DC (on exclusive wax), Wet Leg, Aldous Harding and King Hannah, plus lots of classics (Pavement, Cocteau Twins, Beastie Boys, more), t-shirts, merch and more.
OK that's enough intro. Head below for this week's reviews.
ALBUM OF THE WEEK #1: Spiritualized - Everything Was Beautiful (Fat Possum)
A near-perfect distillation of everything Spiritualized do so well
I reviewed Spiritualized's fantastic new album elsewhere on BrooklynVegan but, in a nutshell, it's Jason Pierce's best record since Ladies and gentlemen we are floating in space. Here's an excerpt of the review:
Everything Was Beautiful is one of the brilliant ones. The album boldly evokes Spiritualized's 1997 masterwork Ladies and gentlemen we are floating in space, from its prescription meds artwork to its recording (using studios all over the world with dozens of musicians), to the way it opens with a female voice whispering the album's title, sounding like a transmission from the third ring of Saturn. (In this case it's his daughter, Poppy.) In doing so, you get the sense he knew how good this one was, and it more than holds up to the comparison.
Read the whole review here and listen to the album:
ALBUM OF THE WEEK #2: Fontaines D.C. - Skinty Fia (Partisan)
Yet another move forward for the Irish band who no longer live in Ireland (it's a theme of the album)
Fontaines D.C. may be wrestling with their sense of Irish identity on their third album, but their desire not to do the same thing twice is so far serving them well. I reviewed their third album, Skinty Fia, separately but here's an excerpt:
Even if you aren't aware of the specific lyrical genesis of Skinty Fia, the sense of unease is palpable. The shouty punk rippers that epitomized their debut, Dogrel, have given way to dark, textured guitars more akin to early-'80s postpunk (The Sound, The Chameleons) filtered through late-'90s UK alt-rock and dance music, with chunky basslines and increasingly adventurous drumming, making for music that is both expansive and claustrophobic.
Read the whole thing here, and you can pick up Skinty Fia on limited edition translucent red vinyl that's exclusive to our store. Listen to the album here:
Jeanines - Don't Wait for a Sign (Slumberland)
More wonderful no muss, no fuss, no solos janglepop from this NYC duo
NYC duo Jeanines (singer/songwriter Alicia Jeanine and multi instrumentalist/producer Jed Smith) released their wonderful self-titled debut in 2019 that's full of zero-fat punky/twee janglepop, all earworm melodies, soaring choruses and ethereal harmonies, with no room for solos or other flourishes. Their second album, Don't Wait for a Sign, is somehow even more pared down with none of the 13 songs cracking the two-minute mark. Smith's low-fi production is just right, the guitars sparkle, the basslines drive things with style, and Alecia's minor-chord melodies and ethereal harmonies on "Gotta Go," "Got Nowhere To Go," may make the hair on your neck stand up. Jeanines songs are almost pure hook delivery devices and the album goes by in a rush that's easy to replay (you may let it repeat a couple times before noticing).
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard - Omnium Gatherum (KGLW)
No high concepts this time: King Gizzard offer a sonic smorgasbord of every style they've dabbled in to date, plus a few new ones. It's a lot.
On the complete opposite end of the sonic spectrum from Jeanines is Omnium Gatherum, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard's most maximalist record to date in a discography that has always leaned towards "the more the merrier" (this is Album #20 in a 10-year existence.) The opening song, "The Dripping Tap," is nearly longer than Jeanines' entire new album -- a manic, motorik blues-jazz-psych odyssey that is almost all noodling and goes through enough wild left turns to induce whiplash. That, or you'll forget what you're listening to, check your media player and exclaim "This is still that same song?!?!" "The Dripping Tap" is actually pretty impressive, as 18-minute songs go, and the album branches out from there in all sorts of directions.
Most of King Gizzard's recent albums, of which there have been many, have been centered around a theme that has them trying out specific styles (thrash metal, glammy boogie, jazz, Tame-impala style dance-psych) or experiments with microtonal instruments, or other high concepts. This one, though, is like a smorgasbord or potluck dinner where there's a little bit of every style they've ever dabbled in. There are also a few styles we haven't seen them try on yet, like "Presumptuous" which dips a toe in groovy Boz Scaggs/Steely Dan yacht-disco, and "Sadie Sorceress" and "The Grim Reaper" which are Beastie Boys/Beck-style rap tracks. It was only a matter of time!
With a whole band of polymaths, King Gizzard are good at pretty much anything they try, but is this Greatest Hits or Leftovers? This album is a little of both and its title, Omnium Gatherum, certainly suggests the latter. There's a lot of really good stuff here -- the danceable "Magenta Mountain," the sampledelic "Kepler-22b," "Presumptuous" -- but at 80 minutes, will most people make it all the way through? In today's playlist age you don't have to and many fans will whittle this down to a 40-minute album they love, or just cherry-pick favorites for a mix. But as a listening experience, it's too much of a good thing.
Jane Inc - Faster Than I Can Take (Telephone Explosion)
The second solo album from Caryn Bezic expands her palette of danceable pop
Caryn Bezic, the Toronto-based musician who has played live in U.S. Girls, Ice Cream and more, released her solo debut a Jane Inc back in 2021; it's a terrific and underheard album that pulled from '80s and '90s dance music while displaying a fondness for proggy analog keyboards. Faster Than I Can Take finds her expanding her range and, if it lacks the tight focus of Number One, nearly every song on this album is good, including forays into Feist-y folk pop ("An Ordinary Thing"), breezy tropicalia ("Picture Of The Future") or '70s glam ("Pummelled Into Sand"). The bangers with the killer basslines and thick synths are still high points, though. "Human Being" could've been a 1984 Prince production, and "2120" makes great use of vintage drum machines (and the A-gogo). Bezic's powerful pipes are the real star of the show and tie Faster Than I Can Take's many strands together.
Tess Roby - Ideas of Space (SSURROUNDSS)
More new agey goodness from this Montreal electronic artist
Montreal electronic musician Tess Roby released her 2018 debut, Beacon, on Italians Do It Better. Even on a label known for chilled out disco, Roby's album was an outlier, floating closer to new age than the Drive soundtrack, while her commanding vocal style that made it obvious that while her music evoked nature, she was no wallflower. Now releasing music on her own SSURROUNDSS label, Roby is back with her second album, Ideas of Space, that's a further refinement of her inviting, earthy sound. (The title suggests far-off galaxies and quasars, but it also sounds like a rainforest.) With help from Austin Tufts (Braids), saxophonist Joseph Shabason (Destroyer) and Ouri, she's created a gorgeous world to explore, full of waterfall synths and gentle rhythms that commingle with woodwinds and other organic instrumentation. Ideas of Space makes for a relaxing listen, there are some Pure Moods vibes here (and Cosmos), but it's never aural wallpaper. Gorgeous stuff.
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