Indie Basement (11/26): the week in classic indie, college rock, and more
Happy Thanksgiving Day Weekend! Usually holiday weeks are pretty light on new releases, but this is a pretty good Indie Basement and includes at least one record that is likely to show up on my end-of-the-year list. Here's what's up: Julie Doiron (Eric's Trip, Mount Eerie) returns with her first solo album in nine years; Manchester duo The KVB add a little warmth to their coldwave sound on Unity; Jarvis Cocker hands the controls to Hot Chip, Pilooski, David Holmes, Dennis Bovell and more for a remixed version of Beyond the Pale; The Soundcarriers announce their first album in eight years; and landmark indie compilation C86 get another sequel, this one looking at 1991.
For more new album reviews, Andrew takes on R.A.P. Ferreira, The Filthy Radicals and more in Notable Releases. More Basement-related stuff from this week: I reviewed the first night of LCD Soundsystem's 20-show Brooklyn Steel residency; The Bug and Sleaford Mods' Jason Williamson are collaborating on music; and former Goat Girl bassist Naima Bock releases her very promising debut solo single.
Today is also Record Store Day Black Friday and the list of exclusive titles is here.
Speaking of record stores, BrookynVegan has one and we've got a special Indie Basement Vinyl Bundle featuring four great records at a discounted price. You get: My Bloody Valentine's 2013 album mbv, Spiritualized's Ladies and gentlemen we are floating in space, Jarvis Cocker's Chansons d'Ennui Tip Top (his French covers album companion to Wes Anderson's The French Dispatch), and our exclusive amber vinyl variant of A Certain Ratio's ACR:EPR (only 250 made worldwide). It's $124 worth of records for $109, grab yours today!
The Indie Basement section of our store is also chock full of titles hand-picked by yours truly, including Beach House, Belle & Sebastian, Slowdive, Dinosaur Jr, Cocteau Twins, LCD Soundsystem, Pavement, Parquet Courts, The Weather Station, Jens Lekman, Protomartyr, Lilys, Broadcast, Spiritualized, Ty Segall, Oasis and more. We also now have gift cards.
Have a great rest of your weekend. This week's reviews are below.
ALBUM OF THE WEEK #1: Julie Doiron - I Thought of You (You've Changed Records)
The Eric's Trip singer and Mount Eerie collaborator's first solo album in nine years is a warm, wonderful welcome back
"There was never a plan, no need to explain / and here I am, starting over again," Julie Doiron sings on "You Gave Me the Key," the opening track on her first solo album in nine years. It's a love song, but it also feels like a status update on her recording career. Doiron, who you may know from Canadian greats Eric's Trip, has stayed busy since 2012's So Many Days -- including reuniting with Mount Eerie, making albums with Daniel Romano, and with members of Cancer Bats and Eamon McGrath as Julie and The Wrong Guys -- but this is the first with her name front and center and she slides back in like no time has passed. I Thought of You is an easygoing, charming, start-to-finish treat.
Made with Daniel Romano, Ian Romano and Dany Placard, there is a lived-in quality to these songs that leans toward the twangy. This is a fragile, wobbly kind of twang, though, where the guitars bend out of tune in beautiful ways. The playing on "How Can We," is like someone searching for the right way to articulate their feelings, to decide to trust someone again. It's messy but as expressive as any virtuoso solo. Inhabiting a similar space and feel is Doiron's voice which often spectacularly takes flight but is also vulnerable and always just on the edge of breaking. Great songs abound, including the gently rocking "Just When I Thought" and the dusty title track, but there's real magic on "Darkness to Light" where Doiron's voice dances with Michael Feuerstack's spectacular pedal steel playing. This is the kind of record that makes you wonder why you hadn't been counting the days since she released the last one.
ALBUM OF THE WEEK #2: The KVB - Unity (Invada)
Can coldwave also be warm and welcoming? Manchester duo The KVB say yes.
The artwork for The KVB's Unity features two massive interlocked stone rings on a rocky shoreline, recalling a futuristic, brutalist version of Stonehenge or the mysterious heads of Easter Island, not to mention the concrete sound mirrors used on Britain's Southeastern shore to detect foreign aircraft between the world wars, before the invention of radar. It's also a good visual representation of the Manchester duo's sound on their sixth album: dark, mysterious, massive and compelling, two pieces fused together via motorik electro, industrial rhythms, droney Spacemen 3 / JAMC rock, and shoegaze.
This is well-trodden territory, of course, and I could fill another paragraph referencing other groups from the last 40 years of post-punk and beyond, but The KVB do this very well, with tons of style and memorable songs. It also sounds great. Nicholas Wood and Kat Day made the album with producer Andy Savours who's worked with Black Country New Road, My Bloody Valentine, and The Horrors and adds significant scope to the duo's sound. They knock you back right from the start with post-rock-y opener "Sunrise Over Concrete," an extremely well-named instrumental that is both funereal and a pure blast of light. Synthesizers, guitars, and Wood and Day's breathy vocals are expertly layered, and all the songs here soar. Take "Structural Index," which starts in Joy Division territory with snaking guitar and bass lines, but then opens wide when the arpeggiated synths kick in halfway through, with all the elements weaving around each other perfectly. Unity also features a number of terrific pop songs including the roaring "World on Fire," the glossy "Future," and the dreampop bliss of "Unbound." For a band that identifies as coldwave, The KVB have delivered a warm, inviting album for a brave new world, that has fond echoes of the past.
The Soundcarriers - "Waves" (Phosphonic)
The first single from UK band The Soundcarriers' first album in eight years
The Soundcarriers formed in Nottingham in the late 2000s with a sound that pulled from '60s French pop, Italian soundtracks, baroque psych, Brazilian pop, and other groovy subgenres. In the same orbit as Broadcast and Stereolab (not to mention Scott Walker and Serge Gainsbourg), the band pretty quickly established their own sound within this galaxy, best exemplified on their second album, Celeste which came in at #8 on the Indie Basement list of Best Albums of the 2010s.
The band -- Paul Isherwood, Adam Cann, Dorian Conway and Leonore Wheatley -- went dormant not long after their third album, 2014's Entropicalia, but were dragged out of deep hibernation a couple years ago by the creators of terrific AMC series Lodge 49, who had used a few of their songs in Season 1 and got them to both cover Scott Walker and write and record a few new songs for Season 2. Getting back into the studio sparked the group's creative embers and today the band have announced Wilds, their fourth album and first in eight years, which will be out January 21 via their own Phosphonic label.
The first single from Wilds is the album's opening number, "Waves," which was used in Lodge 49 and released as a super-limited-edition 7" as part of a party thrown by Shindig! Magazine in 2018. Powered by an incredible rhythm section and out-there flute action, "Waves" really zooms. The bassline is fantastic, as is just about every sonic detail, but I think the use of triangle may be my favorite musical filigree. Check it out:
JARV IS... RE MIXED (Rough Trade)
Hot Chip, Dennis Bovell, Pilooski and more rework tracks from Jarvis Cocker's 2020 album Beyond the Pale
Earlier this year, Jarvis Cocker's current band, JARV IS..., released an awesome dub mix of "Swanky Modes" by reggae great Dennis Bovell as a single. That is now part of a new remix album that features a whole host of friends and fellow artists bringing their touch to songs from last year's great Beyond the Pale. The album's been available at the merch table on JARV IS...'s current UK tour and is now out for those of us who couldn't attend a show.
Every song on the album gets a remix, and all of them are cool in their own way. Minsky Rock take "Sometimes I Am Pharaoh" and retrofit it with an early-'80s electro chassis for a track, now titled "Do the Pharaoh," that Arthur Baker could've spun at Danceteria back in the day; the "Tam Tam Hidroginesse Remix" of "Children of the Echo" takes the song into blissed-out balearic territory, complete with bouncy acid-house piano; and French DJ Pilooski and Jayvich put a "Late Night" spin on "Am I Missing Something?," transforming it into a sleek, sophisticated late'-90s club track.
REMIX ED also features two mixes of "House Music All Night Long": Hot Chip take it into trance territory; and Liverpool legend Greg Wilson, alongside Che Wilson, reimagine the song as Detroit techno a la Inner City. Rounding it out are a super dubby mix of "Save the Whale" by Deltoid, David Holmes & Keefus Ciania's "Unloved Rework" of "Must I Evolve?" and that great Bovell DubMix of "Swanky Modes." More than just a remix collection, this holds together as an album taking Jarvis beyond Beyond the Pale.
Various Artists - C91 (Cherry Red)
Cherry Red continues its C86 sequel series, looking at 1991 UK indie scene
Cherry Red turned the original influential C-86 -- a tape that came with an issue of NME in 1986 featuring Primal Scream, The Wedding Present, Close Lobsters, The Shop Assistants The Pastels, The Mighty Lemon Drops and more UK indie guitar bands of the time -- into a deluxe box set in 2014 that expanded its 22 songs with 50 more jangly, scrappy tracks. Since then, the label has gone on to extrapolate this idea, exploring subsequent years, compiling favorites, minor hits, and forgotten treasures. Next up in the 'C' series is C91 which will be out January 21 and features 59 tracks across three discs.
Just to set the scene a little: 1991 was a weird year for the indie/alt world and by the end of it, scenes in the UK and the U.S. had diverged significantly. (Not that they weren't already quite different.) Across the pond, rave culture had peaked the year before but there were still loads of bands in baggy clothes mixing dance music and psychedelic pop; shoegaze, meanwhile, was still on the rise with groups popping up left and right hoping to be the next My Bloody Valentine or Ride; and then there were groups like Blur, Pulp, The Wonder Stuff, Neds Atomic Dustbin, and others who didn't easily fit into a category besides "indie" (even when they were signed to a major label). Apart from Nirvana, the bombshell that was grunge didn't really hit in the UK with the same impact as it had in the States.
This three-CD set is not trying to be 1991 in a nutshell. Lush and The Charlatans are the only well established artists here, and C91 instead imagines what rising bands would have been on a cassette glued to the cover of NME that year. Shoegaze is especially well represented with Slowdive's "Morningrise," Chapterhouse's swirling, Led Zeppelin-sampling "Pearl," Boo Radley's "Finest Kiss," Moose's "Jack," Lush's "For Love," Bleach's "Bethesda" and Revolver's "Crimson." (A whole lot of our Best Shoegaze EPs of the early-'90s list is represented here.) On the ecstasy fueled baggy front, there are late era hits from Happy Mondays/Stone Roses wannabes like The Northside, The Wendys, Paris Angels, Flowered Up, The Dylans and The High.
C91 also has Saint Etienne's "Nothing Can Stop Us," The World Of Twist's "Sweets" (sort of Prefab Sprout meet Stone Roses), Manic Street Preachers' first UK hit, "Stay Beautiful," Dodgy's "Summer Fayre," as well as only-in-1991 songs from Neds Atomic Dustbin, Sultans of Ping F.C., Kingmaker (the Wonder Stuff-y "When Lucy’s Down"), and Daisy Chainsaw (who figured into a 1992 episode of Roseanne). More: The Cranberries' "Them," from their debut EP (and later their 1993 debut album, alongside "Linger" and "Dreams"), and songs from Spirea X (led by Jim Beattie, formerly of Primal Scream), Levitation (Terry Bickers post-House of Love Band), and Sonic Boom's debut single as Spectrum. And clearly lots more. Check out the tracklist here.
While 1991 is a vivid memory to this writer, looking at this tracklist (and watching videos on YouTube), C91 truly feels like another era, and brings back fond memories too.
Looking for more? Browse the Indie Basement archives.