Indie Basement (4/8): the week in classic indie, college rock, and more
It's a big week in Indie Basement: Wet Leg finally release their debut album; Pavement finally release the Terror Twilight deluxe edition; plus reviews of new albums by Orville Peck, Kae Tempest, Mick Trouble, The Pop Group's Mark Stewart (ft. Lee 'Scratch' Perry, Mike Watt and more), and UK shoegaze band bdrmm (remixed by Daniel Avery, A Place to Bury Strangers, and more).
If you need more new album reviews, Andrew checks out The Linda Lindas, HEALTH, Syd and more in Notable Releases. Other Basement-adjacent news: Cocteau Twins' Elizabeth Fraser released her first song in ages;Teenage Fanclub released a new single; and Steve Shelley is now Bush Tetras' drummer.
You can also catch up on my favorite stuff from March here.
In the Indie Basement corner of the BV shop, you can grab Wet Leg's album on yellow vinyl, preorder Fontaines DC's Skinty Fia on exclusive, limited edition colored vinyl, and pick up records by Sparks, Pixies, King Hannah, Aldous Harding, Can, Devo, and more.
Head below for this week's reviews.
ALBUM OF THE WEEK #1: Wet Leg - Wet Leg (Domino)
UK duo make good on the promise of "Chaise Longue" on their absolute blast of a debut album
Wet Leg's self-titled debut is finally here and -- sorry haters -- it's great. I reviewed it elsewhere on the site and here's an excerpt:
Wet Leg plays like a snapshot of your mid-to-late-20s, when hangovers start to get worse but don't stop you from going out all the time, and you start looking for more serious relationships while still wanting to shag everything that moves, and questioning the direction your life is heading -- all set to ridiculously catchy indie rock. Songs are peppered with memorable, saucy lines -- "Baby do you want to come home with me? / I've got Buffalo 66 on DVD," "I hope you choke on your girlfriend," "I got the big D" -- but Wet Leg know the value of a "la la la" or "ah-eeh-ah" chorus, too.
The production, mostly by the in-demand Dan Carey with mixing by Alan Moulder (he did all your favorite '90s shoegaze albums), isn't scared of layers upon layers of sound -- "Angelica" builds to a wonderful hazy, noisy mess, and "Convincing" (Chambers' sole lead vocal here) is a sea of guitars and harmonies -- but they understand sometimes all you need is bass and drums. Hooks are plentiful and sometimes come in the form of seemingly throwaway pings and glitches, and keep things interesting in the choruses, verses and middle eights.
ALBUM OF THE WEEK #2: Mick Trouble - It's Mick Trouble's Second Album (Emotional Response)
My Teenage Stride frontman Jed Smith's post-punk alter ego releases a second album of amazing janglepop
Mick Trouble, the very British-sounding post-punk singer-songwriter who may or may not be Jed Smith of NYC's My Teenage Stride and Jeanines, is back with his second record. It’s Mick Trouble’s Second Album is loaded with even more wonderful earworm janglepop in the Television Personalities / Swell Maps / Jilted John tradition. (His debut is a delight.) The hits are plentiful and loaded with harmonies worthy of The Beach Boys or The Zombies, and Mick gets the circa-1980 period details so right, from the effects on the guitars and drums to the reference-filled lyrics that would require David Foster Level footnotes to unpack. Can songs be this catchy, this full of references to Blighty, and not be made by a real British person? They would at least have to live somewhere that sounds British, like Queens. In any case, Mick will have you believing, or at least singing along.
Pavement - Terror Twilight: Frontwards Horizontal (Matador)
Pavement's difficult, divisive final album finally gets the deluxe edition treatment and may have you hearing it anew
The long-awaited deluxe edition of Pavement's divisive (literally!) final album, which many thought would never see the light of day, is finally out and comes with the very different track order that producer Nigel Godrich originally envisioned for the album, plus 28 never-before-heard bonus tracks including a lot of Stephen Malkmus demos. I reviewed it elsewhere and here's part of that:
Maybe it's Godrich's track order, maybe it's just time away, but Terror Twilight sounds pretty good in 2022, and feels like it's gotten better with age. It also sounds much more like a Pavement album now than it did in 1999 when the baggage of its creation came with it, even though Kanneberg's essay in the liner notes is titled "The Terror Twilight... or Pavement’s All Shook Down," which is a reference to The Replacements' final album that many consider to be a Paul Westerberg solo album.
"You Are a Light" "Spit on a Stranger," the doomy "Cream of Gold," "Ann Don't Cry," "Billie," and "Folk Jam" are Pavement songs through-and-though. Only "Carrot Rope" and "Major Leagues" really feel like songs that could've ended up on Malkmus' first solo album. One that did, "The Hook," was actually tried out during the RPM sessions as "Be the Hook," and is one of Farewell Horizontal's many bonus tracks.
Read my whole review here and listen with new ears here:
Kae Tempest - The Line is a Curve (Fiction)
The UK poet/rapper/playwright makes their most personal album yet; it's also the most accessible
The first thing you notice about The Line is a Curve is that, unlike their previous two albums, this one has Kae Tempest's picture on the cover, literally baring their soul. Kae is a poet, novelist and playwright and even they tend to write in characters, but on their fourth album they're writing about themselves. This is Kae's first album since coming out as non-binary, and that informs the record, though it is more about the gender dysphoria and depression that they struggled with. As their most personal album to date, it is also the most welcoming and inclusive. Produced by Dan Carey and Rick Rubin, it's the most beat-forward since their debut, with poppier hooks and a host of features, including Brockhampton's Kevin Abstract, Fontaines DC's Grian Chatten, Confucius MC, and Lianne La Havas. The record can be very heavy at times, but as always has Kae bring their empathy, hope, insight and ever-sharp lyrical skills to these songs, finding beauty in the small moments. “Stunned by the last light of the sun," Kae says over harp on the moving "Grace" which closes The Line is a Curve. "Swimming in the green sea, as deep as a drum There are things I must record. Must praise. / There are things I have to say about the fullness and the blaze / Of this beautiful life."
Mark Stewart - VS (eMERGENCY heARTS)
The Pop Group frontman collaborates with Lee 'Scratch' Perry, Mike Watt, Front 242 and more
As the title hints, The Pop Group frontman Mark Stewart's new album VS has him facing off with his peers. Every song is a collaboration with another artist, including the late Lee 'Scratch' Perry, Front 242's Patrick Codenys, Mike Watt, Pan Sonic's Mika Vainio, Consolidated, Cabaret Voltaire's Stephen Mallinder, and more. Mark says the record is a result of “Looking for pieces / ancient futures / orphans of the storm / memefires / predictive programming, weird science/ nu ritual, the uncanny or eerie, numerology coded / not slaves to the algorithm,” by him and his collaborators. “I feel a debt of honour to each comrade on this record we are ‘together in static.’”
While the project is called VS, Stewart has chosen his collaborators wisely. They both challenge and compliment Stewart's distinctive dystopic, dubby post-punk style, whether it's the dark techno of Eric Random collab "Ghost of Love," the deep sea dub of "Outlaw Empire" (with Nun Gun and Adrian Sherwood), the intensely noisy "Cursed Child" (with Mika Vainio and Ye Gods), or the blitzkrieg disco cover of Grant Hart's "All of My Senses" with KK Null and Mike Watt. Mark's vision and distinctive wail makes this disparate group of collaborators feel like one undulating, uncomfortable organism.
Orville Peck - Bronco (Sony)
Masked country singer goes cinemascope on his sprawling new double album and in his case bigger is better
Orville Peck got a lot of attention with his debut album, Pony -- partly for his neon-lit take on '60s style country, but also for the image he created as a masked cowboy crooner. Some loved it, others loathed it, I was somewhere in the middle. Having left Sub Pop for Sony, Peck is back on the horse but this time it's a Bronco, a fitting title for this bold, brash double album. Everything about Orville is amplified here, taking this Western from widescreen to cinemascope. Bigger is better in Orville's case. The production and arrangements, full of sweeping orchestration and Morricone touches and the occasional whip-crack, now match the bravado of his powerful baritone. It's an amalgam of Roy Orbison, Glen Campbell's "Rhinestone Cowboy," Elvis in Las Vegas, and Elton John on the Yellow Brick Road. Bronco is a gleaming creation, knowingly artificial, and probably sounds great blasting out of a Cadillac convertible with steer horns emblazoned on the grill.
bdrmm - Port EP (Sonic Cathedral)
Daniel Avery, Working Men's Club, A Place to Bury Strangers and more remix this UK shoegaze band.
UK shoegaze band bdrmm released terrific single "Port" last fall that found them ripping apart their sound with digital technology, not unlike what Low have done on their last two albums. While they're still working on their follow-up to their debut, they've handed over "Port" to a few different friends and fellow artists -- including Daniel Avery, A Place to Bury Strangers, and Working Men's Club -- to take the song into further reaches of sonic exploration for a new EP.
“The idea originally stemmed from us joking about Daniel Avery remixing one of our tracks one day and we just kind of went from there,” says singer Ryan Smith. “We’d arranged a remix swap with A Place To Bury Strangers and then somehow managed to gather all these other incredible remixes over the space of a few months, and it seemed ridiculous not to release them as one piece of work. It’s a real journey listening to them individually, but back-to-back it really is something.”
There really are some terrific remixes on the Port EP and they're all pretty varied. Working Men's Club turn the song into minimal acid house, while Daniel Avery transforms it into driving techno. Manchester post-punks W.H. Lung give it a dark twist somewhere between minimal wave and trip hop, APTBS and Jonathan Snipes apply very different kinds of noise, and Mouth Company take it into Boards of Canada territory. None of them sound like each other, and none of them sound like the original, making this an entertaining listen start-to-finish.
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