Indie Basement (1/21): the week in classic indie, college rock, and more
After a slow start, the new release faucets are starting to open here at Indie Basement, including two albums that I've been especially looking forward to: Yard Act's debut, and the first album in eight years from The Soundcarriers. Also this week: Boy Harsher's soundtrack to their own horror short film (that's streaming on Shudder); King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard's remix album; the return of Oakland indiepop greats Kids on a Crime Spree, and a new song from the "real-deal weirdo kings of San Francisco," Bronze (now on Castle Face).
If you need more new album reviews, Andrew listens to the latest from Pedro the Lion, Boris, and more in Notable Releases. If you want to know what other records I'm looking forward to this year, check out Indie Basement's Most Anticipated Albums of 2022. If you still need more, check out the even bigger BV anticipated list.
Here's more Basement-adjacent stuff from this week: '90s Boston shoegazers Drop Nineteens are making a new album (!); Jarvis Cocker lends his voice to a new animated special for Netflix; Melody's Echo Chamber announced a new album; Beach House released five more songs from what's shaping up to be an early Album of The Year contender for me; and Tindersticks have a new Best-Of comp on the way. Also RIP Marty of Marty & Elayne.
I'll remind you that Indie Basement has its own floor in the BrooklynVegan record store, full of hand-selected vinyl, books and merch, including preorders of the new Destroyer, Wet Leg and our exclusive variant of the Fontaines DC album:
Head below for this week's reviews.
ALBUM OF THE WEEK #1 Yard Act - The Overload (Island)
UK band bring fond memories of the '00s while putting a fresh spin on shouty, poppy post-punk
"In the age of the gentrified savage, there’s no hope!" James Smith, singer for Leeds four-piece Yard Act, is doing his best to keep his head above water water while being bombarded with information, disinformation and unease from all directions, at all hours of the day and night. He and the rest of the band tackle this very relatable dilemma with anger, humor and danceable post-punk on Yard Act's very enjoyable debut album, The Overload. "The overload of discontent / The constant burden of making sense," he sings on the album's title track which opens the album. "It won’t relent, it won’t repent."
James' vocal style -- talking/shouting through the verses, singing/shouting through very catchy choruses -- will get him compared to another scrabulous Smith, while his lanky frame will get him compared to Jarvis Cocker, and the band's rhythm section-forward, angular attack certainly owes a lot to Leeds icons Gang of Four. But Yard Act feel a little more in spirit with the mid-'00s post-punk revival that gave us Franz Ferdinand, Arctic Monkeys, Art Brut and The Rakes. Songs like "Payday," "Dead Horse," and "Pour Another" can touch on serious subjects, but they are also fun and easy to shake a leg to.
Like so many of the bands I've made comparisons to in just two short paragraphs above, Smith is a keen, witty observer and fills Yard Act's songs with memorable characters: pub poets and prognosticators, aging relics stuck in the Good Old Days, Brexiters, star athletes whose best days are behind them at 18. “I’m not interested in politics as much as I’m interested in people,” Smith told NME's Rhys Buchanan. “It’s all social; it’s all human nature. It’s looking at what divides us to figure out what connects us, and realising how alienated everyone is. The loudest, most confident voices in the room are usually the most frightened."
The Overload's characters are given a lot of good lines, too, peppered with jokes and well-executed profanity, but equal care is given to the music. Arrangements are lean and snappy and loaded with clever hooks, like the "Baba bows" in the slinky "Land of the Blind." If it gets a little spoken wordy, Yard Act never fail to hook you back in with a big earworm chorus. Shouty Brits, spiky guitars, disco bass -- we've heard this before, but Yard Act make it seem seem, if not new, exciting and fun again.
Get The Overload on vinyl in the BV shop.
ALBUM OF THE WEEK #2: The Soundcarriers - Wilds (Phosphonic)
First album in eight years from baroque psych and sound technicians creates its own unique sonic universe, orbiting near the Broadcast and Stereolab galaxies
The Soundcarriers are one of those bands unmoored by time, existing in a parallel sonic realm where late-'60s baroque psych, Nuggets-style garage rock, ye-ye, tropicalia, Scott Walker, Serge Gainsbourg, Ennio Morricone and cult groups like The Free Design and The United States of America are the biggest influences on pop music. Cousins to Stereolab and Broadcast, the Nottingham band nonetheless carved out the their own path within a fairly niche scene and by the time of their fantastic second album, 2010's Celeste, they truly came into their own. Amazing basslines, cracking drums, lots of flutes and harpsichords. Music this pristine doesn't come quickly and it would be four years until their third, Entropicalia, and then The Soundcarriers faded into the the exquisite wallpaper, never to be heard from again.
That would be the story if it wasn't for Jim Gavin, a Soundcarriers and Broadcast superfan and acclaimed short author who stumbled into the Peak TV boom of the 2010s and was allowed to create a very quirky, wonderful series for AMC called Lodge 49. He filled his series -- centered around fraternal order The Lynx -- with memorable misfits and a soundtrack full of his favorite music (Broadcast, Lilys, Lee Hazlewood, Felt). He asked The Soundcarriers if they'd get back together to write Lodge 49's theme song and while their submission didn't end up getting used, they recorded a few other new songs which did and made it into episodes throughout the show's two seasons.
Lodge 49 reignited The Soundcarriers' creative spark and with the songs they wrote for the show, they kept on going and now here we are with their first album in eight years. Like all their records, Wilds is transportive. You are whisked away to a world lit with psychedelic gel lights, filled with mod clubs, egg chairs, and go-go dresses. There is real propulsive energy in these nine songs, especially in the rhythm section. The bass is flinty and you can feel it hit the middle of your chest, working in tandem with the drumming which is lithe, jazzy and forceful, and not shy about wowing you with fills and sharp ride cymbals. Everything else here -- electric piano, the flutes, electronics, the mass chorus of harmony voices -- are all in service to the groove. "Waves," "All These Things," and "Driver" ripple with electricity and I don't know if there's such a thing as a "baroque ripper," but if there is "At the Time" is a textbook example. This is an exciting, rich listen from a group finally back from the wilds.
Boy Harsher - The Runner (Nude Club / City Slang)
Synthwave duo made a eerie and danceable horror soundtrack -- and they made the movie, too
In the early days of the pandemic, April 2020 or so, I remember taking the garbage out on a Friday night. It was around 11:30, a time when my Brooklyn neighborhood would normally be alive with the sounds of cars, car stereos, and people stumbling in and out of bars, but it was dead quiet. I walked to the corner and down to another, normally very busy corner, and there was no one as far as the eye could see in any direction. It was a spooky moment and my first thought was "If I was a filmmaker I'd be out shooting a post-apocalyptic thriller right now." Do you know how much it cost Cameron Crowe to shut down Times Square for that scene in Vanilla Sky? The whole city had become a set just like that.
I'm not sure that any filmmakers did take advantage of such free New York production value or not, but synthwave duo Boy Harsher made a movie during the pandemic. Around the same time as the start of lockdown, vocalist Jae Matthews was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and during her convalescence, a sinister image kept appearing in her head: a woman running through the woods. At the same time, instrumentalist Augustus Muller was working on new music that wasn't exactly the black eyeliner club music Boy Harsher was known for. It was more atmospheric, cinematic. Together, they came up with an idea for a film that "explored lust, compulsion, and the horrific tendencies of seduction" which they then wrote, produced and directed. That film, which stars King Woman's Kris Esfandiari and FlucT’s Sigrid Lauren, is called The Runner and you can watch the 40-minute short on the Shudder streaming service.
I haven't watched the film yet, but the accompanying soundtrack is, excuse the pun, pretty killer. They mix a slightly more chilled out version of their icy goth bangers with a few incidental instrumentals. All of it is good, and the transitions between the beat-driven songs and the ambient pieces have real flow so The Runner works as an album. The two most immediate earworms both feature guest vocalists: the New Order-y "Autonomy" is sung by Cooper B. Handy aka Lucy (who is also in the film); and "Machina," the real "hit" here, features vocals by Mariana Saldaña of BOAN. Whether they have a future as filmmakers remains to be seen, but they should definitely do more soundtracks.
For more on the album, we talked to Boy Harsher about their favorite movie soundtracks and scores.
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard - Butterfly 3001 (KGLW)
DJ Shadow, The Flaming Lips, Peaking Lights, Gena Jaccuzi, and more remix tracks from King Gizzard's Butterfly 3000. Some really great stuff here
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard made their biggest zag yet with last year's Butterfly 3000 which found the tripped-out, microtonal-loving Aussie psych band successfully exploring danceable pop music. It makes sense then, that they'd farm out the record for remixes. As someone who was into dance music and indie/alt in the '90s, I am a fan of remixes and still own many CD singles of wild Andrew Weatherall, Terry Farley, Todd Terry and Fred Falke reworks of Saint Etienne, Bjork, etc. Butterfly 3001 is very much in that spirit and there's a lot of great stuff here.
There a lot in general, with 21 tracks total and some songs, "Blue Morpho" in particular, getting multiple remixes. It's not the kind of album you'd just put on, but there's some fantastic stuff for playlists or DJ sets. First and foremost is DJ Shadow's "My Own Reality" rework of "Black Hot Soup." In awesome late-'90s style, DJ Shadow grabs hold of one line from King Gizzard's original -- and a crucial "WOO" exclamation -- and turns it into an entirely new, incredible, banger full of breakbeats, killer basslines and lots of turntablism. I should also say that the music video makes it even better. Directed by John Angus Stewart, it stars Australian radio DJ, humorist, and filmmaker John Safran as an aging club kid who is way past his prime but still goes very hard. I think I watched it 10 times the day it came out and parts still make me laugh. If you haven't seen it take four minutes right now:
Other good remixes: Deaton Chris Anthony takes "Shanghai" into dubby drum-n-bass territory; Gena Jacuzzi turns "Ya Love" into a mid-'00s dance jam a la Annie, while The Flaming Lips turn it into a Flaming Lips song; DāM-FunK's Instrumental Re-Freak of "Catching Smoke" adds a trunkful of booty bass; Yu Su's Instrumental Mix of "Dreams" is a gorgeous soundbath with extra epsom salts; the Terry Tracksuit mix of "Butterfly 3000" is playful and sounds like something on a 2000-era lounge-house comp; and Héctor Oaks Playing w/ Fire Mix of "Ya Love" goes hard techno. There's also cool remixes by Peaches, Peaking Lights, The Scientist, Confidence Man, and lots more. If you like dance or dub even a little there's probably something here for you.
Kids on a Crime Spree - Fall In Love, Not in Line (Slumberland)
KOACS, led by San Francisco indiepop vet Mario Hernandez, finally release a full length album...10 years into their existence.
Mario Hernandez is San Francisco indiepop royalty, having made fuzzy, noisy Brill Building pop with Ciao Bella and From Bubblegum to Sky in the '90s and '00s, and he's led Kids on a Crime Spree since 2010. After a mini album and 7", both excellent, in the early stretches of the 2010s, the group went all but dark -- but eight years later they are back. Fall In Love, Not in Line is being touted as their first album, but at 24 minutes it's only two songs and three minutes longer than the mini-LP debut. Mario also says the 10 songs here were “a conscious decision to move beyond our idols, both in recording method and lyrical content.” I'm not sure how far they moved -- "Karl Kardel Building," which opens the album, cribs from The Crystals' "Then He Kissed Me" -- but Kids of a Crime Spree remain superior makers of this style of indiepop, fusing classic hooks and classic fuzz with buckets of reverb. It's a formula that, when done right, is as satisfying as the original Wall of Sound. Hernandez, along with drummer Becky Barron, and guitarist Bill Evans, do it very right. Most songs run around 2:20 and pack in multiple hooks in each one. The album races by and if you're like me, you'll let it repeat three times before realizing it. It's a perfect dose of pop, though let's hope we don't have to wait another eight years for another 22 minutes.
Bronze - "People Watching People" (Castle Face)
The "real-deal weirdo kings of San Francisco" prep first album for Castle Face
Bronze have been keeping San Francisco strange since the mid-'00s and have stuck it out, continuing to put tech bros on edge, after much of the scene fled the city in the last decade. Brian D. Hock, Rob Spector and Miles Friction make an in-your face style of synth-psych that recalls Silver Apples, Legendary Pink Dots or the music David Bowie heard in his head during the height of his cocaine paranoia. Bronze live shows are the stuff of legend, they've released records on Rvng Intl. (they played PS-1 Warm-Up around the same time), and OSEES frontman John Dwyer calls them the "real-deal weirdo kings of San Francisco."
Dwyer's label, Castle Face, is putting out Bronze's new album, Compliance, on April 2. Castle Face, and OSEES for that matter, moved beyond the garage years ago but Compliance is unlike any other record in the label's catalogue. "People Watching People" oozes with a disquieting menace, with Rob Spector’s melodramatic voice wailing atop freaky synths and pounding drums. It's proggy, it's gothy -- progothy? -- and sounds especially awesome and squirmy turned up loud. The track premieres right here, check it out below.
Folks will be able to catch Bronze live later this year when they join OSEES on tour.
Looking for more? Browse the Indie Basement archives.