Bill’s Indie Basement (7/6): the week in classic indie, college rock, and more
It is hot down in the basement this week, where the heat and humidity have been oppressive and my A/C is not quite cutting it. Helping things, though, is some cool new music. Today we've got: the fantastic debut album from Bodega; plus new music from Portland's Woolen Men; the very Swedish indiepop of Hater; Brooklyn-via-Nashville band Champagne Superchillin' who probably don't sound like whatever you might think they do; Australia's The Shifters; and UK DIY janglepop artist Trust Fund.
Elsewhere: with the holiday it's been a slow news week, but the prospect of a new Chills album is exciting.
Are you reading this on your phone? That would play right into the narrative of Bodega's brilliant debut album, Endless Scroll, which is a laser-focused screed against the screen-hypnotized world we live, in where "everyone is equally a master and a slave." Frontman Ben Hozie sings that line in "How Did This Happen?," Endless Scroll's opening song, but its themes are repeated throughout the album. "I fell in love staring at a screen / Triple dots I see bouncing" he sings on "Bodega Birth"; then on "Bookmarks" he sings of a familiar monotony, "Every morning when I wake up / Same clicks to the same sites every day ...often I forget what I'm trying to accomplish / bookmarks to myself keep my eyes on the mission." Few records these days feel as of a whole as this.
With songs about terrible part time jobs and other mundane aspects of life, there's an almost Chuck Palahniuk vibe to what's going on, all set to danceable, very catchy post-punk that recalls The Minutemen, Gang of Four and Pylon. (To the latter, "Gyrate" seems to clearly be a tip of the hat to that Athens, GA band). The songs are also funny, thoughtful and Hozie never lets himself off the hook. Amid all the vignettes of our media-addicted lives are a few more personal numbers; "Boxes for the Move" and "Charlie," an especially touching tribute to lost friend, cut through the thematic fog and are among the album's most affecting songs.
There's also "Jack in Titanic," the album's biggest earworm which deals with the way pop culture can inform our own behavior and neatly splits the difference between the Endless Scroll's nostalgic and social critique sides. It all makes for not only one of the most assured debuts in recent memory, but one of the year-so-far's best records.
Portland's The Woolen Men are back with new album Post, which will be out September 1 via their own Dog's Table label. This is their first since 2015's terrific Temporary Monument, and the world's changed a lot since then, as the band's Lawton Browning discussed with Undertone:
For me increasingly the personal and the political seem to merge. In the US right now I feel that you have no choice but to confront the nightmare we find ourselves in, as much as you may want to put your head in the sand and ignore it.. So this time around my intuition wanted to talk about responsibility to your own self and to the others who are suffering.
"Weatherman For Sale" is one of those songs that blends the personal and the political, and is about "giving yourself excuses to not follow through with things because you can’t find a reliable weatherman to tell you how things are going to be." Musically, it's a great example of Woolen Men's minimal approach, drawing from The Minutemen, Wire and The Fall, but in a mossy, Northwest kind of way. You can also check out the driving "Lost Horizon," which owes a little bit to '80s Flying Nun (The Bats and The Clean). Listen:
The Woolen Men have dates in Oregon and California later this month.
Malmö quartet Hater recall classic Swedish indiepop such as The Concretes, Acid House Kings and Sambassadeur, with their genial, jangly pop that just skirts winsome/whimsy territory. Following 2017's debut album, they're back with Siesta, their second long-player for Fire Records which will be out September 15.
There are two songs to check out right now: the melancholic, synthy "It's So Easy" which is like The Last Days of April covering New Order (a song we included this in our June playlist); and the wistful "I Wish I Gave You More Time Because I Love You" that's embellished with watercolor splashes of saxophone. Listen:
With a name like Champagne Superchillin' you might, at least jokingly, expect some sort of loungey Oasis tribute act. It is not that -- though if that is something you'd like to hear, it already happened in the '90s -- but instead is Francophone-style psych-pop from right here in Brooklyn. (You didn't see that coming.) The group, who got their start in Nashville, features Fly Golden Eagle's Ben Trimble and Clear Plastic Masks drummer Charles Garmendia, with French expat Juliette Buchs leading the charge. If you dig Melody's Echo Chamber, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Halo Maude and other French groups that get written about a lot in Indie Basement (not to mention OG ye-ye) and '70s Italian soundtrack music you will likely dig this too.
Champagne Superchillin' will release their second album, Beach Deep, via Broken Circles on July 20. We've got the premiere of "Gipsy Ferrari," a deeply psychedelic jam that floats on top of a rolling beat, warm keys and harpsichord. This is widescreen, technicolor music perfect for listening in your egg chair. Get comfy:
Champagne Superchillin' will celebrate Beach Deep's release on July 20 at Our Wicked Lady (on the roof) in Brooklyn with Tall Juan, Schade, and DJ Jin & Juice (tickets).
Melbourne's rabble-rousing The Shifters, who released a new 7" not too long ago, will get their first official North American release this fall when The Shifters Have a Cunning Plan drops via Trouble in Mind on September 21. (Preorder on orange vinyl.) It's their proper full-length debut, which they recorded with Al Montfort of Total Control/Dick Diver/Terry at his home studio.
While it's a little less low-fi than their cassette debut, things don't seem to have changed too much, sonically -- they're still making ramshackle low-fi punk indebted to The Fall and Country Teasers. First single "Work/Life, Gym Etc," an indictment of corporate living where you go out to lunch and after-work drinks with your company's lanyard still around your neck. Check out the video which takes the theme even further:
While Bristol, England may be known as the birthplace of trip hop (Massive Attack, Tricky, Portishead), the port city does produce other kinds of music, from post-punks Specimen to '80s/'90s janglepoppers Blue Aeroplanes to current shouty punks Idles. Bristol is also home to Trust Fund, aka singer-songwriter Ellis Jones who makes quirky guitar pop that ranges from Beach Boys-esque orch pop, to skronky new wave, with bookish wordplay throughout.
You may have heard 2016's We have always lived in The Harolds and Trust Fund is now back with Bringing the Backline. The record features, according to a tongue-in-cheek press release, an "uncompromising turn towards adult-oriented rock, including 78 seconds of audible clarinet" and "lyrics touching upon the now-classic TF themes of listlessness, disavowal, and the fetishisation of regret, with details specific enough to feel frank and confessional, yet non-specific enough to allow for the listener to substitute in their own life experiences." It's also got some ridiculously catchy songs that, at times, has Ellis sounding like a one-man Los Campesinos, with diversions into synthpop, crunchy power-pop and a folky ballad or two. It's charming, it's hooky, it's British (but not too British). You can listen to the whole thing here;