Bill’s Indie Basement (8/31): the week in classic indie, college rock, and more
It's Labor Day Weekend and this week in the Indie Basement it's a veritable cookout party playlist of classics. Ok, not really, but if I had a backyard I'd play almost everything this week. (And if you want to invite me to your bbq I promise not to try trying over the stereo. I also make good potato salad.) This week: more reissues from The Fall; Jarvis Cocker-approved teenage trio Honey Hahs; Montreal chanteuse Munya; new Irish power-pop group Music City; synthpop duo Landline; and a crucial reissue from Rose McDowall's dark-folk duo Sorrow.
Need more Basement-approved stuff: There are new LIars and Neneh Cherry albums on the way; Graham Van Pelt of Miracle Fortress (and the much-missed Think About Life) is releasing a solo album; and if you dig Beat Happening / Pastels type indiepop, there's a new comp out by the Guy who runs Chapter Music. Plus: the new very good new Anna Calvi album is out today, as is the terrific new Woolen Men album (9/1, actually), and new Wild Nothing (which is worth checking out, though it's not his best).
See ya in September.
There have never been a shortage of releases from The Fall, one of the most famously prolific bands of the last 40 years, and while new Fall records stopped when we lost Mark E. Smith at the beginning of the year, it hasn’t stopped the reissue/repackage train from rolling on. (It was in full force when MES was alive, too.) Beggars Banquet reissued the classic 458489 - The A-Sides earlier this year, which covered “The Brix Years,” and now Superior Viaduct is releasing the band’s early-’80s singles that were on Rough Trade, which will be the first-ever vinyl release for this in the U.S.
This is from the time just prior to Brix joining the band, with what many felt like was the best-ever lineup of the band -- Marc Riley, Craig Scanlon, and brothers Steve and Paul Hanley -- and the compilation collects everything from The Fall’s four singles for Rough Trade. The a-sides are all essential: “Totally Wired,” “How I Wrote Elastic Man,” “Kicker Conspiracy” and “The Man Whose Head Expanded,” and the b-sides are not far behind. I would personally rather see a reissue of the 1987 comp Palace of Swords Reversed, which covers the same era’s single but includes a few more, but The Rough Trade Singles LP is definitely worth picking up.
Superior Viaduct, which has reissued a bunch of pre-Brix records (like the indispensable Slates EP) is also reissuing Totale’s Return, the band’s first live LP (there have been like 326 since). It was recorded in ‘79-’80 and has them burning messily though early essentials like “Rowche Rumble,” “Fiery Jack,” and “Spectre Vs. Rector.” It’s not where I’d start with The Fall’s discography, but the label notes this is, like the singles comp, the first time this has been out domestically on vinyl. Both of these are out October 26.
The Fall’s most recent label, Cherry Red, who less than a year ago released The Singles: 1978 - 2016 box set, are releasing another Fall compilation. 58 Golden Greats is an update of the 2004 release 50,000 Fall Fans Can’t Be Wrong (39 Golden Greats) which was the first-ever Fall comp to pull from every era (and label) of the band. In addition to adding some of The Fall’s best songs from the last 12 years (“Dr Buck’s Letter,” “Theme From Sparta F.C.,” “Bury”), it swaps out and adds a few older songs too (“Rebellious Jukebox,” “Oh Brother,” “Big New Prinz”) making the “All the Hits” claim pretty accurate. On the downside, this is only on CD and, worse, the cover art is just terrible. Terrible. The fall have had some pretty atrocious cover art in the past (Are You Missing Winner, for example) and I know this is an homage to the terrible cover art of Elvis comp 40 Greatest (much like the first was an homage to 50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can't Be Wrong) but they've somehow made it worse. Still, if you need a good place to start...this might be it. This one's out November 30. and you can check out the full tracklist (and the terrible cover art) here.
Honey Hahs are three sisters from South London: Rowan, 16, plays guitar and piano, Robin, who is 13, plays bass, and Sylvie, who is 11, plays drums. They all sing. With parents who were in indie bands -- their mom was in mid-'90s band Tiger, and their dad records as Flame Proof Moth -- music was in their blood and and this very young group got their start playing at school but soon found themselves on bills with Goat Girl, Shame and Fat White Family. Their debut album, Dear Someone, Happy Something, which was produced by Pulp's Steve Mackey, will be out via Rough Trade on September 14.
Listening to the album you wouldn't suspect their ages too much. It's folky pop, and Mackey has wisely left in the rough edges. There's nothing slick about Dear Someone, Happy Something and it's got more in common with late-'60s Kinks than anything from the last 30 years, though you could draw parallels to fellow UK groups Goat Girl and Stealing Sheep. The album also manages to be charming while avoiding the dreaded winsome tag, and there's even a streak of melancholy in their harmonies on songs like "Forever," which opens the album and is about their father's End of Times fears. There are a few terrific pop songs, too, like the percussive and politically minded "Stop Him," and album standout "River."
"Don't get too hung up on how old the people who made this record are," says fan Jarvis Cocker. "These songs speak to a spirit that is inside all of us - it's just that it sometimes gets buried by age. It's nice to be reminded of this time-honoured truth: the Youth will save us!" Trust Jarvis and watch a few of their videos, below.
Josie Boivi is a classically trained pianist, opera singer, and jazz student but never intended to make music a full time career. But last year, under the name Munya, she wrote and released "l'Amour Avec Toi," an alluring number that mixed chanson-style French music with synthpop and indie rock. That got her noticed by the Pop Montreal festival who booked her for its 2017 edition and playing that changed her life. Full of new purpose, she moved in with her sister in Montreal, converted a room into a studio and released the North Hatley EP earlier this year, which features three more terrific examples of her style of pop. "I don’t really understand how I make music," says Boivin. "I feel like it’s coming from another world."
Bolvin will release a new Munya EP, titled Delmano, which will be out October 5 via Luminelle Recordings (the label run by Chris from Gorilla Vs Bear). The lead single (and quasi title track) is "Hotel Delmano," a gorgeous, ethereal number with keyboards that sound like twilight (the time of day, not the vampire movie series) and give the song a magical quality. ("Hotel Delmano" is, if you were wondering, named after the fancy cocktail bar in Williamsburg, which Bolvin had a dream about.) I am predisposed to like French-language pop (see Melody's Echo Chamber, Halo Maud and Anemone) but this is very good.
Landline* is a collaboration between Oakland artist Toyota Avalon (aka Matt Ferrara) and LA artist Shirley Mistaken (aka Zoe Zag) and like their name, their sound hearkens back to a pre-internet/cellphone era. Specifically they make spiky, punky, synthy new wave that sounds like it could be the genuine article. Their debut came out, appropriately, on cassette earlier this year and it's just terrific. If you like the B-52's, Wall of Voodoo, The Waitresses, Oingo Boingo, Suburban Lawns, and URGH! A Music War, Landline not only have the schtick and sonics down -- wiry guitars, frenetic pace, lots of bleeping and blooping, some occasional goth atmosphere -- but they've written a whole bunch of killer songs as well. This kind of stuff also works so much better with heaps of attitude, and Shirley Mistaken has that in bucketfuls, her voice dripping of cooler-than-thou withering disdain.
*Not to be confused with Portland's Landlines who are also good.
Rose McDowall was one half of UK new wave act Strawberry Switchblade known for their polka-dot-and-bows outfits and sugary pop hits (like “Since Yesterday” which went to #5 across the pond in 1984) that hid a pitch-black center. The group only lasted one record and McDowall went on to sing backup for Felt, sang on Primal Scream’s “Loaded,” and became a sort of witchy It Girl, playing with much darker groups like Coil, Current 93, Death in June (and made a record with that group's controversial member Boyd Rice), Nurse With Wound and Psychic TV.
She also formed another duo, this time with husband Robert Lee, called Sorrow who made dark, baroque folk, while still with some of those ‘60s girl group melodies Strawberry Switchblade favored. If you thought Strawberry Switchblade peaked with their woodwind-laden debut single, “Trees and Flowers” (which Dum Dum Girls once covered), Sorrow’s sole album, 1993’s Under The Yew Possessed has most of her old band’s good qualities but without the overblown ‘80s production. The duo’s name was very appropriate as their music elicited deep emotional responses. “Sorrow [the duo] went on tour and often the audience would cry,” McDowall told The Guardian. “Once, in America, the whole audience were crying. I have never felt so moved. It was the most powerful thing I ever achieved in my lifetime – to actually, emotionally, affect a whole room. I can’t ask for any more than that.”
Out of print since its initial CD release, Under The Yew Possessed got its first-ever vinyl pressing for Record Store Day UK this year and is now available on a more widely available pressing via Night School. It's an expanded edition with a gatefold lyric booklet featuring unpublished photographs and exclusive new liner notes by Rose McDowall. You can also listen to the whole thing right now:
Conor Lumsden has been playing in bands since he was 12, having made two LPs as part of Irish group The Number Ones and having played in backing groups for Cian Nugent, Jack Cooper (Ultimate Painting) and A. Savage (Parquet Courts.) He’s now set out on his own with new project Music City that picks up where The Number Ones left off, making classic, crunchy ‘70s style power-pop. Icons of the genre -- Paul Collins of The Nerves and Chris Wilson of Flaming Groovies -- are fans already.
Music City’s debut 7” will be out September 21 via Static Shock Records (Sheer Mag, Uranium Club) who have proudly said "It is to date the least punk release on Static Shock Records." The A-side, “Pretty Feelings,” sounds like tight denim and convertibles, all muted guitar verses and and soaring choruses. Says Conor:
There were very specific ideas of how everything was to sound - direct to desk guitars peaking to create wild fuzz like something off a Lindsey song on Tusk, multiple layers of 12-strings and acoustics, DI'd bass, piano, completely dead drums and 50s slapback vocals with harmonies all mixed to tape by Mikey Young.
The song premieres right here:
Music City have a couple dates in Ireland in September and plan on playing NYC in October stay tuned.