Bill’s Indie Basement (9/14): the week in classic indie, college rock, and more
It's another banner week here in the Indie Basement. One of my favorite albums of the year so far, The Goon Sax's We're Not Talking is out. Baxter Dury, who made my favorite LP of 2017, has a new collaborative album with "French Touch" maestro Etienne de Crécy, and Delilah Holliday, plus a new Lake Ruth single, French psych-rock band Bootchy Temple, and two new, very different looks at pop music in 1968 compiled by Saint Etienne's Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs.
Other Indie Basement approved stuff this week: J Fernandez is back with a new album; Protomartyr and Preoccupations are touring together with UK band Rattle; Part Time are back with a new LP; and if you missed it, I had a long, nerdy talk with Tom Patterson who's the music supervisor the excellent AMC series Lodge 49 (and we got to premiere the unused theme song by The Soundcarriers).
The Goon Sax made their debut album, 2016's Up to Anything, while members James Harrison, Louis Forster and Riley Jones were still in high school. It really captured the awkwardness of that age in its terrific songs and bare-bones production. A couple years on, the trio are back: a little older, a little wiser, and have bettered their debut in every way. They're still making strummy indiepop but, embellished with swooning strings and horn arrangements, the songs on We're Not Talking really soar with the heart.
Just as crucial: drummer Riley Jones sings too this time around, adding lovely backing vocals throughout, takes lead on the delicate "Strange Light," and offers vocal and narrative counterpoints to Louis and James on "Losing Myself," "Till the End," and the album's best, most bittersweet song, "We Can't Win." There are also an abundance of the kind of winning, heart-on-sleeve guitar pop that Louis' dad's old band, The Go-Between used to make (The string-laden "Make Time for Love" and almost Clean-esque "Get Out"). If they're still trying to figure out the intricacies of love and relationships, The Goon Sax are certainly a more confident band with more sophisticated takes on those messy emotions.
This record will be in my Top 10 of 2018 for sure. The Goon Sax will be on tour in North America starting October 23 -- go see 'em!
Back in 2015, Baxter Dury contributed vocals to "Family," the standout track on Etienne De Crécy's Super Discount 3. Dury's sexy, marble-mouthed Cockney Serge Gainsbourg style was a perfect match for De Crécy's French Touch disco, making for a magical parallel universe Barry White jam. Spending more time in France than England these days, Baxter hung out more with Etienne, and they decided to make more music together, drafting in Delilah Holliday (of London punks Skinny Girl Diet) as well. The trio's debut album, B.E.D. (aka their first initials) will be out October 26 on Heavenly.
This project is much more of a collaboration than just Baxter and Delilah singing over Etienne's beats, and feels somewhere in between a Paris disco and the louche post-punk pub rock of Dury's last three albums. Holliday also brings a different flavor to things as her smoky vocals are much closer in style to Dury's, as opposed to the light, pretty vocals that Madeline Hart has brought to Baxter's last three (great) solo LPs. (She also sings lead nearly as much as Dury does.) "Etienne has created a musical background for my confessional narrative and Delilah has encouraged it to be something more emotional," says Baxter. "It’s an unlikely mix that works because its short, simple and honest."
Short and simple is about right -- B.E.D. is nine songs in 19 minutes -- but it doesn't skimp on hooks, attitude or Dury's detailed character sketches and profane bon mots. You can get a taste of what the trio will bring with first single "White Coats." Baxter and Delilah trade verses over a pounding piano beat before Etienne drops in some arpeggiated synth to send the song into the stratosphere.
Bootchy Temple hail from Bordeaux, France and make a pleasing blend of indie-psych guitar styles, from drony VU-style jams, to the bright, jangly pop associated with '80s Flying Nun, and ramshackle twee a la C-86. For those adverse to music in foreign tongues, they sing in English. The band haven't gotten much exposure outside their home country, but hopefully that will change with Bootchy Temple's third album, Glimpses, which will be out October 26 via Howlin' Banana records.
The first single is "The Man with the Cane," which definitely sounds like it could've come from the other side of the world: the sort of driving, chiming number NZ band The Chills might've made in 1989, or the kind Aussie group Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever are making right now. There's a hint of surfy twang in there too and it makes for a delicious LP appetizer.
Brooklyn's finest baroque psych book-lovers, Lake Ruth, released their terrific second album, Birds of America, back in February. They're now following it up with a new collaborative single with Listening Center, aka New York based Irish musician David Mason who records for the Ghost Box label. Both groups share many of the same influences -- obscure soundtracks, BBC Radiophonic Workshop -- so this is an easy, perfect fit. (If you will, this is a NYC analogue to Broadcast and Focus Group.) "To Recife" was inspired by inspired by Mania and Pinkhas, "parents of the visionary, revolutionary and much beloved Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector" and it's pristine and gorgeous.
All proceeds of this digital single (through 9/30) will benefit The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), a nonprofit agency that promotes justice by providing free and low-cost legal services to under-served immigrant children, families and refugees in Texas.
If you read our "What We're Listening to On Tour" feature with Saint Etienne, you know the group are real crate-diggers, with deep knowledge of pop's far corners. Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs have been compiling "Saint Etienne Presents" compilations for years, and ones like Songs for Mario's Cafe or The Trip or Songs For A Central Park Picnic are worth seeking out and a real treasure trove of "How have I never heard this amazing song before?" selections. And if you've never read Bob's book Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Story of Modern Pop, I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Lately, Bob and Pete have been putting out a series of compilations for reissue label Ace Records. Late last year they compiled UK obscurities from the time between psych and prog on English Weather, and in July they released Paris in the Spring. The latter looks at the tumultuous year 1968 which saw Paris engulfed in student riots, strikes and more, but was also an extremely fertile year for French pop:
Out of the student uprising came a new wave in French music that matched the country’s mood – darker, and more introspective than yé-yé, France’s cultural revolution allowed the previously separate worlds of chanson, jazz, pop and film soundtracks to blend into each other. Laden with strings and sample-ready rhythm tracks, this new sound was exemplified by Serge Gainsbourg’s “Histoire De Melody Nelson”, but it wasn’t an isolated classic – this was a golden age for French pop.
The two-disc compilation contains songs by Serge Gainsbourg, Jacques Dutronc, France Gall, Jane Birkin, Françoise Hardy, Brigitte Fontaine, Nino Ferrer, and some less familiar but equally groovy songs/artists. They don't put these compilations on streaming services, but someone made a playlist of a lot of the Paris in the Spring songs that you can listen to below and you can read Bob's liner notes and check out the full tracklist here.
Bob and Pete have another compilation due out this year focused on 1968, but through a dark, American lens. State Of The Union - The American Dream In Crisis will be out October 26:
By mid-1968 there was a growing consensus that something had gone horribly wrong with the American dream. The nation’s youth had loudly made their feelings clear, but now the older, pre-Beatles generations began to look at the country – with urban riots, Vietnam, and the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy – and wonder what the hell was happening.
This album includes rare classics (The Beach Boys’ ‘Fourth Of July’), lost masterpieces (Roy Orbison’s seven-minute ‘Southbound Jericho Parkway’), and forgotten gems by some of the biggest names in the business (Elvis Presley’s ‘Clean Up Your Own Back Yard’).
The compilation also features songs from Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Della Reese, Dean Martin, Franki Valli, Paul Anka, Mel Torme, and more -- all of which fall into the "national existential crisis" theme, which might ring more true than ever now, 50 years later.