Bill’s Indie Basement (5/31): the week in classic indie, college rock, and more
This week: The Gotobeds buck the "too many cooks in the kitchen" adage on their great, guest-filled new album; Sacred Paws make one of the most joyous albums of the year; Indiepop icons Amelia Fletcher and Rob Pursey are back with their second The Catenary Wires album; School of Language take on Donald Trump; plus great new singles from Beak> and Absolutely Free.
If you need more of this week's new albums, Andrew review the terrific new Bedouine album and more in Notable Releases, and if you need more Basement-approved stuff there's: the Pip Blom record; Redd Kross are back; there's more new Bill Callahan; and the new Sleater-Kinney is pretty good too (even if it sounds like Cherry Glazerr).
Pittsburgh four-piece The Gotobeds‘ last album, Blood // Sugar // Secs // Traffic, was their first for Sub Pop and felt a bit like a reaction to both their great, hooky debut and signing to the esteemed Seattle label, making a record that was more dissonant and rebellious that seemed to revel in not giving us what we wanted -- the easy charm and catchy songs that Poor People Are Revolting had in spades. Their new album, Debt Begins at 30, splits the difference: still sarcastic, angry, noisy and sometimes bratty, but delivering more of those savory riffs.
Debt Begins at 30 is also a high concept record, imagined as a punk/indie rock equivalent of a trap mixtape, featuring guests on every track. "Twin Cities," with its riff from the same universe as Pavement's "Box Elder," is probably the most immediate song on the record with frontman Eli Kasan trading lines with Tracy Wilson (Positive No) in a tale of orbiting bodies that never quite connect. Then there's "Slang Words," one of the album's fiercest cuts, featuring an especially vicious-sounding Joe Casey of Protomartyr as his shouts of "Can't stand the taste" degrade under some crazy reverb effects. Joe's bandmate Greg Ahee, meanwhile, contributes atmospheric guitar to the melancholic "On Loan." Bob Nastanovich of Pavement does some quality shouting on "Dross."
The mixtape aspect doesn't hit you over the head, thankfully, as most guests don't really call attention to themselves. First and foremost this is a Gotobeds album and the hook quotient is high, from the mellow charms of "2:15" (another Pavement nab), the Wire-y "Calquer the Hound," and "Bleached Midnight" which rips open with wild guitars midway through the song. There are three title tracks here: "Poor People Are Revolting" shows up two albums late to the party but is pretty great; while "Debt Begins at 30" is offered in two very different but equally cool versions (one featuring Bob Weston of Shellac and Mission of Burma, and the other with Spanish lyrics and guest lead vocals from Downtown Boys' Victoria Ruiz).
Debt Begins at 30 is also a serious-minded album for a band known for being smartasses. Not Capital S Serious, but a world-weary thoughtfulness runs through songs like "On Loan," "Parallel," and "2:15." (New songs like "Rock Writers are Pretentious Assholes" didn't make the record, but sound like amazing b-side fodder.) The Gotobeds would probably bristle at words like "mature" or "grown-up," but this is definitely not greasy kids stuff either.
The Gotobeds hit the NYC area for two shows in July.
Rob Pursey and Amelia Fletcher are indiepop royalty, having been in such beloved bands as Talulah Gosh, Heavenly, Tender Trap, Marine Research and, these days, The Catenary Wires. The duo will release Til The Morning, the second Catenary Wires album, on June 14 via Tapete. It's a fuller, more fleshed-out sounding album than their spare 2015 debut. We're premiering "Sixteen Again" which is a title that sounds like it might be nostalgic, but is not. Amelia and Rob tell us it's about "women suddenly losing their life partners -- and finding themselves alone for the first time in years. It combines a very personal story with something we read in the paper about women losing their husbands to drone strikes in Afghanistan." Like they've done over the course of their careers, they juxtapose serious subject matter with pretty melodies and "bah bah bah" choruses. The video, directed by the band and Alison Wonderland, was shot near their home in Kent and features Amelia and Rob’s daughter Ivy as one of the "16 year-olds." Watch that here:
The Catenary Wires were last in the U.S. in 2015 and are planning to be back in North America playing shows this summer. The tour hasen't been fully announced yet but I do know they'll play Athens, GA on August 2, and NYC's Coney Island Baby on August 16 with Indie Basement-approved bands Jeanies and Pale Lights. Stay tuned for their full tour schedule.
Glasgow's Sacred Paws, the duo of Rachel Aggs (Shopping, Trash Kit) and Eilidh Rodgers (ex Golden Girls), are back, just in time for summer, with their second album of fizzy, buoyant, extremely infectious guitar pop. Aggs' guitar style, which pulls from African pop and early-'80s post punk, really drives things here, never staying still or strumming chords, instead spidering across the fretboard, spitting out sunshine. Eilidh, meanwhile, plays with the precision and energy of New Order's Stephen Morris. Both of them sing, often going line-for-line with each other and their harmonies sound great, too. With snappy production, and tasteful horn arrangements, Run Around the Sun is a stronger record than their 2017 debut. If there's a criticism, it's that some of these tracks are more grooves than songs and can be a little samey. But at only 30 minutes, Run Around the Sun never wears out its welcome and is nearly impossible to stay still listening to.
David Brewis, who is one half of Field Music, is back with his third album as School of Language. It’s the first SoL album in five years but it came together very quickly, from song titles to finished record in just seven weeks. What spurred this creative outpouring? Donald Trump‘s impending visit to the UK (he arrives June 3). “Back in 2013, when I made the last SoL album, I wouldn’t have guessed that the next one would be about a reality TV star-turned-President, who claims to be an expert in, well, everything,” says David, though songs like “Count it Up” and “Goodbye to the Country,” from last year’s great Open Here were pointing in this direction.
“For as long as I can remember I’ve been fascinated by US politics and that fascination became an obsession in the run up to the 2016 election,” says Brewis. “It really made me wonder as to whether I had any understanding of people whatsoever. It feels like Trump’s success has rendered in perfect detail every fault line in Western democracy – how profile beats policy, how corporate interests overwhelm the needs of ordinary people and how ethics and the rule of law are at the mercy of partisanship. To be honest, I could probably have written twice as many songs such is the wealth of scarcely believable material surrounding the Trump administration. It’s like King Lear populated by the cast of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Here in the UK, I feel far enough removed that I can turn my revulsion into satire. I don’t think I could do the same with Brexit. It’s too close.”
David also did the great, ’80s-esque, Barney Bubbles-ish cover art, and song titles “Adult in the Room,” “Lock Her Up,” “A Beautiful Wall,” and “And Even if I Did” should strike a chord to anyone whose read any news at all in the last three years. Musically, it’s scratchy new wave-y, post-punk-y funk and very catchy and, despite the subject matter, is a fun record that is also angry but never hits you over the head with the message. The record also goes to a good cause: £1 of all sales from the School of Language Bandcamp and the Field Music online shop will be split between Planned Parenthood and Alliance for Choice of Northern Ireland.
Turns out Beak>'s song from last month, "Life Goes On," is also the name of their new EP which will be out June 21 via Invada/Temporary Residence and features three new songs -- all recorded after an inspiring trip to Mexico -- and a version of "Allé Sauvage" (from last year's great '>>>' album) performed by accordionist Mario Batkovic. "We Can Go" is woozy, boozy and dreamy, the sound of being all the way in the bag, with every instrument wobbling in and out of tune. Beak say it's "the most normal song we have ever written. We like it." I say normal is relative but I like it too.
Beak> play Primavera Sound today (5/31) and part of their set might be streamed...though according to the schedule it doesn't look like it will be streamed live.
Toronto trio Absolutely Free are finally back with a new record, the Geneva Freeport EP, that will be out June 21. You may have heard "Currency," the EP's great collaboration with Meg Remy of U.S. Girls, and here's the title track -- a throbbing electro-krautrock number that goes from simmer to a full-on boil across its five minutes. Lyrically the song imagines a vacation to Geneva Freeport, the Swiss art storage facility where some of the world's most valuable objects are kept safe from greasy fingers, damaging light and taxing nations. "Through fantasy and the starkest of realities, this song brings to question the process in which economic value is prescribed to cultural artifacts how that value is exploited through storing them in high security storage facilities (like the Geneva Freeport) to avoid paying taxes, and how it all seems so antithetical to why most artists create their work in the first place." Against thundering toms, pulsing bass and swirling, glassine keyboards, they sing "And I think to myself, what a wonderful world" with an intention Louis Armstrong never imagined. Killer.
Hopefully Absolutely Free will release that album they say has been in the can since 2017 soon too.