Like some unholy marriage between Black Flag and The Cramps, FIDLAR’s “Cheap Beer” is pure aural fuck — “I DRINK CHEAP BEER SO WHAT FUCK YOU.” There’s more subtlety there within than that would imply — sweet little surf riffs, excellent solo, smart dynamics, perfect production without being self-consciously lo-fi. But the thing the L.A. band offers uniquely is that clear-cut dynamite party chorus, a rarity in the days of reverb-awash garage rock. FIDLAR’s deubt album will be released in early 2013 on Mom & Pop.
SFV Acid – “Ashland Slumber”
This nasty bit of indie electro-house comes from L.A.’s SFV Acid, who sound like they’re coming into their own with this latest slab of sublimely grimey dance music. “Ashland Slumber” sounds a bit like Detroit house blasted out of shitty speakers and garnering extra feedback and reverb in the process. I love how lush the synths are vs. the brutality of the beats. Harsh, weird fun stuff. The Neighborhood Archives EP is due Oct. 15 on UNO.
Vex Ruffin – “Take It”
Gnarly, nasty one-man-band punk out of L.A. Vex Ruffin’s “Take It” rides its bone-simple riff and drum machine (I think? It might as well be.) to great heights on Ruffin’s balls to the wall vocal. It’s kind of the punk inverse of Dirty Beaches’ one-main rockabilly noir. His debut LP is due next year on Stones Throw.
Cat Power’s personal life — her admitted alcoholism, her erratic live shows — is a favorite topic of discussion such that it often threatens to overshadow talk of her brilliant music. Perhaps in an effort to curb that, Chan Marshall has created her least intimate, most globally accessible album with Sun. Marshall produced and performed almost everything on the album herself, but in lieu of the sort of austerity of an album like Moon Pix, we get a dark synth-pop record, spurred by Marshall’s desire to make something unlike anything she had done before. However, underneath the synths that spiral around the title track, for instance, this is still very much a Cat Power record — worry not, fans. In fact, the beginning of opener “Cherokee” begins in what sounds fairly typical for Cat Power — a simple, repeating guitar line, light piano touches and a steady beat — but it becomes clear that this is new territory as Marshall comes in with distorted, direct lyrics: “Never knew love like this.” However pop-oriented the song, with a beautiful synth melody making it sound a bit like ’80s Fleetwood Mac, Marshall’s meanings are still obscured: “Marry me to the sky … bury me upside down.” First single “Ruin” is similarly grabbing, but ultimately strange, unique; it’s piano lines and disco bassline dance up and down a bouncing beat while Marshall sings about various global locales like an indie rock “Kokomo,” but she’s singing about poverty, not vacation or the awesomeness of getting to travel while touring. It’s fun to hear her go pop-rock on “3,6,9,” which bounces along with chanted choruses and even sees Marshall take on the ubiquitous vocoder. Marshall can’t help but become increasingly personal as the album progresses, as live drums interrupt the digital beats of “Manhattan,” which glitters with heartfelt searching; “Silent Machine” returns to the bluesiness of her last few releases, but also has a startling computerized breakdown halfway through; and “Nothin But Time,” a duet with Iggy Pop, makes for the most beautiful, 10-minute Kraftwerkian ballad you’ll hear anywhere. The rock guitars and hip-hop delivery of “Peace and Love,” which closes the album, show Marshall is willing to go just about anywhere with her music if it provides new inspiration for her stirring voice and incisive lyrics; thankfully, on Sun, it nearly always does. She's signing copies of Sun today at 6 p.m. at Amoeba Hollywood for the first 100 people who buy the record!
The Fresh & Onlys were are always good, but Long Slow Dance takes the S.F. garage rockers to epic heights, with a newfound clarity to their vocals and straightforwardness of songwriting. “Yes or No” is divine romantic guitar pop, stringing a beautiful upward melody along a chugging backbeat that develops into a swooning chorus. The title track is the kind of campfire-friendly indie pop that bests the Shins at their game. “Presence of Mind” swirls around a picturesque college-rock backdrop but loops in perfect surf-rock riffs and another irresistible chorus. Every song seems to have some “how can that be new” moment, whether it’s a memorable line like “Dream girls don’t know what they’re doing/They go around doing anything they want,” or some elegant guitar riff, or laying out yet another perfect guitar ballad with “Executioner’s Song.” You just don’t want Long Slow Dance to end.
In the spirit of Amoeba Hollywood’s new Punk section, I’ll post about Sacramento hardcore band Trash Talk and the first video, “F.E.B.N.,” from its upcoming album Odd Future Records, 119, on Oct. 9. Odd Future’s Tyler, The Creator directed this bit of black-and-white mayhem in some sort of parking garage. Everything about this music/video is probably upsetting to lots of people. Which means of course that it’s pretty great. The song is less than two minutes long and somehow builds unbearable anticipation in its extended intro — all you want to do is turn it up and face the noise you’re about to hear head on.
Army Navy – World’s End video
L.A. indie pop band Army Navy have a video for the song “World’s End.” I had never listened to this band before; I only knew I might like them because their band name shares a name with a Camera Obscura album. And I do! The song is really nice, kind of sounds like “Blue Bayou” but is less dramatic, more morose, and there’s a key change, which I am a sucker for. The video is awesome for a number of reasons — it’s an old fake talk show, which is a done premise but is done funnily here, as this bizzaro, kind of bleak ’60s swinger thing, and features Freaks & Geaks’ Martin Starr, who I had no idea could be kind of sexy. The singer also kind of looks like Steve Carell. You have to watch it on Entertainment Weekly’s EW.com; I guess this band is getting pretty big. The song appears on a seven-inch with a B-side cover of Yaz’s “Only You,” which is awesome, duh. Their new album is due early next year.
L.A. original power-pop-punks Redd Kross showed up for one of the most fun sets at Amoeba Hollywood in recent memory. The band performed material from their new album, Researching the Blues, as well as from across their catalog, from “Annette’s Got the Hits” to “Stay Away From Downtown.” Fans shouted for favorites and obscurities like “Star Lust” while the brothers Jeff and Steve McDonald still looked and sounded youthful, whipping their long hair around and preening with rock star glee. The band, which also includes Robert Hecker and Roy McDonald, sounded as invigorated live as you might have guessed if you’ve heard Researching the Blues. The more sugary tracks have extra bite live, while songs like the new album’s blistering title track really are meant to be heard live. Amongst the irresistible wahoos and kicks and stick tossing, it became clear, if there’s one thing these vets could show the young guns, you know, besides songwriting and knowing how to play your instruments, is that when you look like you’re having a lot of fun onstage, that energy is infectious. See more photos from the set here; check out my interview with Steve McDonald here.
L.A. band White Arrows released their awaited debut album Dry Land Is Not a Myth earlier this summer. Songs like “Roll Forever” and “Coming or Going” hit hard and take off before floating through a summer cloud on the band’s throbbing beats, spacey vocals and swirling electronics. For a party rock record you won’t hate yourself for liking, look no further.
I spoke with frontman Mickey Church a bit before the band’s performance at FYF Fest, taking place at L.A. State Historic Park Sept. 1-2 — that’s this weekend, people. They’re playing at 12:30 p.m. on the main stage on Saturday, so get there early to check them out. You can see the full schedule, announced this week, at the show’s official site. And tickets are still available at Amoeba. Buy them here so you’re only charged at $4 service fee; check here for a full list of available concert tickets at Amoeba, although you can always ask and we may just have what you’re looking for. Enough plugs, onto the White Arrows interview:
PST: You guys have played live now for years all over the place and just now settled down to make your first album. Was it the kind of thing where stuff just started taking off and you got wrapped up in all the touring and festival shows and whatnot, or did you just want to give it time to develop your sound and figure out how and what to record for your first album?
Church: We've been a band for about two years now, and we did an EP, a 7-inch, a couple of covers and some remixes for people. Then it just got busy with touring ... we’ve been out now a number of times. Our first tour was with Cults, then we did a West Coast run with Those Darlins, a full U.S. tour with The Naked and Famous, Northern Europe with White Denim. These were all amazing tours that we couldn't turn down, so we’ve been very fortunate to have had those opportunities to tour the world, and now finally after two years of work, we’ve put out our debut full-length. In hindsight, we definitely didn’t have any idea of what direction we were headed, so it was good that we took that time to grow as a band.
PST: How did the band form? Mickey, you were writing songs all along, how did that change when the rest of the band came into play?
Church: Now it’s more collaborative. Andy (Naeve, keys) and I wrote all the songs on the record, but my brother, Henry (Church, drums), and JP (Caballero, guitar) played on the record. These are the first recordings with live drums, and all sorts of the other stuff that weren’t accessible to me when I first started writing.
PST: Having seen the band play live and hearing old recordings, it’s been a pretty intense evolution to the sound of the album. Can you talk a little bit about how the sound developed?
Church: Ah man, those old, old recordings were never meant to be heard ... ha. They were just demos that I gave away for free before I had any intention of being in a band, or trying music for a full time gig. Our first official release I consider it the 7-inch with “Get Gone” and “Save Me a Place on it.”
PST: In particular I remember hearing “Coming or Going” and thinking, this sounds a lot different! A lot more electronic, and a much more fun feel. The songs are pretty densely layered too. How did you decide what to edit and change as you went along?
Church: I don't know if it was conscious of specifics as to what to change, as much as just wanting it to go in that general direction. We worked with Remix Artist Collective (RAC) on that song as a precursor to see if it would be a good fit for him to produce the record, or at least some song son the record, and it was a perfect fit, I think.
PST: It’s very tempting to compare your upbringing, in which you were visually impaired and experienced things in an “impressionistic smear,” to the sound of the album, where things cut through sharply and then get more impressionistic. Like how “Roll Forever” starts so balls-out and has those penetrating riffs throughout, but also these lush verses. Is that something you try to do with your music?
Church: No, it’s not intentional. You just start with one rough idea and keep smoothing it out, and adding and subtracting things until hopefully you have something you're satisfied with.
PST: And speaking of your background, can you talk a bit about your degree in Ritualistic Shamanism and if/how your studies affected the music you were writing?
Church: When I went to school I was assigned an advisor, and it just so happened that he taught a course called Shamanistic Ritual. He encouraged me to take his class to get to him, and so I did. He showed up 30 minutes late to the first class, and was covered in dust with a flashlight on his head, and doctors mask around his mouth; and said, “True story, true story, I just got back from burning man. Janis Joplin was in eagle form flying over the RV the entire way.” Naturally, my mind was blown. Coming from a high school where I had no choice in electives, and got suspended for my hair being to unruly, or my shirt not being tucked in, it drew me to such left of center studies.
PST: One of my favorites on the album is “I Can Go.” I love the riffs and melodies but also those flutes at the chorus are just killer. It sort of transforms this more straightforward rocker on the album to have this otherworldly, nostalgic quality. With something like that song, or say the loping piano riff on “Golden,” do you usually start with a guitar-based song and then add those details, or do you get those ideas at the same time?
Church: Every song almost starts with something different. A piano line, guitar line, drum beat, synth sound, or bass line ... since we don't write in a live setting you kind of just lay something down and build off of that. “I Can Go” started with that guitar line you hear in the verses, and “Golden” started with that tinkering little piano melody and a drum bit
PST: Are you guys playing in LA again around FYF?
Church: I don’t think so, but we never really turn down house parties, so something usually comes up.