Porcelain Raft – Strange Weekend
Porcelain Raft, aka Italian-born Mauro Remiddi, makes the kind of wide-eyed romantic pop that borrows from various genres — lo-fi, soul, indie pop and shoegaze — but ends up in its own emotional territory due to Remiddi’s bedroom-recording aesthetics. “Drifting In and Out” appropriately sees its swooning electronics and new wave guitars come in and out of focus in what feels like falling asleep with the radio on. Strange Weekend works because its filled with tiny surprises, like the way Remiddi suddenly gets all glam in “Shapeless & Gone,” like an electro-twee Marc Bolan, or the psych-hop beats that pull back the marvelously affecting “Unless You Speak From Your Heart” from preciousness. It’s not the first time at the rodeo for Remiddi, a 37-year-old veteran of indie pop, previously in the band Sunny Day Sets Fire; perhaps that’s why he gets nearly everything right on his first solo full-length record.
Howler – America Give Up
What a pleasure Howler’s debut, America Give Up, is. Already this early into 2012, we have the year’s most irresistible album, 10 songs from a band weaned on the likes of The Jesus & Mary Chain and Guided By Voices. Much like their forebears in The Strokes (how’s that for making us all feel old), Howler has a way of distilling somewhat obvious and oversaturated influences into three-minute gems that get pretty much everything right. — dig the swaying romanticism of “Too Much Blood,” or the surf-gaze of “America,” or the snarky indie rock of “Back of Your Neck” (featuring the too-good lyrics “you think we’re Bonnie and Clyde, but both of them fuckin’ died”). If you can stop playing this on repeat, you’re stronger than we are.
Common – The Dreamer/The Believer
This year’s band lineup packed some surprises, with plenty of old faces (The Dead Milkmen, The Descendents) showing up amongst up-and-comers (Ty Segall, Twin Sister, Avi Buffalo) and a reunited Death From Above 1979. I’ll try to recount as best I can the bands I was able to catch.
Olivia Tremor Control, best known as an Elephant 6 band as well as creators of the classic ’90s psych-pop opus Music from the Unrealized Film Script, Dusk at Cubist Castle, returned for a reunion set that hopefully leads to a full-length album — they’ve said they’ve recorded a few tracks already. They really sounded like Pink Floyd to me at FYF, not holding back on long instrumental passages that tend to spill your brain into the frying pan. When I first walked up, I couldn’t tell if the loud squeal coming from the stage was intentional or not. I think it was. I saw the cutest little hipster couple holding hands during the set and realized they could have each been conceived on Dusk at Cubist Castle’s release date, which made me feel a little old but glad they were there to experience this kind of obtuse music when something a bit easier to swallow, like Cults or Japandroids, was going on at the same time. I also saw a group of people “trippin’” Grateful Dead style, dancing around in tie-dye. One of them was holding a baby doll. Seeing them alongside one of OTC’s extended jams made me feel like I was on something too. Another girl was wearing a fox mask.
After catching the end of Cults — “Go Outside” sounded pleasantly anthemic, as usual — I saw No Age, who sounded weirdly pretty at FYF, as the marked lessening of decibels employed on their third album, Everything in Between, seems to have translated to their live show, too. It’s still loud, but more emphasis has been placed on melody and precision. “Fever Dreaming” sounded amazing.
FYF Fest is this weekend — tickets are still available here — at the LA Historic State Park Saturday. The lineup features Descendents, Death From Above 1979, Explosions in the Sky, Broken Social Scene, Guided By Voices, the Dead Milkmen, Girls, No Age and more. Check back here later this weekend for my review of the event, including a preview show at Los Globos (!) tonight with Chromatics and Glass Candy. F yeah, indeed. (BT dubs, I'll always link to a record first, then a CD if I can't find it on record.)
In preparation, I made a list of 10 great records from the lineup of the show. Check it out.
Lots of people know Alien Lanes and Bee Thousand (get them now if you don't!) but Propeller is another solid-to-great GBV album with great shoutalong chorus four-track gems like “Exit Flagger.” They'd release stronger material later on, but this charmingly lo-fi album was self-released at the same time Nirvana's Nevermind and a bunch of grunge albums would change the alternative landscape forever. While out of step then, it sounds positively prescient now.