The Fresh & Onlys continue to move away from the reverb-drenched garage rock of their early records and toward something more grandiose on House of Spirits. From the outset, it’s clear they mean business, with more precise songwriting and cleaner production than ever before. Tim Cohen’s lyrics take a darker turn—he sings like Rosemary’s Baby grown up on the rollicking “Who Let the Devil,” claiming Satan bottle fed him with blood, fitting in nicely with co-singer/songwriter Wymond Miles’ typically gothier songs, such as the country-Cure style “Animal of One.” The band turns in one of their loveliest songs ever with “Bells of Paonia,” a throbbing, fuzzed out shoegaze ballad with a dreamy romanticism that suits the band nicely. Mostly, these updates work for the band. Occasionally you miss the early rock stuff, though they go balls out on “Hummingbird,” and the lack of reverb reveals some weakness to the vocals. Still, I’ll take earnest and scrappy any day over easy or lazy, as the band leaps past the tired garage-rock moniker that has previously tailed the band and lands in exciting new territory.
Record Store Day is this Saturday, April 19. You can see all of the records that will be available here, and be sure to check out my 10 to watch blog. To whet your appetite further, check out these songs that will be released on Record Store Day but that you can stream now. And be sure to come to Amoeba stores on April 19—read about what we’ll have going on in-store here.
Ex-Cult – “Ties You Up”
While this track will be on the upcoming Midnight Passenger album, this version (not found on the album) is produced by garage-rock wunderkind Ty Segall, giving it that extra oomph.
Lust for Youth – “Illume”
We’ve been fans of Sacred Bones signees Lust for Youth for some time now, but they seem to really be coming into their own with the cleaned-up and poppy “Illume.” It’ll appear on their new album International (out June 10), but before that, you can pick it up on Sacred Bones’ compilation Todo Muere Vol. 4, with other gothy goodies from Zola Jesus, Marissa Nadler, David Lynch and more.
Holy shit, I love this place. Besides that it’s in Glendale, which is weird and cool, it smells like a gay bar (deodorant free) and it’s basically one room with a bar and that’s it. It’s like a really nice warehouse, and that’s awesome. The Complex was just opened last year by John Giovanazzi, who also does industrial/goth night Das Bunker at Jewel’s Catch One. His new venue has a lot of that same vibe, minimally decorated and with great sound.
|Body of Light|
The first band I saw was called Body of Light. They were a two-piece; one guy played moody synth chords and triggered primal drum machine beats while the other sang. I was really struck by the singer’s charisma. Besides being very handsome, he really owned the stage, clutching the microphone intensely and raising his tattooed arms up like he was laying back in a hammock. A couple of their songs were really catchy — one saw the singer delivering a repeating vocal with no less passion each time, over a stately four-chord part; another had a three-note bassy riff driving the song, while the keyboardist piled sound above and the singer held out long intoned notes and kneeled before the audience, raising the mic skyward. This was some real rock star stuff. The singer even came into the crowd and sang into my boyfriend’s face.
Boards Of Canada - Tomorrow's Harvest
Absence makes the heart grow fonder, the aphorism goes. For Boards of Canada, their absence from releasing music over the past seven years has left their fans rabid for something, anything from the band. Then it came — a series of codes released through various media that, when entered into a website, revealed the release of the duo’s fourth studio album. The long wait for new music and the duo’s willful obscurity about its release isn’t manipulation; it’s warranted, as part of the greater mysterious appeal of Boards of Canada, and for the fact that Tomorrow’s Harvest features some of the band’s greatest work yet. It begins sounding like the opening of a science film on “Gemini,” pointing to their early influence from Canadian nature documentaries, but “Reach for the Dead” directly follows with more epic, ominous tones. Boards of Canada have always been able to imbue their wordless music with just enough suggestion that listeners can invoke their own meaning from the music, and as such, one can’t help but think of countless awful news stories or meaningless status updates when listening to a track like “Sick Times,” which strings ghostly recorded samples of voices speaking in the background behind minor-key tones that hint at global dread. Tomorrow’s Harvest isn’t all doom and gloom, though. Even with a name like “Cold Earth,” it still the strong scent of nostalgia that carried such releases as the In a Beautiful Place Out in the Country EP to great heights, and their cut-up beatwork on tracks like “Jacquard Causeway” entrances. Tomorrow’s Harvest is long and loaded with great tracks, like the scenic “Nothing is Real” and pulsating “New Seeds,” which both appear in the album’s final stretch, making it the kind of record you want to spin again immediately when it’s over to let its finer points sink in. With luck we won’t have to wait as long for another Boards of Canada release, but Tomorrow’s Harvest is the kind of record you can pore over for years, rich enough to rank highly with the rest of the band’s estimable catalog.
Crystal Castles – III
Early interviews about Crystal Castles' stunning third album have seen frontwoman Alice Glass discussing oppression at length with Bono-ish fervor — not something typically associated with an image-conscious electronic duo known more for its antagonistic records and brawling live shows than its politics. But Glass and synth stud Ethan Kath can have it both ways, as III is another visceral attack of a record from Crystal Castles that ups the meaning behind their furor, both explicitly and implied, without losing any of their hedonistic attitude. In fact, III, while lacking some of the shock value of the first two records, is Crystal Castles’ most consistent statement to date. Tracks like “Plague” and “Wrath of God” still pack walloping beats, but they are more of mood pieces than, say, something like II’s “Baptism,” full of moody, heaving passages that draw you in and keep you rapt across the record. III is also smartly paced, keeping some of its more crowd-pleasing moments for later in the record, whereas previous albums were front-loaded. The fourth song in, “Affection,” shares a chord-scheme with MGMT’s “Kids,” though its warped vocals sound like they’re echoing from an abyss — not exactly radio-friendly material. Glass quits whispering and unleashes her trademark echoed yelps on the spare “Pale Flesh,” sure to be a live favorite, while “Sad Eyes” charges forth with unabashed club glee and hard-hitting beatwork. The album’s final quarter features some of its most remarkable moments, full of seedy club bangers, while its last song, “Child I Will Hurt You,” is a typically gorgeous closer from the band, layering Goblin-style keyboards over Glass’ haunting vocals, which often sing of pain inflicted upon the vulnerable, echoing the statement of that album cover, calling to mind suffering and comfort in equal doses. That concept isn’t as overt as it could have been, but when it does come through, as when Glass sings “I’ll protect you from all the things I’ve seen” on “Kerosene,” Crystal Castles create the aural equivalent of gunfire and a helping hand.