Catalonian teen quartet Mourn makes a passionate racket on their debut album. Singer Jazz Rodriguez Bueno channels PJ Harvey with her raspy delivery and more cutting lyrics on tracks like “Dark Issues,” or a young Siouxsie, on the way she can play with emotions but still bring a smile to your face, on songs like galloping opener “Your Brain is Made of Candy.” Her band keeps things terse, inspired by the likes of Nirvana and The Ramones, yet their clean guitars and neat grooves on standouts like “Philliphius” and “Otitis” suggest wisdom beyond their years. A handful of tracks read as more juvenile alt-rock exercises, yet Mourn also never loses momentum, bashed out with a live-tracked, Steve Albini feel and the animated precision of off-the-cuff ideas rehearsed and captured in one raw take—Bueno’s wail at the end of bonus track “Boys Are Cunts” feels both visceral and well-timed. It’s an incredibly promising debut that puts our faith back in so-called wasted youth.
Father John Misty’s fearless second record builds on his folk-rock sound with orchestral touches, genre diversions and direct, conversational lyrics that cut through singer/songwriter clichÃ©s. The title track introduces Beatlesesque melodies and weeping steel guitar to prepare you for the scope of the record. J. Tillman starts going into crooner mode with the spectacular “Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins),” his crushed-velvet vocals singing over a sweeping, country-symphonic arrangement, but his lyrics nicely keep the romanticism from getting too gooey (“I wanna take you in the kitchen/Lift up your wedding dress someone was probably murdered in”). “True Affection” takes a sharp turn into MIDI-electro-dream-pop, with some Fleet Foxes-style harmonies keeping things grounded in Tillman’s wheelhouse. “The Night Josh Tillman Came To Our Apartment” takes another turn, this time into Velvets-third-album twinkling indie pop, while Tillman calls out an airheaded groupie (“She says like, literally, music is the air she breathes,” he sings hilariously). Tillman’s lyrics work so well because of their specificity—you feel like you’re watching him break hearts at a local bar when he sings “Why the long face? Blondie, I’m already taken,” over a sultry Southern sway on “Nothing Good Ever Happens At The Goddamn Thirsty Crow.” Such subject matter could read as self-serving, if not for the album’s more self-effacing tracks, like “The Ideal Husband,” in which Tillman admits various wrongdoings, petty or otherwise, over nervy rock ‘n’ roll; or “Bored in the USA,” a piano ballad that seems to mock Tillman’s own first-world problems of alienation and dullness (“Save me, white Jesus!” is an awesomely cutting exclamation). Tillman’s refusal to do anything in a typical way while still keeping the music highly polished helps I Love You, Honeybear to never feel indulgent. Rather, it’s an extraordinarily giving album, as Tillman’s honesty and strength as a songwriter and performer has grown immeasurably. It’s easily one of the best albums of the year thus far.
Original shoegazers Swervedriver have been back around for a while now, playing various festivals and releasing a new song, "Deep Wound," in 2013. But now they've announced a new album, I Wasn't Born To Lose You, due March 3 on Cobraside. You can preorder the album now on LP and CD.
Here's the tracklist:
2. Last Rites
3. For A Day Like Tomorrow
4. Setting Sun
6. English Subtitles
7. Red Queen Arms Race
8. Deep Wound
9. Lone Star
10. I Wonder?
You can hear the traditional aspects of Swervedriver's sound in the first song, "Autodidact," which they also unveiled today: beautiful, cascading guitarwork, loud, distorted power chords, thundering beats and Adam Franklin's throaty, chilled out tenor, fusing shoegazer aesthetics with the sound of the then-burgeoning alternative-rock scene. I'd say it was a return to form, if Swervedriver ever lost their form to begin with.
These nocturnally minded Australians set themselves apart from post-punk pack with creeping, atmospheric songs that seem to exist in a netherworld between sleep, dreaming and waking life. Songs like “You I Never Knew” lurch forward with jangling guitars and pounding beats before resting back into woozy, cloudy textures, on tracks like “Pay for Strangers.” Definitely a band to watch for 2015.
I had never checked out Title Fight before, but they go lighter on the emo and heavier on the shoegaze on their new album, coming up with a surprisingly winning combination. Tracks like “Chlorine” find sweet melodies doing battle with Sonic Youth-style mangled chords, while moody basslines on songs like “Hypernight” and power-pop arrangements on tracks like “Mhrac” call to mind elements of The Pixies. The band’s watery, textured guitar playing makes for pleasant listening on the plaintive “Your Pain Is Mine Now,” but the band can still deliver a dose of the good ol’ screamo-style singing on “Rose of Sharon,” placing them in the same boat as bands who’ve similarly paired picturesque guitarwork with corrosive singing and driving beats, like Fucked Up and Deafheaven. Fans may have to get used to the more impressionistic style they use here, employing Chapterhouse and Swervedriver as influences as much as Jawbreaker or Rites of Spring. But those who are willing to evolve with the band will be rewarded with a perfect marriage of pulse and shimmer, on songs like standout “Liar’s Love.” And those of us new to Title Fight have a much-needed dose of gorgeously loud music on our hands with Hyperview.
Jessica Pratt’s voice is something special, a breathy, elfin coo that calls to mind Marc Bolan’s spirited yelp as well as Vashti Bunyan’s inward-facing whispers, channeled through Pratt’s own wry, observational tone. “I see you standing wasted alone in my mind,” she sings directly on opener “Wrong Hand,” but such a line doesn’t feel bitter coming from Pratt’s mouth, as if it’s a gentle warning rather than a harsh truth. “People’s faces blend together like a watercolor you can’t remember in time,” she sings with precision at the outset of “Game That I Play.” Her guitar playing feels nimble yet immediate, leaving in missed notes in the one-take-sounding, stark and lo-fi “Strange Melody,” while her intriguing fingerings and tunings seem to draw inspiration from Joni Mitchell and Nick Drake, though the way she contorts her voice from a floating, teetering high register to a disconcerting low feels entirely unique. The songs themselves are allowed to meander, though never indulgently; rather, On Your Own Love Again feels exceptionally well edited, its serpentine arrangements remaining relatively coiled. “Game That I Play” manages to sneak in a stunning second movement while keeping the song trim at just over four minutes. And she doesn’t overstay her welcome. At just more than half an hour, Pratt ends her second album leaving you wanting more, turning over her curious phrases and mystical voice to uncover their secrets, especially on one of the album’s final and best songs, “Back, Baby”—its pensive breakup lyrics like “your love is just a myth I devised” sting softly amid loping, seaside acoustic guitar. On Your Own Love Again is gorgeous through and through, and it’s easily one of the best albums of this early new year.