Remember the whole Pixies/Breeders/Belly/Throwing Muses web of bands many years back? Or, more recently, the Wolf Parade/Sunset Rubdown/Frog Eyes/Handsome Furs/Divine Fits band sprawl? And let's not even get into Broken Social Scene. Well, none of these band associations holds a candle to Vivian Girls and the myriad bands, collaborations, side projects and what-have-yous that spring from the New York noise pop band. In light of recent release from onetime-Vivian Frankie Rose and the upcoming release by Vivian girl Ali Koehler in Upset, I've attempted to make a Vivian Girls tree for y'all. I'm sure I missed like 20 bands, let me know if I have!
Wavves - Afraid Of Heights
Wavves’ latest album album mostly ditches the “King of the Beach” surf-punk notions of previous releases for a big, warm, alt-rock embrace that does wonders to highlight the quality of Nathan Williams’ songwriting. “Sail to the Sun” starts out with sparkling synths and moves into a thumping, surging rocker. “Demon to Lean On” is built for rock radio, with a catchy, two-note riff leading into its soaring chorus. It’s reminiscent of mid-’90s radio gems from the likes of Weezer and their brethren, but it’s also smartly built, with watery guitars and castanets seeping beneath the surface of its Pixies-inspired, quiet-to-loud dynamics and Nathan Williams’ paranoid lyrics. After starting out boldly, the album takes dark turns that should please fans of Wavves previous work, including the lo-fi attack of “Mystic,” which buries Williams under stacks of distorted sound before engaging with a singular synth riff. But he always brings it back to some of his hookiest songs yet, like the soaring title track, which makes use of backup vocals by Jenny Lewis and delivers another instantly recognizable, could-be radio hit from 1996. If only all pop-punk, surf-alt or what have you was this catchy, smartly written and unafraid of hooks! Afraid of Heights succeeds as Williams’ clearest bid yet for crossover success, yet it doesn’t sacrifice his essential slackery appeal. File it next to your Dookie, Blue Album and Doolittle records and embrace the fuzzy pop of Afraid of Heights.
Wavves – “Demon to Lean On” (Plus Preorder Afraid of Heights!)
The second released song from Wavves’ upcoming Afraid of Heights balances its various elements well — a simple riff building to a KROQ-friendly chorus with cool, watery guitars in the verses and soaring vocals. It sounds like the best bits of my high school CD collection condensed neatly to four minutes. Buzz Clips 4eva.
Earl Sweatshirt – “Whoa”
The second taste of the new Earl Sweatshirt album, Doris, is full of sinister sounds — a reverbed out “whoaaa” that descends into the sewer, that ominous piano that creeps up halfway through, and a reference to “ol’ 2010 shit.” Could be referencing his backstory, about being plucked from obscurity by Tyler, the Creator (who appears on this track), joining Odd Future, releasing his first album at age 16 in 2010, then being sent away at to boarding school in Samoa by his mother for getting into trouble. He’s been slowly re-emerging again, with big guest spots on Frank Ocean’s sublime “Super Rich Kids,” among other places. But from first track “Chum” and now this, Earl Sweatshirt’s past quasi-false starts and reintroduction will be a thing of the past once Doris drops. There’s no release date yet, so just keep an ear out. Am I the only one who wants to see this video made into a full film?
Wavves – “Demon to Lean On”
L.A.-based Wavves has released the second single from his forthcoming album, Afraid of Heights, due March 26 on Mom+Pop/Warner. The big leagues haven’t softened Wavves’ crashing sound, but “Demon to Lean On” is also one of the most refined pop songs he’s released thus far, with nice touches like the occasional castanets and milky guitar in the verses. But those crushing Blue-album Weezer chords in the chorus should bring many more kids into the Wavves fold. Wavves previously released the “Sail to the Sun” single and video. They’ll be touring with FIDLAR in the Spring.
Thee Oh Sees Announce New LP
Another year, another Thee Oh Sees album. If that sounds like a knock, it isn’t — San Fransisco garage kings Thee Oh Sees have released three albums in the past two years (including last year’s Putrifiers II), all of them great, so there’s no reason to think this one won’t follow the same route. Between these guys and Ty Segall, there must be something in the water in San Francisco that makes garage bands incredibly prolific and solid at the same time. Acid, maybe. Floating Coffin is out April 16 on Castle Face.
FIDLAR – “Gimme Something” video, album up for preorder
Of all the scuzzy, sloppy, boozey garage bands in L.A., FIDLAR is the skuzziest, sloppiest and booziest. OK, they might not be the sloppiest any more now that they’re hitting it big, judging by the sounds of “Gimme Something,” a cleaned-up, jangly country-style track that highlights just how good this band’s actual songwriting is. As if to hammer the point home, the “Gimme Something” video either sees the band dolled up like Creedence Clearwater Revival playing some state fair in the ’70s, or it’s very cleverly edited video of some ’70s band made too look like they’re playing FIDLAR’s song. Either way, it rules! FIDLAR’s self-titled debut is due Jan. 22, preoder it on CD or LP here.
Widowspeak – “The Dark Age,” album up for preorder
Anything that comes out on the Captured Tracks label immediately gets my attention, and one of their newest signees doesn’t disappoint. Widowspeak pair Western jangle-rock riffs — like real ones, not limp little guitar doodles — with sultry, breathy vocals from Molly Hamilton. She reminds me a bit of the late, great Trish Keenan of Broadcast, and similarly Hamilton’s grounded vocals serve as a wise counterpoint to her partner Robert Earl Thomas’ wild guitar work. “The Dark Age” comes from their upcoming album, Almanac, due Jan. 22 on LP and CD.