Where’s The Rest?! Album Highlights of April 2015

SIDEBAR: If you have no idea what I’m referencing above, avail your eyes here.

A Buzz in My Ears has been going on a temporary hiatus at the moment, but I’m working to bring 3-5 posts to you weekly, starting with this one. I’m hoping to keep consistent posts on new releases, local releases, and albums I feel are important to indie, alt, and DIY spheres. Read on!

This is the Kit – Bashed Out (Brassland, released 4/7)

I’ve already covered this album in length here (or below, if you’re on the main page), but I will say that Kate Stables and company have crafted one of the most understated yet spirited records of the year thus far. Bashed Out is a sleepy, lilting folk record, peppered with fun melodic lines (“Spores All Settling”) and longing meditations (“Cold and Got Colder”). Definitely for fans of Daughter, Laura Marling, or Sharon Van Etten.

Key Tracks: “Silver John”, “Magic Spell”, “Bashed Out”, “Cold and Got Colder”

Waxahatchee – Ivy Tripp (Merge, released 4/7)

It would be remiss of me not to mention Katie Crutchfield’s latest release as Waxahatchee here: it’s arguably one of her best. After becoming one of my favorite current singer-songwriters with 2013’s triumphant, hollowed, and vulnerable Cerulean Salt, she returns to the scene sounding way more ebullient, excited, and exuding with energy than ever before. Ivy Tripp sounds like a college radio/indie pop classic already, so it’s fitting that it was released through stalwart indie label Merge. Fans of indie vets like The Magnetic Fields and Yo La Tengo would be wise to put this in their play.

Key tracks: “Breathless”, “Under a Rock”, “La Loose”, “The Dirt”, “Air”, “Summer of Love”, “Bonfire”

Young Fathers – White Men are Black Men Too (Big Dada, released 4/7)

Here is the most fun I’ve had with a pop record this month (and this year!) so far. Scottish trio Young Fathers make music that sounds like manic madness. White Men are Black Men Too is chock full of sudden bursts of energy, pings and pangs of sounds, and abstract vocals. At times the trio sound fairly furtive and dark (“Feasting” or “Old Rock n Roll”), but at other times they tend to be more straight ahead and rhythmic (“27” or “John Doe”). Altogether, this is the album to put the band on the map, and as experimental as it sounds, it is still lovely and beautiful. Definitely one for fans of TV on the Radio, Bloc Party, or Frank Ocean.

Key tracks: “Still Running”, “Shame”, “27”, “Sirens”, “John Doe”

Bop English – Constant Bop (Downtown, released 4/14)

White Denim frontman James Petralli takes it solo as Bop English, and his debut album Constant Bop is already one of the standouts in my mind as one of 2015’s best records. The entire album pays homage to the music of the 60s and 70s that Petralli came to know and love, and it is drenched in this classic, retro feel. There are plenty of good psychedelic pop moments, between the fuzzed out “Sentimental Wilderness”, the thumping “Struck Matches”, and the sweet “Falling at Your Feet”. At times I think of Cheap Trick, Donovan, or Electric Light Orchestra when I hear Constant Bop, but there is also a bit of modern indie pop dancing throughout. Later cut “The Hardest Way” has a vocal part that screams Kevin Drew’s Darlings, and that’s when you realize that Petralli is expertly melding pop tropes of past and present to craft a record that is truly universal and timeless, much like Natalie Prass’ self-titled effort from February. Definitely worth a listen if you dig retro indie acts like Dr. Dog, Mikal Cronin, and Foxygen.

Key Tracks: “Dani’s Blues (It Was Beyond Our Control)”, “Struck Matches”, “Fake Dog”, “Sentimental Wilderness”, “Falling at Your Feet”, “Long Distance Runner”

Speedy Ortiz – Foil Deer (Carpark, released 4/21)

Wow. A “sophomore slump” this is not. Massachusetts rockers Speedy Ortiz have come back to us with a vengeance on Foil Deer. Early singles “Raising the Skate” and “The Graduates” were pure standouts on the record (the latter becoming one my favorite tracks of 2015 thus far), and the rest of the album holds up just as well. “Swell Content” surges along with this Saturday morning cartoon meets sitcom energy. The pleasant, sunny disposition apparent on the opening chords of “Zig” soon caves and gives way to a discordant, slithering, spidery melody that only Dupuis can authentically deliver. “Puffer” has a pleasant beat to it and a vocal that just slightly reminds me of Britney Spears (probably something to do with both this and “Work B***h” starting with “You want a…”), yet the entire thing is drenched in ominous atmosphere. “My Dead Girl” is a later standout, lined with 90s R&B melodies akin to those featured on 2014’s Real Hair. Definitely another favorite for 2015, and fans of Pavement or Sonic Youth who are still holding out should give this act a listen. They are, most certainly, the stuff of indie legends.

Key Tracks: “Raising the Skate”, “The Graduates”, “Dot X”, “Puffer”, “Zig”, “My Dead Girl”, “Mister Difficult”

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This Is The Kit – Bashed Out (Brassland, 2015)

via Bashed Out | This Is The Kit.

There is something freeing in listening to music. Whether it’s a softly cooed melody, a thrashing drum rhythm, or some lush synthesizer arrangement, music for me has always acted as a source of pure escapism. The breezy, flowing banjo picking on “Spores All Settling”, the third track on This is the Kit’s Bashed Out, is enough to transport me to an open field. This exciting music is spearheaded by Paris singer-songwriter Kate Stables, and on her third record as This is the Kit, she is sounding as liberated and open-ended as possible. Like a hand out an open car window in the breeze, no other record so far in 2015 has sounded as spirited as Bashed Out.

Stables and Co. have seen a great deal of success in the UK since 2011’s Wriggle Out the Restless. Receiving a great deal of accolades from Guy Garvey of Elbow and The Line of Best Fit, among others, it’s surprising that This is the Kit hasn’t received as much attention over here in the States. Stables’ vocals are front and center in the mix, and they’re impossible to miss. She has this lilting delicacy, whether cooing on the title track, or the fun vocals across “Spores All Settling”. She has this relaxing, calming quality to her voice. “Magic Spell” has a fun, light, flowing melody section, where the dee-dee-dees stand out as a golden moment on the record. Most of the time, I find myself so captivated and attached to the coos and vocal melodies of Stables, I don’t pay as much attention to her lyrics or her backing band. And the band is a very strong one, pulled from all sorts of indie groups (Doveman, The Walkmen, Beirut, and The National, for example). I’m not even paying as much attention as I should to the lyrics, just because I’m taking in the scenery. Though when I do pick up on the lyrics, the lines crush me. “Cold and Got Colder” is one hell of a burning closer (despite its title). A rumination on a lover long distant (“Hook, line, and sinker/I miss it so strongly”), it’s a torch song for anyone long longing their life away to another. All in all, Bashed Out is a powerful, subdued record, one that creeps into your own introspection upon repeat listens.

Key Tracks: “Silver John”, “Magic Spell”, “Bashed Out”, “Cold and Got Colder”

Where to Go from Here: Daughter – If You Leave, Sharon Van Etten – Tramp, Laura Marling – A Creature I Don’t Know

Other Key Releases This Week:

  • Waxahatchee – Ivy Tripp (Merge)
  • Young Fathers – White Men are Black Men Too (Big Dada)
  • Soft Cat – All Energy Will Rise (Miscreant)

The Roundup – March 2015

via A Buzz in My Ears – The Roundup – March 2015 

Hello again, world! Things have been somewhat busy as of late, so I haven’t been able to update as frequently as I would like. Regardless, I’ve decided to compile a 20-track Roundup highlighting some of the best finds of the past month. 2015 is shaping up really well, and I’m excited to continue discovering great talents in the indie, alternative, and DIY worlds. Read on for the track-by-track, and scroll to the bottom for the full playlist!

Eskimeaux – “Broken Necks”

Mid-March yielded the pleasant announcement of new music from Epoch artist Eskimeaux. Her next album O.K. will be released by label friends Double Double Whammy on 5/12. “Broken Necks,” one of two singles featured this month, is an upbeat sounding number, similar to Frankie Cosmos. The other, “I Admit I’m Scared,” has a slower acoustic build, yet is equally rewarding.

Beauty Pill – “Dog With Rabbit In Mouth Unharmed”

Beauty Pill craft exceptional experimental folk, definitely for fans of Califone or Over the Rhine, There’s a lot of sonic texture on “Dog With Rabbit In Mouth Unharmed,” the first single from the band since their 2004 record The Unsustainable Lifestyle. Their next album, Beauty Pill Describes Things As They Are, is due 4/21 on Butterscotch.

Blahvocado – “Winner”

I’ve already gushed about singer-songwriter Matt Pignatore’s latest release Suck Up All Your Guts (out now on Bandcamp), but I want to focus on “Winner”, my favorite track on the release. This one is, like the rest of Pignatore’s output, incredibly catchy with a nice pop sensibility.

Young Fathers – “Shame”

Young Fathers sound somewhere between TV on the Radio and Bloc Party, with a bit of their own craziness thrown in for good measure. “Shame” is an absolute standout from the band’s upcoming release White Men are Black Men Too (due 4/7, but streaming right now over at Noisey).

Rocky Votolato – “The Hereafter”

Rocky Votolato sounds like a mix between Brandon Flowers and The Boxer Rebellion. The veteran singer-songwriter is set to release his eighth solo record Hospitals & Handshakes on 4/21, via No Sleep. Single “The Hereafter” has a punchy alternative feel, not far off from The Boxer Rebellion, The Killers, or Nada Surf.

Nudity – “White Hot Gold”

Time for a retro-rocker. Nudity is an odd, bombastic rock band from Olympia, WA, set to release their latest record Astronomicon on 4/7 via Iron Lung. “White Hot Gold” has it all: soaring guitar lines, pummeling bass lines, and fiercely strange vocals. The synths recall Supertramp, yet the sound is akin to Kiss, and Thin Lizzy. The vocals lie somewhere between Geddy Lee and Dan Bejar. There’s a lot to take in, but it’s all rewarding as heck.

Marching Church – “King of Song”

Marching Church is formerly the solo project from Elias Bender Rønnenfelt, the lead singer of Iceage. However, on new album This World is Not Enough (out now via Sacred Bones), Rønnenfelt has expanded the group to full band status, featuring members from Choir of Young Believers and Lower, among others. I thoroughly enjoyed last year’s Plowing into the Field of Love, and am glad to hear that single “King of Song” does not disappoint one bit. It captures that same distant, wispy nostalgia, between the pumping bass line, the frothing saxophone, and Rønnenfelt’s affected vocal.

Downtown Boys – “Monstro”

Singer Victoria Ruiz has a voice (both musically and lyrically) that completely demands your attention,  kind of like Meredith Graves. “Monstro” is a blisteringly political punk song that feels a bit like a grade school food-fight: it’s a tad messy and uncomfortable for the uninitiated, but once you get your hands dirty, there’s much fun to be derived from the sheer chaos. I even hear a note of Operation Ivy in those drums, which brings me back to my earliest days jumping around in my sister’s bedroom. Good times.

Girlpool – “Ideal World”

The drumless Philly duo Girlpool is captivating, angsty, insular, vulnerable, and all at once warm. Their debut album Before the World Was Big is due 6/1 via Wichita, and “Ideal World” is one of the choice tracks to hit the blogosphere. Despite the lack of drums on “Ideal World,” the lyrics and guitar interplay have more room to captivate. The segment “I was taught what to believe/Now I’m only certain that no one is free,” communicates a sense of sacrificing your own individuality for the supposed appearances others expect. There is pain in this introspection, but it is real and relatable.

Karman – “I’ve Never Felt So True”

OK, a bit of cheating. “I’ve Never Felt So True” is not so much a single, but rather a 25-minute mix from Beverly Hills producer Karman. I’m not so in tune with today’s DJs, but I can tell that Karman has a natural knack for blending and synthesizing sounds. The follow-up to his debut 2005Forever, “I’ve Never Felt So True” blends familiar melodies (“Paparazzi” from Lady Gaga), and foreign sounds (“Snaerisendar” from Sigur Ros singer Jonsi). It’s tough not to include it, because it’s so unbelievably beautiful. Karman dedicated this mix to a girl he likes, and the sentiment shows in the wash of sound.

Pfarmers – “The Ol’ River Gang”

Pfarmers are somewhat of an indie super-group, featuring Bryan Devendorf of The National and Danny Seim of Menomena. “The Ol’ River Gang” is an odd, trippy indie pop number that blends the two talents together with excellent horns from Dave Nelson, and lush synths. Seim’s vocals feel reminiscent of UK indie vets Elbow, and the track sound is indubitably similar to Say Hi’s “Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh”. The trio’s album Gunnera is due out 5/12 via Jurassic Pop.

Crying – “Patriot”

Chiptune-pop-punk group Crying are the last band you’d expect to have such a strong reverence for prog rockers Rush, but it also makes perfect sense. The sheer energy both have, the soaring nostalgic feeling enveloped by both, and the clear connection to synthesizers make it a hard similarity to ignore. “Patriot” is strange yet captivating, so much fun, and the perfect tune to soundtrack video games like Gunstar Heroes or Sonic the Hedgehog 2. I feel transported to my childhood when I hear this.

Sheer Mag – “Button Up”

Sheer Mag screams indie rock, but I hear notes of doo-wop and soul in the vocals. There’s an influence of another time here, which is apparent in the Philly group’s reverence for Thin Lizzy and the Runaways. “Button Up” is on the band’s upcoming 7″ (due later this year via Katorga).

Hop Along – “Waitress”

I’ve long been drawn to the ferocity and pop sensibility of Hop Along, tracing back to their last record Get Disowned. “Waitress” is one of two cuts from their upcoming release Painted Shut (due 5/4 via Saddle Creek). The feel is 90s-nostalgic, but incredibly angsty. I love how raw Frances Quinlan’s vocals can get, and how honest this music feels.

Albert DeMuth – “Finally Found a Job”

Here is yet another head-turner oddity. Albert DeMuth traces territory somewhere between Tindersticks and Small Wonder. “Finally Found a Job” begins with a dark, dismal guitar line and bass vocal, but soon develops into a full-band stomp that phases in and out. The phasing here makes the whole experience dreamy and wispy. The Providence, RI artist dropped his self-titled album on Bandcamp earlier this month, and it is up for streaming and purchase.

Shilpa Ray – “Pop Song for Euthanasia”

Some more cheating: the last five songs on this playlist are some of my favorites from my first Roundup this past month. I’m no stranger to weird female-fronted pop, and Shilpa Ray certainly delivers in that genre. Ray has an incredibly powerful voice, sounding somewhere between the yearn of Sharon Van Etten and the force of Debbie Harry. “Pop Song for Euthanasia” is a taste of what’s to come on Last Year’s Savage, due this May. 
Speedy Ortiz – “The Graduates”
The next single to be dropped for this Massachusetts band’s upcoming sophomore LP Foil Deer, “The Graduates” is a new favorite. Sounding like a follow-up to the incredible “No Below”, the track recalls past images of school infringing on current states. One of the best lines comes in the chorus: “I was the best at being second place/But now I’m just the runner-up/ At being the second one you think of every day/ Before you go back to one.” 
Hailey Wojcik – “XO Skeleton”
Here’s an artist with a voice similar to Sadie Dupuis and Annie Clark. Brooklyn-based Hailey Wojcik released her self-produced EP Book of Beasts in early March, which can be streamed right here. Wojcik released the video to “XO Skeleton” last month. This is an incredible, spidery, melodic adventure, one you’d be wise to take.
Pupppy – “Beans”
With a scene that brought out incredible acts like Mitski and LVL UP, I’m glad to see the Purchase, NY continue on with Pupppy. With an upcoming debut entitled Shit in the Apple Pie (due 4/21 via Father/Daughter), and lyrics like “I puke truth all over you”, there’s an uncomfortable, almost stomach-churning insecurity present here. Songwriter Will Rutledge is able to effectively turn these uncomfortable feelings into affecting aural moments.
American Wrestlers – “There’s No One Crying Over Me Either”
Finally, one of March’s highlights is the heartrending track “There’s No One Crying Over Me Either”, from lo-fi pop act American Wrestlers. The project of music industry veteran Gary McClure, this track is one of several to be included on American Wrestlers, the eight-song album originally released to the world last fall. American Wrestlers will be out 4/7 via Fat Possum.