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singles/eps - july 2016


Vibrissae – ‘Need’

Electronic/shoegaze hybrid band Vibrissae is located in Portland, Oregon, but its members come from various parts of the world, mirroring the stylistic variety of sounds to be found on its upcoming debut album Somewhere Away. Imber Lingard (vocals on the album; she has since left the band to take on other responsibilities) is from Australia, Emma Bell (various instruments) is originally from Malaysia, and Aaron Bell (various instruments) and Sandi Leeper (vocals for current live performances) call the U.S. home. Their shared love of electronic rock, post-rock, and shoegaze music brought them together as Vibrissae and they will deliver their debut on August 19th via the European record label Vipchoyo Sound Factory.

Vibrissae ably displays its sonic range with its striking lead single ‘Need’, which dives into the churning and menacing post-punk genre. The song opens with a driving whirl of angular guitar distortion before settling down into a calmer lull. A deep bass line undertow, strummed guitar lines, ticking cymbals, and kicky drum beat accompany Lingard as she sing-talks in a light, but expressive tone. The chorus intensifies quickly, filled with the swirling guitar frisson while Lingard confidently and steadily proclaims, “This is what you want / This is what you need.” in the middle of the instrumental tumult.

Jen Dan

Politburo – ‘Barrington Way’

Mancunian psychedelic rock/folk band Politburo has been active since 1999, at first existing as a post-punk band and then switching gears to the retro-steeped psych rock and folk genres. Nick Alexander (vocals, guitar, tambourine) and Dominic 'Dom' James (drums, percussion, keyboards) have been in Politburo since its start and they are currently joined by John Loveguns (guitar), Phil Meredith (guitar, keyboards), Steven Joseph (bass), and invited guest Chloé Sancho (vocals).

Debut album Sally and Prinns Revisited came out in 2012 and Politburo is following this up with sophomore album Barrington Way August 19th on Leonard Skully Records.

The ambitious and vintage lead single ‘Barrington Way’ closes the album and showcases the band’s penchant for creating hazy and dazed late-60s the Beatles-like psychedelia and lo-fi folk – and it also introduces a pop element to the ending of the epic tune. Alexander asks early on if the audience has been “entertained” for the duration of the album, and then plunges into a tapestry of weaving sounds, from strummed acoustic guitar lines, burnished horns to quick cymbal ticks and a steadily marching drum beat.

A multitude of voices augment his on the chorus sections until a fuzzy electric guitar line enters the mix. The highly charged atmosphere dissipates with the slow fade of the guitar buzz and suddenly the song switches it up, going from starry-eyed daydream mode to a clear-eyed, crisp classical pop number that sounds like a cross between Neil Diamond’s ‘Cherry Cherry’ and ‘What I Like about You’ by The Romantics. This may seem like an odd combination, but it plays out engagingly, swimming in a strongly choppy rhythm, dynamic bongos hits, shining, picked acoustic guitars, and a swirl of exclaimed vocals.

Jen Dan

American Anymen – ‘Selectively Stupid’

Anti-folk/punk stalwart Brett Sullivan has been railing against corruption and injustice since 1999 as American Anymen. The singer-songwriter and guitarist has had a changing band member line-up and is currently joined by drummer Tracy Brooks (Herman Dune) and bassist Nova Luz (The Amputees). Sullivan founded American Anymen in NYC’s Lower East Side. He and the other members still reside in NYC, plying their mix of folk, punk, and indie rock genres shot through with incendiary lyrics and Sullivan’s fiery vocal delivery.

American Anymen’s 11th album, Start My Center, is scheduled for release July 16th and the band will be performing at NYC’s (Le) Poisson Rouge in support of it. The Veldt and A Deer A Horse will also be taking the stage that night. Lead single ‘Selectively Stupid’ blazes with strong political, social, and economic statements, delivered in a rapid-fire, expletive-filled rant by Sullivan. He also briskly strums acoustic guitar while bolstered by Luz’s driving, low-end bass lines and Brooks’ kinetic drum-work.

Sullivan takes on big government, big corporations, and police brutality on the song and its accompanying video. The video incorporates brief footage of Freddie Gray’s arrest (He fall into a coma while in the custody of law enforcement officers and later died in the hospital.), divisive demagogue Donald Trump, and a Wal-Mart truck, all lightning rod symbols of what Sullivan is fighting against.

Jen Dan

Fassine – ‘Dialectik’

London-based electronic noir trio Fassine fascinates on its debut album, Dialectik, that came out May 20th on Default Collective Records. Sarah Palmer, Laurie Langan, and James Hayward blend electronic, industrial, and symphonic elements to create mesmerizing, atmospheric soundscapes.

The slow-burning, menacing title track starts off with the elongated pull of synth strings, peppering percussion, and Palmer’s airily floating vocals. She intones hauntingly, “Never leaves me alone.” as an ominously winding, buzzing electronic grind and trip-hop beat enter the mix. Heightened strings and industrial noise impact elevate the tension while Palmer dispassionately chants her words like a mantra, softly sighing “…buried inside.” against the brooding, cinematic score-like ambience.

Jen Dan

Ask For Joy - 'New Private Window'

For several years, in fact for about as long as I've been writing music reviews, the resurgence of the musical genre unfortunately known as 'Shoegaze' has been regularly prophesied, as entire generations of musicians too young to actually remember the late 80s, and from all corners of the globe, recreate the music of the half dozen or so most influential guitar bands of 1988. Over the ensuing decades, many musicians have asked the big questions about why Slowdive weren't ever on MTV, why Chapterhouse broke up, where the Cocteau Twins really got their name from and exactly what was the Creation Records annual budget for 1989 if Kevin Shields was able to 'nearly bankrupt' the label? Recently I've had more than a few albums from musicians that refuse to accept that AR Kane weren't one of the key bands of the late 80s, or that Loop owed any of their influences to Spacemen 3. Whatever the reasons, the party isn't over for 'the scene that celebrates itself'.

From the well known musical hub of Austin TX, Ask For Joy aren't making any pretence about originality or the limited extent of their own influences. The work of one Aaron Rossetto, who appears to play every instrument and provide vocals on each of the seven tracks on 'New Private Window' and if you've heard a lot of recent music that takes Slowdive, MBV, the Mary Chain and the Beach Boys as admitted reference points, then you may have heard slightly more inspired and less contrived songs and production techniques than Ask For Joy are putting together on what is, in fairness, their first album. This isn't to say that the seven tracks on 'New Private Window' are entirely lacking in interest or listenability, it's just that the best parts of the album are the ones where Ask For Joy take their cues not from the Shoegaze pantheon but when they rock out a bit more, in the manner of the Cult/the Mission/Sisters Of Mercy than Galaxie 500 and Curve. There are a lot of musicians making similar albums, with varying results and while I wouldn't ever be enormously critical of anyone attempting their own interpretation of music that we could've heard a bit more of back in the day, if I hear that flanged/phased MBV guitar trick one more time ...


Tod Hughes – ‘Drinking Coffee in a Hipster Place’

Canadian singer-songwriter Tod Hughes hits the nail on its head in the new video for his tune ‘Drinking Coffee in a Hipster Place’. The roots rock storyteller released the album Time Slow Down this past May via The Orchard. The debut album, which is a follow-up to Hughes’ EP Changing Gears, features songs that range from the serious to the comical.

Hughes works with other musicians on his songs and refers to this collective as the Tod Hughes Project. He’s a fixture of the local Calgary music scene and enjoys performing, especially to help various charities. On the gently lively ‘Drinking Coffee in a Hipster Place’, Hughes sing-talks his amusing lyrics in an engaging style among the sharp bleats of horns, fast-shaken percussion, hand drum hits, and lightly picked acoustic guitar. Backed sporadically by upbeat female vocals, Hughes professes that he’s drinking coffee in a hipster place and that, “The biggest risk here is being lost and dull.”

The video for the song is a pointed poke at, and also a loving ode to, the hipster crowd at a coffee shop. The smattering of customers (mostly tattooed, it seems) all have their eyes glued to their smartphones and Apple laptops, nodding to the rhythm of the song, while the crazily-named coffees listing is a mile long. Near the end of the video some performance footage is cut in, showcasing Hughes and his live band.

Jen Dan

Lily Lambert – ‘I Forgive You’

Welsh-Irish singer-songwriter Lily Lambert grew up in England and currently makes her home in the U.S. Lambert has released 3 albums so far, including the recent folk-pop full-length Moving On. The songstress has taken on various musical ventures, working in musical theater in NYC, graduating with Honors with an Entertainment Law degree in the U.K., and forging ahead with a solo career as a singer-songwriter whose material has ranged from piano-pop to country-rock and her signature alt-folk style.

Lambert’s new single, ‘I Forgive You’, is part of the batch of songs off Moving On that closes a chapter of her life. She has described her latest album as a “musical catharsis” and as the song title ‘I Forgive You’ states, Lambert is making peace with her past and ready to begin anew. The piano-based ballad is set for the stage with its rich, rolling piano notes, softly thumping beat, background choral sighs, and Lambert’s spotlit vocals. She brightly sings the bleak lyrics, clearly enunciating, “You made my heart stop / and then it shattered.”, but then swiftly changes to an uplifting course, proclaiming with determination, “It’s been a long time coming / I finally feel I can get my life on track.”

Jen Dan

Humans By Billions - 'Solar'

This isn't actually a single. It may be an EP or an album, I'm unsure which. I am though reasonably certain that not very many listeners will find themselves able to endure more than around four and a half minutes of this gloomily despondent and unimaginative electronica.


Celestial Son - 'Open Wound'

I don't entirely get this one. Grumpy looking Danish bloke wanders around some very empty landscapes over a soundtrack of some acceptably Kurt-level grungy growling, and it looks and sounds alright but I can't help thinking that I'm overlooking some very important visual or musical clues about exactly what the plot is. Doesn't look like a really good place to drop your wallet at the weekend, that's for sure.


Cass McCombs - 'Opposite House'

Says here that Cass McCombs is a bit of an emerging if not established songwriting talent, with the press release describing his 'lyrical wit and singular insight' and this sample from his newest album is pleasant enough although the tune doesn't really take off and whatever wisdom he has to share with us, the sludgy production puts the vocal somewhere to the back of the mix, where the words are mostly lost behind a lot of samples and phasing.


The Watchmakers - 'Stairway To Your Mind'

Yet more psychedelia from a Manchester band with a reputation for this sort of thing, a lyric that seems to consist of the song title and not very much else and a repetitive tune that's probably designed to invoke all manner of lysergic fuelled visionary sensations. Reasonably good if you like this sort of thing.


Civil Civic - 'The Hunt'

Fierce and furious electronic disco from an Australian duo of whom little has been heard since their 2011 album 'Rules', which I rated quite highly at the time and which 'The Hunt' could easily slip onto an expanded re-issue of, which you should take to understand as meaning that Civil Civic were five years ahead of their time then.