Indie Pop

New song: Massage || In Gray & Blue (Single Version)

Has there ever been a time where music was this superflous, where music was this readily available? In the current musical landscape, discovering new music often can feel like fleeting encounters. Bands can release really great records that are well received by fans and critics alike, but they still can get lost in the steady overflow of new music.

Given these developments, I am happy to see a band I really like being the exception to that rule. Massage released their sophomore album Still Life last June, but  positive reviews of their record still frequently pop up, and influential djs and playlist curators increasingly are adding their songs into rotation. It’s well deserved, and proof of the longevity of the record.

As a special treat, Massage plans to put out a second 2021 release on December 10th. The six song Lane Line EP features three new songs, two demos (vinyl only), and an alternate version of the excellent Still Life track In Gray & Blue. Watch the video below. Oh, and if you’ve missed it, check out the Gimme 5 feature we did with the band in which they discuss five of their inspirational records.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New single: The Smashing Times || Dreams on Union B/W A Changing Letter

The last time we spoke to The Smashing Times, they told us how the lockdowns had driven them mad. Despite the madness, I really enjoyed their collection of stuck-at-home recordings. The band now returns with a new two-song single (released on 7″ (!)) that follows the old adagam ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!’ In the case of The Smashing Times that means lo-fi underground pop nuggets for fans of The Pastels, Television Personalities and The Times.

A-side Dreams On Union may be my favorite song by the band yet. Keep doing what you do The Smashing Times!

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Parker Longbough || Off Front Street

Parker Longbough, the recording name of Anchorage, Alaska native Matthew Witthoeft, collected all the anxieties, fears, and worries of the year 2020 on Crackle/Hiss, his fifth full-length album, which was released in January this year. But apparently he hadn’t said everything that needed to be said yet, because here’s Off Front Street, album number six. It’s lo-fi, guitar driven indie pop / rock with occasional electronic sounds seeping through. Although the eight songs are mighty fine musically, the lyrics steal the show – not exactly cheerful stuff, but they give a fascinating glimpse into the psyche of the singer-songwriter.

Off Front Street is out now digitally. Add to wantlist: Bandcamp 

New EP: Las Infrarrojas || Las Infrarrojas & Indy Tumbita

Whenever Spanish labels Hurrah! Música and Family Spree Recordings have new music out, they have my full attention. Their latest release is a joint one and might be my favorite release of theirs this year: Las Infrarrojas & Indy Tumbita. It is the latest single of Las Infrarrojas, an awesome foursome from Spain, and I can’t believe how I missed their first two 7″s.*

The sunshine pop of Las Infrarrojas is informed by many influences, from ’60s girl group and rock’n’roll to surf and psych. Here is a band that knows how to write timeless melodies. Their songs ooze major summer vibes, quickly washing any autumn dread away.

I’m not going to put a spotlight on any individual tracks, because this is a quadruple A-side single that I need to have in my collection ASAP.

* Fun Fact: all three Las Infrarrojas singles have an A-side with songs sung in English, and a B-side sung in Spanish.

Add to Wantlist: Bandcamp || Family Spree Recordings

New album: Secret Towns || Nightlights

Nightlights, the debut album from American indie rock four-piece Secret Towns, was released at the end of September. That we’re only writing about it now is because these are those songs that take a little more time to love. The seed was planted a few weeks ago, and thanks to the occasional attention, the 10 track collection has grown into a wantlist-worthy LP. Luke Thornton (vocals, guitar), Sam Pena (bass), Harry Dulaney (drums), and Matt Petino (lead guitar) play dreamy, jangling guitar pop with psychedelic and ambient post-punk elements, with lyrics about escaping moments from the past and present. In everything the music is aimed at listening at night, the hours that offer the excitement of the potential time ahead to the morning after. As the album begins: “It’s so still tonight // But I feel the rush so far ahead of me.” To end 40 minutes later with the last lines of the title track: “We won’t be the same // Leaving out of the scene // But before you leave // Leave a nightlight on for me.” According to the band, the album represents the idea of affection remaining with the people and places passing through time. Likely that you will be hypnotized if you look at moving city lights at the same moment.

Nightlights is out now digitally. Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

Dusted || The 10 Best Cover Songs Of October 2021

Not all new music is really new, as many artists occasionally play a song they know from one of their heroes. Often they are songs that deserve to be dusted and polished, simply because they should not be forgotten. Some of those cover versions are so good, we’d like to put a spotlight on them. Chosen from a wide range, here are – in random order – ten of our favorite covers from last month – links to the pages where you can add them to your wantlist included.

Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door || Cover: The William Loveday Intention || Original: Bob Dylan
It’s unbelievable how much good music Billy Childish continues to create, with originals and covers, but also adaptations of his own earlier work. Last month, with CTMF, he released the great single Bob Dylan’s Got a Lot to Answer For (“Even an idiot must admit that Bob Dylan made some great tunes, but despite his many achievements it must also be said that Bob has got a lot to answer for, so we wrote him a complementary tune”), and from the moniker of The William Loveday Intention also appeared an impressive cover of the master’s Knockin’ On Heavens Door. It’s a classic that has been covered many times, but this is possibly the most epic one. That goes for the 10-minute vocal version, but the even longer instrumental is even more compelling. Out on 12″ vinyl through Squoodge Records and digitally via Damaged Goods.

New album: Fortitude Valley || Fortitude Valley

I’d like to introduce you to Durham’s (UK) answer to Auckland’s (NZ) The Beths: Fortitude Valley! Their self-titled debut provides the ear candy that can only be the result of hitting the sweet spot between indie pop, powerpop and pop punk.

Fortitude Valley is fronted by Laura Kovic, who you may know as the keyboardist of Tigercat. She found her bandmates through the much missed Fortuna Pop! label. Those bandmates? Bassist Greg Ullyart from Night Flowers, Nathan Stephens Griffin (drums) and Daniel Ellis (lead guitar). Ellis also plays in Martha, which is probably my favorite UK pop punk band of the past decade. I love how several of the chord progressions and guitar fills on the record are reminiscent of that band, most notably on the sweet album opener Baby, I’m Afraid.

While decidedly pop-oriented, the music of Fortitude Valley is quite the departure from Kovic’s previous output. “In the past I’ve usually written more gentle melodic pop songs,” she explains in the press release, “but I’ve tried to move away from that slightly on this album and experiment with adding more deliberate bite to my songwriting. Nathan, Daniel and Greg definitely helped to make it more punk.”

The record is timely as well, touching on themes like the passage of time, friendships and relationships growing apart, and feelings of insecurity, depression, and anxiety—as well as searching for love and salvation—, and maintaining to sound joyful and fun throughout. Having two kittens from rescued street cats at home, I can particularly relate to All Haill The Great Destroyer, “a tribute to Margie the rescue cat who destroys everything for fun and is an absolute legend.”

So yeah, what I’m trying to say is that I completely fell for the ear candy of Fortitude Valley. Disclaimer: SO MANY HITS!

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Fika Recordings

New album: Diamondtown || Diamondtown

Diamondtown is made up of veterans of the Nova Scotia underground scene, whose past bands include Eric’s Trip, Dog Day, and Century Egg. The band has about 2.1 million fewer monthly listeners on Spotify than The War On Drugs. And yet, I can envision a lot of those TWOD fans fall for the new self-titled record of Diamondtown. To me, Diamondtown operates in that same realm of spacious, tension building, accessible guitar pop/rock, particularly on songs like Flame, Truth and Outtamind.

But rather than the dad rock-vibe of TWOD with its Dire Straits influences, the songs of Diamondtown  seem substantially informed by ’80s new wave and ’60s jangly pop. They are more concise as well.  Perfect for a late summer beach day, or on your commute with a coffee-to-go in your hand.

Listen to Stride, a perfect and timeless jangle pop tune, and let the sound of Diamondtown gently wash over you.

Diamondtown is out now on Label Obscura.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Rural France || RF

I cannot emphasize enough how much I appreciate labels that consistently release terrific records. It is worth a great deal when you get excited whenever a label announces a new release, when you can blindly rely on a label’s good taste. Take Spanish label Meritorio Records. The label’s batting average in 2021 is off the charts. Basically, all of their recent releases are worth your money (i.e., Wurld Series, The Telephone Numbers, Monnone Alone, Real Numbers, Stephen’s Shore).

Meritorio’s latest homerun is the debut LP (RF) from Rural France, a duo (Tom Brown and Rob Fawkes) that actually lives in Rural England (Wiltshire). Rural France plays ’60s pop disguised as ’90s slacker indie rock. The guitars are fuzzy and jangly, and the lo-fi songs are short and forward moving. Oh, and there is the occasional synth lick saying hi, how are you. If you are looking for 25 minutes of worriless escapism powered by solid songwriting, look no further than RF. What I like most about this release is how coherent and accomplished it is as a full album. Usually, it’s easy to pick out the highlights of a record, but this one I would actually recommend listening in full. And the record still keeps getting better with each listen, despite being accessible right from the bat.

For some reason, it took Rural France (“The hardest working, nineties-influenced indie rock band in West Wiltshire”) several years to record and release RF. “The songs were mostly written during the heatwave of 2018, spurred on by Beach Boys bootlegs and a World Cup. Half-drunk on the sun and Brian Wilson’s genius, I’d make the short journey from the garden to my guitar to try and get down some vague ideas that were forming in the haze of that sweltering suburban summer,” Brown explains. Not sure if it had any influence on the band name or the songwriting, but France won that 2018 World Cup.

So yeah, Meritorio hit another one out of the park. And (spoiler alert) the next one is coming soon (Semi Trucks, out November 26).

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Meritorio Records

Gimme 5! Lake Artifik Shares His Five Favorite Albums

With ‘Gimme 5!’ we take a peek into the collections of artists we admire. The premise is simple: artists WE like share 5 records THEY love.

One of my favorite discoveries of 2021 is Lake Artifik. This is the moniker under which Swiss musician Carlos E. Cordero writes and records beautiful, dreamy acoustic guitar songs. His debut album Dream Park consists of nine layered, mysterious and slightly sad tracks about past memories, a very suitable soundtrack for Sunday mornings. In the meantime he has also released the EP Bloom, with three new songs that are a bit more straightforward, pop oriented, and positive. Landgraaf in particular caught my attention, because I went to Pinkpop there a few times. The lyrics are about the fantasies that Carlos and his best friend at the time had about playing at the festival; as teenagers they dreamed of ‘making it’ with their band, thinking they were the coolest kids around since they performed gigs for their 60 fans (“For all the times we saw the sky // Thinking that we could fly // Jamming our songs through the night // Waiting for our time to shine”).

This seemed like a good reason to ask Carlos about his sources of inspiration. The explanations of his favorite albums make it clear that we are dealing with an artist who is a good listener, who also knows how to describe it well.

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