Indie Rock

New album: Dummy || Mandatory Enjoyment

Busy day at work yesterday, and a perfect opportunity to catch up with some of the advanced streams I’d been receiving lately. I grabbed a coffee and pressed play on Dummy’s Mandatory Enjoyment. After releasing two EPs in 2020, both of which I liked, it’s the L.A. band’s debut full length and first release for the ever reliable Trouble In Mind Records. Somehow, I found myself still listening to it three hours later – the stream automatically restarts after finishing the album. Not sure if I was in a state of flow due to the nature of my work or because of the music, perhaps a bit of both. Sure to say, Mandatory Enjoyment offered a perfect backdrop to a productive morning.

When I paid a little more attention to the music, I started to see how Dummy draws you in, hook their tentacles in your skin, unwilling to let you go. Their music blends noisy guitar pop with sonic influences ranging from jazz, to synth to drone to showgaze to new age. The songs on Mandatory Enjoyment have a lot going on, tender a great deal to discover, but also leave ample space for reflection and mind wandering. H.V.A.C may be the best example of this, with his hypnotic and repetitive rhythm and the broad soundscapes. Ultimately, Mandatory Enjoyment works on a subsconscious and conscious level.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Trouble In Mind

New album: Zoo || No Man’s Land

Zoo is the brainchild of Cincinnati-based songwriter, Cory Pavlinac. Pavlinac used to major in Jazz guitar at Belmont University (Nashville) but then switched to creative writing – a logical step after many late-night drives studying the words and music of Bob Dylan and Patti Smith. That backstory is relevant for two reasons: One, the musicianship of Pavlinac has a level of complexity and depth that is marvelous. There are hints of The War On Drugs and Kevin Morby, but Zoo sounds less bombastic and more nuanced than the former and more diverse and complex than the latter. Above all, No Man’s Land is highly accessible, and full of well written folky indie rock.

Two, Zoo is the kind of record where it pays off to take the lyric sheet out, and fully experience the record while reading the lyrics. The album deals with the challenges of dealing with intimacy, isolation and empathy as an introvert, and getting married and becoming a father. The personal and heartfelt lyrics create a synergetic experience while listening to the music. Conversely, the music sets the right tone and atmosphere for the words to hit even harder. Worry is a good example of this. Pavlinac: “I wrote this song at 2a.m., laying in bed one night with all these thoughts flying around my head, unable to sleep. The song took shape immediately when the first line popped into my head (“Staring At The Ceiling In The Middle Of The Night // I Got Worry On My Mind”), and I snuck out of bed to go record it.” But there is also the anxiety of political and societal polarisation in the album’s best song Sleeping Dogs. “There is maybe a little of myself in the caricature of this person who is waiting it out, while complaining about the state of the nation all the while, and day dreaming of societal fallout,” Pavlinac explains.

No Man’s Land sounds tailor-made for the season of falling leaves, rain and wind, and the occasional indian summer day. For those shelving their records in alphabetical order, you could do much (much!) worse than having Zoo as the outer bookend of your collection. Another strong release by Good Eye Records who brought us that acclaimed Spud Cannon record earlier this year.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: The Red Pears || You Thought We Left Because The Door Was Open But We Were Waiting Outside

A cover photo with a clown out of focus, a long album title –You Thought We Left Because The Door Was Open But We Were Waiting Outside – that tells a story in itself, music that is somewhere between The Strokes, Allah-Las, The Subways, and SadGirl:- listening to the eight songs on the new (third) LP by Californian indie / alternative rock band The Red Pears is an exciting adventure. The sound of Henry Vargas (guitar, vocals), Jose Corona (drums), and Patrick Juarez (bass) evokes feelings of nostalgia, but sounds quite urgent in 2021 though. Fuzzy guitars, dynamic melodies, screaming vocals, and haunting lyrics (fron standout track House of Mirrors: “I don’t know if this was for attention // Whether your mind plays the games I should mention // I could take it away just for this time // I just want to be me if it’s alright” ). A lot can happen in 23 minutes, as it turns out.

Out now digitally. Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New EP: Grandmas House || Grandmas House

When I listened to Grandmas House’s cool single Always Happy / Small Talk last spring, I was curious what else the English punk trio would have to offer. With the five new tracks on the just released self-titled EP, they live up to the high expectations. As soon as you hear the heavy guitar sound, pounding drums, and growling vocals, you know you’re in the right place. “I’m still full of wonder // Sometimes I wonder // Do you believe in miracles // Do you believe in anything, anything at all”, they ask in the opening track Golden. If you gasp 10 minutes and 55 seconds later – each song takes about two minutes – you can’t help but reply that you believe in screaming out loud. This is indie rock / post-punk that continuously leaves you balancing between smiles and awe. I suspect the band members had a lot of fun recording their music and videos, but their facial expressions are too menacing to be sure. They are now touring the UK. Do you dare to visit Grandmas House?

Grandmas House is out now digitally and on limited edition 7″ vinyl through Brace Yourself Records.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New EP: Veps || Open the Door

“Her fingers wrapped around in all her secrets // Tearing down the walls is getting frequent // She’s the kind that’s always insecure // She’s lonely so she never shuts the door.” These are the beautiful opening words of Girl on TV, the opening track of Open the Door, the debut EP from Norwegian four-piece Veps. Words that won’t let you go, words you want more of. Impressive, especially when you realize that the four girls of Veps (translated: Wasp) are only 17 years old. Laura (guitar), June (bass), Maja (drums) and Helena (keys/piano) have been playing together since they were 14, which probably explains their mature sound and strong synergy. Their six first songs are varied, authentic and convincing – powerful indie pop/rock with bursts that prove they know how to use their instruments and vocals for maximum impact. Music you want more of.

Open the Door is out digitally and on 12″ vinyl through Kanine Records.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

Gimme 5! Stephen Steen of Megadose Shares His Five Favorite Records

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.

It’s been a while since our last Gimme 5. Stephen Steen must have thought so as well, because out of nowhere he sent me his five favorite records. How did this happen? Well, when you release a superb record with the potential to cross over to a major audience, you get a lot of requests and e-mails all of a sudden. And it’s easy to mixup requests from different music sites. Our win! That superb record by the way is Wild & Free by his band Megadose (our review here). It’s a record that slowly wins you over; a record on which Megadose put their own spin on ’00s indierock. If you are a fan of acts like Bands of Horses, The Shins, Fleet Foxes, The War on Drugs and Frightened Rabbit, I believe you will like this band a lot. Recently, Megadose released its first video ever which should give you a good sample of their music. [post continues below]

New EP: Slack Times || At The Blue Melon Rendezvous

If you like The Feelies, garage pop that is upbeat and jangly, or the Athens indie sound of the early ’80s, Slack Times may well turn out to be your new favorite band. Slack Times are Chris McCauley, Will Stewart and Stuart Norman who, in different cross-links play(ed) together in The Blips, Bad Hops, and Holy Youth. The band name is a nod to the pandemic lockdowns. The trio started recording in the fall of 2020 and released their first EP last spring. That EP already showed a lot of promise, but their new EP is even better *. And with better I mean all killer, no filler. Lead single Can’t Count On Anyone alone is worth the purchase of this EP that is out now on Earth Libraries.

What about that weird title for their EP? Apparently, it’s a reference to an art gallery in downtown Water Valley the band frequently encountered during their walks across the city.

* On the EP, Slack Times is helped out by producer Bronson Tew on drums on the recordings, and Matt Patton on bass.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Hutch Harris || Suck Up All The Oxygen

From 2002 to 2016 American punk / indie rock band The Thermals made some of our favorite records, and I can dream the words from singles like No Culture Icons (“Hardly art // Hardly starving // Hardly art // Hardly garbage”) and Now We Can See (“But now we can see // Now that our vision is strong // We don’t need to admit // We were wrong”). Unfortunately, the band broke up in 2018, but the good news is that Hutch Harris, the lead singer and guitarist of the band, also plays good music on its own. He has just released his new full-length solo album Suck Up All The Oxygen, with ten short songs – about 17 minutes in total – written, performed and recorded by the musician himself. He still has a critical eye and sharp pen, but the new tracks seem more cheerful at first hearing. That’s just the tone, because the lyrics are about his struggles with himself (from Instant Anxiety: “There’s a banging in my head // A pounding on my brain // A pressure in my head // I can never explain”) and his environment (from Garbage World: “I know we suck we’re just the worst // We should kill ourselves, ok you go first // But let’s kill everyone else first”). Dark and impressive. It hurts, but still it’s great to be able to listen to Harris’s so recognizable vocals again.

Suck Up All The Oxygen is out now digitally an on vinyl LP. Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New EP: Wah Wah Wah || Oh, Wow!

Here are my notes on Oh Wow!, the debut release of Wah Wah Wah from Seoul in chronological order. One: there are a lot of cartoonesque exclamations in the bandname and album title. Two: This has a psychedelic King Gizzard vibe to it. Three: This is not bad at all. Four: Is that a flute? This is insane, but it’s pretty cool. Five: Is that a harmonica? What is going on here? Rock’n’roll! Six: This may not be the kind of music I usually go for, but I am intrigued. Seven: Wah Wah Wah deserves to be heard, I’m going to write about it.

Wah Wah Wah is an one man project by Suhyun Kim. Everything your hear on this EP, and that includes vocals, electric and acoustic guitars, bass, flute, synth and drum programming, is done by Kim. Except the harmonica, which Gunny Jojo Lee provides. Oh, Wow! is out now on the tiny South Korean label Good Boy Records.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Compilation || SLN-210: 10 Year Anniversary Compilation

Snappy Little Numbers operates out of Denver and have to be one of the hardest working labels out there. Or maybe they are extremely efficient? Anyhow, it seems that they have a couple of new releases out each month and not just digital. To celebrate its 10th year anniversary, this week the label released a 30 song compilation of past, present, and future bands they have worked or will work with. We covered quite a lot of the bands on the comp including Autogramm, Jiffy Marx (who contributes a very fun rendition of one of my favorite Resonars songs), Hooper, Spells, Friends of Cesar Romero, State Drugs, and The Animal Steel. But, if I’m not mistaken, most (if not all) of the songs are comp exclusives.

Snappy Little Numbers’ roster is very broad, even though most of their bands fall under of the many subgenres of punkrock and alternative rock. A consequence of SLN’s broad focus is that you are unlikely to fall for each of their releases. However, on a comp like this, the varied roster actually works to the comp’s advantage. Listening to this compilation is like finding a radio station you don’t want to switch off, and driving another block because you want to find out what the next song is. Cool stuff from a cool label. Happy Birthday SLN, Keep doing what you do!

30% of every compilation sold (both physical and digital) will be donated to Stop AAPI Hate (20% – – USA) and Elimin8Hate (10% – – Canada).

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || SLN

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