Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Last Nights Presents: March 1st + 2nd "Images Residency" w/ Psychic Ills, Sore Eros, Hume, Street Gnar, Alan Watts + DJ's Andreas Knutsen & Elliptic
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Sore Eros Sickies: Volume One is available now digitally from the band & on cassette via Night-People. The group are also playing in Brooklyn this Thursday March 1st at the Last Nights Presents: 2 night Images residency at Big Snow Buffalo Lodge as part of the first night with Street Gnar & Hume. For more information check out the Facebook Event Page or our upcoming show schedule.
Monday, February 27, 2012
Friday, February 24, 2012
Over the past several years, bedroom-pop auteurs churning out hiss-y, homespun indie rock have been dime a dozen to say the least. It seems as if in this generation, one wakes up every morning to find their computer screen alit with another “of-the-moment” 18-25 year old kid with a sardonic attitude and a batch of tunes straight out of his momma's basement. Now, that is certainly a generalization; this I know. I know I am actively taking part in the Pitchfork-patented hyper-categorization and homogenization of modern music as we know it, pigeonholing artists into such small niches from which they can never escape.
This is not my intention with Street Gnar; the nom de plume of Case Mahan, a Brooklyn-via-Lexington, KY tunesmith whose newest collection, Study Wall, both conforms to and rejects many of the tent-poles which made many of his lo-fi pop cohorts successful in the first place. While many of his peers often value style over substance, Study Wall has killer slacker-pop tunes to back up his skater/stoner image.
The album begins with “Twenty-Two, Twenty-Two,” perhaps the album's finest song, and a perfect starting point for our discussion of the aesthetics of this release. Coming straight out of the gate with chiming guitars that wouldn't sound out of place on a Fifth Dimension-era Byrds tune (or one of R.E.M.'s charming, early recordings) and drums that sound like they were tracked in a tin can, we know we're in for an enjoyable ride that wont' rock the boat too much.
And rock it he doesn't: the following ten tracks are thoroughly enjoyable guitar pop tunes that are informed by the genre's multi-generational history. Pulling from the fertile musical soil of the past five decades, Mahan's studied approached to songwriting is perhaps his biggest asset. It's as if, holed away in his Kentucky basement, Mahan dutifully absorbed his parents' record collection while firmly keeping a finger on the pulse of the blogosphere, showing a particular affinity for the lo-fi guitar pop stylings of groups like Woods and The Fresh and Only's. Using the prerequisite pop auteur arsenal of guitars, bass, drum machines and synthesizers, Street Gnar has managed to craft an album that sounds decidedly of-the-moment while retaining essential elements of pop/rock classicism.
The production values are, predictably with this sort of release, where Study Wall ultimately falls short of greatness. The electronic drums throughout, especially on otherwise catchy as hell track “It Came In,” never quite mesh with the early GBV grit present in Mahan's songs, and simply come off as obligatory. Instead of using some of his recording limitations to his advantage, they ultimately reek of being just that, limitations. Generally, Mahan is at his best when the electronic textures are at their sparsest, such as on the aforementioned “Twenty Two, Twenty Two,” and the psych-rock rave-up “Let It Grow,” which sounds like King Tuff fronting the 13th Floor Elevators. The more textural side of Street Gnar is not always for naught though, as displayed on the lovely little ditty “Would You,” where Mahan makes use of a melodic synth flourish that truly makes the song. Well, that and the ripping guitar solo at the end.
Ultimately, Study Wall is an extremely enjoyable collection of pop tunes that just don't feel finished. The artificial elements present in the recordings never quite gel enough with the album's 60's/90's rock vibe, leaving the end product sounding more like a collection of demos than anything. Had Mahan taken a bit more time to hone the arrangements and put together a proper band, Study Wall could have had “classic” written all over it. Instead, the album feels like an underdeveloped first taste from an artist who will almost certainly grow into his own. I would keep an eye of this fella, y'all. Something tells me this won't be the last we hear of Street Gnar.
Study Wall was self-released by Mahan through Bandcamp on Feb. 1st. Check out the album player above to stream it in its entirety. You can catch Street Gnar live next Thursday, March 1st, at The Big Snow Buffalo Lodge in Bushwick, as part of Last Night's Two Night Images Residency. Other groups on the bill include Sore Eros & Hume. For more information check out the Facebook Event Page. Come on down, y'all.
Thursday, February 23, 2012
Royal Baths are Brooklyn via San Francisco retro rockers, mining their sound from a mix of early seventies blues-rock and present day garage tunes, who've just had a new album released by Kanine. It's called Better Luck Next Life, and it rips. Focusing on the dingier, dirtier side of the group's boozy rock sound, the video for first single “Faster, Harder” acts as a grainy, 16mm come on from singer Jeremy Cox. “I love my damaged girl, we share a wicked world,” Cox croons of he and his lover, whose “shared perversions” are seen throughout the six-minute clip. Get yo' hands dirty folks.
Better Luck Next Life is out now via Kanine Records. You can catch the Baths live at 107 Suffolk St. in Manhattan on February 26th.
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Two Night Images Residency at Big Snow Buffalo Lodge March 1st & 2nd w/ Psychic Ills, Sore Eros, Hume, Street Gnar, & Alan Watts + DJ's
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Monday, February 20, 2012
Friday, February 17, 2012
Last Nights Presents: Magik Markers // Key of Shame // Colour Bük // Michael R. Bernstein THIS SATURDAY
Thursday, February 16, 2012
Dustin Wong, ex-guitarist of beloved noise-pop spazzers Ponytail, has been goin' it alone for some time now. After leaving behind his old band, another successful project (Ecstatic Sunshine,) and his native Baltimore, MD; Wong made the decision to take the reins and do things on his own terms and, all things considered, things seem to be panning out pretty nicely. Quickly embraced by the scene in his adopted home of Brooklyn, frequently featuring on choice bills throughout the borough's DIY circuit, Wong's latest material brims with the inevitable confidence brought upon by an ever-growing audience.
On his second effort for Thrill Jockey, the beautifully titled Dreams Say, View, Create, Shadow Leads, Wong's signature brand of dizzying technicolor guitar pop truly shines and sounds like a man at the peak of his creativity. Deciding to stray from the long form, meditative compositions found on 2010's Infinite Love, Wong instead focuses on consolidating ideas into concise, 3-5 minute psychedelic bursts. That's not to say the tracks feel entirely separate, in fact each fades into the next so seamlessly you might easily miss where one track ends and another begins, retaining a laconic fluidity without ever becoming too boring or repetitive.
Opening cut “Ice Sheets on Feet Prints” sets the tone of the record beautifully; A kraut-ish guitar figure thuds away, quickly making room for a barrage of shimmering, layered guitar textures, until the whole thing bursts wide open with a pulsating drum track and Wong's now-infamous foot-on-the-monitor guitar heroics.
If by now you haven't noticed, the guitar takes center stage on this record; particularly Wong's explorations in texture and color through use of his extensive collection of effects. The above photo is strikingly evocative of Wong's guitar stylings; swirling beams of color coming at you from all angles. At the heart of Wong's technique lies the loop station. Each track is delicately constructed from a series of intricately layered guitar figures being pumped through various pedals, resulting in highly rhythmic hypnotic jams. The later album track “Pencil Drove Hill Moon” displays Wong's mastery of the loop station as he impressively harmonizes and manipulates single note patterns into a mosaic of ambient guitar grooves. Wong's effect wizardry is certainly not limited to his beloved loop station, however. Take “On/In the Way,” a short cut that has Dustin pulling out all the stops, using spring reverb and slap-back delay to create a percussive, West African styled lead and a bouncy mimicked bass line that you can't help but bop along to.
Dreams Say, View, Create, Shadow Leads is ultimately a rather enjoyable record; just one that goes on for a bit too long. Had Wong made the decision to snip a few tracks here and there and tighten things up a bit, he would have been making a wise choice. That's not to say the album drags, because it doesn't. The sequencing is one of the album's strong points. I just feel Wong's tunes are best enjoyed in slightly smaller doses. That being said, this new record is sure to please fans of Dustin's previous work and lovers of experimental guitar pop music; and it's a damn fine record. Just one that could've used a trim here or there.
Dustin Wong's Dreams Say, View, Create, Shadow Leads drops this upcoming Tuesday, Feb. 21, via Thrill Jockey Records. Above is the appropriately neon hued video for album cut “Pink Diamond.” Also, if you happen to be in the New York area, Dustin's having a record release party on the 24th of Feb. at La Sala in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Should be a rad one, kids.
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Monday, February 13, 2012
Friday, February 10, 2012
Thursday, February 9, 2012
Wednesday, February 8, 2012
Tuesday, February 7, 2012
Monday, February 6, 2012
Friday, February 3, 2012
Brooklyn based trio Hospitality certainly don't appear to be trying very hard. From the obtuse band name to the seemingly obligatory faded photograph which graces the cover of their self titled debut, the band seem on the surface to be purveyors of bland, middle of the road indie rock; that is, until you listen to their record.
Opener “Eighth Avenue” romps along like any good indie-pop song, breathy female vocals included, until the knotty chord changes and tense melody of the chorus come along to let you know this won't be your average ride on the merry-go-round. Instead, the group leads us through 10 songs of pure pop innovation; from the sparkling twee of “Betty Wang” to the woozy wash of “Sleepover,” the album varies just enough to avoid stagnation, yet never too far as to alienate the listener. Hospitality is a band which operates like the best of chefs; taking simple, unassuming ingredients and transforming them into something beautiful through sheer knowledge of the craft. Take lead single “Friends of Friends” for instance. Where a lesser group may have let the simple structure and infectious vocal melody carry the tune throughout, Hospitality fill in all the right gaps to make the track a true earworm. A horn flourish here, a slight jerk in rhythm there, and what could have been a very tepid tune is suddenly a song which you find yourself humming at random intervals throughout the day.
Aside from the band's gleefully off-kilter version of pop, the lyricism of frontwoman Amber Papini is what makes Hospitality such a rewarding listen. Being a twenty-something starving artist in New York myself, Papini's trials and tribulations concerning being just that can alternately make one smile and cringe. Riffing on topics varying from young, maudlin guys who aren't very good in bed (“Eighth Avenue”) to not caring how far uptown a friend lives (“Betty Wang”) Papini has managed to romanticize the lives of young New Yorkers, yet still sneak in a jab or two. “So you found the lock/but not the key that college brings/and all the trouble of a BA in English Literature/instead of law, or something more practical,” Papini croons on the incisively titled “Liberal Arts,” a song which stings with upper middle class regret. Plus, post-collegiate blues never sounded more tuneful.
Hospitality is a record which took three-plus years to complete, and it shows. It sounds as if every element was labored over again and again, usually an indication of so-so songs to begin with, but not the case here. Here, each detail seems perfectly in place, almost as if it were one of those “magic eye” posters; it may not seem like much at first, but look closer. Ah, now you see?
Hospitality is available now through Merge Records. Above is the funny/rad video for "Friends of Friends."