Alvvays’ self-titled debut album consists of nine tracks, and clocks in at a mere 32 minutes. Advocates of Pink Moon theory understand that this is not a problem.
Like Nick Drake’s last album, and Bob Mould’s most recent album Beauty & Ruin, Alvvays doesn’t need to stick around any longer to make its point. This is finely honed indie-pop, as fizzy as it is fuzzy: brevity, like the rough and ready sound, the melodies spun round simple hooks, is just a part of its essence.
“Archie, Marry Me” is the kind of song that bands would kill to have written, even though it seems to have sprung out of nowhere, fully formed, all hooks and bubbles and tessellation. The moment when the band drops out, leaving Molly Rankin alone with her “Hey! Hey!” is pure indie-pop perfection.
Let’s close the month out with a little more of the summer slacker vibe. “Slacker” because that’s evidently the mood of “Salad Days”, and “Summer” because that’s when you eat salad. You can get Winter salads, of course, but that smacks of cheating to me, and is patently an inferior version in any case.
Fuck man! I was just on tour for a year and a half and I’m tired!Mac DeMarco
Not that DeMarco is probably a salady kind of guy – much more likely to push it away and light another cigarette. And then strum out some lo-fi jangle on a crazy-sounding guitar that’s suspiciously bright and breezy for the accompanying lyrics.
Oh mama, actin’ like my life’s already over
Oh dear, act your age and try another year
Always feeling tired, smiling when required
Write another year off and kindly resign
“Salad Days” is taken from Mac DeMarco’s 2014 album of the same name, released in April on Captured Tracks.
“Avant Gardener” is so old (relative to the purpose of this playlist, I mean) that it was actually released in 2013. It originally appeared on How To Carve A Carrot Into A Rose, on Courtney Barnett’s own Milk! label, and following the success of that EP and the earlier I’ve Got A Friend Called Emily Ferris, both EPs were picked up by House Anxiety/Marathon Artists, turned into the brilliant The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas, and given a little international attention.
“Avant Gardener” tells the tale of an anaphylactic attack on a hot and otherwise boring Monday and perfectly captures the lazy heat-strained mood with its round and round riff, and Barnett’s vaguely indolent, totally not into this delivery. And if the lyrics in the first verse don’t draw you in –
I sleep in late
oh what a wonder oh what a waste.
It’s a Monday, it’s so mundane
what exciting things will happen today?
The yard is full of hard rubbish its a mess and
I guess the neighbours must think we run a meth lab
then the, um, later lyrics definitely should:
The paramedic thinks I’m clever cos I play guitar
I think she’s clever cos she stops people dying
Here at <record> <<rewind<< >play> we are proud to now be one of the blogs hosting the Alternative Top 40, run by Universal-Horse.
The Alternative Top 40 is a regular music chart shared across multiple music blogs, and a great way of discovering music you might not have heard elsewhere. You can contribute to the #AltTop40 by simply naming your favourite tracks of the moment on the dedicated page at Universal Horse. Here’s the new edition:
I originally cued this one up way back in *rustling; sound of diary being leafed through* March, when “Nathaniel” appeared on Soundcloud. I was sure I had something immediate and important to say about it, because it was not quite what I was expecting from Watt. Even having recently heard “Spring”, another track from the then forthcoming album Hendra, I was ill-prepared for the guitar-heavy crunch and driving beat. But then, at the time I hadn’t twigged that Watt was working with Bernard Butler, whose guitar greatness can be heard on Nathaniel.
In case you’re wondering what the track is about, Watt explains all:
It’s a song inspired by a road sign I saw in Oregon. It is about how we deal with grief, in private and in public. It is also about love, strength of character and has some merciless lead guitar from Bernard Butler. Hope you like it.Ben Watt
The opening bars of “Goshen 97” sound exactly like what you’d hear if you went back to 1992 and asked Dinosaur Jr or Teenage Fanclub to record a cover of Morrissey’s “We Hate it When Our Friends Become Successful”. In other words: utterly magnificent. And not entirely surprising, since that’s none other than J Mascis bringing his matchless talents to bear.
It doesn’t let up after the intro: this opening track from Strand of Oaks’ fourh album Heal is nothing less than a rip-snorting romp, all in-your-face with its riffs and howl. And all in a song about living the dream by way of living the nightmare before the dream:
I was rotting in the basement
Buying Casios with my friend
Then I found my dad’s old tape machine
Thats where the magic began
When I visited Llandeilo last summer it struck me as a quietly beautiful South Wales town with a really fantastic ice-cream / chocolate / sweet shop and access to rolling countryside and numerous old hilltop castles. I didn’t know at the time that the town hosted the 2008 World Sheepdog Trials, or that it was the birthplace of Stefan Cush of The Men They Couldn’t Hang.
And I had no idea that Owain Gwilym and Angharad Van Rijswijk were probably busy somewhere nearby working away on what they describe as their ‘half-Welsh / half-Dutch Elekctro-Folk-Rave’. “Breakthrough” features ESSA, and is quite rightly getting a lot of love, not least by BBC 6 Music, who included Trwbador in their recent #Blog6Music show.
The Bilinda Butchers are a shoegazing and dream-pop outfit from California. Named after Bilinda Butcher of My Bloody Valentine, in Heaven they have created a concept album about a young Japanese woman and her doomed love. In the band’s own words:
Heaven is the title of the diary written by Nakajima Ume, a young woman who lived in Japan from 1836 to 1864. It’s entries catalog her catastrophic marriage to a cruel nobleman, and her later introduction to a young, idealistic poet whose expressions of sympathy inspire her to escape from her unfortunate circumstances.
When her friendship with the poet is discovered, Ume is sent away to a distant village, where she falls into a deep depression and eventually learns of the poet’s death. Though the news of the poet’s death initially disturbs Ume, she soon discovers within herself a new sense of clarity and motivation. Her diary ends with a final pronouncement: she will drown herself in order to reunite with her fallen lover.
If you’re sceptical about the idea of concept albums, try to lay that to one side and just enjoy the soundscape that The Bilinda Butchers have created, and let yourself enter their world through the dream-pop grooves, incidental interludes, electronic ambience, and pure reverb-heavy shoegazing.
“Ume ft. Juri Nakashima” is the album’s beautiful opening track, and an absolutely classic slice of fried dream-pop gold that rises up, and up some more, on wings of sumptuous production.
Unfortunately, the limited vinyl run of Heaven has already sold out, but the good news is that you can listen to the whole album over on Soundcloud:
Newcastle’s Polarsets have been together since 2009, producing sun-drenched indie that puts you in mind of anywhere that might serve you a cool cocktail on the beach under a sweltering mid-day sun. Their self-released debut album Parasols is out on September 21, and the band have just released a single, “Madrid”, to whet your appetite.
February: I hear this new Angel Olsen album Burn Your Fire For No Witness is really great. Getting rave reviews, acclaim, love, and all the rest. I listen to a snippet here and there, and even get as far as adding it to my eMusic “Save for later” list.
Five months later, and I still haven’t pushed it to the top of the “Listen to this or be sorry” pile.
I feel so lonesome, I could cry
But instead I’ll pass the time
Sitting lonely with somebody, lonely too
Well, there’s nothing in the world I’d rather do
This literally makes no sense beyond the freaky phenomenon by which an album can sometimes just put up its own force-field and I move along to the next in line. This then sets off an unfortunate chain reaction whereby the next time it hoves into view I’m slightly less inclined to give it a chance, having already passed on it once. And so on and so forth.
There’s no reason to me telling you all this beyond the fact that when I do eventually find my way out of this trap, whether it’s after a week or twenty years, I still get the same thrill from listening to something like “Hi-Five” for the first time – feeling the hit of its country-gal gone fuzz-box, rolling around in the dirt. And then the same sense of discovery, albeit followed by the painful realisation that a Top Gear presenter experiences when he realises Jeremy Clarkson has beaten him to the finishing post.
Except that unlike Hammond or May, I get to listen to “Hi-Five” and all of Burn Your Fire For No Witness without having to put up with even a single moment of Clarkson’s crowing.
Taken from Jay Woodward’s fine debut album Letters We Told, “Garden in the Sun” is a gentle but powerful acoustic meander full of delightful embellishment, touches and sparks. It’s hazy and a bit woozy, and wanders down a path you’ll want to follow. As I said in my review of the album, it’s the standout track, and now it has a suitably sun-drenched and mostly time-lapsed video shot in the Joshua Tree Desert.
We all want to get away from time to time, but in the age of austerity it’s not always as easy as we’d like. There’s a further problem: the places some of us would like to see are just out of reach using currently available transport technologies – the sun, the moon, the far reaches of our galaxy and beyond – and while Virgin Intergalactic may promise future possibilities, I’ve travelled on their trains a few times, and I’m not so sure I’d trust them to take me out among the stars. Other realities are available, but depending on your country of residence travelling to them may not be completely legal.
This collection of 20 physically and spiritually transporting and transforming tracks, however, is 100% acceptable by your local law enforcement friends.
Eaux – Head
Typically, these playlists are sparked by the discovery of a new track, or an old song rediscovered. So it is with New Lands; our journey begins with “Head” by Eaux, from their album of the same name, and which I was alerted to when Woman’s Hour tweeted about it. It’s a perfect introduction to the playlist – slowly evolving from the background hum of the universe to full-on electro-groove.
Mogwai – I’m Jim Morrison, I’m Dead
Second track “I’m Jim Morrison, I’m Dead” is taken from Scottish post-rock outfit Mogwai’s 2008 album The Hawk is Howling. It’s very Mogwai, if you know what I mean. If not, you will in just under seven minutes’ time. Be aware, though, that parallel worlds open up at this point, since you can opt for the live version from Special Moves instead by watching this video right here:
The only time I’ve seen Mogwai live was on a stream of their recent Glastonbury performance, when they were headlining the “Fucking get yoursel’ over here” stage. Playing at the same time as either Metallica or Kasabian (whichever – not important), and while they were representing the heavier or stupider side of music respectively, Mogwai were busy showcasing its more epic alternate reality.
Jon Hopkins – Candles
“Candles” appears on Jon Hopkins’ atmospheric soundtrack to the low-budget non-monstery film Monsters. Of the beautiful musical incidentals through the film, this sticks in the mind more than most, helped by the scene that accompanies it, but about which I will say no more, other than that there’s some interesting detail on the scene to be found in director Gareth Edwards’ commentary.
Ulrich Schnauss – Far Away Trains Passing By
Since the release of the first album under his own name, 2001’s Far Away Trains Passing By, German musician, producer and remixer Ulrich Schnauss has been a key figure in shoegazing’s rebirth – helping to take the genre into brave new worlds.
Nils Frahm – Says
Taken from Nils Frahm’s live and stitched together album Spaces, “Says” was one of the most touchingly beautiful pieces I heard in 2013. It has a sound that if you give yourself over to it completely – just relax and float down stream, let the music work your brain – rewards you in its closing minutes with a rare euphoria.
The War on Drugs – An Ocean In Between The Waves
Naturally, to get to a new land you have to transport yourself there. Sometimes your imagination is not enough; sometimes what you need is a road and a car in which to storm down it. And a soundtrack with which to storm down that road in that car. I suggest “An Ocean In Between The Waves” by War on Drugs. Again, explore new worlds with either the studio version, down below on Spotify, or this live version, recorded for KEXP.
Caribou – Sun
Sometimes you don’t need so many words at all. In the case of “Sun”, one is sufficient.
Hookworms – Since We Had Changed
Drowned in Sound loved Pearl Mystic, naming it album of the year. I was more reserved, but have to admit that for this playlist it has certainly risen to the occasion, providing the marvellously stoned “Since We Had Changed”.
Pantha Du Prince & The Bell Laboratory – Spectral Split
Appearing on the 2012 collaboration Elements of Light, Spectral Split combines the nuanced drift of German producer Hendrik Weber with Norwegian percussion collective The Bell Laboratory, whose instruments include a 50-bell 3-tonne carillon. Tell me you don’t think that sounds intriguing. Again, headphones are your friend here, but if you happen to know a vast and empty cathedral in your neighbourhood with a stunning sound system, you might like to give that a go.
The Boo Radleys – Sparrow
It’s one of my oh-so-funny and oft-repeated playlist jokes to follow a very long track with a very short one, or something to switch up the mood in a moment. That’s why Sparrow follows Spectral Split. And it’s place at the half-way point of the playlist is symoblic – a throwback to a time when this was my go-to track for filling small spaces at the end of the first side of a mix-tape.