Tag Archives: Indie Rock

Julia Jacklin’s Latest LP Tackles Growth, Love, and Wanting to Be Alone

Julia Jacklin

Photo by Nick Mckk

Two songs into her sophomore album, Crushing, Julia Jacklin stands up for herself. “I don’t want to be touched all the time,” she sings on the country-ish rocker “Head Alone.” Later in that same song, she powerfully reinforces that sentiment, shouting, “I’ll say it ‘til he understands / You can love somebody without using your hands!”

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This Week’s Essential Releases: Hardcore Punk, Glitch Pop, Indie Rock and More

7 essentials

Welcome to Seven Essential Releases, our weekly roundup of the best music on Bandcamp. Each week, we’ll recommend six new albums that were released between last Friday and this Friday, plus pick an older LP from the stacks that you may have missed.

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Album of the Day: Sharon Van Etten, “Remind Me Tomorrow”

Remind Me Tomorrow is technically Sharon Van Etten’s first album in four years, although she’s certainly kept herself busy in the interim personally (the birth of her first child last year) and professionally (her recent, unexpected turn to acting, kickstarted by a starring role on the Netflix drama The OA). She also revealed in a recent interview that she demoed over 40 songs for this album, opting to record the most experimental tracks with producer John Congleton to make Remind Me Tomorrow. Here, Van Etten trades the gothic Americana instrumentation of her past records for an assortment of prepossessing synth sounds, the range of which is vast without sounding scattered or without focus. (Nor does she lose the signature darkness that’s shaded her prior work.)

“I Told You Everything” begins with a pulsating hum, contrasted quickly by a striking piano, as Van Etten sings simply, “Sitting at the bar, I told you everything… You said, ‘Holy shit.’” This casually-direct, occasionally-caustic lyrical approach has played an intrinsic role in Van Etten’s art from the start; her most recent effort, 2014’s excellent Are We There, showcased a particularly intimate feel. Remind Me Tomorrow, too, strikes a balancing act between personal pain and universal sentiment, to transcendent effect: on the B-side ballad “Malibu,” she sings of “the little red car that don’t belong to you” with a shaky conviction that is impossibly romantic. Her layered harmonies, something she’s become notable for over her career, weave with particular grace through the piano pop of “Seventeen,” her “love letter to New York,” the video for which features places important to her over the time she’s lived in the city.

Remind Me Tomorrow is a great leap into new territory for Van Etten stylistically, but there isn’t a single moment of distrust in her abilities as a songwriter to be found—nor is there any mistaking her trademark voice.

Allison Crutchfield

How Joining Real Estate Restarted Julian Lynch’s Solo Career

Julian Lynch

For five years, Julian Lynch might have been described as prolific.

In 2009, after releasing a few songs himself, he became one of the first acts on Underwater Peoples, the label of some college pals that soon became a low-key tastemaker at the intersection of indie rock and experimental abstraction. On a steady stream of singles, splits, and albums, that was an apt summary of Lynch’s entire approach, too—soft-focus pop songs and oddball instrumental curios, strung together like oversized Christmas lights, left twinkling long after the holiday.  Continue reading

Album of the Day: T-Rextasy, “Prehysteria”

At first listen, Prehysteria, the latest album from T-Rextasy, appears to be written lovingly by the band, for the band. (At least, those dinosaur puns seem designed to crack themselves up.) Like the NYC-based band’s sound in general, this punchy record could be loosely, lazily categorized as a post-punk LP, at least until you dig deeper. The group, which consists of vocalist Lyris Faron, guitarist Vera Kahn, bassist Annie Fidoten, and drummer Ebun Nazon-Powe, have previously named in interviews a varying cluster of influences, ranging from The Bags and Johnny Cash to Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Avril Lavigne. Album highlight “Coffee?” is a direct product of those broad tastes, with the band fluctuating between ’70s punk, funk, ska, and a pop breakdown that easily could’ve come from a lost, decade-old Ke$ha song. Later, on “Baby,” they use sugary harmonies and reverbed-out snare drum to tap into the overwhelming sweetness of a ‘60s girl group, a compelling counterbalance for the shaggy indie-rock riffs. The production is a little on the lo-fi side, conjuring images of a dirty, energetic Brooklyn warehouse practice space that’s littered with paper coffee cups and filled with laughter.

There’s a theatricality to T-Rextasy’s lyrical style that feels brassy (and maybe even a little corny) at times, and the music is all the more charming for it: Take “The Zit Song,” where Faron chronicles a particularly bad acne breakout to shape her central message of affirmation: “‘Cause I’m the prom queen, I’m the teen dream, worship me baby, when you see me you’ll scream.” From vintage shopping to zits to high school to dating apps, the subject matters on Prehysteria often teeter on the line between frivolous and fun-loving. The humor the quartet incorporate is refreshing, calling back to queercore icons Pansy Division—not just in its discussion of sexuality, but in its overarching, joyful camp. In times like these, when the world feels absolutely bleak, it’s invigorating to hear T-Rextasy focus on the little things while having so much fun—with us, with each other, and most importantly, with the music that they’re making.

Allison Crutchfield

Album of the Day: Khana Bierbood, “Strangers From the Far East”

 

On their latest album, Khana Bierbood call themselves Strangers from the Far East, but there’s something strangely familiar about the Thai quintet’s debut LP. Throwing garage rock, surf, and psychedelic pop into one delightfully lo-fi mix, the seven-track album recalls the warm, radiating vibes of the ’60s and early ’70s, yet the consistent influence of traditional music from Thailand serves to inject its common inspirations with a refreshingly uncommon edge.

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Artist Reflections: Say Sue Me on Becoming a Full-Time Band in 2018

Say Sue Me-1244-1For our “Artist Reflections” series, we asked artists responsible for some of the year’s best records to discuss a topic that’s been close to their hearts over the last 12 months. In this piece, Say Sue Me discuss the ups and downs of making music their job.

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Hidden Gems: Smoke, “Heaven on a Popsicle Stick”

hidden gemsIn our series Hidden Gems, writers share their favorite Bandcamp discoveries.

Nearly 20 years have gone by since Benjamin Smoke (known to most solely by his first name) passed away. A fixture in Atlanta’s underground music scene who was openly and proudly gay, he counted Patti Smith and Michael Stipe among his fans, yet this cult figure has yet to receive mainstream acclaim. His idiosyncratic lyrics and achingly beautiful instrumentation juxtapose with the unconventional nature of his voice to create music so strangely intimate, it feels like it’s confiding its deepest, darkest secrets in you. Anyone wanting a glimpse into Bejamin’s one-of-a-kind creative mind should watch Jem Cohen and Peter Sillen’s haunting documentary, Benjamin Smoke, and listen to his band’s extremely worthwhile first album, Heaven on a Popsicle Stick.

Let’s get one thing out of the way: Benjamin sounds like Tom Waits. Both musicians have gruff voices that creak like basement steps in a home that’s long been condemned; upon first listen, Heaven could easily pass for a lost Waits album. But the longer one sticks with the LP, the more personal and unique Benjamin’s voice becomes, both in terms of sound and message: who else would think to write a song about a photo of Luke Perry’s feet (the aptly-titled “Luke Perry’s Feet”), turning it into a stunningly poignant examination of the human condition? (“This glossy, brushed picture of Luke Perry’s feet keeps me on my toes, so to speak.”) What could be a novelty song about a ’90s teen idol becomes a wounded and brilliant ballad.

Though it was released five years prior to Benjamin’s death (and was followed by 1995’s Another Reason to Fast), Heaven feels, ultimately, like a musical postmortem. Benjamin lived with HIV and amphetamine addiction, before succumbing to liver failure as a result of Hepatitis C on January 29, 1999, a day after he turned 39. Make no mistake, this album hurts. He seems less preoccupied with the potential of the great beyond and more with the traumas of the here and now. The rich, baroque instrumentation, including cello and horns, amplifies, not distracts from, the pains Benjamin was experiencing, be they physical, emotional, or on another plane entirely. The tense strings and exuberant horns of opener “Hole” (in which he describes falling asleep, in love, and finally, into, a hole) evokes the sensation of being so wracked with problems, your only means of recreation is letting obsessive thoughts cycle through your mind incessantly. Even moments of joy aren’t so comforting. “These exciting, giddy moments, well, they’re hell to explain,” Benjamin laments on “Awake.” Album closer “Curtains” is an extended emotional tremor—a tearjerker if ever there was one. “Believe me, I had rather cry in my mirror and keep this to myself and drive far away from here until somehow I lose myself,” Benjamin confesses against plaintive banjo and strings that keep up with the dramatic intensity of his vocals, which sound like they’re self-immolating towards the end.

Heaven on a Popsicle Stick is an album that hits unexpectedly, its impact strong and multifaceted. The world it creates isn’t the happiest, but it’s one of an absolutely uncanny beauty.

-Brody Kenny