Title: Ego Trip
Artist: Dylan Ewen
Dylan Ewen // Alt 2013
Boston noisemaker Dylan Ewen is back with a four-song EP of carbonated fuzz pop. Last fall Dylan put out his album Fort Worthless, a cheeky little album full of snotty youthful angst that I liked a whole lot.
Following in the same vein as that album, this new EP Alt 2013 touches on a lot of the same subjects: girls, failed relationships, self-deprecation and occultic imagery as reappropriated by a third-grader. He even follows up “You’re a Bitch” from Fort Worthless with “You’re a Bitch Pt 2 (Still a Bitch).” So that shows you a bit where Dylan is coming from. As with Fort Worthless, everything here has to be taken with a grain of salt. There’s a thread of humor and self-awareness that runs through all of Dylan’s music that makes any of the perceived immaturity go down easy. Basically it’s just a fun, catchy collection of songs that don’t take themselves too seriously. So you shouldn’t either.
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Artist: Trace Mountains
Trace Mountains // “Salty/Sweet”
Oh, Dave. Ohhhh, Dave. Dave Benton. Dave Benton who also plays in LVL UP and Spook Houses. That Dave. He’s killing me.
In addition to the aforementioned bands, Dave also runs passionate New York indie label Double Double Whammy. So he’s a busy guy. Somewhere along the lines though he found time to steal away and record some solo material under the name Trace Mountains. Though only two of the tracks have surfaced so far, they are excellent. Sticking to the acoustic guitar and hushed vocals, the songs can be summed up in one word: bittersweet. In other words it’s the kind of music that makes you happy and sad at the same time, but you can’t exactly put into words why. So I’m not going to try.
PS - Is that someone playing the saw at the end of “Salty/Sweet”? Please tell me that’s someone playing the saw.
PPS - Dave also said that these tracks are going to be seeing some form of release on Double Double Whammy in the future. So there’s that to look forward to.
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NUDITY // Supernatty 7”
The quirky and eternally-ungoogleable Nashville duo NUDITY are back with a new 7” following last year’s quite good Heavy Petting EP. If you couldn’t already tell from the wibbly-wobbly artwork above, this 7” is seeing a release through AMDISCS. The label where apparently seapunk and vaporwave go to crossbreed.
On Heavy Petting, Duane and Michelle seemed most happy when they were hopping from style to style like a quick-change sideshow act. It initially came off as a bit manic to me, but once I tuned into the frequency I was all for it. Surprisingly the two tracks on the Supernatty 7” eschew that typical genre restlessness for something rather consistent. That being said the two tracks on this thing are the grungiest/sludgiest tracks that the band has released to date. And yet they are still poppy enough that you wanna chew them like bubblegum and, who knows, maybe even dance to them.
NUDITY hasn’t had a huge online presence yet, but if they continue to crank out quality music like they have been there is no reason why that shouldn’t change in the not-so-distant future. Their production is always good, they know their way around a hook, and they most certainly understand what it is to have a good time. Those who share a similar sentiment would do well to check them out.
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メトロノリ // 回り
I have tried but I cannot seem to remember where I found this little gem. I know that it was on some obscure and probably weird blog, but I can’t seem to retrace my steps to it. Just know that I didn’t find this on my own, although I wish I had.
OK, now I’m going to do my best to described this album to you, but I can tell you right now that I am going to fall short. メトロノリ (translated Metoronori) is the solo project of a rather creative girl from Japan. I’m strapped for much info outside of that simply because I don’t read Japanese. So for now, all I’m going on is the somewhat bizarre yet enchanting music.
Metoronori utilizes simplistic synth work overtop experimental percussion. The “beats” are clicks, thumps, scratches, and whirrs made up of (I can only imagine) stuff found lying around her house. The vocals then lay like a feather on top of the instrumental constructions; sometimes barely matching the meter of the music at all. The gentle cooing and spoken word vocals can barely be described as singing, and yet they are absolutely gorgeous. It probably has a lot to do with the already poetic nature of the Japanese language, but whatever it is it has me totally entranced.
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Artist: Shy Boys
Shy Boys // “Ride” / “Julia”
So I’m just going to spare myself the heartbreak and assume that the formation of Shy Boys is the final nail in the coffin as far as COOLRUNNINGS is concerned. If for whatever reason I am wrong please someone let me know.
Shy Boys is the new project from lovable weirdo Brandon Biondo (COOLRUNNINGS, Walsh) along with vocalist Nichole McMinn. I knew that the project was something special when Brandon broke self-deprecating character on his Twitter account long enough to talk about how good he thought these new tracks were. And I’m inclined to agree with him. Production-wise, songwriting-wise, vibes-wise this is the best stuff he’s put out to date. And this is coming from a googly-eyed fan so you know I mean it. There is enough beach twang here without coming off as kitschy and the vocal melodies are sweet enough without being saccharine. Let’s just say that I’m eagerly anticipating the full-length that Brandon teased about on Twitter. Now go and leave me alone, my brother just brought home bagels.
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Title: Free Weed
Artist: Gnar Tapes
Free Weed // On the Moon / Get It 2Nite
The only thing Erik Gage, the ultimate musical savant burnout, does more than smoke weed is record music. He records as or with The Memories, White Fang, and Free Weed and his output is… hefty. As Free Weed, Erik has bounced around from tape label to tape label for all of his various releases. In addition to releasing stuff through Gnar Tapes (his own label), he has also put out tapes through Lillerne Tapes, Beer On the Rug, Burger Records, and now Exo Tapes as well. See what I mean?
His latest release, the double-EP On the Moon / Get It 2Nite, is not only the most conventional release that Exo has ever put out, but it’s also a step up in Free Weed’s songwriting. The two halves certainly have their own flavors but they are brought together under Erik’s personal mantra as heard on “I Wanna Do Drugs Again” when he sings “Take me home. Get me stoned.” It might seem a bit single-minded unless you are looking at it as a tongue-in-cheek commentary on marijuana culture. Yes, I’m sure that Erik loves smoking weed. Probably a lot. But do I think that it is literally all he does as his songs would have you believe? No. So with that in mind, have a listen to this goofy release, bop your head to the catchy melodies, but don’t take it too seriously. Lord know he doesn’t.
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Title: Ryan Rowley
Artist: Donovan Wolfington
Donovan Wolfington // Stop Breathing
This album has been out on Bandcamp for a few weeks now, but the vinyl release isn’t until later this month (on Broken World & Community Records). So I’m hitting it right in the sweet spot between the two. I’ve actually had the album in my iTunes for a few months since the band intentionally “leaked” it to me as a good-natured joke late last year. So since it’s now out in the open for everyone else to hear I have no reservations in saying: Donovan Wolfington, I love you. xoxo.
Now they aren’t tagged as “emo” on their Bandcamp, but they certainly fit in with some of the better emo revivalist band of the last few years like Grown Ups, William Bonney, Old Gray, and even Snowing. That might seem like high praise, but I mean it. The kids in Donovan Wolfington have done their homework, their sound is tight, they have youthful energy pouring out of every orifice, they aren’t afraid to push the genre a bit, and they have the songwriting chops to back all of this up. Their debut album Stop Breathing comes on the heels of a few promising singles and is one of the more rounded punk releases I’ve heard this year. They know when to push the noise, screaming, veins pulsing in their throats; but they also know when to take their foot off the gas pedal and embellish the tracks with instrumentation and melody. It’s got the goods and it’s in no hurry to lay them all out on the table at once. So grab a copy of this album, take it as it comes, and just enjoy what this fun-loving band has to serve up.
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Anna Hillburg // Anna Hillburg
Here’s a nice change of pace from the stuff I’ve been posting lately. Out of the vibrant San Francisco music scene comes the debut solo album from Anna Hillburg. The talented multi-instrumentalist is also a member of Dreamdate and has lent her talents to acts like The Dodos, The Fresh & Onlys, and Greg Ashley. Her self-titled album is a nice little amalgamation of various homespun music genres and is probably the warmest, most comfortable thing I’ve heard so far this year. You know that old sweater that’s covered in pills, snags and stains and yet it is your default choice on a chilly night? This album is that sweater.
I grew up on a steady diet of the music of Patsy Cline, Joni Mitchell, and Janis Joplin; and while Anna Hillburg doesn’t particularly sound like any of those ladies they are most assuredly her kindred spirits. There is a classic, laid-back vibe to this whole album as it moseys the grocery aisles of varying genres nonchalantly filling a shopping cart at will. A little folk here; some garage, pop, and country there; oh, don’t forget the doo-wop. It’s all touched on here in the most natural of manners and it blends really organically as well. In some ways it reminds of me of the music of one of my other favorite San Francisco bands: The Sandwitches. In other words, I’m in love.
Anna Hillburg is out now on California Clap Records.
Moth Vegas // MV004
Big thanks to Jordan Caulfield (High Pop,Kid/Astro) for sending this my way. His roommate is in this experimental audio/visual project called Moth Vegas (check out their site for the visual half, I guess). Jordan says that “words can’t really describe their sound. Other than psychedelic. It’s electronic, but also not.” Listening to it I can
see hear exactly what he means. It’s like the guys recorded these wonky guitar pop jams and then force-fed them through a janky old computer. Random, weird samples run rampant; the vocals sound like they are bubbling up through a crusty aquarium; and the more I try to wrap my hands around it the more it slips right through my fingers.
It’s weird. It’s cool. It’s free to download (thanks to Analog Candle).
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Anamanaguchi // “Planet”
I’ve been dancing around to my latest obsession Anamanguchi all morning. So when I saw that the band posted another new track from their upcoming album Endless Fantasy this morning my head damn near exploded. (The first single from said album “MEOW” has been on almost constant rotation since I first heard it.) I’m telling you, man, May 14th can’t come soon enough.
This new song “Planet” is a relaxing pleasure cruise in comparison to the Pixy Stix-snorting sugar rush of “MEOW.” I never thought I’d be so enamored with an 8-bit-based synth project, but these guys craft tracks that are so well-rounded that any hint of a gimmick is glossed over with expert songcraft. That seems a bit strange to think about when talking about chiptune, but they make it work and they have a ton of silly fun in the process. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
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T☯☯NS // [Demo] EP
(This one is gonna be quick because I’m still sick and recovering from SXSW.)
I’ve learned that when Double Double Whammy says that something is good I’d better sit up and pay attention. They’ve been mentioning Brooklyn band T☯☯NS periodically for weeks leading up to the band’s demo release last week. Apparently the band will also be releasing a split 10” with the object(s) of my obsession LVL UP later this year as well. Good vibes all around.
The band plays a laid-back brand of slacker pop that doesn’t sound lo-fi as much as it sounds like your catching it through the phone of a friend of yours who happens to be seeing the band play live. It’s a charming set of demos that is totally fitting of titles like “Grumpy Beach” and “Lame.” You see this stuff is sort of like brain bubblegum. It tastes really good and chewing on it is a lot of fun, but don’t expect the flavor to last too long.
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Juan Wauters // “Sanity”
Here’s a new track called “Sanity” from Juan Wauters, who also happens to be the “leader of The Beets.” I can confidently say that The Beets have consistently been one of my favorite bands over the last few years so the idea of hearing some solo stuff from Juan was enticing to say the least.
The track finds Juan is some pretty familiar material (even down to the guitar strum patterns) albeit with a renewed sense of production. The Beets used to sound like they recorded form underneath several layers of blankets, but with each successive album the band has boosted the recording quality. On “Sanity” Juan sounds like he’s sitting in the room with you. I’m digging the newfound clarity. The track also incorporates some *gasp* electric guitar work via a plucky yet simple guitar solo towards the end of the track. So while this isn’t much of a departure from his other material, Juan is really stepping into a slightly new realm with this one.
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Mirror Kisses // “Runaways”
I’m surprised that Mirror Kisses hasn’t blown up in a huge way yet. Frontman/songwriter/all around mastermind George Clanton puts all of himself into his tracks and holds absolutely nothing back. He’s got a monstrous voice in the vein of Tears for Fears or Echo & The Bunnymen and he always goes big. There’s no going home for this guy. If you’re a fan of huge songs and even huger choruses then you should already be begging at the Mirror Kisses table for scraps. Get a little taste of the glory. See what it tastes like.
In advance of his newest LP, George has dropped a new single called “Runaways.” In the spirit of his previous material, this new track is some unabashedly kitschy 1980’s synth pop worship. He knows how to build a track and even better he knows how to let it explode in a burst of shimmering sweat and smeared makeup. I’m also going to go out on a limb and say that this is the most assured that George has ever been. Mirror Kisses deals in the shameless indulgence of an era that many perceive to be corny, so it’s understandable if this isn’t exactly your speed. But for the pop music purist “Runaways” is a slice of fried gold in neon-colored lycra.
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Maston // Shadows
I was first introduced to the music of Maston (first name: Frank) through his track “Young Hearts” which he submitted to the PORTALS/Chill Mega Chill Summer Mixtape. We all loved that track so much that we thought it was a strong enough note to end the mixtape on. Fast forward over half a year and we have Maston’s new LP built around the promise of that fantastic track. All I can say is that I am in total awe of the songcraft evidenced on Shadows.
Back in 2010 The Morning Benders released a track that I’m sure many of you have heard called “Excuses.” Damn, what an amazing track. It was far and away my favorite song released that year and I listened to it hundreds of times. It was an expertly crafted homage to Phil Specter’s 1960’s-era genius that created a thick wall of sheer pop music glory. I say this because I have been grieving the band’s devolution to POP ETC., a cartoonish shadows of what they once were. When I listened to Maston’s Shadows I was elated to hear a similarly rich nod to 1960’s pop music that showed great attention to detail and lush instrumentation. It took me right back.
Now I’m not saying that Maston sounds exactly like The Morning Benders because he doesn’t. Maston’s reach exceeds the typical 1960’s pop influences by incorporating elements of psych, true surf, and even exotica in places. It’s a richly textured album that presents itself as a tightly conceived whole. Even the instrumental interludes thrill. When an artist throws a few instrumental tracks on an album like this they are typically more or less throwaway or filler, but on Shadows these bits are almost the best part. Throw some dust on top of them and they would be a few vinyl crackles away from being a true find on a thrift store record shelf. It’s not often that I fall so in love with an album upon first listen, but Maston has caused me to do just that. Look for this thing to pop up here again come year-end list season. I’m calling it now.
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Gabriel White // “What v2.0 Do”
Today Amdiscs dropped a new compilation of 71 fresh and exclusive tracks from new and upcoming artists. Among those artists are a few Cactus-Mouth regulars like Honeydrum, NUDITY, DannielRadall, and Horse Head. There is also a new solo track from Gabriel White, who also happens to be the lead vocalist for Yung Life.
The track titled “What v2.0 Do” is a bit of change of pace for Gabriel’s solo work. His 2011 album Relay was based largely around guitars, minimal synth work, and Gabriel’s voice. This new track feels much more like a restrained dissection of something Yung Life might put out. It’s a 1980’s-leaning pop song with soothing synth tones and handclaps-a-plenty. It’s a bit close to home base, but that’s in no way a bad thing. Here’s to hoping he’s got more up his sleeve for 2013.
(PS - The compilation overall is a lot to digest and honestly much of it doesn’t really seem to be the kind of stuff I typically go for, but then again there are so gems worth digging for.)
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