New Borns this week covers a few genre bases and geographical regions, enough to keep things remarkably fresh. From the less known Shadow Band who are signed to the excellent Secretly Canadian label, to Crystal Fairy a super group of sorts. Clay Your Hands Say Yeah continue to deliver a fair slice of avante-garde pop and King Gizzard deliver what you would expect from them by now. Another week of finely delivered New Borns.
Title: Wilderness of Love
Label: Mexican Summer
Genre: Indie, alternative
Moments Of: Fleet Foxes, Wilco
Stand Out: Endless Night
Wilderness of Love falls instantly into a deep, swirling landscape of enchanted sunsets and rambling forests. The songwriting is brought to life by thoughtful folk-revival production that will entice Fleet Foxes fans and then some. With its folk/blues feel and dark undertones, Wilderness is a promising release from the Philadelphia based outfit.
The collection of songs on Shadow Band’s Wilderness of Love is short and spooky, nostalgic for seasons gone by. Images of the natural world overlap with sentiments of devotion and love, sound tracked by bedroom-style recordings of sparse rhythms and ambient verses. Recorded as a collaborative project in a big old house in Philadelphia, Wilderness of Love is weighted with a ghostly presence. Mike Bruno is the brain behind the song writing, and forges a world stood in wintertime. Both sonically and visually, the record’s trajectory moves from a folk beginning to a more bluesy vibe in the final tracks.
‘Indian Summer’ is truly cinematic, with bells and a blues slide, while ‘Morning Star’ is a dusty cowboy with a Western swagger. Tambourines slide in and out like rattle snakes on ‘Eagle Unseen’ while the rollicking ‘Mad John’ almost feels like Parquet Courts. A Wilco influence appears throughout the record in the understated vocals paired with a folky base of light percussion and crackling guitars. But the tone of Wilderness remains consistent: filled with flute lines, reverby vocals and strange, wonderful imagery of a mystical world not quite our own.
Album Title: Dirty Projectors
Genre: Art-pop, Art-rock
Moments Of: Animal Collective, Bon Iver
Stand Outs: Ascent Through Clouds, Cool Your Heart, Keep Your Name
Dirty Projectors are back, but not like we know them. Now Dirty Projectors belongs to David Longstreth, and while he could let the projector sit in the attic and collect dust, the Brooklynite has chosen to play on, using context as his lens.
If anyone has the right to create a breakup album, it’s David Longstreth, and while the departure of a few band members over time in no way form the basis for heartbreak music, the eventual separation of long-time collaborator and girlfriend Amber Coffman is fuel enough for Longstreth’s fire. Possibly one of the most impressive parts of the self-titled LP is the fact that Coffman was such an integral ingredient for past success in Dirty Projector songs. Her vocals being a massive part of making the band sound more palatable and accessible on their 6th LP Bitte Orca, offering respite from Longstreth art-pop ways. But now, in the absence of her and anyone else Longstreth manages to create something that is unequivocally his; even if it seems a one-sided narrative.
The seven-minute ‘Ascent Through The Clouds’ is possibly the best reflection of Longstreth’s individual musicality with obscurity. This bi-polar experiment consists of strings and auto-tune which eventually give way to a skittering internet dial-up tone, made audible with a backing beat. Each arrangement is propulsive in its own obscure way, showing his ability as a composer, rather than relying on personal narrative. The next song ‘Cool Your Heart’ being a perfect mix of the two.
The new Dirty Projectors seems to work well. The album as a whole appears to forge experimental electronica into a seaworthy vessel for Longstreth’s conceptual reflection, which is a hard thing to do. But what’s even harder is succeeding at making it approachable for listeners who have no doubt also experienced heartbreak.
Title: New Spirit
Moments Of: Solar Bears, Holy Fuck
Stand Out: Morning Mist, Rock is Land Bend
After nearly 20 years and five albums of fairly innovative electronica, PVT must come close to qualifying as a great Australian band. Unfortunately, longevity may have somewhat dulled them, with New Spirit comes an album that tries to find its place and purpose within their own catalog.
They might not make the same racket as they used to, but their brand of futuristic gothic electronic is just as endearing. Album opener ‘Spirit of Plains’ demonstrates building and intertwining melodic changes that result in a pleasingly haunting ballad.
Lead single ‘Another life’ sees an impressive array of electronic drums that is aggressively bizzare. The track feels very organic in its origin. The worldly escalating of through the mixture of percussion is fairly engaging but fails to hit any sought of crescendo.
The group’s ability to create a journey is heard in the centerpiece ‘Morning Mist, Rock is Land Bend’. The Title is a trippy as the song sounds, but there is a certain structure to it that is incredibly hypnotic. The brooding synth lines that escalate into a track that could rival Rufus’s ‘Innerbloom.’
New Spirit may not have many club bangers, however PVT still manage to produce listenable electronic music. Much of the record seems tense and but tightly produced thus staying true to PVT’s hallmarks that have given them such a long career.
Title: Crystal Fairy
Moments Of: Black Sabbath
Stand Out: Crystal Fairy
The world will never have enough female-fronted rock ‘n’ roll. Riding the zeitgeist, Crystal Fairy delivers a big, unapologetic collection of old-school head bangers on their self-titled record. The new band is in fact a supergroup venture, formed from members of At the Drive In, Melvins and The Mars Volta. Teri Gender Bender of naughties Mexican punk band Le Butcherettes lends her voice to become the front woman of this rocking project.
The imagery is brutal: a girl cuts her eyes out with a tree branch on ‘Drugs on the Bus’. The sound is relentless and steeped in rock glory: a crash accentuates every bar on the menacing ‘Moth Tongue’. Crystal Fairy is a fantastic rock record, though fairly traditional when compared to the band members’ penchant for artful sounds. With a line up of well-known rockers, Crystal Fairy have a sound that nurtures the roots of rock and roll. At first listen Crystal Fairy is forty minutes of unrelenting rock, but the record is actually quite nuanced.
The album embodies a heavier sound with tracks like ‘Bent Teeth’ and steers pretty clear of any modern pop influence. Instead, the songs explode with distorted power chords and drum fills that draw parallels from Black Sabbath to Queens of the Stone Age.
The pace of the record doesn’t slow until about midway through, when pulsing, riff-driven ‘Under Trouble’ gives room for listeners to properly absorb the super weapon that is Teri’s voice. The title track is a highlight; with a guitar sound so thick it almost makes your hair stand on end. The musicianship is flawless, and the icing on the cake has to be the vocals. Crystal Fairy bears the unmistakeable mark of musicians that know what they’re doing, having cut their teeth playing all kinds of rock for years and years. Somehow their pasts all fit together to form a record that is very much of the now.
Album Title: Flying Microtonal Banana
Label: Flightless/Remote Control
Moments Of: Thee Oh Sees, Muse
Stand Outs: Open Water, Billabong Valley, Nuclear Fusion
As far as endeavours go, five albums in a year is quite the venture. King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard have set the bar high, yet if anyone is capable it’s them. Their first checkpoint being Flying Microtonal Banana an album bound by the concept of microtonal tuning, and exploring notes that are less than a semitone apart.
The opening track of Flying Microtonal Banana, ‘Rattlesnake’ is almost plucked straight from Nonagon Infinity. But, taking it as a precursor for what to expect is a forgivable mistake. Instead what it is, is a portal (potentially a method of transport in the Gizzverse) whereby listeners fall down an escape chute, releasing them from the consistent whirlwind rhythms of Nonagon Infinity and into a world more expansive and unexplored.
Flying Microtonal Banana is at it’s best when this expanse causes trepidation. The most obvious example of this being the isolated ‘Open Water’ with the circling “Kraken” materialised by the layered guitars, bass and drums of the septet. The Australianised spaghetti western stylings of ‘Billabong Valley’ with its blaring zurna also manage to paint a picture worthy of apprehension “Bloodthirsty/Tendencies/Anti-Authority/Mad Dog Morgan/He never gave a warning”. The narratives feel cinematic, despite repetition being one of the Giz’s main weapons, an unforgiving choice in film.
If Nonagon Infinity was the mind loop keeping listeners in a confused daze, then Flying Microtonal Banana is a dystopia likened to Stephen King’s The Gunslinger which they wake into. Regardless of its inability to totally transfix you like Nonagon, the reality and danger of Banana feel present in many forms; the Kraken, a Gunslinger, Nuclear Radiation. This makes for a scenic album that might seem random, but it’s actually the canvassing of a wider world King Gizzard effortlessly take their listeners to with their unmatchable creativity in sound.
You can also begin speculating as to what’s next for the band, presenting this teaser on the day of Flying Microtonal Bananas release:
Clap Your Hands And Say Yeah return with their now staple, kooky brand of indie rock. The Tourist delivers as a collection of cuts like a mixed bag, poppy tunes that are merged with the array of recognizable hallmarks that have given the group such a prolific catalog.
Last remaining member Alec Ounsworth’s fifth album begins with a promise of change. Album opener The Pilot is a luscious acoustic guitar driven ballad that explores solid musical progression. No matter how many albums Clap your hands and say yeah put out they never lose the strange excitement of how this brand of rock will sound.
Ounswroth’s emotional whine has perfected with time. You’ll either love it or vehemently dislike it. On tracks like ‘Better Of’ he sounds like Thom Yorke’s petulant offspring, which of course is an unsurprising effective tool for the creation of edgy hypnotic indie rock tunes.
Lyrically the album is dominated by a sense of sadness and unease. Ounsworth has described how he made the record at a particularly challenging time in his life, and that it was a cathartic process. It’s not hard to detect such difficulties in lyrics that posit “better off lonely/better this than nothing.”
The Tourist is an album that knows when to pummel and when to pause for breath. The is one of Clap your hands and say yeah most satisfying records to date.