Monday, 31 December 2012

Dark Times - Girl Hate EP

One band that I totally forgot to include on the 2012 list is Dark Times, from Norway. They were introduced to me on a final night in Berlin by my friend Maren, who gave me their Dark Times Tape recordings to accompany my flight back to the UK, and it's continued to follow me on travels ever since.

It's the kind of music that is either still being largely overlooked, or has slowly diminished since the late 80's/early 90's heyday, I'm not sure which I'd plump for. But it's certainly been missed in every sense. Forceful, heavy, raw and loud, and with a frontwoman who you wouldn't wanna mess with, Dark Times aren't concerned with any kind of vacuous postering or blind messages of blurred ideals. The lyrical content drives forward alongside the chugging bass and guitars; titles like 'He's A Slut', 'Dead Meat', 'Worlds Away' and 'Talk Too Much' give hints at the unease and anger that focusses the music. Like Sauna Youth's Dreamlands, Dark Times see the world for what it is, rather than conjuring up nostalgic or fanciful imagery ("Every conversation turns out the same/Waste of breath and time, slowly driving me insane").

Their new EP, Girl Hate, sees their sound and structure sharpened, the tempo upped and the fury heightened (and Maren did the artwork!). There's something about the delivery and the sound that makes me feel like a wide-eyed, pissed off teen again, and not in any kind of patronising sense; it's stirring and fearless, and after being swamped with the mainstream stylised or clich├ęd 'punx', hearing something a little bit more genuine (and from a woman's POV) is welcomed.

The tape is available for FREE here and you can buy the 'Girl Hate' EP here.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

2012 : Personal Best

Cutting the past 365 days of music down into the highlights has been a tough one, not only because there has been a wealth to pick from, but because despite hearing hundreds upon hundreds of new releases, I've tried to cut it down to a small amount of records that kept me coming back again and again. Some I was lucky enough to work on and so got fully immersed in, and others just found their way onto my record player month after month and will always hold memories of special times.

Usually I have trouble picking a number one, but this year it's been easy. I kind of glossed over them back at the beginning of the summer as I couldn't spare the time to give them the write-up they deserve, but Pond win it fair and square. The Great Escape was a feast of new music (as usual), but catching them by chance for a spectacularly warm midday set in the Republic Of Music courtyard was the luckiest find. I hadn't gotten around to checking the record out, but as soon as they launched into their opening song, it was like seeing a favourite band for the first time; totally uninhibited, loose and loud, blasting away the hangovers of the bleary onlookers as though it was a headline set, rather than a matinee performance to a crowd of twenty. We all caught them again in the evening, and ended up catching them in London the week after, too, and Beard, Wives, Denim and their earlier record Frond were my go-to records for the rest of the year. 

As always, this list will be a bit patchy as memories fade in and out of view, but here's a quick rundown...

Noteworthy Albums:

Pond - Beard, Wives, Denim
Grass Widow - Internal Logic 
Sauna Youth - Dreamlands 
Cold Pumas - Persistent Malaise
Talk Normal - Sunshine
Disappears - Pre Language
The Soft Pack - Strapped
Chain And The Gang - In Cool Blood
Prinzhorn Dance School - Clay Class
Lotus Plaza - Spooky Action at a Distance
Martha Wainwright - Come Home To Mama
Bos Angeles - Taking Out The Trash
Grimes - Visions
Tame Impala - Lonerism
Melody's Echo Chamber - Melody's Echo Chamber
The Men - Open Your Heart
Dinosaur Jr - I Bet On Sky
John Talabot - fIN
Tamaryn - Tender New Signs
Moon Duo - Circles
Slowcoaches - We're So Heavy EP
Stealing Sheep - Into The Diamond Sun
Kindness - World, You Need A Change Of Mind

Noteworthy Songs:

Corin Tucker - Groundhog Day
Novella - Mary's Gun
Mazes - Bodies
Tamaryn - I'm Gone
Deptford Goth - Life After Defo
Areca Grove - Colour Test
Keel Her - Riot Grrrl
Lana Del Rey - Video Games
TOY - Left Myself Behind

New Finds:

Keel Her
Vision Fortune
Dark Times
Milk Music
The Soft Walls
Edible Arrangements
Royal Limp

The Best of 2012:

Setting up One Beat Digital PR
The (kind of) return of Bikini Kill, with Bikini Kill Records
John Talabot, The Men, Mudhoney, Bleached, Wild Beasts & more at Primavera Sound
Wanda Jackson at Latitude
Chain And The Gang at the Blind Tiger, Brighton in November
Trip to Berlin to see Maren
Getting FEATURE off the ground
The Sauna Youth & Cold Pumas' tour
Mission of Burma at Birthdays
Psychedelic Psyblings' blog
Patti Schemel at the ICA
Day out in Whitby
Visits to the Daytrotter studio
FINALLY finding Live Through This on vinyl for cheap!

Looking forward to in 2013:

Playing a show with Verity Susman
Mazes' album
The Julie Ruin
Dinosaur Jr live in London
Deerhunter ATP (and seeing The Breeders for the first time!)
More travelling


Monday, 17 December 2012

Sauna Youth - False Jesii Pt II / Oh Joel

Way back in the early months of 2011, a single Soundcloud link was mysteriously shared by a band calling themselves 'Distractions'. The track was a cover of Pissed Jeans' 'False Jesii Pt II'; a totally sweetened version with the shouts swapped for harmonies, bathed in the soft distortion of C86 and lightened melodies. I listened to it so often than I almost ended up forgetting it was a cover, as it grew to be a brilliant pop song in its own right.

And now, the mystery is no more - Distractions was a side project of two Sauna Youths, and now the band are releasing it as their very own via Static Shock Records on Jan 21st. The 7" will be backed with 'Oh Joel', an entirely new song that continues to delve into the Slumberland sound.

Stream 'em both here...

And come to the Garage in Islington on Wednesday 19th December for the record release show! Human Hair, Vision Fortune and Edible Arrangements support.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Deptford Goth - Union

Though little is still known about the mysterious figure that manifests as Deptford Goth, Daniel Woodhouse certainly has the uncanny ability to of writing music that is at once emotionally tugging and gloriously uplifting. With his pure voice and use of space in sound, he forms music that is a whole world of its own; intimate, involving and able to light up even the darkest December day.

Though recent song 'Life After Defo' was regarded as the peak of his output so far, the new video for 'Union' shows that there is plenty more to be heard, with a delicate delivery and softly building hooks.

His debut full-length is due for release by Merok Records in early 2013.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Unwound - Live Leaves

Take a deep breath, close your eyes and set the speakers to the limit - Unwound's live set is now ready to be fed into your ears. Recordings from the band's 2001 tour of the US are soon to be released to the public for the first time as 'Live Leaves'; a last document from a band that imploded during their live run in 2001.

Though always brittle and menacing in sound, these recordings capture a darker feeling - the tour ended up being wrapped around 9/11, and the world's paranoia and fear is deep seated in the tense and relentless delivery of each song.

Justin Trosper has said, "Prior to [9/11], we had good energy, but we were still working out how to play the songs as a five-piece. Then, for whatever reason, we rocked hard for like a week in the south. Survival instincts kept us alive for a bit afterward, but during the California leg of the tour we self-destructed, and eventually we decided to cancel our European and Japanese tours."

And as well as holding a tension, the recordings also act as a sonic time machine - you can hear the clinking of beer glasses being thrown away behind the bar, the applause and whistles from the crowd and the introductions from the stage. All that's missing is the sticky floor.

Unwound have always been one of the greats of the 90's post-hardcore scene, and though they may sometimes be overlooked, they are one of the most essential bands on the Kill Rock Stars roster. In the words of Trosper, "if you're an old friend, welcome back. If you're new -- here's to you. Thanks for finding us." May their legacy continue to inspire and to reign.

Stream 'Live Leaves' over at Pitchfork.