June 28, 2010
King of the Beach
2010 | Fat Possum
“I’m stuck in the sky / I’m never coming down,” shouts Nathan Williams on “Linus Spacehead.” It’s more of a sneer really—the bratty whine of a kid who still feels invincible. It was that kind of mentality that landed Williams, better known as Wavves, on stage at Barcelona’s Primavera Sound Festival last May hurling insults at the crowd and dodging flying beer bottles. It was a meltdown you’d expect from an aging rock star, not a 22-year-old who happened to have his
bedroom pop project declared the next big thing. Then again…
But that was over a year ago—in Internet years, a lifetime; Williams is like a seasoned vet at this point. Or at the very least he’s just hitting his prime, something more than evident on Wavves’ newest record, King of the Beach. While at heart Wavves is still the gritty, lo-fi pop-punk group they were on last year’s self-titled breakout, this new record is something completely different. The most noticeable thing: You can actually hear every instrument; the omnipresent, sometimes oppressive, wall of fuzz from Wavves’ first two records has been checked thanks to the simple luxury of having a studio in which to record. And the results are unsurprisingly wonderful.
As a songwriter, Williams has always been strong. On King of the Beach he churns out his usual array of slacker anthems with ease—powerhouse pop-punk gems based around three-maybe four-chord progressions that, this time around, retain just the right level of Wavves original bedroom aesthetic. But mixed in with these tracks are lazier, shoe-gazey cuts like “When Will You Come” and “Baseball Cards,” the latter droning along in hazy synths and vocals, but anchored by clean choral “sha la la’s.” One of the record’s most unexpected surprises is “Convertible Balloon,” a song that’s pure bubblegum doo-wop, carrying elements of “Under The Boardwalk” if The Drifters had smoked weed and played Nintendo all day.
May 13, 2010
At Echo Lake
2010 | Woodsist
It’s been a little over a year since Woods released their last album, 2009’s well-received Songs of Shame, a record of lo-fi folk that garnered the group some pretty significant attention and made them standouts among the rest of the fuzz-heavy Woodsist family (e.g. Wavves, Vivian Girls, et al.). Still, Woods has wasted no time following up Songs of Shame. Their fifth record, At Echo Lake, bears many similarities to the group’s previous releases (not that that’s necessarily a bad thing), but also finds them toying with their rustic-Brooklyn sound.
“Blood Dries Darker” kicks off the record with a sunny guitar lick and a distant tom-and-snare beat that’s right out of 1960’s San Francisco, before floating into an acoustic melody that would make Crosby, Stills, & Nash jealous. “Suffering Season,” one of the record’s highlights, sways effortlessly and cheerily, balancing James Earl’s fuzzed-out vocals and an overdriven electric guitar with steady acoustic strumming and crisp background chimes. “Who knows what tomorrow might bring?” Earl sings, his Neil Young-like falsetto still strong under the heavy bedroom production.
It’s songs like these that show Woods undoubtedly growing as musicians and songwriters. The melodies on At Echo Lake are infectious and never hard to distinguish amidst the wide range of instruments and noises that fade in and out of every song throughout the album. “Time Fading Lines” is, for the most part, hauntingly clean and open, but sporadically the song swells with clatter —“As the hours let go / Time fading lines creep into control” sings Earl, his voice stoic, as the drums grow and a wail of feedback crawls out of nowhere.
April 22, 2010
2010 | Captured Tracks
The May 25th release date for Brooklyn-based Beach Fossils‘ debut LP is more than apt. The record sounds like summer, so why not send it public on Memorial Day Weekend?
It’s a short record, and each track blends into the next. It’s difficult to distinguish them from each other. If there has to be a standout track on this record — and I’m hard pressed to find one, as the whole album sounds fairly cohesive — it’s likely “Youth,” where the vocal melody echoes beautifully, coasting along the surface of ringing, reverb-soaked guitars. The lyrics, unsurprisingly, are relatively ambivalent, “I don’t know just what I feel / But I feel it all tonight.”
December 11, 2009
Jay Reatard doesn’t seem to be having much luck with people lately. It’s been only two months since his rhythm section defected to Wavves (who’s frontman Nathan Williams is also far from a people person) and last night during a gig in Austin, Jay got attacked by two fans, in a place called Emo’s no less. The drunken pair were perturbed when Reatard, only forty minutes in, announced that the next would be his final song (apparently they weren’t aware that the garage popster is notorious for his short shows) and decided to take matters into their own hands.
When the first one rushed the stage, he gave little trouble to the bouncers, and the band admirably kept playing (though it’s unlikely it was as impressive as this). However, after the first’s initial failure, another fan must have felt for his drunken comrade and blindsided Reatard, actually getting a hit in. Reatard, luckily, wasn’t seriously injured. He retaliated with his mic stand angrily ended the gig, reportedly flicking off the audience as security took the attacker off stage.
Strangely, the two aggressors were apprehended after the show as the rest of the audience was leaving the building, meaning they stuck around to see if the show was actually finished. What was going through their heads, the possibility of Jay returning with a black eye, playing an encore for the guy who tried to punch him in the face and the guy who successfully punched him in the face? That the crowd would go wild, and our heroes would be praised for keeping the punk spirit alive? Surprisingly, no, that’s not what happened. They were promptly arrested.
Also, why did they think that a Jay Reatard show was a good place to throw down? Although Reatard’s pop isn’t pristine or anything, (you can hear some Stooges and The Jam in there), it’s hardly bringing back the days of 77. Some would like to use this incident to attest otherwise, but if this had happened in, say, D.C. during the early 80’s, would anyone have cared? Besides, fighting bands was a stupid byproduct of punk’s aggression to begin with. Everybody knows that if you are drunk and needlessly aggressive at a show, the right thing to do is find an opponent that is equally as drunk and needlessly aggressive as you are, not the band you paid money to see – didn’t anyone learn anything from their moms?
by Geoff Anstey
December 4, 2009
Total Slacker Demo
2009 | fmly rcrds
N/A (Disqualified: Too Young)
What am I supposed to do with this debut demo from Brooklyn’s Total Slacker, which, from what I gather, is one of the first recordings from any band heavily inspired by 2009 buzz bands. The demo, just five songs, are rough, home recordings of fuzzed out, slowed down Wavves songs. And by Wavves, I mean WAVVES, not WAVVVES (the preceding sentence is composed almost exclusively of homonyms – this is why I’m growing excited about Nathan Williams’ ongoing career).
If Waaves is lo-fi surf rock, then Total Slacker, as they stand right now, is the closest we’ll get to lo-fi jam rock; they replace the sped up distorted scales found on “So Bored” with the lazily distorted blues riffs of “Taco People.” They take the same Nathan Williams amateur drawing stylings that crafted such wonderful images as stoned Garfield, and draw a little skateboarder. They do away with Wavves’ constant lyrical references to drugs and boredom instead referencing something called a “Psychic Mesa,” and seem to hold some kind of belief in err…uhh…taco people. I don’t know what it means, just like I don’t know what Phish means when they express a desire to run like an antelope, out of control. Antelope are fairly orderly creatures, just as human beings are not meat filled tortillas.
But, all kidding aside, there is something simple and endearing about Total Slacker, even as they are obviously a little amateur – this is a demo, what do we expect? The three-some sounds confident about the languid pace of their music, the swimmingly buried bass lines, and the comedic, seemingly improvised lyrics. The hooks and riffs are written to put smiles on people’s faces, and the band makes no attempt a trying to take that higher. “These Condos Don’t Belong,” the second track of the demo, has a blown out chorus, screeching female vocals, and a solid stream of “ooo ooo”’s, which is as cute as it is awesome. Will they change the world? Not with these songs. Are they a fairly fresh, fun Brooklyn garage band? Hell yeah.
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compiled by Max Sebela
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