The Pixies seminal alternative classic turns 25 this week, and its importance to the last two decades of rock cannot be understated. The Pixies sound never really had a truly associative time and place. Unlike their contemporaries that outright admit to directly coping elements of their style, the Pixies aren’t as beholden to their decade as the likes of the disaffected angst of the 90s which Nirvana relished in.
Elements of surf rock, bossanova and hardcore litter a web of styles and song-specific mutations on the monkey embossed record. “Debasser” is blusterous, surf rock that borders on reconfigured emo filled with dizzy, squealing guitar leads (courtesy of Joey Santiago). The patented loud-quiet-loud rock dynamic that became most commonly associated with Nirvana, is in its purest,most original form on Doolittle. Be it Francis Black’s off seduction-to-psychotic vocal dynamics on “Tame” or the distant, disoriented haunt of “I Bleed”.
The songwriting on Doolittle is at once, fascinating, strange, twisted, fresh and…catchy? Really, take your pick, the obtuse subject matter of “Monkey Gone to Heaven”, “No.13 Baby” and entire album filled with these sensibilities. Many of the songs on Doolittle aren’t Tolkien novels in length, but shorter, tighter and more evocative by design. Ad-libs, backing vocals, grunts, essentially all manner of verbiage is coated with additive texture. The lyrical content of ”La la Love You” could fit on half of a post-it note, but the style, and use of the entire buffalo as it were, takes a simple Morrissey-esque pop-nothing and makes it more than sum of it’s pedestrian parts.
And yet, there’s more.
For all its deranged splicing of surf rock,power pop, and punk, Doolittle contains legitimately gentle songs. Resurrected in the wake of a self-proclaimed hipster wave initiated by the song’s inclusion in 500 Days of Summer, “Here Comes Your Man” bops along like an Americanized Beatles transplant. It is entirely sincere much like the sultry, slow burning soulful “Hey”, a song for a date mix if there ever was one.
On the eve of the band’s first LP release in two decades, I suppose the biggest testament to Doolittle’s evergreen tail is demand for the Pixies tour (noticeably sans Kim Deal). Personally, I feel a testament to the album’s transcendence is the reference to an obscure Salvador Dali film, that is to say, the granular details. These details are the spices that keep the band’s sauce so distinctively theirs despite its heavy influence and incorporation by iconic 90s bands like Radiohead, Nirvana and countless others. Hell, countless others by association for the simple fact that whole generations of bands influenced by Nirvana, Radiohead and Weezer who in turn were quite heavily inspired by the Pixies. Doolittle is the center piece of the Pixies’ career, and truly the definition of a modern classic up there with Rubber Soul and Velvet Underground&Nico
I have promoted this Saskatoon band a few times, and for good reason. They are definitely going places. The indie-pop band has already released a full length album and an EP (Timbers and Slow Weather respectively) and are planning to head to Montreal this fall to start work on their next full length album. If you haven’t checked out the Canadian band, I highly recommend you do. They are going to blow up soon.
Unrelated note: I definitely know the guitarist playing the Telecaster. Good friend of mine through TaeKwon Do.
What do you do when you’ve established a breakthrough in sonic ferocity on your last acclaimed record? Cloud Nothings answers this question by upping the ante even more. On their latest record Here and Nowhere Else, Cloud Nothings forgo turning it up to 11. The band surgically attaches a garden of feral junkyard amps together and blows the world away with an 8-track, no filler blood rush from start to finish. Opening with bone-rattling guitar gristle of “Now Hear In”, Cloud Nothings essentially pick up right from the heaviest heights of their last record Attack on Memory.
It can’t be understated that Cloud Nothings truly do not let up on this latest record. With sheer force, the band harnesses even heavier emocore throughout. The first time you hear “Psychic Trauma” all the way through you will be exhausted, and that’s only track three. The outro of this song is absolutely bombastic by all standards approximating the musical force of four double barreled shotguns being fired at once; discordant guitars ramming into each other at full speed, and an absolutely manic firework display of drumming stopping short of tearing headphones apart. Lyrically, things are more introspective on this outing and actually contain more melodic stickiness than Attack on Memory. As downtrodden and emotional tumultuous as the self-poising and paranoid “Just See Fear” is, the chorus hooks bop along really intuitively despite the surrounding sonic decor of barbed wire noise rock guitar fencing.
Here and Nowhere Else really is the band spreading black into as many different shades as possible. There really is no uplifting point on this record. Instead, vocalist Dylan Baldi absolutely guts his voice with fever pitch screaming at various points of paramount momentum. It’s a visceral touch that the band has really leaned into on this record, and it’s a touch that goes a long way to capture the breakneck anguish that band really stews in on this 4th LP. Another evocative touch is the pervasive Sonic Youth Influence that seems like a perfect fit for the energy on this record. The songs are always moving and the adaption of Sonic Youth’s infinite, winding guitar trails keeps every track constantly in transit. “Pattern Walks” is by far the most evocative of Daydream Nation SY with half of its 7 minute runtime threatening to launch into “Silver Rocket” at any moment, but opts for a minute-and-a-half totalizing wash of sonic disorientation.
More of the same can be tight rope to balance upon, too similar and it’s derivative, too different and it’s deviated too far. Here and Nowhere Else strikes the balance between more of what made Attack on Memory so great in addition to an infusion of an undeniable burst of new emotional energy and confidence that permeates the entire record.
As a phrase, salad days refers to a time of youthful, whimsical innocence through the experience of inexperience and ignorance. The janky, nostalgic, surreal jangle of “Salad Days” opens the album of the same name and speaks to that theme on multiple layers. The bizarre country twang scatting on this song is definitely evocative of youth, but by the end of this album’s brisk run time, it’s clear Demarco is anything but inexperienced.
As Demarco’s latest progresses, two things are immediately palpable; production quality and a bolstered rhythm section. On “Brother” the down tempo bass grooves graft an entire layer of depth and warmth on to the track, the same could be said about the basslines of “Go Easy”. The quality production on Salad Day’s tracks strike the prefect balance for an artist like Demarco; polished yet containing plenty of the reeling charm of Demarco’s unwieldy style. The level of production on this album is significant step up from his last album, 2.
Salad Days displays an appropriate level of playfulness from Demarco. The twinkling crooning of “Let My Baby Stay” and the defiant juvenility of “Goodbye Weekend” are consistently evocative of youth, and while Demarco is never afraid to get weird, there’s a level of restraint and pace running the entire album that seems explicitly considered. Demarco is doing what he does best on Salad Days, yet there are some suprises that provide divergence waiting in the album’s backend. “Passing out the Pieces” features a prominent sonic texture approximating a hybrid between 80s new wave and 60s soul horns slowed to a crawl. On “Chamber of Reflection”, Demarco goes full 80s casio. Here Demarco does his best Neon Indian impression and still manages to sound like only Demarco can.
Mac Demarco may likely be a bizarre transformed Canadian goose for his entire life, but he’s unleashed his best slanted jangle pop effort yet. Everything that has endeared Demarco to an indie-consuming audience is better in every way on Salad Days. While he experiments on some tracks, this is undeniably a Mac Demarco album and anyone expecting any different with be disappointed. Everyone else will find Mac has continued to up his game.
How many people do you remember meeting? How many people do you remember down to your very first conversation, your very first words uttered to someone? How many people know you as well as Cade knows me?
Maybe it’s just how exceptional he is that keeps every word he’s ever spoken to me permanently suspended in the archives of my mind. He’s good at everything he touches, he’s in tune with the undertones of life. He knows how I’m feeling based on a few words, every time. And every time, he comes running. I’m blessed to know him. No matter how long it’s been since we’ve spoken, he’ll pick up right where we left off without question. And he may have it all- a resume that includes martial arts, music, songwriting, poetry, and just being a cool guy- but he has no idea how special he is and that’s more special than the list I just made, if at all possible.
Friends are the family you choose and Cade has been my brother for almost five years. He is irreplaceable in my heart. I’ve truly grown up with him. Up, but not apart. I love you and every day is one day closer to meeting you.
As the shoegaze wheel turns, more bands begin to understand it as an extractive ingredient. Deafheaven impossibly stitched shoegaze’s delicate sense of vulnerability with the abrasiveness of black metal. M83 has taken shogaze and infused it with a wash of buzzing apocalyptic electronics. The War on Drugs takes fuses shoegaze with a sound that seems both oxymoronic yet brilliant, Americana. You’d think that the earnest, blue collar, sun dithering nature of roots rock would be ideologically opposed to the withdrawn, often pretentious personality of shoegaze; you’d be wrong. Lost In The Dream marries shoegaze to Americana as the former enables a collection of vividly languid Bob Dylan-esque reflections of the human condition.
Unfortunately, the album starts out a little off. Apart from the hearty vocals on“Under the Pressure”, this opening track is a little too distant and falls territory resembling Diiv at times. It’s a lush, well-imagined song but the overpowering transcendent guitar is a little misleading in relation to the rest of the album which balances earthy heartland rock with shoegaze surrealism far better. “Red Eyes” adds a hint of jangle rock into the mix and the pavlovian response to Graundciel’s chorus-prompting shouts give this track the gristle missing from the solid, if misleading, album opener. As the Lost In the Dream wares on, the dusty trails of “Suffering”, “Disappearing” and “Ocean Between the Waves” spin stretched sonic compositions narrated by loss, nostalgia, self-doubt and defeatism.
There’s also a strong sense of 80s musical production and stylistic design on Lost in The Dream. Curiously, ghostly reverberated drums on “Disappearing” and smoky, midnight electric leads present in “Ocean Between the Waves” (elsewhere on the album as well) enter a spice blend that never crams ideas widly and approaches into the balance of any given track. “Eye’s Into the Wild” is the lyrical pinnacle of Lost in The Dream. It’s a dreamy, muse of self-reflection that expertly sets scenes, landmarks, and characterized space. It’s a song that vividly and satisfyingly imagines the journey of the self entirely through sound yet communicates imagery materially.
Lost in the Dream is an album undeniably injected with love, patience, and obsessive attention to detail. The War on Drug’s third record is overwhelmingly beautiful, substantial and only disseminates the true magnitude of its accomplishment with multiple listens. This is 2014’s front running album thus far.
Broken Social Scene has lied dormant for several years. Following 2010’s Forgiveness Rock Record, the Toronto collective has gone into an indefinite hiatus. It’s hard to say if the band will ever wake from that coma, but leader and co-founder Kevin Drew numbs the deflation of this reality with his second solo album, Darlings. Drew’s first record Spirit If was very much a lesser Broken Social Scene record. As a detached phantom limb of sorts, Drew’s solo debut was passively awash in the band’s style instead of commanding it, this dynamic changes on Darlings.
The intimate haze of Darling’s opener “Body Butter” is a pleasant stint evocative of exactly what makes Darlings so successful. The scope of Darlings is immediately reigned in when compared to BSS’ decade long body of work, there is no “World Sick” on Drew’s latest. Generally, the tracks on Darlings are far more personal this time around. Within this restrained scope, Drew’s distinctly elegant earthy lyricism shines. “Good Sex”, like Body Butter, is vulgar in the classiest way possible as it lends a weighty relatability to human experiences in ways only Drew seems to pull off.
Sonically, Darling’s compositions are a collection of musical ideas sharpened in Broken Social Scene’s tenure that are tightly curated and reworked into Drew’s understated effort. The invasive synth of “Mexican Aftershow Party” is reminiscent of Broken Social Scene’s “Chase Scene” but this familiar synth is spliced with considered pacing and restraint to make something that sounds entirely new. The punchy, angular instrumentation of the cheeky “Bullshit Ballad” is reminiscent of a few past BSS songs, but once again feels new here. There’s a a great cohesion to the entire record with Drew’s intuitive sense of pace. The hooks and melodies on Darlings benefit from that dynamic and are far less fragmented and unwieldy as seen on the cumulative pacing on BSS’ records. “First in Line“‘s melody and hook is minimal but catchy and earnest and a refreshingly light way; very few BSS track’s can be described as catchy.
At some point it’s fair to say that Drew is digging up old bones on his second solo record. It’s also fair to argue they were bones he (along with a revolving door of a cast) buried in the first place. It is restraint and timing that push Drew’s latest out of derivative territory. There’s a maturity to the way Kevin Drew acknowledges legacy and a palpable sense of discerning selection. Yeah, Drew is cooking with leftovers but he makes a great meatloaf. Darlings is perfectly pitched, never outstaying its welcome and fills the void left by Broken Social Scene’s absence without being beholden to those expectations in quite the same way.