Gold Light sits at the altar, fists bored to its chin, waiting for the hymn to end, so it can get to the real songs… the ones waiting at the fellowship hour to follow.
There’s an obvious throwback vibe on this self-titled record to Velvet Underground or more modernly The Tyde. Joe Chang, Gold Light himself, has a distinct voice, though. The lyrics are rife with simple wisdom, bent clichés, and plenty of baby-you-better-believe-its. The vocals (swathed in hall reverb) with just a Pixies bass line supporting–like Jonathan Richman with a story-time, Springsteen flow–on the song “Gold” say, “Well, darling, don’t you know that your heart of made of gold? How come you set the price so low?” Memorable and classic. “True Love Never Dies,” the album closer, has a Phil Spector shimmer and a da doo ron clippy clop, arpeggiated beauty.
Cool that it’s a cassette, but here’s what Gold Light should do. Tour the US really quickly supporting this release. Only Joe can drive the van, so he can focus on the lights and the destination, his delivery and the maddening lines–upon the highway and furrowed brow alike. Meanwhile, the other band members get to really tour the nation, burping up ethanol-boiled pizza slices, watching deer play on the side of the highway. Put out another full-length really soon after this one…like start recording it the day they get back. Then, put the new one and Gold Light out on vinyl. Lou Reed said, “There’s only X amount of time. You can do whatever you want with that time. It’s your time.”
Thirteen words on watching the sun rise to this album: I am not still drunk. I can run my hands over iridescent clouds.
Math Major by Art Contest is a catapult crock completely crammed with cottage cheese. Now, where are we going to aim it, and who gets to release the ropes?
I picture seeing this band live and remarking, “Wow, they were different than every other band on this bill.” Hyper, stand-out fun is tangible with every soaring guitar overture. Then, the rhythm section crashes in, swoops with emphasis showing the backbone and the corners of each song. RIYL Truman’s Water (yet not as musically reckless–“Banana Boat”), The Wicked Farleys (in frenetic vibe “Sugar Bay”), Weekends (but with bass guitar–“Riff Raff”). On “Tripp Pants” the words are, “I was kissing my dad, and I didn’t even know it. I was crashing my car, and no one ever told me.” Five gold stars.
Thirteen words on sun-tanning & eating lunch to this album: Pass me the gigantic Christmas tin of Cracker Jack. The peanuts are disgusting.
We Come From Exploding Stars is a reflective, hopeful dream of light… a reach from despair for the young and the restless. We just stayed right out there under the pines… a beach in the air for the dumb and thus tentless. Moonlit Sailor comes from Boras, Sweden where they often experience weeks without sunlight*.
The Sailors do epic, instrumental, ambient, triumphant post-rock. I think they sound like a tight band that does what they do very well: putting space between swells and sinking boats by the end of a song. It sounds like they have an Ibanez AD999, an Akai Head Rush, a tube bass head, and a great drummer. The tunes are well composed. They swell up and duck down, crushing you into a ball of foil. Unball that foil to reveal an imprint of a fossilized fish. Give it to your nephew on his 7th birthday. Watch him grow. Be proud when he becomes an archaeologist and finds all the dinosaurs the way they really looked. This band has grown up over the course of four albums, all on Deep Elm Records*. Their uncles should be proud.
Thirteen words on watching the sun set to this album: Time was once the decider; now, the Universe has sent space to me.–Gary Lee Barrett
Chris North, who previously fronted folksters The Points North, has a new dream pop project under his own name called The Story of My Light. In a James Blake/Bon Iver synth-laden era of dreamy music, North sticks mostly to acoustic guitar and reverb (lots of echo) to achieve his intended mood.
He also breaks from the former pair by having a full, low voice that expresses in its cracks and breaks, not in falsetto warbling. The result is a 9-song, 25-minute collection that deftly balances the weightlessness of dream state with the heft of real instruments (saxophone on “Liberation Sound,” low flute on “Cold Company”). There are some ups and downs throughout the EP, as North doesn’t balance all the parts of the sound against his vocals perfectly yet, but the overall effect is good. An intriguing starting point for future releases.
I praised The Pizza Thieves‘ “Real American Boy” as a post-Pixies wonder, and their debut follows up on that promise. Hippopotamus employs skronked-out surf rock guitars, reverb, howling vocals, and propulsive drums to wrest a mighty, fidelity-irrelevant noise out of just two members. A surprising amount of keys and acoustic guitar (“Skeleton Bride,” “Run, Run, Br’er Rabbit, Br’er Rabbit Run!”) could point in a future direction, but the majority of this one is gleeful thrash and mash.
The amount you’ll enjoy Hippopotamus is directly proportional to how much of your listening time is spent to bands like Ty Segall and Thee Oh Sees; at 55 minutes, casual fans of surf-damaged garage rock will check out long before the 7-minute “Vitrification/Pt. 2” (check the intentional nod/debt owed to “Where is My Mind”) wraps up. But it’s a fun blast for as much as you can take.
I’ve been going through a personal pop-punk revival as of late, but I’ve found the outer extremes of what my current self enjoys in Stream City‘s Welcome Paramnesia. The hyperkinetic snare-drum gallop and mashing guitar strum that the band starts uses as a foundation is standard SoCal fare, but the Danish band incorporates touches of metal (“Shores of Lethe,” “Hello Gravity”), folky melodic interludes (“Paramnesia”), faux-Gothic harpsichord (“In Limbo”) and Irish/klezmer/old world traditional violin melodies (“Fisherman’s Tale”) to differentiate from other bands. The result is a varied six-song effort that plays out like a less-morbid AFI or a less drama-intensive My Chemical Romance at twice the speed.
The Lava Children’s self-titled mini-LP was released a couple of weeks ago. It isn’t terribly long, hence the “mini-” designation, but the five tracks they offer are a good collection of their efforts thus far. The PR blurb I received said something about their music being like nothing I’d ever heard before. I was immediately skeptical – most bands, or at least the agents that represent them, like to think that their band is unique and unlike anything else ever produced.
While this isn’t entirely true with The Lava Children, their sound is probably the closest I’ve heard to matching that claim in a while. It’s soft, ethereal trip-rock, with female lead vocals that range from barely comprehensible to entirely indecipherable, and simple but catchy instrumentals. I kept trying to think of bands that they sounded like, and then realizing what I’d come up with was nothing like their sound. Pixies? Nope, and I’m not sure why I even thought that. Joy Division, Eisley, Sixpence? No, no, and no, though The Lava Children have a little in common with each of them. I’m going to try to capture what their sound really is, so read on, sir/ma’am.
“I Am A Pony” kicks off the mini-LP with a bit more energy than the rest of the tracks. Guitar and bass bits are strong, contrasting nicely with the vocals. They (the vocals) really aren’t lyrical. You can occasionally hear words, but it’s more just tonal singing. Oh, and it’s trippy stuff, if you didn’t catch that, all echo-y and seemingly nonsensical. There’s a cool, if not strange beat throughout. It feels like one of the songs that belongs in a “caper” movie (Ocean’s Eleven, etc).
The album slows with “Particles.” It’s a load of crazy moaning, both from the guitar and from the vocalist. Everything is slow and exaggerated. It reminds me a bit of the later Beatles’ acid stuff. There are tons of effects on this song, which pair with the slower tempo to create a meandering, dreamy effect. There’s something of a dark undercurrent as well. “Troll” is similar, with a long, trippy instrumental intro. It features some interesting changes in tempo when moving between in and out of the chorus, mixing the slightly-more energetic with the dreamy. Most of the vocals sound as though the singer was on the other side of the room from the mic – far away, and a good fit for the overall tone.
“Firefly” includes male vocals in the background that aren’t featured elsewhere. It’s a good sound – dare I say better than with the lead vocalist by herself? I like the effect, anyway. It’s got the same overall sound as “Particles,” though the chorus is clear and has better movement to it. The album is finished with “The Green Word,” a song with great guitar bits and somewhat more understandable lyrics than earlier.
I would prefer to hear more along the lines of “Firefly” or “I Am A Pony” and less “Particles” in The Lava Children’s future releases. Trippy music is all well and good, but it should retain energy and purpose – frankly, trippy for trippy’s sake gets boring. This is otherwise a solid album, with strong continuity between songs. Listening to The Lava Children mini-LP in its entirety makes for a much better experience than giving the songs a listen one at a time. Give it a go if you want to experience something quite different from your usual fare. Trust me, whatever that is, The Lava Children are different.
Stephen Carradini and Lisa Whealy write reviews of instrumental, folk, and singer/songwriter music. We write about those trying to make the next step in their careers and established artists.