Category: indie rock

 

Currently comprised of founding members Austin Knecht (vocals, guitar) and Crysal Napoles (vocals, keys) along with Tamara Simons (guitar), Kai Dodson (bass) and Jonathan Palmquist (drums), the Los Angeles-based indie rock quintet Curtsy can trace their origins to when Knecht auditioned as a lap steel player for a country/folk band fronted by Napoles back in 2013. After bonding over a mutual love of 80s pop and 90s shoegaze, the band’s founding duo began writing songs together. Eventually, Knecht and Napoles recruited Simons, Dodson and Palmquist — and with the release of their debut single, shimmering guitar pop “One Less Thing,” the Los Angeles-based indie rock act quickly received attention from the site and across the blogosphere for a sound that to my ears drew from 120 Minutes-era alt rock; but with a heart wrenching sincerity.  Adding to a growing profile, the single was included on Spotify‘s Fresh Finds Six String and New Noise playlists, and as a result, the track has amassed nearly 50,000 streams.

Building upon that growing profile, “A Better Pet” will further cement the band’s reputation for crafting shimmering and propulsive indie rock centered around rousingly anthemic hooks — and while owing a sonic debt to 120 Minutes-era alt rock, the song thematically focuses the apprehension, uncertainty and self- doubt that frequently plagues the insecure romantic. And they manage to do so with a psychological attention to detail that feels lived-in and real.

 

 

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With the release of their first two singles “Desensitised” and “Twenty Six,” the London-based quintet Margot, comprised of Alex Hannaway (vocals), Ben Andrewes (drums), Albi Leghorn (guitar), Rob Fenner (guitar, keys) and Michael Webb (bass) quickly received attention across their hometown for crafting shimmering dream pop centered around laments on the repetitious nature of modern-day city life, and how to navigate it — and for a steadfast DIY writing and recording process, in which the band records their material over the course of a long weekend at Ben Andrewes’ home; however, the band’s third and latest single “Tired” finds the band expanding upon their sound with the addition of synths and a gorgeous and soaring string arrangement, along with the traditional dream pop arrangement of shimmering guitar chords, sinuous bass lines and propulsive drumming — over, which Hannaway sings wistful and observational lyrics. Obviously, the band’s sound and songwriting will get compared to the likes of The Smiths  and to JOVM mainstays Husky as the song is ethereal yet moody, upbeat yet bittersweet and rooted to an everyday realism.

Interestingly, as the band’s Hannaway says, the song was inspired by a late night commute on the tube. “I was being nosy, prying on a conversation between two men. One was expressing how difficult it was becoming with his teenage daughter, how hard it was to get any kind of conversation, how they used to be so close. He was struggling to come to terms with change.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comprised of Kristian Dunn (double-neck bass/guitar) and Tim Fogarty (drums), the Southern California-based post rock duo El Ten Eleven have developed a reputation for using a dizzying array of effect pedals and looping pedals to create a dense, complex, enormous and incredibly cinematic sound.  And if you’ve been frequenting this site for some time, you’d know that since their formation back in 2002, the band has maintained a steadfast DIY approach throughout their career; however, with their forthcoming, seventh full-length album, and first for Topshelf RecordsBanker’s Hill, the duo enlisted Sonny Dipierri, who has worked with Animal Collective and Dirty Projectors to produce the album, marking the first time that they’ve ever worked with an outside producer.

Slated for an August 10, 2018 release, the album reportedly finds the duo thematically exploring a number of contradictory yet important things — the paradoxical beauty in anxiety, the importance of family and familial bonds, especially in a world that’s gone absolutely mad, as well as the fleeting sensation of satisfaction. Earlier this summer, I wrote about Banker’s Hill first single “Phenomenal Problems,” a single that found the duo deliberately walking a tightrope between meditative introspection and a widescreen, cinematic quality with the composition being centered around  propulsive boom bap-like beats and drumming, enormous, arena rock friendly power chord-based hooks within an expansive song structure.

“We Don’t Have A Sail But We Have A Rudder,” is Banker’s Hill’s latest and last official single and the composition is centered around shimmering and expressive guitar lines, a propulsive bass line and four-on-the-floor drumming — and while retaining the meditative and cinematic quality that has won them attention, the track may arguably be their most straightforward, prog rock-leaning song off the album.

Throughout the fall, you can catch El Ten Eleven on tour. Sadly there aren’t any East Coast dates yet, but if you’re in the Midwest or the West Coast, you should check them out. In the meantime, check out tour dates below.

Tour Dates:
9/05 – Morro Bay, CA @ The Siren
9/06 – Santa Cruz, CA @ Catalyst Atrium
9/07 – San Francisco, CA @ August Hall
9/08 – Reno, NV @ Saint Bar
9/09 – Sacramento, CA @ Harlow’s
9/12 – Bend, OR @ Volcanic Theatre
9/13 – Portland, OR @ Doug Fir
9/14 – Seattle, WA @ The Crocodile
9/15 – Spokane, WA @ The Bartlett
9/18 – Boise, ID @ Neurolux
9/19 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Urban Lounge
9/20 – Ft. Collins, CO @ Washington’s
9/21 – Denver, CO @ Summit Music Hall
9/22 – Santa Fe, NM @ Meow Wolf
11/06 – St. Louis, MO @ The Old Rock House
11/07 – Indianapolis, IN @ HiFi
11/08 – Ann Arbor, MI @ Blind Pig
11/09 – Grand Rapids, MI @ Pyramid Scheme
11/10 – Chicago, IL @ ChopShop
11/13 – Madison, WI @ High Noon Saloon
11/14 – Milwaukee, WI @ Shank Hall
11/15 – Minneapolis, MN @ 7th Street Entry
11/16 – Omaha, NE @ Slowdown
11/17 – Kansas City, MO @ Record Bar
11/29 – Los Angeles, CA @ Teragram Ballroom
11/30 – San Diego, CA @ Casbah
12/01 – San Diego, CA @ Casbah

 

James Clifford is a Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer, and creative mastermind of the recording project Primaveras, which was once known as Modern Howls. As the story goes, Clifford grew up in a rather musical family; in fact, Clifford began playing guitar in his early teens and throughout his high school years, he played in a number of garage bands. Foregoing a formal musical education, the Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist is largely self-taught with his passion for playing and writing stemming from a lifelong passion for everything music, as he’s been known to scour music stores for vintage guitars and synths or to stay up into the wee hours listening to records. Unsurprisingly, Clifford has cited the likes of David Bowie, Prince, The Clash, Funkadelic, Chic, Todd Rundgren, Roxy Music, Steely Dan, and The Beach Boys as some of his greatest music inspirations.  Thematically, Clifford and Primaveras draws influence from the stretch of the famed Pacific Coast Highway from Malibu to Santa Monica — warm breezes through cracked car windows, the soft sound of waves crashing and receding into the Pacific, and the silhouette of the Los Angeles skyline. For many it’s timeless and almost dreamlike; but those who haven’t stuck around long enough fail to notice the effects of salt air on the surroundings — in the form of rust and erosion. In some way, it evokes faded dreams and hopes of a paradise that never really was there in the first place, and in another sense, the faded surroundings evoke a lonely introspection. Clifford’s Primaveras debut Echoes in the Well of Being was written in a way to embody that dualism — with the album’s material generally being sunny psych pop yet possess an underlying longing and introspection.
Interestingly with Clifford’s previously released material and Echoes in the Well of Being‘s latest single, the shimmering and strutting “Better Off,” his sound has been compared favorably to the likes of Tame Impala and Phoenix — and while that is definitely fair, I also hear a subtle nod at Avalon-era Roxy Music as the song evokes bright neon lights, evening faces, Jack and Cokes, the buzz of a coke high and a desperate escape from one’s loneliness and regret. But interestingly enough, Clifford pays loving  homage to The Isley Brothers’Footsteps in the Dark, Parts 1 and 2” with the song’s intro drum break, which not only ties the song to classic R&B, but gives it a subtle sensuality.
As Clifford says of the song, “While most people will immediately interpret as a breakup song, I see the core sentiment as trying to grow up and move on from any sort of worn-out relationship.”
 

 

Patrick Phillips is a Portland, OR-born, Los Angeles, CA-based singer/songwriter, DJ and multi-instrumentalist, and creative mastermind behind the dream pop/indie pop/psych pop recording project Water Slice. And in some way, the project can trace its origins back to when Philips realized that his life in Portland was beginning to closely resemble an unending Portlandia sketch — he worked at a hip gastropub, played packed local gigs and DJ’ed obscure African music. When he realized what his life had become, Phillips decided that it was time for a change, and he eventually related to Los Angeles. In 2014, he moved into an idyllic artist house located in the hills of the Echo Park section — and as the story goes, Phillips would spend a great deal of time on the house’s rooftop, overlooking the city’s landscape in the shade of a  giant rubber tree, contemplating life and writing songs, partially influenced by his surroundings.

During his first month in town, Phillips met James Supercave‘s Joaquin Pastor and spent the next 2 years as that band’s bassist. After leaving James Supercave, the Portland-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist had time to process his past life in Portland and to dive back into his record collection of power-pop, post-punk and world psychedelia — and this period was for him, the definitive spark that led him to write his own material under the moniker Water Slice. Of course, the material he had begun to write drew deeply from his own personal experience — particularly, a lengthy romantic relationship that dissolved and friendships that fell by the wayside (as many do), and the lingering ache and confusion of a past that’s continually just out of reach and the acceptance of a present that barely makes sense.

Now, as you may call, Philips’ Water Slice self-titled, debut EP is slated for an August 10, 2018 release and with the release of “This Way,” the first single off the effort quickly received attention for a sound that pairs buoyant and breezy grooves with dark lyrical content. As Philips told Ones to Watch, “Many of my favorite tunes, whether post-punk, power-pop, or reggae, are stories of suffering, while staying undeniably groovy. I love this contrast of heavy lyrics with otherwise sunny music, and I kept this tradition in mind when writing ‘This Way.’ At the time I was stuck deep in a rut, ‘This Way’ is about accepting my flaws and pushing into the future with the people I love.” The EP’s Gus Seyffert-produced second single “Please Remember” managed to further cement Philips’ growing reputation for crafting breezy and buoyant pop with a wistful and nostalgic air; but underneath that an acceptance and celebration of how life seems to constantly shift around you, forcing you to shift lanes, change direction  or stop whatever it was you were doing In the first place. After all, no one really has an answer to anything and nothing really works the way it’s supposed to — and yet, we usually find a way.

The EP’s latest single “Write Back” is a decidedly 60s psych pop stomper, centered around shimmering and swirling guitars, a propulsive rhythm section and an incredibly infectious hook — and while breezy and wistful, the track reveals a songwriter and artist with a careful attention to craft. As Philips explains in press notes, “The song’s about facing the fact that you’re not always where you thought you would be in life.” He adds, “But instead of freaking out about it, it’s important to remember what and who grounds you, to keep moving forward or dig deep and turn everything around.” Certainly, when things aren’t right (and that seems more often the case than not), having someone say this so clearly is not just affirming but absolutely necessary.

With the release of their 2015 debut Rapid Rewards, the Chicago-based trio Clearance,  comprised of Mike Bellis, Kevin Fairbairn, and Arthur Velez, have developed a reputation for witty and observational indie rock that draws inspiration from 60s bubblegum pop, jangling ’80s New Zealand indie rock, 90s slacker rock and even contemporary acts like Omni, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever and others. The band’s sophomore effort At Your Leisure is slated for a July 27, 2018 release through Topshelf Records and the album thematically draws a bit from the trials and tribulations of an indie rock band in the today’s music industry — with the album’s title being a joking play on the glacial pace of the the album release cycle; but the album is also reportedly the culmination of a number of long tours, breakneck writing sessions and the bandmembers evolving friendship as they’ve become older and wiser.
Sonically speaking, At Your Leisure is a love letter guitar pop and the guitar pop song; in fact, the majority of the album’s songs came about after Bellis made a trip to New Zealand back in 2016. And as a result, the songs are reportedly breezier, more propulsive and with razor sharp hooks; in fact, the album’s latest single “Haven’t You Got The Time” features jangling and shimmering guitar chords, a propulsive rhythm section and an infectious hook  — and while displaying a winning, radio friendly sound, the song manages to be far darker and cynical than it’s initially sunny vibe, as it was written during the messy and bittersweet disintegration of a relationship. Unlike most songs of its ilk, the song’s narrator recognizes that his partner has emotionally left some time ago, and is looking for a way out and away from him, and it gives the song an old and familiar ache.

 

 

Currently comprised of Charley Williams (guitar, vocals), Mike Cathcart (drums) and newest member Sam Greenspan, the indie rock trio Stoner Control initially began in 2013 as a temporary side-project that eventually became a full-fledged band that quickly received attention for high-energy pop punk sound with a lo-fi aesthetic paired with earnest lyrics. The band’s forthcoming sophomore Hutch Harris album Alone in the City is slated for an August 31,2018 release and the album reportedly finds the band moving away from the lo-fi sound of their debut and towards a jangling, classic 60s rock ‘n’ roll-inspired sound while lyrically, the album is a shift from the highly personal towards a more open-ended approach — while retaining a playful melancholy.  Interestingly, Alone in the City‘s latest single “Hollywood Hills” sounds as though it could have been released sometime in the early 80s as jangling and shimmering guitar chords are paired with an anthemic, raise-your-beer-in- the-air-and-sing-along-lustily hook; but underneath all of that is a bittersweet wistfulness over what once was and can never be again.

 

Over the past three years or so, I’ve written quite a bit about the Tucson, AZ-based quintet The Myrrors, and as you may recall the band, which is currently comprised of Nik Rayne, Grant Beyschau, Casey Hadland, Kellen Fortier, and Miguel Urbina have developed and maintained a reputation for crafting ominous and expansive psych rock centered around trance-like grooves. Interestingly, the JOVM mainstays forthcoming album Borderlands which is slated for an August 17, 2018 release through Beyond Beyond Is Beyond Records nominally references the collective, self-made boundaries we draw, while offering a soundtrack for setting forth strategies that either ignore or erases them.

As the band explains, the album’s latest single “The Blood That Runs the Border,” “is actually an old live standard that for whatever reason never translated into a recording until now, a time which the issues of manufactured frontiers and the human cost of xenophobic immigration controls are perhaps more immediate than ever before. Destroy all borders, tear down all walls and the governments that build them! In a sense the track actually sowed the seeds for the entire record, from its subject matter to our conscious effort to more accurately capture the sound of The Myrrors in its current live incarnation.”  Thematically it may overtly political song they’ve ever written, the expansive song is centered by a propulsive, trance-inducing groove over which shimmering, mind-bending guitar work and reverb-drenched covers ethereally float over; but as a result, it has a deeper and heavier emotional heft — crestfallen and exhausted, resolute and determined. And while still evoking a dusty, desert vista, the song evokes our murky and uncertain world in a frightening fashion.

 

 

 

Earlier this month, I wrote about the Portland, OR-based indie rock quintet King Who, and as you may recall, the band, comprised of  Michael Young, Ryan Hayes, Ryan Cross, Glen Scheidt and Travis Girton will be releasing their Hutch Harris-produced sophomore full-length album Giant Eye through SELF Group on August 17, 2018. Reportedly, the album finds the band expanding upon their sound as they increasingly incorporate elements of New Wave, post-punk and dream pop  while retaining the heavy bass of their full-length debut Us Lights; in fact, Giant Eye‘s first single, the slow-burning “Ice Cream” sonically finds the band drawing from shoegaze and dream pop as the song is centered around shimmering guitar chords, a propulsive rhythm section, a soaring hook and Micheal Young’s plaintive falsetto, sounding though as it were recorded during the era of 120 Minutes-era alt rock.

Interestingly, Giant Eye‘s second and latest single, “Crying Shame” is centered around a motorik-like groove, four-on-the-floor drumming and Young’s plaintive falsetto, and as a result the song may arguably be the most New Wave-inspired song off the album, sounding as though it were drawing from Heaven Up Here-era Echo and the BunnymenEvil Heat-era Primal Scream and Luminous-era The Horrors, thanks to one of the funkiest rock bass lines I’ve heard this year.