Waxahatchee – Ivy Tripp
Released April 7th, 2015
As a proud owner of a cassette of Waxahatchee’s (Katie Crutchfield’s) 2012 debut “American Weekend“, I am pleased to see her going back to her roots on Ivy Tripp. Not that 2013’s Cerulean Salt wasn’t good (it was), but as somebody who loves lo-fi music, I like it to be as lo-fi as possible. Cerulean was just not bad-sounding enough for me! Part of being lo-fi is making yourself sound as chill as possible on record, like you don’t even know you’re being recorded. That’s what Cructhfield achieves big time on this record. She sounds extremely confident, but at the same time it seems like she couldn’t care less what you think of her. Now if that isn’t cool, what is? Check out Under a Rock and Poison for the two best tracks on the album.
Released March 17th, 2015
The long awaited new Modest Mouse album is here. It’s been around eight years since MM released We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank, and the anticipation for their latest LP has been building the entire time. The seemingly endless production of this album has worried some fans, with memories of how boring Guns N’ Roses’ Chinese Democracy was when it was finally released after a decade in development. Founding bassist Eric Judy quit the band during the recording, worrying fans even more. It was feared the mighty indie rock giant may not ever rise again.
Thankfully, Modest Mouse has silenced those fears. They released the album at long last, and fans of MM will certainly recognize the sound on this LP. Those twangy, haunting guitar riffs are still going strong. But at this point, they seem a lot more stale than they did back in 2004. I wouldn’t call the record bad, but I wouldn’t say it’s groundbreaking either. Lampshades on Fire could be easily mistaken for a B-side off of Good News For People Who Love Bad News, which is not an insult, but only an observation that MM’s sound hasn’t really progressed to anything new on this LP. If you’re a Modest Mouse fan, you will definitely like this record. They aren’t reinventing the wheel, but that same awesome sound they’ve always had is still here.
Mineral – The Power of Failing Review (reissue)
Originally released 1995; reissued 21 October 2014
Crank! Records; Arena Rock Recording Company
For a period in the mid 2000s (or the ‘oughts as I like to call them), there was specter hanging over the punk scene – the specter of emo. “Emos” had a weird haircut. They cut themselves. They listened to whiny bands like My Chemical Romance and Fall Out Boy. Everything they liked was “gay”, and to possibly like one of these “emo” bands was to risk being called gay yourself. Thanks to this rampant homophobic abuse, “emo” bands were basically chased out of existence by the end of the decade. But did emo really go away? Was this really “emo” to begin with? All signs point to no. These bands were never considered “emo” by punk rockers. A useful tool, called isthisbandemo.com, can be used to find out if certain hated bands are actually “emo” (try putting in Fall Out Boy). And is emo dead? Just ask San Diego’s recently moved in label Topshelf Records, which has on its roster some of the best active emo bands today. So what really is emo, and where did it come from?
Long before it was associated with a haircut or eyeliner, emo or (emocore) was an underground punk movement that rose out of the mid-1980s Washington D.C. scene. Bands like Embrace and Rites of Spring originated this genre, while at the same time lambasting the label. Embrace vocalist Ian MacKaye called the label “the stupidest ****ing thing [he’d] ever heard”. Nevertheless, pretty soon any hardcore band with more complex instrumentation and “emotive” vocals started to be called emocore. In the early 90s, emo bands like Sunny Day Real Estate and Jawbreaker capitalized on the rising popularity of alternative rock and became quite successful. In their wake, a Texas band known as Mineral emerged. Their first release – The Power of Failing – is a milestone in 90s emo.
It absolutely rocks. The entire album from start to finish is full of rocking crescendos, with the confessional lyrics peaking the intensity of the songs. Songs like Gloria really make you feel for the singer, with lyrics like “Cause I just want to be, something more than the mud in your eyes”. The guitars are jangly, and their production is much more lo-fi than other emo bands of the period. They heighten anticipation with long building phases followed by furious explosions of sound. You’ll be passively listening when before you know it you’ll be banging your head. The songs sound a bit repetitive but I like them all anyway. If you’re one of the many people confused about what “real emo is”, give this album a listen.
Buy the vinyl here
Mr. Twin Sister – S/T Album
Twin Group Records
Released September 2014
How much more chill could this album be? The answer is: none. Forget Jeff Bridges, these guys will make you really relax! Hailing from Long Island, NY, the band could be called chillwave, synth, or maybe even easy listening (just kidding, this stuff is way too complex for the elevator). I haven’t been able to stop listening to these guys since I picked up their record a few weeks ago. Though this album is self-titled, this is not their first album. They debuted back in 2010 with the excellent All Around and Away We Go. I lost track of them after that, but luckily I’ve rediscovered them. The shimmering, spacy, ethereal synths send you into a trance-like state. Vocalist Andrea Estella has a way of enunciation that is just bizarre enough to be intriguing. You never get board of hearing her sing. I’d compare her favorably to the Chromatics‘ Ruth Radelet. This is the kind of album you try to synch up with a movie ala Dark Side of the Moon. The only fault is side two of the record, which gets a little bland and repetitive.
The hip thing today seems to be giving your band a feminine name while having mostly guys in the band (the only female member of Mr. Twin Sister is Andrea). Other examples include Girls, Mrs. Magician, Cheap Girls, and Girl Talk, all of which have zero female members. I think this reflects the anti-macho aesthetic of Indie rock, going back to bands with names like Death Cab for Cutie. You know with a name like Girls you aren’t going to get some mouth-breathing Kiss cover band. I appreciate it, since I’d rather stay out of the bro-zone layer as much as possible.