Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Brighton

Pretty Pretty – Feels Like Rain (Stream)

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Once again, the past few days have provided a decent amount of material making it difficult to figure out which to feature. Most notably, two vicious post-punk numbers from the likes of Cycle Schmeichel and BODY. The former is full of a restlessness that aids Cycle Schmeichel’s wiry post-punk tendencies well, while the latter is a foreboding piece of hard-charging, rapidly-building tension characterized by nervousness before allowing an exhilarating release. Both are among the best songs to have come out of this month thus far- and September’s already seen two of the strongest weeks for new music this year. On top of both of those, Pretty Pretty finally released their Sweater Leather 7″ tracks via their bandcamp, which they’d previously teased with the sugar-coated title trackSweater Leather not only manages to live up to the promise of that initial look but occasionally surpasses it, including “Feels Like Rain”- the closing track.

While “Feels Like Rain” isn’t quite as hard-charging as the trio of tracks that come before it (including easy standout “You Say“), it does manage to act as a perfect finale piece’ it summarizes nearly everything that precede that moment while serving as a reminder of Pretty Pretty’s specific strengths. From the call-and-response vocals to the vintage 90’s crunch in the guitar tones, it’s difficult not to see “Feels Like Rain”- and Pretty Pretty, by extension- for what it is: a perfect slice of sun-splashed punk-leaning popwerpop. There’s an underlying intelligence in the song’s composition that reveals itself in the details; the light riffing before the main guitar part kicks in, the subtly clever lyrics, and the general dynamics all point towards Pretty Pretty being a band that takes their songwriting very seriously. Fortunately, their efforts pay off in full and make Sweater Weather one of the more memorable 7″ releases of the year.

Listen to “Feels Like Rain” below and keep an eye on both Let’s Pretend and Mandible for the impending release of the physical copy.

Eugene Quell – A Great Uselessness (EP Review, Stream)

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During the mad scramble of post-festival coverage, there was more than a month’s worth of material to go over. So, naturally, some releases slipped through the cracks. What that was attributed to is impossible to definitively state. Now, with today being a relatively slow day for new material (apart from the NPR First Listen streams of the new Blonde Redhead and The Gotobeds, that is), there’s a perfect opportunity to feature what’s proven to be one of the best releases of August: Eugene Quell’s A Great Uselessness.

Continuing on where the delightfully raucous Eugene Otto Quell left off back in January, Quell’s second EP of the year expands on everything that made his debut effort such an unlikely powerhouse. There’s still a weary confidence that roots these songs in something that feels both entirely real and connected to something completely intangible. All of the songs still feel like they’d fit snugly into the Double Double Whammy and Exploding in Sound wheelhouses, full of peculiar melodicism and searing blasts of fuzz. Off-kilter pop gets consumed by a ragged punk influence, resulting in something inexplicably compelling and expertly delivered.

What sets Quell apart from a growing number of like-minded peers is his grasp on songcraft. Every single one of the four songs on A Great Uselessness twists and turns, taking left turns where they could have just gone straight. It’s something that’s evidenced straightaway with the harsh 1-2 punch of “Hell Presidente” and “That One Song”, which both feature a completely unhinged manic energy and a tendency to lean towards the subversive. In the case of the former, it’s an absolutely gorgeous slow-burning bridge that winds up being a calm spot of sea in the middle of an otherwise ferocious onslaught- while “That One Song”, on the other hand,  grows even fiercer and more deranged before falling apart into remarkably compelling ambient chaos.

Both of those first two songs also reveal Quell’s grunge, emo (think Sunny Day Real Estate), post-punk, and indie influences, something that A Great Uselessness‘ penultimate track, “Alta Loma” also underscores. Where the EP cements itself as a collection necessity, though, is the elegiac acoustic closer “And There Goes the Drugs”. For that song, Quell presents himself at his most vulnerable, leaning closer to Elliott Smith than Archers of Loaf.  It’s a genuinely stunning moment that caps off another extraordinary effort from the Brighton-based musician, closing A Great Uselessness out on a note of intrigue that manages to further his promise. This isn’t just one of the best EP’s of August- it’s one of the best of the year.  

Listen to A Great Uselessness below (and read along, as Quell’s graciously provided lyrical copy for each song) and order it from his bandcamp here (for US residents ordering a physical copy, expect to pay shipping).

Lady Bones + Horsehands (Split Review)

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There are times when great music comes out of nowhere and seizes everything in its path without warning, leaving the listener scrambling to catch up with the destruction it left left in its wake. It doesn’t happen very frequently but when it does, it’s sure as hell worth writing about. Enter: Lady Bones and Horsehands, two Massachusetts bands who came together to release a split last year. Unfortunately, the band only managed to get that split out digitally initially. That didn’t stop either from trying to get it out into the world in a physical format, though, which is why (as of last month) the four songs from that split now exist in the world on a few cassettes.

As for the songs themselves? They’re everything anyone should want out of a DIY basement punk release: they’re impassioned, left-field, aggressive, catchy, and bordering on unclassifiable. All four nearly run the risk of toppling themselves over with great songwriting and clever arrangements. Lady Bones’ side kicks things off and the band wastes no time in hurtling themselves towards whatever the nearest object is to them. The nonstop riffing of “Courtesy Moans” growls and races in equal measure, baring an intimidating set of fangs while lodging its claws (read: hooks) deep. “Courtsey Moans” also sets up the woozy “Hoovah” perfectly, which carries over the decidedly darker tone of its immediate predecessor (one that matches the incredible artwork for the release, pictured up above). While “Hoovah” manages to maintain the pace and atmosphere of the split, it also succeeds in showcasing Lady Bones’ range, offering up a slightly more varied take on their approach without losing any impact. If anything, a lesson that can be taken away from this is that it only takes two songs to hear the sound of a band arriving.

Horsehands’ side more than holds up, plummeting the dark atmosphere into even greater depths while continuing to expand the release’s sonic palettes. It’s still an unmistakably Boston kind of sound but, as “Flagstone Sonogram” proves, that’s not something the band holds sacred. Coming off as nightmarish as it is poppy, the song’s the audio equivalent of a kaleidoscopic fever dream that’s terrifying in the moment but revisited fondly later. Again, impressive musicianship is on full display as the arrangements weave in and out of each other with tact and grace, creating a unique sound that complements Lady Bones’ songs without overwhelming them. “Hot Pants Nose Bleed” hits a lot more directly than “Flagstone Sonogram”. proving Horsehands to be another band with dynamic range and an able command over it. It’s a short, sharp blast that rounds out four songs that play into each others strengths as well as any four possibly could while also being incredible as standalones. It’s not difficult to imagine these bands having as much clout as, say, any of the flagship bands over at Exploding in Sound, in the very near future.

Listen to both sides below and make sure both of these bands are on the radar because this is music worth hearing.

Playlounge – Waves and Waves and Waves (Stream)

Let’s get this out of the way at the top: Playlounge are a London-based guitar/drums/vocals duo. They play scrappy scuzzed-out pop music that recalls a lot of bands that operate within the confines of that format. There are traces of Japandroids, No Age, and PS I Love You (among others) to be found all over their music. What differentiates them from the pack is the sheer velocity they conjure up. Where Japandroids are almost consumed by a desire to sound huge, it comes off as a byproduct here rather than a focal point. PS I Love You are willfully off-kilter and Playlounge don’t really seem to will anything; they just fucking go for it. No Age have their arthouse tendencies as well- chiefly, their obsession with damaged lo-fi. Playlounge just hint at an interest in those kinds of things, while actually sounding damaged- not in terms of recording quality, but their actual physical state of being. It makes for a strangely cathartic listening experience. “Waves and Waves and Waves”, yet another preview of their upcoming LP Pilot, showcases all of these qualities and more. It’s available for both streaming and download below. Take advantage of it.