Bringing an end to the opening trio of posts to amend some of the time lost during the hiatus that followed this site’s 1,000th post, the following links will be dedicated to some of the finest full-length streams that appeared over the past two weeks. From site favorites to new names, there’s a wealth of material here that’s worthy of investment. A handful of these may even be legitimate Album of the Year contenders. Carve some time out to listen or just hit play and turn the volume up while working, either way, make sure not to miss some extraordinary records.
“Pain” and “Hidden Driver” have set an impressive early tone for LVL UP’s forthcoming Return to Love — an easy album of the year candidate — and now “Spirit Was” joins their ranks. From its opening seconds, it’s evident that “Spirit Was” would be foregoing the heaviness of “Pain” and the urgency of “Hidden Driver” in favor of the more dream-like qualities that have given previous tracks like “Proven Water Rites” a tremendous amount of impact, despite their more serene nature.
As was the case with “Proven Water Rites”, bassist Nick Corbo is at the helm of “Spirit Was”, suffusing the tune with a distinctive blend of weariness, downtrodden longing, and a glimmer of faith in the possibility that there’s more to life than struggle. Like a lot of Return to Love (which can be streamed upon pre-order), “Spirit Was” showcases a heavier, grunge-leaning side of LVL UP that they’d only shown glimpses of in their earlier works. There’s a genuinely intangible quality to this song that elevates it beyond being a good song and transforms it into something impossibly compelling.
Every single second of “Spirit Was” seems to have an incalculable depth of meaning and importance to its authors, going far deeper than just the narrative. LVL UP are playing as if the stakes are life or death and they’re hedging all of their bets on survival, at all costs. From the very welcome addition — and surprising prominence — of piano flourishes to the empathetic rhythm section work to the intuitive guitar interplay, there’s not a false move to be found. It’s an astonishing moment of poise from a band that’s operating at the peak of their powers, paying tribute to their past while not taking their eyes off of the future.
By its end, “Spirit Was” serves as an incredibly assured testament to the artistic prowess that the band’s attained over several years of evolving their craft. None of them have ever sounded more impressive than they do on Return to Love both in an individual capacity and as a unit. “Spirit Was” is a perfect example of that progress and a cogent argument for their tenacious commitment to artistic growth. Subdued, atmospheric, and oddly reassuring, “Spirit Was” is the sound of a band on the verge of perfection. It’s a peak that deserves to be experienced by everyone so stop reading now and just hit play.
Listen to “Spirit Was” below and pre-order Return to Love from Sub Pop here.
Earning the featured spot was site favorites Lost Boy ?, who’ve been relatively quiet since releasing one of the best basement pop records in recent memory. That record, Canned, set expectations astoundingly high for their follow-up and now the band’s offered up a first glimpse via the characteristically off-kilter “Goose Wazoo”. The nonsensical title is a solid indicator of the song, which fearlessly embraces zaniness while simultaneously managing to keep the proceedings impressively grounded.
Lost Boy ? mastermind Davey Jones has more than proven his worth as a songwriter and it’s wildly entertaining to hear him tackle a more experimental approach. Jones has made Daniel Johnston’s influence on his work incredibly transparent over the past few releases (and has been known to cover the artist from time to time) but that influence reaches a fever pitch on “Goose Wazoo”. From the vivid cartoon-friendly narrative to the vocal delivery, Johnston’s spirit’s present but it never quite overtakes the singular identity that Lost Boy ? has managed to cultivate.
From the melodic shifts to the vocal quirks, everything on “Goose Wazoo” indicates that Canned wasn’t a fluke release; Lost Boy ? seems determined to cement a status as a great outsider artist. “Goose Wazoo” alone goes quite a way in establishing that status as a palatable goal. A complete joy, a tantalizingly unique entry, and an impressive display of both confidence and artistry, “Goose Wazoo” is the kind of song that won’t fade easily. More importantly, it’s one that holds up to a dozen consecutive plays without losing an ounce of its oddball charm.
Listen to “Goose Wazoo” below and keep an eye on this site for more news surrounding the band and their upcoming release.
Over the past few weeks, the submissions that have come into the site’s inbox have introduced me to some of the most fascinating music of 2014. Toby Reif and Space Mountain were two that immediately stood out- Elephants shortly followed. The Boston-based quartet’s upcoming record, Strange Waves, is one of 2014’s most vibrant and defiantly lively records. The band’s formula differs from the norm, most notably in the basslines acting as lead guitar riffs instead of driving the rhythm. It’s a kinetic approach and it suits the band (whose powerpop sensibilities come tinged with a surprisingly aggressive noise-punk bite) surprisingly well.
All of Strange Waves is a joy but no song on the record clicks everything into place with as much power and finesse as “The Turtles Were Right”. Sun-splashed melodies meet a restless bass figure, propulsive drumming, vicious guitar work, an abundance of energy, and a few joyful hand claps. Before long, the song establishes an alternating contrast pattern in mood with the verses taking on a pensive melodramatic feel before the rousing chorus picks everything up and pushes it forward. It’s also Elephants at their finest- it’s no surprise that “The Turtles Were Right” is the song that includes the lyric which gave Strange Waves its title. “The Turtles Were Right” cloaks its fuzz in an undeniable affability and the end result is something that deserves to be heard by as many people as possible.
Listen to “The Turtles Were Right” below and keep an eye on Elephants’ bandcamp, which is where Strange Waves will be available to download on December 16 (the download will be free for the first day).