An Antidote to Boredom 3
By Alice Rezende
So much good music, so little time! While my mates have been allegedly busy catching up with their favourite podcasts on their commutes to work, I’ve been busy (“busy”) at home vacuuming, upgrading my laptop, feeding cats, and listening to crazy great tracks that have come out over the last couple of months. So here we go:
Telekinesis – “Sylvia”
Telekinesis is all really just one guy, Michael Benjamin Lerner, Seattle’s indie equivalent of Kevin Parker. Signed to Merge Records (founded by members of Superchunk), he’s been around for a while, releasing pretty great, consistent stuff – three albums to be exact. But it’s his fourth record, Ad Infinitum, released in September this year, that has really spiked the web. So much so, that as I write this I find it very difficult not to google what everybody else has written already. In his live performances, Lerner prefers to drum while his touring band performs the rest, which comes to show how much thought he’s put into every beat sample in the record (Lerner often layers sampled drums with live ones). “Sylvia” is probably my favourite song because of two elements: first, the spooky child’s laughter sample used at the end of one of the first verses (if you hear it with headphones on, it pans around in your head and will make you think that someone just yelled at you from a distance). Second, the heavy break at the end of that verse, which then rollercoasters into a fuzzy, warm breakdown. Ad Infinitum is laden with hooks and bumps like that, coloured by vintage synths. Funky.
Florist – “Vacation”
Fans of web-savvy French singer/songwriter Lispector will love this NY-based band. Fronted by Emily Sprague, their debut Holdly EP was released this October. Sure, call it folk pop, indie folk, call it the female-led version of Cass McCombs. There is a worldier sadness to Florist, similar to the kind of thought-processing one may have while walking around in the park, in the morning, feeling blue. “Vacation”’s winning abilities come through in the lyrics, which any girl growing up can somehow, sometime, relate. The feeling that the world is much bigger et. al when you were a child is a common, universal theme – just listen to Girlpool’s hit single “Before The World Was Big”, and subtract the punky attitude. Florist’s delivery is sweeter on purpose of course, and perhaps due to that, it bears more resemblance to childhood innocence.
Helvetia – “Bermuda”
Seattle’s Helvetia has, over the years, borrowed and shared a bunch of people from Built to Spill. That’s what Spotify tells me anyway. They’re not to be confused with Helvetica, the hardcore Ohio band and/or not-so-hardcore typeface, and have just released a kick-arse album called Dromomania (not to be confused with Deerhunter’s Monomania either, people). It opens with just about the best thing to grace my ears: “Bermuda”, a cheeky downtempo, reverby, “Back in the USSR”-type-of-drum-and-ballad. It’s pretty experimental with structure, with a solid wah-wah guitar solo closing the song, and minor chords injected when you least expect them. It’s about being brazen and bitter with a lover, burning the bridge on fire, and turning the other way. So yeah, you can go off to Bermuda, yeah you should do that, you can trip forever away from me.
Knife Pleats – “One Step Too Far”
Rose Melberg fans, get off your office chairs. She’s back. I always love going back to Melberg’s Wikipedia page, mainly cos of the satisfaction I get when I read… wait, they’ve removed it. WELL – with or without citation, Melberg really has been a key player of the Olympia music scene, K Records, and twee pop. When I first listened to Knife Pleats, I felt biased because Tiger Trap has been one of the most influential bands of my own self-imposed, ramshackled music education. But at the same time, a lot of her other projects felt dull and floppy for me – Knife Pleats is a good Melberg resurrection because she’s backed by what she needs most: quality cymbals pinging up and down, a little bit of distortion, and sweet female harmonies right behind her. Subject-wise, Melberg has always grown more melancholic, and here she’s no different. In “One Step Too Far”, she’s apologetic about being too ahead (or behind?), about leading some guy/girl on, and how the world and herself just keeps turning and turning. It’s a lovely acknowledgement about how personal growth is time-sensitive, and that people don’t need to keep up with each other.
Center Negative – “profitable and desperate”
From the same Melted Ice Cream dudes that brought us Thrill Collins, Team Ugly and Salad Boys’ 2013 very delightful album (which just got a 2015 US re-release by Trouble in Mind Records under the name Metalmania, with a few new songs added), I found the desperate yet thoroughly sensible soul that is Center Negative. Not surprisingly, it is the solo project of Team Ugly’s Michael McClelland (Christchurch seems very much like Brisbane at times). Self-demonising and unruly, Michael sings about Catholic guilt and the soul-lessness spirit that can often accompany music writing. Behind his rant? A bloppy-as-fuck synth, an old Strat (probably), and a thud-snare-thud-snare sample that is right out of my childhood Casio keyboard.
Morning TV – “Golden”
Debuting their very first single “Golden”, Sydney’s Morning TV seem to all have been cryogenically woken from a sepia slumber and turned on their amps. Watching TV in the morning is an ok thing to do when you’re a kid on school holidays, but if it’s not the weekend, then morning TV is… well, apart from Logie winner Karl Stefanovic, it’s a low, slow drag. Artistically, though, there is plenty to work with here, and singer and guitarist Brit transplants you there pretty well. The wording is blurry, but it pines after someone, and dwells into how she’s “thinking way too hard about how this might all start(stop?)”. The mood is golden all right, with flecks of stoner psychedelia without getting too Burger Record-y. Can’t wait for the rest.
Jouk Mistrow – “DEERS”
Fresh outta high school (they’re not, but anyone under 21 strikes me as such), this Brisbane three-piece packs a dense ballad in “DEERS”, which is half metronome, half hypnotism, and equal parts somber and self-conscious. There is an accomplished tenseness, particularly when Jouk Mistrow’s voices unite in the chorus, that is darker than anything lead singer Ethan Greaves attempts to convey via his quick-witted, stream-of-consciousness boppy lines. The recording feels uncomfortably close and claustrophobic – the guitar riff, Greaves’ clear singing – but it’s really to the advantage of the song. It sounds refreshing because, amid the choir of sunny California-influenced pop that is Brisbane, these guys (VB drinking, short-wearing dudes) are creating #darkmatter.