July is the heart of the festival season with numerous festivals underway, such as Latitude Festival in Suffolk, England; Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago; the RBC Royal Bank Bluesfest in Ottawa; and many more across the world. If you’re not attending any these festivals this weekend, then we have the next best thing – the Saturday Sampler July 15th edition! Today’s mini-playlist is bookend by two mind-altering tracks while in-between there are some rockers, some quirky indie-rock, a dark electro-pop number, and the return of one of indie’s great experimental rock bands. This sort of sounds like a music festival lineup.
Behind the Shadow Drops – “Positive Shadow, Negative Light” (Tokyo, Japan)
RIYL: MONO, Explosions in the Sky, Maserati
Brace yourself for a mind-blowing five-minute journey. Takaakira “Taka” Goto (founder of Japanese instrumental rock powerhouse MONO) has a new project, and the lead single is a masterful work of art. “Positive Shadow, Negative Light” is the first single from the Behind the Shadow Drops’ debut album, H a r m o n i c. It features percussion and mixing by John McEntire (Yo La Tengo, The Sea and Cake/Yo La Tengo) and cellist Helen Money (MONO, Broken Social Scene). But what you need to know before you listen is this: you will be moved. It’s ambient, electronica, experimental, trip-hop, and post-rock all fused into one, and it’s utterly spellbinding.
If you’re not already a MONO fan, you may not be prepared for the emotional response Taka Goto’s music will have on you. But for those who have fallen under his other band’s spell, you will likely have a similar reaction listening to the sweeping soundscapes that “Positive Shadow, Negative Light” creates. You may feel waves of awe wash over you; you may even be brought to tears. This is powerfully emotional music. Where MONO’s music is cinematic, Behind the Shadow Drops is otherworldly. Close your eyes while you escape into Taka Goto’s world. Despite its monochromatic album art, this song is a galaxy of vivid color waiting to be explored.
Big Baby – “Not That” (Richmond, Virginia USA)
RIYL: Tacocat, Frankie Cosmos
We’ve all heard the hackneyed saying about what to do when life hands you lemons. But in the case of emerging Virginia indie band Big Baby, they chose to make music instead of lemonade.
There is no denying that their self-described “sweet & sour indie pop” has the refreshing tartness of cold lemonade on a hot summer day. In fact, the band’s very first song is called “Lemons” – but their new “Not That” single is the one we can’t stop playing. It’s exactly the kind of lo-fi pop/punk fare that makes Big Baby’s music perfect, and not just for summer. Infectious, addictive, and super tasty: what more could you ask for?
You can find “Not That” on their new Sour Patch album, out now on EggHunt Records.
Big Baby are Ali Mislowsky (guitar/vocals), Chris Smith (guitar/vocals), and Brian Dove (drums).
Billie Eilish – “COPYCAT” (Los Angeles, USA)
RIYL: BANKS, Lorde, Lana Del Rey
Some people were born with gift of gab, but in the case of Billie Eilish she was born to be a music star. As a young teenager, she turned heads with her sleek electro-pop and sharp tongue. Now a year older, the 15-year old, Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter seeks to destroy all stereotypes that young artists are only interested in singing about the tried-and-true things.
Her new single, “COPYCAT”, is right out of a Dean Koontz novel. It is an eerie, creepy song about obsession, seduction, control, and murder. The production work is dark and menacing, and the tempo is deliberate and patient. Eilish’s taut but striking voice is that of a woman on a mission and one who won’t be stopped. “Perfect murder. Take your aim. I don’t belong to anyone but everyone knows my name“, she seductively sings. But is she the victim or the assailant? The answer is found near the end, when she teases, “I’m sorry. Sorry… Psyche!”
Remind yourself Eilish is only 15-years old. Now imagine what stories she will be telling five and ten years from now. Forget the gift of gab, Eilish is a born storyteller.
Black Mekon – “No Prom” (Birmingham, England)
RIYL: Oblivians, The Mummies, Jay Reatard
It’s the weekend and you might be planning to see one of the summer blockbusters out in the theaters. To get you revved up for the non-stop action, explosions, and gunfights, English garage rockers Black Mekon have just the song for the occasion.
“No Prom” is an electrifying, unrelenting number filled with fuzzy guitar riffs, explosive rhythms, and howling vocals. The song’s frenetic energy is contagious, causing involuntary dancing, jumping, and jittering. It’s the type of song one would expect to hear in a Quentin Tarantino when the inevitable shootout happens. If you watched Reservoir Dogs or Pulp Fiction, you’ll know exactly what those moments are. All we need is either Steve Buscemi or Samuel L. Jackson to give us a sermon before all hell breaks loose. Hopefully someone will pick up this song for their next movie. Come to think of it, this song would be perfect for The Big Lebowski sequel.
Deerhoof – “I Will Spite Survive” (feat. Jenn Wasner) (San Francisco, USA)
RIYL: Blonde Redhead, Dirty Projectors, The Fiery Furnaces
We are less than two months away from A NEW DEERHOOF ALBUM! Ahem. Pardon our all-cap excitement, but damn, their new “I Will Spite Survive” single has us a wee bit excited. Yes, that’s Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner (aka Flock of Dimes) you hear on backing vocals. That just makes this tune all the more irresistible. But this tune has more to offer than just amazing guest vocals. It’s an anthemic call to defiance. It’s the pep talk you need when you’ve had enough of politicians cramming their views down your throats. In a work, it’s woke. As the band describes:
“In this world of tyrants and CEOs seemingly hellbent on achieving the termination of our species, perhaps the most rebellious thing we could do is not die. Should we survive the global warming, the lack of healthcare, and the bombs, a more humane future may await us. Maligned for shirking their capitalist duty, it is the younger generations we center. Safeguarding our consciences is only part of the daily challenge, since we also need to navigate corporate-owned electronic media which both aids and saps our energies.”
The awesome folks at Joyful Noise Recordings will release Mountain Moves on September 8th. You can pre-order it here. It also features more incredible guest appearances by folks like Xenia Rubinos, Juana Molina, The Staples Singers, and more.
Deerhoof are Satomi Matsuzaki (vocals/bass), John Dietrich (guitar), Ed Rodriguez (guitar), and Greg Saunier (drums).
In The Valley Below – “Bloodhands (Oh My Fever)” (Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA)
RIYL: Concrete Blonde, Siouxsie & The Banshees, Dead Can Dance
Indie duo In The Valley Below first wowed us three years ago with their debut album, The Belt, and its radio-friendly “Peaches” single. While that catchy-as-hell tune made a splash and took them to festivals worldwide, their newest release is a bold new sound for the former Los Angeles residents. The gothic tones that echo Concrete Blonde and Siouxsie & The Banshees draw you in, but it’s the message that holds your attention.
On their new five-song EP, The Elephant, Jeffrey Jacob and Angela Gail join politically-conscious bands like Algiers in tackling hot button social topics. The album’s lead single finds them – backed by a gospel choir – addressing racial tensions heightened by police brutality. “Bloodhands (Oh My Fever)” is inspired by the shootings and riots in America, and asks: “Tell me tell me / Why we do it.” If that repeated refrain on the chorus doesn’t send chills up your spine, then watch the video.
Swedish Death Candy – “Oh My” (London, England / Seoul, Korea / Bari, Italy)
RIYL: Can meets Black Sabbath, The Black Angels, Temples, Tame Impala
Food and music. Two things in this world that brings people together regardless who they are, what they believe, where they’re from, etc. This is just proven fact. Occasionally, there is a band that exemplifies this, at least with respect to music. Swedish Death Candy is one of these groups, as its four members were born in different places across the world but currently call London home. Their music also encapsulates the band’s mosaic, and this is perfectly demonstrated on their new single, “Oh My”.
This song brilliantly meshes vintage, power rock ‘n roll with psychedelic rock. “Oh My”, in other words, sounds like the byproduct of Can and Black Sabbath thrown together in the studio with Kevin Parker (of Tame Impala) as producer. It is edgy and gritty yet delirious, filled with reverb and fuzz but possesses a dreamy quality. It blisters and roars at times, but a cosmic lushness streams throughout. Is it possible to want to head bang and pump fists in the air while feeling like one is on cloud nine? Evidently, it is. Calling this song brilliant actually might the incorrect adjective to describe this number. Majestic sounds perfect.
Swedish Death Candy are Louis D R Perry, Jiwoon Whang, Marco Ninni, and Francesco Codardo.
TRASH – “81” (Chesterfield, England)
RIYL: Yuck, Two Door Cinema Club, Bombay Bicycle Club, Viola Beach
Do you need another dose of dreamy indie rock? (Since it’s the weekend, that’s a rhetorical question. Of course you do!) Feast your ears on this dose of sunny indie goodness. British indie four-piece TRASH first blew us away last month with their “Migraines” single, but they’ve already outdone themselves with their new “81” tune. Each spin reveals new elements that elevate your mood and put a smile on your face. Look, there are enough things in this world trying to do the express opposite, so why not crank this one and give a middle-finger salute to all things negative?
“81” isn’t simply a catchy song; it’s deliriously free-spirited and unapologetically honest. When frontman Dan Longmore sings, “I still don’t know what I want,” you can’t help but recall those days when you felt the same way. Maybe it was 10 years ago; maybe it was last Tuesday. The point is, no matter what age you are, there is something in the deepest levels of your psyche that remains a hopeless romantic teenager. Revel in the sheer optimism of those days with this gem. You don’t have to know what you want. Sometimes you just need a good soundtrack to listen to while you’re exploring your options. This is that song.
TRASH are: Dan Longmore (lead vocals/guitar), Evan Martin (backing vocals/guitar/synth), Tom Barton (bass), and Brad Weston (drums).
The Wagner Logic – “Dropped From Far Above” (Kasilof, Alaska, USA)
RIYL: Slowdive, Cocteau Twins, Lush
You might be asking yourself, “Where the heck is Kasilof, Alaska?” According to a quick Google search, it is a small village that lies three hours southwest of Anchorage. Its population, according to the 2010 Census, was 549. This gives The Wagner Logic a unique distinction – they’re the smallest band we’ve ever covered. Well, Kasilof is the smallest place from where we’ve featured a band. Just goes to show that size isn’t everything as long as you know how to perform.
Earlier this week, the trio of James Glaves, Jeremy Wagner, and Sonny Ogle released their new EP, and from it is “Dropped From Above”. Mixing Cocteau Twins-esque shimmering shoegaze and the light, dreamy tones of Slowdive, the song is a dazzling and warm affair. It gives the sensation akin to one waking up after a long and wonderful sleep and the excitement of a new day floods through your mind. Absolutely fantastic is this song and one that will leave smiles on the faces of those who come across it. Alaska might have just have its next great discovery since the Gold Rush.
Zola Jesus – “Soak” (Seattle, USA)
RIYL: Björk, Chelsea Wolfe, PJ Harvey
A month ago, Goth-pop electronica star Nika Roza Danilova – better known as Zola Jesus – released the shivering and spine-tingling “Exhumed”. It marked her long-awaited return since 2014’s Taiga. In what has become her trademark, she and her label dropped her latest single in the wee hours of the morning, which is fitting because “Soak” is the anthem of the blackened night and all the life that rises when the moon glows.
“Soak” is haunting and bleak with the beats throbbing as slowly as a heart at rest while the waves of synths sear in the background with a sinister pulse. Nothing is hurried; instead, the song methodically builds in intensity and suspense. Danilova’s powerful voice, though, is like shooting star streaking across the blackness, piercing through the dark waves and being the light upon which our attention becomes fixated. She hollers at us, “Take me to the water. / I am nothing but I am so beat up and sore. / You should know I will never let you down. / You should know I will never let you drown.” She has now become not just our beacon but our conscious, our guide.
Zola Jesus’ sixth album, Okovi, will see the light of day on September 8th. Sacred Bones Records will release it, and the LP can be pre-ordered on Bandcamp and iTunes. Her upcoming tour starts Thursday, July 20th.
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