Are you ready to shake up your weekend? The Saturday Sampler December 17th edition offers eight sparkling gems guaranteed to move you. The singles are the work of artists from England, Italy, Sweden, and the USA. With the holidays fast approaching, this mini playlist is our gift to you. Cheers!
Active Bird Community – “Dead Legs” (New York City, USA)
RIYL: Futurebirds, Nai Harvest, Night Beats
We kick off the Sampler with a song that would have been one of summer’s rock anthems if it had been released six months ago. Ah, screw summer (it was -30°C in parts of Canada yesterday!) – this tune is still one of the year’s great anthems by an emerging band set to make big noise in 2017.
Active Bird Community‘s “Dead Legs” is ’90s angst rock resurrected with a southern rock twist. This New York City-based band delivers a rambunctious, no-holds-barred, frenetic number that will stick in your head for days. As the whirling guitars, the pounding bass line, and the cataclysmic drumming (which is awesome) collide and the intensity soars during the chorus, you’ll be releasing all your insecurities while screaming along with the band:
When these dead legs come alive, all my bullshit will subside
Start feeling my feat, it’s only a matter of time
Get something to eat, as long I pay my bills on time
I won’t feel insecure like someone is worrying about me.
“Dead Legs” is the third single from the band’s forthcoming album, Stick Around. It arrives next month. There is only one more thing to say about this number and the last time we’ll say it in 2016 – “Fuck yeah!”
Active Bird Community are Andrew Wolfson, Tom D’Agustino, Zach Slater, and Quinn McGovern.
The Awful Truth (feat. Esmé Patterson) – “Blissed Out” (Minneapolis, USA)
RIYL: Wilco, The Jayhawks, Pavement, Verbow
The double-whammy combo of rich vocals and jangly guitars on this new single from The Awful Truth is a delicious dose of vintage indie pop/rock. Its retro-inspired sound has a hazy quality reminiscent of early Wilco and Pavement. If you lived through the early ’90s, you may feel warm waves of nostalgia wash over you as you listen. “Blissed Out” shines with loads of low-key Midwestern charm, something you’d expect from an Illinois native who’s called Minnesota home for nearly a decade now.
Frontman Brent Colbert shares the mellow delivery of Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, especially on this song. It’s neither rushed nor urgent – just heartfelt with the coziness of a evening spent with someone you love. We can’t think of a better feeling to have, especially this time of year.
The Awful Truth are: Brent Colbert (guitar, lyrics, vocals), Laurie Geving (bass, vocals), Stephen Sokolouski (cello, synth, vocals), and Chris Madden (drums).
Communist Daughter – “Beach Stalker” (St. Paul, MN, USA)
RIYL: My Morning Jacket, Floating Action, Halloween Alaska
If we created a list of “comeback” or “redemption” bands, Communist Daughter would be near the top. For the most discerning indie music, the story of the band’s leader and mastermind Johnny Solomon is known. If not, here is a brief history. For years, Solomon struggled with addiction and mental health problems. He has been imprisoned and resided multiple times in rehabilitation centers across the U.S. (Even Communist Daughter’s critically acclaimed debut album, 2010’s Soundtrack to the End, was written in a state of uncertainty and isolation as Solomon tried to recover.) The album essentially was Solomon’s eulogy or even will to himself, but when it resonated with thousands of people, the band became one of that year’s breakout stars. Solomon still struggled, and he checked himself in to one last treatment facility. Now going on five years, Solomon is clean and his sight is crystal clear.
Last month, Communist Daughter released their sophomore album, The Cracks That Built The Wall, which is criminally underrated. The 11 songs are introspective and optimistic, blooming with the energy of man reborn. The song that best reflects the rejuvenation in Solomon and the band is “Beach Stalker”. The track brims with the warmth and brightness of a midsummer’s day while Solomon’s vocals swim in the same celestial currents as Jim James’. The song is catchy, energetic, and the personification of what the current season brings: hope.
Exam Season – “Everything Is Salted Caramel” (Ringwood, England)
RIYL: Weezer, American Football, Modern Baseball
Ahh, the words salted caramel give some of us an instant rush. The tantalizing blend of sweet and salty pleases the palate, whether it’s in gelato, lattes, or, in this case, new music. “Everything Is Salted Caramel” is, quite simply, a treat for the ears. Exam Season serve up smooth vocals and sun-kissed indie rock hooks here (think a mellower Weezer or Modern Baseball), but don’t worry about it being too sweet. No, this is a song about balance. You can love something (or someone) yet still encounter aspects that are far from perfect. Finding the sweet/salty balance in life isn’t always palatable or easy, but it’s all part of the game. And this tune is a refreshing ode to embracing it all.
If you’re not already familiar with this very new (but also very talented) band, check out their Mostly Homely debut EP from earlier this summer. It’s a stunning debut! Grab it from their Bandcamp page, along with another single whose proceeds will benefit anti-racism and xenophobia organizations. This single is (we presume) the final installment of the Art Is Hard Records 2016 Pin Pal Club. You can order it here.
GEMS – “Blow Out the Light” (Los Angeles via Washington, DC USA)
RIYL: The XX, Washed Out mixed with Phantogram
Full moons can make relatively sane people a little crazy. But now one of our favorite indie bands is giving us reasons to look forward to those lunar events. GEMS plans to release a new single on each full moon, and “Blow Out the Light” is the first offering. We’re excited because this duo (Lindsay Pitts and Clifford John Usher) has wowed us for years. Their 2015 album, Kill the One You Love, featured the sensual yet haunting “Living As a Ghost” and “Tangled Memories” singles. The atmospheric synth pop of those songs is still present here, only with a much brighter tone.
Pitts’ vocals seem to float with sparkling clarity from another celestial dimension. She consistently gives us chills, but here she takes it up several notches! What really makes this breakup song irresistible is the unexpected message. GEMS takes the typical love song and turns it upside down with its “Don’t come home to me tonight” message. A kiss-off never sounded so alluring.
Golden Coast – “Make Ya Move” (Los Angeles, USA)
RIYL: Great Good Fine OK, KAPTAN, Max and the Moon
Los Angeles-based indie duo Golden Coast just released “Make Ya Move” which is the perfect upbeat electropop track that forces you to move. It’s the final single from their self-titled debut EP that was just released earlier this month.
“Make Ya Move” has a totally cool ’80s funky synth vibe that is so completely infectious we must hit repeat. This is the perfect track to help send off the last Matinee post of 2016. Its high-energy vibe will have you shimmying, strutting, and snapping your fingers to the beat. Let’s face it: you’re probably sick of holiday songs by now, so why not crank up something that will lift your spirits and give you cardio benefits at the same time?
On this EP we hear a variety of styles which further proves the talent of Denny White and Steven Mudd. (As if their seven million views on YouTube isn’t enough proof!) You can grab the album at iTunes.
Red Sleeping Beauty – “We Are Magic” (Stockholm, Sweden)
RIYL: Crystal Castles, Crystal Fighters, Kraftwerk
Long-time Crystal Castles fans are likely still mourning the split between Alice Glass and Ethan Kath. At their peak, the duo created electronic synth-pop that masterfully bridged the innovation of early pioneers like Kraftwerk with a contemporary edginess and darkness. If you long for those days, then turn your focus toward Stockholm where a relatively new group is blazing a trail.
Red Sleeping Beauty are Niklas Angergård, Kristina Borg, Carl-Johan Näsström, and Mikael Matsson, and they are the next Crystal Castles. Like the Toronto duo, the four Swedes beautifully weave together the dark and ethereal sides of electronica, adding splashes of industrial, garage, and pop into their music. Their new single, “We Are Magic” is incredibly alluring. Borg’s stunning vocals give the song a mystical, Scandinavian folklore quality. The production work of her bandmates is simultaneously trippy, hypnotic, and intoxicating, melding the ambiance of ’70s-era disco floors with the sensory overload found in present-day European night clubs. This song is magic.
The single is out now via Labrador Records.
Soviet Soviet – “Remember Now” (Pesaro, Italy)
RIYL: A Place To Bury Strangers, Bloc Party, The Joy Formidable
One of the year’s biggest surprises are Soviet Soviet, the trio from the Adriatic coastal town of Pesaro. If they had not exploded in popularity, they would have on our Favorite Hidden Gems list (Parts 1 and 2). Instead, we’ll celebrate their newfound success.
It’s not difficult to understand why Soviet Soviet have become one of Europe’s must-see bands. They are the reincarnation of My Bloody Valentine and the heir to A Place To Bury Strangers. Their sound, however, has a post-punk aesthetic, fierce and uncompromising. All of this is revealed on their new album, Endless, a 40-minute tsunami of fiery guitars, head-pounding drumming, and chest-throbbing bass lines.
One of the first singles was the splashy “Endless Beauty”, but the song that exemplifies the band’s spectacular approach is “Remember Now”. It is everything that is Soviet Soviet, because it sounds like the band is playing this track live right in front of you. Its unrelenting energy and ferocity make it a spellbinding experience. We predict this song (and this album) will be heard through all of 2017.
Soviet Soviet are Alessandro Constantini (guitar), Andrea Giometti (bass/vocals), and Alessandro Ferri (drums).
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