Recent Releases, Summer 2019

Oops! I’m a month late on this, so this is going to be a slightly longer one, encompassing the various releases I’ve been raving about from June to September. Enjoy!

Silversun Pickups, Widow’s Weeds, released 9 June. Always twitchy, always off-kilter, and always amazing.

Hot Chip, A Bath Full of Ecstasy, release 21 June. A rather laid back and mellow record for them, bu this style suits them extremely well.

Hatchie, Keepsake, released 21 June. One of my favorite finds thanks to KEXP, they’re good alt-poppy fun with some killer bass riffs!

Drab Majesty, Modern Mirror, released 12 July. Highly recommended if you like that 80s gothy synth sound. Definitely reminds me of Clan of Xymox.

311, Voyager, released 12 July. As said before, whenever 311 drops a record I will always pick it up. Good funky fun.

DJ Shadow featuring De La Soul, “Rocket Fuel” single, released 24 July. Another KEXP find, this has to be one of my top favorite songs of the year. It’s a fantastic throwback rap tune you’d have heard in the late 80s. Definitely a nod to Run-DMC on this track.

Jay Som, Anak Ko, released 23 August. Light and lovely guitar alt-rock topped with dreamy vocals. But not shoegaze! “Superbike” is another track that’s been stuck in my head for months.

NAVVI, 25O2 EP, released 30 August. Filed alongside HAELOS as one of my go-to bands for blissful dance alt-pop. It’s a short five-song EP, but it’s got some ace tunes on it.

Tennis System, Lovesick, released 6 September. This band reminds me of Swervedriver with their loud and dissonant shoegaze guitar crunch. Surprisingly a great listen for my writing sessions!

Pixies, Beneath the Eyrie, released 13 September. The long-awaited new Pixies record is strangely spooky this time out. I’m not too surprised considering Frank Black’s forays into weird subject matters, but the creepiness translates well in this case.

Brittany Howard, Jaime, released 20 September. The Alabama Shakes singer brings us an amazing soulful and jazzy solo record filled with blazing funky riffs. Excellent stuff.

blink-182, Nine, released 20 September. We got to see this band live at Outside Lands this year and they were just as amazing as I thought they’d be. Older and ever so slightly more mature, they’re still tight as hell.

The Beatles, Abbey Road Super Deluxe Edition, released 27 September. Of COURSE I have to have this on the list! I’ll give you all a much more detailed response to the release once I finally get my copy (it’s in the mail at this time), but from what I’ve heard via streaming, Giles Martin has remixed it just enough to improve on what is already a fantastic album. The extras are also a hell of a lot of fun!

Start!

Eric Alper, one of the music writers I follow on Twitter, sometimes throws out Questions of the Day just for fun, to get a conversation going. A while back he asked “What song has the best intro?” And of course about twenty different tracks popped up, some more obvious than usual. Here are a few tracks that contain some of my favorite openings over the years. As you can probably tell, I’m a huge fan of the Slow Reveal. 🙂

Speaking of the 90s…

That decade definitely had its share of one-hit wonders and almost-hits, didn’t it? From a former record-store-clerk standpoint, there was definitely a HARD push to get everything and anything out there to cash in on The Latest Sound. This was pretty much across the board in multiple genres. I remember the weekly visits from the distribution reps as they upsold the big names as well as the copycats and the underdogs. Some of it worked, a lot of it didn’t. Sometimes the music just wasn’t as good, but sometimes it was just luck and timing.

Here’s some tunage from the 90s that I thought was well worth the attention but unfortunately didn’t get past the first few hurdles here in the US. I’m pretty sure many of you have never heard of these, or will spark that wonderful ‘oh, that song!’ memory.

Fly-by: Relaxing

Sorry for the fake-out there, kids…Outside Lands took a bit more out of me than I’d expected. Going to take it a little bit easy this week in an attempt to get back some of my energy.

Meanwhile, have a listen to a shoegaze deep cut that pops into my head now and again. Then listen to its ambient reworking by Global Communication.

I should do an overview of both bands. Chapterhouse was a fantastic Britpop/Shoegaze band that didn’t get nearly all the love it deserves. Global Communication on the other hand may be known more for their remix work and their solo outings under their own names (Tom Middleton and Mark Pritchard), but their ’73:14′ album is an ambient masterpiece.

Synthpop Has Returned and I Am Here for It

I should have seen the signs when Davey and Jade from AFI decided to plug in their old-school synths and create Blaqk Audio and have a minor hit with “Stiff Kittens” back in 2007. It’s equal parts darkwave goth and emocore and it sounds like they’d been mainlining their 80s Belgian techno.

Considering I grew up listening to the original stuff on college radio back in the 80s and loved it, I of course gravitated to the new waves of New Wave each time they splashed ashore. They may not have been giant surges, but they always tended to stick around in one form or another.

For a while we saw a number of bands with a form a lazy dreampop like Small Black, or the splashy sound of Bear in Heaven, or the cinematic widescreen of M83:

(Mad props to them for channeling Akira in this particular video, by the way.)

We’ve also seen an uptick of the synth-duo band dynamic, such as Tanlines, MS MR, Bob Moses, and Public Service Broadcasting:

And of course there’s the one-man synth performer Robert DeLong who plays every instrument himself, often all at the same time, many of them consisting of kludged-together video game consoles and joysticks:

Synthpop seems to have finally gained more ground over the last year or so, as I’ve been seeing an uptick of records by performers and bands with a love for that classic 80s synth sound. Many of them are even channeling some of the more obscure goth and darkwave bands such as Xymox, Red Flag and Red Lorry Yellow Lorry such as Drab Majesty and Boy Harsher:

I’m drawn to this sound partly because of its spot-on retro inspiration, but also because it’s exactly the kind of stuff I’d listen to during my writing sessions. I’m about to create another playlist for Mendaihu Universe Book Four (Songs from the Eden Cycle Vol 6, if you’re playing along).

Some people may see this synth sound as sterile, or just another alt-rock hybrid, but I’m here for it regardless. It’s fun, it’s moody, and it’s creative. And I’ll be honest, I wish I had the money and technical mind to buy me one of those synths and record my own stuff. For now, though, I’ll stick with grooving along to these albums on my headphones at the gym or at my PC in Spare Oom, waiting for more.

Recent Releases, Spring 2019

OH HEY It’s been ages since I’ve posted something here, hasn’t it? I suppose I should catch up! Time to provide you with a list of some of my favorite new releases from mid-March to the present!

American Football, American Football (LP3), released 22 March. This is definitely a band to have in your collection. It’s laid-back post-rock, only more melodic and jazzy. And they do write beautiful melodies.

UNKLE, The Road Pt 2: Lost Highway, released 29 March. Surprisingly more upbeat and introspective than The Road Pt 1, but still a moody epic from James Lavelle. Big props for getting Tom Smith (the lead singer of Editors) to sing one of the album’s best tracks.

Billie Eilish, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, released 29 March. This is such a hard album to pin down, because it’s so freaking weird. It’s not goofy-weird like, say, Flaming Lips. More like I think there might be something wrong with you weird. And it’s also dead clever — sound effects and vocal stutters whiz by unexpectedly, the lyrics often hide a wicked sense of humor, and the production is just fantastic.

PUP, Morbid Stuff, released 5 April. Goofy pop-punk with dark undertones, it’s a fun romp even when they’re singing about shitty things.

Fontaines DC, Dogrel, released 12 April. Old-fashioned working-class punk from Dublin, this band’s a favorite of KEXP, who got me completely hooked on them.

New Age Healers, “Hang On” single, released 15 April. I’m really digging this band, partly because they channel the Stone Roses so damn well! Great tunes and lovely dreamlike sound. I’m looking forward to hearing more from this band.

Lamb, The Secret of Letting Go, released 26 April. Still amazing after all these years, this band never fails to capture the perfect mood in their music. Still one of my favorite bands to listen to during writing sessions!

Vampire Weekend, Father of the Bride, released 3 May. This record completely surprised me by how damn good it is! They seem to have eased back considerably on their trademark quirkiness and focused more on the not-quite-retro semi-acoustic sound reminiscent of their first record. For a double-album, it’s solid from start to finish.

HAELOS, Any Random Kindness, released 10 May. Why did it take me so damn long to get into this band? I mean seriously: moody lyrics, atmospheric production, dreamlike melodies…this is 100% in my wheelhouse! This one has been getting extremely heavy play here in Spare Oom, and it’s not going away any time soon.

Charly Bliss, Young Enough, released 10 May. This band could easily have fallen into the sophomore slump, but they pulled through and recorded an even more solid record than their debut! Great bouncy punk fun.

The National, I Am Easy to Find, released 17 May. Always slightly strange, always moody and meandering, but never a dull moment from this band. It’s brighter than their previous record and a wonderful listen.

The Head and the Heart, Living Mirage, released 17 May. This band has evolved in so many different ways you can’t really file them in with the other alt-folk bands anymore, but they’ve definitely hit their stride with this new record.

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Well! I seem to have gone against my own better judgement and previous complaining about writing schedules by deciding that maybe working off the whiteboard isn’t all that bad a thing after all. The more I thought about it, the more I really enjoyed talking about both new and old music here at Walk in Silence, so hopefully starting this month I’ll be back on a twice-a-week schedule again. We shall see…!