Fresh Black Lizard Tune

blizardI’m always interested in the work of Black Lizard, and it’s becoming increasingly clear that I should give them more love as they prep the release of their new effort, Solarize.  You’ll hear the psychedelic influence on this latest single, with a stomp alive and well, meshing with the sound of ringing guitar swagger.  Admittedly, the vibe isn’t for everyone, but I’m on board, particularly because they’re releasing this new album via our friends at Soliti Music. You can grab it from the label on March 20th, then rock out with the band for months to come.

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Introducing: Mumrunner

mumsthewordThought I was pretty in with the Finnish scene, but Soliti always has to keep me on my toes.  They just tossed out this excellent single from Mumrunner today.  Honestly, this might be one of my favorite new things from the label in recent months; it’s got that swirling jangling guitar I love so well, but the vocals bring in a smoky male vocal, touched up by a nice female counterpart, and I’m in love. They’re polishing up the final touches on their newest EP, and I dare you not to immediately fall in love with this track.  I’ll keep you posted on the new EP…hopefully with a new song!

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Soft Piece of Pop from Manna

manananaDespite my tendencies for great rock n’ roll as of late, there’s still a softy inside.  That guy, though rare, really enjoys a powerful ballad, especially when its strung around the backbone of a piano.  Manna‘s voice could easily carry the track, which is apparent in the song’s early moments, though there’s some extra accompaniment to fill in areas of space within the song.  It’s just another slice of grandiose pop from the Finnish singer, who’ll be releasing her record, Blackbird, at the end of the month in her home country, though those of outside will have to wait until early 2015 for our own copy; look for the release via Soliti.

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Wake Up with Oceans

oceanIf, like some of us at the ATH offices, you’re struggling a bit here on Monday, then turn up the stereo and kick it with this dance number from Oceans.  They’re just the latest act to sign on with Soliti Music over in Finland.  The grooves are definitely bass heavy, allowing for you to get that toe-tapping feeling in your feet, but there’s also a nice bit of warmth hiding in the vocals…winning over any listener.  Not only that, but it’s quick and to the point, allowing you to sink your teeth in quickly and move on.  Look for an EP on October 31st.

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Download Lost Track from Sister Flo

floRecently I posted about the Finnish legend, Sister Flo, trying to get some love for the band in honor of the group releasing Tragician’s Hat on its 10 Year Anniversary…it features a whole disc of unreleased tunes.  But, one tune that was lost to the world that unfortunately didn’t make it onto the collection of rarities is “The Look.”  Clerical errors and Finnish gnomes are said to be to blame, but Soliti Music is now offering the dream track for free download.  Those of you who long for the days of Grandaddy and the like will find yourself absolutely in love, which will hopefully encourage you to go back and discover the band for the first time; you’ll be happy you gave it some spins.  Soliti has the album for sale HERE.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/The-Look-1.mp3]

Download: Sister Flo – The Look [MP3]

Pleased to Meet You: Colored Lights

coloredlightsI’ve worked really hard to spread the word on the great bands working in Finland; it’s one of my favorite scenes going on at the moment.  So, in line with all that great camaraderie, I was pleased to get an introduction to Colored Lights this past week.  Their sound is similar to countrymen, I Was a King, though they seem to embrace the louder side of power-pop.  I’m pretty excited to catch on to the band, as I love listening to a song where harmonies float just beneath the surface and the guitars have a nice distorted edge to them.  Those of you looking to love that sound will find yourself excited by this act.

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Black Lizard – s/t

blacklizard_frontcover-640x639Rating: ★★★½☆

In my mind, it’s got to be hard to start to craft your own sound, unburdened by the music one consumes, unless of course you’re in a semi-remote area, such as Finland.  It’s clear when listening to Black Lizard that they bear the touchstones of many acts, but their self-titled debut sees the group creating something entirely their own; it’s an album with diverse sound that will please any listener.

Sonic exploration seems to be the key to the album’s opener, “Honey, Please.” Like a storm, it rolls in quietly on the back of a ringing guitar, with happily haunting vocals drifting atop.  For me, the marvel is the restraint show on the tune, as Black Lizard seemingly stay in one mode for the entirety of the track; I’d be apt to just let go with a wall of noise. However, the band moves into more psychedelic territory on the following “Boundaries,” which is in danger of having some of the atmospheric guitars bleed all the way through your speakers.  Percussion on this tune takes a more tribal approach, while the vocals still have that foggy coating, even with a bit of clarity opening up briefly before the song fizzles out in a haze.

Even though the more broad reaching tracks on Black Lizard definitely hold a spot on my weekly playlist, I think that one of the facets that works best for the band is when they go for simplicity, such as on “Dead Light.  Sure, the pacing in the beginning has that slow opening, but when the chorus lets loose with distorted guitars and vocal swagger, it’s perhaps one of the best moments on the album: a sure hit. “Forever Gold” is similar, especially in the realm of length, but it’s a quick banger that allows the band to tightly weave their sound into a neat little package for listeners.  It’s not that the group gets too expansive, I just enjoy when they get a bang-on chorus that makes me bob my head, and that’s present in both these tunes.

If I were to counsel the group, I think my advice would be to allow for the vocals to shine through a bit more though, just a bit.  “Love is a Lie” is one of the most memorable tracks on the album, and it’s success is that it combines that stomping rhythm, bits of distortion, but also vocals you can attach yourself to, allowing listeners to fully invest themselves in the record.  But, aside from that small slight, Black Lizard clearly are defining a sound all their own, making this an effort worthy of your time. You want post-rock? Shoegaze? Psychedelia? It’s all here, and it’s all execute with a style that perhaps could only be captured in the land of Helsinki.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/BLACK-LIZARD-Love-Is-A-Lie.mp3]

Download: BLACK LIZARD – Love Is A Lie [MP3]

Black Lizard is out now on Soliti Music.

 

Delay Trees – Doze

Rating: ★★★½☆

When I first got hold of the new album from Finland’s Delay Trees, I focused on the most recent single, “Hml,” which might have left me a bit misguided.  That track carries with it a certain resemblance to ambling pop music of the day, but the rest of Doze is a slumbering beast of down-tempo melodies and beautiful tapestry.

“Decide” opens the record, and from the minute you press play, you begin to lose yourself.  Your speakers have a slight rattle, guitar chords are picked so delicately that they seem to float in the air, and Rami’s vocals drift eloquently in the far off distance.  On this statement track alone, Delay Trees aims to take you on a journey, musically speaking, carrying you on the wings of their harmonies into a distant land of pop resilience.  This is when the album begins to really take off, pushing your emotional state beyond recognition, into a hazy world of bliss and relaxation.

The pacing of “Dream Surfer” is, again, rather slow, but it allows for a building sensation created by the vocal and the guitars, which creatively begin to ring brightly around the 2.5 minute mark, only to soften into the distance.  And on comes “Hml,” a track that encourages both thought and toe-tapping; it’s a song that accomplishes that rare feat of contemplation and energy.  For me, this is definitely the standout of Doze, though it might come a bit too early for some listeners.  The elegant harmony of the vocals drew me immediately, both in their effortlessness and shifting of pitch.  If you do anything, let your mind drift away with this tune immediately.

Delay Trees provide you with a touch of respite, offering the instrumental “Glacier” before moving on towards their 8 minute opus, “Pause.”  Trying to write about this track has proved fruitless through countless revisions.  At times, I hear faint hints of a dream pop version of the Flaming Lips, yet other times I see myself traipsing through the snow-covered woods in Yellowstone…that is until an electronic pulse kicks in. Even with that throbbing, I’m still lost in the landscape of my own mind.  But all is returned to normal during the following track, “Future,” which has the most pummeling rhythm of anything on Doze.  It’s coated in a foggy haze, holding onto the group’s aesthetic tendencies, yet it’s the most rocking song, giving you just a glimmer of a group still looking to forge new ground.

Ultimately, however, the group is more comfortable having you drift away peacefully with them.  “Only the Stars” is another long number set at the penultimate spot, encouraging more meandering of the mind, but your patience will be rewarded with a beautifully crafted tune yet again, so stay tuned. It just illustrates that Doze is an album that requires full participation from the listener.  Such records are not always immediately gratifying, and often turn the audience away, but those with time and care will find themselves lost in the marvel created for us by Delay Trees.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/03-HML.mp3]

Download:Delay Trees – HML [MP3]

Doze is out now via Soliti Music.

Big Wave Riders – Life Less Ordinary

Rating: ★★★★☆

Finnish band Big Wave Riders burst onto the music scene with a pretty solid self-titled EP, and as they’ve spent more time together you can tell that the band’s grown in leaps and bounds.  Life Less Ordinary is an album that evades classification, demonstrating one of those rare acts that’s just going out there to put together the best songs they’ve written and giving them to their fans.

Opener, “Waiting in the Wings” might have a bit of dream-pop swagger to open the number, but as you move into the chorus you’re going to get swept away with the exuberant vocal delivery, sharp, yet backed by soaring touches.  And then in an effort not to replicate themselves too much, they move into “Stuck In Reverse,” which opens with a bit of a funky jam up front, before pulling back ever so slightly to offer club ready lyrics punctuated by a stabbing electronic pulse.  Back to back, these songs might not match, but in the grand scheme of Life Less Ordinary, it’s clear that the group are destined to outlive your genre studies.

The bio page for Big Wave Riders suggests the band are merely out to replicate the styles of their youth, and if that’s the case, I have a feeling that the band spent a lot of time jamming out to the Britpop movement that conquered Europe in the 90s.  One listen “California” and you’ll hear that fuzzed out guitar line with a distant vocal seemingly coming into your ears from a far off place.  It’s catchy; it’s got a groove, but it builds you your anticipation for where they band will go next.  And really, there’s no telling precisely where you’ll end up with this group.

“Sunny Season” is definitely a dream pop track you’d find with a lot of the bands in Europe, using a wash of melodic atmospherics to coat a throbbing bass line.  I will say Treppo’s vocal delivery has a little bit more of a post-punk delivery, giving an edge to the track that you might not have had otherwise.  Still, Life Less Ordinary begs you to move out of your comfort zone and move your expectations to the side.  “Castle in the Air” features an incredible bass line that forces your feet to stomp about beneath your office desk, offering you a nice new-wave bent, but then the song takes off.  The chorus, or what seems like the chorus blasts away into a noisy wall of guitars and vocals being pushed to their limit.  Big Wave Riders never dwell on your preconceived notions, nor their own for that matter, which benefits listeners who want more than just your average album listen.

Band’s like this are bound to succeed, playing on their own terms, playing with all their heart.  You can tell by listening to Life Less Ordinary just how important making music is to the group, just how important music is to the lives of Big Wave Riders.  Listening to this album over and over again, I have a feeling that it will help remind you of that emotion as well.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Waiting-In-The-Wings.mp3]

Download: Big Wave Riders – Waiting In The Wings

Life Less Ordinary is out now via Soliti Music.

 

Black Twig – Paper Trees

Rating: ★★★½☆

It’s clear from the recent rise in Finnish music trickling overseas that there’s quite a bit of great music being created in the country; Black Twig is another act determined to share their creativity with the world.  Paper Trees is their first proper album for the newly created Soliti Music, and while the label may be small, they’ve got some huge sounds to promote.

There’s definitely a diverse sound when you take your first trip through Paper Trees. For me, the biggest standout track was “Death Scene,” the albums fourth track.  It’s got a certain earnestness to fit as much as possible into the song, not unlike recent releases from Cloud Nothings.  Yet, you’ll find one large unifying force lurking in this song, and the album itself; the pleasant vocals help maintain a perfect sense of pop sensibility.

Going back to the beginning, you’ll realize that this seemingly effortless bit of cool was present all along.  Album opener “Four Notes” has a decently jangling guitar line, but the breathy vocals keep the song steadying in the waters of traditional pop tunes. But, just as you think the band’s settled into traditionalism, they warp up the song with squalls of feedback and noise, though not in an overbearing sense.  Such touches are present off and on throughout Paper Trees, demonstrating that Black Twig are definitely working out their sound. And in playing with such sounds, you end up with experimental tracks that seemingly come out of nowhere.

“Kouvala (Slow)” is one such track; it’s a sprawling piece of post rock stretching over seven minutes long.  Vocals on this track are practically non-existent, but the restraint the band displays in the songs construction perfectly displays their supposed intentions, leaving listeners with a taste that is more than just your average pop record.  It’s also indicative of the second-half of the record, which seems to hold a dark, nosier side of things in place. You’ll just have to listen to album closer “Antichrist” to see that the band can sufficiently produce edgier moments with chords knifing in and out of atmospheric negative space.  It will also leave you with the feeling that Robert Pollard just wrote a four minute track, as the vocal stylings and mixture of noise and traditional pop fare both lean towards the aforementioned musician’s work.

Paper Trees seemingly goes all over the place, from screeching post-rock to quieter moments of blissful pop, and yet it’s tied together so well that you’ll hardly notice the change in mood from one point to another.  Black Twig surely are a potent songwriting force; it’s clear in the way the songs are written, and the way the record plays out: you’ll find yourself jamming to this one over and over again, grateful that Finland is finally making its musical mark abroad.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/04-Death-Scene.mp3]

Download: Black Twig – Death Scene [MP3]

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