Show Preview: Two Nights With Angel Olsen @ The Mohawk (2/6 & 2/7)

Tonight and tomorrow you have the chance to catch one of the biggest names in the indie rock world at one of the best venues in town. Angel Olsen was originally slated to only play one night at The Mohawk, but due to overwhelming demand and a fast sell out, another night was added to soothe the desires of our town to catch this lady and her band touring in support of 2016’s boldMy Woman.Perhaps we’ll be treated to full evenings with some back catalogue hits from the spectacularBurn Your Fire For No Witness, or maybe even a few fromHalf Way Home. (I’ve got my fingers crossed that by some strange chance I’ll get to hear “Lonely Universe”). Regardless of potential setlists, you can bet that if you’re lucky enough to be at The Mohawk tonight or tomorrow night, you’ll be in for a songwriter in her prime– surely Olsen’s unmistakably powerful vocals will dominate the night, followed closely behind by the ferocious guitar that has accompanied her on her more recent albums. Tickets may be sold out, but there’s always craigslist, right? Word on the street is they may be going for a pretty penny– and you can see why by checking out the video for “Shut Up Kiss Me” below. Do you really want to miss out on this?

Oh, and Chris Cohen will be providing the opening act for both evenings, so that gives you another reason to show up and show up early after the 6:30 door times as to not miss out on his even-tempered indie rock. Check out “Torrey Pine” below as well.


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Get a Little Metal With Wolf People

298518_221756144558137_1937673973_nWolf People, out of the London area, are back in the fray with a new song off their upcoming album. “Ninth Night” is a three minute whirl of psychedelic fuzz and darkness, with a bit of metal influence coming in with the raging guitar solos that take over the song toward the end. There’s a huge amount of distortion that really takes over the number and gives it some snarl and attitude.

They’ve got a new album called Ruins coming out on Jagjaguwar on November 11th.


The Besnard Lakes Return

2015BandEveryone loves a good Canadian indie rock band, especially The Besnard Lakes, so it’s great news that this group is back with a new album on the horizon. They’ve returned with this new track, “Golden Lion,” as well as the announcement of an EP and a full length. This 12″ EP, which features the track below, will be out November 13th, while the full length record, A Coliseum Complex Museum, won’t be out until January 22nd of next year. Regardless, the song that they’ve shared with us today has got a snarling swirl of psychedelic to it, made softer by those falsetto’ed vocals.

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Sleek Synth Pop For Dancing From Small Black

unnamed-5Not too long ago I shared with you this track from Brooklyn’s Small Black, and enjoyed the new release of pulsating synth pop from these established gentlemen. Once again, this four piece have returned to demonstrate their great knack for churning out killer synth pop tracks that not only makes you want to shake it, but also conjures some real human connection. In “No One Wants It To Happen To You,” once you press play, you know the band’s got something big in store for you; the sounds of the track all sort of loom quietly and begin to build gradually in the mix. They’ve got a new album called Best Blues  coming out October 16th on Jagjaguwar. 

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Viet Cong – s/t

0004053794_10Rating: ★★★½☆

Viet Cong is a group formed from the ashes of Women, with two members from that lineup going forward and adding two members to create something new. The result is a similar darkwave sound that you might have heard from that past band, but with some nuances that keep things distinctive.

The band starts their debut full-length record out with “Newspaper Spoons,” a crunchy and buzzing staccato track that immerses you in the blackness that this record holds. The vocals are distanced and monotone, chanting single words or short phrases in bursts of lyrics while the extra fuzzy guitars meander and strike in the background. Little riffs of synthesizer join the mix toward the end, cutting through the static wall of noise the band has created with a sleek and clean electronic sound. This track is a good introduction for this record, as it shows you Viet Cong at their bleakest; as the album moves on, the sound gets a little warmer than this number, but for the majority of time, the group lives in this kind of stark musical environment.

“If we’re lucky, we’ll get old and die” buzzily resurfaces as a refrain on the second track of the album, “Pointless Experience:” even when they are at their warmest Viet Cong is still icy and dark. This second track is a departure from the first in that it has some kind of instrumental and vocal variation: the song is fluid as opposed to static. The fuzz is still there, but intermittently as the vocals of Matt Flegel sink into their yelping norm.

Later on you get some more stars song on this album with “Continental Shelf,” and “Silhouettes,” which really pull your ears back to attention near the end and crack the mechanized atmosphere that has been building over each song. “Continental Shelf” is a dramatic tune and the guitar riffs that open the track bring you in from the moment it begins. The vocals are emotive, both when they shrieking along with the instrumentation or mumbling to the simmering beat. “Silhouettes” is the closest that Viet Cong gets to a dance track, as the electric guitars and synth fight to the death for the spotlight and the darkness seems to hang above the music instead of weighing it down.

While Viet Cong as a whole listens quite easily, some tracks are much more enticing than others, which becomes apparent on your third or fourth trip around the album. I find myself gravitating towards the more accessible tracks that are trimmed down: concision works for the darkness that this band brings, and I look forward to see what the future holds for them and their post-punk style.



More Sharon Van Etten?!

sharonIt’s no secret that I love Sharon Van Etten and everything she does, so when I saw that she had more new music so quickly after last year’s stunning Are We There, I couldn’t wait to share it with you. “I Don’t Want t0 Let You Down,” runs along the same tone that she set on her last album, but with a bit more straightforward rock and roll that we’ve know Sharon to dabble in before. Her vocals are all power in their husky deepness and in the choral arc she really hits you with emotion– the track is simple and straightforward, but a delight to listen to.

Blast This New Viet Cong Track

unnamed (2)After Viet Cong, made up of past members of Women, shared their lovely debut single, “Continental Shelf” from their upcoming record last year, the internet has been abuzz with praise and hype for what this band’s first album has in store. Following the enticing psychedelic power pop of that track, the band’s got another track from their forthcoming record to share with you and get you even more ready for the full record. This track has a little less of a Wolf Parade vibe and more of a straightforward rock and roll feel to it– the multilayered vocals dominate “Silhouettes” alongside the shredding psych’ed out guitar lines. Their debut self titled album is slated to come out in a few short weeks on January 20th via Jagjaguwar Records and you can pre-order it right here. You really don’t want to miss this track/band/album.


The Besnard Lakes Are In The Sticks

Mentioned yesterday that I was geeked to see The Besnard Lakes. They also happened to release a teaser track from the new album Until In Excess, Imperceptible UFO due in April on Jagjaguwar.

“People of the Sticks” is a gorgeous and flowing piece that pendulums away from the stadium and closer to gaze, but we’ll wait to see what’s what for the overall feel of the album when it is released. They certainly were a favorite of mine from SxSW a few years back so I will be stalking them from the best day parties all the way to their big showcase.

No download available yet. Hopefully the Youtube embed doesn’t offend (or use ATH radio up over there)…

Dinosaur Jr. – I Bet On Sky

Rating: ★★★☆☆

I love how the songs of my youth are coming back to haunt my record collection.  A slew of bands have returned to the fold, but for me, none has been more important than that of Dinosaur Jr, especially with their classic line-up at the helm.  I Bet On Sky isn’t a return to form, but it shows the continued growth of a band we’ve all adored for many a year.

At first, I was taken aback by the opening guitar lines of “Don’t Pretend You Didn’t Know,” sort of taking an angular approach at first, but when I heard J’s voice it all brought it back home.  There’s something so familiar about the sound of Mascis, but perhaps that’s due to my early acquaintance with the group.  For newcomers, you’ll find a singer that sounds aged, yet comfortable in his skin.  It’s probably one of my favorite voices in all of music. And while there is some heavy riffing going on, especially on tracks like “Watch the Corners,” I Bet On Sky is mostly an even keel affair, with J steadying the troops.

“Almost Fare” sort of pokes and prods its way into a full on chorus eruption, but I like the pacing on the track; Mascis never sounded so warm and personal, to me at least, as he does on this track.  That is until the chorus just blasts off, only to return quietly a few moments later.  Album closer “See It On Your Side” is a slow-burning guitar track, with these incredible bits of guitar skill dominating the early moments of the song, yet the star belongs to the vocal performance.  Somehow J always makes his songs fit his voice, even when he’s not fronting Dinosaur Jr, which is a feat in his own when you consider how much his vocals play a role in the band.

Of course, one of the special moments on this record doesn’t come from Mascis but rather a Barlow penned tune, “Rude.”  There’s an effortless bounce to the tune, and it’s definitely in the range of what one would expect from the group’s classic line-up; it’s definitely rooted in a sound very much known to fans of SST. Even “Pierce the Morning Rain” comes at you hard and fast, and while I like Barlow’s tune, this is one that reminds me of the first time I turned on a Dinosaur Jr. record. No matter how far the band changes and grows, there is something in their songwriting that will always feel like home.

Honestly, I Bet On Sky is a good solid record.  You’ll press play, and hopefully you’ll listen from start to finish, but it’s far from their best effort.  A lot of the songs have a decent punch, but other than three tracks that immediately spring to mind, there’s nothing that you can call an absolute standout.  It’s hard to knock a band that sounds this tight, and I don’t aim to do that, but perhaps I was looking for the warmth from J’s last solo outing, combined with the tight-knit unit of Murph and Barlow.  Dinosaur Jr. are clearly not the same band they once were, and yet at their core, they’re everything you love/loved about the group–so cheers to that.

Volcano Choir – Unmap

volcano_choir_unmapRating: ★★★½☆

Speaking of collaborations, Wisconsin’s Volcano Choir brings together Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) and Collection of Colonies of Bees (which features former members of the mighty Pele).

The nine tracks that make up their JagJaguwar debut, Unmap have more in common with ambient music than either of Volcano Choir other parts.  Using tape loops and minimal vocals, and restrained traditional instruments Unmap plays more like a score to a film than a traditional indie rock release.  That’s not to say that it’s not good, because it is.

What is so bold about this mostly quiet record is the lack of traditional vocals.  You would think having the current indie golden boy, Justin Vernon, in the band you would feature him prominently in as many tracks as possible, Volcano Choir do quite the opposite with only two of the nine songs having traditional vocal arrangements (Island, IS and Still).  It’s no surprise that these tracks are the glue that holds this whole release together.  You’ve previously been introduced to Island, IS, but you might surprised how familiar with Still you might be.  You probably remember it as the autotune (take it easy, Jigga!) vocal track, Woods, at the end of Bon Iver’s Blood Bank EP, but here it backed up with a full band.  I must admit, I like this version better.

The rest of the songs rely on the human voice as an instrument, an additional layer to the already lush soundscape.  Many bands have attempted such things before and it has always come off as pretentious and over produced, luckily that is not the case on Unmap.  The songs on Unmap come across as an organic progression of a group of individuals who have a true passion for the music they are producing.

For some this record will be hard to get into, but if you just give it some time you will be greatly rewarded.


Download: Volcano Choir – Island IS [MP3]

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