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]

The New Tigers – s/t

Rating: ★★★★☆

It’s got to be hard to get your music across the Atlantic, especially when you’re a little known band from Finland.  Fortunately for you, The New Tigers self-titled album has slowly begun to trickle across the seas, bringing us fuzzy pop that’s sure to appeal to listeners of all sorts, crafting tunes that will resonate with your ears time and time again.

Of course, one of the greatest things about listening to The New Tigers is their ability to build their pop from within a realm of lo-fi noise, but then let the songs sprawl out into the great unknown.  Album opener “Clocks of Destruction” is one of two such tracks, building in momentum just near the minute mark, but fading into crafty noise, like Broken Social Scene would pull of when they were in a jamming mood.  It takes a special track to build on what could easily be a two minute pop song and still maintain interest throughout.  “Pocketful of Sand” is the other such track, but it takes just a bit longer to reach the vocals, but they’re so light that you’re likely to just see them as a floating piece of the inherent melody the band has built.  These two tracks alone make for a special listen, but this isn’t all the band wants to offer you.

“Transitions” is a much quieter offering from the band, providing listeners a moment of rest and relaxation as the song itself slowly prods along.  Softly the song meanders along, letting you know that this doesn’t always have to be a forceful trip to the noisy horizon; The New Tigers can win you over with a slow number as well. You can then jump right into the bubbly “Door on the Floor,” a more light-hearted bouncing track that resembles Pains of Being Pure at Heart during their quieter noise-pop days.  It’s great to offer sprawling tracks, but being able to contain yourself is a trait that not every band seems to possess, so its nice to see these guys exploring structure and length.

Perhaps one of the secret gems on The New Tigers lives near the end; it’s called “Velvet Jam.” The more I listen to this track, the more I seem to absorb, pulling me further into the song itself.  There’s bits of jangling guitar, ramshackle drumming, and wispy vocals of the softer sort, carrying the melody along perfectly.  Personally, I like the touch of the knifing guitar line that cuts in and out during what seems like the chorus, just before the jangle kicks back into the track.  It’s the sort of song that begs you to listen over and over again.

It’s interesting when listening to The New Tigers how much they sound like a lot of the American bands we all adore, yet at the same time, they’re able to add their own little pieces, allowing the record to sound vibrant and refreshing. Just one listen to the self-titled record will surely not be enough, as you’ll have to go back again, just to check if it’s as wonderful as it sounded.  I got news for you: it is.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/05-Pocketful-Of-Sand.mp3]

Download: The New Tigers – Pocketful Of Sand [MP3]

The New Tigers is out now on Soliti Music.

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