Why So Blue?

The weather on the East Coast is now in the ’60s, the leaves are changing and Fall’s official start date is Wednesday. Might I suggest Veronica Fallsdebut album as the perfect soundtrack to the Autumn? Minor chords are strummed at a fierce jangle, dark romance sung at close harmonies, and production that sounds alive and full of space.  The album was mostly recorded live over a three day period by producer Guy Fixen, which gives the songs a real immediacy, and shows off the bands chops. And as I said before, there’s a lot of headroom too — it’s a “you are there” sound that really only works if your band can play.

The band get the C-86 tag a lot but, apart from The Velvet Underground (which has inspired 95% of all indiepop), New Zealand seems to be a bigger influence anyway. “Misery” and current single “Bad Feeling” could both be Bats songs. (The Verlaines are a clear influence too, and I bet someone in the band loves The Chills’ “Pink Frost.”) But this is not a band you really sit around playing “spot the influence” to, as you’re too busy swooning to the gorgeous melodies and Roxanne Clifford’s truly lovely voice.

There’s not a dud in Veronica Falls‘ 36 minute running time. New songs (“Misery,” “Bad Feeling,” the effervescent “The Box”) are equals to early singles “Found Love in a Graveyard” and “Beachy Head” which appear here in newly recorded versions that might actually improve on the original versions. Normally I grumble when bands put all their singles (and b-sides) on their album, but the album has very good flow. It works. (That said I hope to hear some new songs next week when they play NYC.) Lyrically, it’s all old school romance: love and death, often intertwined. Sad, but happily so. This is haunted pop, a brisk October breeze that calls for a nice cardigan.

MP3: Veronica Falls – Misery (buy the album)

If you’re on Spotify, you can listen to the whole thing.

And for a little comparison, here’s a classic from The Bats:

MP3: The Bats – Block of Wood (from Daddy’s Highway, buy the album)

Speaking of the The Bats… they have a new album, Free All the Monsters, coming out October 25 on the newly-rejuvenated Flying Nun label that is celebrating it’s 30th birthday this year.  You can stream the title track here:

In addition to the new album, Flying Nun is reissuing some of its classic catalog on vinyl, including The Bats’ Daddy’s Highway which “Block of Wood” is from. They’re also reissuing The 3D‘s 1992 ripper Hellzapoppin’. More titles revealed soon — here’s hoping we’ll get The Chills’ Submarine Bells and The Verlaines’ Bird Dog. And cross your fingers for a Bats U.S. tour, they’re great live.

And speaking of touring — back to Veronica Falls. They’ll be in North America next week. Tour dates are after the jump.

Continue Reading

No Cardigan Jokes, Just Some NYC Popfest Picks

The fifth-annual NYC Popfest is this week and I wrote an exhaustive (exhausting?) post about it over at BrooklynVegan, but I thought I’d offer up five Don’t-Miss Bands. Some of them are playing the Thursday show at Cake Shop which is sold-out (thanks to Pains of Being Pure at Heart, though it probably woulda sold out anyway) but both of the ones in that case are playing other NYC shows. Gonna try not too repeat to many phrases.

Gold Bears (Thursday, May 19 @ Cake Shop)
This Atlanta quartet played Popfest last year, but unfortunately almost no one saw them because it was at the day show at Spike Hill. Actually, I have no idea how many people showed up but I had to work and missed it. I remember Kip from Pains saying how good they were. A year later, Gold-Bears are back and signed to Slumberland, who released their debut album, Are You Falling in Love?, last week. The band’s speedy jangle (and singer Jeremy Underwood’s phrasing), at times, seems to be ripped straight from a 1985 Wedding Present single. But there’s also an anthemicism that is more in vein of the Mountain Goats (Underwood’s voice too). What it all adds up to is big hooks and bigger choruses tied up with some “bah bahs” and feedback. Awesome.

MP3: Gold-Bears – Totally Called It
MP3: Gold-Bears – Record Store

If you don’t have tickets to Cake Shop, Gold Bears play Brooklyn Fireproof in Bushwick tomorrow (5/17) with The Hairs and more. Only $5!

Sea Lions (Thursday, May 19 @ Cake Shop)
Didn’t know that much about Sea Lions before they played Popfest last year, apart from Toby liked them, which is usually enough for me. Looking a bunch of high school misfits (in a cute way of course), they won me over in about 20 seconds with their clean guitars Postcard-style groove. (Main Sea Lion Adrian Pillado plays a really cool vintage Vox that I covet despite not playing my own guitar in like three years.) Sea Lions only have a single out (I think?) but like every other good band like this they are now on Slumberland and will hopefully have new music out soon. In the meantime, go see them this week.

MP3: Sea Lions – Let’s Groove
MP3: Sea Lions – Let’s Fall in Love

Again, the Thursday Cake Shop show is sold out but you have two more chances to catch them: Saturday (5/21) night at Death By Audio (with the Hairs, again, and Kids on a Crime Spree[see below]) and then Sunday afternoon at some BBQ in Bed Stuy.

Betty & the Werewolves (Friday, May 20 @ Cameo)
Here’s your quintessential UK indiepop: the sound, the look, the whole lot. Done to perfection. B&tW’s debut, Tea Time Favourites, is a pretty essential listen if you like this kind of stuff. And if you do, you’ve probably already heard it. It also asks the questions not a lot of albums dare to, like “Should I Go to Glasgow?” The band are at their best when they go minor chord (like on “Francis” below) which gives things just enough bite. You need that bitter with your sweet. Well, I do.

MP3: Betty & the Werewolves – David Cassidy
MP3Betty & the Werewolves – Francis

Betty & the Werewolves’ Tea Time Favourites is out now on Damaged Goods records.

Cuffs (Saturday, May 21 @ Santos)
This is Andrew Churchman’s new band, he of much loved Pants Yell! who played Popfest twice. Cuffs are actually 2/3 of PY! plus one of Big Troubles and… somebody else. The demos up on their Bandcamp site sound a lot like Churchman’s old band but live Cuffs rock a little harder with some instrumental passages that I might not call jamming but some might use that word. Cuffs are good. They’re also on early, 7:15 sharp. Cuffs debut 7″ will be just hot off the presses so becareful when picking it up at the merch table.

MP3: Cuffs – Arthur Kroft (demo)

Kids on a Crime Spree (Sunday, May 22 @ The Rock Shop)
Mario Hernandez is an indiepop veteran, having fronted well-liked bands Ciao Bella and From Bubblegum to Sky over the last 15 years or so. I think his new thing, Kids on a Crime Spree, is his best yet which tempers some of his sugary tendencies with our old friends reverb and feedback. Yes it’s been done before — many times by many bands — but Mario is a better songwriter than most and the production is just right. Guess what label KOACS are on?

MP3: Kids on a Crime Spree – Trumpets of Death

Kids on a Crime Spree’s debut, We Love You So Bad, is out May 31 on Rock-a-Fella…just kidding. SLUMBERLAND. They’re also playing with Sea Lions and fellow Popfest band The Hairs at Death by Audio Saturday night.

Silver Swans (Sunday, May 22 @ The Rock Shop)
Duo from San Francisco who have yet to release a record but the songs offered up on their Soundcloud page are terrific: minimal, ethereal electro with strong songwriting backing it all up. Their debut album is called Forever which hopefully won’t be how long we’ll have to wait to hear it. I always wonder what stuff like this will be like live, but I really can’t wait to find out.

MP3: Silver Swans – Secrets
MP3: Silver Swans – Mother of Pearl (demo)

Silver Swans also open for Austra on Monday at Mercury Lounge so if you’re attending that sold out show, go early and catch them.  They also play Pianos on Tuesday, May 24 at Pianos.

Fan Modine (Sunday, May 22 @ The Rock Shop)
Joe Pernice isn’t the only guy out there setting downer lyrics aloft on the gossamer wings of gorgeous orchestral arrangements, you know. Gordon Zacharias has been making music under the Fan Modine name for almost 15 years. Gratitude the Shipper (not on Slumberland [I know!]) is his first album in seven years and is pretty spectacular orch-pop that is reminiscent of The Zombies and the Left Banke and, yeah, The Pernice Brothers. Chris Stamey of the dB’s produced and all sorts of cool people played on it, like Mitch Easter and members of Polvo and the Essex Green. Fan Modine doesn’t do a lot of touring so this is a pretty special event.

MP3: Fan Modine – Julu Road (MP3)
MP3: Fan Modine – Through the Valley (MP3)

The whole line-up Sunday is a good one, beginning with The Hairs (ex-Knight School), and also featuring The Motifs (Crayon Fields offshoot), Procedure Club (more Slumberland Action), Panda Riot (shoegazey goodness from Chicago) plus the aforementioned Silver Swans and Kids on a Crime Spree. The Rock Shop has a lovely roof deck if it ever stops raining and the kitchen makes a great burger.