Best Singles & Albums of July 2013, Vol. II – Smallpools, Soft Metals, Fairchild, D. Lynch & Lykke Li, Love Language, Kid Karate
Now that the summer fest season is coming to a close with fests like last weekend’s inaugural First City Festival in Monterey, California, we’ll be getting back to regular posting of indie and DIY singles, playlists and band profiles (and there’s a lot in the pipeline), and in a couple of months, the first ‘Best of 2013′ posts will be coming out. Regardless that it is a bit late, there were terrific releases from the second half of July that could be categorized as “can’t miss,” including underground indie DIY bands and artists that are among some of the best of the year, as well as top-notch new releases. This post features a couple dozen of them.
Listeners responded enthusiastically to Volume One of the Best Singles & Albums of July 2013, streaming and downloading tens of thousands of times 27 top singles from albums dropped in the first half of July, featuring dozens of artists, including rock veterans like Robert Pollard (Guided By Voices) to fairly popular indie bands like Maps; small label artists like Little Legend, who like other terrific, new-to-us bands - Twin Peaks, Royal Forest and Sensual Harassment (all who dropped albums in early July) – are now a band to watch into the coming year. Plus, new material from solo artists like Gregory Alan Isakov and the songwriter/singer and musician known as Thundercat also stand out as artists to watch in 2014.
As stated above, Volume One featured many DIY, obscure artists and bands, who have had practically no coverage on the web, including bands like Grids, Driftwood Miracle, Futurist, Drops, Animals in Cars, Lions For Real, Ladada, Horsha On The Moon, among others, who had excellent singles from their new releases that needed to be posted. It’s a shame that so many terrific artists go largely unnoticed each month – we do our best with limited resources to highlight as many as possible, even if it simply means adding one of their songs to a playlist without providing very much additional information. Altogether, there are more than two dozen MP3 singles to stream or download in the first volume, and plenty of new artists and bands to explore. And if you want to hear even more amazing music and fill up your iTunes library, browse through popular playlist series like 5 DIY Bands to Watch; Best New Music Releases of 2013; Artist of the Week; 7 Bands You’ve Gotta Hear; Top 10 Songs playlists, among others.
And now, the second and final volume of singles from new releases dropped between July 16th and July 29th. We’re working diligently to catch up with August, which will also be divided into two volumes, and will include, as all the reviews of new releases do, songs from the popular ‘indie’ artists and bands, as well as the unsigned, obscure and under the radar bands that many times you’ll only hear on Indie Rock Cafe.
First Half of the Second Half of July’s Top Singles – Smallpools and Soft Metals
The following playlist represents singles from new releases dropped during the third week of July from indie artists that are more likely to be known among indie rock enthusiasts. However, there are also plenty of DIY artists and bands in this playlist (as with many IRC playlists) that even the most avid indie music consumers have never heard before – at least until today.
Smallpools is a new IRC indie band to watch in 2013-14 thanks to their self-titled debut EP that includes the incredibly catchy, upbeat single, “Mason Jar,” driven by thundering beats, a fast-paced rhythm with a blistering bass line, oh-ah choruses, and lightning speed synth and guitar jams. Plus, another track that has helped increase the popularity of Smallpools in recent months is “Dreaming,” and the music video (above) that was released just six weeks ago and already has over a quarter of a million views. It’s not hard to see why this band is blowing up.
Next, check out the dark electro pop track, “Tell Me,” from the album Lenses. by DIY band Soft Metals’ .The track also has a pronounced industrial techno aspect to it. But what stands out most about this song is the the main riff on “Tell Me” – it’s somewhat reminiscent (although it’s a bit of a stretch) of the ominous riff from the Kill Bill movies that was used as a warning that some serious mayhem was about to go down. The riff from Kill Bill is actually Quincy Jones‘ original riff, with a modern spin, used in the 1960′s TV series, Ironside. However, while the riff had a similarly dark intent on the old TV show, it was nothing even close to the scale of violence and bloodshed that Quentin Tarantino unleashed in the Kill Bill series. In fact, the “Ironside excerpt” remains one of the scariest sound bites in popular culture to this day, right up there with the screeching violin of the shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock‘s classic horror thriller, Psycho.
“Mason Jar” – Smallpools from Smallpools EP – July 16th
“Tell Me” – Soft Metals from Lenses – July 16th
Oz Band on the Radar: Fairchild
First up, is a DIY indie pop band from Oz that music lovers in the United States need to hear because we think they’re pretty amazing, and so far, have remarkably received almost no coverage from the tens of thousands of indie music blogs on the web. The band is Fairchild, formerly Fairchild Republic, from the Gold Coast of Australia. Fairchild is one the most popular new indie pop bands in the cafe right now, thanks largely to the incredibly catchy retro-pop hooks and dance grooves of the masterfully produced single, “Burning Feet,” from the band’s self-titled debut EP released on July 24th.
The band scored a huge victory when the respected producer and mixing engineer, Catherine Marks, signed on to produce the band’s debut EP. Marks has produced and mixed for talented bands like Foals, Death Cab For Cutie, The Killers, Interpol, and White Lies. Based on her accomplishments, Marks clearly knows how to pick talented artists that she wants to work with in the studio. Plus, she usually works with signed bands, so the fact that Marks choose to work with Fairchild also says a lot about the band. “Burning Feet” will ultimately be a top DIY track of 2013, and their self-titled debut EP is one of the best debuts of the second half of 2013. It’s time for this band to break out in the U.S.
“Burning Feet” - Fairchild from Fairchild - July 24th
We’ll be writing more about this band in the coming weeks. Fairchild has previously opened for artists like Neon Indian, Parachute Youth, Kids of 88, Cub Scouts, Last Dinosaurs, The Medics, Battleships, and The Cairos.
Latest Singles from Feral Children, BEACH, A Grave With No Name, David Lynch and Lykke Li, and Others
Seattle band Feral Children self-released their latest album, Too Much, Too Late, that features a more finely-tuned expression of the band’s sound of buzzing guitars, thumping bass and punk-rock tendencies, as the fast-moving, blazing track, “Rewind The Rerun,” demonstrates. Other top tracks for July include unforgettable singles like A Grave With No Name‘s song “Aurora,” with it’s heavy-hitting beat, grinding synths and jangly guitar strums; the haunting beauty of “I’m Waiting Here,” a musical collaboration between David Lynch and Lykke Li, and “While The World Burns,” a magnificent composition from the promising and talented singer/songwriter Svavar Knútur. There are also a some good singles from the first half of July off new albums by La Luz, White Dove, WL, Gauntlet Hair and BEACH.
“Rewind The Rerun” – Feral Children from Too Much, Too Late (self-released)
“Aurora“ – A Grave With No Name from Whirlpool on Lefse Records
“Bad Apple” – Gauntlet Hair from Stills on Dead Oceans
“While the World Burns” - Svavar Knútur from Ölduslóð (Way of Waves) on Red Eyed Transit
“Brainwash” – La Luz from Brainwash 7″ on Suicide Squeeze
“You’re Not Really Here” – WL from Hold on Prospect & Refuge
“Love Was A River” - BEACH from In Us We Trust on Short Story Records
“Cold Mountain” – White Dove from The Hoss, The Candle on RSRCH+DVLP
Last Week of July Music, July 23rd – July 30th: The Love Language, Van Dyke Parks, Weekend
The last week of new releases for the month of July spawned a number of standout singles from artists and bands that we’ve enjoyed in the past – such as Merge recording artist, The Love Language, or the popular indie rock band Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros (who just released their self-titled debut on Vagrant; even though it’s not their debut album) – and new, promising DIY and under-the-radar bands that we had never heard of before until recently, like The Cairo Gang or Dizzy Bats.
Sharpe sheds some old skin and doubles-down on influences like gospel and blues on the new, self-titled LP, featuring the lead single, “This Life,” in which Sharpe sounds like he is channeling Ray Charles. Next, the popular San Francisco indie band, Weekend, return with a trippy psych rock track, “It’s Alright,” that is also available as a music video, which contains a series of black and white photographs of everyday (and some not so everyday; i.e., bondage items and gator skulls; the latter of which adorns the cover of the album, Jinx) items like a skate, a cross, flowers, a whistle, figurines and a switchblade.
Temples’ Fully ‘Hippiefried’ Retro Psychedelic Pop
The hot UK band, Temples, tears a page from the psychedelic era (the trend is real), stepping into a time machine of sorts, and traveling back to sometime in 1967 or ’68, with the single, “Shelter Song,” from their debut double seven-inch on Fat Possum. The “Shelter Song” music video (above) includes the psychedelic era kaleidoscope and lava lamp visual effects, flashing colors, faded, overly-contrasted and overlapping photographs, and even some of the hippie attire. “Shelter Song” has a fairly constant, big drum beat that is the backdrop for wave after wave of distorted electric guitar riffs, R&B bass hooks, joyful tambourines, trippy keyboards, and layers and layers of reverb-heavy vocals and choruses – all wrapped up in even more reverb.
Overall, it’s a wonderfully produced song, and includes lyrics like “/Take me away to the Twilight Zone/” and “/We stayed up late in a dream/.” Had this song actually come out in 1968, 45 years ago, it likely would have been a hit record. Back then, however, you would have to go to a cool and funky local record store and buy the 45 vinyl or the vinyl album (we’re glad to be old enough to have been at the tail end of the ‘age of the record store’; it was the place to hang out on weekends and nights during the high school and college years. But the record store was killed by iTunes.)
The single, “Hold Back Time,” by the Van Dyke Parks does just that. In fact, this song appropriately follows Temples’ retro psych pop because it too has a retro feel to it. “Hold Back Time” actually holds back time as far as to the 1960′s, which is evident in any aspect of the single. You could have fooled us if you said “Here’s this song from 1969, do you know who it is?” and we would have thought of every 60′s band and artist before thinking it was actually from an indie band and released in 2013. And that’s part of the magnificence of the broad net of music we generally call ‘indie.’ Whatever it really is, it certainly is whatever kind of music someone wants to make without a huge budget or a label – and the freedom to create results in so much amazing music. The whole purpose of IRC is to capture as much of this amazing music that most people are missing out on before it disappears forever. No one is going to like every song we post, but hopefully, everyone hears music that they enjoy either for the moment or for repeat plays.
“Hold Back Time” – Van Dyke Parks from Songs Cycled on Bella Union
“Calm Down” – The Love Language from Ruby Red on Merge Records
“This Life” – Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros from Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros on Vagrant
Fu*k Buttons and Gogol Bordello
Up next is the latest track from Fu*k Buttons off the band’s fifth album, Slow Focus (of the alternate, ‘Slow Fuckus‘). Next, Gogol (no relation to Google) Bordello returns with the spaghetti western-style single, “Lost Innocent World,” from the album, Pura Vida Conspiracy. Truth be told: we don’t like the single all that much, but we included it anyway since we know there are some hard core Bordello fans among you. The song is a bit flat; Bordello’s singing sounds a bit amateurish.
“The Red Wing” - Fu*k Buttons from Slow Focus on ATP Recordings
“Lost Innocent World” - Gogol Bordello from Pura Vida Conspiracy on ATO Records
Radar Bands The Cairo Gang, Coke Weed, and Musician Grant Hart
The Cairo Gang sound nothing like the imagery their band name might suggest. Their newest single, “Tiny Rebels,” is a slow, melancholy tune that sounds like it could have come right out of San Francisco in 1967. (We’ve been noticing an uptick in psychedelic influences in the music of many indie rock bands in 2013, which was evident by performances from bands like Deerhunter at last weekend’s first annual First City Festival in Monterey, California. And yet what was also impossible to miss was the number of young people, particularly, teenage and young adult women, who were dressed basically like hippies, although they refer to it as “hipster style.” You can read more about it in our First City Debuts post.)
“Tiny Rebels” – The Cairo Gang from Tiny Rebels on Empty Cellar Records
“Sunseekers” – Coke Weed from Back To Soft on Heavy Friends
Following the Cairo Gang is Coke Weed‘s latest track, “Sunseekers,” which would have been such a better song if they sped it up and gave it more of a punch. After all, the title of the song is “Sunseekers,” of course are known for being sunny, upbeat and pop oriented. Following Coke Weed is a new single, “Is The Sky The Limit?” from Grant Hart. The multilayered track includes dreary organ and dulcimer playing which makes it sound like a sad carnival of gypsies performing an interpretation of a haunting song from The Phantom of the Opera soundtrack.
“Is The Sky The Limit?” - Grant Hart from The Argument on Domino Recording Co.
Hunx and His Punx, Kid Karate and Mean Lady
Turn up the amps and get ready to punk out with a band that is from our backyard – San Francisco street punk quartet Hunx and His Punx. The front man, Hunx, aka Seth Bogart, started Punx back in 2008 after years in a gay pop band called Gravy Train. Bogart wanted to rock harder, and since then, he and his punx have been doing just that. Following Hunx and His Punx is another loud band, the garage rock band Kid Karate, whose new single, “Two Times,” has been making the rounds on the web. For a perfect contrast, we posted new Mean Lady, who doesn’t sound mean at all on her new single, “Far Away.” After the Mean Lady, the indie pop band, The Memories, deliver a soft, lazy summer afternoon love song, “I Remember You.”
”Bad Skin” - Hunx and His Punx from Street Punk on Hardly Art
“Two Times” – Kid Karate from Lights Out EP (self-released)
“Far Away” – Mean Lady from Love Now on Fat Possum
“I Remember You” – The Memories from Love Is The Law on Burger Records
Self Releases From Filigar, Dizzy Bats, Fialta, Kid Karate
There were a number of self releases that had a fair amount of publicity behind them. First up is the band Filigar, which we’ve posted about in recent years, and who now have a terrific new single, “New Local,” that starts out with a piano introduction, and is followed by an immediate launch into a full-fledged power pop track with heavily melodic hooks, harmonica infusions and an excellent interplay between the bass and drums. Dizzy Bats presents the single “Batman and the Joker” and “Photographs,” from the band Fialta, is one of the best singles for the final week of July. Plus, listen to the garage rock of Kid Karate,. Diggin’ that.
“New Local” - Filligar from Hexagon (self-released) – July 23rd
“Batman and the Joker” – Dizzy Bats from single only (self-released) – July 21st
“Photographs” - Fialta from Summer Winter (self-released) – July 23rd
“Two Times” - Kid Karate from Lights Out EP (self-released) – July 23rd
Top Singles from Promising DIY and Under The Radar Bands: Colours, Alex Riggen, Wind Up Rabbit, Tikkle Me
The following section of the best singles for the second half of July include – as so many IRC posts do – songs from DIY and small label releases by artists and bands that have had little to no coverage within the indie music blogosphere. First up is “The Illusionist,” from the band Colours; a sullen song from Iowa lo-fi indie pop artist Alex Riggen; the spooky pop of “Hearts On Ice” from New York indie quartet Wind Up Rabbit; the hip-shaking song from Orlando’s indie dance/pop outfit, Stockholm; the chunky single from New Orleans power pop/garage rock band Missing Monuments; the sprawling, suspenseful, near-epic single, “Niagara,” from Stockholm girl duo, Tikkle Me; Edinburgh band The Phantoms add some spook to their rock on the new single, “Coming For You.”
Most of the bands in this final section of the singles playlist for the second half of July 2013 have not been featured in a playlist of new singles anywhere else on the web – this is it. Hopefully, you’ll find some new artists to add to your like list and some new songs that you’ll be listening to in the coming days, weeks or maybe even months. What is always special about this part of the new releases series is the exclusivity of great music it provides for the tens of thousands around the world who follow IRC regularly for music they often will not find anywhere else on the web available in MP3 format.
“The Illusionist” – Colours from Skin & Bones – July 23rd
“Milk Milk” – Alex Riggen from Milk – July 23rd
“Hearts On Ice” - Wind Up Rabbit from Wind Up Rabbit – July 23rd
“That’s Not Your Girlfriend” – Stockholm from Emerald City – July 23rd
“She Keeps Me Warm” – Mary Lambert from single – July 29th
“Wastin’ Time” - Lights At Night from Lights At Night – July 30th
“Answer the Call” – Missing Monuments from Missing Monuments – July 30th
“Niagara” – Tikkle Me from Niagara – July 31st