Best New Indie Rock Releases, Vol. II – The Album Defense, Pontiak, Gem Club, Sleepy Sun, Habibi, Doug Tuttle, Wax Fang
We are getting through them and rolling out the best new indie rock playlists after sifting through piles and piles of music submissions from every direction. As those of you who have followed us for some time know well, we cover both the best of what is considered the more well-known, even popular, indie rock artists’ and bands’ new releases, as well as the DIY/unsigned, small label and under-the-radar artists and bands. Due to overwhelming demand, listeners have made it clear they want one resource that covers the best of both the popular and DIY releases of the month. Right now, we’re in catch up mode.
A couple of days ago, we posted the Best New Indie Rock Songs & Albums, January/February 2014 for the week of January 21st. Now, it’s time to move on to the week of January 28th, which overlaps into the first couple of days of February. All of February’s playlists are in the works and will be published over the next week, as well as bunches of great DIY recent releases you’ll only hear on IRC.
The week of January 28th’s top singles represent new albums from artists and bands like Actress, Pontiak, The Pack A.D., Gem Club, The Gaslight Anthem, Bibio, among others. But first up, The Autumn Defense, a musical side project of John Stirratt of Wilco and Uncle Tupelo, highlighting the terrific track, “None of This Will Matter,” from Fifth.
“None of This Will Matter” – The Autumn Defense from Fifth via Yep Roc
“Rap” – Actress from Ghettoville via Werkdiscs/Ninja Tune
Although there was not a lot of rock singles in January, the last week of January releases (Jan. 28th-Feb. 2nd), offered up a number of rock tracks, as you’ll see over the course of the next half dozen or so songs. First up, the band Pontiak rips out a strong garage rocker on the title track of their new album, Innocence. We could not resist the temptation to also include the crunchy riff-blazer, with its obvious Black Sabbath influence, of the single, “Surrounded By Diamonds,” another top track on Innocence, followed up by the band Sleep Sun, who deliver up shoegazey, atmospheric rock, with sky-reaching psychedelic riffs, on the single, “The Lane,” from their new album, Maui Tears. If you like those singles, definitely check out the bands’ new albums; Pontiak and Sleepy Sun are of particular note. And finally, to round out this triple-rock, check out the single, “Needles,” from the latest LP from a band we’ve been following for years, The Pack A.D.
“Innocence” – Pontiak from Innocence via Thrill Jockey Records
Bonus Track: “Surrounded By Diamonds” – Pontiak from Innocence via Thrill Jockey Records
“The Lane” – Sleepy Sun from Maui Tears via
“Needles” – The Pack A.D. from Do Not Engage via Nettwerk Music Group
Doug Tuttle, Habibi, and Gem Club’s New Album Singles’ Triple-Shot
Doug Tuttle, who left the New Hampshire psych band, MMOSS, over a year ago, returned with his self-titled debut solo album on January 28th, featuring the lead single, “Turn This Love,” that has a kick-ass guitar-heavy jam for at least half of the six minutes, propped up with a deep, bumbling bass groove, somewhat spooky-sounding psychedelic organ playing, a steady, yet repetitious cycling of mid-tempo drum beats, cymbal crashing and tambourine rattling, and dubbed, but understated, vocals that fade out for at least the last three and half to four minutes, and give way to one of the best late 60s/early 70s style rock jams we’ve heard this year.
Keeping the sort of classic/psych rock revisited sound going for a little longer is the lead single, “Let Me In,” from new-to-us band, Habibi, off of their self-title debut, followed by the single, “Polly,” by Hardly Artrecording artist, Gem Club. Finally, the next trio of songs fit together well.
“Turn This Love” – Doug Tuttle from Doug Tuttle via Trouble in Mind
“Let Me In” – Habibi from Habibi via Burger Records
“Polly” – Gem Club from In Roses via Hardly Art
If you happen to be on a rock kick at the moment, don’t miss unsigned bands like The Howler Weary, The Supplement, and musician Matt Boroff, – who has shared the stage with bands like QOSTA and Nirvana. In fact, QOSTA and Screaming Trees vocalist Mark Langen contributed to Boroff’s latest album. Those tracks can be streamed and downloaded in our coverage of January Top DIY Rock Songs & Albums.
Wax Fang Explore the Universe of Sound and Space
Wax Fang‘s latest lead single from the long-awaited album, The Astronaut, feels like a perfect way to end this week’s playlist; the track, “Majestic,” just seems to have that ending-credits-rolling-up-on-the-movie-screen feel to it when the house lights come up and people start slowly filing out. No idea why that song evokes that impression, but it just does. And in keeping with the over-riding theme of the week, “Majestic,” features some impressive guitar licks. And while it’s a mostly chill song, featuring a swaggering country rock touch complete with whistling in the background, it also has a bit of a rough edge to it as well. By the way, the audio-only YouTube version of the song received over 335,000 plays.
In case you’re not up on the Wax Fang story, the Louisville, Kentucky experimental psych rock duo wrote the score for the 150th episode of the popular TV show, American Dad. Last summer and fall, the band released a trilogy of space-rock opera compositions related to the lone space traveler who gets separated from his space vessel, swallowed by a black hole and transformed into a celestial super being. The Astronaut, the band’s highly-praised space-rock opera, is now available to the world, and it’s truly out of this world.
Just in case you hadn’t heard the song last year, and since Wax Fang was already on this week’s menu, we thought it would also be an appropriate bonus track.
“Majestic” – Wax Fang from The Astronaut via Don’t Panic Records
Long version of “Majestic” from Wax Fang (the 16-minute and 47-seconds version, but worth it if you dig Wax Fang or celestial, ambient psych orchestral rock – or simply, space rock.
Note: The second half of the best DIY singles and albums for January is just about finished, so you’ll definitely want not to miss that because there are plenty of sweet singles from impressive albums – many of which are debut albums – that you will not hear all in one place anywhere else but on IRC. In case you missed the first half of Top DIY Songs & Albums for January 2014, which has already received over 30,000 page views!
Threats of Mediocrity and Hype Creeping Into to Indie Rock Music?
As most of you who have followed IRC for a while probably have already realized, we rarely post a review or a song that we don’t like. We simply don’t see the point. But most of all it’s a waste of precious time when we already have so much terrific music, and so many artists, that rarely get heard to begin with. Plus, a big part of why we do this is to sift through and filter out just the best music, whether it’s from a band no one ever heard of before or an indie ‘buzz’ band that has earned their praise. There’s been more of this happening in recent years, and we wonder if “indie” is starting to take on characteristics of mainstream music – one of which not very good music and bands get way too much praise for reasons we can’t really understand. That trend needs to stop; but it also doesn’t matter because we’ll be filtering it out.
In the case of the new Hospitality lead single, “Going Out,” not necessarily, the album (Trouble) as a whole, we are indifferent to it, and think it may even show the band is one of those bands that has been over-hyped for a long time. Not that they haven’t deserved praise, and we have absolutely featured their singles before, but the amount of attention and the level of praise over the years we’re not sure lives up to the evidence, especially when (and this is a sensitive spot, lol) compared to hundreds, and thousands, of authentically talented DIY and under-the-radar artists and bands we feature each year that don’t get a fraction of the coverage a band like Hospitality has had and still gets whenever they put something else. Plus, anyone can tell by looking at the album cover work that it sucks really bad. Seriously, more than one person approved that.
The decline of album cover artwork since the death of the vinyl album is a phenomenon that bands like Hospitality and their label have perpetuated in this case. Put it up as one of the worst album covers of 2014. We’ve seen the trend of less and less care or consideration given to album artwork for years, but it has accelerated in the past three to four years.
We don’t want to put up crappy covers in our posts, and do whatever’s possible to avoid them – except in cases like this where we’re trying to make a point that we’ve also heard many of you make as well over the years. Maybe some bands and labels will hear the message – after all, people do often judge an album by its cover to an extent. A great album with a crappy cover is practically unacceptable. People had to make those terrible decisions. Let’s hope the trend starts going back in the other direction.
“Going Out” – Hospitality from Trouble via Merge Records
The single is not anything special – it’s OK, which is mediocrity, or not even. But Hospitality official music video for the song is a total disaster; embarrassingly bad. First, and most obvious, the light pop sound of “Going Out” is a complete mismatch for a car-racing video. Beyond the bafflement of how how does such a dumb mistake, or case of incompetence, involving more than one person (director, artist, band members, label representatives, etc.) , get made and then actually get released. And it’s not just Hospitality. In fact in this case, we’re not even bothering ourselves to do the work that needs to go into putting up a song on the playlist/podcast, but the new Dum Dum Girls‘ single is even yet another song of what we’re talking – overrated for too long buzz kill mediocrity. Part of the problem here too are the number of what we call ‘copy-cat’ indie music blogs that just rehash what they see or hear on other blogs and even so-called mainstream media.
Admittedly, Hospitality and Dum Dum Girls are not the only, or necessarily even the best, examples of what we see as an encroachment of mediocrity in what is considered by blogs and listeners (what came first, chicken or the egg?) as good music. But in the end, folks, not to worry – we’re going to keep filtering out the good stuff, skipping the mediocrity and also putting more and more attention on new and emerging DIY and small label artists and bands, and sometimes DIY artists or bands that have been around for a while, but we did not know (sometimes forgot) how good they are, often sparked by a particularly stand out song or album.
Stay Tuned: There are more playlists, band intros, release updates and free MP3s coming up for February 2014 releases. We’ve sifted through hundreds to bring you only the best. Don’t miss the previous posts, playlists and special editions available on the homepage.
Soundtrack Songs, The Top Movies of 2013-14, and Philip Seymour Hoffman, R.I.P.
There are some really stand out songs featured in recent weeks on IRC that would be great for a movie soundtrack. Maybe we’re thinking that way because we’ve watched a ton of movies in the past few months, including at least a dozen of the new ones – hands down favorites would have to be The Wolf of Wall Street, followed by American Hustle, Dallas Buyer’s Club, Osage County and Nebraska. We didn’t think that Her lived up to the semi hype it had around Golden Globes time – it was so slow, sparse, weird and drab, although the acting was good; the directing, not so good. It’s definitely not the future (“is the future here?”) we’d want any part in. We already spend enough time on computers. What are your pick for the best movie of 2013.
Last month, the world of films suffered a monumental and shocking loss with the sudden, untimely passing of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman. Upon first hearing the news, we, like a lot of people, were just stunned and sad, followed by a bit of disappointment and anger. We thought, “fuck!” and “fucking drugs” and “fuck whoever gave him the dope.” And then we realized that maybe our disappointment was in fact a bit selfish, and to a small degree, that’s true because we thought of what we were losing. Hoffman had so many more acting roles still to come for potentially decades into the future, and was probably the greatest character actor of ‘our’ generation. That would be the ridiculously labeled “Generation X,” which Time magazine called the young people who were in high school in the mid to late 80s. By the mid 1990s, we were being called “slackers.” That’s bullshit – we’re the generation that spurred so much of the Internet and technological revolution of the past 25 years. The mainstream media loves catchy labels like that even though such labels are almost always fundamentally, and journalistically, flawed.
We were also upset by ignorant people who were posting messages that Hoffman did it to himself when they forgot that he was sick – addiction is an illness that has to be treated like an illness. It’s not a weakness or lack of will because that’s taking focus off of what is really the issue, and making the person who is suffering a target for ridicule and shame at the very time they need support and love. It’s simply inhumane to let people suffer, and the stigma must be removed. We’re a society that judges people too much, and offers help and kindness too infrequently. Plus, by all accounts, he had been clean for 20 years. We don’t know what triggered the break of a reported 20-year commitment to sobriety (that included alcohol and cocaine) other than he had written that he was haunted by demons. The point is not to assail the dead person, especially one like Hoffman who touched so many lives.
There just no way to fill that void now. But there is Hoffman’s filmography that is available for future generations to enjoy and admire his talents and dedication. Despite the fact that he is no longer with us, it’s reasonable to assume that Hoffman will continue to inspire young actors for a many years to come.