Our newest song "Here's Hoping" is out on Bandcamp now as the 7th installment on our humble exile collection that we've been working on and releasing incrementally since last summer. We explored some different sounds on this latest one, tapping into some dream-gazy 90s & 80s goth vibes. It is a song about seeing this mess we're in and seeing each other for who we are & actually finding some hope in that.
I've been wanting to make something like a dream-pop song for a while now- initially inspired when I fell in love with Mint Julep's Save Your Season (2011) several years ago. My thinking at the time was pretty simple- start with dreamy quiet vocals treated with atmospheric delay and reverb effects and go from there...
More recently I was listening to some Casket Girls and it reignited this interest to try something different like this. For inspiration here I leaned heavily on my favorite part of my favorite song of theirs "Day To Day" (True Love Kills the Fairy Tale 2014) to build from - a bass progression that I lifted & shifted by a half step - my thought/ hope being "will they mind if I borrow this?... they were hardly using it."
The drums on "Day To Day" have such a distinct rhythm that I wanted to be sure to steer clear from - otherwise a foundational homage to this incredible song could quickly turn into a mediocre copy, which I was really hoping we could avoid. So when I engaged Alex to record some drums, I wanted to reach further back further for the sound and capture something akin to "A Strange Day" by The Cure (Pornography, 1982). The tone and treatment of the bass was also drawn from the style of that era.
The recorded drum part that Alex came back with brilliantly distilled this input and nailed a sound that is both distinct and subtle, and just right for the song. As these parts came together, some effects at the beginning provided a not-so-subtle splash of "Plainsong", the opener of The Cure's Disintegration (1989).
I approached the guitars with the intention of doing something different there too - basically looking for a more "spacey" sound - and deployed some effects settings on my amp that I hadn't really tried out before. I'm really pleased with how those parts came out, although in the end I still layered the guitar with the same '65 Twin Reverb effect setting that I use on pretty much every song since Meet My Cat EP (2014). I hadn't really planned to use it again here, but it just brought everything together best in my ears.
We shared the isolated "guitars only WIP" for "Here's Hoping" to Soundcloud to check out if you'd like. What you hear here is pretty much exactly how the guitar tracks ended up in the final mix.
An early working title for this song was some combinations of the words "dark-dream-wave-pop" and our hope overall was to blend these sounds together to create something distinct from its various inspirations, and hopefully better than just a poor copy. Then while in the process of recording, I listened to the new Crystal Canyon release (Yours With Affection And Sorrow, 2021 on Repeating Cloud)- and all the textures and atmospheres - the ones I was clawing around for desperately trying to make work - are right there and it sounds so natural and effortless.
It was inspiring and discouraging in it's own way, making me feel like a tourist watching how the locals get things done. Musically that's a great deal of what "Here's Hoping" is about. Lyrically it is about the mess we are in, and our own responsibility to get ourselves out of it. This is certainly a theme that I thought about in relation to the recoding and mixing of the song itself.
Anyway, thanks for reading all this. It was a bit indulgent, kinda like the song itself. We hope you enjoy it.
And go ahead & check out the other great releases from Repeating Cloud while you're there. Stay safe and thanks again for all your support.
Oh yeah by the way the song we contributed for the comp is called "Broken Record" and here's a video we did for it-
..by which I actually mean a pair newish releases that I've been playing on repeat lately:
Moore released By The Fire last month, and from the first listen it felt like a familiar extension of Sonic Youth - particularly their more hook-driven moments on Dirty, Goo, and Rather Ripped, as opposed to something more meandering and experimental.
Like Rather Ripped, I think the accessibility of this record owes a lot to the drums for just being nothing too fancy for a straightforward rock foundation. And although the 9 songs range from 5 to 17 minutes long, I found them all to be surprisingly accessible- their length driven more by pattern repetition & melody, and less by noise & improvisational jammy expeditions (with maybe the exception of the first 8 minutes of Locomotives). Some might be disappointed by this accessibility, but for me this is exactly the Thurston Moore record I want to hear right now.
Although Oceanator's debut came out back in August, I didn't check it out until last week for some stupid reason. But's it's been pretty much on repeat ever sense. Fuzzy, deliberate, catchy, melodic - I'm still forming my thoughts on everything going on here, but maybe I should just suffice it to say it's wonderful and special and you should check it out for yourself. It's (once again) exactly the kind of record I'd love to make myself if I had this kind of creativity and talent. So I'm glad that Oceanator brought this music into existence for us, and on funfetti vinyl no less :)
Google has decided to sunset its music platform Google Play Music by the end of the year in order to transition users over to Youtube Music. I wasn't happy to hear this since I've been using GPM as my primary mobile audio player for a number of years now- basically ever since getting an android phone, and I found many of its key features work well with how I listen to music.
Pictured: my musical modus operandi - cd, vinyl, & digital collections
A bit on that- firstly, I remain a music collector. I still buy quite a bit of music- mp3s, vinyl, and even the occasional CD. I'd rather pay $10 (hopefully to the the artist) and own the music outright than pay a monthly subscription to a platform in order to access it. And I find I connect with music better when it is part of my collection. Secondly, I tend to still listen to albums front to back rather than playlists. And when I do listen to playlists, they are typically ones I created rather than playlists curated by someone else.
Basically I've retained many of the listening habits that I developed from when I started buying CDs as a teenager in the 90s. And I found GPM always worked pretty well with that. Sure, the interface to upload the library was a bit clunky, but at least it provided a backup of my entire music library to the cloud, and made it easy to steam anywhere or download to my phone so I could listen in my car without worrying about having to use mobile data. GPM also allows for some degree of library organization, although it was always annoying that the default picture for some artists doesn't exist or is wrong with no apparent way to change. And (aside from the occasional "upgrade to the premium version" reminders) I liked that Google Play Music didn't require a subscription or play ads like Spotify does. Basically it was free and worked pretty well overall. So it was unwelcome news to hear that it was going away, and I started looking at what my other options were.
Apparently paying the monthly subscription fee for YTM makes ads go away and enables background music play. But seriously fuck YouTube Music. Maybe I just got spoiled by a free app that I found really useful for years, and bitter about them removing baseline app functionality, but after dealing with Youtube Music I was seriously considering dropping Android altogether and getting my first iPhone. But that was all before I found a couple other options to better handle my music library.
Plex is a whole multimedia platform associated with the Tidal music, and includes a media server that makes your music library available anywhere. Setting it up wasn't too bad (just pointing it to the music library folder on my laptop and letting it do it's thing), and playing music on my laptop worked fine after fumbling around some to actually find my music library among all the other stuff on there (Movies & TV, Live TV, Web Shows, etc.).
This is a platform that I didn't see as much info on when I was searching around for GPM/YTM alternatives. But the bit I read about iBroadcast made me feel it was worth giving a test drive to before shelling out $ for the premium (aka "usable") Plex membership.
First, it's totally free and at the core provides the same functionality that I enjoyed from GPM - a cloud backup of my personal music library with a mobile app the supports both streaming and offline play. The FAQ says there is a "premium service is currently being tested and actively developed. It will offer additional options, features and device support," but so far it seems like the free service provides all the features I'm looking for.
The interface doesn't have the slick (and frankly corporate feeling) design of Plex or others, but still provides a lot functionality and I find it to be highly usable. Uploading my library took a while, but was pretty straightforward. The parser did a pretty decent job automatically arraigning all my tracks into their respective albums, but even where it got confused I found I could customize anything I needed to using the Library Editor. Artist/Album artwork is easily customizeable, which is a step up from having to just live with the occasional wrong artist background picture in GPM.
So goodbye Google Play Music, fuck you Youtube Music, and long-live iBroadcast.
You cut your leg off to save a buck or two
Because you never consider the cost
You find the lowest prices every day
But would you look at everything that we've lost - David Bazan, "Strange Negotiations" (2011)
Last month I saw an article about whether it was time for musicians to join the advertising boycott of Facebook and Instagram due to Facebook's reluctance to curtail hate speech and misinformation on it's platforms. My first instinct was to hope that maybe that some pressure like this could cause Facebook to change, but that hope was quickly dashed.
And I'm still thinking about our fucked-up relationship with social media and how we navigate that, both as individuals and as a collective. Some artists have made the tough choice to stop buying ads on these exploitative platforms, even though that comes at a high cost of not effectively reaching new or existing listeners.
But what can fans and listeners do? One thing is to spread the word about your favorite music, the old fashion way or otherwise. It costs nothing and means everything. Another thing is to follow your favorite artists over on Bandcamp, which also costs nothing. Bandcamp is the only platform that I can think of right now that doesn't make me feel gross and actually seems focused on users (both musicians and listeners) instead of advertisers.
And they are continuing their "Bandcamp Fridays," where they waive the platform revenue share so that money goes directly to the artists- the first Friday of every month through the end of the year.
Bazan may not have been thinking about social media giants back when he was writing Strange Negotiations almost a decade ago. But his insight into human nature makes his observations then just as (if not more) relevant today.
Homicidal Horticulturist is short but packs in a lot, and still makes space for the really interesting drum part on the chorus to shine though. The drums throughout the record are worth listening to closely. Here is a catchy jam channeling Pavement and again bringing great lead guitar hooks to bear. On it's heels is the also extremely catchy Real Allies. "Kill your enemies without making any real allies" Emory sings, right before unleashing the dueling guitars.
The Seven Seas depicts a relatable scenario from days gone by - "Tonight there is a show, seems like I outta go, but the effort that's required to untangle all the wires ... it's all imaginary when you stay home alone." Another highlight track is No Damn Good because it is just so damn good. Finally, Sojourn Suspect shifts gears with the groovy acoustic Downstream, which is reminiscent of some of the best stuff from Band of Horses. It's an excellent, interesting, and fitting closer.
I couldn't help but feel some envy while listing to Sojourn Suspect. This is very much the kind of music I'd like to be making. Recording everything by myself lately has me aware somewhat of the process, and appreciating how natural Emory's end product sounds here - everything blends just right, like it just came together with ease. The musicianship is top notch and shines through on each track - solid performances of great songwriting and exceptional creativity across the board.
I'll definitely recommend Sojourn Suspect, especially for fans of Bent Shapes, Dares, Tijuana Panthers, and (of course, Repeating Cloud label-mates) Lemon Pitch. Worth mentioning is that these are all bands I had to see live to be won over. Well, due to circumstances I haven't had that chance yet with Sojourn Suspect, but this record is so well done that it stands on its own. Hopefully these circumstances are fleeting, and Sojourn Suspect sticks around a lot longer.
This is some pretty fucked up times right now- no doubt about that. Aside from the sickness threatening us, people's livelihoods are in extreme peril right now. Particularly musicians that depend on touring revenue.
That is not us. If we play 2 shows in a week we might call that a "tour", but overall we fuck around and play music merely as fans of music, and are very fortunate to have other stable jobs that fund this otherwise non-sustainable thing we like doing.
So we want to do our part to help the actual musicians out there, and want to encourage you to do the same. That means still buying some merch online instead of at the merch table, and maybe even buying some music (direct from the artist if possible) instead of just streaming it on Spotify or whatever.
And for what it's worth, you can download all our music for free right now. If you do choose to throw some bucks our way for a song/cd/shirt whatever, we guarantee to put all proceeds back into the music ecosystem to help other artists. Those will certainly include some of our favorites like David Bazan (Pedro the Lion), Slothrust, This Will Destroy You, Los Campesinos!, Matt & Kim, Keith & Hollie Kenniff (Unseen), and Dares. And if you have a suggestion let us know that as well. There's lots of music out there to listen to while in isolation.
Stay safe, healthy, and sane out there. We'll get through this <3
*Update 12/24/2020* just noticed that David Lowery added In The Shadow Of The Bull to his bandcamp page over the summer (previously only available on limited edition CD) so I recommend checking it out and following him for timely info on any other music he releases.
I've been pretty into David Lowery's songwriting (Cracker, Camper Van Beethoven) since buying "Kerosene Hat" on CD as a high school kid in the mid-90s (and also as a college kid on a European study abroad in the early 00's). The mix of dry humor, harsh irreverence, and wistful vulnerability in Lowrey's lyrics always resonated with me. And the pairing with Johnny Hickman's smooth and skilled lead guitar work made their band Cracker stand out among their '90s alternative/grunge peers. Then at some later point I discovered that magic of Camper Van Beethoven, but that could be a topic of another blog post. Anyway, I saw Cracker play a few times in Atlanta when I was in college, and then more recently they seem to come around to Boston to play every year in January with Camper Van on the bill as well. So I had the chance to see them again last month and it was great hearing them again live.
At the show I saw the merch table had copies of David Lowery's "In The Shadow Of The Bull," a 2019 limited edition release of 1000 copies that was listed as "Out Of Stock" when I'd looked for it online a while back. I'd also noted that the songs didn't seem to be available to streaming anywhere- a bit surprising perhaps, but maybe less so if you're aware of Lowery's views on how modern music distribution affects artists' rights and livelihoods.
But a few copies the CD were available at the merch table that night - at a price considerably higher than I'm accustomed to paying for music anymore - but also it was autographed. I've also become accustomed to hearing music online before I purchase it, but that wasn't an option here. So I bought it, purely the on the blind (deaf?) faith in the artist's reputation. And I found my faith to be rewarded, because "In The Shadow Of The Bull" is definitely something special.
In this stripped down set of 7 songs, Lowery takes a look back across various periods of his life and captures moments from 1963 ("Frozen Sea") to 2010 ("Yonder Distance Shore"), with vivid reflections of his family, his friends, his loves, and his losses. Two songs that stood out immediately were "Disneyland Jail, 1977" - which warns of the dangers of doing mushrooms on Space Mountain (and passing out drunk on the monorail), and "Mexican Chickens, 1989" - which laments being too foolish and selfish to see what he had in someone before leaving her behind. I think the lyrics of this one are amazing and devastating.
An appeal in the liner notes asks the listener to be part of this project: "Please do not make copies, share on social media, or upload ... Think small. Ubiquity is overrated." And it all made sense, why the price of entry was so high, and the contents behind the gate not visible from the outside. I feel part of something now, something more like the way music was back when I was a kid in the early/mid 90s getting into a lot of the music I still love today.
So anyway, to weakly tie this back in to our band, here's a video of us playing CVB's "Take The Skinheads Bowling." Enjoy! <3 cg
If you happen to zip over to our bandcamp, you can hear a slightly refreshed version of our surfy spy-anthem Sassy Assassin. The guitar was re-tracked and song remixed at our Murder Room studio, since we subtly botched it and used some difference setting on the guitar amp in the original Noise Floor session, and it wasn't even noticed until later. I'm curious if anyone can actually hear any difference between it and the version on Spotify. Definitely let us know if you can even detect anything.
While we were at it, we tossed up a instrumental mix of the song, in case anyone was interested in that kind of thing. Check it out, and let us know if you want to use it in your wedding video or shitty short film, etc :)
Also, speaking of our Murder Room, here's some live video of us having fun and playing that song there recently.
When I saw the reincarnation of Pedro The Lion at Brighton Music Hall last summer, founder/frontman/songwriter David Bazan introduced the rest of the band and commented something to the effect of "We were all here in this room a few months ago playing pretty much the same songs, we just weren't calling ourselves Pedro," (and I nodded in recollection, since I'd been there to see that 'David Bazan w/ full band' show as well). He paused, then added with a smirk, "It's the same band, but more of you came out to see us play tonight," as if to suggest there might be something else in the name itself. And that night Pedro The Lion gave us a preview of their still upcoming Phoenix with a live version of the new song "Quietest Friend," and at the time January 2019 seemed ages away. But would it be worth that 5 month wait (or over 14 years for those holding out for a follow-up to Achilles Heel)?
Well, yes. I'm in love with this record actually. After the instrumental intro Sunrise, the song Yellow Bike strikes an uncharacteristically sweet note for Pedro The Lion, connecting his first time as a child riding on two wheels to his journey as a solo musician, on the road and longing for the camaraderie of playing in a band again. It's a new day indeed. Even so, the next track called Clean Up revisits familiar sonic territory, echoing songs like "Foregone Conclusions" from Achilles Heel. Powerful Taboo finishes off the otherwise upbeat sounding Side A with a bit of a breather, and brings a guitar part that is somehow both creeping and soaring. Lo Tom fans rejoice: this is a song that sounds like it could have just as easily fit on the 2017 release from that Bazan/Walsh/Martin/Many collaboration.
Model Homes was the first pre-release "single" to really jump out at me. As with "Powerful Taboo," the guitar on this song emotes nearly as much as Bazan's voice, with an undeniable ache and longing among wide open tracts in the sound. Following Piano Bench (a brief lead-in that evokes Leonard Cohen), Circle K lyrically circles back to 2000's Winners Never Quit, except this time it's a kid with a spending problem in the snacks aisle that the Good Lord smiles and looks the other way from. Quietest Friend describes a memory of a careless betrayal in a fifth grade lunch room, framing a possibly universal experience in a way perhaps only David Bazan can. On Tracing the Grid, Bazan pauses to explicitly acknowledge the mark his hometown made, and to note the stories told by his aunts and uncles that stuck in his mind though the years.
The opening track on Side C recalls a story told by his Uncle Ray, a first responder to a grisly scene on the Black Canyon Freeway. "Compartments came apart then," Bazan sings on Black Canyon, a song that coils around sonic and lyrical themes similar to "Priests and Paramedics" from 2002's Control, and is as incredible and devastating as any other from Pedro The Lion. Yet somehow "Black Canyon" manages to strike even closer to home. Seriously holy fuck. "Tell your stories," Bazan urges. Hell isn't other people- it's isolation from them, and the burden of carrying terrible secrets alone. The intensity carries into My Phoenix, a rock anthem with possible echos of "Magazine" (also from Control), as if anyone at this point needed a reminder that Pedro The Lion is back with the intention of leaving a mark. This is a song that deserves to be played again louder just to pay attention to the drums. All Seeing Eye follows that crashing wave by stripping almost everything back out. What remains sounds reminiscent of Bazan's synth-laden solo work on Blanco (2016) and Care (2017). And the final track, Leaving The Valley, concludes with words recalling the opening track on Curse Your Branches, Bazan's first solo LP from 2009: "If I swung by tassel to the left side of my cap, after graduation will there be no going back?"
David Bazan has released a lot of great music since 2004's Achilles Heel, including the brilliant (yet rather hushed) Care/Blano pair and (possibly my favorite) the plugged-in tight rock album Strange Negotiations. But Phoenix marks a grand and worthy reclaiming of the Pedro name which an even fuller embrace of color and vulnerability. Here Bazan wields the resurrected Pedro The Lion with what sounds like a reinvigorated spirit to go louder, longer, bolder, and possibly better than anything in his career thus far. <3 cg
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