Seattle band Versing makes woozy and crackling power pop, ever so slightly askew. The group's members—Daniel Salas, Graham Baker, Kirby Lochner, and Max Keyes—met and collaborated at the University of Puget Sound’s KUPS radio station, and you can hear the world of college radio in Versing’s sundry songs. Together, the band synthesizes the breadth of their musical influences—a sprinkle of Pavement here, a pinch of Sonic Youth there—into something fresh and exciting.Their new single, “Call Me Out,” off the upcoming album Nirvana, exemplifies the band’s laid-back playfulness, along with the thoughtfulness and complexity of Salas’s songwriting. The track starts off with a rush of guitars and rolling drums, before settling into an octave-bouncing riff. It distorts as it hurtles toward its end, like a Weezer (or, more aptly Nirvana) song that, instead of trading off between soft and loud, just keeps getting louder. Lyrically, the song is a stitched-together patchwork of philosophical musings, with Salas singing, “Distal thoughts at last awoken," like the too-cool guy at the back of the night-time college class, holding a guitar.
The accompanying video is an off-kilter, frame-within-a-frame-within-a-frame shot of the band, made possible through the use of four iPhones and a DSLR jury-rigged onto a cardboard contraption. “I was inspired by David Hockney's The Jugglers, where he filmed the subjects from multiple cameras at the same time, then stitched them into one fragmented but still somehow cohesive shot," says Salas. "It seems to give the scene a heightened sense of depth and realness, and I liked the idea that more eyes could make a more complete picture—that having more people watching over your actions and calling you out when you screw up isn't necessarily bad, but actually useful."
“UFO,” the new song from Upper Wilds—a.k.a. Dan Friel, formerly of Parts & Labor—wastes no times with long-winded introductions. After a brief, and relatively calm, moment of static, the listener is hit with a wall of noise and a monumental riff. Anchoring the heavy, almost overwhelming backbeat are Friel’s melodic vocals—a lone voice bellowing out through the sea of sound.
Friel has this to say about the track: “'UFO has a big riff and is about space junk, which pretty much sums up the new album. It's built around a riff I've had kicking around since the Parts & Labor days, but really required a whole new context to properly stomp. Lyrically it's about the international Spacecraft Cemetery, and the love of solitude. The Spacecraft Cemetery is deep in the Pacific Ocean, at the farthest place from land on Earth, and it's got a fascinating history, both literal and literary."
Upper Wilds’ first album, Guitar Module 2017, comes out on September 22 via Thrill Jockey. Catch their record release show on Saturday, October 7 at Alphaville with E, Gold Dime, and Video Daughters.
Brothers Jonathan and Michael Rosen are Cones, a Los Angeles-based guitar pop outfit on the rise. Having spent the last couple of years woodshedding as Eleanor Friedberg's band, Cones' "Whatever You're Into" is the second of two singles being released via Canvasclub, Canvasback Music's monthly singles series. AdHoc is stoked to premiere the track, a groovily sauntering psychedelic dance jam — what Cones' Jonathan Rosen says is about "being a people-pleaser" and "a vehicle for somebody else's desires." Rosen also describes the track as "being at the wheel late at night, driving somebody wherever they wish to go" and reconciling your own desires with those of your companion. We're thrilled to have Cones headline Berlin on Saturday 9/9 with Cassandra Jenkins and Dark Tea.
Boston's Black Beach is mining the annals of East Coast rock history in the search for its future. Taking cues from Massachusettes progenitors such as The Modern Lovers, Dinosaur Jr., and even contemporary basement scene-mates like Vundabar, Black Beach is weaponizing a sound—garage rock—that many say has lost its edge.
Their new video for "Nothing's Golden," the final track off their upcoming release, Play Loud, Die Vol 2, echoes the song's minimalist approach, all while harking back to the genre's trademark loud-soft dynamics. "The video and song kinda explain [the] initial shock of learning that something isn't as good as it appears on the surface, and the way people tend to either be naive to how things actually are or choose to ignore them," Steven Instasi, the band's frontman, told AdHoc. The track's understated verses explode into propulsive choruses, accompanied by images of worms crawling around in the caved-in skulls of baby dolls. The genius behind the clip is Boston-based filmmaker Andrew Gibson, who has filmed videos for a number of bands including Ian Sweet, Free Pizza, Nice Guys, and Midriffs. "[Gibson and Black Beach] went and found a spot in the woods by the Charles River and just banged [the video] out" in a day, said Instasi.
A year out from their formation, Poppies has turned heads as a band with a knack at concealment. Under the band's unassuming pop lullabies lie lyrics that point to the darkness hidden in what we assume to be comfortable and adorable. That knack is on full display in the band's new video for "Devin," a standout track off their Good EP released in June. The track follows the titular boy, a troublemaker for his family and well as those around him. While the boy's bad antics are seen as common at first, passed off as "boys will be boys," his behavior quickly grows out of hand, compounding and following him as he grows into someone that is hardly recognizable, even to his own mother ("sometimes I feel like he's not mine, that boy is Rosemary's child"). While on its surface the song remains purely focused on the boy himself, Poppies seems to be offering up a storybook lesson—that tolerating rotten behavior from boys without an attempt to change them for the better only leads them to grow into rotten men.
The animations for the video itself match Poppies' interests precisely. Poppies says the video "was hand drawn and inked by our good friend Annie Zhao. She was inspired by Hieronymus Bosch, Run Wrake, and Lord of the Flies." The inspiration of Run Wrake seems particularly obvious, as the video's children's story animals playing with one another soon lose their heads, literally and figuratively, and take to playing tug of war with one of their friend's. Things soon take increasingly disturbing turns as the whole scene becomes more and more akin to a pagan ritual than a day at the playground. Just as with so much of their other work, Poppies is a band that shows us just how dark things can be under rosy surfaces.
With its blend of dissonant guitar clashes, raging synth chords, and frontman Jamie Stewart’s morbid imagination, Xiu Xiu is daring in a literal sense: it dares listeners to keep their headphones on and endure—rather than necessarily enjoy—what Xiu Xiu has to offer.
But it’s that challenge—the masochistic exercise of listening to a Xiu Xiu record, paired with moments of undeniable beauty—that makes their music all the more alluring.
“Wondering” features Stewart’s signature, trembling vocals imploring listeners to “swallow defeat” as a pulsing, club-ready beat chugs toward something of a rarity in Xiu Xiu’s catalog: a bonafide pop chorus.
But groovier tunes don’t necessarily mean Stewart is beginning to lighten up. At its core, FORGET is ultimately an exploration of frailty and loneliness, ending on a poem read by the drag artist Vaginal Davis. The poem closes with lines that are peak-Stewart: “It doesn't matter what you think/ Do anything you like/ Because I was born dead/ And I was born to die.”
Over the phone from his home in Los Angeles, Stewart seems reluctant to explore the roots of his fascination with darker topics, less because he's scared and more because he's worried it could ruin his creative process.
“A lot of ‘whys’ in music I think fuck music up,” he says
It takes a real struggle not to be pulled into the orbit of Brooklyn trio Honey's heavy, haunting psych rock. From the moment the opening chord of new single "New Moody Judy," which AdHoc is premiering today, rings out it serves as a call to arms, a warning of trouble rapidly approaching on the horizon. A fuzzy and chugging bass line and a guitar, which serves more as an alarm than a lead, move us along quickly to assess the danger at hand—the first and perennial danger, love.
Honey's Cory Feierman says the track stemmed from being "in love with a girl in a city I hadn't really spent any time in. It wasn't the first time. [I] Got locked outside her house and stuck on the street, no wallet, no phone, no idea where I was. Walked until the sun came up and I wasn't sure what love was anymore. It wasn't the first time." Reflecting back the same fervor of a love that one "can't get enough" of, the track burns with an intensity that is, as with any real passion, at once both chaotic and controlled. Ultimately, Honey bemoan having not "had more time" with their love and for wasting their time, but a track like this reveals that all past loves leave burns.
Last Thursday, Brooklyn's DIIV took to the majestic Murmrr Theatre stage to perform a delightful unplugged set of covers and new music—all gorgeously captured by Nick Karp. Relive the night and check out DIIV's video for their cover of Sparklehorse's iconic "Cow" below.
Keith Rankin plays with sound, tickling it out until it spills. "Soft Channel 003," from Soft Channel, his latest effort as Giant Claw, fidgets with the ludic ecstasy—fizzing and sprawling across circuits and MIDI—by which Rankin has for years made his name. But just as the album cover for this newest offering depicts a misrecognition, a crisis in identification, "Soft Channel 003" gnaws at uncanny sonic territory. Over the course of the track, Rankin fiddles with familiarity and unfamiliarity, spontaneously splicing and unexpectedly dissasembling spurts and motifs. One standout interstice is the MIDI choir Rankin employs: unstable, it titillates, inhabiting a vocal register that always feels androgynous, located somewhere in between the head voice and the chest voice, the alto and the tenor. Despite its uncanniness, the voices frequently spasm into something quite delicate, quite precious: a fleeting melody that hints at something grander, something that would complete the punchline that all Rankin's sounds seem to riddle toward. Now effortlessly incorporated into his repertoire, code-switching across aesthetic sensibilities becomes a focal point as Rankin grates the sublime and the beautiful, cartoon slide whistles and shards of Satie's "Gymnopédie No. 1," together over his gurgling potpourri. A master impressionist, Rankin finds facsimile and structure too straightforward, too easy. Through this playful self-denial, the culinary asceticism, Rankin teases out something addictingly temporary, something effervescently evanescent, like the fizz before the swig.
Overcast and portentous, Brian Case's Spirit Design lurches. Rolling in like an oversaturated cloud formation swallowing anything from charred synths and shivering sub-bass into its its blackened atmospherics, Case's latest full-length for Hands in the Darkthreatens to collapse under its own yawning depth and smothering weight. In this totalizing sound environment, Case evacuates melody, structure, and legibility, leaving only the cold and brutal sparseness of his voice and devastating instrumentation to populate the noxious territory. But even Case's voice succumbs to this airless sound sludge: on "Shipbuilding," for example, Case's intelligible—if ominous—words bleed into incomprehensibility as the song's suffocating logics ooze out of control. On later tracks, like "Control" and "Say Your Name," his voice can only eke out the titles of the songs themselves in an arcane incantation that condenses speech and meaning into noise, into effacing squalor. On Spirit Design, Case unleashes a singularly enveloping haze of sound and mood so thick it's impossible to hear your own breath. Like other forms asphyxiation, it's orgastic.
Spirit Design is available August 25 on Hands in the Dark.