If you’re as obsessed with Will Sheff and his mighty band of Texan titans as I am, then you knew that for the past few weeks, Okkervil River has been teasing fans with a sort of instagram Wheel of Fortune, each day or so unveiling a new letter for their title of their forthcoming eighth album. On Monday this week, the first track off The Silver Gymnasium has been released in one of those snazzy “lyrics video” that Taylor Swift keeps putting out and are so pops amongst the kiddos on youtube.
I’ve been doing time with Okky Riv for about ten years. At one point, after recently moving, I became known as “Okkervil River girl” instead of “Amber” and I was okay with that. In recent years, however, I’ve been sort of underwhelmed by the band. Black Sheep Boy was nothing short of a masterpiece and while I doubted the band could follow it up with anything as brilliant, they proved me wrong in ways with the one-two intelli-rock punch of The Stand Ins and The Stage Names. With I Am Vurry Far, however, I felt their formula stumbled and … well … I want to adore “It Was My Season,” but honestly, if I wanted to listen to post-YHF Wilco, I’d just put on Sky Blue Sky and be disappointed in the indie heroes of my youth. Will Sheff, I expect more from you!
It’s understandable if Wenatchee music isn’t on your radar. Wenatchee is a small rural community in the middle of Washington state, so there’s relatively not much homegrown music to seek out. But as a resident, I can say there is plenty of good stuff around here if you look in the right places. And it just so happens that, right now, Hearingade is the right place! One of Wenatchee’s very most venue-packing bands, Poor Folks Live Well, just debuted a music video this week for “O General” off their 2012 EP, 40 Years of Famine. Give it a looksee; let it rock your face today.
Oh damn, Archie Powell and his trusty Exports have done gone and quaked my heart again. Their new music video for “Only So Much You Can Do,” by Rhapsody Productions, premiered yesterday at Diffuser.fm, and it’s a horror lover’s dream! The sequences are akin to those creepy found tapes in “V/H/S,” full of darkness, fear and gore, as the boys rush through hallways trying to escape some unseen threat. All we know is that it’s oozing some gross gooey gunk and it’s super sneaky. As much as I love those guys, I can’t deny how much I’ve enjoyed watching their blood splattering all over the place.
Like most people in the world, I’m a sucker for a pretty gal. Put that pretty gal in front of a piano and have her play some minor chords and I’m even more smitten so naturally, Les RAV is right up my alley.
While the Austin band only has one track up on Bandcamp currently, that one song was enough to pique my interest in the group. Looking into who Les RAV is and what they’re about made me even more anxious to hear more from the group, fronted by rainbow pixie Lauren Bruno.
Part DIY gypsy folk, part creepy chamber pop, Les RAV sort of sounds like Joanna Newsom fronting Beirut and currently the band has taken to crowdsourcing to help fund their debut. While I’m normally not a fan of crowdsourcing to fund artistic endeavors, I couldn’t help but be touched by the band’s story. In Bruno’s words:
“I’ve been suffering from a painful stomach disease called Ulcerative Colitis since I was 11 yrs old. Between being in and out of the hospital, having my income go toward medical bills and having to quit my job to get well, it has made it near impossible for this album to come to fruition. I’ve received so much support from the local community and fans around the world and that has given me the hope and strength that together we can make this album happen.”
Surf rock seems to be a genre that’s withstood generations of musical shifts, relentless all through the psychedelic ’60s, the metal ’70s, the synthy ’80s, the alternative ’90s, and straight into the new millennium. Even when it didn’t sound like it rode a wave right onto your speakers’ shores, there’s never really been a time since its inception that it couldn’t be heard in abundance.
So some could say that albums like sister surf rock group Bleached‘s debut full-length Ride Your Heart are a dime a dozen. Especially among established contemporaries such as the Drums, Best Coast, Wavves, Veronica Falls, and Tennis. And those people wouldn’t be totally wrong. There’s certainly been a surge in today’s indie rock banks of this particular style, and at times these melodies can start to all sound very much the same.
But there’s a reason why music like this maintains such a strong presence. Its sound embodies a feeling of freedom from everyday life. In all its potential to be mundane, its mere existence symbolizes an escape from the mundane. Those surf guitars send your mind straight to the beach, which is a common place people consider a break from reality, relaxing in the sun and sand, splashing around in the water to wash your cares right away. You can be just sitting at your desk, but when these songs play, you’re taken there, and it’s such a release.
Bleached doesn’t try to mess with this formula, instead keeping the style pretty classic on Ride Your Heart. At times, Jennifer and Jessie Clavin sound like Joey and Johnny Ramone incarnate — especially on album opener “Looking for a Fight” and the subsequent “Next Stop” — but with more reverb.
For the past 10 or so years, the girls in Eisley have been making music that is just as sun drenched as their homestate of Texas, thanks to the sugary sweet angel voices of the sisters Dupree (that’s guitarist/vocalist Sherri Dupree-Bemis, keyboardist/vocalist Stacy King, and guitarist Chauntelle D’Agnosto, who make up the majority of the family band with the help from male Duprees Weston on drums and Garret on bass).
The first time I heard of Eisley was back when the sisters were all blonde babes, mostly still in their teens, doing opening duty for Coldplay (though I don’t like to admit I once paid for a Coldplay concert — I swear, they used to be cool and I was real young). I remember being struck by the overwhelming beauty of the band’s melodies, not to mention the fact that the girls looked like they could have been long lost Lisbon sisters, with matching pale locks and wide, sad eyes, their gorgeous songs always tinged with a sort of melancholy (see early cut “I Wasn’t Prepared”) and occasional creepiness (“Marvelous Things”) that lent the band an eerie Grimm’s brother quality.
Time has been kind to the Duprees, with each record since the self-released EPs they were slinging at that Coldplay concert of yore charting a very clear artistic growth and progression. The girls have left the songs about dragons behind but have perfected their dreamy, fairy tale sound. On their fourth full-length release, Eisley delivers more of the same songs they’ve become known for with their extraordinary melodical grace.
If you have liked anything Eisley has released in the past, you’ll probs be crazy for Currents (Released on Equal Vision May 28th). The album is even strong enough to win over new fans, as well. As a longtime Eisley listener, however, I feel as if the difference between the band’s two songwriters, Bemis and King, has become almost too pronounced, lending the album a slightly stunted feel. Bemis embraces mainstream pop-punk sensibilities with her songs’ chugging structures, while King (who also performs with the amazing Sucre) goes for a more understated beauty on her tracks. It’s that dreamy quality that leads King to take MVP of this album, with her songs “Real World” and “Lost Enemies” lingering in the listener’s head long after the melodies have dissipated.