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Indie Rock Music Post-Rock Song of the Day

Song of the Day (A-Z): Mogwai – Party In The Dark

Day 16 (P). Predominately instrumental Post-Rock pioneers Mogwai trying their hand at psychedelic Dream-Pop. This is Mogwai at their most playful & seems to me to suggest shades of latter day Slowdive & (pretty much any period) New Order. Taken from their 2017 album, Every Country’s Sun, Party In The Dark came out just as my own band, Nauseous Skies, was forming & was a huge influence on our sound. We included it in our playlist of reference material we gave to the engineer when we recorded our debut singles, Only Shadows and Stay Young.

I see everything
All their suffering
Tiny vehicles
Space-age miracles

All our hearts were sore
No fight left in this war
Before the ghostly chase
All those that rearrange

I, taken from those spirals be both kind
Hungry for another piece of mind
Silent and impatient without time
Directionless and innocent

Wards are ours to keep
Definition free
Unkind and alone
End of the idea

I, taken from those spirals be both kind
Hungry for another piece of mind
Silent and impatient without time
Directionless and innocent

I, taken from those spirals be both kind
Hungry for another piece of mind
Silent and impatient without time
Directionless and innocent

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Indie Compilations & Label Samplers Indie Rock Music

Patient Zero (A Sub Pop Sampler, 2004)

I’ve just received a new copy of this excellent Sub Pop compilation. This one is from 2004. Unfortunately, the first thing I notice (& which I’d forgotten from years ago) is that it features a song in common with it’s 2003 predecessor, Infecting The Galaxy One Planet At A Time, The District Sleeps Alone Tonight by The Postal Service. I have to say that I find this dissapointing.

However, like Infecting The Galaxy One Planet At A Time, Patient Zero is a wonderful collection of songs from the time.

Patient Zero opens with Kissing The Lipless by The Shins (at the time pretty much unknown). An upbeat Indie Pop anthem with acoustic guitars & handclaps. Fairly straightforward Indie-by-numbers but enjoyable nonetheless.

A personal favourite, The Thermals return with a track from their second album, Fucking A, How We Know. It’s lo-fi post Grunge with quiet, repetitive verses & loud, explosive choruses. Definitely a great band & you have to admire the commercial suicide of naming their second album Fucking A.

The Constantines deliver some atmospheric & anthemic Indie Rock with roots in Gargage Rock. Possibly rode in on the coattails of the Garage Rock revival which was, in 2004, giving way to the Post-Punk revival. It’s an upbeat tune, loaded with positivity & some decent noise guitar playing which wouldn’t sound out of place on a Sonic Youth record.

Classic Blues inspired Rock n Roll, dripping in noisy guitars, pounding rhythm section & soaring chorus, The Catheters return with the song No Natural Law. It’s exhilarating stuff & you could hear a lot of this kind of music around 2003-4. Bands like The Von Bondies & The D4 spring to mind.

Rogue Wave’s Endless Shovel is upbeat & sunny sounding Psychedelic Pop. Despite the ’60’s vibes, the bass & drums give Endless Shovel a level of heaviness that was practically unheard of back then. Definite Kinks vibes. The outro, which to me is the highlight, is heavier & noisier than the rest of the song.

Frausdots deliver Soft Light, an enjoyable enough Interpol-esque exploration of ’80’s dark Indie (Joy Division, The Cure etc.). Kind of what The Killers would sound like if they were more sonically adventurous & their lyrics weren’t meaningless drivel. The chorus lifts up into radio friendly, soaring Power-Pop.

The Helio Sequence bring some smooth, soulful Synthpop & robotic drum machine rhythms with Blood Bleeds. Delayed guitar patterns build up into squalls of friendly sounding noise.

Naked As We Came by Iron & Wine is soft voiced, fingerpicked lo-fi Folk music. Pretty vocal melodies float gracefully over the minimalistic track & the warm hissing of analogue tape.

The Elected’s Greetings In Braille is soft, sunny Folk Pop with upbeat guitar strumming & pretty melancholic melodies. It feels like there’s a whistling solo missing to me.

Rosie Thomas’s Red Rover is a lush Folk arrangement with warm vocal harmonies & pretty fingerpicking.

On Your Way by The Album Leaf is lush Indie Pop with downbeat glockenspiel & keyboard melodies floating dreamlike over drum machine rhythms & clean guitar sounds.

I’m not going to discuss The Postal Service’s The District Sleeps Alone Tonight as it also featured on the 2003 sampler, Infecting The Galaxy One Planet At A Time.

Daylight Til Dawn, All Night Radio’s contribution is widescreen cinematic pop with lush string arrangements & bouncy ’60’s Pop melodies & Beach Boys style group harmonies.

Comets On Fire’s Antlers Of The Midnight Sun brings squealing, scraping guitar abuse, art Rock arrangements & Psyche Punk vocals to create some truly exciting oddball Indie Rock. Pitched somewhere between original wave Punk bands & the fuzzy Indie of Pavement, I can barely believe I forgot about this absolute gem of a tune. Definitely a surprise standout tune for me (note to self: investigate Comets On Fire further).

Finally, to round out the compilation, my first introduction to the wonderful noise band, Wolf Eyes. Stabbed In The Face (an amazing title, I’m sure you’ll agree) is a hot mess of pounding electronic kick drums, synthesised bass, squealing guitar feedback & abrasive amp noise. Not long after I heard this, and while John Peel still lived, I remember taping their Peel Session off the radio & playing it until it was chewed up & destroyed. That’s right people, I was still using cassette tapes as recently as 2004 (hell, I distinctly remember making tapes for people as recently as 2007). Wolf Eyes were probably the first noise band I got into.

MVP:

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Folk Music

Clara Engel – Hatching Under The Stars

Clara Engel is independent Folk artist who has been recording & performing since the early ’00’s. A quick glance at their Bandcamp page will tell you that they are extremely prolific, with multiple releases most years.

Their latest release, Hatching Under The Stars is a minimal folk album built around live session recordings of voice, guitar & drums. From this minimal foundation, Engel has built up an atmospheric & dark collection of haunting, cinematic ballads.

photo by Ilyse Krivel

The instrumentation is extremely sparse & carves out cavernous spaces with room ambience & reverb. Guitar notes are left to hang in the abyss & the drums seem to reach us from deep underground. Accordions & celtic harps are woven through this spacious soundscape. Electric guitars are utilised as ambient noise generators, adding whale sounds & swelling dissonance to the compositions, creating uneasy atmospheres. Violins & cellos bring their own unique brand of tension & sadness.

Rhythmically, Hatching Under The Stars has a solemn, marching feel to it, lending a spiritual & essence which mirrors the stark & cover art, painted by Engel. The way they threads their vocal melodies through these rhythms almost lends the songs a sermonising, chant-like quality. Fittingly, Engel sometimes describes their music as “minimalist holy blues”, & you can certainly feel that in the spiritual atmospherics of the quieter, moments.

photo by Ilyse Krivel

Popmatters writer Justin Vellucci, in his review, compares the compositions on Hatching Under The Stars to Andy Warhol’s 1964 film Empire, a static shot, slow motion film of an unchanging view of the Empire State Building. The minor things which break the monotony, like a bird passing or a light turning on in an office window provide a sense of fleeting, ephemeral drama which Vellucci likens to Engel’s repetitive guitar figures & the emergence of minor variations within them after several minutes or of new instrumentation arising, unexpected from the deep atmospheres.

Engel’s breathy vocals seem to possess a sense of almost confessional intimacy. This propels the songs forward & takes your hand, gently leading you into the dark, folkloric worlds the soundscapes conjure. There is a sense of the music moving past you as you press on in a kind of journey through a near mythical landscape.

photo by Ilyse Krivel

There is a warmth to Engel’s music which is extremely comforting in these cold & fear filled days. There is always a desire to be led by someone else, for someone to make the difficult decisions for you, when you feel you have no control over your life, & I suspect record numbers of people are feeling like that at the moment. The sense of free fall is almost arrested by the stillness of the compositions & the sense of claustrophobic isolation is almost escaped through their spaciousness. To complete & even continue the sense of immersion which these soundscapes produce, the final sung line on the album is “the mystery will go on without me”. You feel that the universe it both becomes & inhabits, & through which you have been led by the hand, will continue to exist long after you’ve completed your journey.

Hatching Under The Stars is available now from Clara Engel’s Bandcamp.

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Categories
Music Post Punk Punk Song of the Day

Song of the Day (A-Z): Wire – Outdoor Miner

Wow, we’re already at day 15 (O). This is one of my favourite songs of all time & quite possibly one of the songs that started the whole Indie Rock ball rolling, Outdoor Miner by Post-Punk pioneers, Wire. Taken from their second LP, 1978’s Chairs Missing, Outdoor Miner bears striking similarities to much of the Indie Rock which came along in it’s wake.

Always eager to find new & interesting things to write about, the experimental lyrics to this song are based on bassist Graham Lewis’ fascination with the Serpentine leaf miner, a fly larva, & details it’s life cycle. The song is even mentioned on it’s wikipedia page.

No blind spots in the leopard’s eyes
Can only help to jeopardize
The lives of lambs, the shepherd cries 

An outdoor life for a silverfish
Eternal dust less ticklish
Than the clean room, a houseguest’s wish

He lies on his side, is he trying to hide?
In fact it’s the earth, which he’s known since birth

He lies on his side, is he trying to hide?
In fact it’s the earth, which he’s known since birth

Face worker, a serpentine miner
A roof falls, an under-liner
Of leaf structure, the egg timer

He lies on his side, is he trying to hide?
In fact it’s the earth, which he’s known since birth

He lies on his side, is he trying to hide? 
In fact it’s the earth, which he’s known since birth

He lies on his side, is he trying to hide? (he lies on his side)
In fact it’s the earth, which he’s known since birth (is he trying to hide?)

He lies on his side, is he trying to hide? (he lies on his side)
In fact it’s the earth, which he’s known since birth (is he trying to hide?)

He lies on his side, is he trying to hide? (he lies on his side)
In fact it’s the earth, which he’s known since birth (is he trying to hide?)

Outdoor Miner has been covered by many different Indie bands over the years. A personal favourite of mine is the version by Flying Saucer Attack, below.

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Music

‘DRUGS’ EP – Sugar Horse

Check out my review of Sugar Horse’s new EP, DRUGS, on With Just A Hint Of Mayhem.

Brutal Bristol Doomgazers, Sugar Horse’s new EP, DRUGS, is a punishing aural assault but it also features ephemeral moments of beauty. Doomy opening …

‘DRUGS’ EP – Sugar Horse
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Indie Rock Music

Shameless Self Promotion: Nauseous Skies – Sometimes

My band, Nauseous Skies, release our latest single, Sometimes, today. It’s a psychedelic Indie Pop song with an upbeat, danceable atmosphere.

The B-side is the home recording of Without You I shared in my previous Shameless Self Promotion post.

Sometimes is a favourite of the entire band and is really fun to play live. Check out this video of us performing it at the Fulford Arms music venue in York, 2017. (I’m the synth player tucked away to the side)

Also, check out these other live videos from the same gig.

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Indie Rock Music Song of the Day

Song of the Day (A-Z): The Thermals – No Culture Icons

Day 14 (N). This writer first heard The Thermals, and this song in particular on the excellent Sub Pop Sampler CD, Infecting The Galaxy One Planet At A Time (pictured). Released in 2003, it was an excellent collection of amazing indie music at the time & I wore out my copy from overplay (as a result of writing this post, I have ordered a new copy. I shall write a retrospective review of it when it arrives. For nostalgia’s sake).

No Culture Icons is a fiery blast of DIY, lo-fi Indie Punk which, in hindsight, should have been massive at a time when bands like The Strokes & The White Stripes were experiencing large scale commercial success. The rawness of the production may have been all that excluded No Culture Icons, and it’s parent album More Parts Per Million, from greater success.

The Thermals did go on to experience moderate success. Their third album, The Body, The Blood, The Machine (a scathing George W Bush-era protest album telling “the story of a young couple who must flee a United States governed by fascist faux-Christians.”), produced by Fugazi’s Brendan Canty, went on to enjoy cult success. Pitchfork placed it at number 186 on their list of top 200 albums of the 2000s.

“Full Thermal Jacket
War + Patriotism = Sales”

Hardly art
Hardly starving
Hardly art
Hardly garbage

More coloured liquid
No scent, no skin
More stained paper
More parts per million
No new deafness
No self reference
No cults and
No new stands

No one ideal
Know what I feel
No two the same
Know two with the
Same name

More coloured liquid
No scent, no skin
More stained paper
More parts per million
No new deafness
No self reference
No getting psyched on
No culture icons

No one ideal
No what I feel
No two the same
Know two with the same name
Eyes so deep
You’d never see through
I can’t fucking stop
Thinking about you

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Indie Compilations & Label Samplers Indie Rock Music

Infecting The Galaxy One Planet At A Time (a Sub Pop Sampler, 2003)

As the result of one of my Song of the Day posts, I remembered this amazing compilation album which I used to love. Infecting The Galaxy One Planet At A Time is a 2003 label-sampler by the indie label Sub Pop (particularly famous for introducing the world to Niravna & infamous for losing Nirvana to major label Geffen).

Unfortunately, this isn’t available on Spotify etc. so I was forced to buy a new physical copy online. I ordered it a couple of days ago & it arrived today. It features a great selection of music which runs the whole gamut of early ’00’s indie rock music.

It begins with old-guard grunge-rock heavyweights Mudhoney with a song from what still feels to me like their new album (despite being 18 years old) SinceWe’ve Become Translucent, Sonic Infusion.

Ugly Casanova’s Things I Don’t Remember is synthy Indie rock with lyrics alledgedly taken from a stolen Modest Mouse notebook.

Fruit Bats’ Rainbow Sign is hippy dippy ’60’s-esque Psyche Pop par excellence.

Rosie Thomas and Iron & Wine are Lo-fi Indie Folksters, perfectly at home on Sup Pop.

The Shins Past And Pending, like Fruit Bats, owes a lot to ’60’s Psyche Pop.

Post-Punk Revivalists like Hot Hot Heat & The Rapture both contribute excellent tracks. The eminently danceable Get In Or Get Out by the former & the jagged, dancefloor smash Out Of The Races And On To The Tracks by the latter.

No Culture Icons by The Thermals was an early taste of the great things to come from the trashy Lo-Fi Indie Punks.

Michael Yonkers Band are like a ’60’s version of Johnathan Richman. The Murder City Devils & The Catheters deliver two tracks of noisy distorted Rock & Roll which celebrates how much the two artists love noisy distorted Rock & Roll.

Arlo deliver some Punky Power Pop with Runaraound.

Pleasure Forever come across like an American version of The Fall on Post-Punky jam, Axis Exalt.

Kinski’s epic Semaphore takes a heavily modulated guitar line & transphorms it into a Post-Rock soundscape with morse rhythms built into a swirling wall of sound.

We’re back into Indie Folk territory with Damon & Naomi’s pleasant squeeze box & acoustic guitar composition, Eye Of The Storm.

The Postal Service’s The District Sleeps Tonight is electronic, synthesised Indie Pop which is quite popular in 2020, but was fairly unique in 2003.

Sadcore Indie Rock closes the album with the melancholic near-psychedelia of Holopaw’s Cinders.

This album is a powerful artefact of the early ’00’s. Many of the bands on here are no longer around & somewhat forgotten, while others are well known & well respected now, considered classics & enjoyed by many in the Indie Rock community.

I really like the spacefaring aesthetic of the artwork & things like the baggy, hoody-like quality of the spacesuit the back cover astronaut is wearing.

If you can find a copy I highly recommend picking it up. If you cannot, then you can always make the tracks from it into a playlist on whatever streaming platform you use.

Until next time…

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Indie Rock Music Song of the Day

Song of the Day (A-Z): Jason Lytle – Matterhorn

Day 13 (M). Jason Lytle is almost certainly best known for his work as the frontman & main songwriter in the top-tier Indie rock band, Grandaddy. Away from Grandaddy, Lytle has also crafted a small solo career. Matterhorn is grand, widescreen elegiac pop music in a similar vein to another favourite of mine, British Sea Power, but with Jason Lytle’s signature falsetto vocals & analogue synths.

This version is a solo acoustic version which Lytle actually recorded on the mountainside of the Matterhorn itself, the titular mountain which straddles the Swiss/Italian border. The song itself wonders at the merits of braving dangerous situations, like climbing the Matterhorn, versus the merits of staying home where it’s “safe and warm”. This lends a humorous element to the choice of location.

10 o’clock and her life quit going
It wasn’t long till it started snowing
And the end saw the wind really blowing around

Lone bird on a perch nearby
Saw something in her come untied
And then shivered just a bit as she aimed toward the sky

Get down that Matterhorn
What’s wrong with the safe and warm?
What’s wrong with a book and tea at night?
Up high in a friendless wind
Tears frozen upon descent
Get down that matterhorn again

There’s a handwritten note he wrote
In the pocket of a cold down coat
On the body of the one who has left our world

And in the note there’s a love professed
And some apology about some mess
But she won’t be reading those words too soon

Get down that Matterhorn
What’s wrong with the safe and warm?
What’s wrong with a book and tea at night?
Up high in a friendless wind
Tears frozen upon descent
Get down that matterhorn again

Up high in a frightening sky
What’s wrong with a quiet night?
Get down that Matterhorn again.

Do you dig mountains as much as Jason Lytle?…
…Seriously, look at all those framed pictures of mountains in his studio.

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Post-Rock

Red Light Skyscraper – Take Me Somewhere Nice (Mogwai Cover – played on smartphone apps)

During lockdown, Italian instrumental Post-Rock group Red Light Skyscraper, separated by quarantine, have recorded this excellent cover of the Mogwai classic Take Me Somewhere Nice. It’s quite amazing, especially considering the limitations of these apps.

Elsewhere on their YouTube channel, Red Light Skyscraper have been killing time in quarantine by making this brilliant cover of Quiet by This Will Destroy You. The idea this time is that the recording is composed of just 1% performance & 99% editing. It sounds great.

Before I saw this performance on a Facebook group I’m a member of (The Post-Rock Appreciation Society), I was unfamiliar with Red Light Skyscraper’s work. After watching a fe of their videos I am definitely a fan now. I’ll be keeping an eye on them, going forward. Check out this excellent performance recorded in Bristol, 2019.

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