Sonic Youth – Tunic (Song For Karen)

The bitter taste of sweetness

Karen and Richard Carpenter formed a famous duo during the 70s named The Carpenters, recording a list of popular songs such as Close To You and We’ve Only Just Begun. Even if she was a great drummer, the record label barely let her play during the sessions, using her voice and, most of all, her face to promote the band and various releases.

On February 4, 1983 she died at the age of 32 from complications related to anorexia nervosa. She was living at her parents’ house, where basically she spent most of her life under the influence of an omnipresent mother.

In 1990 Sonic Youth released this song as an homage to this American singer, imagining her life in heaven with others dead rockstars. From an imaginary cloud she waves goodbye to Hollywood, to Richard and the mother, who is one of the main subject of the song. As a matter of fact, the chorus is Karen’s mother voice giving her a roasting (“You aren’t never going anywhere”) and throughtout the song there are several references to anorexia (“I feel like I’m disappearing, getting smaller every day”).

In this tribute song Karen seems to be happy in heaven, finally playing the drums in a band with her friends Elvis, Janis Joplin and Dennis Wilson. All of this is narrated by Kim Gordon’s voice on a spooky guitar swirl, giving the atmosphere of an alien and ethereal kind of bliss.


VV.AA. – I Need You Bad

I Need You Bad is a 15 track compilation trying to take a picture of the current garage music scenario from the west coast bay area. Out today via Polyvinyl/Burger Records, this collection is curated by Sonny Smith (Sonny & The Sunsets) who choose several artists (mostly from San Francisco, L.A. and Oakland) related to a specific music scene.

Although the idea was to document the contemporary San Francisco garage rock scene, the compilation goes way further, assembling lots of different styles like songwriting (Chris Cohen), breezy dream pop (Fronds, Pure Bliss), dark vibes (Sunfoot) or even Soul (Little Wings). Properly garage (with remarkable new wave influences) are The Sandwiches and Wet Illustrated: it might be for their evident lo-fi attitude.

The first half of the LP is definitively more focused, with a proper theme behind the track list and, probably, sharper composition. This part of the compilation brings out the mellowest atmospheres borrowed from the 50s-60s: it seems like a old-fashioned high school party, with Buddy Holly and his band playing a couple of songs. Listen to Cool Ghouls or The Memories to get an idea.

Starting with the catchy Tell Me In A Whisper (Warm Soda) the compilation is a nice taste of the ongoing scenario from the west coast: sure it’s a pleasant hour filled with several great tunes. Perhaps, someone could expect a more aggressive, dirty and fuzzy atmosphere from this record. More than a garage documentary, here we got a collection of dreamy pop songs.

It’s probably the wide range of bands involved that takes this release away from its central idea. Anyway, this collection is totally worthy if your searching for easy listening songs soaked in genuine lo-fi sonorities.

The Freeks – Full On

After the worldwide acclaimed debut release, The Freeks came back this week with a brand new full-lenght. The formula we’re used to hear on their records is masterfully honored: dirty, muddy, fuzzy and incendiary rock’n’roll played as if the world has to end tomorrow.

Full On is a cascade of adrenalin flavored beats and powerful riffs. Right after a short intro, an army of garage and rock’n’roll tones assaults the listener: no chance to escape the overwhelming wall of sound the band created.

There’s still time for a break with the ever-changing Vitamin D and Splitting Atoms, but they show their best through the hyper-powered patterns. The acid guitar licks, the screaming voices, the timeless cry baby: we’re all here still in debt with part of the 60s.

It’s easy to find even hard rock influences on this album: the main guitar lines on Fast and Black are a good example (not so strange if you think at some of the members’ background). It’s actually some kind of punk’n’roll melted with a huge quantity of stoner.

Once again, the unstoppable Burger Records offered a worthy LP. Hope to see them on stage with this brand new material.

The Limiñanas – Costa Blanca

French duo The Limiñanas released this week their third album Costa Blanca, showing how to play some 60s revival without acting like a mere replica.

This thirteen song album reveals a huge amount of influences from the freakiest and druggiest psych-folk bands of the past: just listen to the cycling bass lines, the omnipresent tambourine or the heavenly Hammond sound to get an idea.

Nothing but a truly inspired bunch of composition throughout the entire tracklist. It might be difficult to overcome the use of, at least, three different languages (especially during I Miei Occhi Sono I tuoi Occhi). But still, the way they worked on the old-fashioned atmosphere of the record is simply stunning.

During this 2013 lots of artists tried to emulate the vintage 60s sound, mocking the melodies The Byrds created or the Brian Wilson’s interweaving vocal lines. Anyway, not every of these records reached the goal, turning into pointless imitations of the psychedelic golden age.

Fortunately, here we find a brilliant way to get inspired by artists such as Jefferson Airplane, Os Mutantes and Velvet Underground. Not to forget the mixture of Indian sitars and Mediterranean soundscapes they assembled on this Lp: the exotic tones of the arrangements perfectly match Lio and Marie’s voices.

A good proof for this band and a good reminder of what’s the difference between cloning and referring.

Freelove Fenner – Do Not Affect A Breezy Manner

Montreal-based Freelove Fenner released today their firts album Do Not Affect A Breezy Manner. Musically talking, it’s a deep immersion in certain 80s sonorities. Far from the well-known new romantic atmosphere, here it’s easy to find a curious mixture of Monochrome Set and The Feelies. Especially when everything turns more hypnotic and freaky (George Harrison Cat).

This record shows how to play elegant yacht pop without being cheesy; that’s probably part of its beauty. Fifteen short tracks (plus three brief interludes) filled with bright guitar riffs, minimal drum patterns, fine bass lines and delicate vocals. The weak point may be the circular use of the same themes and patterns, that could be a little bit pedantic on a 18-track album.

Even if still strongly in debt to some Prefab Sprout/Style Council’s ideas, it’s not hard to enjoy this release throughout the whole tracklist. A good starter by a fast-growing band and another nice strike for Fixture Records.

Espectrostatic – Espectrostatic

Imagine having a trip into Dario Argento’s landscapes, with a synthetizer in your hand and a dream catcher in the other. Then you should probably feel the atmosphere of this record.

Alex Cuervo’s project Espectrostatic released today this debut self-named full lenght: thirteen tracks full of horrorific tones, fast vibrato keyboards and creepy background drones. Well, you may notice the spooky bells: a direct reminder to midnight sounds and haunted places.

Describing this album isn’t that easy. First of all, it could probably be associated with some kind of darkwave/synthpop stereotypes. But since it’s completely instrumental, it’s hard to avoid Cuervo’s desire to release something closer to a soundtrack. This way you can even consider it as ambient: it’s the sound of a horror movie featuring The Cramps and Goblin.

The howling echoes in the background help to create a dread scenario, as described throughout the entire tracklist. Infact, all the titles refer to some terrifying places or situations, giving the idea of a solid concept behind this work. Maybe quite distant from what we use to hear from Trouble in Mind lately, but still a good release. You can even stream it on Bandcamp.

Spiritualized – Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space

The pursuit of the perfect love song

In 1995 Jason Pierce decided that was time to come back in studio and give a shape to some new ideas. At that time Spiritualized were supporting Richard Ashcroft’s Verve on tour, even if Pierce was having hard times after years of heroin abuse. After few sessions Kate Radley, keyboardist and Pierce’s girlfriend, left the studio to join Ashcroft for a secret marriage. Such an experience during drug rehab characterized indelibly the mood of the record: the whole album (released in 1997) turned out as a concept about addiction in all its possible meanings.

The feeling of being dumped by someone you love is crystallized in this magnificent track. In an act of pure masochism, Pierce used his ex-girlfriend’s voice to introduce the song, taking the clip from one of the early sessions.
The whole composition is based on a Gregorian structure with different interweaving vocal lines  following the same chord progression.

The song is clearly inspired by Elvis Presley’s Can’t Help Falling In Love and, as a matter of fact, part of the lyrics was taken from that song (It’s easy to recognize the chorus singing the Elvis song at the end of the track).

Even if it was written during a troubled period, this rock-gospel track sounds heavenly peaceful. That’s why Jonathan Glazer used Ladies and Gentlemen for his temporary installation at Coachella Festival in 2011. The song was played non stop in a cathedral-shaped structure with every different vocal line coming from a falling raylight.

Vex Ruffin – The Album

Even if it’s probably pointless to label something as post-punk since 1980, that’s exactly the sound coming out of Vex Ruffin‘s self-named first album. With a strong use of harsh guitar samples and claustrophobic bass lines, this record fills  hypnotic patterns with lo-fi voices and minimal drum sets.

Imagine Ian Curtis taking a walk in the ghetto, discovering a cabinet of sick melodies from the underground and making a crooked song out of them. If It might be hard to believe in such a comparison,  just listen to Be The Man to get an idea.

After four EPs, Vex Ruffin released his debut record via Stones Throw Records on November 12th. All the twelve tracks express a dark-tinted way of composing, with a huge reference to some garage-grunge melodies (Need More Followers), a peculiar use of  catchy’n’sick harmonies (Hard On Myself, Forget It) and a mixture of cacophony and spiral sounds (Prime Of My Life).

The bass guitar is probably the lead character on this full-lenght: most of the time it’s the main structure through which Vex Ruffin’s used to compose the rest of the arrangements.
Surely a great record to wave goodbye to 2013. To do that stream the entire album on Soundcloud through Stones Throw official channel.