Pure X - Angel Review

Pure X's debut album Pleasure was my favourite album of 2011. Though it’s a loud and noisy album featuring an overwhelming abundance of reverb, it is concurrently underpinned the whole way through by a pop sensibility. Pleasure wasn’t just a record that you could listen to once and know all of its secrets, it required the listener to invest their own time in it in order to fully appreciate all that it had to offer.

Last year’s underwhelming Crawling Up the Stairs alluded to a more accessible Pure X (‘Things in My Head’) though the record often felt uncomfortable; hung up on its backstory and with the band not entirely confident of the musical direction that they were heading.

With the release of their major label debut, Angel, in just three weeks, Pure X have fundamentally redeemed themselves, presenting what is so far one of the strongest albums of the year. No longer only hinted at, Angel is a pop record through and through with the theme of love embedded from start to finish. What Pure X have managed to produce on this record is a staggering accomplishment. The opening bars of ‘Starlight’ set the tone for the rest of the album as their unique blend of shimmering rock begins to open up around you. The songs are always slow and the bass is constantly wandering as, vocalist and guitarist, Nate Grace utilises his falsetto to gently express himself. The addition of a second guitarist has only expanded their sound which seems to draw from the skewed, left of centre, pop that Unknown Mortal Orchestra produced on II .

While there are many high points on the album (would I be allowed to say that every song is a high point?), ‘Heaven’ is the standout track. Combining their trademark delicate groove with soft, feel good lyrics. Grace earnestly sings “Heaven is a feeling, one that I can believe in” and his sincerity makes you believe it too.

The best record I’ve heard this year, Angel is out 1/4 on Fat Possum

St. Vincent - ‘Digital Witness’

"If I can’t show it, if you can’t see me, what’s the point of doing anything?" asks Annie Clark on her latest single under the St. Vincent moniker. Having had numerous discussions with my own friends regarding the topic of self-advertisement, including how people will avoid doing things that can’t be turned into a status, tweet or gram, it is nice to see Clark revisit this idea after previously writing about it on her collaboration with David Byrne.

Horn blasts and reserved percussion lay the track’s foundation before the above chorus sweeps in revealing lush synthesisers and a guitar line that echos Clark’s powerful voice. While St. Vincent pushes new boundaries for Clark, it shows that she is very much aware of where her own strengths lie. Her music evolves from album to album and yet she never falls victim to over reaching like so many other artists do. Though there is far less of her skilled guitar work on display in ‘Digital Witness’, St. Vincent still retains the sound that is uniquely her own.

St. Vincent’s self titled fourth album, St. Vincent is out now through Republic Records.

Central America Playlist

Having been in Central America for the last two months it’s great to come home and have such a long list of albums to work my way through. Before I get into all of the new stuff (and there is a lot), I thought I’d quickly post my 15 most listened to songs. They got me through some long bus rides; Listen to ‘Part Past Part Fiction’ by The Chills up above.

  1. The Chills - Part Past part Fiction
  2. Pure X - Things in My Head
  3. Crocodiles - Stoned to Death
  4. SMILE - Born Again
  5. Moon King - Only Child
  6. Tigers Can Bite You - Second Nature
  7. Neil Young & Crazy Horse - White Line
  8. Young Prisms - Sugar
  9. Kate Bush - Running Up That Hill (A Deal with God)
  10. Cool Drinks - I Don’t Wanna Lose You
  11. Mood Rings - Exorcised Painting
  12. Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks - Lariat
  13. Twerps - Anything New
  14. Run DMT - Spruce Bringsteen
  15. HEALTH - Goth Star

The Ocean Party - “Split”

It’s not often that I find myself actively taking notice of a song’s lyrics. I rarely pay any real attention to what is being sung, instead having them typically serve simply as something catchy for me to sing along to as I go about my day. I could easily rattle of the lyrics to hundreds of songs though I’d be hard pressed to actually tell you what any are about. “Split” however, the title track off of Melbourne powerhouse The Ocean Party's most recent record, is something different. 

With so many great songwriters in the band (its members additionally head up Velcro, Snowy Nasdaq, Pencil and Ciggie Witch) it’s interesting that this track is the very first song written for The Ocean Party by drummer Zac Denton. Weaving his vocals between the laid back guitar lines and his own relaxed drumming, Denton manages to sum up the universal feeling experienced by every young person as they undertake the transition into adulthood. Earnestly singing, “I’m torn between what I want and, what I have to do…I’m split”, Denton never comes across as anything less than sincere.

It’s easy to see why they are often compared to bands such as Real Estate though there is more to them than just their laid back, relaxed vibe. With a turn of phrase akin to an early Stephen Malkmus and an attuned knowledge of song structure, The Ocean Party are definitely a band that everyone should be watching.

My favourite Australian release of 2013, Split is out now on Spunk Records

Total Slacker - ‘Sometimes You Gotta Die’

Total Slacker's upcoming second album, Slip Away, is going to be so good! Out February 11 on Black Bell Records.

Potty Mouth - ‘Damages’

My first introduction to Western Massachusetts punk band Potty Mouth, was through a review by Michael of Awkward Sound (now Recommended Listen). In it, he describes their intimidating presence at one of their shows which resulted in him leaving early before anyone took to the stage. 

While many reviews have been quick to file Potty Mouth under the Riot Grrrl banner, comparing them to bands such as Bikini Kill and L7, a lack of political motivation on their behalf means that this is mostly due to their gender and not their music. Explosive guitars and powerful melodies result in Hell Bent being one of the most consistent and well formed debut albums released this year. 

'Damage', the album's first single, is a raw and energetic track that displays Potty Mouth at their 90’s best. Featuring fuzzed guitars, gritty vocals and propelling drumming, it’s the type of track that’s upbeat enough to appeal to the casual listener while at the same time maintaining its aggression in the songs undercurrents with vocalist Abby Weems asking “How real were you? Cos I’m finding out the truth”.

More melodic than most punk but heavier than your average indie rock band, Hell Bent  is out now on Old Flame Records.

Yuck - ‘Middle Sea’


Having to replace your band’s frontman is a notoriously difficult task and so when Daniel Blumberg’s departure from Yuck was announced, I assumed the end of the band was approaching. It’s an understatement, then, to say that I was surprised to hear the announcement of Glow & Behold, Yuck's follow up to their hugely successful self-titled album.

'Middle Sea', my first taste of the upcoming record, floored me. Despite the turmoil that has been going on behind the scenes, the UK indie rockers have managed to write what is probably one of their best songs yet. Featuring the same thick distorted guitars and catchy melodies that they drew upon on their debut album, 'Middle Sea' shows Yuck soldiering on as if nothing has changed. With guitarist Max Bloom now covering vocal duties, it seems like the band can only go from strength to strength.

Not just a turning point for the band, ‘Middle Sea’ represents a significant moment for Bloom personally. Having always been in a supporting role to Blumberg’s lead (he played guitar in Blumberg’s first notable band Cajun Dance Party as well), Bloom appears to have relished the opportunity provided to him, using it to prove his capability to carrying Yuck forward.

Following the release of the underwhelming Hebronix album, I’m hoping Blumberg isn’t regretting his decision to leave Yuck behind. Glow & Behold is out 30/9 on Fat Possum/Pharmacy and could easily be one of the best surprises of 2013.

Mood Rings - ‘Pathos y Lagrimas’


Currently obsessing over both this song and album so hard. Hailing from Atlanta, Georgia (like so many other great bands) Mood Rings create this strange combination of murky psychedelic dream-pop where catchy guitar lines speak more for them than any chorus could.

Initially displaying some serious Interpol vibes with its complex bass line and shifting drumbeat, ‘Pathos y Lagrimas’ soon settles into its own as it takes on a more Ariel Pink / Hooray for Earth feel, featuring hushed vocals and intermittent guitar play. While lyrics such as ”I miss you the best” along with the refrain “You never, ever, ever cared” appear to describe the ending of a relationship, the instrumentation hides any feelings of sadness, instead opening the song up with a powerful sprawling guitar line that you wish would just repeat forever.

My favourite release of the year so far, VPI Harmony is out now on Mexican Summer.

Washed Out - ‘Don’t Give Up’


Washed Out's debut album, Within and Without, saw chillwave mainstay, Ernest Greene, fully realise the sound that he had pioneered on his critically acclaimed EP Life of Leisure. Though some claimed it was repetitive and pallid, Within and Without had enough substance to successfully silence those that claimed the genre was just a passing fad.

Since chillwave’s initial peak in 2010, Greene’s most notable contemporaries have diverged into other styles, with Neon Indian now creating futuristic synth-pop and Toro y Moi lending his hand at dance-oriented R&B. Interestingly, ‘Don’t Give Up’, the second single off of Greene’s upcoming sophomore record Paracosm, sees Greene maintaining his focus as he continues to mine at the heart of chillwave with exceptional results.

Initially, ‘Don’t Give Up’ could be mistaken for a prime cut from Within and Without, though this would not be giving Greene the credit he is due. As the song develops, it soon becomes clear that ‘Don’t Give Up’ expands well beyond anything previously released under the Washed Out moniker.

Exploring both textures and melody, this new single from Washed Out reveals that Greene has spent his downtime focused on enhancing his music in every way possible. While the track remains awash in the reverb that typifies the genre, the song is noticeably crisp thanks to the detailed mixing and mastering that has taken place.

Featuring an absolute bumper chorus, I’m looking forward to this soundtracking my summer. Paracosm is out August 13 on Sub Pop.

Minks - ‘Painted Indian’


I’ve been enjoying ‘Painted Indian’ for the last couple of weeks but have been so caught up with life that I haven’t had a chance to write about it. Brooklyn goth-pop band Minks released their debut album By the Hedge in 2011 to much acclaim. Though I was already aware of the band through their earlier 7“‘s, one of which featured the incredible summer-bummer ‘Funeral Song’, I never actually made it around to listening to their debut effort.

Two years down the track and Minks are back on my radar in a more straight forward capacity. The opening chords of ‘Painted Indian’ reference their previous work, before the song changes direction, jumping into an incredibly catchy chorus that (and I apologise for this next bit, though teenage me would have loved it) weirdly gives off a Tokyo Police Club / Born Ruffians mid-2000s vibe.

No longer indulging in the goth-pop that initially brought them popularity, though still fitting comfortably within the Captured Tracks roster, ‘Painted Indian’ is a tightly focused pop song that now only hints at, rather than draws directly from, luminaries like The Cure

Minks second album Tides End isdue out August 6 on Captured Tracks. I look forward to seeing if this change runs throughout the album or is confined to this one song.