\\Notes From Downriver//
\\Punk (La Vie Antérieure)//
\\Minimal Techno//
\\(Co-Dependent) Independent Jangling//
\\Occasional Modern Classical//

By James Harbard

Le Deon - Cassette (Aught - 2014)

Just pretend there never was a problem to solve, there never was a history, but here’s a set of tools that are used to create something.

Do your best to re-create that something.

This is music that seems to operate under the bounds of influence as hit and miss as the results are it’s rare you hear something that manages to do that, especially in beat based electronic music.

Merchandise - After The End (4AD - 2014)

Merchandise are the coolest band in the world. Period. Born from a hardcore scene that never raised them they are basically the only band in the world that managed to be a highly celebrated pop band in a non pop context. After “Figured Out” spelt the end of the old Merchandise, IE the Merchandise that wrote “Anxiety’s Door” with a serial killer steel gaze, they’ve and turned their hearts towards more streamlined, less sinister celebration of what they are or have become. “Little Killer” the seventh song on their first proper full length for the mainstream 4AD records is a starry eyed pop song with an addictive hooky chorus. It’s the song they’ve always had in them but always held back from delivering, preferring to drown themselves, see Totale Nites highlight, “Winters Dream”. The title track is the only song here that really pushes time limits, and its not in a hurry to kill anyone. “Green Lady is a gorgeous thx tech track that takes a lot of risks and runs, and “True Monument” is one of those super ballads they’ve always done streamlined, they are wide screen tracks for a band that sounded great on the small screen so you can only imagine what they sound like IMAX sized. It’s fucking impressive.

The King is now truly dead, World Peace was none of his business and if Morrisey being dumped yet again for being antagonistic for the wrong reasons was a sign that these guys really needed to take over and After the End has come at the right time, the smiths baton is theirs. Merchandise were always meant to be this band but I can’t help but I know I will miss a band raised on blood that praised healing because the type of healing merchandise were practising on Totale Nite was one of healing via revenge, things went full circle. But what is left here, is relaxation, a look at a world where you can walk down the street on the first day of spring and push malevolent serial killer thoughts aside for a hour. These guys have been there done that. After The End is the post mortem from a time in punk music history where everyone joins them for a drink.

Cymbals Eat Guitars - Lose (Barsuk/Tough Love - 2014)

For a band raised on a sort of ritualistic, heartland approach to indie rock,  the kind that screams records about homes you don’t go to anymore, Cymbals Eat Guitars took their time actually making a record that said something about them. They’re notorious borrowers and while the trend continues here, opener track “Jackson” is essentially a gritty Bright Eyes song with a dinosaur jr solo at the end but the stories that pepper the thing are all theirs. On Jackson they talk about driving to wait in line at six flags, and for some reason that line stuck with me as something you just don’t make up. It’s very everyday poetry.

"Jackson" sets the rest of Lose up as a type of proto-emo reflective piece of music and it is, but it fluctuates wildly in its modes of delivery (or what it chooses to pinch from). “Chambers” is essentially an early Shins song with the volume of their latest and none of the shiny studio pretension. Big choruses float around everywhere, and while enjoying “Chambers” you can be forgiven for wondering just how they managed to do such a good job of this. The fucking going for it vocals and even the (finally) personal nature of these songs, kinda makes this feel like a happier jangle rock freindly twin to the Hotelier’s incredible debut form earlier this year, but Lose for all it’s bargin bin grabbing feels like a singular personal achievement from a band that seemed content to never make one.

Merchandise - “Green Lady” (4AD -2014)

The incredible “Figured Out” which is still one of the years best tracks, was found unceremoniously tucked into an underground release, a thrilling split with Destruction Unit and Milk Music and it signaled the end of an era for Merchandise. The ever unstoppable band have in fact finally reached a turning point. “Green Lady” seems like a track they were born to write, an inevitable shift to 4AD, an inevitable shift to being one of the indie rock worlds most praised bands and not just a punk scene oddity. It’s also inevitably head spinningly good.

Juniore - “La Fin Du Monde” (Entreprise - 2014)

What if Yumi Zouma’s ideas were just a really sphisticated business plan?
Fuck what if that business plan made it all the way to France??What if their value sustained a whole enterprise?

White Suns - “Totem” (The Flenster - 2014)

White Suns records like the blood bath that was 2011’s breathless Walking in the Reservoir are obviously off putting for a lot of people and their latest is almost a step further away from accessibility but for those that bother you’ll find something oppressively addictive. Totems is a combination of basting noise and ambient electronics, a sea of militaristic ambition that rarely steps away from full on bombardment. Totem's ambition is sometimes its downfall, the lyrics on this record are heavier and more poetic that past White Suns material and sometimes it feels overwrought considering the gravity of the music that's already here, they often feel like an unnecessary add on. The Industrial noise sections are a violent and beautiful counteraction to this, they write their own poetry and threaten and imply, but never break into any sort of melody. I was tempted to say that people might be mroe willing to listen to this after Swans redefinition of experimental music earlier this year in a way that lends it self to this kind of aggression, but Totem keeps you on your toes more so than To Be Kind. To Be Kind's success could be partially be found in the way the oppressive qualities were often subsumed by hypnotic repetition, there is nothing to cling to here.

Tobias Jesso Jr - “True Love” (Self Released - 2014)

The internet could never make you as beautiful as you are in real life. I so rarely want to look at a screen outside the Monday - Friday 9-5 (9-11) (ever) (EVER). 

But I HAD to show you this.

Who is this guy? I bet he smells like a well worn, soft flannelet shirt that hasn’t been worn in years.

Vessel -“Red Sex” (Tri Angle - 2014)

Just when you thought winter was over, Vessel, who has solidified himself as the most talented and interesting person on Tri Angle changes his direction again. The influence here is drawn from far outside dance music circles, but it still feels regional and still feels like a Vessel track.

William Tyler - “Parliament of Skulls” (Lightning Records - 2014)

When I first listened to this gorgeous first track from ambient blues guitarist William Tyler’s New record Blue Ash Montgomery, my neighbor decided to reverese his fairly loud unserviced BMW out of his garage really slowly. It was raining. The rumble of the car and the rain on the roof might have given this an extra kick it needed to really make my day but ultimately this is the type of music that lends itself to blending with anything it finds. If that guy hadn’t driven off, if it had been a super sunny day, it most likely would have found something else to play with.

The Skygreen Leopards - Family Crimes (Woodsist - 2014)

There was a mechanic I knew who had gone down the same path and we spent a lot of time together, quitting our jobs just for a few months. Perpetually hungover it was hard to say how often we actually made it to the lake, but the nights that we did were always so beautiful. There was a large white rock in the middle of that particular lake coated in lizards and what I assume were cherubs and sometimes I would see the girl I’d constantly fantasize about reclined on it, still dressed in that same a white dress she wore on her birthday but drenched head to toe. The mechanic’s fingers were uncleanable, he’d wash them for hours and hours in the lake which proved a fruitless task but it was fine with me. I’d just stare at her while I waited.

We’d come home and listen to The Skygreen Leopards’ “Garden Blue” and have a cigarette. The mechanic would say it reminded him of a Woods song, I’d say “fuck dude does it matter, they’ve been around longer anyway and they’re on their record label”. He’d agree. Then when “Reno wedding” would come on he’d be like “fuck yeah dude this guitar bit killllls!!!”