ARTIST: Snowball II
RELEASE: Flashes Of Quincy
RELEASE DATE: 10th February 2017
RECORD COMPANY: Doughnut Records
Songs about breaking your ankle on halfpipes, drinking chai tea and heartbreak; must be the nineties!? Or is it 'Flashes of Quincy' by Long Beach based power pop band Snowball II? An album that combines the more rock-influenced shoegaze sounds of bands like Ride and the heavy strum and meddling of a genre one can only identify as a specific type of garage power pop. Throw into these musical nods to a by-gone era the lyrical recipes that shot many alternative bands to the top of charts around the world; such as skating, girls and being generally awkward about things. It’s a smart and satisfying album because it injects an originality into a time period and sound (power pop) that make it sound as fresh as ever; you can see the influence, but it’s mostly covered by originality and creatively diverse songs, ideas and sounds.
Flashes of Quincy by Snowball II
'Flashes of Quincy' begins with the album highlight ‘Anais & Me’ which centres around the whimsically contemplative vocals and the lyrics within. The protagonist of the song (presumably the ‘me’ in the title) reflects on the decisions and actions of the titular Anais; who drives to parties, dodges curfew and smokes. Snowball II use the vocals to enhance the lyrical message as they take on an awkward, self-conscious tone that sounds like it’s coming straight from the mouth of the main character. The instrumental qualities of the song touch more on alternative rock than power pop or shoegaze; although the vocals sound distinctly lower in the mix in a semi-Ride styling. As for its appeal; the song boils down to a simple case of being super enjoyable. That, really, is the crux of almost the entire album; there is always some sort of simple and minute form of enjoyment running through almost every song. ‘Groan’s’ is a more power pop centred song that showcases the undercurrents of indie music in the band’s sound. The song begins as a neat guitar riff plays through until the end of the verses where it dips into what sounds to be an out of time guitar section in a different key? This small piece of experimentation adds another dimension to the already fantastic song writing; the chorus rolls along and showcases the best elements of pop music; being superbly catchy and playful. All the while the vocals maintain the same kind of awkward bystander mentality as before; receiving significant help within the realms of ‘dorky charm’ by the lyrics, especially the chorus lyrics ‘It might be your birthday/But I made a cake for you’ to be precise. Snowball II turn things downtempo and perhaps even more shoegaze with ‘Sear ‘Em!’ that sounds much less playful than the previous two tracks. A fantastic drum beat maintains a heavier guitar sound; while a downtempo guitar plays under the mix to add contextual weight to the vocals.
‘CR-VUC’ starts with a weird kind of acoustic guitar and the slow churn of an organ in the background of the song that folds out into the alternative rock of previous songs. It sounds like a more fleshed out song; featuring a memorable chorus but perhaps even a memorable verse structure also. The small elements, like acoustic guitar, organ and an active drum section, make the song even more beautiful and showcase a diversity in the bands song writing. ‘Resident Of The United States’ is another album highlight; a brilliant guitar riff guides itself through a stop and start verse and chorus that builds around fantastic alternative rock melding’s and styles. ‘Your Occasion’ embodies the quirky, slow, freak-folk like elements of the band’s sound. This song is brilliant; it’s acoustic guitar driven verses drive it through to a much heavier, muted power pop kind of alternative musings. The instrumentation showcases what seems like a more ‘mature’ form of arrangement (that’s not to say the other songs are ‘immature’) and the vocals ooze a kind of nostalgic quality that does wonders for its mixing with the instruments and performance; truly fantastic. Reggae and dancehall blend with a kind of indie sensibility on ‘Appositive Stream’ a masterfully slight pop tune that features all the warmth that hipster-cum-indie bands often skip over. It’s a simple little song that is guaranteed to make you smile and think about the beach, or something.
‘Meet Yr Dad’ is the most comedic that Snowball II ever reach. It’s a racy spoken word folk-rock/alt-rock tune about everything related to relationships and that awkward past time of meeting the girls father. Similar to ‘Appositive Stream’, the song goes for less than three minutes; packing all of its wit and humour into a crafty, neat package that’s just as narratively absorbing as a seven-minute epic, or the five minute ballad like rock sounds at the start of the album. ‘I Exist’ sees the band embrace a psych pop sound and the off-kilter guitar sound that appeared ‘Groan’s’. It’s the lengthiest song on the second side of the album; I believe it to be the least interesting of all the songs on the album; taking on a fuller sound that begins to shine the light away from the bands stronger qualities; like performance and simple but adroit guitar riffs. ‘Is All’ is the furthest Snowball II stride from the sweltering, sunny quirks of their power pop sound; turning in a mesmerisingly beautiful ballad, influenced by soft rock, dream pop and a downtempo style of shoegaze. Built around a simple sequenced electronic pattern, the song builds upon the gentle strum of a guitar and the distant and hushed vocals. Altogether it sees the sun going down after a long day of beach dwelling; a kind of conceptual scenario the listener creates for themselves over the course of the album.
Flashes Of Quincy’s rating and conclusion of criticism could be boiled down to one simple, overriding fact; it is immensely enjoyable. It’s pure fun. And even when it’s downtrodden or darker lyrics or sounds seep into the music, it is still as invigorating to watch and listen to a band who create so much with such simple and straight forward sounds. Altogether, I feel as though the bands origin in Long Beach speaks some kinds of contextual volumes about the content in the songs; the visions of the ocean and the beach, of the pizza restaurant or the movie theatre you take the girl to on an awkward first date. Flashes Of Quincy, in this regard, at times sounds like a concept album of sorts; less of a story but more of a feeling or a place.
The band themselves turn in a magnificent performance across the entire album. The mixing and the production injects nothing but strength into the music; relaying and clearly presenting all the aforementioned opinions and emotions. It’s a solid and thoughtful group of ballads and power pop tunes, wrapped in the warm embrace of shoegaze and alternative rock that reminds us all of sometime in the past; way back when. The band step above where many other rock based groups would drift away or remain clichéd, they do so through the avenues of performance, song writing and sound.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Cam Phillips is a writer and above all, a music lover, who seeks to gain experience through writing and listening. He is also an avid film viewer and art and literature junkie who enjoys creative writing. His most recent published work was featured on the Australian heavy music blog, I Probably Hate Your Band.
by Primal Music
Pacific by Laedj
Melbourne based noisy shoegaze quartet 'Laedj.' have unleashed their debut single entitled 'Pacific' lifted off their forthcoming debut EP penned in for release over the coming months. The band include members of other Melbourne based bands such as 'Inventions, Yachtburner, Breve, Singing For Humans' & 'Hotel on Mayfair' and their sound is distinctly fuzzy with shimmering shoegaze connotations underscored at times by soaring dream pop flair. 'Pacific' is available to buy/download right now from laedj.bandcamp.com
'Pacific' shimmers into earshot on a wave of jangling guitars swimming in blissed out reverberation. It's percussive swagger is slow and ambling as it metronomically keeps time circumnavigated by throbbing bass frequencies and beautifully intense vocalisations. Explosive through it's chorus progressions and peppered here and there with subtle psych rock tones 'Laedj.' are a very interesting prospect indeed.
Los Angeles based heavy shoegaze four piece 'Leaf' have unleashed a brand new video to accompany their latest single 'Wait Until' lifted off their stunning debut four track EP entitled 'Nothing Seems Real'. Their music is paradoxically linked back to everything good that came out of the early 90's shoegaze scene with pivotal artists such as 'Swervedriver, The Verve, MBV & Ride' being bandied about as references to their collective sound. The band are made up of members of The Gimmicks, Crystal Antlers & The Orphans. 'Nothing Seems Real' was recently voted as one of Primal Music's top 20 releases of 2016, having blown us way after only one listen! You can get your hands on the full EP by heading over to leaflosangeles.bandcamp.com
In a cyclonic maelstrom of reverberation the opening salvo’s of ‘Wait Until’ instantly grab this listener by the ears and swings him nonchalantly around the room. The combination of soaring angry guitars, explosive drums and the unwavering throb of bass frequencies lure you into a blistering cacophony of luscious noise and ultimately pander to your every sonic need, but it’s the highly addictive vocals that conjure up a plethora of influential bands from this music genre, both past and present, thus adding a hue of invincibility to the collective greatness of ‘Leaf’ that I haven’t been able to tag on any other band for some considerable time.
Edinburgh based noise merchants 'Wozniak' have announced an immense new single entitled 'Perihelion' lifted off their forthcoming & highly anticipated debut album penned in for release on the 21st April 2017 via Morningside Young Team Records. The band are made up Simon Cuthbert-Kerr - guitar, Sarah Cuthbert-Kerr - guitar/vocals, John Sinclair - drums & James Urquhart - bass and their collective sound swirls deftly in a heavy sonic stew filled with hazy shoegaze, atmospheric post-rock and fuzzed out noise rock. 'Perihelion' gets its full official release on the 3rd March 2017. A limited edition CD includes extra exclusive tracks 'Ground Echo' and 'Portents' and you can pre-order it right now via wozniak.bandcamp.com
'Perihelion' squeals into earshot on a repetitious instrumental drone as jangling guitar progressions spin in close orbit peppering the senses with waves of pulsing reverberation. Ethereal vocalisations hang precariously on the edge of a tightly coiled metronomic beat as the constant hum of bass frequencies hover and cajole the entire piece, looping and arcing menacingly into a turbulent tidal wave of shimmering noise. 'Perihelion' is darkly atmospheric, filled with raging torrents of latent noise and intense production. This is a stunning return to form from a band who can do no wrong! We can't wait for the full album.
Surreal (Single) by Venn
Washington based noisy shoegaze quartet 'Venn' have unleashed a marvellous new track entitled 'Surreal' lifted off their forthcoming debut EP penned in for release later in the year. Its taken the band almost two years to perfect a sound that fits into what they love about shoegaze & dream pop and we think this new single is absolutely sublime! The band are made up of Jon Fetahaj, Gabe Earle, Julian Earle & Holden Cihelka and you can buy/download this new single right now via: venn-dc.bandcamp.com
'Surreal' is mesmerisingly explosive! It's full on and it takes no prisoners as it soars into the ether on wings of sublime reverberation and punchy instrumentation. It's fragile vocals swirl and undulate on a bedrock of humming bass frequencies and shimmering guitar lines as it's percussive swagger explodes into glorious sonic shards. Absolutely stunning and definitely ones to watch throughout 2017.
RELEASE: Sleep To Dream
RELEASE DATE: 24th February 2017
RECORD COMPANY: Saint Marie Records
Indiana based dreamy shoegaze duo 'Whimsical' have returned with a stunning brand new eleven track full length studio album entitled 'Sleep To Dream'. The band are made up of Krissy Vanderwoude - Vocals & Neil Burkdoll - Instrumentation and the new album gets it's official release on February 24th 2017 via the shoegaze/dream pop powerhouse that is 'Saint Marie Records'. You can pre-order it right now on various formats via saintmarierecords.com
Sleep To Dream by Whimsical
'Sleep To Dream' floats into earshot swirling effortlessly in a deep haze of reverberating fret noise and repetitive percussion. It's opening track entitled 'Love Me' explodes into beautiful shards of sonic colour that are held fast in a turbulent whirlwind of cascading guitar lines & impressive instrumentation, deftly circumnavigated by those instantly recognisable vocalisations courtesy of Krissy Vanderwoude. A blistering opening salvo that skips brilliantly through insanely good passages of dream pop underscored with impressive flurries of alt-shoegaze. The delectable 'Lost And Found' fizzes into life rocking pensively on a steady drum pattern, harried by the constant hum of bass frequencies and jangling guitars courtesy of Neil Burkdoll. It's beautifully hypnotic vocal lines create a type of sonic serenity that flows through every single note. It glides along through its entrancing verse progressions with relative ease before busying itself on the chorus parts as subtle hints of post-punk & jangle-pop hide in amongst the layers of reverb & brilliantly executed production. Up next, 'Whimsical' unleash the albums lead track. The pacy 'Surreal' catches this listener off guard as I've been quietly floating on a cloud of dreamy frequencies up until it's arrival. 'Surreal' drives with intent and it meanders through sonic peaks and troughs as it unleashes another incredible vocal attack that rides a punchy drum pattern, a brilliantly executed bass progression, is circumnavigated by swirling effect laden guitars and soars skywards from it's very first note. A mesmerising lead track that is sure to impress both new and old fans alike.
Psychedelic swirls trapped in eddying reverberation announce the arrival of 'Flutter Echo' and they soon blossom into a beautifully ethereal dream-like soundscape filled with cascading lead guitar lines intertwined at times by explosive percussive passages and post-punk inspired bass lines whilst 'Beginning Of The End' languishes atop a tidal wave of reverberation that washes over the entire piece, coursing through Krissy's vocals in the process and exiting noisily through it's impressive instrumental patterns. Up next, 'I Thought Of You' growls into existence on a flurry if noisy guitars, echoing lead lines and busy percussion all spinning vigorously around it's melodious vocal lines. It is simply beautiful and it soars through effortless waves of blissful dream like hues whilst the next track entitled 'Glow' showcases the brilliant guitar work of Neil Burkdoll with its intricate lead lines and mesmerising production. 'Sleep To Dream' evokes Whimsical's influential Slowdive leanings with it's ethereal vocalisations that are allowed to soar into the ether whilst the bedrock of instrumentation is held fast on a slow metronomic drum pattern. Simply wonderful.
The albums penultimate track jangles into existence before increasing it's gears and exploding into what is now a customary wave of shoegaze induced dream pop. 'Anchor' is a blissed out thrill ride through dazzling guitar theatrics, massive chord changes and the ever constant angelic vocalisations of Krissy Vanderwoude. Beautifully intense and massively addictive, 'Anchor' is possibly my favourite track on the entire release. It's just stunning. The album closes out on another big sounding track. 'Part Of Me' is immense! It swerves on an undulating guitar signature and an off tempo drum pattern as it pulses beautifully effected sonic frequencies out into the ether and it is deliciously topped off with what is in my opinion the best vocal performance of the whole album. A fitting end to a magical release.
Del Chaney has spent the last four years dedicating his time to uncovering the best artists in the unsigned or small independent label based shoegaze, ethereal dream pop, post punk, post rock & modern psych rock from all over the globe & reviewing them for this blog - The Primal Music Blog. He is also a contributing writer for The Sound Of Confusion (Now On Hiatus). His other arm - Primal Radio - has gained considerable respect from bands and promoters alike since its conception in 2013 & has helped him in actively promoting a genre of music that he is passionate about. Hailing from Dublin, Ireland, he is a keen Vinyl Collector, Tattoo Fan & all round good guy! He is a self confessed music freak & is never far away from a studio console or a turntable.
Crossed Wires by CAESAR
The UK based independent record label 'Blak Hand Records' releases the latest single entitled 'Crossed Wires' from Manchester based atmospheric alt-shoegaze four piece 'CAESAR' today (10th February 2017). With a sound that swirls through layers of impressive reverberation all backed up with stunning musicianship that undulates back and forth through mesmerising vocalisations, 'CAESAR' wear their gazing influences on their sleeves. The single is available to buy/download right now along with a plethora of remixes via blakhandrecords.bandcamp.com
'Crossed Wires' is infectiously atmospheric! It undulates through impressive swathes of shoegaze finery buy has subtle post-rock tendencies that emerge through it's reverb laden shadows then last for a fleeting second only to be swallowed up between the layers of shimmering guitar progressions. It rocks metronomically on a jazz like percussive swagger, is underscored by throbbing bass frequencies and subterranean synth swells that seem to swirl effortlessly around those stunning vocalisations.
Nobody Knows by Exiles
Brooklyn based jangling dream-gaze five piece 'Exiles' have announced brand new single entitled 'Nobody Knows', their first since 2016's 'Float Away'. The band are made up of Moire Echo, Michael Hendley, Don Lavis, Myles Peterson & Matt Sklar and they collectively create blissed out soundscapes filled with beautiful vocalisations, soaring synth swells, addictive percussion and intricate guitars that are meticulously underscored by massive swaths of reverberation and brilliant production. The band are donating any monies made from their music for the month of February to ACLU so all of the tracks up on their bandcamp page are 'pay-what-you-want' until months end. Please do support this worthy cause.
'Nobody Knows' is a beautifully intense slice of dream pop deftly infused with jangle pop and subtle hints of shoegaze. It soars into the ether on serine waves of electronic synth melded together with stunning vocalisations whilst the instrumentation is firmly anchored to terra firma by a steady percussive pattern and throbbing but melodious bass frequencies. It's lead guitar lines intertwine brilliantly with the piece looping and arcing on layers of stunning reverberation.
Pulsing shimmering melody & effortless melancholy into raging torrents of intermittent fuzzy noise isn't something to be taken lightly. It's a difficult process to get right and takes somebody with serious song writing & production skills to it pull off. That being said, Irish based noisy post-gaze trio 'Easy Tide' have managed to do it in spades on their latest single aptly titled 'Denim On Denim'. The band are made up of Aaron Dunphy, Steven Rafferty & Mark Carolan and they collectively create beautifully honest soundscapes that meander through swathes of reverberation and intense fragility that at times hangs on a very fine sonic thread before exploding into bouts of blissful frequential noise. 'Denim On Denim' is the bands first outing of 2017, the track follows from the release of their 2016 debut LP 'Ennui' and the following singles ‘Tea Party’ and ‘Mind Your Head’.
'Denim On Denim' leaves you with no place to hide. It pulls on your heart strings with it's deeply intense melancholic vocalisations straddling jangling guitar progressions and the constant hum of bass frequencies. It's rickety percussive swagger swings menacingly as the track builds and ebbs through passages of noisy instrumentation before exploding into it's grand sonic finale.
RELEASE DATE: 23 July 2016
RECORD COMPANY: Spirit Goth Records
Originally released back in the middle of 2016, CASTLEBEAT's self-titled full length release slipped though our every expanding sonic net and only really came to our attention two weeks ago via the good folks at 'Spirit Goth Records' over in Los Angeles. CASTLEBEAT is a lo-fi bedroom producer who oozes everything that is great about this modern DIY shoegaze/dreampop/lo-fi scene today. He writes, records & produces lusciously dreamy lo-fi shoegaze soundscapes in his garage that skip and whirr through sonic highs and lows with blistering aplomb. His ten track self-titled album was released back on the 23rd July 2016 via 'Spirit Goth Records' and you can buy/download it right now from: spiritgothrecords.bandcamp.com
CASTLEBEAT by CASTLEBEAT
The album opens with the brilliant ‘Dreamgaze’. This track swirls into audible range oscillating on a wave of jangling guitars and shuddering repetitive drum patterns, both deliciously melded together on ripples of blissful reverberation. It’s vocals cut effortlessly through proceedings buoyed up on melodious effected whirls and hazy production. Up next, ‘Rope’ drives a modern day post-punk styled furrow through the hazy shoegaze inspired instrumentation as ‘Castlebeat’ injects sequenced electronics into cascading guitar patterns, throbbing bass frequencies and swirling vocalisations. ‘Goon Pop’ is centred around a meticulous guitar progression and melody fuelled vocal lines underscored by subtle synth swells and the constant thump of sequenced percussion whilst ‘Falling Forward’ rumbles through swirling guitars and soaring synth lines that are intertwined with blissed out vocals and immense swathes of intense melody.
‘Pool Side’ is absolutely wonderful. It pulses into earshot on waves of triumphant instrumentation deftly layered with busy drum patterns, revolving synth lines, another impressive vocal performance and driving bass frequencies. It’s catchy guitar hook’s harass and badger the entire piece, constantly billowing and whirring through layers of impressive reverberation. Up next, ‘Face On The Wall’ is a fuzzy ball of guitar laden dream pop supplemented with flashes of shoegaze and jingling C86 flair whilst ‘Downstairs’ is wholly reminiscent of seminal US based experimental post-punk outfit ‘For Against’ with it’s driving up tempo, almost metronomic sonic refrain underlined by exceptional production. ‘Phases’ saunters into the ether on a tidal wave of fuzzy frequencies and off beat percussion as ‘Castlebeat’ unleash a soaring modern day shoegaze standard filled with blissful vocals and stunning instrumentation leading us into the albums penultimate piece.
‘Hesitate’ builds from the off, swirling intently through wave after wave of layered reverberation and hauntingly good vocals. It’s guitar lines are slow moving and serine, floating effortlessly through swirling synth lines and sparse percussion, all the while spiralling gracefully around gloriously hazy vocalisations. ‘Hesitate’ is probably my favourite track on the entire release and a serious recommendation from me. Pop on some headphones to experience it’s full sonic majesty ..... you will not be disappointed! The albums closing piece is jam packed full of pensive melancholy. ‘Change Your Mind’ evokes feelings of lost love and good times gone by. Repetitive synth stabs echo and spin as tremulous guitars racked by the constant thud of a bass drum collectively announce the arrival of soaring vocalisations and throbbing bass frequencies. This track loops and arc’s through sonic peaks and throughs, dragging swathes of reverb with it as it tumbles through the ether to blistering aplomb. A fitting ending to a brilliant album.