Garage Rock

VIDEO PREMIERE

Dove Lady - Can't Be Sad

By Gerard Marcus

I’ve been a friend and fan of DC-based musicians Jermey Ray and Andrew Thawley for a while now, and one of my favorite things about their joint project Dove Lady is the way their music floats between absurdity and deep psychoanalytical critique. It’s music which shows that it’s sometimes easier to process the harsh truths of life when you turn them into a joke. Not by emotionally distancing yourself from reality enough to laugh away in a state in ignorant bliss, but rather by embracing the cosmic joke of existence until laughing is the only natural outlet for expressing your feelings. In their new video for “Can’t Be Sad,” Dove Lady teamed up with New York director (and ThrdCoaster) Bucky Illingworth to explore this state, painting an abstract tale of emotional and psychological fracture that warps reality and perception. The video is a rollercoaster of shifting energy and imagery, a controlled chaos which perfectly conveys the torn sense of self explored in the track. What is happiness? What is sadness? What is love? What is hate? Dove Lady’s answer lands in an ambiguous middle ground. You’re not really sure what’s up or down, but somehow that’s ok.

Dove Lady play this Friday (2/15) in Washington DC at Dangerous Pies DC with Bottled Up, Super Natural Psycho, and Clear Channel. Link to the event here.

VIDEO PREMIERE

Illiterate Light - Two Cats

Gerard Marcus

Richmond, Virginia duo Illiterate Light use their driving rock music to peer inwards, searching down into the hidden, uncontrollable emotions within. Their video for their new single “Two Cats” is a quirky study of one of these emotions: obsession. Shot for a film festival over a single day on Super 8 film, they restricted themselves to only in-camera editing, embracing the limitations of this technique to power their creativity.

The song “Two Cats” is about someone furious that their partner is moving away, who has gone ahead with the purchase of their two cats anyway in the hope that it will make them stay. In the video, we follow two characters, “cats,” who become unrelentingly fixated on a tight-fitted floral crop top. What ensues is a quirky story that starts as a more of a Sunday morning comic strip, but with no resolution in sight, escalates to an epic backyard brawl. It’s telling how Illiterate Light handle their emotions that they’ve created such a light-hearted story to explore the desperate obsession and anger of the song. The video is a unique and creative depiction of their inner turmoil, shining a satirical light on obsession to help us all see that, sometimes, it might be better to just let it go and not take everything too seriously.

Illiterate Light are playing Brooklyn Steel this Friday, January 11th!

And the rest of their tour:

01/12 – Washington DC @ The Hamilton ^
01/15 – Ft. Wayne, IN @ The Brass Rail ^
01/16 – Bloomington, IL @ Castle Theater ^
01/17 – Milwaukee, WI @ Colectivo ^
01/19 – Chicago, IL @ Park West ^
01/22 – Indianapolis, IN @ HiFi ^
01/23 – Columbus, OH @ Basement ^
01/24 – Lexington, KY @ The Burl ^
01/25 – St. Louis, MO @ Delmar Hall ^
01/26 – Nashville, TN @ Marathon Music Works ^
01/27 – Richmond, VA @ Broadberry %
01/29 – Ithaca, NY @ Haunt ^
01/30 – Holyoke, MA @ Gateway City Arts ^
01/31 – Portland, ME @ Port City Music Hall ^
02/01 – Burlington, VT @ Higher Ground ^
02/02 – Boston, MA @ The Sinclair ^
02/05 – Newport News, VA @ Boathouse Live ^
02/06 – Charlottesville, VA @ The Southern ^
02/07 – Charlotte, NC @ Visulite ^
02/08 – Asheville, NC @ Grey Eagle ^
02/09 – Charleston, SC @ Pour House
02/10 – Jacksonville, FL @ Theater Benefit ^
03/12-17 – Austin, TX @ SXSW
05/03-05 – Atlanta, GA @ Shaky Knees Festival

^ w/ Rayland Baxter

% w/ Mt. Joy

REVIEW: Husky Boys - Year of the Wolf

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Phillipe Roberts

On their Bandcamp page, Husky Boys bless us with the mother of all genre tags to sum up their rowdy, but ambitious howlings: “basement arena rock.” Obvious oxymoronic implications aside, the tag truly captures the overflowing intensity of feeling that the best DIY shows bring to the table, that sensation of looking around at your fellow weirdos, packed tightly between water heaters, ducking under cobwebs and stumbling over dusty laundry and wondering how a sound so big doesn’t just begin erupting out into the world above. And while the Portland, Oregon-based Boys have used the tag before, their latest LP of sweaty, swaggering rock is the closest they’ve come to busting down the basement door. True to its title, the sheer force and near-constant riffage of Year of the Wolf sounds lean and hungry, eagerly hunting down the anthemic hooks that keep you running back.

The classic-rock tonality of Husky Boys easily summons up summer memories of cruising up and down the highway, switching from station to station of old-school, “real rock” channels, signal rising and falling as you pass through no-name town after no-name town. All notions of favorite bands fall to the wayside when you’re air-guitaring across the familiar grit of a well-worn classic, or thumping on the dashboard to a forgotten hidden gem.

At its core, that generous ethos is what drives Year of the Wolf. While the prickly, odd-time noodling and pleasantly askew percussion of “Port Authority” play out like a miniature detour into stranger pastures, the mode here is no-holds-barred satisfaction; the riffs sound mathematically calculated to get you springing into the air or whipping your mane to the crashing downbeat bursting from the seams of every song. Even on its dirtiest moment, the chugging, detuned banging of the title track, which imagines and designs a middle ground between Modest Mouse and Japandroids, there’s a raw emotionality clawing its way to the surface that can’t be ignored.

The standout moments on the record find Husky Boys playing it fast and loose, bouncing from riff to riff with the same adolescent glee that has you spinning the radio dial in circles to find that hit chorus again and again. Single “Passive Aggressive” does it best, roaring into focus with glittery Superchunk-style flourishes on the rhythm guitar, and eventually diving into a dual guitar battle breakdown that warms my Thin Lizzy-loving heart to no end. Those twin guitars are a major highlight throughout. “Mike Says” shows off some serious harmonic chops, fattening up the melodies as the rest of the country-punk track falls by the wayside.

From start to finish, the formula holds up rather well; Husky Boys are right on the money when they keep the pedal glued to the floor, tempos high. Unfortunately, the sole slow-burner here, closer “30 Under 30,” doesn’t quite ascend to the same airy heights of its peers. After thirty minutes of breathless intensity, its spacious wandering comes off as comparatively aimless, and even once you reach those climactic bursts of energy, they wear off too soon. Overall, however, Year of the Wolf is sure to leave you shaking off their addictive, sugar-high power pop and reaching for the replay button.

REVIEW: Good Morning - Prize // Reward

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Raquel Dalarossa

Australian duo Good Morning, made up of Stefan Blair and Liam Parsons, have been releasing DIY tapes together since 2014, even getting so far as to re-issue their earlier releases, Glory and long-held fan favorite Shawcross. But even so, with just two EPs and a few other singles out, it may be surprising to learn that they’ve amounted over 11 million Spotify plays for their most popular song, “Warned You.” That is, of course, if you haven’t actually heard them yet.

Good Morning’s music exudes a cozy and charming warmth through every ridiculously catchy guitar riff. Known for experimenting with their recording equipment, techniques, and locations, the band seem to approach their work as true craftsmen, with perhaps a touch of perfectionism. That might explain the slow build up to their overdue debut full-length release, the ten track-long Prize // Rewardthe album’s Bandcamp page reads, “We recorded it for a while (maybe longer than we should have).” But taking one’s time and laying low all the while is a luxury that may well be on its way out for this group; Good Morning seem bound for the same hype that, for example, propelled the band Whitney to indie stardom.

And that’s for good reason. On Prize // Reward, the twosome’s talent for well-written guitar hooks, paired with a certain insouciant flair, is on full display. With songs like “Mirror Freak” and “$10,” their hypnotic guitar lines and vocals tinged with an ever-so-slight twang are endlessly enjoyable. Such an approach places them smack in the lineage of “slacker” rock a la Parquet Courts and Pavement before them, but Good Morning flex these elements in all sorts of ways.

Languid, reverb-y vocals sometimes recall Mac Demarco, especially in a track like “Who’s to Blame,” while a lower-fi framing can bring to mind the songwriting of Robert Pollard, as in “After You.” In the latter, they create a cozy and soft aural texture that sounds like wrapping yourself in a warm blanket, but a horn-assisted outro keeps it from getting at all somnolent.

Those kinds of unexpected details allow their music to stretch far beyond the slacker rock label (or any label for that matter). See “For a Little While,” which indulges in a long instrumental interlude that feels like a sort of rumination, with an inquisitive, unresolving bassline, anxious saxophone solos (courtesy of Glenn Blair), and a repetitious piano motif that keeps you in place for perhaps longer than you’d like. It feels both idle and restless.

When a band manages so deftly to meld the original with the familiar, it strikes the magical balance of feeling soul-grabbing at first listen, and rewarding with every return. There’s no doubt good things are in store for Good Morning.

REVIEW: Prism Tats - Mamba

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Phillipe Roberts

A little advice when trying out Mamba: check your DIY at the door. Garrett Van Der Spek makes garage rock that’s a bit too plush for the basement. Cushioned with clean vocal harmonies, embellished with soft synthesizers, and sandwiched between a pair of spacious, downbeat crooning numbers, Prism TatsMamba tackles the genre with a smirking poise. The tempos don’t rush ahead nervously and the instruments knit together seamlessly, entirely devoid of rough edges. There’s a calculated energy to the affair that can’t be ignored. For devotees of the genre, crate digging for the latest blown out gem, its pristine presentation leaves a certain “rawness” to be desired. But even still, Van Der Spek’s clear ambition in flexing his songwriting chops and the unflinching swagger he carries into each song makes for a brisk rush of energy from top to bottom.

To call the production on Mamba “clean” is a raving understatement—this album is Department of Health Grade A spotless. Even its loudest, most chaotic moments, like the feedback eruption that closes out the title track, don’t come close to putting the meter into the red or producing the slightest unwanted artifact. On tracks with a serious amount of tonal variety, like “Vamps,” which thunders ahead with plenty of vocal effects swimming around two guitars, one bright and palm-muted and the other ringing like church bells in the pre-chorus, this streamlined sound works well. It brings out a tremendous amount of flavor that would otherwise get muddled. But on “Live Like Dogs,” whose glam rock design struggles to pull ahead of the typical guitar-drums-bass instrumentation, it saps some much needed unpredictability from a tightly written tune.

However, when Garrett Van Der Spek has a mind to twist a song with some newfound instrumentation, his instincts are spot on. “Daggers” hangs heavy on its festival-ready chorus, and rightfully so, but it's the woozy, flute-like organ swooping into the verses that turns it into something more than a straightforward anthem. And when he branches out into more exotic textures, the rewards grow exponentially richer. In "Ocean Floor," it’s refreshing to hear a drum machine bumping out a metronomic pattern on an album of explosive live drumming, especially when paired with a Robert Fripp-indebted guitar lead soaring in the background, sounding like “Somber Reptiles” from Another Green World with vocals. Indeed, the tracks that burn more slowly, taking on an almost ambient pace, feel like the next step in Van Der Spek’s evolution away from garage relics of the past.

Where his last record closed with the fuzzy, burnt-out strums of “Know It All,” this time Van Der Spek brings the lights all the way down for “Doomed,” an acoustic track that drifts away steadily like the end credits to a space western. Liberated from the burden of injecting that typical venomous swagger over bombastic riffs, a more introspective Van Der Spek mulls over his fate, turning into a more relatable and approachable character in the process. And as much as the polished punk pouting still remains compelling enough to keep you listening, it’s this side of Prism Tats that will keep you waiting for more.