• Dum Dum Girls take themselves less seriously on new release, Too True

    Without ever making a big splash, Dum Dum Girls became one of the most consistent indie-pop acts of the past five years. That isn’t meant as a backhanded compliment, but more so an acknowledgement that the band’s third album, while impressive, doesn’t feel as fresh as some of the band’s previous releases. 

    When their debut album I Will Be came out in 2010, Dum Dum Girls could be firmly slotted into the category of revivalist garage girl groups similar to bands like Best Coast or Vivian Girls. To be fair, they always had a bit of an edge and flirted with songs from goth or dream pop, and over each of their subsequent releases they inched ever so slowly into that darker direction. Too True serves as a marked difference from their earlier material, as it finds the band firmly embracing their prior inclinations towards goth. 

    An influence that Dum Dum Girls incorporate on this new release is The Smiths, with songs like "Lost Boys & Girls Club" or "Under These Hands," which feature definite inspiration from the classic ‘80s act. But the band is best when it picks up the pace for more energetic and punchy tracks like "Evil Blooms." The album has moments like that, as single "Rimbauld Eyes" provides a satisfactory burst of new wave, but as a whole it doesn’t stack up to be anything more than enjoyable. 

    Dum Dum Girls have a tendency to impress heavily on short EPs before following them up with lesser full-length albums. 2011’s immediate and wonderful He Gets Me High EP was followed by the album Only In Dreams. In 2012, they astounded with the excellent EP, End of Daze, which contained what easily were the most tightly constructed songs the band has made to date. It was the group’s finest release, featuring incredibly strong tracks like "Lord Knows" or "Season In Hell." Sadly, Too True falls into that same pattern to a slightly greater degree, and doesn’t match up to the band’s last EP. 

    That being said, there are some definite gems on the album that hold up well with past material the group has made. "Too True To Be Good" and "Are You Okay?" are highlights that provide an excellent showcase for Dee Dee’s songwriting chops, even if they are not as grand or sweeping as some of the band’s earlier work. 

    In fact, if there’s one theme that seems to be present on Too True, it’s the Dum Dum Girls taking themselves a little less seriously, crafting goth & dream pop that are a bit more carefree this time around. It may not be as substantial or enveloping as their previous material, but it still makes for an enjoyable listen from a talented band. 

    Who: Dum Dum Girls
    Album: Too True
    Label: Sub Pop
    Songs To Download: "Trouble Is My Name," "Are You Okay?" and "Too True To Be Good"

  • Ricky Eat Acid album release a true contender

    Over the past few years, there has been no shortage of musicians whose work combines ambient and electronic sounds to craft intricate and moving instrumental pieces.

    Following in the footsteps of acts like Grouper, Baths, Star Slinger, and Mister Lies, Sam Ray has composed a lovely and haunting record under the moniker of Ricky Eat Acid.

    Three Love Songs isn’t the first release from this musician, but it is the one that has garnered the most attention for the artist thus far, including tour dates opening for popular indie R&B act Rhye. There’s good reason for that, as the album is a restrained and calming meditation, and a journey through melancholy and loss.

    Given the album title, one might assume a certain kind of tenderness to these tracks, and that wouldn’t be too far off. Ray’s pieces feel personal, as if the listener is eavesdropping on his private thoughts even though often nothing is actually being said.

    Lush synths swell up for expansive gestures, especially on tracks like “In Rural Virginia”, which features samples of a preacher sermonizing that echoes sentiments of late ‘90s Godspeed You! Black Emperor.

    When the static gives way to the subtle keys of “inside your house; it will swallow us too”, it makes for a sonically jarring yet engrossing moment on an album filled with them.

    Much of the first half of the record is filled with soft blips and electronics that give way to the ambient and keyboard-heavy rhythm that comes after. Part of what makes Three Love Songs so engrossing is the shifts in styles, as Ray can resemble the experimental loops of The Caretaker mere moments before bringing in R&B vocals and a steady, throbbing beat as he does on “It will draw me over to it like it always does.”

    In what might be the album’s shining moment, he uses a spliced up sample of a Youtube cover of “Take Care” by Drake on “In My Dreams We’re Almost Touching” for the album’s highlight. The repetition creates a hypnotic pulse as the beat pours in, making it the only track on the album that could fit in well on the dance floor.

    The album segues back into a restrained, melancholy note as it winds down, especially on the impeccably gorgeous “God puts us all in the swimming pool.” Ray is able to invoke heartbreaking memories as the album fades.

    Three Love Songs is such a sublime mixture of beauty and sadness that it serves as a perfect soundtrack for the dreams you don’t want to wake up from because they’re better than reality. It is a lonely and affecting piece of work that could easily be one of the strongest releases of 2014 thus far.

    Who: Ricky Eat Acid  
    Album: Three Love Songs
    Label: Orchid Tapes
    Songs To Download: "In my dreams we’re almost touching," "God puts us all in the swimming pool" and "Inside your house; it will swallow us too"

  • Punk band Fucked Up comes to Austin

    Fucked Up, one of the most intense and critically acclaimed punk bands of the last decade, are playing at Red 7 on Tuesday the 28th. It’s been almost three years since the Toronto band released their critically acclaimed album David Comes To Life, and the band is currently hard at work finishing up the follow up.

    “Right now we’re in Michigan at Key Club Studio mixing it with the aim to finish by early February,” lead guitarist Mike Haliechuk said.

    The new album won’t have an overarching story behind the songs the way David did, and Haliechuck described the tone of the new songs as a bit more open sounding than that record. According to him, the sound is more in line with their 2008 release Chemistry of Common Life, and while the lyrics might be a bit of a bummer at points, the tone of the music will be less tense.

    For this Texas tour, the band wanted a short break from the studio as well as a trip to a warmer part of the country as opposed to Toronto, where it is -20 F.

    “We hadn’t been to Texas in a while, and other than Austin, I don’t think we’ve done Dallas or Houston in four years or so,” Haliechuk said.

    This will be the first time Fucked Up has played a show in Texas that isn’t a part of a larger music festival since 2009. Looking back, Haliechuck has many fond memories of playing at SXSW.

    “We’ve done like four SXSWs and they’ve all had nutty shows," Haliechuck said. "The bridge show we did with No Age was mental, lying to NME on the phone about it at 4 a.m. afterwards. I took the train to Austin from Chicago a few years ago and had to stay the night at one of the Matador guy’s houses with his crazy dog that was trying to attack me all night. Playing on the roof of some restaurant at 10 a.m. on a Tuesday. The first Jay Reatard show. Texas is crazy.”

    The band is playing some new songs at these shows, but what’s most exciting is the fact that they are happening at all. After touring behind David Comes To Life, there were many reports that the band might call it quits. 

    “I mean that comes up every record because it’s hard to think about following up your last thing," Haliechuck said. "Fucked Up is this bigger thing now and it’s starting to get a bit of its own momentum. By the time this record comes out, we’ll have been a band for like 14 years or something crazy, and at that point get over the bullshit of trying to 'make it' and you just settle in and get comfortable with where you are at."

    Part of that has to do with the band members each having projects they work on besides Fucked Up. Many members have different bands, singer Damian Abraham hosts a Canadian television show called The Wedge, and many of the members collaborate on an artistic project in Toronto entitled Long Winter. For Haliechuk, he spends time running a record label called One Big Silence, who has upcoming plans to release music from bands like Absolutely Free, Elsa, and other Toronto bands.

    For Fucked Up though, Haliechuk says the most rewarding aspect of this long-running band has to do with the sense of creating your own destiny and not having a boss or schedule.

    “It’s hectic to never really know what’s coming next but it’s also really exciting," Haliechuck said. "You wake up and get an email about a show in Japan or South America or something, the little opportunities you get. It’s like winning the lottery. Knowing that what you do is resonating with people is really cool.” 

    Fucked Up are playing inside at Red 7 on Tuesday, January 28.

     

  • UK band Daughter discusses tour mates, scary dreams and Austin barbecue

    Daughter is an indie rock band from the UK. In an interview last fall (Sept 2013), band members Elena Tonra, Igor Haefeli, and Remi Aguilella talk about touring with bands like Sigur Ros and the National, scary tour dreams, and eating Austin barbecue. Daughter is currently on a world tour and will play at Coachella later this year.

  • Warpaint grows on second, self-titled release

    It’s still easy to think of Warpaint, the four-piece psych rock group from Los Angeles, as a relatively new band. While their engrossing self-titled album is only their second release so far, the band has been active for about ten years now, and no longer sound like a group trying to find their sound. Their 2010 debut, The Fool,  drew them attention, but Warpaint is definitely a step up. The album is a deep and murky journey into dream pop that finds the band at their most cohesive yet.

    When Warpaint played Austin Psych Fest last April, they were impressively tight and groovy, and that experience and maturity transfers well into the studio recordings this time around. Vocalist Emily Kokai uses her voice mainly as an additional instrument to accompany the rest of the band, lightly sailing over the lulling sounds. Rather than going for big or triumphant moments, the band lives in the shadows throughout here, focusing on how all the piece lock in place to build something bigger.

    Warpaint has been compared to dream pop legends like The Cocteau Twins in the past, and while they still thrive in that area, the music here is often more throbbing and electronic, to the point where similarities can be drawn to bands like Portishead or the later work by Radiohead. This is most apparent on tracks like the dance-rock influenced “Disco/Very”, where Warpaint shows themselves as a hazier companion to bands like Liars. Other songs like “Keep It Healthy” show the band progressing with complicated buildups in a pristine manner.

    While nothing here tops the simplistic beauty of earlier songs like “Baby,” as a whole Warpaint feels like the band’s most accomplished work to date. Songs like “Biggy” keep a slowed down yet driving momentum that is largely captivating. Sometimes, moments can feel a tad too stagnant, but the album thankfully never really gets stuck in a lull. It’s not meant to be an invigorating or exciting album, but rather the kind that gets played in those waning moments in the night where everything slows down.

    Warpaint’s latest is a solidly inviting one that has many good moments and flows well together. It could have definitely been a big more captivating, as even though it works as a slower dream-pop album, it’s maybe a bit too easy for the listener’s attention to fade in and out while listening. The record shows definite progress, yet also leaves room for Warpaint to grow. With steps like this along the way, the journey will without a doubt be intriguing to watch.

    Artist: Warpaint 
    Album: Warpaint
    Label: Rough Trade
    Songs to download: “Biggy”, “Disco/Very” & “Feeling Right”

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