Ringo Deathstarr – ‘Pure Mood’

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Shoegaze faves Ringo Deathstarr return with their latest full length ‘Pure Mood’ (available through Club AC30 [UK] or Norman Records [UK], The Reverberation Appreciation Society [USA], and Vinyl Junkie [Japan]). The Texan trio always provide a rush of energy, melody and noise. The first public songs ‘Big Bopper’, ‘Guilt’ and ‘Stare At The Sun’ are worth the price of admission alone. In lieu of a public album stream, there’s also a non-album track to sink your teeth into; a cover of T’Pnau’s ‘Heart And Soul’. So, is ‘Pure Mood’ another must listen? Let’s dig in…

There’s plenty of “rock god” moments on this album, there’s more riff-centric guitar work (‘Heavy Metal Suicide’ for example), than we’ve heard from them before. Plus there’s several cutting guitar solos that are super entertaining (‘Frisbee’), these work a treat to break up the chaos. Production wise there’s multi-layered everything, a crushing wall of rock goodness! The vocals sit high in the mix, so there’s no straining to make them out. However there’s so many compressed layers it has a similar, obscuring effect. That said, the shoegaze label isn’t very accurate here. There’s not a whole lot of reverb, swooning or wallowing going on! Instead, we’ve got a full frontal noise pop explosion. ‘Never’ for instance, is an absolute punk rock pummelling!

On the critical side, some of the album cuts lack the songwriting sharpness we’ve come to expect. The aforementioned singles have a depth and impact that’s not evenly spread. The party really kicks off at track five (‘Big Bopper’) and then there’s no looking back. Despite this, the creative trajectory that ‘God’s Dream’ started continues with ‘Pure Mood’, only this time we’re hearing some other strengths. We’re hearing legit musicianship, some serious technical chops! I’m not suggesting this wasn’t always the case, but on this album we can really hear it. Touring has been kind, it’s turned Ringo Deathstarr into serious shredders! \m/ Just listening to those bass lines makes my hands hurt.

‘Frisbee’ and ‘Never’ are faves, but the closing song ‘Acid Tongue’ is my favorite. It’s a devastating rocker, ‘Acid Tongue’ slays! Thing is, for much of ‘Pure Mood’ we’re in awe of Alex’s sugary vocal melodies but on the closer, it’s Elliott’s time to shine. He takes over the lead vocal duties, sets his guitar to “seek and destroy”, and opts for a metaphorical headbutt to finish it off. “Thanks for coming… now cop this!” The song sums up what ‘Pure Mood’ is all about, dense rockers that don’t mess about. It’s not a “perfect” album, there’s peaks and valleys (so to speak), but there’s few bands this fun. Meanwhile, there’s a freighter carrying my vinyl copy across the Atlantic and I wish it would get a move on!

Visit Ringo Deathstarr @ Facebook.

Ringo Deathstarr - 'Pure Mood'
SONGWRITING
SOUND & PRODUCTION
REVERB RATING
PRO'S
  • Explosive noise pop!
  • 'Guilt' and 'Acid Tongue' are brilliant
  • Lots of fun
CON'S
  • Less cohesive than previous efforts
  • Opening lacks punch
3.8Overall Score
Reader Rating: (22 Votes)

La Casa al Mare – ‘This Astro’ [EP]

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La Casa al Mare‘s debut EP ‘This Astro‘ has landed, and it’s every bit as magical as we expected. The newcomers appeared (seemingly out of nowhere) last September with the ‘M’ single, a beautifully polished shoegaze anthem that plays out like an unearthed classic. Of course, it helps when the band features former members of Sea Dweller, My Violent Ego and La Calle Mojada (which explains their veteran sound). The EP release features five songs (including the two singles), with a bonus track (‘This Astro’) on the CD. It’s a good opportunity for those who haven’t picked up the previous singles to jump on board, and provides three extra songs (for those that have).

La Casa al Mare – ‘At All’ [Exclusive Stream]

The trio (Marco Poloni on vocals/bass, Paolo Miceli on drums, with Alessio Pindinelli on guitar and vocals) don’t hide their influences, ‘This Astro’ overtly borrows from the 90s. The My Bloody Valentine influence is clear, however they do add enough of their own charm to make it their own. It could also be argued that La Casa al Mare have much stronger vocal chords than their forefathers *dodges rotten tomatoes*. I suppose that’s how the sound has evolved, ‘This Astro’ capitalizes on the gorgeous sonic swells but supports them with catchy melodies (that aren’t overdone). The EP doesn’t bury too many sounds in the mix, you can still make out what’s going on, and there’s not an over indulgence in lo-fi aesthetics either.

‘I Don’t Want To’ gets the EP off to a punchy start. It’s a short blast of swooning tremolos and melodic haze which runs into ‘Sunflowers’, a reminder that, all this distortion and naval gazing doesn’t have to be depressing! Its choruses are light and positive, one of the highlights. ‘At All’ (first public stream above), is a straight ahead indie rocker that bridges into the sedate ‘Tonight Or Never’, a dream pop lullaby that shows us what La Casa al Mare sound like without all the fuzz. ‘CD Girl’ is an unassuming song, it washes over you without the same hooks as the other singles but is still a strong entry. The CD bonus cut ‘This Astro’ is their most experimental work yet, a five minute instrumental. It’s filled with reverb heavy sounds jutting into the mix. It forms a dissonant cacophony mid way, and almost falls into a heap before wondering into the fade out.

La Casa al Mare – ‘This Astro’ [EP stream – select cuts]

It’s difficult to fault the EP, but like many of you, I’d really like to hear what they’ll do on a full length. That’s my only complaint! If you’re a fan of the genre, ‘This Astro’ is a must listen. It’s a pleasure from start to finish (first listen through), and it’s one of the most exciting EPs I’ve heard in years. And to think, this is only the beginning.

Visit La Casa al Mare @ Bandcamp @ Facebook.

La Casa al Mare - 'This Astro' [EP]
SONGWRITING
SOUND & PRODUCTION
REVERB RATING
PRO'S
  • A modern take on classic shoegaze
  • Big sound, big melodies!
  • An accomplished debut
CON'S
  • It's not a full length (only 3 new songs)
4.1Overall Score
Reader Rating: (9 Votes)

Wildhoney – ‘Sleep Through It’

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‘Sleep Through It’, Wildhoney‘s first full length is now available through Deranged/Forward Records. The Baltimore band first impressed with their self-titled 2013 EP featuring ‘Like Me’, followed by the much loved ‘Seventeen Forever’ three tracker last year. I’ll admit, Sounds Better has had a soft spot for Wildhoney since the get go, there’s something very raw, fun and honest about these guys that’s instantly likeable. A mix of garage rock, punk aggression and shoegazey ambiguity. ‘Sleep Through It‘ embodies this, beginning with the title track and previously streamed single ‘Fall In’.

 
Wildhoney – ‘Sleep Through It’

‘Owe You Nothing’ sports a twee edge, with downcast lyrics that hinge on sugary vocals, backed by a jagged wall of sound in the latter half. Truth be told, we’ve heard that sound plenty of times before. But, Wildhoney do add to the mixture, there’s accessible pop-centric melodies combined with lo-fi charm, they’re delivered with a frenetic energy that bowls the listener over. ‘Maybe You’re Crazy’ is a good example of this. It sucks you in with catchy vocals and then hits with a wave of noise.

If a heavy dose of noise pop is your thing, then Wildhoney’s ‘Sleep Through It’ will be right up your street! It’s full throttle most of the way, with a short breath for air during ‘Tea Leaves’ and ‘FSA’, otherwise it doesn’t let up. The standouts ‘Seventeen’, ‘Fall In’, ‘Molly’ and the title track are worth the price of admission alone. Wildhoney aren’t taking themselves too seriously and are producing some really fun noise pop along the way. Download a digital copy here, or head to Deranged/Forward for the vinyl.

Visit Wildhoney @ Deranged Records @ Forward Records @ Facebook.

Wildhoney - 'Sleep Through It'
SONGWRITING
SOUND & PRODUCTION
REVERB RATING
PRO'S
  • Packed with noise pop!
  • Loads of fun
CON'S
  • Lacks some variety
3.8Overall Score
Reader Rating: (7 Votes)

Pinkshinyultrablast – ‘Everything Else Matters’

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Pinkshinyultrablast have delivered their debut LP ‘Everything Else Matters’ featuring the singles ‘Umi’ and ‘Holy Forest’. Following our chat last month, it’s time to take a closer look at the album (streaming via Noisey). On first listen, I was surprised by the album. After all, the lead singles showcase Pinkshiny’s angelic dream pop melodies and the beauty of Lyubov’s voice. The rest of ‘Everything Else Matters’ is another beast entirely, and that’s not a bad thing. It’s got depth, a lot of ground is covered in just eight songs.

Opener ‘Wish We Were’ gets the LP off to a progressive start, a seven minute epic that begins with ambient anticipation before transitioning to a post punk gallop. After repeated listens, it becomes clear that the more abstract, less structured songs are amongst the strongest. They divide the more “traditional” pop songs up, sitting at track 1, 4 (‘Metamorphosis’) and 8 (‘Marigold’). And wow, ‘Marigold’ is the knock out punch, an ambitious and stunning track with cinematic scope. It’s final moments ring out for minutes, a perfect end.

The collaborative approach Pinkyshinyultrablast take with their songs gives each song a complexity. It’s hard to predict, and certainly doesn’t fit neatly into any genre. I’m just glad they were happy to turn up the reverb, it sounds big! If you’ve read this far, I doubt you need convincing. ‘Everything Else Matters’ is a fantastic record and a brilliant start to 2015. Highly recommended. Pick it up via Club AC30 (UK), Shelflife (USA) or Vinyl Junkie (Japan).

Visit Pinkshinyultrablast @ Soundcloud @ Instagram @ Facebook.

Pinkshinyultrablast - 'Everything Else Matters'
SONGWRITING
SOUND & PRODUCTION
REVERB RATING
PRO'S
  • Genre Defying
  • Gorgeous Melodies
  • Depth
4.0Overall Score
Reader Rating: (18 Votes)

The Cherry Wave – ‘Avalancher’

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Scottish shoegazers The Cherry Wave have delivered their fuzz filled debut album ‘Avalancher‘! Formed in 2012, the Glasgow foursome released their debut EP ‘Blush’ the following year, leading to live spots alongside Ringo Deathstarr, The Telescopes, Dead Rabbits, The KVB, Nothing and Mode Moderne among others. Last month we heard Avalancher’s lead tune ‘Whitey‘, now it’s time to see how the rest of the LP shapes up.

Despite being recorded at 45 A-Side Recordings by Luigi Pasquini, ‘Avalancher’ still retains the raw, lo-fi approach of their earlier work. The Cherry Wave haven’t opted for a high gloss sound and it suits the live feel of the album. It sounds like an dirty old cassette tape being blasted in a hall!

The Cherry Wave have upped the tempo on ‘Avalancher’, with a punk ethos shining through on tracks like ‘All I Know’, which is a short, supercharged, ear bleeder! The vocals are pretty much buried in reverb and guitars the entire album. This works for the most part, but on songs like ‘Harvest Summers’ there’s not just enough musical hooks to justify it.

It’s a brave record, staunch in avoiding typical “rock” production and delivery. The balance is well achieved on ‘Blissbomb’, an anthem where the melodies don’t need extra highlighting. In contrast, ‘Blinker’ removes much of this contrast, descending into a mid frequency blur.

Closing track ‘Fuzzthrower’ runs close to ten minutes, much of it is dominated by experimental noise (a la My Bloody Valentine’s holocaust) with drum hits peaking out the meters (and your eardrums)! Album highlights ‘All I Know’, ‘Blissbomb’ and ‘Whitey’ make ‘Avalancher’ a must listen for fans of noise and shoegaze. It’s been a long time coming for The Cherry Wave and the four piece have earned their stripes. ‘Avalancher’ is an uncompromising record with ass kicking rockers (flaws n’ all).
 
The Cherry Wave – ‘Avalancher’ [LP Stream]

Visit The Cherry Wave @ Bandcamp @ Facebook.

The Cherry Wave - 'Avalancher'
Songwriting
Sound & Production
Reverb Rating
PRO'S
  • Big bold rockers with loads of noise!
  • The highlights 'All I Know', 'Blissbomb' & 'Whitey'
  • Anti-gloss sound for lo-fi lovers
CON'S
  • Album runs a little short (eight songs)
  • Some songs get lost in the mid-range haze
3.8Overall Score
Reader Rating: (18 Votes)

Whirr – ‘Sway’

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Whirr‘s new album ‘Sway’ arrives this week via Graveface Records. The bicoastal band (located between Philly and Oakland) have delivered four EPs and two albums since forming in 2010 (originally as Whirl). ‘Sway’ first turned heads with the lead single ‘Mumble’ back in July. The once familiar female vocals had switched to male, generating comparisons to Nothing (which features Whirr’s Nick Bassett on bass). Nick has also worked with Nothing’s Dominic Palermo on the side project, Death of Lovers. So yes, that creative relationship is going to rub off. But ironically, unlike previous releases where Nick has been the primary songwriter, this album is their most collaborative work to date (according to the PR).

Producer Jack Shirley (Deafheaven, Frameworks) deserves credit for his work on the LP. There’s a lot of bottom end guitars in the mix and he’s managed to convey the weight of the band incredibly well. It’s a heavy sounding record, in the literal sense. Whirr have mastered their hard-hitting slow motion rhythms. It’s powerful stuff when combined with their thick guitar tones. That’s the guts of the record, that feeling it gives you, above the catchiness of any particular song. Of course, like most bands of the genre, it’s a sound best experienced live, and yet Shirley has packaged it perfectly.

In terms of melody, ‘Sway’ doesn’t reach for great heights. The monotone vocals explore a narrow melodic range and yet somehow it still gets stuck in your head. Especially songs like ‘Lines’ and ‘Heavy’. It’s a credit to the style and delivery of the five piece. While Whirr are commonly labelled as shoegaze, they’ve really got just as much in common with punk or metal. They bridge that gap which opens the door to a much wider audience.

On the downside, it runs short (only eight songs in less than 40 minutes). So it’s more of a bulky EP than a regular full length. It also struggles with a lack of variation which is probably why there’s only eight songs, if it were more, the album would drag. To their credit, the cinematic ‘Clear’ (midway through the album) attempts to change this. It’s epic in scope but doesn’t change the feel enough. I was expecting a guest female vocalist to pop in and shake it up. That said, overall it’s still a great listen. It lacks some depth and variation but it still leaves a lasting impression. ‘Sway’ hits you like a weight. It holds you down with a wall of fuzzy guitars and pummels you! Afterwards, you’ll be wanting to do it all over again. Pick it up via Graveface (Vinyl / Digital).

Visit Whirr @ Graveface Records @ Bandcamp @ Facebook.

Whirr - 'Sway'
Songwriting
Sound & Production
Reverb Rating
PRO'S
  • HUGE sound & feel
  • The switch to male vocals works
CON'S
  • Runs short (eight songs)
  • Lacks some variation
3.9Overall Score
Reader Rating: (22 Votes)