Loma just happened. As contrary to manufactured as imaginable, the band came to exist after Cross Record and Shearwater toured together and discovered they loved making music together as well. Shearwater’s Jonathan Meiburg started taking week-long trips out to a ranch in Texas where Dan Duszynski and Emily Cross were living at the time. The songs just got recorded. The record just happened to get put out by Sub Pop, one of the country’s premier indie labels and the home of Shearwater. It just unfolded organically. These were just people taking one small step after the next.
So, when the band played a surprise secret show at Radio in early April, that was the band’s first show ever. And I should have known. I should have realized that the show would defy all expectations. Both Shearwater and Cross Record have tendencies for taking their recorded material and pushing them to a whole new level for the live show. Both bands write songs with careful nuanced instrumentation that build tension and crescendo, unfurling magnificently. I should have realized how mind blowing the live set would be, but I didn’t. I thought it would be beautiful. I thought it would be transfixing and careful and intricate. And it was. The delicacy of “I Don’t Want Children” had me practically weeping. But it was also incredibly forceful and muscular in ways I just didn’t see coming.
Between the time I saw Loma’s first show at Radio and their second show at the ND a few weeks later, the band got even better. And they introduced a performative aspect of the show, during which Emily Cross walks over to a large notepad on an easel and creates a drawing as the band continues to perform the instrumental aspects of two different songs. Plainly put: the show is breathtaking.
Not to detract from Loma’s outstanding debut album, but part of me wonders what the album would have sounded like if the band had formed and played and toured (as most bands do) before recording these songs. Again, the record is phenomenal in its own right, but there’s something touring behind songs does to them that allows bands to sharpen and strengthen aspects of songs. That said, there are simply some limitations to the sonic range of recorded material that disappear when a band performs live. Maybe Loma is just so talented and creating the sounds in a live setting that recorded material can never capture that greatness.
To recap: either Loma is too pure for this world and the fates had to ensure they recorded these songs before touring them so we wouldn’t all have our brains melted, or these musicians are so talented at creating sound live that studio recordings will never capture their total ability. Either way, I think it’s clear that you should make seeing the band a priority. And while I slacked on getting this up promptly after the show in mid-April, the good news is that the band still has a week in the Northeast and Midwest and then heads off to Europe for another leg of the tour.
As an added bonus from the show at the ND, Jess Williamson opened the night, displaying her set of brand new songs, Cosmic Wink, which will see release this summer. Williamson has taken her sound in a whole new direction, leaving some of her experimental leanings behind and angling toward West Coast country and 70s pop. It sounds incredible, and I can’t wait for the album.
In Austin, great shows come and go, and almost any night of the week presents an opportunity to see outstanding live music. But occasionally, a show generates enough magic that it feels special, even in a city flooded with quality performances. Last Tuesday at Scoot Inn felt pivotal, as Japanese Breakfast and Snail Mail played magnetic sets that crystalized immediately in the consciousness of attendees. C3 purchased the Scoot Inn last summer, and after extensive renovations, it feels like the venue is finally starting to realize it’s potential for housing mid-tier touring acts on the precipice of a big breakout. With Snail Mail on the heels of a busy and buzzed-about SXSW and Japanese Breakfast launching a world tour and en route to Coachella, the evening teemed with excitement. The bill proved capable of selling out the approximately 1,000 cap room on a Tuesday — not an easy feat, even in a music loving town.
Launching into the set with “In Heaven,” the standout track from Michelle Zauner’s first album, Japanese Breakfast commanded the stage with powerful energy. Bouncing on white sneakers with light-up soles, Zauner bounded about the stage to the upbeat rhythms of her spacey indie pop. Throughout the set, Zauner showcased her multifaceted talent, moving between guitar and keyboard, while handling vocal responsibilities with emotional intensity. Frequently walking along the front edge of the stage and climbing out on the venue’s speakers, Zauner leaned out over the crowd, as dozens of singing mouths arched up toward her.
Between songs, Zauner took the time to give shoutouts to her label owner, Dead Oceans’ Phil Waldorf, her booking agent Timmy Hefner, and one of her longstanding fans and supporters, PRTLS Creative Director Tyler Andere — all three of whom live in Austin. Multiple times during the, Zauner gushed about how vital Austin has been to her musical career. Even in a large outdoor space, the show carried an intimate warmth that permeated the mood. Japanese Breakfast is two very special records into a career, and it’s exciting to see how responsive and supportive Zauner’s fans continue to be. Every once in a while a truly great artist gets both the critical and fan response they deserve. I’m hoping that continues for Japanese Breakfast.
Snail Mail, the project of Lindsey Jordan, opened the night with a set of punk-leaning indie rock tunes built on Jordan’s emotive wail. Much of the work I’ve seen and heard consists of Jordan performing solo, and it was great to see full band live versions of the songs. Jordan has just one EP, yet she had a good portion of the crowd enrapt and singing along before the sun set on a Tuesday afternoon — a sign you’re doing something very right. Snail Mail’s first full-length, Lush, is due out June 8 on Matador. Keep an ear out.
A double exposure of Sheer Mag and Marfa’s night sky as seen from El Cosmico; photo by Bryan C. Parker
Since the single day event collaboratively planned by label Mexican Summer and art space Ballroom Marfa back in 204, Marfa Myths has grown with each installation. This weekend, from Thursday to Sunday, the festival’s holds its fourth annual event under the Marfa Myths moniker (fifth, including the inaugural Mexican Summer Festival). Each year, the event brings in an impressively diverse and rare roster of artists who seem to share a similar affinity for making sonically adventurous or aesthetically cohesive music. You can check out some of our coverage of past year’s events. This year’s bill will include: Wire, Tom Zé, Helado Negro, Jessica Pratt, The Weather Station, Drugdealer, and Thor & Friends.
In addition to musical acts, Marfa Myths generally boasts a wide range of interdisciplinary art displays. This year’s event includes a number of art installations, such as group exhibition Hyperobjects, as well as a screening of the surfing film Self Discovery for Social Survival with a live score by Gravity Hill Sound + Image and the Allah-Las.
Take this last piece as an example. For those unfamiliar, Gravity Hill is a project comprised of filmmaker Jem Cohen, Fugazi Guy Picciotto, Dirty Three drummer Jim White, Cretan lute player George Xylouris, and Thee Silver Mt. Zion violinist Jessica Moss. Marfa Myths is full of stuff like this. Somewhat obscure (often criminally under-recognized) artists working together or performing one-off shows in rare settings. It’s the kind of thing that’s hard to explain if you aren’t there. It’s experiential, singular, multi-faceted, expressive, welcoming yet remote enough to entice only the committed. It’s everything that music festivals should be and aren’t. For those who’ve been contemplating going and still have the courage to undertake a last minute road trip — you’ll be well rewarded. You can always set up a tent on the grounds of El Cosmico – no reservation needed. I’d highly recommend it. More info on the fest, tickets, and schedule here.
Atmospheric, indie-pop band Japanese Breakfast, the project of Michelle Zauner, stops in Austin tonight for a show at Scoot Inn — just one date on an extensive tour that will ultimately traverse the U.S. and Europe over the course of six months. Which means a good chunk of the Western world gets the opportunity to see one of indie music’s most exciting musicians and songwriters. Even with the plethora of critical acclaim garnered by each Zauner’s first two albums, she remains understated as an artist, quietly releasing one of the best albums of the year in both 2016 and 2017. Her work constantly seeks sonic cohesion, thriving on competing layers of drifting static sounds and tense guitars. And we can attest from experience: her live set is magnetic and transfixing.
Snail Mail, the project of Lindsey Jordan, opens the night. An artist on the rise, Snail Mail is on the verge of releasing its debut full-length album, Lush, which drops June 8. Using sparse rearrangements, Jordan lays punk-leaning guitars over earnest, emotive lyrics. It’s everything you loved about 90s rock, with less bravado.
This show’s gonna sell out. The only uncertainty is whether it will sell out before you get your ticket or not. It’s going to a great show on a beautiful night in Austin. Get your ticket here before it’s too late. Watch the video for Japanese Breakfast’s “Boyish” and stream the audio for Snail Mail’s “Pristine” below.
Japanese Breakfast - Boyish (Official Video) - YouTube
Snail Mail - "Pristine" (Official Lyric Video) - YouTube
I couldn’t be more thrilled that Broken Social Scene is having a quiet resurgence as one of indie-rock’s most respected outfits. The years between each of the band’s albums has grown successively. First a year, then two, then three, five, and seven. While I hope that trend goes back the other way, for now, I’m considering us all very lucky, because Hug of Thunder is a triumphant, phenomenal album. It’s full of restrained yet lush arrangements and the band’s usual cathartically soaring build-ups.
Though it received high praise from a plethora of outlets, it seemed to fly under the radar, missing out on spots on most year-end best-of lists. In reality, the record deserved far more attention than it received, and the only reason I can think of to explain that is the band’s long periods of inactivity. But they’re here now, and there’s no reason that the group’s show at Stubb’s tomorrow night isn’t already sold out. Get on the tickets now, before you show up at the door to find out it’s already too late.
I remember seeing the full outfit, Feist included, at Stubb’s in the early days of their ascension to indie royalty, and I have been looking forward to tomorrow’s show for months now. It’s the first Friday after SXSW–so what? Time to buck up, shake off the show-induced stupor, and get back out there for great music. Stream the gorgeous title track from Hug of Thunder below.
Broken Social Scene - Hug Of Thunder (Official Audio) - YouTube
Far out on the West Coast, a small cadre of music lovers called Cosmic Dreamer Music are issuing outstanding work from a select group of forward thinking artists. Artists like RF Shannon meld mellow Americana with psychedelic production, while Lucas Oswald crafts pristinely textured indie-pop. Among those artists is psych-folk outfit The Dan Ryan, who today premiere a cover of David Bowie’s “In the Heat of the Morning,” from his perhaps lesser known self-titled 1967 debut. From a period before glam, before the songs that launched his career, Bowie’s first album features more straightforward cuts that sound like quite a few other British songwriters. Still, “In the Heat of the Morning,” boasts captivating lyricism, interesting melodies, and of course Bowie’s recognizable vocals.
The Dan Ryan does an excellent job with the cover — keep the song’s simplicity intact, relying on clean and clear guitar picking that rests beneath drifting, faraway vocals. Tambourine and gentle organ completes the mix that eventually drifts into more undulating, spacey production.
Coupled with another Bowie cover by avant-rock band Hospital Ships, the pair of songs comprise a limited edition 7-inch available for purchase now. The vinyl, limited to just 200 copies, features artwork by Veronica De Jesus, who recently had a series of memorial drawings of artists who personally inspired her displayed by the UC Berkely Art Museum. Stream “In the Heat of the Morning” below, and purchase the 7-inch here.
The project of Will Taylor and Charlie Martin, Hovvdy has an outstanding new album, Cranberry, out now on Double Double Whammy Records. As the project consists only of two songwriters often working remotely and trading off on dubbing parts over the other’s songs, I was excited to see how the live show handled the unconventional arrangement of the band. Throughout the night, Taylor and Martin alternated songs, playing the entirety of their new album front to back to an attentive crowd. Recruiting backing bass and drums for the show, the songs of Cranberry sounded just as warm and arresting, if a little crunchier and heavier, than on record. Brooklyn fans of the band will be treated to their own album release celebration tonight. If Hovvdy makes its way through your town soon, do the right thing and grab your ticket early.
Before Hovvdy, Austin’s rising star Molly Burch played a set of pristine vocal pop songs to a crowd that sang along dutifully. Last year’s breakout debut, Please Be Mine, has garnered widespread acclaim, and Burch remains one of the most promising acts out of Austin today. Falling somewhere between Dusty Springfield and Angel Olsen, Burch’s album is perfect for literally everyone alive and is a must add to any record collection. Keep your ears to the internet for news on what’s next in 2018 from this promising musician.
The deluge of quality music to experience seems continually increase. But the number of albums I come back to again and again, those that live on the turntable for weeks still hovers around only a dozen at most each year. The Weather Station, an outlet for the music of Tamara Lindeman, has produced a series of folk albums that take hold and won’t let go. Her transfixing songs take your breath away with galloping rhythms and subtle bass lines that ride beneath Lindeman’s exquisite vocals. At a time when standing out as a folk songwriter has never been more difficult, Lindeman manages to succeed tremendously; no one makes songs that sound quite like this. Her fourth album, which is self-titled, is available via Paradise of Bachelors now. If you’re a fan of thoughtful, careful folk songwriting, The Weather Station’s show at Antone’s tomorrow night shouldn’t be missed. Bahama’s, also great, headline.
The Weather Station - Thirty (Official Video) - YouTube
Life’s too short to check out every single new great song that pops up in your feed, so we’re doing part of the work for you. No navigating necessary. For your Friday listening pleasure, dig these five tracks we’ve got in heavy rotation at the moment. You might even consider supporting independent music by pre-ordering a couple of the forthcoming albums by these artists.
1. Nap Eyes – “Every Time the Feeling”
Since Nap Eyes’ 2nd album, Thought Rock Fish Scale, finds its way to may turntable as often as anything else released over the last couple years, I can’t wait for their follow-up, I’m Bad Now, due out March 3 on Paradise of Bachelors (quietly one of the best indie labels around). If the first single is any indicator, Nap Eyes will continue their laid-back rock and nasal vocal delivery while introducing some grittier, 70s-inspired rock elements. I’m here for it.
Nap Eyes: I'm Bad Now - "Every Time the Feeling" (PoB-033, 2018) - SoundCloud (192 secs long, 1039 plays)Play in SoundCloud
This UK outfit makes trebly indie pop with mellow but steady rhythms. You can set your watch by the consistent quality of their albums, so look forward to the release of their 4th LP, Up!, on Bella Union on April 6. Pre-order the album riiiiiiight here. While you’re at it, you could check out their whole discography and buy some old stuff from Trouble in Mind Records — it’s all great.
Ultimate Painting - Not Gonna Burn Myself Anymore - YouTube
3. Caroline Rose – “Getting to Me”
Maintaining a folk appeal with an arrangement that centers around clear guitar picking, Caroline Rose’s new single “Getting to Me” incorporates pop sensibilities and pizzicato violin that turns sweeping on the chorus. Rose’s vocals are infectious, and you’ll find yourself smitten with the song’s catchiness and sweet choral melody. It feels like she’s on the verge of much wider audiences. Keep an ear out for (or pre-order now) her new album, Loner, due February 23 on New West Records.
Caroline Rose - "Getting To Me" [Audio Only] - YouTube
4. Girlpool – “Picturesong”
Breathier, spacier, and more electronic, Girlpool morphs entirely on a new track that features contributions from Dev Hynes, aka Blood Orange. “Picturesong” begins slow and ambles forward nicely, but makes its strongest case when it breaks down completely and descends into a chaotic swirl of sound as Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad’s twin vocals churn along smoothly.
Criminally and chronically underrated as a songwriter, Laura Veirs consistently makes heartrending and arresting indie pop songs. You may recognize her name from 2016’s collaborative album with Neko Case and K.D. Lang. Veirs’ 2007’s Saltbreakers is an album that I constantly return to, so it’s excited to hear that she will release her tenth solo album, The Lookout, on April 13th. Stream “Everybody Needs You” and pre-order The Lookout here.
Touring behind their second LP, Happy Together, Seattle-based band Mega Bog opened for indie rock stalwart Destroyer for a knockout billing of music this past Monday at Mohawk. Historically, Seattle brought crunchy, discordant rock to the world while recent musical trends have edged toward chill, soft jazz tones in the city’s independent music scene. Fronted and conceived by Erin Birgy, Mega Bog unifies those worlds with sometimes powerful, sometimes relaxed song structures that frequently flutter into experimental jazz flourishes of brass and keys. At times, the tunes are melodic and perfectly accessible, and at others venture deeply into disjointed arrangements. On Monday, the band braved some light rain and rapidly declining temperatures to bring their songs to Austin, TX. The crowd’s warm reception and smiling faces at the sets completion should be an indicator of how well Mega Bog’s approach fits into Austin’s music landscape. They’re a band on the rise, so if you’ve missed either of their last couple of shows in town, keep your ear open for another return.
Destroyer played an astounding set of songs culled from a few more recent albums including ken and Kaputt. Although the band remained, as usual, pretty aloof and standoffish, it didn’t detract from the sheer impressiveness of the band’s musical prowess. The only drawback for the evening came with the set’s brevity. Look, I would stand around all night and hear Destroyer play music, particularly from Rubies or Streethawk: A Seduction. By that I mean no discredit to the incredible work the band continues to generate, but those albums have my heart by a particularly nostalgic thread. Maybe one of these days we’ll get a tour chocked full of old tracks, but considering the tendencies of creative voice Dan Bejar, I’m not counting on it.