Dinosaur Jr. – ‘Sweep It Into Space’

Sounds like … Dinosaur Jr.

Alright, I’ve been a bit lazy with the “sounds like … “ description this time. But really, there is no need to beat around the bush. Dinosaur Jr just sound the way they sound and if you’ve been in any way into indie rock over the past 3 or 4 decades, you should’ve encountered them and know what that sounds like. How it still works though amazes me every time there is a new record on its way. But I guess that J Mascis, Lou Barlow and Murph are just so good at what they’re doing that there is never anything funny-smelling about it. On the outside, the Dinosaur Jr. formula seems pretty basic, since it’s just three dudes in their 50s that are still a little too much into rock music. Sweep It Into Space clarifies though that that is a pretty massive misconception. At the very core Dinosaur Jr. write little, often melancholic, stoic, self-forgetful pop gems. And hurray, there are a lot of those among these 12 new ones.

Originally dated for a release in 2020 Sweep It Into Space was designed for a stronger involvement of no other than Kurt Vile. Well that would have been slacker’s paradise. But due to obvious reasons and Vile being hindered by the Rona the 12 tracks turned out to be still pretty signature Dinosaur Jr. There’s only little evidence left of a stronger Vile-involvement (I Ran Away). From the first chords of I Ain’t to the last longing words of You Wonder (along with the magnificent Garden one of the two obligatory songs written and sung by Lou Barlow) you will be very well entertained. Dinosaur Jr. are just masters of unfolding the pull a song in three to four minutes with only basic elements. Listening to the way the bridges in To Be Waiting or Walking to you slide into Mascis’ solos is just a thing of beauty. Both Mascis and Barlow additionally present very refined versions of their hazey lyricism that seems to involve way more sprinkles of melancholy these days. Be it Mascis opening the record with a confessive I Ain’t Good Alone or Barlow desperately searching for a way to put his feelings into words (My religion is a vision of you humming in my ear). That is the appeal of Dinosaur Jr. at this stage of their career: three somehow still childish, stubborn guys who, despite all their anachronisms, present a way of ageing that is pretty admirable. If only all legends would write songs like these in their late work. (Henning Grabow)

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The Pale White – ‘Infinite Pleasure’

Sounds like … a powerful and relentless rock debut.

Hailing from Newcastle, UK, the British indie rock trio The Pale White has earned the reputation of being one of the foremost buzzing rock acts right now and their debut LP Infinite Pleasure is laying the ground work for these reckless lads. Following the energy that was to be witnessed in several promising single releases, their first major work strengthens the band’s aptness for soaring and melodic pieces, fused with all the brimming energy a good rock record may provide. 

Melodic guitar frenzy is at the core of The Pale White, unmistakably, as Infinite Pleasure highlights from early on. The opening title track may start off in a cautious manner, but the breaking of the shores is all the stronger, once things get to the chorus: “Infinite pleasure forever!“, singer Adam Hope exclaims and it doesn’t need much more words there to get that yearning across. Glue picks up that vigour just right and feels like a thunderous joyride, with enough fuel in its veins to chase away the last ghosts of lethargy, breezing from the past months. The frantic level of fused rock’n roll feels does not really cease throughout Infinite Pleasure – well, it is in the title after all, right? Medicine is another fine example here: Intuitive, fearless and brimming with melodious flights and rhythmic thunder, this is a tune that unites all of The Pale White’s prime qualities. As things pace towards the end of the record, Anechoic Chamber Blues is but a welcome distraction amidst the hymnic heights. A tune that stands as a calm resting point amidst the powerful blaze, it shows yet another side of the rock outfit, and one that suits them surprisingly well. In the end, Infinite Pleasure is an album that feels like an oncoming thunder. And The Pale White has done quite a good job crafting a statement like that. (Andreas Peters)

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Lady Dan – ‘I Am The Prophet’

Sounds like … a story of personal growth bedded in folky indie pop.

Lady Dan is the moniker of singer and guitarist Tyler Dozier. Her debut record I Am the Prophet recounts her journey to emancipation from growing up in a narrow Christian cosmos. Folk-tinged indie pop at its core, the record is built on Dozier’s knack for melancholic songwriting and honest lyrics. They are personal but also universal, as the singer makes use of biblical images, daily observations, and deep-rooted personal emotions. What has been described as a cowboy melancholia, fits into the niche between bedroom pop and twangy Americana.

For the record, Lady Dan gathered several musicians around her to instrument the songs with pedal steel, saxophone melodies, and flute-like synthesizers. But the songs’ foundations are built on the acoustic guitar melodies and the poetic lyrics, like on the telling Better Off Alone and the opener Paradox. Some songs even strip it back down to the roots like Plagiarist’s Blues, which is a minimal acoustic folk ballad. No Home describes Dozier’s emotional state with utter candor. “Nothing to write home about / there is no home to write to at all”, she croons poking at the heartbreaking but at the same time emancipating emotion of being left to fend for oneself. Yet, the making of the record brought the singer back to her hometown in Alabama from her refuge in Austin. “I learned how to show my strength, my truth, myself through music,” Dozier says about the record. “This is my one place to be a bitch if I want to be a bitch. So many of these songs, at their core, are about me reclaiming ownership of myself.” (Liv Toerkell)

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Communions – ‘Pure Fabrication’

Sounds like … a holiday from the real world.

Indie-Pop darlings Communions re-introduce themselves after losing two founding members. Now a duo (albeit with an expanded live band), their new record Pure Fabrication comments on the change by not commenting at all. Those eager to hear how the turmoil has affected their sound will alternatively be relieved or disappointed: not much has changed, at least not on record. Across its runtime, Pure Fabrication delivers pretty melodies, plucky riffs and a generally forthcoming and laid-back attitude.

There are enough glistening chords, nervous 80’s high-hats and sing-along choruses to satisfy fans of Indie and Britpop. It’s not immediately apparent why the album needs to be fifteen tracks long, but then again there is nothing wrong with any of them either. It’s not exactly an adventurous album – the biggest surprises here are the occasional handclap and a couple of gnarlier tracks in the second half – but overall it’s a pretty uniform record of good tracks with a couple great ones in there (Here And Now suddenly and it’s sudden tempo change is a standout, as is the infectious chorus of Hymn). Not that every album needs to change the game. For now, this is proof Communions still know how to enthral a listener. Real world has to wait outside. (Nils Heutehaus)

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Elephants On Tape – ‘Every Structure’s Dislocated’

Sounds like … delicate dream pop from playful and dedicated performers.

Lightweights, the 2018 debut album by Leipzig-based indietronic formation Elephants On Tape was an easily overlooked treasure in the sheer massiveness of the weekly release hurricane but it showed a band that had all the skills to stand out. The follow-up Every Structure’s Dislocated takes the debut’s strengths a bit further. The tightrope-walking between traditional songwriting and electronic experiments still marks the core of the band’s sound but their latest endeavours see them move a bit further into progressive territory while still circling around honest emotion and catchy hooks. Their second LP is a short yet very addictive affair, held together by tiny little interludes that go by titles like {fume, {ascii; or >larva} … well, Justin Vernon would be proud of the four guys and singer Lisa Zwinzscher and there are indeed a few references to Bon Iver in their music. Partly the band also reminds you of The Notwist, a few of the later Depeche Mode records (anyone ever listened to Playing The Angel?), Portishead and other sounds from that field. The guitar sound is pretty old-fashioned, reminding you of the more melancholic 00s indie rock bands while the analogue electronic sounds feels like a toally different affair. But somehow they make it work, creating a retro future vibe without falling into obvious traps like unnecessary auto-tune adventures.

All things considered, Elephants On Tape are a band that knows how to perform together, the entire album comes with this sweet DIY lo-fi spirit that grounds the entire sound in the here and now. It’s not a slick studio record, it’s the sound of five profound musicians joining forces. The songs are less about their abstract lyrical content but more about the overall vibe. “I am deep sea diving in an ocean of words from your mouth,” Zwinzscher states in the opening Narks as she outlines the map of the rest of the record. 01100010 is a twisted yet sensual and almost jazzy ballad while Transient Day shows a more uplifting side from the group. Closing track Hyperactive marks an actual highlight of the record. Built on a gentle piano melody it really showcases the vocal skills of the band leader, making Zwinzscher almost sound like Björk. Every Structure’s Dislocated is a smart and consequent step forward for the band and if they continue to head for that brave path they will hopefully no longer remain a hidden treasure. (Norman Fleischer)

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Torp – ‘Time Flies’

Sounds like … acoustic havens of comfort and tranquility.

Time Flies is the title of the debut record of Swiss folk act and songwriter Frieder Torp and while the twelve pieces do make an impression that promises to last quite a bit, the musician surely took his time to refine his sound, ever since his first recordings – three years back now. With sonic scapes that range from a well of acoustic glimmers in the dark, often backed up by an orchestral superstructure, the poetic images and an aching passion to fabricate beauty in a single moment in time, Torp’s voice is busy telling stories that deserve to be told. In that, Time Flies may not totally reinvent the idea of a good folk record, but it is astonishingly well in crafting certain moments of acoustic magic for sure.

It is almost with a hush that Frieder Torp works his voice through the pieces, surely creating a solemn buzz, that easily compares to the likes of S. Carey or Iron And Wine’s Sam Beam. Cait, the initial tune on Time Flies picks up with just acoustic guitars, as it melts into melodic beauty and harmonic feels. Calm and comforting is also the manner in which the sceneries are set to continue. Parasite, although more rhythmic and frankly quite much reminding of an Incubus buzz, is going strong along the melodic ladder into the sky and remains yet soothing, echoing its energy into the grounded tranquility that gives Torp his lyrical strength: “Let that always be the challenge / But it’s hard to keep my balance right now”, the songwriter exclaims in the wistful title track Time Flies, a song that hits hard with its stunning mélange of sonic tenderness and lyrical profundity. Sure enough, the melodic drives that Torp is leading us through may lack a certain “diversity” of style. And yet, being the debut that Time Flies is, this is a stunning achievement, definitely worth your time. (Andreas Peters)

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