This summer’s music bin is an eclectic grab bag of classic and new indie rock (New Radiant Storm King, Kindling), pure pop (Julie Beman, LuxDeluxe), and experimental electronica (Home Body). Something for maybe everybody. There’s more new music to be reviewed in the coming weeks until summer is officially over. Buy, download, and enjoy this roundup of western MA and southern CT bands and keep reading here for the next round of reviews.
New Radiant Storm King: Singular - No Article (Darla Records - Reissue) Formed in 1990 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA ,New Radiant Storm King’s core founding members, Matt Hunter and Peyton Pinkerton (along with a revolving lineup of band members that included at one time, Caleb Wetmore, JJ O’Connell, Eli Miller, Eliza Sharp and Garrett Fontes) were part of the second wave of western MA indie “noise” bands (this being said, Cargo of Despair were the first, and true “noise” band) following in Dinosaur Jr’s.and Sebadoh’s trajectory as the “next big thing.” The band had its share of drama, part and parcel of any music industry hype: bad labels, geographical dislocations, and defections in the ranks. They soldiered on for 20 years before calling it quits in 2010. Their 1998 UK release (surprisingly, no US release till now), Singular - No Article cleared up the common misconception that the band’s name was the plural – ‘New Radiant Storm Kings.’ Recently remastered (by original producer, Mark Alan Miller of Out Out, Vein Cage fame) and reissued on Darla Records featured the lineup of Hunter, Pinkerton and Fontes and is an impressive document of the band’s evolution from their earlier forays in “noise” rock to sophisticated string arrangements and sonic arpeggiated chords. Standout tracks (very nostalgic for this writer) but not limited to, “The Correct Liar,” “The Occidental Tourist,” and “Secrets to Better Skin” sound more fresh and brash thanks to Miller’s expert remastering. One can hear accidental (or intentional) traces of NRSK copping feels from Eric Matthews (on the sweeping aforementioned “The Occidental Tourist”) or Sonic Youth (“Carry My Chin”), but no matter, the band owns its material.
New Radiant Storm King: Winter’s Kill (Darla Records - Reissue) Originally released in 2002, Winter’s Kill is the second reissue by the band on the Darla Records label (also remastered by Mark Alan Miller) was a critical favorite among music writers and fans alike. Produced by the legendary Thom Monahan (Monsterland, Lilys, Pernice Brothers) and featuring the lineup of Hunter, Pinkerton, and Fontes again, with help from additional musicians Ken Mauri, Jose Ayerve, Liz Bustmante and engineer Mark Alan Miller (who remastered this gem), Winter’s Kill was the musical blueprint for future albums by the Pernice Brothers (Pinkerton was a longtime member of the band) and Jose Ayerve’s band, Spouse. This album was a new direction for the band: accessible melodies with the right touch of dissonance and less obtuse lyrics than previous outings (which probably had been influenced by Hunter and Pinkerton’s involvement with another western MA transplant at the time, Dave Berman of Silver Jews, and another obvious influence, Stephen Malkmus and Pavement — all one has to hear is the sunny, slacker California vibe of “View of a Wedding through the Hubble Telescope” to make the connection), and a decidedly conscious indie rock posturing which permeates most of the tracks. “Bombs and Broccoli” with its insane mid-song break and the rapid-fire tempo changes of “Vieja” are radically alien and yet weirdly familiar in an age where younger bands regurgitate the same trope of verse/chorus/verse (and something fucked up in between for effect to keep their listeners’ attention). These guys were the best in their genre and it’s great listening all these years later, especially rediscovering the mini-track, “Your Better Half.”
LuxDeluxe: It’s a Girl (SpiritHouse Music) Since their formation in the mid-aughts at Pioneer Valley Performing Arts School, the Northampton, MA band has received accolades far and wide in the music industry for their unlikely performances and demonstrated capacity for creating nuanced songs that rival bands with longer history and chops. Well beyond their collective years, their sophomore effort showcases a young band that has soaked up more influences (try Nick Cave, or any great R&B band you can think of — weird, huh? ) than a sponge and yet sounds original, competent and self-assured. Frontman Ned King’s tremulous and powerful vocal range is riveting and takes center stage to the band’s flawless and well-orchestrated arrangements. It’s tough decision which to respond to first, the vocals or the flawless production values of this recording. If you’re a fan, or first time listener, you’ll find the track, “So Far Away” your summer jam. Soul, strings, hooks galore, and heart. Other tracks to keep coming back to: “Maybe Baby,” and “MTV.”
Kindling: Spike & Wave (Moon Sound Records) Easthampton, MA duo, Stephen Pierce and Gretchen Williams are a tonic to the soul with their My Bloody Valentine-esque, shoe-gazer pop revivalism. Their killer EP, Spike & Wave will validate that this genre is NOT dead and in fact, bloody well alive. It’s a quick listen but well worth it for the fuzzy and distorted squall of guitars, warbly sound production and totally enjoyable nostalgic sounds of that epic period of sound. Pick of the litter here, “Sunspots.”
Home Body: Guts (Self-released) The simplicity of Monatgue, MA synth duo, Eric Hnatow and Haley Morgan’s, Home Body, is just that. A primal scream for the current age, Guts, lays down the bare essentials which conjures up comparisons to earlier pioneers, Yaz, DNA and perhaps Hexes and Ohs. While the EP blips along, one hopes for a transcendent moment that never comes. Just a simple desire for a song that’s danceable, memorable and can be added to the annals of great synth pop. The closest they come to that expectation is the sassy “Tits to the Sky.”
Julie Beman: Movie (So Many Stars) Hartford, CT pop-songstress, Julie Beman has been on a roll lately, first, with her band, The Dress-Ups, and now with her first solo release. Produced by Amsterdam-based producer G.T. Thomas, Movie is a bona fide pop record; lush, sinewy, and totally accessible. A late bloomer, Beman came to music rather accidentally on a dare to herself. There’s not a bad apple on this EP, every song reaches it’s target effectively (“Hollyhocking” and “Crocus” being the standouts here). Pop music has never been this sunny.