Friday, April 21, 2017

EP Corner: Four Songs Too Long by Low Horizon

Low Horizon are a band from Houston, Texas. There are currently four people in the band - John Gottlieb, Brandon T. Cane, David Dao and Jasmine Fuller - but it wasn't always thus. In fact, Low Horizon's website is home to this rather ambitious Venn diagram that maps out all the present and former members and the things they have in common:

You see, the band were originally a three-piece, and when two of the three members went off to medical school in 2015 it looked like the sun had set on Low Horizon. But John - the one remaining member - decided to keep going, and with the blessing of his former bandmates Jack and Travis he rebuilt Low Horizon from the ground up, re-recording their songs in his home studio and recruiting a new group of collaborators to help him keep the fire burning.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Fly Towards the Moon: Q&A with Morgan Murphy from Mothpuppy

Maryland band Mothpuppy make scuffed-up indie rock music that, in spite of its slightly melancholy side, is as warm and as comforting as that well-worn, increasingly threadbare jumper that you've had in your wardrobe for as long as you can remember. Their new LP Cool & Pretty is out now and Sad Cactus Records, and the band's singer/guitarist Morgan Murphy very generously agreed to answer a few of my questions about the album and how it came to be...

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The Album Wall: So why did you call your band 'Mothpuppy'?

Morgan Murphy: I don't really have an interesting answer for that! It's something that people were calling me in my first year of college, and I couldn't think of anything else when I made my Bandcamp page. And then it stuck and people wouldn't let me change it.

TAW: Ha. And here I was looking at it and thinking 'ooh it's so interesting how they've put a universally reviled creature alongside a universally adored creature, I wonder what it means???'

MM: Ha, well I do love moths and puppies alike so maybe that was part of the reasoning.

TAW: What do you like about moths?

MM: I think they're beautiful and super-interesting to look at. Someone told me the reason they're attracted to light is because they're always trying to fly towards the moon - I'm not sure if that's true, but it's a nice thought.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Beautiful Bugs: Cool & Pretty by Mothpuppy

Kittens and puppies are cute. Moths and fleas are gross. Boys are tough; girls are pretty. Violins belong in orchestras, whereas electric guitars belong in garages. Good is good and bad is bad and everything is either one or the other.

These are the sort of pointless divisions and categorisations and over-simplifications in which Mothpuppy chew all kinds of holes on their new LP Cool & Pretty. Led by singer/guitarist Morgan Murphy, the Baltimore band revel in putting things in the wrong boxes, or even in emptying all of the boxes onto the carpet and just mixing everything together. The result is a raggedy slacker-indie album that's incongruously decorated with golden ribbons of gorgeous, mournful violin - ribbons that bring out the gorgeous, mournful side of the songs themselves. On the face of it, these songs are about drinking cranberry juice and taking out the bins, but on a deeper level, they're really about seeing the beauty in the things everyone else perceives as ugly.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Through a Kaleidoscope: Q&A with Philippa Zang

Philippa Zang's album Embarrass Yourself came out earlier this year on No Dice Tapes and it's an oddball DIY pop gem - listening to it feels like getting a fresh start in a sweet new world of fun opportunities and video games and oversized jumpers. There are lots of different feelings and ideas packed into its twelve little tracks, and I was lucky enough to ask Philippa a few questions in order to get to know the album better...

The Album Wall: Please introduce yourself - who are you and what should everyone know about you?

Philippa Zang: I am Philippa and I come from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania but am currently living in Dresden, Germany. I love the guitar, language and mango juice, and I don't trust rules or gender.

TAW: Why is your new album called Embarrass Yourself?

PZ: 'Embarrass yourself” was something I wrote absent-mindedly on the cover of a notebook when i first arrived in Germany in September. At the time it felt like everything I did had the potential to be embarrassing - I was in a country where I didn't know anyone and didn't speak the language. It was necessary for me to put myself in uncomfortable situations in order to open up even small opportunities and build a new home for myself abroad.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Standing Where The Point Used to Be

I am standing on Mount Stuart Square, about five hundred yards from the waters of Cardiff Bay. It is a warm and sunny April evening - the busiest part of the day is over, and aside from a few stray pedestrians and the odd seagull, the street is more or less deserted.

Before me looms the spire of St Stephen's, a Gothic-style church and Grade II listed building that has stood on this corner for more than a hundred years. Back in the noughties, this place was a 500-capacity music venue called The Point; I can still remember spilling out onto this very pavement, exhausted and ecstatic, in the middle of a sticky August night in 2006. Broken Social Scene had just finished a gargantuan two-hour set, plus multiple encores, and I (a shaggy-haired GCSE student, just barely fifteen years old) had been in the thick of the crowd for the whole thing, jumping around and sweating buckets and shouting for them to play I'm Still Your Fag. That show at The Point remains one of the best gigs I've ever attended - The Rolling Stones were also in town that night for a concert at the Millennium Stadium, and I must say that I feel a little sorry for the thousands of people who spent the evening with Keith and Mick instead of with Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning and goodness knows how many others.

Monday, April 10, 2017

How Do You Wish You Felt? - Embarrass Yourself by Philippa Zang

I first came across Philippa Zang's music on The Le Sigh, who premiered the short 'n' sweet video for Zang's track how do u feel last month.

Perhaps it's just the sight of that animated pink teacup smiling alongside his cracked brethren on a charity shop shelf, but how do u feel makes me feel really weepy. (Weepy in a happy sort of way, mind you - not the sort of weepy you get when Ellie dies at the beginning of Up, but the sort of weepy you get towards the end of the film when Carl finds her 'Thanks for the adventure - now go have a new one!' message.)

"How do you feel? How do you wish you felt?"

Friday, April 7, 2017

Happy Birthday Barafundle (Guest Post)

Barafundle, the fourth LP from off-kilter Carmarthenshire outfit Gorky's Zygotic Mynci, came out on the 7th of April 1997 - exactly twenty years ago today. Christophe from La Forme has written a few words to mark the occasion.

A sharp contrast to the bloated rock star posturing of Oasis's Be Here Now and the pre-millennial stress of Radiohead's OK Computer, Barafundle arrived in April 1997, seemingly cut off from all current trends and influences and with none of the bullish, misplaced self-confidence of the 'Britpop' that preceded it. Instead, Gorky's Zygotic Mynci created their own world of childhood memories and half-remembered stories from the Welsh coast and furnished it with a wide array of delicate, imaginative acoustic instrumentation.

Over sixteen brisk tracks, Barafundle celebrates the simple pleasures of visiting relatives, good weather, warm fires, and growing up in West Wales. Musically, the band file back the often dizzying psychedelic eccentricities of their previous albums and replace them with spacious acoustic arrangements, soft brass, and odd medieval flourishes. This approach gives the band's wonderful melodies and harmonies clarity and space to breathe.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

EP Corner: Halogen Days by Vassals

There's an edgy, insomniac nervousness to Halogen Days, the new EP from Brooklyn band Vassals. Shay Spence's staccato basslines twitch like sleep-deprived eyes as she sings of nights spent awake and days spent wandering around in an aimless daze, squinting in the fuggy sunlight.

Monday, April 3, 2017

No Faith in the Future: We All Want the Same Things by Craig Finn

The artwork for Craig Finn's new album We All Want the Same Things depicts a sodden motorway beneath a dismal grey sky. Red brake lights glow weakly in the rain, and the cars ahead slow to a crawl as they approach some unseen obstruction. Has there been an accident? A collision, a collapsed bridge? Or is it just ordinary congestion...?

Uncertainty about the future is kind of a central theme for this LP. Finn reminds us that nobody can really know what lies ahead; all we can do is try our best to be ready for it. The penultimate line of the album's final track, Be Honest, is as follows:

"If revolution's really coming then we all need to be well"

We All Want the Same Things is an album for interesting times, and its release was very well timed indeed because there are a lot of interesting things happening on both sides of the Atlantic right now. Theresa May triggered Article 50 last week, which means that the Brexit process is now officially underway, while over in America Donald Trump and his team are still battling allegations of Russian involvement in last year's presidential election. Right now it feels nearly impossible to predict where we'll all stand next week - let alone in a couple of years' time - and for that reason, We All Want the Same Things feels like the perfect set of songs for this moment in history. Unimaginably huge changes could be just around the corner for all of us, and so the important thing to do right now is to look after yourself and embrace the here and now.