On "Tell Me,' it's still a cold, cold world for Soft Metals as cloudy vocals drift over an analog house beat and metallic, eternally-delayed synthesizer swirls. The Los Angeles duo does what they do well – intergalactic crime driving music for both past and future. Hear more when their new one, Lenses, drops on Captured Tracks July 16.
With his debut LP The Arsonist on the way March 19, André Obin has let another track slip in the foggy majesty of "Lemondrop." With its piles of synths, Obin hits all the right shoegaze buttons as the vocals flange away and the bass/drum combo encourages sad-man dancing.
On Clash The Truth, their second album, Beach Fossils ditch some of the youthful escapism for a more clear-eyed, socially-conscious worldview. Those jangly, heavenly guitars? They're still there, but this go-around there's more immediacy and a fuller organic sound. It feels like there's something on the line, so we got frontman Dustin Payseur to go On The RCRD and tell us about the joys of Miles Davis, his meditation aspirations and why the best artists sound lost in their own heads.
Life changing record for you was…
Miles Davis – The Blue Note And Capitol Recordings. I first heard this on CD when I was a teen and strictly only listened to 80's punk. It blew my mind and changed everything about the way I looked at music.
What people, outside of music, have influenced you over the last year?
Gilbert & George, Roy Andersson, Carl Sagan.
What did you learn about yourself and/or the world at large the last time you made a record?
It was a huge learning experience, and always is. Putting yourself out there, exactly how you were and where your head was at during a specific time in your life, it's totally bizarre. You learn a lot about yourself when you look back at what you've done and who you were. Every time I finish a record I step away for a bit and when I come back I feel like I'm a total stranger to who I was at that point.
What gift would you most like to possess?
Enlightenment through meditation. My mind wanders so much, I wish I could sit down long enough to see the beauty in how none of this matters. Complete universal neutrality.
What quality do you admire most in a song?
Power, passion, honesty. I like to feel that the artist was completely lost inside of their head.
What's your take on the music business in 2013?
The music business is a joke for the most part, but a small percentage of it is genuine. The musicians themselves are great. There are a lot of amazing records coming out this year.
Best instrument ever invented was...
I'd narrow it down to sitar, harpsichord, clarinet, cello, piano, harp, saxophone. I realized after saying that, I basically described "Journey in Satchidananda" by Alice Coltrane.
With topless women, a Sky Ferriera cameo, rainbows and direction by Sandy Kim, the (yes, NSFW) video for DIIV's "Wait" is a VHS wonder to get you all tranced-out. You can find the song on the band's still-quite-fantastic Oshin album – out now and forever via Captured Tracks.
On "Native America," Phil Jones' Dog Bite project drops the third preview for its upcoming Velvet Changes with an exuberant dose of sonic dust and water. It's dreamy as hell, but the galloping rhythms and sharp melodies keep things from getting too cloudy. Hear more February 5 via Carpark Records.
On "Thick As Thieves," RCRD LBL favorites Widowspeak provide the third dreamy taste of their upcoming Almanac LP. This one waltzes its way into danger – a torch song filled with descending drama that sounds like it was made by a gang fleeing from melancholy pirates. Hear more January 22 via Captured Tracks.
This year in indie rock seemed like both a return to professionalism and a retreat to the barebones scuzz of historical garage theatrics. Here are some very good songs in playlist form and an overview of the genre's most notable developments in 2012.
Captured Tracks - This Brooklyn label was my favorite musical body in 2012. With a concrete aesthetic yet no real redundancy, artists like DIIV, Wild Nothing, Mac DeMarco and Chris Cohen made compelling, unique music that was a perfect soundtrack to both Friday night revelry and bummed window-staring during rainstorms. These days, it's rare to find a standalove label that guarantees reliability for a certain type of listener, but Captured Tracks harkens back to the era where that was a legitimate possibility.
Return Of Rock - It seemed like ROCK really came back in 2012. Whether it was The Men shredding your heart out, Ty Segall releasing a million enjoyable albums or Tame Impala rewriting the book of psychedelia with computers for a new era, there was an widespread back-to-basics approach that supported music with intensity, emotion, technical skill and, most importantly, some real teeth to it.
Veterans Make Good - If you're smart, you don't expect good things to last forever, but it was a huge plus to have gold standard indie acts like The Walkmen, Beach House and Cat Power continuing to make great songs. Did they rewrite the book? Not really, but these acts pushed their artistry forward and found new maturity and heights of expression.
Laptops Are Dead - Since 2009 or so, it seemed like so many acts were making half-songs in their bedroom and then racking-up critical acclaim without a full band. Then they played live too soon and everything was horrible in the world. This year, either the best bedroom producers rose to the top or everyone got bored of hearing drums produced with wooden spoons on a card table. The return to studio quality – in both songcraft and production value – was a welcome development.
The Walkmen - Heaven
Beach House - Lazuli
Chris Cohen - Optimist High
The Babies - Moonlight Mile
Cat Power - Manhattan
Lotus Plaza - Dusty Rhodes
Twin Shadow - Run My Heart
Parquet Courts - Borrowed Time
Foxygen - Waitin' 4 U
Here We Go Magic - How Do I Know
DIIV - Wait
Wild Nothing - This Chain Won't Break
Tame Impala - Nothing That Has Happened…
King Tuff - Alone & Stoned
Ty Segall Band - I Bought My Eyes
The Men - Open Your Heart
Mac DeMarco- Cooking Up Something Good
Dirty Projectors - Swing Lo Magellan
While I generally avoid posting 'holiday music' for the simple reason that it's actually the worst thing ever, this cover of Paul McCartney's "Wonderful Christmastime" by NYC rockers Ex Cops is just too sublime. With its nasally distorted vocals and explosive dynamics, it pays tribute to Christmas while showing-off why Ex Cops' signature sound is so catchy. Hear more when their fantastic album True Hallucinations drops January 22 via Other Music Recording Co.
After the lovely table-setting "Ballad Of The Golden Hour," Widowspeak return from the woods with another single from the upcoming Almanac. "The Dark Age" takes a, well, darker turn with winding guitars, singer Molly Hamilton implying sadness in the breathiest tone possible and even some slick soloing action. Hear more when the full LP drops on January 22 via Captured Tracks. It's really good!
After taking a mini-break to work on other projects, almighty jangly post-punkers Beach Fossils are back and sounding better than ever on "Careless." It's the first preview from their upcoming Clash The Truth LP (February 19 on Captured Tracks), and features galloping drums, submerged guitars snaking around each other and a trebly, melodic bass line that should make and break hearts through to spring.