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Pet Ghost Project
Originally the recording project of one Justin Stivers, Pet Ghost Project reminds us of the halcyon days of, what else, 90s indie-rock, when rehearsal spaces were littered with empty beer bottles and stacks of cassette tapes, full of schizophrenic 4-track recordings that captured the spirit of that day and that day only. Distorted, squiggly guitars are intertwined with high-impact keyboards and vocals that are content to add texture as opposed to stealing scenes. Stivers has released a huge amount of music already, and as the one-time bassist for the Antlers, it should come as no surprise that he's got a pronounced flare for the dramatic. Refreshingly, though, he steers clear of the melodrama. Now more of a full band than at any other time in the past, they've got a new full-length, Shelf-Life, set for release this year.
God, we seriously love it when bands have a song named after themselves. What we don't love, though, is that at the time of this writing, only 38 people have listened to "Shark?" by Shark? on their MySpace page. We also don't love that this question mark, officially part of their name, is making this whole thing very difficult to read. Anyway, let's do this: Modern Lovers, Go Betweens, Pavement, and, sorry, but the Strokes, at least insofar as they've perfected the sound of not caring while clearly caring very much. It's grimy and blaring, but there's also a noticeable elegance to their best material, where they build something beautiful and serious, only to knock it down and laugh at it. Lo-fi with a purpose, basically.
What we have here is a perfectly executed take on gloomy, 80s-style post-punk most identified with smarty-pants outsiders Felt, Orange Juice and, obviously, Joy Division. But the California-bred, Brooklyn-based duo adds to the equation a penchant for instrumental flourishes that are as technically impressive as they are tasteful.
There's something you should know about Food Stamps: They're so totally Brooklyn 2010, as their somewhat tasteless band name can attest. It's almost as if they're asking to be pegged with hipster stereotypes, but being in Brooklyn in 2010 also means having the opportunity to make exactly the kind of music you want to make. The boy-girl duo opts for pitting speak-sung vocals against a mix of guitar and programmed beats, coming off like a less-abrasive, pop-oriented version of Sleigh Bells. At the end of the day, they're two kids who made a wildly catchy EP, which is something no one—not even the anonymous "meh" guy on BrooklynVegan—should oppose.
Honest? With no MySpace page and virtually no information about these guys online, they exist almost exclusively on Pitchfork after having been granted a coveted "Best New Music" tag in early March for their track "Go Outside." We read what P-fork had to say, listened to the song, and suddenly felt like high-fiving strangers. That said, we can't claim to have found Cults on our own, but we knew we had to do our small part and help spread the word about them. The three tracks on their Bandcamp page—pared-down, Fisher-Price versions of something by Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros with glockenspiel, bouncy piano and childlike vocals—point to a band that could be really special. Pass the Kool-Aid, man.
Akudama should've had a cameo on The OC. Seth Cohen would totally dig 'em, with their accessible, everyman take on classic indie and touches of nerd rock, plus their song "Dishes" reminds us of Phantom Planet. Rogue Wave comes to mind as well, especially in how frontman Blake Charleton's natural, unpretentious vocals roll over air-tight arrangements marked by an obvious focus on hooks. Then there are songs like "Sun (From Underneath the Lake)" and "Fireflies." Here they step things up with cascading melodies, caveman drumming, prickly guitars and punctuating shouts, giving current buzz band Local Natives a run for their money in the "best band to encompass more than three current indie-rock trends in one song" category.
Led er Est
There's a bit of cruelty in the fact that the minimal synth revival's first breakout band, Cold Cave, came from Philadelphia of all places. New York's had a colder, truer scene for years, though its finest full-length triumph just came with Led er Est's debut, Dust on Common, released late last year by local alpha-gloom label Wierd Records. This most subterranean of sub-genres has trouble sucking in anyone who doesn't specifically go searching for it, but Led er Est makes smart, romantic, if unabashedly dark pop that should appeal to any soul resentful of being spoon-fed a cozy beach holiday.
Feel like the city's bands are just a little too easy to categorize? Fancy yourself a cutting-edge type who assumes that Brooklyn's resurgent cassette culture is pointless format nostalgia? Wanna hear something odd? All nodding heads are encouraged to track down Human Resources', Fast Times c15 tape (or at least download it like a reasonable person). You'll find clatter-drones that surprise with bursts of wit rather than endless expanse, and the wobbly, floating heartbreak of "Song for Karen" burning out after only a minute. And that's before the sarcastic pop chaos of "Yellow Cake," which is delightfully baffling enough that it's unclear whether it's actually about illicit uranium or office birthday tedium, as both seem totally plausible.
With such a large portion of music made these days coming from people who came of age in the grungy glow of the 90s, its token slacker rock has become a go-to influence for what seems like every other band in the city. Diehard is another with undying respect for the decade, it's just that they hone in on all the best aspects and leave out the bad, which is to say there are guitars—driving, crunchy and distorted, just so. Boy-girl harmonies recall the Rentals, precise arrangements are played with reckless energy like Superchunk, and everything's cloaked in the pop fuzz of Lou Barlow's Sebadoh. We're going to totally mail-order their debut EP, Oh So Premier, and blast it from our compact-disc player.
Catching up with the Class of '09
Mar 31, 2010