Cape Francis “Button Up”

Here’s something weird: this is the second review in a week where there’ll be a reference to a Motels song. Utterly coincidental I swear but yes, also weird. “Button Up” is a world weary pocket anthem where the daily grind of existence wrestles with life long dreams in a slow death match. The whole thing feels like it’s teetering on the precipice, full of tension and the feeling that things are about to tip over the edge at any second…which kinda brought to mind the aforementioned Motels old 1979 cult classic “Total Control”, another song living on that same knife edge. Point is it’s beautiful to the core. Cape Francis is Kevin Olken Henthorn and the album from which this is drawn, “Deep Water” is out in March and if it’s anything like his ridiculously fine full length from 2017 “Falling Into Pieces”, well, then we’re about to be blessed. Know what, have a listen to that below just because…beautiful.

 

BIB KIDS “100 Degrees”

BIB KIDS walked into Ed Zed’s domain & he’ll never be the same, please allow him to explain…

Anxiety is a feeling with which I’m intimately familiar. This is not necessarily a negative thing, as I honestly doubt I’d be able to function without it. Sometimes though, I’m whipped into a veritable lather of irrational anxiety when I consider that a certain beloved band out there amidst the teeming masses might never have crossed my path at all. (Like the state of being dead, I suppose one could argue that you wouldn’t know what you were missing, but that’s beside the point.)
Last night, on a chance recommendation I heard Auckland’s phenomenal BIB KIDS for the first time, and by god, that anxiety went into overdrive.
The duo’s new single ‘100 degrees’ is a deliciously menacing shock of avant-pop that bristles with energy, compelling the humble listener to rise to its feet in an immediate hangman’s dance.
A trance-y synth swirls in a foreboding vortex around an electronic beat that sounds pleasingly like it’s being played by an actual human as opposed to having merely been programmed by one.
This sets the scene for Tash van Schaardenburg’s magnificently insouciant vocal, slowly ratcheting up the track’s muggy tension with lines like ‘suns down, moons up / forecast says its rain / I feel the weather shifting / I feel my mind gone drifting / let’s talk about locality and this eventuality / when we go home just you and me / we’ll change the seasons in my sheets’.
This is strange, serrated pop at its very best. Stop what you’re doing, buy it now on Bandcamp, and look out for a BIB KIDS EP ‘Gimp Software’, released in March.
Do not miss it. End transmission.

 

Beauty Queen “Goner”

For the entirety of the 80’s, Madonna made pristinely wonderful pop records, and in some cases absolutely perfect ones ( “Into the Groove”, “Angel”).  “Goner”, the latest offering from Katie Iannitello’s latest project Beauty Queen is as if the bridge in “True Blue” became a whole song. It’s a lo-fi, straight up crying in the bathroom pop song that no matter where you ultimately hear it sounds like it’s emanating from an old car radio. There are distant traces of The Motels 1982 drama pop hit “Take the L” lurking inside of it as well and it’s a totally angelic thing.

Weekly New Wonders Playlist !

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This here is the first installment of Weekly New Wonders for 2019, the best new music we’ve heard over the past week. No long winded explanation to offer other than all of these have been on repeat and are extremely fine in a myriad of ways. Hope you find something to love, love, love. You can listen on Spotify or Soundcloud but please note the  playlists are slightly different as not all songs are available on both services.

Hear it on Soundcloud:

Hear it on Spotify:

https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/esperanza19/playlist/7aNhnt0SvZy1pWEfotYvCQ

 

Weekly New Wonders Playlist !

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This is the last Weekly New Wonders Playlist of 2018. A final handful to run over the credits…and then we’ll start again next week with the first gang of what’ll probably be hundreds of super fine songs that’ll be launched into the world in 2019. Am I allowed to say these are especially handsome because they totally are. Onward…

p.s. you can listen on Spotify or Soundcloud but please note there is one song that is only on Soundcloud as of this writing ( and it’s worth hearing) !

Hear it on Soundcloud:

Hear it on Spotify:

https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/esperanza19/playlist/7aNhnt0SvZy1pWEfotYvCQ

 

MorMor “Pass The Hours”

“Pass the Hours” glides seamlessly across the horizon, anchored by a fat, almost New Order-y bass line, and is lifted skyward by one heavenly ass falsetto on the chorus. It’s all very swoon- worthy. My age’ll show here but I can hear the ghost vibe of brilliant eighties UK soulsters Imagination lurking within this as well which is an undeniably rare and lovely thing.

Brandon Hoogenboom “Habit”

Brandon Hoogenboom’s main gig is as a member of tuneful and sweet band, Set Sail, but he’s now ventured out into the solo universe and sounds ridiculously good doing it. “Habit” is a heavy, string laden futuristic marriage of late sixties Beach Boys and Raspberries front man Eric Carmen’s solo seventies era sound, features some lush harmonizing, and a coda of fat crying guitar and is seriously kind of gorgeous.

2018 SONGS OF THE YEAR !

Thousands of songs were released into the world this year. Here are our 66 favorites.

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I know what you’re thinking. Oh no, not another one. The barrage of “Best of the Year” lists is making you sick. You think they are boring and are all filled with the same predictable choices. And… I see your point. You’d think with the thousands upon thousands of songs that get released every year there would be more variation. And okay, while there are a few things that we can universally agree were GOOD this past year, like say the boygenius EP, or Tierra Whack’s “Whack World”, the contents of these lists can appear kind of samey after you’ve perused a handful, especially from the bigger online publications. Yes. That is true. I agree with you…but I live in hope. No matter how samey they seem to get after even reading through 2 or 3, I am one of those people who takes the time to do it anyway. Not just so I can talk shiz about why a particular record should or shouldn’t be there ( mostly the latter), but also because maybe, just maybe, I’ll stumble upon something I haven’t heard before. There’s usually at least one exceptional oddball lurking amongst the familiar picks on these lists…but okay, wouldn’t it be way cooler if we lived in a world where these lists didn’t look anything like one another? One where there was no consensus on what was “good”? Where all the picks were all as weird, personal and WTF as they could possibly be? Imagine how deep the discovery rabbit hole could get then. Okay, that is probably an f-ing insane nerd thing to say, but we’ve gotta follow our hearts around here. And with that as our driving force, here is the official PICKING UP ROCKS 2018 SONGS OF THE YEAR LIST. It contains 66 heart-swellingly beautiful songs, each of which has been at the top of the charts here at PuR at some point over the past 12 months, which is to say they aren’t in any particular order. Also the “66” has nothing to do with Satan. It’s just that 100 songs always feels like way too much and whittling the list down to 50 proved to be an impossible task.  Or maybe it was Satan being a wise guy, it’s been that kind of a year. Anyway I truly hope you find it weird and maybe wonderful and that you stumble upon a song you have a deranged yet passionate affair with or at least discover an artist who gets you.

And THANKS to all these wonderful artists for all of these kick ass beautiful songs. Don’t stop. And THANKS to you for reading this far now or at any point during 2018. You are all songs of the year. THANK YOU.

Hear it on Soundcloud:

Hear it on Spotify:

https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/esperanza19/playlist/10w5s4Uwv2CCxV7y4shB7Z

  • Please note while each list is 66 glorious songs long, they are slightly different as not all songs are available on both streaming services ( just a few !)…which means you should check out both so you don’t miss anything !

 

 

Weekly New Wonders Playlist !

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We are working hard over here to put together our BEST SONGS OF THE YEAR PLAYLIST but that won’t get in the way of calling out the latest and greatest in new stuff…okay that is a lie, it totally did which is why there hasn’t been a Weekly New Wonders Playlist for the past couple of weeks. As a result this one here is pretty overfed and so it may require both the commute to and from work, and/or the entire wash and dry cycle to listen to in it’s entirety…but I swear it’s worth it as features some exceptional pop music, promise. And with that here it is…you can listen on Spotify or Soundcloud and please note, lists are slightly different as not all songs are available on each service, so take a peek at both so you don’t miss anything.

Soundcloud is here :

Spotify is here:

https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/esperanza19/playlist/7aNhnt0SvZy1pWEfotYvCQ

Backworlds we’ll go: Paul D’Amour on the Origins of Lusk’s Free Mars

Alicia Berbenick is a writer and musician from Brooklyn. She has an unnatural obsession for weird shit that she constantly needs to get down on paper. Here’s a story of one of those obsessions.

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It was April of 1998. I was at the tail end of my middle school years and all I cared about was music—new music in particular. One night I couldn’t sleep, so I snuck downstairs to the living room to watch MTV (which was outlawed in my home). 12 Angry Viewers was on, a show that only lasted two years but sought to introduce people to more subversive music. It was there in the early hours of the morning that my pre-teen self fell in love with a track named “Backworlds” by the supergroup Lusk. The video juxtaposed childhood innocence and nostalgia with blood-sucking, explosive violence. The song was equally jarring, luring me in with a poppy keyboard loop of an earworm, then exploding into this beautiful psychedelic chorus before it corrodes into uncomfortable, repetitive shouting. I’d never heard anything like it. The record was called Free Mars, a title that really spoke to the fiery, weird parts of me that felt suffocated by the world. I saved up, bought it at The Wall, and put it on repeat for the next 20 years.

It is a collage work of sounds pieced together by two brilliant musicians with the help of so many of their talented friends. To fans, Free Mars is one of the most underrated and overlooked records of the ’90s; yet there is little-to-no information out there about how the record was made. I wanted to see if I could get at the root of why it was so life-changing for some and passed up by too many, so I reached out to Paul D’Amour. D’Amour is an award-winning multi-instrumentalist, musician, composer and producer. Most fans probably remember him for his writing and signature bass sound on Tool’s Undertow. At the start of our conversation he mentioned more than once that “no one ever wants to talk about [Free Mars].” But beneath those comments, I thought I could hear the sound of a proud parent.

“Backworlds” won high ratings on MTV’s short-lived jury style show 12 Angry Viewers, giving it heavier rotation on the channel.

 

Let’s take it back to 1993. Tool was on tour promoting Undertow with Failure as an opening act. D’Amour became friends with their front-of-house soundman, Chris Pitman, as well as Failure’s bassist, Greg Edwards. The three (plus Ken Andrews of Failure) would mess around by playing pop songs during their down time, which led them to produce a covers record under the name Replicants. It gave D’Amour a taste of what it was like to explore other musical avenues and, during the writing stage of Ænima, D’Amour quit Tool. “I really just wanted to have some fun and not have rules, you know?” D’Amour said. “Playing in Tool, as far as [being] creative, there were too many rules in that band. The guitar player did the guitar player thing and the bass player did the bass player thing.” As great as the band was, having creative freedom was more important to him.

Fortunately the head of Volcano (Tool’s label at the time) recognized D’Amour’s talent and allotted him a budget to create something new. D’Amour wasn’t sure what it would look, feel or sound like yet, but he knew it would be a complete departure from Tool—something experimental and really out there. “Replicants kind of spurred the creative connections between [me, Chris and Greg]. I wanted to bring in another person, so I brought in Brad Laner from Medicine. He’s a great rhythmist and his guitar sound is pretty unique as well.” The four of them began jamming together, switching instruments and conjuring strange melodies. “Originally I kind of wanted to do more like a loopy, more arty thing. Not necessarily even songs” says D’Amour. “I just thought we were going to jam and make some loops and  turn it into [something] a little more loose and psychedelic; like some of those early PiL records.“ The one thing that was clear: this record would be made with zero rules—from committing to first takes down to the harpist’s wild laugh, lingering after a track.

In the beginning, the four would meet and lay down tracks at the famed Alley Studios in North Hollywood; a place known for its early ’70s connections to artists like Three Dog Night and Jackson Browne and would later host musicians like Tom Petty and Kurt Cobain. “We were living around the corner [from Alley], so we just popped in one day and sorta got friendly with them. All the walls are just padded with blue jeans ,” he laughs. “And there’s layers of resin on the walls. It’s one of those places where you know shit went down in there.” But as Edwards and Laner became busier with other projects, D’Amour and Pitman gradually took the reigns as co-producers. “We started bringing in some other people, like Danny [Carey] from Tool, and Kellii Scott from Failure [to play drums]. We brought in a friend of Chris’s, [Dana Wollard], who was an amazing cellist and we had a harp player, [Patti Hood]. [Chris and I] basically took the ball and ran with it with what originally started in the Alley.” The two set up their own mini recording studios and, using more affordable ADAT machines, were able to finish the record.

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As far as influences go, D’Amour drew from a few places. It’s been said that this record was a concept album revolving around Iain Banks’ novel The Wasp Factory. This isn’t completely true. “I don’t think, as we were creating, that we were thinking about that book,” he says. “It just sort of made the rounds in my circle at the time. It was dark and transitory. Certainly, the imagery was really powerful.” If anything, the “Backworlds” video (directed by Len E. Burge III and D’Amour) is loosely based on a traumatic scene from the novel. In addition, D’Amour was heavily into reading old paperback sci-fi novels, so much of his lyrics would revolve around that brand of futuristic otherworldliness. In terms of influences, he was listening to a lot of Richard Davies’ work—particularly the Cardinal’s 1994 self-titled record. In both records you can also catch the influence of Beach Boys’ harmonies (another of D’Amour’s mentions). But where both of those influences were lighter, almost positive in contrast, Free Mars is an unpredictable carnival ride, bordering on the horrific, filled with dark corners of discovery and technological mystique.

As far as writing sessions went, whoever was available would get together and jam. A melody would bubble up to to surface and they’d write around that, usually with Pitman and D’Amour left to build off of what was recorded in The Alley. “We spent quite a bit of time with our harpist and the cellist,” he says. “So there’s a lot of great layers in there with them.” We’re talking about the kinds of layers that sometimes you only catch on your 86th listen, where a new sound will seem more present than before—a guitar solo floats over the top of that melody you’d previously focused on or some old haunting operatic sample peeps out from underneath rollicking keys. When asked which song was his favorite, D’Amour named “Mindray”.  “I wrote all the lyrics and really put some thought into that [song]. I think that one was like, all right, we’re done with this whole ‘jamming’ thing—let’s just actually focus and get real.” One listen to the track and you’ll hear its reverberations through the rest of the album. A sluggish drum shuffle takes you on a meandering journey through sweeping harp, layered orchestral keys and wailing guitars. The vocals capitalize on that Beach Boys harmonic influence, but are turned strange through an oscillating pedal effect.

“I think Mindray is probably my favorite…that one definitely set the tone for a few other [songs].” – Paul D’Amour

 

Other tracks borrow in one way or another from this loopy underwater vibe, both soothing in effect and paranoia-inducing in its darkness. The record runs the genre-bending gamut of sounds; from soaring epics like “Free Mars” and “Doctor” to the infectious pop found on “Backworlds” to a heavier kind of art rock on “Kill the King”. Yet a strong thread of addictive melodies prevents this record from ever feeling disjointed.

The title Free Mars and CD’s artwork and Digipak® design, too, borrowed from D’Amour’s interest in Sci-Fi paperbacks. “I had a huge box of them. I tried to mock some of those early print styles and some of the ways they used those old illustrations.” Free Mars would be nominated in 1998 for a Grammy for Best Recording Package (alongside Ænima). Both lost to Titanic: Music as heard on the Fateful Voyage, which, it’s worth mentioning, used a similar illustrative design to Free Mars.

Lusk would go on to do a short tour in small clubs, complete with Patti Hood on harp and Chris Wyse on upright bass. Unfortunately, this is where Lusk would come to an end. “Some rich dude bought our record label and he just drove the whole company into the ground in a matter of months. We’d had huge tours booked but we couldn’t do that without more support. Other labels were possibly interested, but [the head of Volcano] wouldn’t return anyone’s phone calls. [Chris and I] couldn’t do anything. It took the wind out of the sails of the project.” Though funding couldn’t save Lusk, we at least are left with a record that was born out of complete creative freedom and a rebellion from over-production. A record like this simply could not happen again…maybe that’s why its fans still obsess over it.

Today Free Mars isn’t on Spotify and, during this interview, D’Amour mentioned he had to make a few calls to fix the listing in iTunes. Fans can still find CDs on Discogs as well as a few LP pressings out there.* And the album lingers in our minds in other ways—like the recent report that another mine appeared in the Seattle Bay area, close to where D’Amour and Burge filmed the video for “Backworlds.” He laughs and confesses, “The mine from that video? We just left on the beach and it caused all kinds of trouble.” The mine that was found this past August was apparently from a 2005 Naval exercise and, though it was inert, still caused a little scare for the locals. Talk about resurfacing. As for what’s next, D’Amour and Pitman are currently working on a new project. It won’t be like Lusk, he says, but it will be something completely new and heavier. You can watch for it, along with all his score compositions for upcoming projects, on D’Amour’s website.

*Ed. Note: If you want the complete record, including “My Good Fishwife” and the secret track “Blaire’s Spiders”, you have to buy the CD or digital version. Those two tracks are not on the LP.