An average of a billion rock tracks are uploaded to the Internet each day, leaving music fans with more than a glut to wade through. Hive’s Martin Douglas is here to do your dirty work for you, with this all new, monthly round-up of the 10 best indie-rock tracks you need to put in heavy rotation.
1. La Luz, “Brainwash”
Remember back in 2009, when every all-girl band even tangentially influenced by classic girl-group records was tied together as a scene supposedly revitalizing that particular sound? Seattle surf-rock queens La Luz are not only direct descendants of groups like the Crystals and the Shirelles, their recently-released seven-inch sounds like it was plucked right from the classic Girls in the Garage compilation. While Damp Face — my personal pick for 2013’s best EP so far — showed an insane amount of promise, “Brainwash” finds La Luz capitalizing on that promise early by crafting a picture-perfect pop tune.
2. The Mallard, “Crystals & Candles”
We here at Hive have not exactly been shy about our love for this Bay Area group, and as the old saying goes, no good deed goes unpunished. After releasing last year’s stellar Yes on Blood, arguably the best psychedelic/avant garage-punk record this side of Women’s 2010 opus Public Strain, the Mallard took a page from the Calgary band’s playbook and broke up amidst showing the world the peak of their songwriting powers. With its militaristic drumming, whirring guitars, and frontwoman Greer McGettrick’s seance shopping list and distrust of ulterior motives, “Crystals & Candles” is the highlight of their posthumous Finding Meaning in Deference (out July 30th via Castle Face). The song finds the Mallard knee-deep in stirring post-punk as well as they did off-center garage and saying goodbye as memorably as they said hello.
3. Crystal Stilts, “Star Crawl”
One of the many great things about Crystal Stilts is that regardless of the myriad styles they explore (think the glittery, pulsating “Shattered Shine” or the creepy forward lurch of “Alien Rivers”), they only sound like themselves. As the first taste of their forthcoming LP, the awesomely-titled Nature Noir (available September 17th courtesy of Sacred Bones), the Brooklyn band adopts a vintage R&B bounce to go with their unmistakably jangly guitars and Brad Hargett’s tortured croon. Stately and shimmering, “Star Crawl” makes yet another sterling effort from one of America’s very best psych-pop bands.
4. Twin Peaks, “Irene”
If your tastes in guitar music are anything like mine, the idea of a group of 19-year-olds dropping out of school to play garage-rock tinged with Deerhunter-esque dreamy-but-depressive beauty (named after David Lynch’s signature creepy soap opera!) veers extraordinarily close to a platonic ideal. Of course, the highlight of their recently released album Sunken finds the Chicagoan quartet playing up their most Deerhunter-y tendencies (a balmy, alluring guitar line and a steady, driving tempo) while not sacrificing their own upbeat energy. Not to mention its lightly tinged melancholy makes it a perfect soundtrack for the waning breaths of summer.
5. Hunx and His Punx, “You Think You’re Tough”
The big takeaway from Street Punk, the new album from rock-’n-roller-rink crew Hunx and His Punx, is that its title is refreshingly literal; the twelve songs are fast, rough around the edges, and described in the press release as “hateful.” Of course, the latter is mostly a half-truth, as evidenced by the Shannon Shaw-led “You Think You’re Tough,” a minute-and-a-half long dressing down of someone with a heightened self-perception which suddenly changes course into a punked-out love song tinged with regret. Though it’s not the type of golden oldie associated with her other band (the truly excellent Shannon and the Clams), “You Think You’re Tough” is certainly a showcase of Shaw’s songwriting talent.
6. Scraper, “Alien Eyes”
Seemingly carrying the guttural punk torch of Flipper, the highlight from Scraper’s debut EP is pretty much the audio equivalent of getting mugged. It starts off with pummelling force and a threatening voice shredding his vocal cords yelling at you, then the pace picks up and things really get violent. Recorded by Ty Segall and Eric Bauer (who are really making a name for themselves as the Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis of garage-punk), “Alien Eyes” intends to overwhelm with its scrambled guitars and inescapable paranoia, but not to the point where it prevents any punk music lover from listening to it a million times in a row.
7. The Garden, “Interrupt”
Twin brothers with high cheekbones. Amateur couture models. The newest stars of the already-air-tight Burger Records roster? Before the bizarre start of their modeling careers made the press rounds, Orange County punks Wyatt and Fletcher Shears had just recorded their weirdly conceptual debut The Life and Times of a Paperclip, fifteen songs about inanimate objects and one titled “I’m a Woman.” Like the rest of the songs on the album, what you see is what you get on the record’s highlight; after sloppy drumming and a low surf riff, the central lyric of “Interrupt” is “Wait! Just let me speak! Just let me speak!” It’s just over a minute of uncomfortable tension and sharp pop instincts.
8. Franz Ferdinand,“Right Action”
Franz Ferdinand are in a weird place in their career right now. In spite of crafting consistently great poppy post-punk tunes throughout the nine or so years since the alternative radio mega-hit “Take Me Out,” they’re neither a mainstream staple in America nor an eternal critical deity. Which is a shame, because singles like “Right Action” are miles better than much of what constitutes as a rock radio hit nowadays. It has a huge chorus, it’s — as Franz Ferdinand always has been — arty enough to remain interesting, and it has a sense of rhythm akin to dearly departed dance-rock lynchpins (and friends of Franz) LCD Soundsystem. To think they’ve been doing this more or less with unwavering quality for almost a decade is baffling.
9. Regal Degal, “Unseen”
One night during a springtime Los Angeles trip this year, I went to see Iceage play a 20-minute set at the Echoplex, and afterwards, my friends took me to some back-alley DIY space where there were drapes, light projectors, and a huge swastika painted on the wall. The headlining band — a group I’d never heard of, called Regal Degal — played a brand of noisy post-punk with a bunch of elements blended in, mostly psychedelia and afro-pop, with a little of whatever you’d classify Ariel Pink as for good measure. “Unseen,” the first single from their forthcoming Terrible Records EP, is a combination of both what I heard and saw that night; swirling colors, swaying drumming, and melodies tough to shake from the brain.
10. Temples, “Shelter Song”
In the tradition of neo-psych bands like Dungen and Tame Impala, the Kettering, England-based Temples deftly combine the vintage with the modern. “Shelter Song” pulls off the sort of sonic alchemy that makes psych-rock fans’ ears perk up: Crackling drums, kaleidoscopic guitars and keyboards, and syrupy vocals that reference The Twilight Zone. If you’re ever looking for good music to trip to — and honestly, who isn’t? — play “Shelter Song” on repeat and find yourself a lava lamp from somewhere.