Make 2017 Interesting Again

This year I’ve been compiling a playlist of everything that’s good in new music, particularly the Indie Rock scene. And while I understand that “interesting” is subjective, to me each of these tracks captivate in an original way.

So, if you’re like me and tired of hearing the same old same old on popular radio, or the same hard rock and psych rock riffs over and over again, let’s raise a glass to making 2017 interesting again!

Surf Curse, Slow Hollows, and Sadgirl at the Glass House

 

This past Thursday I headed to the Glass House in Pomona for the first time to catch a powerhouse of a lineup featuring Boyo, Sadgirl, Slow Hollows, and Surf Curse.

I arrived in time for the last few songs of Boyo’s set and then headed upstairs to view the rest of the show at a safe distance where I could actually see since the floor was already packed and I fully expected the moshing to break out during Sadgirl’s set. And I was not wrong! They delivered an impressive, high energy surf rock set complete with jangly guitar solos and ’50s rock vocals. Next Slow Hollows took the stage, this time featuring a sax and trumpet player on several of their tracks as well. They played mostly songs from their new album, Romantic, which features mostly mellow indie styles with deep vocals.  Continue reading

Indiecation Review: Women Fuck Shit Up Fest

This past weekend I headed to the Smell in Downtown L.A. to attend the annual Women Fuck  Shit Up Fest. Over 50 bands from all over the U.S. came out in support of the Alexandria House, a non-profit transitional residence for women and children.

The festival opened at The Smell, a narrow DIY venue that appeals to the all-ages crowd as there’s not a drop of alcohol in sight. Around 9 p.m., the neighboring Five Star Bar hosted comedy, zine reading, and several additional bands, several of which were not included in the lineup—which was just as well, since some of the bands that were on the lineup never took the stage, which was consistently about 30 minutes behind schedule. But with a massive lineup like that and a DIY style event, I can assume that cancellations and running behind just comes with the territory.

A wide range of talent was featured as many of the opening acts had only performed live maybe a handful of times. I had to shift gears a little bit from going into my critical side, as many of the acts did not have their shit together musically. But there was a sense of community that was achieved. There was no hating—only women coming together to “Fuck Shit Up” as subtly as they pleased.

And while there were some really stellar acts including Madame Gandhi, a stunning intimate set with Julia Nunes, the talented musicians in Sawyer Key, the bone-chilling Wolfprize, garage-pop outfit Soar, the love show from Disco Shrine and the Beirut inspired Minimall to name a few, I discovered that this was a submission-based festival and realized that the crew was probably aiming to be as inclusive as possible. It was a shame to hear that headliner Kimya Dawson had to back out, as she was one of the only acts I was familiar with. Bad Cop / Bad Cop followed suit, leaving a bit of a hole in the lineup towards the end of Sunday night.

Despite the punk rock branding of the event, there were few acts that had that punk energy, which is a shame because L.A. is crawling with amazing female fronted bands with that “umph” like Cherry Glazerr, the Regrettes, L.A. Witch, Kim and the Created whom all would have been perfect for something like this. Most of the bands, unfortunately, were in the alt rock realm. But Madame Gandhi was the embodiment of “fucking shit up,” as she came with a message ready and was the ultimate badass on her orange drum kit. She joked, “fucking shit up is like a regular Saturday for me,” and she was the real deal.

Check out some snaps from the weekend here!

 

Losing My Black Marbles

This past Thursday I ventured to the Pico-Union neighborhood of Los Angeles to catch Black Marble, co-headlining with Uniform at the Union—a nightclub tucked away between a residential neighborhood and shops, that also allows the audience to get up close and personal with the performers.

I arrived just in time for the first act to begin—a solo performer by the name of  Anzano. His glittering knight getup was intriguing and he opened the set with some trance-enducing industrial electronic music. The second opening act, Hive Mind was more noise-electro, this time sans vocals.  I was hitting “next” in my head, but it somehow wasn’t working, so instead I imagined the best way to describe what it was I was hearing. Electro pots n pans was the best I could come up with, and “doing” sound, rather than playing music. This electro-freakin’-Schoenberg did beg the question I’m sure we have all asked ourselves at some point, which is “at what point is art just mocking us?” You know, that time when found art became a thing and minimalism could equate to calling a blank canvas art and that was acceptable. The same can definitely be said for music, as everything Hive Mind produced appeared to be thought out and intentional, I can assure you that most people in the audience were just pretending to be into it. As I get older, I have a hard time pretending—pretending that I enjoy exercise or going camping or enjoying the hard rock revival and “noise” rock.

Then Black Marble finally took the stage nearly two hours later, and it was like a breath of cold fresh air. To me, they are everything I want to hear in emerging music—palatable goth music and new wave wrapped for this decade. This Brooklyn duo was as charismatic as any goth could be…reserved yet hoping for intimacy and the crowd was ready to reciprocate. They opened with “A Different Arrangement” and played basically all of their “hits” from both A Different Arrangement and It’s Immaterial. It was clear that most people in attendance were there for Black Marble, as the crowd meandered outside and then dwindled for metal duo, Uniform.

Things got angry inside for Uniform, as the atmosphere turned to moshing and screaming. I watched intently for a minute, but the sound was just a little much and I left feeling confounded by the lineup selection. Maybe because they have “Black” in the name, the booking agents thought Black Marble would also play some metal. Or maybe they were just going for a night of darkness and doom. It was a little baffling, but I was still riding on a high from the dreamy Black Marble set that I left feeling content.

Priests Prove Post-Punk Perseveres

This President’s Day (#notmypresident), I appropriately caught an all-female lineup at the Echoplex. Stef Chura and Alice Bag opened the show for Washington D.C. based post-punk outfit, Priests.

People began to filter in during Stef Chura, a Detroit based indie rock group as the trio filled the room with dreamy lo-fi sounds. The crowd was really excited to see L.A. punk icon, Alice Bag on the Echoplex stage. She was one of the founding members of the Bags, and was really essential in putting the Los Angeles punk scene on the map. Born and raised in East L.A., Bag’s music and lyrics are reflective of her upbringing, and her message inspires political activism. She sang some originals from her 2016 solo album, as well as some songs from The Bags, including “We Will Bury You” – a message she dedicated personally to the Tump administration. Her daughter even joined on stage as a backup singer, and it was a tender moment when Alice Bag made a brief but touching shoutout to her. In between songs, she spoke about feminism, consent, education, and Chicano and human rights. It was quite a movement of a set, and she and her band really brought the energy to match through catchy, punk rock tunes.

Continue reading

A Few of my Favorite Musings: February

Another month full of musings! From lineup-filled springs to new releases from faves Real Estate and Mac Demarco, and maybe a bit of love in the air, February was chock-full of musical inspiration. Without further ado, here are some of my feb faves:

Song

Mac Demarco – “This Old Dog”

I could listen to this on repeat anytime, anywhere. It’s everything one would expect in a new Mac Demarco track – reserved, composed, and luminous. This track and others will be included in his forthcoming album, which is set to be released on May 5th of Captured Tracks.

Album

Priests – Nothing Feels Natural

I was gifted the discovery of Priests when I was assigned to review their latest album for mxdwn.com, and I was delighted to discover this gem! This is indie rock at its finest. Check out my album review of Priests – Nothing Feels Natural here. My fave would have to be the title track.

You can also catch their upcoming show at the Echoplex on February 20!

 

Shows

With so many to choose this month, I have selected my top show destinations to share with you.

If you’re looking to get political… ACLU Fundraiser with Surf Curse, Care, and Kuromi @ The Smell – Feb. 19

If you’re riding the darkwave… Black Marble @ the union – Feb. 23

If you’re looking to get femme-spired… Moon Honey, Alina Bea, Liphemra, and Hour of the Time @ Non Plus Ultra – Feb. 25

If you’re ready to psych out… Desert Daze Caravan @ the Regent – March 4

So what has inspired you this February? Please share below!

xo,

Ilana.

 

Album Review: Surf Curse – Nothing Yet

If there was an anthem for millennials, this would be a front runner. With driving tracks clocking in at no longer than 3 minutes and track titles like “Doom Generation” and “All is Lost,” Nothing Yet caters to its disengaged youth.

Reno-based lo-fi, surf rock duo Jacob Rubeck  and Nicholas Rattigan’s music captivate and inspire from open close in Nothing Yet. Sure, there are plenty of groups like this around, but Surf Curse has a rawness and tenderness in its tracks that can only be uniquely described.

Closing track “Falling Apart” is one of the most stunning ballads I’ve heard with belting vocals and tender lyrics like “I’ll never quite be what people expect of me / I’m falling apart” and gentle chromatic “ooh’s” in the chorus, it’ll have you belting along with each verse, “Maybe I’ll just give in!”

“Sleeping” is another dreamy track about dazed summer flings that any youth can relate to. It’s simple, but worth staying awake for.

Most the other tracks have driving drums and strumming guitars. Opening track, “Christine F” sings “I’m killing my time / killing myself / killing my friends oh man, do it again” monotonously and repeatedly, setting the tone for the album, then moves into “Doom Generation” continuing the pulse. “The Strange and the Kind” is more melodic and features arpeggiated guitars and complimentary vocals, that sing “I’ll be Dazed and Confused all my life.” “It followed me” is pretty much the definition of lo-fi with warped guitars and simple vocals. “Cronnenberg” picks up the pace in “Doom generation Fashion” with a belting chorus. “Nostalgia” is also simple yet catchy.

“All is Lost” is the fastest and most mosh-worthy track with pinging guitars and driving beats and frustrated vocals but slows down toward the end, eventually coming to a halt, getting ready to slow the pace down and set the stage to close with “Falling Apart.”

What sets this album apart from the rest is the borderline King Krule attempt at angst-y vocals and overall just well-crafted and thought out tracks that are cohesive yet unique in their own way, proving that sometimes simple and low fidelity is better.

Take a listen here below and join them in Pomona with Slow Hollows next month!

 

 

GIRLSCHOOL 2017

This 3-day music festival invaded the Bootleg Theater in the Westlake neighborhood of Los Angeles, January 27-29, 2017. This year, Girlschool LA teamed up with Play Like a Girl (PLAG), NastyGal, and Lyft to put together a lineup featuring all female-fronted bands including headliners Chelsea Wolfe, Deap Valley, and the Bird and the Bee along with speakers including Shirley Manson from Garbage. All of the proceeds for this $45 a pop event will go toward the Rock and Roll Camp for Girls, encouraging young women to empower themselves through music.

I arrived on Friday night just in time to catch Shirley Manson’s interview with Eve Barlow in which the Garbage singer shared about sexism in the music industry and gold nuggets of wisdom including, “Women’s sexuality is the most powerful currency in the world,” so be careful who and where you show your body to.

“Women have to have each others’ backs.” –Shirley Manson, Garbage

She was also asked about the influence of celebrities in this political climate, to which she responded that change is more likely to happen at the grassroots level, and how the older she got the more she stopped trying to change people, and instead decided to be the change.  Continue reading

Black Marble – It’s Immaterial

Fans of dark wave and dream pop will unite over Black Marble’s sophomore album, Immaterial. Self-Described as “just New Order played through a trashcan,” it’s clear that these guys don’t take themselves too seriously and are truly humbled by their following.

I first heard Black Marble while watching the movie, Men, Women, and Children, in which “A Great Design” really struck a chord with me. I immediately Shazam’ed it and proceeded to spend the next month listening to A Different Arrangement in it’s entirety.

When Immaterial came out, I was hooked with “Frisk,” which is probably my favorite off the album. The danceable, yet dreamy synth and vocals paired with deliberate bass and constant arpeggios had me swaying on many a car ride. It was the definition of ‘up my alley’.

But if you choose to take a full listen, the album is filled with several more stunning tracks, including the delicate “Self Guided Tours” and softly driven, “It’s Conditional.” The album opens the scene to what sounds like a horror film with “Interdiction,” the 1:11 minute-long screeching instrumental track. The rest of the album is dark and eerie, but not in a screeching manner. There are clear influences of 80’s pop, dark wave and goth sounds of Bauhaus and New Order with quite faint vocals that simply add another layer of texture to the instrumentals.

Black Marble’s sound it not vocal heavy—in fact, everything has a purpose and each track has it’s own element of push and pull. They are not afraid to be minimal, but also have a knack for finding the perfect layers and textures of sound to incorporate. If SURVIVE were unavailable, perhaps Black Marble would have done the Stranger Things soundtrack justice.

Take a listen to It’s Immaterial below, and if you like what you year, scroll further for their Winter Tour dates!

 

black-marble-winter-tour

Check out Black Marble’s Facebook Page for tickets.

A Few of my Favorite Musings: January

This year I’m starting a monthly post of some of my favorites—artists, tracks, discoveries, shows, and videos that really shined during the month. Without further ado, here are my January musings:

Album:

Dear Nora: Mountain Rock (Reissue). This gem was placed in my lap via a writing assignment for my internship at mxdwn. Listening to the calming, gentle folk rock made the job so effortless, and when I put pen to paper, thoughts just flowed easily from my mind. Read my album review here and take a listen below to get lost in the mountains:

*Please note this is the 2004 version. You can purchase the reissue here.

Also catch Dear Nora this Thursday, January 19 at the Bootleg Theater in Los Angeles.

Song:

“Let it Happen” by Jon Bap

I came across this song on my Spotify Discovery playlist, which I listen to religiously each week. I loved it so much that it completely set the tone for my next playlist (coming soon!) Take a listen here and get lost in dreamy contemplation:

 

Show:

GIRLSCHOOL 2017 (Jan 27-29)

I’ve only been to two shows so far this month, one being in a Hollywood backyard and presented by Beating Lights who always put together really fun hangs, and the other being the Smell’s benefit show at the Belasco theater with Ty Segall, Bleached, Best Coast, No Age, Health and more.

But the show I’m anticipating this month will come later, as Girlschool L.A. will be taking over the Bootleg Theater on the evenings of January 27-29. I attended this festival last year and it was absolutely stellar—filled with powerhouse leading ladies in the indie, punk, hardcore, and pop scene, and kicking off with a panel discussion about what the industry is like for women, there was no lack of girl power to go around. This year Chelsea Wolfe will headline, which will take the weekend to a whole new level. So, get out your finest black and join me for these amazing female-fronted acts!

girlschool-2017

Purchase tickets to GIRLSCHOOL 2017 here.

That’s all I have for this month, but as my finds grow in number, so will this list! Have a suggestion or recommendation? Name it in the comment below!

xo, Ilana.