Record Store Day was yesterday. I didn't go. I was even a block from Flashback Records on Essex Road. I don't disagree with the day - I'm hoping that stores like Flashback had an amazing day - it's more what major labels have done to the day, and how that negatively influences bands and small independent labels. But I'm not here to give you the breakdown of RSD - I'm gaffer-taping my proverbial mouth before this post gets politicised. Instead I want to revel in the fact it's a Sunday - and time for another Hits From The Box.
I was talking to a mate Graham about Metz yesterday, so it seems fitting to kick things off with London band Crows, who will be supporting the band on their return here in June. The four-piece released the smoky grey 7" Crawling/Pray last month, and it's a goddamn punch to the gut. 'Crawling' plays out firstly like a loud and fairly decent rock track, until things start winding down, the dirge filters through, the riffs bend, the vocals waver - and you feel like you are indeed crawling, over a sea of bleached bones. 'Pray' cranks it up, a dirty blues racket that has been covered in chrome and dropped into a pit of cement, only for the siren wail guitar to call forth the fever in the final third of the track. Great way to get the grit stuck in your teeth.
Let's head to Perth, Australia. There has always been an interesting scene over here - its so isolated from the rest of the continent, let alone the world, that the musicians there just do what they do, without link or lineage, trend or trajectory. So it is always a seething, self-sufficient scene. Lately there seems to be a heavy dose of psych emanating from the West Australian capital, but more importantly, hidden by the Ponds and Tame Impalas, is the return of the riff. Puck are a trio whose grunge-laced rock is all about mood and aggression, and their four-track EP perfectly encapsulates this. The doom riffs on 'Eye Of The Day' are killer. There are moments, like 'Knowing Better', that I'm even reminded of Alice In Chains? That's a good thing.
Continuing down the distorted path we have California X, whose Nights In The Dark LP is a corker. The Massachusetts band deal in melodic raucous punk that has moments of darkness, of blown out noise, but above all else is a glorious series of vignettes about existing in a pre-determined geography, and dreams of breaking out. There are elements of Weezer, Dinosaur Jr (listen to the 'Hadley, MA' solo!) but above all their languid rock efforts are in a driving in the desert in the dark kinda space, a slacker take on prog, a moody yet ear-tearing rumination on place and space.
Coming from all over the shop - Australia, England, Sweden - we have the dreamy soundscapes of Kid Wave whose Gloom EP is a graceful wash of breathy vocals, shimmering instrumentation that bursts forth in a cascading roar of sunny emotion. There is some momentum behind the band - they played a sellout show at the Sebright Arms recently, and are supporting Palma Violets on their norther England tour. Keep an eye on these guys.
Nashville isn't known for its effervescent dreamscapes (is it?), but Devan Kochersperger, the frontman of dream pop outfit Grave Pool, has crafted something special in second LP Mnemonics, somehow straddling the New Romantic past and the neo-glow future. The cover art is incongruous to the music contained within - a watercolour of a cabin at the foot of a snowswept mountain - and therein is the wonder - it's a kaleidoscope of shimmering whimsy in a hyperreal twilight. The video for 'Neon Summers' features clips from The Lost Boys - and suits it. College and Electric Youth worked wonders on their Drive collaboration, and you feel that Grave Pool is next in line to find that new/old visual connection to strike major gold.
And we will finish Death & Vanilla and their new record, To Where The Wild Things Are (out next month on Fire Records). The Swedish trio encapsulate luxuriant velvety psych, as 'California Owls' attests to. This isn't as simple as that though - each song is an intricate tapestry, a latticework of sonic exploration that wavers from garage noir to atmospheric pop that meshes into a wave of euphoria. They launch the album in London at Birthdays Friday May 15 - grab tickets here.
Happy Sunday everyone!