Bandcamp Picks of the Week 4/18/18
Bandcamp Picks of the Week, as large and in charge as ever
CASTLEBEAT – VHS
Genre: Surf Goth, Dream Pop
Favorite Tracks: “Tennis,” “Here,” “Town” “Heart Still Beats”
Here’s a fun fact about me: I am a HUGE fan of The Drums’ 2011 album PORTAMENTO. I find it to be one of the underrated masterworks of the early 2010s, a moody sophomore album that not only pushed their sound into fascinating and natural territories, but also encapsulated the band’s tumultuous time between records in a way that was tangible and electric.
Here’s a second fun fact about me: I don’t like Irvine, CA. I’ve lived in Southern California for just over seven years and I find Irvine to be a strange, sterile landscape devoid of personality. I drive through Irvine and find myself kind of perplexed as to its monochrome Stepford cleanness and cookie-cutter industrial park hollowness.
Okay neither of those are particularly “fun” facts. I suppose they barely even qualify as facts at all—I’m pretty sure that second one is just an opinion. But I digress. For many of the reasons I find myself obsessed with PORTAMENTO, I find myself giddily at the feet of CASTLEBEAT’s sophomore record, VHS, Josh Hwang’s newest surf-goth gem. It feels like a rejection of the personality-lacking streets of Irvine where Hwang hails from and an embrace of his new home of New York. He’s come a long way since his EP, VINTAGE FLOWERS, a three-song collection of lush and separated bedroom indie rock, turning towards something warming and deeply personal. You can hear vintage Wild Nothing and The Radio Dept. in memory soundtracks like “Here” and “Heart Still Beats,” and the surf-adjacent guitar tones on more upbeat and poppier tracks like “Wasting Time” and “Tennis” call for the beach forecast to be gloomy. VHS, like many of the dream pop albums it exists in the shadow of, captures a smiling nostalgia that’s best remembered with granular distortion of the very tapes the album title alludes to. Hwang’s previous work as CASTLEBEAT is tremendous, but VHS is a late-night walk in Irvine while imagining the late nights and beauty of somewhere else, and it’s a stroke of beauty. Go give it a listen on Bandcamp. [CJ Simonson]
serpentwithfeet – BLISTERS
Genre: Pagan Gospel
Favorite Tracks: “blisters,” “four ethers,” “redemption”
serpentwithfeet, the most recent project of musician Josiah Wise, released his debut EP BLISTERS in September of 2016, expressing the evolution of gospel themes from a new gay and Black perspective. The forwardness found in gospel songs are a sure gateway into discovering and expressing homosexuality, an uncommon topic in gospel realms. To describe the seven-minute title track opener in one word: iconic. Sparse harp that accompanies his sweet voice morphs into eerie synth over his own layered vocals, proudly utilizing an orchestra to accompany his R&B type of gospel. Wind echoes deep in the background with sounds effects to enhance a feeling of despair, entirely slow and patient with word delivery. serpentwithfeet seems classy on BLISTERS, but perhaps that is him exercising his musical sophistication and knowledge to pull out emotion. Starting as an interesting piano ballad that rises and falls in intensity, “flickering” ends in his Wise’s voice becoming the instrumentation of a backup choir as he reaches for high notes in an exciting whine. The brass and string piece “four ethers” is dramatic, infusing a real orchestral piece, “March of the Scaffold,” as a sample that he makes feel fitting around lyrics such as, “Babe, I know you learned some fucked up shit from your mother,” aware of the drama that relationships bring. “redemption” calls back to the four ethers whose name is impossible to know, something so essential yet unknown to most humans, ending in a strong crescendo that cuts off quite abruptly. [Nikki Reifler] BLISTERS heightens the tension of connection and secrecy in the Black experience, bringing forward classic levels of opera and theater to communicate deep emotion. Check it out on Bandcamp. [Nikki Reifler]