Much like last week’s pile of records from the venerable Hozac, this latest bundle of joy from Brooklyn’s Captured Tracks appears to be the label’s finest spate of releases this year. Unlike Hozac, though, which rewarded with a wide differentiation in style, Captured Tracks seems to be sowing a consistent aesthetic with these—some naive, yet shambolic, pop, dressed as either nervous folk-punk or sparkling Spector-esque punk-jangle. Listening to all of these consecutively, there’s certainly some time-traveling involved, from the Beau Brummels to Beat Happening and onward to the post-lo-fi future dunk tank we’ll all be perched upon when we realize it’s all just reverb and distortion—most just prefer one over the other.
Spectrals, “Leave Me Be” b/w “Suit Yourself”
Dialing back to a time where ’verb was king, in an era that predates classic rock and even teenage garage bands, is likely not as much a hipster pose as it is a choice of security. While the Leeds quartet Spectrals are awash in the trendy waves of surf pop (Raveonettes redux?), a song like “Leave Me Be,” as spiny and sunny as it is with a simpleton nursery rhyme cadence, doesn’t stink of the ephemeral nascence created by the horde of American amateurs cashing in on coastal worship. Those kids seem intent on using fashion and effects to pad the fad, rather than serious homage. Spectrals’ wonderful “Suit Yourself” shows a maturity. This debut 7-inch could have been tossed off in an hour, but I’d like to think it was crafted after long sessions in pastel-painted dens listening to those ol’ Everly Bros. and Buddy Holly records. Even emulating the scratchy warmth of an overly used copy of “Maybe Baby” can project in a cold, hollow room. Expect a (now highly anticipated) album next year.
The Bitters, “East” b/w “Foreign Knives”
Ironic that one of my least favorite bands among the indie/hardcore universe (Fucked Up) include members that make up one of the most promising duos to carry the CapTrax distinction. Torontonians Ben Cook and Aerin Fogel are the Bitters, who are self-described as “cave pop.” I’ll give them one better affixing a “power” prefix to that tag. If you have the chance after reading this, go ahead and do yourself a favor by tracking down “Warrior” from their Wooden Glove debut—it’s as power-cave-pop as you’re likely to find. “East” follows that fist-pump anthem formula, if slightly less cheerful here. Cook and Fogel’s dual vocals are an obvious throwback to X, but the music is even more frantic, almost spooky, as if the two are climbing through a maze of op-art stairways, chased by armored ghouls. They sound desperate without getting overwhelming and cartoonish without too much color or exaggeration. That might be insulting to any other band, likely because those bands take themselves much more serious than the Bitters. I’d like to think this is the type of project that’s in it for the fun of creation. Sad to report, though, that the B-side here, “Foreign Knives” is pretty forgettable, their first dud.
Christmas Island, “Nineteen” b/w “Twenty-Nine”
In “Nineteen” the continuous refrain is that “nothing ever happens.” It’s a line that can get lodged in your head for days, and as a result, the rambling geek-chic perfection of Christmas Island is something one could easily obsess over. It’s the kind of song that seems to define youth in a few short minutes, making goofy generalizations and a couple of inside jokes along the way, but pretty much romanticizing boredom through a few acoustically strummed chords and a genius hook. This gem made it hard to flip this record over, fearing of an inferior B-side. Granted, “Twenty-Nine” isn’t as immediate—it’s much closer to the canned Kiwi-pop as advertised (still love the spittle organs, though)—but Christmas Island are no less infectious, spinning effortless pop that could have survived in malt shop jukes, on Shrimper cassette comps, or alongside long-lost Desperate Bicycles and Television Personalities singles. I’m on my way to buy their In the Red album as soon as I’m done with this.
Ganglians, “Blood on the Sand” b/w “Make it Up”
Sacramento’s Ganglians, who have graced the pages of Primitive Futures in the past, are only getting stronger in harmony. I won’t get into much detail on the compositions here, as melodically they’re very similar to the beach vibes found on the excellent Monster Head Room. This single, however, was recorded at the famed Rear House (the Woods’ go-to studio) and the upgrade in fidelity shows, even when the reverb swells to almost blinding proportions. “Blood on the Sand” fluctuates in their already going-steady tribal throb, adding in some melted notes, a triumphant sing-along chorus and atmospheric introspection via a heavy melody. It’s “Make It Up,” though, that shows the most promise. It’s downright epic, flailing in a number of different moods and speeds, kind of like the Panda Bear, the Exploding Hearts, Brainiac and the Four Seasons getting down in a salty-aired graveyard, psych-bubblegum chewed and used to plug the bulging dam. Can’t wait to see what’s next.