It’s almost impossible not to fall in love with the guitar driven hooks on Tough Love. San Francisco based band Cocktails are set to release their debut LP, Adult Life, on June 17th via Father/Daughter Records and now it seemed the perfect time to drop the sunny power pop/garage gem that sums up their philosophy! A philosophy that takes us back in the late ’70s where songwriting was so intimate and passionate and the only aim was to frame the perfect pop song! A punky yet in a way funky ride that leaves the feeling of a sweaty t-shirt stuck on the body after a crowd dancing festy activity!
Joyce Milton, one of my loyal readers, just turned me on to the ‘anti-freak folk’ tunes of Nathan Klages from Ypsilanti, Michigan. He takes tips from the Beach Boys, how they’d feel in breaking out of the middle of winter spell. Dislodged, but hopeful.
Catch up more of his excellent singles on his Bndcmp.
A recent letter about sci-fi, evolving and evolution:
I’ve been playing and making music all my life. I’m sure you hear that a lot, but I remember doing Elvis impressions in kindergarten and shaking my ass to Twist and Shout like John Lennon in the first grade. My mother says that when I was a baby, she would rock me to sleep and sing “Stay Awake” from Mary Poppins, and I would hum along. I was born and raised in Texas, went to college in New Hampshire, slugged around in St. Louis, and now I’m getting my law degree in California. Throughout the whole journey, I’ve been playing music and writing songs. This latest iteration, I’ve finally mustered the courage to form a band and get serious about putting my music out there. We’re called Deep Fried, and I’ve never had so much fun figuring shit out.
My music is inspired by two main themes that have always been a part of my life. Religion/religiosity and science fiction. Sort of like a musical version of Flannery O’Connor mixed with some Burgess/Vonnegut/Asimov. When I was little I would sing in the church choir. It was my main reason for going to church, to sing gospel songs. But I also loved reading the bible, if only because it had such fantastic stories and unfathomable images. And then I got into William Gibson and Isaac Asimov, and basically I was a Jesus-worshipping sci-fi nerd my whole lonely, adolescent life. Although I grew out of the religiousness, I’m still a dedicated sci-fi nerd.
This translates into songs I’ve written like “Goldfish” which is an ode to San Francisco, and has a host of sci-fi and religious characters/events occurring (like St. Peter praying near San Quentin). Or “Twin Rays” which is about the sun getting eaten by a mouth in the sky, only to be spat back out, but now there’s two. And there are jeweled snakes writhing in the sky, to soak up the twin rays, and we’re just laying with our bellies on the ground, land-navel gazing and sunburned.
Although those songs aren’t recorded well enough to be heard by the public, I’d like to share another track with you I recently recorded (all recordings occur in my bedroom, with a mic, a guitar and amp, and a computer). I have this weekly goal of writing and recording a song in 24 hours, to help me hone my home recording skills. It’s proven really useful, and along with a lot of promising material that I can bring to my band, sometimes I come away with some decent solo tracks.
The song is called “Infrared,” inspired by dreams that kept me awake at night. I went through this weeklong period of waking up screaming. The images in my head were so disturbing or upsetting, that they created a physical reaction. I felt like “Infrared” was an appropriate name.
Our band is getting ready to play its first show on 4/20, at our bassist’s house. Hopefully, after we’ve gotten some shows under our belt, we’ll have a full EP to share with you. Thanks for taking the time to read this, and thanks for putting together such a cool blog!
I love watching artists mature over time. First blogged about this Philly base projects back in 2011, and am very excited to see solid work like this coming out now. It helps that they’ve got some of Philly’s best tech talent: recorded and mixed by Jeff Zeigler, mastered by Mark Trewella.
Love getting letters like this one from Tony Zhang:
this is tony from philadelphia who makes music under the name of gaze. first i just wanna say that youre such an inspiration to not only the local music scene but around the world. i always looked up to you so this would be so wonderful if you read this letter or even listened to my music.
anyways, ive been writing songs ever since i was 14 and now im 16. something that really inspired my music was my life and the plant aloe vera, i dont know why but i find that specific succulent amazingly beautiful. it kind of symbolizes my life at this certain age. i remember last summer i would write random songs and record them on my laptop right next to my aloe plants in my bedroom. and some nights i would drink all my mom’s wine and cry and write songs about how boring and dry my life was. not really sure how to describe my music style but dreamy is definitely the word. or maybe chillwave?
what i really focus on my music is the melody and the synths. i dont necessarily spend that much of time on writing lyrics because i know i suck at it but sometimes i get stuck for a while then something just comes to my mind the door gets opened. i only have 3 songs right now on bandcamp but i used to have an entire album on there, i deleted it and have been working on new songs ever since. if you want to listen to more of it definitely write me back and ill send you some of the old stuff and new stuff i worked on. lets be friends and hang one day
Ps: oops srry man i really suck at writing letters u_u i hope you bared with it
Winnipeg’s Dave Shaw tells me ”over last summer I spent some time in Chicago. For the first time in my life, I was confronted with a real life network of trains that connected a city. It was amazing and beautiful to me. I wrote this song trying to capture some part of the tension between the rhythmic mechanical movement of trains and the wild unknowable movement of the natural world.”
This track leads off his excellent new 4-song Cover Me Cedars, Cover Me Pines EP is ready on Bndcmp.
Michael Floering wrote me about his hype-mellow dream cycle song for me to understand a bit of the creation myth:
In 2009 Wil Fady and I became friends. We met at school in Tampa and it was too hot. Tampa wasn’t great but we enjoyed each other’s company. Later that year I transferred to New College.
New College was an hour south in Sarasota with only about 800 students. We visited each other pretty often. We explored. We improvised in a barren place. We each went through a lot. It all brought us closer, and eventually I came to see him as my best friend.
In the summer of 2011 we recorded some sounds Wil had been sitting on. These were beautiful, compact sequences. He has a way with tiny keyboards. By 2012 these songs were beginning to define us (if music did). I could no longer take SeaThings seriously and we both grew into these new songs. We spent as many weekends as we could burning fossil fuel to meet up and work as hard as we knew how to.
In May 2012 I graduated and it was time to get the fuck out of Florida. We’ve always known we would. By this time the songs consumed me. I loved these songs and I loved Wil but I had move, for myself.
I moved to Massachusetts with a gorgeous person whom I love to death. An hour’s drive from Wil became 20. But the momentum was strong. Minus a few dry spells, we worked on the album until October 2013. I learned to mix. (I learned that I have a lot to learn.) I made it hard for myself. I favored the low-fidelity material from Florida - imbued with Gulf Coast humidity and our young alchemy. Even when re-recording would have saved me weeks of looping and slow learning. We called each other daily and tried to bridge the gap.
Now we have an album we are extremely proud of. When I hear these songs they echo out from Florida, a spit of sand, a place of vapor, the husk of speculation. A pit where love cropped up. When I hear these songs I think of my best friend.
We would love to premiere the album with you. The posted release date is April 1st. Are you interested? We would be overjoyed!
Hydrogen Sea pull you into their own little magical world with Court The Dark, a whistling 5-track effort that is set to soundtrack the gloomy first days of spring, the kind that put little drops of water on the grass in the morning. Birsen Uçar asks herself ”will you leave a mark / at the end of days?”on opening track Leave A Mark, with a truly charming production from other half PJ Seaux going on in the back- hear that once and you’re lost. People that have grown fond of Say Lou Lou’s delicate b-sides or Azure Ray’s gentle sound, maybe even All Saints toned down.
Out on a limited colored Unday Records vinyl on RSD, on iTunes next week, premiering right here at DN.
“Perfect Pussy may be the latest band to seem to incarnate the trope of the punk band as heroic underdog, but that trope has been around for a while, and can mean very different things depending on the cultural climate in which it is invoked. Saying that Perfect Pussy are punk rock heroes means something very different today from what it meant twenty years ago.”—excellent #longread by Beth Tolmach on AdHoc: Perfect Pussy and the Corporate Media: Has Punk Been Co-Opted?
Tennessee’s Peter McCarville wrote me about long-distance love in the following letter recently:
Let me preface this by saying this is a great idea for a music blog. It’s very direct and artist friendly, and it’s rare to see something work as well as this does, especially for self publishing artists.
Anyway, this is an album, as you probably noticed from the subject line, called Division. The word that has pretty accurately described everything that had been going on in my life throughout the writing of it. I should preface this by saying this album was like my child. We had just released a (not so great) album a few months before we were contacted by a label, asking us if we’d start working on a new one for them. Even though the deal eventually fell through, I started working on these songs by myself and away from my bandmates. I knew I had to work on our sound so we could avoid repeating the first album. I worked very hard making sure each note made sense and was in the right place. School became secondary, and I even stopped going out a lot so I could work on the songs.
The album is about a long distance relationship and trying to figure someone who I was really fascinated by, but could only do so in pieces at a time. We had met in high school, but had lost contact for a few years, then eventually met each other again during my junior year of college. She lived a few hours away from me and there were many late night drives from Knoxville to where she lived in Chattanooga. Not the longest drive, but finding the time to have a worthwhile visit was problematic at times. I became very accustomed to driving at night and feeling the distance build up.
On the wall above her dresser and across from her bed, there was a moon lamp that lit up according to the different phases. I knew she loved the lamp, but I became so enthralled by what it all meant. Enough to the point where the moon became somewhat of a motif in the relationship. Anything I could find with the phases of the moon instantly I had to have. It inspired the song of the same name, “Phases of the Moon”. It’s about wondering if I could just pack everything up and live near her and be around her all the time, but realizing it isn’t that realistic. It was hard to try and be that honest and direct in writing, even though that’s something I always try to do. It was something that just weighed on my mind a lot for a long time, and writing a few lines about it seemed impossible. There’s a long instrumental section about 3/4 of the way in that was supposed to represent how cloudy my head always seemed to be when I thought about something that serious.
However, the album is also about the darker side of things there. I learned a lot about this person that I would’ve learned earlier on had I been around more. Things that I wished I could change or help but couldn’t, and realizing I had to accept them and help this person through them unconditionally and willingly. See both “Books” and “Matters”, the closing two tracks on the album. You begin to wonder if you’re really making someone happy when you’re also making them suffer while you’re apart. And the pressure to make every time you see each other great begins to grow as well. Finally, you begin to reflect on yourself and see if you are happy. This is pretty much the first five tracks of the album. Where did I fit in to all of this, and was it going to last? Thankfully, I figured all of that stuff out, and I sleep much better now, even though the person that fascinates me lives apart from me and we are divided by a few hours, we still make each other happy.
Always nice to get a note from a band who I’ve cheered on for years. This Brighton duo is growing quickly, and who, sweetly gave me an early listen to their new single before they hit the airwaves. This, the opening track is, without a doubt a winner, and quite possibly their best to date.
The Canadian indie scene has been full of music coming down from a strange trip, multiple bent chord changes left of center half-way through songs. Example, one of my ongoing faves Each Other. Now this new work from aka Alex Calder (who may or may not be putting new work on to Captured Tracks). Slow’d down, step your beat, make it a few degrees under market.
Le Canada est vraiment une terre d’asile pour les stoners du monde entier. On connaissait déjà la dream pop acidulée et planante de Mac DeMarco, voici son compatriote Mold Boy qui, dans la même veine, nous délivre avec son nouvel Ep "Someone" quatre titres à vous scotcher en fond de canapé avec une bonne batte. Le chill érigé en mode de vie c’est aussi ça le Canada.
An artist going by Sky Marsberg set me this letter:
I’m a guy from Florida. I have a solo recording project that I call Wolfsburg Sweater.
It is March 10th, 2014, 12:01AM. I’ve been following YVYNYL for a while now, being especially captivated and drawn in by the “Letters to YVYNYL” collection. My neck is sore and I’m thoroughly exhausted and I should probably be in bed, but I presently - finally!! - feel like I’m in the proper mindset to send something your way. I can say that two events shaped my attitude towards music as a whole.
The first: my uncle passed away two years ago. He was a lifelong blues guitarist who played at local art festivals, family get-togethers and acrid, smoke-ridden bars, always keeping it a hobby – his shelves are still packed solid with records, perhaps numbering in the thousands. Over the course of mere months, I was a close witness as cancer withered him away, reducing his prior booming personality to meek fragility. I had just started recording music around the time – creating little drum loops and guitar lines, figuring out Audacity – and I brought this fact up during one of my family’s biweekly visits to his hospital bedside; of course he wanted to hear some samples. I brought along a CD, a little mixtape of my latest ‘demos’, and passed it along to my aunt one day, one day towards ‘the end’ – I am unsure as to whether he was ever able to hear any of it. At his funeral wake some weeks later, I learned that one of his final wishes was that one of his cherished guitars be bequeathed to me. I took home his heavily used and heavily loved yellow Stratocaster, its surface speckled with travel and age, and I play it daily. I remember once suggesting to him that, in an ideal life, my ‘career’, my life as a whole, would somehow be in making noise; in a way, I feel entirely driven to live up to that assertion.
The second: I once shook hands with Buzz Osborne at a Melvins show. This is a band that kind of ‘defined’ my early high school years, a band whose sheer endurance (I mean they’ve been active in some form since a decade before I was even born!!) I admire so much. I was totally ‘star-struck’ and was probably only able to mumble something incoherent, but remember the moment so clearly: I was standing in the venue’s back hallway when he suddenly walked in, I vaguely introduced myself, his grip was firm, there was a guy to my left in a Yankees hat, we exchanged maybe eight words – he looked me in the eyes – and I wished him a good show, or something alike. And that was it. I spent the show in a daze, attempting to grasp the facts that (a) I had just met a personal idol of mine, (b) I wasn’t dreaming, and (c) my hearing, which was temporarily shot due to the volume of the opening band (Unsane), would eventually return to normal (and it did, some five days later). As brief and as phatic and as seemingly inconsequential as the moment was, it means a lot to me.
I recently put out my first ‘full-length’ album, of sorts. It is abrasive noise-rock, perhaps verging into noise-pop territory, with major shoegaze influences. I am presently in the process of searching around for a label (though I’m pretty ignorant of how such a process works), and am looking into getting something pressed, such as a short run of lathe-cut records.
It’s weird: the music is almost entirely instrumental, and yet I think of it as a personal manifestation of said two experiences. Perhaps one may discern ‘drive’ and ‘energy’ within it, its aural ‘wall of sound’ providing for a potentially intense listening experience! Or maybe it’s boring and monotonous and uninteresting – I know how I feel, at the very least. I’ll let you decide for yourself.