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Sep 212014
 

On track #2 of BRONCHO‘s new album – “Class Historian” – the band unleash a hook so infectious it should be illegal. There is something indefinably timeless about the song even though it exists firmly within the post-punk revivalist milieu. I supposed it is impossible for bands like BRONCHO not to wear evoke the sound of their influences even if it is somewhat second-hand Arcade Fire by way of Interpol. At its most basic, BRONCHO parlays a generic fuzzy guitar-driven rock style into a indie pop structure that is at once familiar and unique – if that is at all possible. With Anglophile baritone vocals, drone-like bass, rudimentary mid-tempo drumming – it’s hard not to dismiss most of this album as an exercise in Velvets mannerisms but it’s hard to argue with the appealing nature of the tunes of “Stay Loose” and “Kurt”. I guess you could say that this 2014’s version of a guilty pleasure – a Bon Jovi for the post-punk set. (Dine Alone Records)

Sep 192014
 

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My first ever indie gig in North America! It might have been a modest affair at the LoFi Performance Gallery in Seattle but there was genuinely exciting music making going on in this low key event. It was $6 at the door and the crowd in attendance was sparse on a Wednesday night but there was no mistaking the passion the three bands had for their music.

I was particularly impressed by The Crush, who actually sounded even better as a live outfit! A very tight performance marked out by Jacob’s astute guitar playing, Daniel’s timely drumming & Kira’s stage presence. And the songs were good fun – flavored with melodic color and powerpop flair – the kind of wonderful pop music nobody seems to make anymore. Jacob worked his red Rickenbacker perfectly, optimizing its use with Byrdsy arpeggios, Paul Weller crunch & Mike Campbell virtuosity – a handy package to possess! Guess you could say I have a crush on The Crush! Haha!! (Facebook)

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Sep 192014
 
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Stephen Christian by Aloysius Lim

I often use observations at gigs in Singapore to comment on how things have changed. And this final show of Anberlin’s in Singapore certainly revealed a lot about how far our indie music scene has come. I first saw Anberlin in 2007 and whilst the crowd then was exuberant, that show did not come close to the excitement displayed by the audience at TAB last Friday (12th Sep). In addition, the opening band this time round – Caracal – were rapturously received by an audience that easily accepted a local band on stage unlike say 7 years ago when local bands were tolerated at best as a necessary evil.

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Caracal by Aloysius Lim

By the large, the main takeaway from this was the obvious mutual love between band and its audience – almost every song was sung in gusto, moshing broke out every and then & at the very end, the band was presented with a fan-made video that brought everyone in the venue (especially the band) to tears. All very sentimental, you will agree, but considering that Anberlin consists of men in their thirties (by and large) and is not a bunch pre-pubescent K-pop boys, the adulation is commendable.  That Singaporean indie rock fans are able to make an emotional connection to a band beyond basic functionality proves that there is indeed hope for the future of arts and music appreciation in our formerly cultural desert of a country.

Kudos to everyone who made this performance a smashing success. Take a bow!

Thanks to Upsurge Productions for making this review possible. 

Sep 182014
 
Pic by Ger O'Donnell

Pic by Ger O’Donnell

If like me you are besotted with classic pop and love the music of The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Byrds, ELO and XTC, then my question to you is – why aren’t you listening to Pugwash? And if this is the first time you have heard of this awesome Irish band, then your timing is impeccable.

A Rose in a Garden of Weeds: A Preamble Through the History of Pugwash (to be released on 23rd September) collects songs from the band’s 1999 origins through the present day and when placed together in one place like this, is probably the closest a classic pop fan will get to heaven in 2014.

Pugwash A Rose In A Garden Digi

It is impossible not to fall in love with perfect pop songs like “Be My Friend Awhile,” “Apples,” “Answers on a Postcard,” “Fall Down”, “It’s Nice to be Nice” and so on and on and on. These 17 tracks constitute some of the finest pop music made since the new millennium and deserves as much attention as possible, if there’s any justice left in this cruel world.

I was lucky enough to catch the band live last year in London and believe me, it’s a wonder to behold. That Rickenbacker sound, those harmonies and infectious tunes will have you singing along in no time, unfamiliarity be damned! So check out the US tour dates below to make sure you don’t miss out on the fun, PoPies!

Check out the video for “It’s Nice to be Nice” below…

Sep 092014
 

DSC_7935_3 COMA. NeoDominatrix. In Each Hand A Cutlass._Final

New local promoters LivePOD got off to a great start as it brought to our indie scene, an instrumental rock event (at Hood Bar) that not only championed an acclaimed regional act – COMA – but also showcased our very own talented bands viz In Each Hand a Cutlass and NeoDominatrix.

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Sep 082014
 

HBO’s The Leftovers has polarized both viewers and critics with an unflinching look at the impact of loss on a small community. The main supernatural factor of the series relates to the critical event of the Sudden Departure – similar to the Christian concept of The Rapture.

In ten episodes, the series delved into the response of the town folk of Mapleton, New York, the individuals most affected and the social phenomenon that developed to make sense of it all, specifically The Guilty Remnant, a cult group whose main purpose is to ensure that the Sudden Departure is never forgotten.

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Sep 082014
 

Hailing from Staten Island, New York, this indie rock quartet has three LPs to its name, the latest one – LOSE – having just been recently released on Barsuk Records. The album is a melange of tge finest pop and rock influences and nuances, with a premium placed on emotionally resonance. It’s feisty rock n roll in the sense that lead guitar solos are unashamedly thrown about without bothering whether it’s uncool or not. There is an authentic rockist vigor about the manner in which the band dives into high energy numbers like “Jackson”, “Warning” and “XR” that reference Television and Uncle Tupelo simultaneously. The rest of LOSE slows down somewhat without sacrificing power but with a greater attention to melody – the folky “Child Bride” and the dynamic “Laramie”, prime examples. Highly recommended!

Am hoping to catch Cymbals Eat Guitars open for the legendary Bob Mould in Seattle on 23rd September. Join me if you’re in the area. Buy tickets.

Sep 072014
 

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Noise for noise’s sake

With Singapore indie pop music on the ascendancy, it is important not to neglect alternative music that embraces more artistic and esoteric values. Whilst the success of indie pop in Singapore will still be judged by the usual key performance indicators like number of digital downloads, ticket sales, radio play, Facebook likes and Twitter followers, this form of so-called art-rock deserves to be embraced on its own terms – art for art’s sake. In that respect, local art-rock collective The Observatory has taken the lead in not only organizing its own gigs but also curating music events that aim to expose Singapore audiences to new sounds viz, the Playfreely series of 6 shows and MOHA! in 2011 and for this year, the 3 day event Playfreely II, MoE (as part of the Transitions tour).

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Sep 062014
 

[Spoilers]

Marvel’s Original Sin mini-series wrapped up with issue #8 and raised even more questions than providing definite answers to the questions raised earlier in the series. But then, that’s typical super-hero comic book fare, isn’t it? At its core was the mystery of the Watcher’s murder, which as it turns out was brought about by Midas and Nick Fury but not in the way first suspected. The hook of the series was the discovery of hidden secrets that once revealed would have a massive impact on the Marvel Universe (where have we heard this spiel before, erm?) and to a certain extent we did. Fury – now an old man, like Captain America – acted like the Men in Black, taking care of external threats to the Earth in clandestine manner and had to take appropriate action to keep the truth from coming out. At the very end, Fury is seemingly dead (or is he?) and Bucky Barnes takes over Fury’s mantle. Presumably, this will allow Fury’s son – an African-American – to be the de facto Nick Fury in the Marvel Universe? Yup, that’s about the sum of those 8 issues. And Deodato’s art design was cool. NEXT!

Aug 312014
 

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By Nikita Wong

The usual hustle and bustle filled the streets along Orchard Road, by 6.30 pm approximately 400 fans were embracing the heat as they queued to catch the Gentle Bones (aka Joel Tan) Ep launch. As the doors opened, avid shutterbugs and fervent fans scouted for perfect vantage points to catch a glimpse of their idol. Held on the 30th of August 2014, TAB was teeming with mostly school girls who were die-hard fans of Gentle Bones. The crowd huddled together with approximately 700 over people within the room.

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Gracing the stage was none other than Samantha Rui, the audience was certainly deceived by her reserved and shy composure. Being captivated by her soulful voice that held a great semblance to Ellie Goulding everyone was left awe inspired. The forested graphics complimented the acoustic set up, often exuding a magical feel through her voice. It was an intimate performance as the crowd amassed together at the front of stage, and Samantha drew the audience towards her as she crooned to “All I Want” by Kodaline and “Blue” which was one of her originals. Despite the thick crowd, the vibe was generally relaxed.

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Known as Singapore’s version of Justin Timberlake, Gareth Fernandez had the girls bouncing off their feet as he interacted with them throughout his set. He sashayed, cooed and pouted coquettishly as he reminisced on his inspirations which dawned upon him for a few of his original songs such as “Subliminal Love”. Taking on Top 40 hits such as “Valerie” by Amy Winehouse and “Stay With Me” by Sam Smith, it was a reflex action for the crowd to groove to the sunny beats as they sang along with Gareth. His flawless runs and falsetto was spot on without any room for errors and it was phenomenal for a live performance.

Banners were being raised in the air as the crowd chanted Gentle Bones, starting off strongly the crowd echoed to “Settle Down”. Shattering the atmosphere with the remarkable guitar parts played by Wai Huin and thumping beats by Ritz Ang, Joel’s backing band complemented him. A mellow approach was taken too with his solo performance as he interacted with the crowd through his acoustic showcase occasionally inviting guest singers to join him for a song such as Joie Tan and Samantha. The duets were simply stunning as both singers harmonized for covers such as “Poison and Wine” by The Civil Wars and on “Undecided” which is an original song composed by Joel and Samantha.

Leaving the stage half way, many thought that it was an end. Encore was being echoed throughout the room as they sang in unison to “Until We Die” to beckon the band to perform once again which they did. The ending brought a tear within most fans as the band ended with “Elusive”, fans whipped out their hand phones as they waved the torches in the air and swayed away.

As the concert drew to an end, beelines were made by eager fans as they anticipated the meet and greet session with Gentle Bones and other musicians. Local bands are certainly on the rise and more people are willing to pay for local acts! Joel has journeyed a long way from where he first started out, his humble approach also draws his fans closer to him.

Aug 252014
 

Alex Goot (Photo credit: Dawn Chua)

(by Nikita Wong)

A throbbing mass of fans, pulsating with the energy that was carried with a throng of people at the front of the stage. Snaking queues were formed from 6.30pm as fervent fans of Alex Goot and Against The Current rushed to get the best spot to catch a glimpse of their idols. Held on the 21st of August 2014, from 7.30pm – 11pm at Scape The Ground Theatre, Gentle Bones and The Summer State graced the stage as the opening acts for the night.

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Aug 242014
 

THE DOCTOR IS IN

Peter Capaldi makes his debut as the new Doctor Who in the latest episode of the long-running BBC scifi TV series. The main talking point about Capaldi’s casting has been his age. At 56 years old, he is the eldest Doctor since the re-launch of the series in 2005 (after an absence of 16 years) and this episode – “Deep Breath” places a lot of weight on the age of this latest regeneration of the Doctor.

At the end of the episode, it is clear that this new direction is a wise one as it sets up story ideas especially concerning the relationship between the Doctor and current companion Clara Oswald. There are also hints that the latest Doctor may have a character twist that somewhat at odds with his previous incarnations.

The primary story itself (for the Season 8 opener) finds Doctor Who and Clara in Victorian London wherein a T.Rex is rampaging after the Doctor indadvertedly brought it from prehistoric times with the TARDIS. The duo encounter the reptilian Madam Vastra and gang, clockwork repair droids stuck in the past, not to mention a tenuous relationship that needs re-building.

A good start, overall.

Aug 172014
 

Pleasantry-Ignite

What did Nikita Wong think of the 2nd day of the Ignite Music Festival 2014? Let’s find out?

Beaming coloured lights, cascading guitar licks and mellifluous vocals attracted the crowd at 5.30pm. The crowd was swaying in the breeze as they crooned away with the band. Concert goers were clad in casual wear to attend the outdoor music festival with beach mats scattered across the ground as they gathered to catch the band performing. Ignite Music Festival is held on an annual basis at Republic Polytechnic (RP). This year it was held from the 15th to the 16th of August 2014 in the evening.

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RAZER ADARO WIRELESS

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Aug 172014
 

Took me a long time to write this short review. To be honest, I had some technical issues with the Bluetooth connectivity – which is the main selling point – of the Razer Adaro Wireless headphones. But till now, I am not quite sure whether the problem is with the phones or my Macbook as there was no issue when connecting with my iPhone 5s. But seriously, the difficulties were not major at all so let’s leave it at that.

Sound-wise, I have no complaints as music and video sound playback are rather enveloping with the nuances of the latter captured quite well. The phones themselves fit snugly enough that I often forget I even have them on! The phones need to be re-charged every now and then (what the hell doesn’t?!?) but once that is sorted out and the Bluetooth connection is established, its pretty much a satisfying listening experience that I would recommend.

More info here.

GEEK OUT!

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Jul 312014
 

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
Directed by James Gunn. Starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper.

I must confess that when Marvel first announced a Guardians of the Galaxy movie, I was incredulous. How could they possibly make an obscure team operating in outer space work? However, from the moment I saw the first proper trailer, I just knew that GOTG might well be the best comic book movie ever. I loved the way James Gunn approached the movie – as a fun, light-hearted romp of epic proportions. Using classic pop songs also did not hurt its appeal as its soundtrack (eg. 10cc’s “I’m Not in Love”, The Raspberries’ “Go All the Way” and Rupert Holmes’ “Escape (The Pina Colada Song)).

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DISCOVERED @ SPOTIFY

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Jul 252014
 

Alright. Here’s the deal – every week I randomly pick FIVE new releases listed at Spotify and tell you what I think (YAY or NAY?!), very spontaneously! No holds barred – fasten your seatbelts! Let me know what you think of the music in the comments…

THE RAVEONETTESPe’ahi

Describing Danish rockers The Raveonettes simply as post-punk revivalists does not do their music any justice. Sure, their style is predicated on the 80s post-punk, especially an obvious admiration for Jesus and Mary Chain, but in fact their sonic agenda covers a much wider range that encapsulates influences as diverse as The Everly Brothers and The Velvet Underground. This new one – album #7 – is a sheer joy to behold, filled with the duo’s trademarked noise-rock ambience enveloping well constructed melodic songs. YAY!

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Jul 232014
 

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Here’s another album that fits Power of Pop’s criterion of POP with POWER! LA trio Army Navy’s third LP is chock full of unforgettable tunes allied with a 90s alt-rock sensibility that is always refreshing in this post-punk-revival obsessed times. In that respect, Army Navy (Justin Kennedy – Lead vocals, Guitar/Louie Schultz – Lead guitar, Vocals/Douglas Randall – Drums, Vocals) succeed wildly.

The agenda is straightforward enough, as tracks like the jangly “The Mistakes”, the driving shoegazy “Crushed Like the Car”, the Fannnies-imbued “Waiting to Win” and the unabashedly retro “World’s End” attest. Uncomplicated arrangements enhance the memorably melancholy pop melodies that make The Wilderness Inside essential listening for fans of gorgeous 90s alt-rock and especially good old fashioned power pop!

GEEK OUT!

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Jul 112014
 

DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES
Directed by Matt Reeves. Starring Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldham & Keri Russell.

The original Planet of the Apes film might well have been the first scifi movie I had ever seen back when I was abut seven. I quickly became a fan and watched every single sequel and even the TV series obsessively. PotA was a cautionary tale about man’s self-destruction and the rise of the intelligent apes to replace man as the dominant species on Earth. The franchise lost steam around 1975 but was revived in a risible remake helmed by Tim Burton.

Back in 2011, the franchise was rebooted with director Rupert Wyatt taking a different narrative starting point, in effect re-writing the origin story of the entire premise. Personally, I thought that Rise of the Planet of the Apes was competent but nothing spectacular, although the motion capture work (especially by Serkis – as ape leader Caesar) was ground-breaking, to say the least.

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Jul 062014
 

The simple joy of honest rock ‘n’ roll  is what EdTang & the Chops achieve on this, their eponymous EP. Anyone who loves the committed, down to earth music making of Bruce Springsteen, The Replacements, The Pogues, The Gaslight Anthem and the Hold Steady will definitely like what they hear from EdTang & The Chops. Authentic country-folk-roots songs that are delivered with rock ‘n’ roll gusto by The Chops.

These five tracks – “When Death Should Find Us”, “Willy Loman”, “Brother in the Way Back”, “A Lapsed Catholic” and “Leaving of Liverpool” – all speak of heartfelt issues that the everyman has to face each and every day. Unsophisticated these songs might be, but when the tunes ring out and touch the souls of all rock ‘n’ roll lovers, then one barely notices. All one can do is smile in agreement, punch the air and groove to the lusty rhythms and the relevant sentiments.

Official Site

Jul 052014
 

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Matt Mocharnuk, the brains behind recording artist Bittersweet Machines is a songwriter with the ability to manipulate the emotions of anyone fortunate enough to listen to his musical creations. I count myself amongst this number – as I have followed Mocharnuk’s creative journey in the last couple of years and with each release, cannot help but be awed by the consistent quality of the songs found on Bittersweet Machines EPs and albums.

New EP – A Night Full of Sharp Edges – is no exception to this rule. Stylistically, Morcharnuk has moved away somewhat from the post-punk revivalist tendencies found on previous releases. The songwriting seems more organic without reliance on any particular ‘genre’. This creative decision has liberated the music to form it’s own conclusions based on the confluence of tunes and lyrics.

What remains the same is the emotional weight of the melodies, the astute use of dynamism, the appropriation of infectious hooks and riffs and ultimately the natural appeal of songs that do not need too much analysis or deep probing in order to divine their joys.

It is an absolute pleasure to move from track to track – songs like “The Longest Minute,” “Is It Enough” and “Screaming Underwater” – embellished simply by acoustic guitar and tasteful keyboards reach out to touch heart and soul, rightfully belonging to the sweet indie Brit rock epoch that birthed bands like Travis, Coldplay and Keane.

Yet another bloody essential release from Bittersweet Machines.

Find out more!

 

Jul 032014
 

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Writer Mike Baron makes an interesting point about how marginalized the Jazz Rock ‘genre’ has become since its heyday in the 70s in his introduction to this book.

“The number of classic bands who have inspired youngsters continues to grow. Beatles imitators are legion. The Beach Boys have a growing and powerful following spearheaded by Explorers Club. Grateful Dead jam-type bands cover the hills. The Quarter After worship the Byrds. But one group is conspicuously missing. Where are the new jazz rock bands?”

Baron doesn’t really answer this pertinent question so much as to suggest that perhaps Jazz Rock as a ‘genre’ lost ground once the post-punk / new wave of the 80s arrived to drive many of these original Jazz Rockers to seek greater commercial attention by moving their music to the Middle of the Road (like Chicago).

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Jul 032014
 

Released at the very beginning 2014, Colours of Joy, the sophomore album from Indonesian indie band lightcraft is quite the thing of beauty. Whilst its live dynamic is waves of shoegazey dreamy noise pop, the sonic agenda on this album is more lilting, more subtle and ultimately more graceful.

And this marked contrast works brilliantly from a recording perspective where there is less pressure to deliver an immediate high. It’s quite impossible not to fall in love with the luscious sounds and melancholy sentiments evident on songs like “Amazing Grace” and “Get Out on Your Way” – singer Imam’s voice is almost a ghostly whisper hovering like an angel over swaths of heavenly constructs.

Things do get slightly more expansive in the epic soundscapes of “The Other Side of the Glass”, “Starlit Eyes” and “Hello Goodbye” which are both more representative of the band’s live sound albeit without sacrificing an iota of the emotional resonance that marks lightcraft’s work.

If I had to make comparisons, I would have to say that lightcraft reminds me of a more stripped down version of one of my favourite bands – Starflyer 59. Believe me, as high as the standards Jason Martin has set, lightcraft do a more than credible job in evoking the same nuances, references and power. Highly recommended.

Connect with lightcraft!

 

DISCOVERED @ SPOTIFY

 MUSIC  Comments Off
Jul 032014
 

Alright. Here’s the deal – every week I randomly pick FIVE new releases listed at Spotify and tell you what I think (YAY or NAY?!), very spontaneously! No holds barred – fasten your seatbelts! Let me know what you think of the music in the comments…

MAGIC!Don’t Kill the Magic

This sounds like these guys saw all the hype surrounding Blue Swede’s “Hooked on a Feeling” (as featured on the Guardians of the Galaxy trailer) and a lightbulb appeared over their collective heads. But seriously folks, this is really commercial pop-rock, which heavy emphasis on reggae party vibes. A bit too smooth of my tastes though. NAY!

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GITAR – ACTIVE CULTURES

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Jun 302014
 

Over at their Facebook page, the trio known as Gitar describes its ‘genre’ as ROCK N ROLL. Which is fine with me! Cuz I understand that term to mean – meaningful 60s/70s rock styles. Upon closer inspection, the band is probably kindred spirits with Frank Zappa, Talking Heads, Captain Beefheart & Steely Dan and any other band that gives sophisticated rock music a couple of offbeat & oddball twists.

Which makes new album, Active Cultures, a bit of an acquired taste. I mean, I would not imagine that contemporary indie kids will have the stomach for much of Gitar’s thoughtful experimental progressive work. Tracks like the funky “Spiritual Dunk”, the Beatlesque “Infamy Dream” and the quirky “New Martyrs” possibly get as pop as they get but even then, this is definitely one for the serious minded music enthusiast.

Jun 262014
 

An indie pop band that eschews all the conventional trappings of expectation is to be received with open arms! Sure, singer Jen Goma has the typical femme twee pop vox and the tunes are way simpatico but everything else tries to get as far away from ‘normal’ as possible.

Meaning: we get distinctive soundscapes that mix electronica, shoegaze and ambient approaches which act as sonic envelopes for the love letters of words and melody that make up these unique songs. Thus, the tracks on Sea When Absent have the advantage of being familiar to indie pop fans and yet arty enough to satisfy the edgier music enthusiast as well. Best of both worlds!

Highlights include the viscerally sweet “Byebye, Big Ocean (The End)”, the chirpy drone of “MTLOV (Minor Keys)” and the schizoid girl group channeling “Oh I’m A Wrecker (What To Say To Crazy People)”. Definitely one to savor and particularly ripe for closer inspection.