Tuesday, May 26, 2015

- Editorial -
Parquet Courts: How A Friend’s Dad Turned Me Onto New York’s Most Exciting Active Band, The Hard Way
Jesse Mullen

(Parquet Courts, from l-r: Austin Brown (gtr/vox), Sean Yeaton (bass/vox), Andrew Savage (gtr/vox), and 
Max Savage (Drums))

One day last September, (the 9th, to be precise) I arrived at the train station, like I always do at 9:20 AM, to leave for classes. I was approaching the staircase, when I heard a warm, but weary voice at the top. “Is that a Sleater-Kinney shirt?” a man asked. “I love Sleater-Kinney!” I recognized this voice Immediately. It was the father of a classmate of mine from High School, whom I had known since Kindergarten. To say that I was impressed that a 50something, in a tiny town knew who Sleater-Kinney were was an understatement. But that he enjoyed their abrasive and not always melodic music impressed me even more. We chatted for fifteen minutes about his Portland origins, and how Stephen Malkmus’s eponymous debut solo album is an underrated gem. Then our conversation took a different turn; New music we enjoyed. I can’t even remember what I said (most likely something trivial, with no lasting appeal.) But what he said interested me, from the moment it rolled off his tongue; Parquet Courts. Parquet Courts. The name fascinated me, despite the fact that “parquet” was not part of my semi-limited vernacular. I thought about it on the train ride, as my own headphones blared the new Thurston Moore album, The Best Day. I thought about it at B Natural, the market, where I get my daily cup of coffee, and the best in New Haven. I thought about it during Art History, and I thought about it in the imbeciles Math class that I attended that semester. (Not sure that I learned anything in either that day, If I’m being honest.) I thought about it as I took my 4:00 train home, and I thought about it as I climbed the stairs to my room, eagerly anticipating my next HDtracks purchase. Their newest record was titled Sunbathing Animal, and I thought this would be the best place to start. I imported the album to Winamp, put on my Sennheisers, and listened. It’s safe to say that I was not immediately amused, or converted. At first glance, they lacked melody, and played too fast for their own good, limiting the number of slow tracks to three. I put the album down, never to listen again. Or so I thought.

(Image courtesy of What's Your Rapture/WYR)

My next encounter with the band came unexpectedly on the 16th of November. I was in a coffee shop in Brooklyn, that was playing Animal in it’s entirety, and I walked in while “Black and White” was on, which is track number two. I was seeing Johnny Marr in a few hours, and had some time to kill before the show began. So I took my time, and in this setting, I enjoyed the band much more. Cut to many months later, in early May of this year, and a friend linked to “Stoned And Starving,” off of their second album, 2013’s Light Up Gold, on his blog. I was in love, and hastily scrambled to buy the record online. When it arrived two days later, I cleaned it with a carbon fiber brush, and slapped it on my turntable. And I listened with surgical focus. That’s when I realized my enjoyment of them last November was no fluke; I was a bona fide fan. A more straight-forward (albeit lower-fidelity) record than Animal, Light Up Gold is full of track after track of instant classics, making it seem more a perfectly sequenced “greatest hits” album, than a sophomore album. 

(Image courtesy of What's Your Rapture/WYR)


Re-listening to Sunbathing Animal, through headphones for the first time since September later that day, I enjoyed it immensely. What had at first sounded like mindless noodling to me, now sounded like great progress, and a terrific re-invention for their sound, though a challenging one at that. It is their “Difficult Third Album” after all. For once, (and only this once so far), my first impressions were wrong.

And to my friend’s music-loving father, I would like to say this;

Thank you for sharing your musical knowledge with me. You are eternally wiser than I.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Slowdive Fanzine article, "The Best Blue Day"

*The following piece is set to appear in Virginia Davila’s Holding Our Breath fanzine. All photos/artwork are by the author. It was written last October, in recap of Slowdive’s 2014/10/25 show at Terminal 5 in New York, NY. It is being posted on the internet for the first time, by the author. Under his original pseudonym, for your enjoyment. Enjoy!

“The Best Blue Day”
By Jestoon

(Image: “Sunshine Girl,” Copics on Bristol © 2014 Jesse Mullen)

Slowdive were simply amazing.
They performed both “Dagger” and “Rutti.” (The songs that they would normally switch out each night on the tour.)
“Dagger” was performed in a manner similar to the original electric 1992 demo, displaying the jaw dropping beauty and poetry of Halstead’s lyrics, which cast such a vivid image, that I based a drawing off of them. The crowd was a mix of New York hipsters, passionate shoegazers, and young fans who were enthralled with the wall of sound. (I met a 12 year old in the merch line, who was grinning ear to ear, and reminded me that the effect that sound has on a music worshipper is universal, no matter what age.)

Embarrassingly, I was not familiar with opener Low, although their set was a fascinating mix of shoegaze, dreampop, and post-rock. I’ll definitely be buying their records. The rest of the Slowdive set was filled with the usual staples, and some of the early EP tracks (If you're reading this, Neil, Rachel, Simon, Nick and Christian, please add “Shine” to your set. Thanks. x)
By the time they walked off, the clock on the wall at stage right read 10:30.
They closed their regular set with “Golden Hair” (“The shortest version we’ve ever done,” quipped Rachel. it still seemed plenty long to me, in my half-blazed state.)
They came back, and closed with “40 Days,” which Rachel said “Thanks very much,” and they walked off while a sample of it played on endless loop.
After the show, when I was about to leave in my car, it hit me that they might still be around. I went around the block to the back of the venue, and waited by their van for about 15 minutes. A small crowd had gathered, and a man that worked for Terminal 5 said “if they're not out by 11:30, call them out.” Could they be arriving soon? My body was shaking, and my heart was beating out of my chest. My blood turned to ice. Finally, two roadies came out with roadcases. And then I saw them. Neil was wearing a folded baseball cap, and smoking a cigarette of a brand I’m not familiar with. Rachel had put her hair up, and put on a golden jacket, apparently the one she had worn at Primavera Sound. She had a cigarette, but no lighter. Hers had dried up. By this point Neil had begun mingling with other fans, and was in no position to offer her a light. I hastily retrieved mine from my pocket, and introduced myself. She lit her cigarette, thanked me, and handed it back. I was in total awe. I’m keeping it forever. Next, I walked up to Neil. “Hey,” I said. Neil shook my hand. “Do you know when the Zurich record comes out?” “I don’t know,” he said, smiling, in his reassuringly calm, soft-spoken voice. “It may get a reissue someday.” I shakily pulled my notepad, my inkjet ticket with the coffee stain on it, and Pilot G2 out of my pocket and asked if he minded signing them. “Not at all,” he said warmly, Reading accent showing through. “Thanks.” I hastily gathered my thoughts. If I wanted to say something to him, now was my only chance. “Pygmalion came out the year I was born, so I missed you guys the first time around, and I’m really glad to have you back.” “Thank you.” “And I’m really glad you’re finally getting your due credit.” “Thank you. That’s very kind of you.” He seemed genuinely moved by the last part. I said goodnight to both of them, and walked away in tears, knowing that no concert experience would ever top it.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Bands To Watch: PINS

By Jesse Mullen

I have been putting off writing this column for too long. The band you are about to read about has had far too much of an impact, on me and my life, to not write it eventually.

That band is PINS from Manchester, UK on Bella Union.
(image courtesy of VIES Magazine)

The quartet (now quintet)’s members are: Faith Vernon (lead vocals, rhythm guitar, tambourine), Lois Macdonald (lead guitar, backing vocals), Anna Donigan (bass, backing vocals), Sophie Galpin (drums, backing vocals), and new touring member Kyoko Swan (keyboards, guitar, tambourine, backing vocals.)

Their music combines elements of Punk, Post-Punk, Noisepop, Neo-Pyschedelia, and Shoegazing, with a bright, crisp pop edge. What makes them truly great, however, is how they combine these well-worn elements into something that is truly their own.

The key to their sound is their immediacy. My first reaction, when hearing the band’s music for the first time, via a live bootleg recording, was how strong their sense of melody was. But, after re-examining them, that is just one of their many gifts. The four original members have such a strong chemistry, and kinship, that it’s obvious that none of them are replaceable. This became even more obvious after last fall, when Anna broke her leg in a cycling accident, forcing her to take a sabbatical from the band. When PINS went on tour with an interim bass player, she joined the band in spirit on February 27th from the balcony, getting much love from the three original members onstage. In between songs, throughout the night, Faith was talking directly to her, at one point saying “Come back we miss you!” When it came time to play “Waiting for the End,” one of the highlights off of their debut, loud popping noises could be heard from above. It was Anna, setting off cans of streamers from the balcony, as a pre-planned stunt by the band. This humorous brand of mischief has turned up in interviews as well. When being pressed in an interview last May, about what made them so good, Faith replied “I don’t know. We were born this way, I guess.” with a grin.
(image courtesy of PINS/Bella Union)
While their debut album, Girls Like Us, contained hints of promise, it had some weaker cuts, and an overall lack of consistency. This is soon to change however, as their upcoming record, Wild Nights (June 8th on Bella Union), contains track after track of prime material. From the dark, twisted sound of “Oh Lord,” to the jangly folk of “Dazed By You,” this record tops their debut on all fronts. First single “Too Little, Too Late” has a dreamy hypnotic organ line, and a mid-tempo pace, until the end, when it speeds up and comes to a grinding hault. The B-Side is a cover of “Hybrid Moments” by The Misfits, which they have been playing live for quite some time now. Their version is the rare cover that improves on the original, and manages to make it sound like one of their own songs.

(image courtesy of PINS/Bella Union)
Second single, “Young Girls” is perfect three-chord sugar-coated noisepop, right down to Anna’s loud “Ow!” at the end of the chorus. Former title track, now re-titled “Molly,” seems to depict either a drug trip/addiction with the titicular substance, or just simply a wild night with someone named Molly. Key lyric; “You look so good when you’re sad/You look so good when you’re bad.”

(image courtesy of PINS/Bella Union)
So what’s next for PINS? World domination? possibly. Universal acclaim for their new record? I’d bet my life on it.