Fiesta Minor - Time Spent Breathing (EP review)
A first look at the tracklist of Scottish hardcore/emo band Fiesta Minor's first EP 'Time Spent Breathing' immediately suggests that it isn't going to be a release comprising of sunny, jangly indie anthems. Instead, 'Cold', 'Collapsing', 'Languished' and 'Funeral' paint a much darker, pessimistic picture. Chronologically, they also tell a familiar tale that we have all been through, of not being able to bear the weight we carry on our shoulders and retreating inside ourselves, away from a cold, unforgiving world.
On 'Time Spent Breathing', Fiesta Minor channel this fundamental inability to cope with admirable passion and honesty. The band's sound is comparable to melodic hardcore act Departures, sharing their preference for a lighter guitar tone and gruff, half screamed vocals. This keeps the band away from an overtly 'metal' leaning, lending them more to the hardcore and emo scene. The popularity of bands such as More Than Life and Pianos Become The Teeth means that Fiesta Minor have an eager audience, but also have the potential for wider appeal due to prominent post-rock influences, sitting comfortably alongside heavier sections in opening track 'Cold'. These lighter passages give the EP a developed emotional undertone and create a nice variety that prevents the band sounding repetitive. The pensive, mournful interlude 'Languished' is one of the EP's best moments, fading in from the dramatic close of 'Collapsing'.
Lyrically, Fiesta Minor are honest and raw, particularly on single 'Cold', "I can't get through the week without hating every fucking day". Granted, some listeners may find this nihilistic, yet for many the lack of pretentiousness and truthfulness will prove a major attraction. Either deliberately or unintentionally, the band reference Departures with the line "falling out of love", a repeated motif on new LP 'Teenage Haze'. Through the bleakness however, positivity can be found on 'Funeral', potentially the best track on the EP. The song builds from a soft, tender opening with reverb-laden guitars, quiet drums and proudly Scottish vocals to a cathartic close, with the first verse containing my favourite lyrics of the release,
"Trip and stumble on this awkward, the shafts of light pierce through the open glass.
Stretch and rejoice in lethargic sadness, for 'tis the season of death".
The band is largely successful on the heavier side, with second song 'Collapsing' opening to a furious cascade of drums and driving guitars. The bass is 'twangy' but in a good sense, and adds a strong foundation to the usually high-pitched guitars. One slight misjudgement in my opinion is the near-breakdown towards the end of 'Cold', yet it does not detract significantly from the song, bound to incite singalongs and pointing fingers. Fiesta Minor are supported by record label/art collective Nervous Youth, with members of the band avid photographers and film-makers. This creative element adds to a band who are honest, passionate and highly likeable. The Scottish landscape that surrounds them has inspired a solid EP, dealing with emotions we all feel: frustration, anxiety and apathy.
Pixies - Bagboy (Single review)
Ten years is a significant wait for some new Pixies material. One might think this is a major risk being run by the band, with their legendary status as a purebred alt rock group increasing year by year. Finally, without the help of original bass player and songwriter Kim Deal, BAGBOY has been released. Mild cynicism aside I lent my ears for nearly five minutes, and I was pleasantly surprised. The first thirty or so seconds my heart sank, before the driving fuzz of guitars held my attention and provided a reminiscent tone that any Pixies fan would be stoked to hear. Little did I know during my initial listen a true Pixies banger was unfolding second by second.
Shoegaze was and is an incredible genre comprised of pedals, emotional vibes, distortion, unprecedented musicality and more pedals. The 90s were tremendous for many, with Sonic Youth, MBV and even smaller acts such as Shellac taking the reigns alongside Pixies. BAGBOY holds Pixies sound, and stays true to a scene that has eventually evolved and taken new form.
Post listening to the track, the hook “cover your breath, alter your speech” was embedded in my thoughts for a long while. And I really didn’t mind it knocking around my head for a few hours. The lyrics resemble that of an emotional Black Francis who has crossed paths with Sonic Youth front man Thurston Moore. Abstract lyrics account for Francis’ input, whilst I cannot escape the thought that the verse sounds like Thurston. This is a plus for me.
The reason I took an initial disliking to the beginning of the song is due to the fact I felt the electronic (ish) beat rearing the vocals was misplaced. As I began to listen on and hear it take a valuable stance within the song I realised The Smashing Pumpkins were doing this in the nineties, for example in Mellon Collie (“We Only Come Out At Night”). It’s as if this Pixies track depicts a broad alt rock sound whilst considering a new age. I’m impressed. All I need now is tickets for their Euro Tour… Fuck.
Pity Sex - Feast of Love (Album review)
For those not in the know about pity sex, they are a band currently signed to Run for Cover records that occupy a musical geography somewhere between emo and shoegaze. Most people like to call bands like Pity Sex, Jesu and Whirr (among others) ‘nugaze’ as they take the niche, slightly purist genre of shoegaze and widen the scope of influence on the sound, despite many ‘nugaze’ bands sounding very different - both from each other and from seminal artists such as My Bloody Valentine and The Jesus And Mary Chain. New release ‘Feast of Love’ is the follow up to 2012’s ‘Darkworld’ and marks the band’s first full length LP.
Terminology and genre-quibbling aside, how is it? Without putting too fine a point on it, it’s among the best releases of the year, in my opinion, along with Deafheaven’s ‘Sunbather’. There are a lot of reasons to draw this conclusion but the main one is that it hits that oh so tricky balance between accessible and expressive and keeps it consistent throughout.
This balance is achieved primarily by combining pop-friendly song writing with the musical staples of its most evidently inspirational style. Opening track ‘Wind-up’ is a prime example of this – despite what the upbeat tempo would suggest, the song keeps a noticeably shoegaze-orientated tone by incorporating heavily saturated fuzzy guitars and subtly effective vocal melodies. The result is a track that is likely to throw you off at first, but the slightly oxymoronic pairing of energetic rhythms and vocals that lack obvious emotion work to the band’s favour extremely well.
Though already (however briefly) mentioned, the guitar tones on this album deserve particular praise, as well as the production on the whole. Fuzz pedal guitar tones are a defining characteristic of the style in question, and by nature of their myriad incarnations it can be tricky to nail a great tone on a recording, but it can be said with confidence that Pity Sex manage it. The timbres are both crisp in their high-end and full and resonant in the low-end, creating an impacting wall of sound tone worthy of both Deftones and My Bloody Valentine. On top of that, the drums sound great with a noticeable but not distracting amount of reverb and vocals roll smoothly past the ear, with distinguishable lyrics but, as with the drums, not so prominent as to distract from the distorted ambience of the tracks. Some fans familiar with ‘Darkworld’ may not prefer polished production of 'Feast of Love' to its more noticeably lo-fi aesthetic but that is a matter of taste.
If anything could be criticised about this album, it would be that there seems to be a missed opportunity with the vocals, as the male and female voices barely interact (if at all), which could have added some interesting dynamics, but this is a minor gripe and one that doesn't take away from the album as it is. All in all, this album is likely to be a treat for anyone who has a taste for emo, shoegaze, punk or possibly even indie, as Pity Sex manage to combine elements of each for an accessible and inclusive yet diverse and creative record.