Friday, October 30, 2015

More tapes for you from Shake! Records

Shake! Records is an independently run record and tape label out of Victoria, British Columbia.  Their mission statement: “to make rock n roll fun again”.  This I believe they are accomplishing with each release they put out into the world and as of late they are putting a lot whole lotta fun!  The wonderful thing about this label is that they doesn’t stick to one “sound “or “scene”.  Whatever strikes their fancy they release.  Anything from punk, power pop, dream pop, new wave, shoe gaze, and much more that simply defies petty genre tags.  A lot of these releases were put out for the annual festival they run called Shake/Arama.  They’re all limited releases so if you read about something you like, act fast!

Blü Shorts S/T Cassette (Shake!)
Short, simple reverb soaked tunes pop out of your speakers when sliding this tape into your deck (which is on a limited triple color splatter cassette I may add).  The first song “TV Avenue” is kind of an upbeat little ditty but that’s as far as that goes.  As we go further down the tunnel the light quickly fades and gives way to darker songs filled with anxiety and despair.  The song “Gravel” is probably the darkest corner of this album, chronicling a tale of a person that’s been knocked down a few rungs on the ladder of life and who then directly contributes to the breaking of a 40oz!  If there’s ever been a more exuberant tale chronicling the lowest points of the human condition and needless demise of a good 40 ouncer, then present it to me now or forever hold your peace!  - J Castro      

The Backhomes – Tidalwave Cassette (Shake!)
This Victoria by way of Montreal duo made up of Kees Dekker and visual artist/animator Aimée van Drimmelen play ultra-melodic reverb dipped, sun kissed rock tunes with a melancholy pose.  Reminds me a bit of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s slower numbers, The Raveonettes or Jesus and Mary Chain’s “Kill Surf City” era material.  The songs range from straight hitters to melodies with a more atmospheric aura swooning around them.  Production on the record is spot on, it is clear enough to let the band’s talent shine through yet set back enough to keep in the mystique.  From what I understand van Drimmelen’s art work is used to create a unique atmosphere at their gigs.  Visual spectacles or no, the band’s records are worth picking up and these two are most definitely worth checking out live.  - J Castro    

Terra – Couldn’t Save This Cassette EP (Shake!)
Killer moody, mid-tempo, seething tunes from this Medicine Hat, Alberta band.  Terra construct songs that rely heavily on a sinister, infectious bass riffs and all the other instruments play off of it.   That gives this EP a Joy Division feel to it but the singer isn’t quite as droll as Ian Curtis.  So they must sound like Interpol then you may think.  Well no, not exactly.  Terra come off leaner and more melodic like in the last song on here called “Incurable Condition”.  The vocals are dead pan and the rhythm section is firing away in a drone like fashion, but it’s faster moving.  Terra don’t dwell in the night for too long, eventually the sun does rise, which is good because painting yourself in a dark corner can be ones creative demise.   - J Castro

Boats! – Best Boats! Collection Cassette (Shake!)
To be honest with you, I have never heard Boats! before.  I have certainly heard and read their name in many circles and have been interested in checking them out because from what I hear, they play the kind of music that makes me all tingly inside.  So what better way to start my listening adventure is there than with a Boats! hits collection!  This compilation was put together just for Shakearama II and comes on a killer turquoise cassette.  As for what I thought of the music you ask?  Great!  Snotty, nail driving upbeat punk rock that is well executed and with a sense of humor.  Like a less intense Sharp Objects with a Stan Lee/Leonard Phillips stance.
Maximum internal tingles achieved!  - J Castro

Twin Crystals – Child Life Cassette (Shake!)
Vancouver’s own Twin Crystals music slithers violently on the floor like a snake that’s been cut in half by a shovel.  These aren’t pretty, melodic tunes that are meant for easing you into your comfy afternoon flip flops or setting as background music at your next patio party.  No, these guys play loud, fractured, noisy songs that at times remind me of Mission of Burma or early Sonic Youth at their most disenfranchised.   The production puts the vocals right there, front and center and in your face.  The rest of the band is left to kill off what ever gets past him, which I imagine can’t be too much.  The band uses the tags “No Core and Hard Wave” on their Bandcamp page to describe themselves.  I’ve never heard either of these terms before but they certainly suit Twin Crystals well!  -  J Castro

Fist City – Greatest Splits Cassette (Shake!)
The first thing I noticed about Fist City was the vocals.  For one, they’re very good and they’re very honest in their passion.  It’s not overboard angry, screechy, or cutesy peppy.  I hear genuine urgency and truth in that voice.  The rest of the band forms an impenetrable 50 foot high wall of Husker Du type melodic noise that backs up those vocals at every play.  As the title suggest, this is a collection of various tracks compiled from split releases plus some new songs too!  All of this plus there’s a song called “Iggy Pup” which should have been a Hanna-Barbera cartoon character about a scrappy, unruly yet adorable mutt that enjoys rolling around in peanut butter!  Talk about a missed opportunity, he could have been better than Yogi Bear!   -  J Castro

The Pink Lincolns – The Best of... Cassette (Shake!)
Major subdued Lou Reed vibes radiating from just the first 5 seconds of the first song, not a bad thing mind you, not bad at all. This is not to be confused with those Florida ruffians with the same name, oh no!  This is a compilation showcasing the works of songwriter and composer Daniel Colussi from Vancouver.  The rest of this album goes on to reveal Colussi does in fact have his own voice and not just worshipping exclusively at the Lou Reed altar.  The songs here have undeniable hooks and melodies that stick to memory.  Some of the songs do have a Reed/Velvets vibe but they’re not as pretentious or artsy as the aforementioned could be at times.  Colussi writes songs that are much more playful and accessible.  They’re songs you can put on and enjoy at any time and not have to strap on your shiny boots of leather.   -  J Castro

Mosfett – Roswell Cassette (Shake!)
Slow to quick tempo sludgy tunes of anger, pain, loss, and pretty much any other negative aspect the human condition can offer up.  Listening to the Vancouver trio, you can almost see them writhing in their own agony that wraps around them like a constricting python.  It’s like watching a giant crocodile eat in a muddy swamp.  As its powerful jaws clamp down on its prey; at times it just lays there in the muck just savoring it’s catch of the day.  At other times, without expecting it, the croc violently turns and flails around to try and get a better grip.  That pretty much sums up what I’m feeling as I listen to Mosfrett.  All except for the last song titled “Matthew Perry/Central Perk.  I don’t even intend to offer up an opinion of that one, I just climbed in and let it take me to wherever it’s going. -  J Castro

Hexagrams – Analog Cassette (Shake!)
Hexagrams play haunting, slow flowing shoe gaze and atmospheric dream pop that fills the room like dry ice smoke.  Not from Vancouver or from the Pacific Northwest, but from my mother land; Mexico!  Oh yes, from the beautiful city of Leon, located in the state of Guanajuato which is located pretty much smack dab in the middle of the country.  The album starts off with a very melancholy mood but as it gets going it starts to pick up some bulk.   The songs never get too airy or transparent, they still have some drive and substance to them (check out the song “China Doll” and the closer “Soft Drugs”).  As if you need any more incentives to check out Hexagrams, Shake! put this out on retina bursting hand splattered blue and pink on flat black tapes!
-  J Castro 

Sh-Shakes – S/T Cassette EP (Shake!)
Back to Vancouver for some garage dance floor stompers, courtesy of Sh-Shakes!  I can almost see the heels of black Beatle Boots stomping and grinding puddles of sweat into the wooden dance floor.  Sh-Shakes have got some serious soul in their rock n’ roll repertoire!   They call themselves psyche-rock n’ roll, I guess as much as you can call The Zombies or The Animals “psyche”.  To me, this is just grade “A” 1960’s inspired garage rock n’ roll.  This is just a small taste mind you, the A Side is a couple of older tunes and the B Side represents what the band is doing as of late.  Maybe some of their other music has a more psychedelic flavor to it.  Once again, Shake! offers this tape as part of their “Splatter” series.  This one: green and orange splatter on a flat black tape!   -  J Castro 

Lab Coast – Wilding Cassette (Shake!)
This Calgary duo play short, melodic, quirky tunes with some heavy fuzz balls and distortion covering the whole thing.  So much distortion in fact that a couple of times I mistook the vocals for a kazoo playing in the background, especially on the song called “See You Tonight”.  They’re not all like that though, the production varies depending on the ambience the band wants to portray on each tune.  The next song is almost a straight up indie pop ditties called “Happy Go Lucky”, well as close as Lab Coast gets to “pop” that is.  A lot of these songs have a good folksy/earthy foundation to them and remind me of Sebadoh’s Smash Your Head on the Punk Rock or if Wilco had taken the experimentalism they were starting to dabble with in Yankee Hotel Foxtrot further than they actually did.   -  J Castro     

Nervous Talk – S/T Cassette (Shake!)
This is the cassette version of the LP that P-Trash Records and Hosehead Records put out earlier this year only this time it’s on a screaming yellow cassette tape!  If you have never heard this band, by all means you simply must.  I did an interview with Joel and Todd way back in January of 2014 when they had only been playing together as Nervous Talk for a couple of years then and just had a couple of EP’s out and I was already impressed enough that I wanted to shout their name from roof tops.  Plus they revealed that they were once in bands called Timecopz, The Moby Dicks and a Brian Eno Halloween tribute band called HallowEno!  What more do you want!  Seriously though, this Vancouver band only got better with age and this here LP stands as hard evidence to that statement.  -  J Castro     

Crystal Eyes – No Man is an Island Cassette (Shake!)
The guitars and bass are wound up tight and the riffs they emit are robust, probably the most coherent aspect of this tape that help gel the songs together and keep them moving. The drums sticks are held loosey goosey as they barley strike the snare drum, and Erin Jenkins vocals float in and out of reality like a lighthouse that comes in and out of view with heavy fog on Crystal Eye’s debut EP.  My favorite tunes on this release is the third song in called “Here She Comes”: a mixture of Velvet Underground ambience with soaring guitars that wouldn’t sound out of place on Cocteau Twins Heaven or Las Vegas with a My Bloody Valentine type zest.  The other one is the last one called “Keep the Faith” which is as close as the band gets to a straight up guitar rocker.  - J Castro         

Mandates – In The Back of Your Heart Cassette (Shake!)
For some reason I always think of Mandates as being Nervous Talk’s older, delinquent brother.  You know. the older brother that sometimes doesn’t come home at night and when he does he eats all the good left overs, is in and out of jail a lot and wears the same torn up blue jeans for days on end.  Mandates are long hair, black leather jacketed rock n roll warriors.  The illegitimate and unclaimed children of Suzi Quatro and Joey Ramone.  Yeah they’re all rough and tumble on the outside, but they can write some of the catchiest guitar riffs you’ll ever hear and they got a soft spot for the ladies too, just like you and me.   This is the record The Riverdales were hoping to make after their first LP, but the rock n roll gods don’t just give gonads away, you gotta go out and earn them yourself.  - J Castro

Painted Fruits – Fruit City Cassette (Shake!)
The Music of Noah Varley’s band Painted Fruits has a vagabond, bohemian artist charm to it; like Rufus Wainwright or Andrew Bird only scrappier and not as baroque.  Some of the tracks on the Fruit City cassette also recalls the delicate songwriting and structures of Jens Lekman or even Sondre Lerche to me at times. The songs are as a whole quirky, likeable, a tad flamboyant and intelligent without seeming snobby or too highbrow for the common 9 to 5 folk to enjoy and not get left out of the artsy kid’s fun and amusement.  Sure they artsy kids stuck together in high school, eating lunch in their studios not acknowledging anyone on the outside’s existence.  And when they did you never knew the music or movies they referenced because all you knew was The Ramones and Star Wars.  But now the artsy kids are finally letting us in!  - J Castro

Catholic Girls – Psychic Woman Cassette (Shake!)
The initial feeling I got from this Calgary band as I listened to the first song on this EP called “The Room” was pure anxiety.  The band’s music rides hard on waves of lushly coated synthesizers.  The second and third songs here titled “Whore” and “Tokyo” slows things down a bit to a lurking, shadowy  Siouxsie and The Banshees Nocturne era new wave club sound with ever so slightly mechanical whirrs in the background.   The last song “Berlin” sounds like a demo track from Sisters of Mercy’s album Floodland without Andrew Eldritch’s cartoon-y bad guy voice and the over the top production.  Catholic Girls deliver an impressive effort here; the songs are put together tightly and the production helps hold everything where it should be.  - J Castro

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