I love it when labels turn heads by signing a band that is completely unexpected and sounds nothing like what they have put out previously. Jade Tree is no stranger to the clichéd saying, “keeping people on their toes” as they have released records from Owls to Lifetime to Esther Drang, all who sound nothing alike. This signing made many scratch their heads wondering what Jade Tree was going to do with this politically charged beast from the Portland area.
Featuring members of the much heralded His Hero Is Gone, From Ashes Rise have been plugging away in basements across the U.S. for the past few years; releasing a hammering first full-length and a split with Victims (both released on various labels). I had always wondered what the likes of Tragedy and Drop Dead would sound like if they entered a high quality studio equipped with the kind of technology that many similar groups cannot afford due to lack of label support. Nightmares is absolutely crushing. Matt Bayles took the helm of this release at his infamous Studio Litho (having done great records from Botch and Benton Falls) and have produced a record demonstrating that bands can push the limits of what DIY is today while creating a great sounding, volatile record filled with passion and integrity.
This is the equivalent of getting punched in the face by a skinny punk rock kid and then having him lecture you about the evils of conforming and signing up for everyday life. They have not strayed too much from the musical path they forged with their previous band, but have added greater dynamics like supplementary melodies and the use of a piano. From Ashes Rise have pushed themselves to greater heights (and in the process espoused their ideas to a wider base), and in a time where music has become more “paint by numbers” it is a welcome change to hear something this straight forward and angry.
(Jade Tree Records)
Hatchie – Keepsake
Keepsake, the debut album by Brisbane dream pop artist Hatchie is musical luminescence that can only be described as music written for the stars
Brisbane indie-pop artist Hatchie (known to her friends and family as Harriette Pilbeam) is in the envious position of being a pop artist unspoiled by the many trappings of what it is to be a modern pop artist. Unlike some of her contemporaries who craft music by committee or with Sheeran-like self-importance, Hatchie is as of now, unsullied by the pressures of the cookie-cutter pop machine. Hatchie’s debut full length is a showcase for a talent who is supremely confident and composed in her abilities, and Keepsake is musical luminescence that can only be described as music written for the stars. The album is also a wonderful throwback to pop’s dreamy 60s influences that shuffle in and out of this delirium while working alongside distinctly more current musical touches.
There is the lush dream pop sounds of “Without a Blush”, taking cues from the best of what Stars and Goldfrapp conjure but heaping a tonne of Pilbeam’s charisma on it. Like her vocals, “Without a Blush” has this elegance that has the ability to elevate songs from being beautiful to grand. It is the kind of vocal elegance that really shines through on songs like the skittering, beat-driven “Obsessed” and the alternative, guitar-fuelled (yay!) “When I Get Out”. Indie/electronic closer “Keep” is a wonderful end to proceedings.
However, the great strength of Keepsake is not just its composure in how all the songs have been put together. It is also this genuine, natural-sounding quality that permeates the album- nothing overly written, overly produced or put together by research groups or music analysts. It just sounds like talent. We can argue that much of pop music is constructed to appease the moment- designed to grab as much attention as possible in an A.D.D. world. And sure, that can be said about almost any kind of music, but the resulting aural tone of Keepsake is anything but transient or transparent.
The best way to combat tepid chart-topping music is to write better pop songs. Songs like “Her Own Heart” and the disco-toned “Stay” are examples of pop music that come across as timeless. We are moved by the songs found on Keepsake when we listen to them today. And I suspect that in 10 years time, or in 20, we will most likely feel the same. It is rare to find the sort of ageless beauty you find on Keepsake.