Sporadic MP3age: Mogwai (Tonight!) + Bird of Youth + Smoke Fairies + Moonlight Towers + More

Gah. Y’know, I love this age of digital music we live in, I truly do — I’m no analog-only hero, personally, but would rather be able to listen to whatever music I want whenever I want, and nothing enables that like digital players and formats and whatnot.

At the same time, though, some weeks I feel positively engulfed by a wave of MP3 files, coming in from every direction like a tidal surge. I keep meaning to grind through ’em on a regular basis and post ’em up on this here site, but then things slip away again.

Anyway, I’m trying to be better about it, y’all, because in the vast mess of music we get sent here at SCR, there are some really, really cool things floating around. Here’re a few:

Mogwai – “San Pedro”
Okay, so this wasn’t really what I was expecting to hear from Mogwai, honestly. I’ve been an on-again-off-again fan of the band for several years now, starting around the time of Come On Die Young, and I’ve enjoyed watching them grow progressively heavier as the years go by; with all that heaviness, though, they somehow managed to keep things nicely atmospheric. ‘Til now, anyway — “San Pedro” (and a lot of the rest of new album Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will) is way, way more straight-up “rock” than anything I’d heard from the band up to this point.

I don’t mean that to necessarily be a bad thing, mind you, just, well, different. Gone, for the most part, are the swirling, surging guitars and complex rhythms, replaced by what sounds like it could very well be a backing track to the latest Foo Fighters album, lacking only Dave Grohl’s vocals to make it complete. And hey, I’m good with that. I’m also liking the hints of Dischord post-punk I’m hearing drifting through, little bits and pieces that sound variously like Jawbox, Edsel, or even Smart Went Crazy. Plus, it’s driving as all hell, practically propulsive — the only question is, where’s it going?

(BTW, you can check out point/counterpoint reviews of the new Mogwai album on our very own site, courtesy of Daniel Yuan, & on David Cobb‘s excellent Houston Calling site — check ’em out here and here.)

Mogwai is playing 5/17/11 at Warehouse Live.

Bird of Youth – “Bombs Away, She Is Here to Stay”
Yes, yes, yes, yes — I’ve found the first sunny-day blast of gorgeous, insanely catchy (yet smart and bitter) pop of the summer, right freaking here. I defy anyone at all to reach that chorus, with those pounding, Northern Soul-esque drums, and not feel a grin creep across their face; it’s just impossible to resist. The whole thing’s shimmery-shiny and beautiful, with grin-inducing guitar melodies roaring along below Bird of Youth frontwoman Beth Wawerna‘s flat, seemingly disconnected (yet still impressive) voice.

This track (off the band’s forthcoming Will Sheff-produced full-length, Defender, due out 5/24) comes off like Palomar if they smiled less and listened to more Belle & Sebastian or — better still — a resurrected Velocity Girl, come back from their mid-’90s grave to rescue us all from the horrific, vapid glut of female-fronted squalling that passes for “pop” these days.

Smoke Fairies – “Hotel Room”
Listening to this track from Smoke Fairies (The Smoke Fairies? no idea…), I absolutely cannot help but think of the Cowboy Junkies; Katherine Blamire and Jessica Davies‘ voices have that same husky, roadworn quality to it as Margo Timmins’s, and like Timmins, they can soar and swoop when they want to but tend to choose not to, instead keeping things low to the ground and murky. The duo may hail from damp, foggy Sussex (no, seriously), but the music is windswept and dusty like a lonesome highway somewhere out in the American West, at night, with only the headlights and stars to see by. When the drums really kick in, the song surges forward like the Fairies are putting the pedal down and seeing how fast they can roar off into the dark.

Moonlight Towers – “Heat Lightning”
Fuck. I totally meant to listen to this (and maybe post it) before Moonlight Towers came through town (just this past Thursdaysigh), and I completely, totally dropped the ball. And yeah, now that I finally hear “Heat Lightning,” I’m slapping myself on the forehead. Hard.

On this track, the Austin band plays an awesomely catchy brand of rootsy, Southern-tinged rock, sounding for all the world like some heretofore-unheard collaboration between Springsteen and Lynyrd Skynyrd. There’s those great, just-distorted-enough guitars, the Hold Steady-like organ, the raise-your-hands gospel vibe, and even an out-of-left-field blast of Motown horns to mix things up, and holy hell, is the end product fantastic. If this is what all of Day Is the New Night sounds like, then I seriously need to get a hold of a copy for myself.

Morning Claws – “Slack Magic”
First, a bit of a warning: give “Slack Magic” a little time to unfold before hitting “Stop” on whatever player you’re using. I know that when those first crunchy, electro-style beats came in, I kinda cringed and thought, “oh, God — not another DFA clone, please?” I let it run, though, and after a few minutes the genius of Belfast’s Morning Claws came shining through.

The song steadily builds on that first unpromising bit of sound, adding in lush, wavery layers of synths, strings, and duetting shyboy/shygirl vocals, eventually morphing into a sparking gem of Postal Service-influenced, organic-sounding, warm electro-pop that I want to stick on endless repeat just so I can hear it do that cool building thing over and over again.

Lightouts – “And It Comes And Goes”
And to finish up, a flat-out, tearing-up-the-stage blast of emo-tinged alternarock, the kind that makes me think of 1996 and grin. On “It Comes And Goes,” duo Lightouts manage to hit that perfect sweet spot with their guitars, right there between fuzzed-out Superchunk-y goodness (think Foolish) and sweeping, Brit-sounding arena-rock heroics that call to mind Doves more than they do anybody else. It’s loud yet mannered and sophisticated, smirking cleverly while bashing away at power-chords or cutting loose with an amps-on-fire snippet of a solo, and it beats the hell out of most pure, un-genre-ified “rock” songs I’ve heard lately.

That’s all I’ve got time for now; many, many more in the pile, though, so keep checking back. Maybe one of these damn days this’ll be regularly-scheduled or something…


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