shoegaze

Impasto Gardens: “Glass Dose”

Now that we’ve had ample time to metabolize our holiday meal, might as well move back to the normal programming with the final New Music Friday of November. And today we’re listening to Austin singer-guitarist-producer Joseph McCaffrey, who you might recognize as the cofounder of mid-aughts indie pop outfit Nightmare of You. It’s been a little over a decade since we last heard from NoY, and now that McCaffrey’s entered his 40s, he’s leaning into that middle aged call to cultivate.

That’s right, just last month McCaffrey formally introduced us to his new solo project Impasto Gardens, a visually inspired crossbreed of shoegaze, pop rock, and indie psych – tangled somewhere in between Ride, Slow Dive, Explosions in the Sky, The Stone Roses, and The Jesus and Mary Chain. Late last month, the first single for Impasto Garden’s upcoming eponymous debut, “Support Systems”, made for a great introduction to McCaffrey’s newfound style, and has already racked up 40,000 spins on Spotify alone. And today he takes those textured nuances even further with the LP’s second harvest ahead of its release next January.

As the eighth of Impasto Garden‘s near-dozen tracks, “Glass Dose” provides a pivotal beat to transition into the album’s final act. Spacey guitar subdivisions and a complex drum pattern instantly paint a picture in the initial moments of “Glass Dose”, and as the reverb soars, so does the sense of translucent psychedelia in this succinct yield that’s strong enough to stand on its own – complete with quick-pan piano, un-buriable bass lines, and vegetative vocals.

Little Jungles: “Happy In Our Winter”

Finding time to perfect your craft as an adult can already be challenging enough. But becoming a husband and father of two? Talk about cutting down on your ability to monkey around in the studio. At least that’s the experience of Kelowna producer-songwriter Michael Niemann, better known by his creative handle Little Jungles. Little Jungles first crept out of the bush in 2011 with Wuts Goin Thru Yer Head, a debut that caught ears and earned acclaim thanks to Niemann’s electro-meets-shoegaze bedroom-style indie sound. Unfortunately in the aftermath, wut began going through Niemann’s head alongside the praise was enough pressure in place for a survival of the fittest mindset. But his amygdala didn’t fight or fly; it froze. The anxiety of achieving a worthy follow-up caused Little Jungles to overanalyze his originals, and as such, last summer’s I Would Kill For Some Sunlight LP came out with basically no promotion. Now that he’s a family man with shifted priorities, Niemann’s taken on a new approach; strike when the inspiration hits, knock out what you can whenever you can, and rather than give yourself the unlimited options to “fix it in post”, track it all to tape. And after six long years of careful home and vacant business recordings, we finally heard the proof of that concept just last Friday with LOOM. Like the title suggests, LOOM finds Little Jungle’s artistic vision once again naturally interlaced with the other threads of life, and the dedication to tape goes a long way. Hear for yourself with the jangling guitar riffs, unprocessed drum sounds, and delightfully lackadaisical vocal harmonies that are sure to lift your spirits, (no matter the reason or season) on “Happy In Our Winter”.

Queen Serene: “Isengard”

The “dog days” of summer formally ended last Friday and fall doesn’t officially start until late September…so with consistent triple digit temps determined to become that weekly standard, I can’t be the only Austinite who’s stopped checking the ten-day forecast. But that doesn’t mean we can’t recognize this period typically associated with seasonal transition, which among other things, continues to provide auspicious pivots for singer-guitarist Sarah Ronan.

Ronan’s origins can be traced to Tallahassee a decade back, where she and two of her college chums co-founded an indie garage rock project that evolved into The Naked Tungs. The Naked Tungs found their footing in Austin as a four-piece just before dropping their debut EP Hear It Calls in the summer of 2017 but fizzled out after “Give Me Back My Man” in September 2019. COVID soon saw Ronan quartered away and recording solo in her bedroom, and post-emergence she recruited Naked Tungs’ drummer to supplement these new tunes with percussion and synth. With the subsequent addition of bassist Dale Pohly and guitarist-vocalist Matt Galceran, Sarah Ronan finally ascended the throne as Queen Serene.

Queen Serene shared their inaugural pair of studio singles right around this same time of year back in 2021 and by last fall’s Levitation Fest, the quartet’s shoegaze domain helped them claim a supporting slot for Psychedelic Porn Crumpets. Well now that we’re once again at that seemingly-magic time of year, Her Majesty Serene’s droning, angular monarchy makes another bold appearance.

Sharing its title with the obsidian Tolkein-esque stronghold and complemented by a music video looks like it was shot by Andy Warhol in the heyday of CBGB, “Isengard” goes hard. So ahead of Queen Serene’s single release show 8PM tomorrow night at Hotel Vegas ahead of Holy Wave at 9PM, crank the gain, don the shades, and get to shoegazin’.

Lady Chops & The Goddamn Jam: “Funeral Clown”

This whole week is shaping up to be a trying triple-digit scorcher, a bold barge-in of that iconic Lone Star sun. But if you’re the type who prefers to keep their sights locked onto their sneakers rather than ever glance up at the horizon, we’ve got something that’ll stick your soles straight to the pavement. We’re talking about Lady Chops & The Goddamn Jam, fronted by Lady Chops herself, singer Bethony Harnden. Backed by a tight three-piece with diverse musical tastes and backgrounds, Lady Chops & The Goddamn Jam served up their stealthy lo-fi debut single “Up To You” in the summer of 2020, stepping up the production value with the sparsely arranged “End All Be All” that October. This year, ahead of their first studio full-length, Time, the quartet’s given us sneak peeks at an impressive pace, with lead tracks trickling out in February, March, and April. Just like its title, the release date for Time is still uncertain. But thanks to tastefully restrained sonics that erupt like Pagliacci, a chord progression up to par with Broadway and opera, and disciplined vocal and instrumental performances that almost sound effortless, the record’s fourth single “Funeral Clown” will for sure keep your spirits cool enough for the foreseeable heatwave.

Lauren Lakis: “Terror Tears”

When an actor gets their first big break out in L.A., most folks can quickly differentiate between the pretty faces and those with a burning creative core underneath. A dead giveaway for the latter? Other than a luminous performance that transcends the screen and leaves a lasting impact on the audience…maybe the most obvious tell is passionately and outwardly pursuing a separate discipline.

Just take a look at Lauren Lakis. The Baltimore native’s ever-growing feature-length filmography began in 2011, and while taking the whole singer-songwriter thing seriously probably did cross her mind several times, it really wasn’t until Lakis relocated from Los Angeles to Austin about ten years back that she doubled down on her musicianship. Lakis stayed busy at the turn of the last decade with her 2018 debut LP Ferocious, 2019’s Sad Girl Breakfast EP, and Daughter Language from 2021, not to mention recent live appearances at SXSW and Levitation alongside the likes of KUTX airwave alumni Holy Wave and Ringo Deathstarr.

Seemingly unable to take an extended siesta at this stage in her career, Lauren Lakis has been building hype around her third full-length A Fiesta and a Hell, out later this fall. This album perfectly preserves Lauren’s legacy as a rockstar stuck in a hard place with an authentically-emotional, infectiously-magnetic take on the shoegaze genre, as heard already on its delectably droning, reptilian crawl of a first glimpse, “Take My Hand“. Today, A Fiesta and a Hell‘s sophomore offering lobs Lakis’ already-leering mystique straight back to the late-’70s/early-mid-’80s golden age of post-punk goth rock with a stern ultimatum surrounding the divisive tactics of mainstream media and the capitalism that backs it. “Terror Tears” fearlessly lets the mascara flow freely and floods the ducts with deft retro dynamics, sweet-yet-sinister verses that strike a contrast from its animosity-anchored choruses, and a fuzzy-beyond-belief bridge section chock-full of vocal delay, that, altogether, expands Lakis’ purview to an almost satirical sense of sick dystopian schadenfreude.

Sugar Purr: “Other Heart”

As we hit double digit days in the new year, it’s worth mentioning that in the past week and a half alone, a bevy of superb songs have already sweetened the deal for 2023. And there’s proof in the purring! Roughly one year after premiering a triplet of live performance videos on YouTube, Austin quartet Sugar Purr just gave us a double lump with their debut pair of studio singles last Saturday. And before you hiss at their handle; you’d better believe these morsels are for more than just Meow-Meows! Spearheaded by singer-guitarist John Wilhelm, Sugar Purr crafts complex sonic cocktails; they refine and reverberate elements of Pink Floyd, Andy Schauf, and Santo & Johnny into psychedelic country-tropical concoctions, somehow ideal for both lonesome buckaroos and boozy beach bums alike. The newly-released B-Side is just as much of a treat as its predecessor but we had to unwrap Sugar Purr for newcomers with the luau-ready lap steel and siesta-friendly structure of “Other Heart”. Just don’t nod off at work.

Pale Dian: “Misanthrope”

Back in my day if you wanted to be one of the first to lay eyes on a new music video, you basically had to stay locked onto TRL. And if you wanted your music video to get played, you probably had to have an industry contact in the early internet era. So no disrespect to Carson Daly, but our ability to showcase Austin visuals freely is all thanks to you.

And since our Fall Membership Drive steers near to Halloween, skies are grey and pallor is back in seasonal fashion. Which brings up to Pale Dian. Spearheaded by visceral vocalist-synthesist Ruth Ellen Smith, Pale Dian purveys a Post-Punk-meets-Shoegaze style that’s been deemed “Nightmare Pop”. Since their 2016 debut Narrow Birth, these bleak dissociations have trickled across time and genre, in way where a Roy Orbison collaboration with Cocteau Twins wouldn’t be unheard of.

Like a double-exposed dream dipped in desire and doused in delight, Pale Dian dropped their sophomore follow-up Feral Birth yesterday. The band celebrated with a record release last night at Hotel Vegas two weeks before their upcoming appearance at the Galveston Art Festival. But you won’t need to make a beach trip to enjoy Pale Dian’s off-kilter optics; today they’ve unleashed a one-of-a-kind counterpart to Feral Birth. Animated by longtime Richard Linklater collaborator Wiley Wiggins (Dazed and Confused, Waking Life, etc.) “Misanthrope” will momentarily transport you out of the beginning-of-week mindset so you can turn on, tune in, and drop out to watch reality melt.

Intercom Heights: “Fascinated”

During the heyday of Seattle’s grunge scene singer-guitarist Harris Thurmond was a key player in groups like Hammerbox, Orbiter, and Sanford Arms, and has called Austin his home for the past decade and a half. Following that relocation, Thurmond became a major contributor for Austin outfit New Roman Times, but even though they called it quits after three albums, Thurmond had discovered an indelible chemistry between himself and fellow New Roman Times alum, singer-bassist Josie Fluri.

8Fluri and Thurmond expressed a mutual interest in pursuing a new project, and with the recruitment of Black Books synth-keyboardist Meg Bernhard, Intercom Heights came to fruition. The trio’s psych-pop-meets-shoegaze style bridges the difference between M83 and The National, and their debut album Night Measures was mixed by Spoon’s Jim Eno. You can size up Night Measures in full when it drops on September 10th, but with a full month to go, you’d better keep your interest piqued with the record’s latest single, “Fascinated”!

Armlock: “Power Of A Waterfall”

In their salad days of jazz standards, Melbourne multi-instrumentalists Simon Lam and Hamish Mitchell first connected over a mutual disgust in the genre they rehearsed academically. Fast forward a full decade, where, following shared endeavors with experimental electronic in I’lls and Couture, Mitchell and Lam are now tackling a lo-fi indie-shoegaze sound as Armlock.

Armlock released their debut Trust today, a seven-song whose delicate sonics imply an air of simplicity, masking how masterfully produced this record truly is. The poignant lyrics’ll tear straight to your core and the soft-spoken melodies (like those heard on “Power Of A Waterfall”) will leave you feeling melancholy in the best way possible.

dreamgoth: “cant wait to die”

Claiming Austin as their local haunt, guitarist-vocalist Marshal Spaulding has built up a repertoire of primarily electronic music under the handle dreamgoth. But as one might expect from the moniker, dreamgoth does indeed dabble with the dark arts of dreampop and shoegaze in their more recent arrangements, soon to be heard on their new EP damien grey.

Dropping July 1st, damien grey digresses a bit from dreamgoth’s typical formulas, venturing into the pop realm with some subtle new wave production elements, but where Depeche Mode “Just Can’t Get Enough”, dreamgoth doles out dreariness on “cant wait to die”!