Free and legal MP3: Echo Ladies

Muddy, soaring Swedish shoegaze

Echo Ladies

“Nothing Ever Lasts” – Echo Ladies

“Nothing Ever Lasts” starts cranked to 10 (or maybe 11), equal parts commotion and grace, and never lets up. I like how much the song accomplishes, dynamically, despite the sonic onslaught. In and around the foundational wall of sound, there is freight-train percussion below, a minimal, anthemic synth line above, and Matilda Bogren’s buried but endearing vocals.

Even with her voice mixed down, as the genre usually demands, Bogren steals the show for me, with a few astute moves. First, note the unexpected deviation in the verse—the way the she finishes the first two lyrical lines with an unresolved upturn (first heard around 0:24). In my experience, this kind of shoegaze or dream pop or whatever we might call it is happy enough enshrouding a sing-song-y melody in mud and volume, pushing aside the need for any further songwriting tricks. So that caught my attention. And check out, too, how crisply she manages to enunciate the last syllables of each line in the verse, despite how muffled the words. I may be easily amused but that’s kind of fun.

And then, one more subtle device arrives, first at 0:46: the repeated use of a wordless vocal tag (that is, the “ah-ah-ahh/oh-oh-ohh” part). This, again, strikes me as unusual for the genre. Normally, when a band opts for noise on top, melody below, there are actual words it seems to want you to strain to hear, or not hear. I find the “ah-ah-ahh”s in this context not only charming but a little cheeky.

Echo Ladies is a trio from Malmö. “Nothing Ever Lasts” appears to be their second single, and arrived as a 7-inch last week via the Swedish label Hybris. Thanks to indefatigable Powerpopulist blog for the head’s up.

photo credit: Ebba Ågren

Free and legal MP3: Gross Relations (muddy & melodic, w/ a strong riff)

The opening riff, featuring that dirty/fuzzy/distorted guitar, with the organ noodling behind it, is so strong, to my ears, that I almost don’t need anything else.

Gross Relations

“When You Go Down” – Gross Relations

Okay, you want rock band instruments? You’ve got ’em here, without hesitation: guitar, bass, drum, and an old-time classic-rock organ. The opening riff, featuring that dirty/fuzzy/distorted guitar, with the organ noodling behind it, is so strong, to my ears, that I almost don’t need anything else. And then—bonus!—the first riff transitions into a secondary riff (0:22), on a janglier guitar, and now I really don’t need anything else.

But as luck would have it, there is yet more. I like how the song manages to be simultaneously bludgeony and melodic—not an easy accomplishment, but Gross Relations’ singer Joey Weber is a big Ramones fan so I guess he knows how to do it. And the cool thing is he may dig the Ramones but aside from the loud, thick sound and the strong melody this doesn’t really sound anything like the Ramones. Big Star via Guided By Voices, maybe. And, no, you can’t hear Weber distinctly, but this is one of those lucky instances in which the singer’s overall incomprehensibility adds to the charm of the piece. I’d say the muddiness is less a production technique than a distinct strategy, embodied not just in the singing and the instrumental sounds (there are distortion pedals at work here, even on the organ) but in the song’s very structure, which disguises what is a normally constructed song (verse/chorus/verse/chorus/instrumental/bridge/chorus) by blurring the verse and chorus and building the bridge as a kind of chorus extension. Cool stuff, and wrapped up in 2:39.

Gross Relations is a relatively new Brooklyn-based foursome. “When You Go Down” is from their six-song Come Clean EP, the band’s first non-single release, and, as it happens, the first release for Raven Sings the Blues Records, an offshoot of the blog of the same name. MP3 via the label.