New releases by Deadphones, Hills Like Elephants and Schitzophonics
San Diego's music scene is as vibrant as ever. Every so often (and more often than not), we're treated to great collections of new music by extremely talented bands. Do yourself a favor: Join the SoundDiego Record Club and treat yourself to some new tunes you won't be able to stop listening to.
Deadphones: Self-titled (released March 11) Deadphones, the San Diego quintet born from the ashes of eclectic indie rockers Cuckoo Chaos, are all about reinvention. After laying their previous "project" to rest to embark on a new musical journey with a new name, the band has released a self-titled debut that eschews the sunny disposition that permeated much of their prior material, opting for a decidedly more ominous one. These 11 songs are eerie reflections that, dynamically, shift to the side -- never upward; the big, soaring choruses of indie rock are replaced in whole by hypnotic grooves ("Shattered Anchors"), slithering sound effects ("Skinless"), haunting, dreamy soundscapes ("Time") and ghostly lullabies ("Somnabulator"). They embrace a shadowy moodiness that works to the band's advantage, even when they turn up the volume (which they eventually do on "Strange Sensibilities"), there's an undercurrent of melancholy that winds throughout, preventing the music from ever soaring away uncontrollably. Scott Wheeler's voice (reminiscent of Elbow's Guy Garvey or Peter Gabriel) is perfectly suited for these brooding odes, enwrapping these abstract tunes like a worn-out, lived-in safety blanket. Whatever the band name, this new approach suits them well. Buy it.
Hills Like Elephants: Bedroom Colonies: Vol. 1 EP (released March 8) After last year’s album Feral Flocks, which took the sound of Hills Like Elephants’ 2011 debut album and refined it a bit, we were left wondering what the band would do next. If this new EP is any indication, they’re heading in a vastly different direction. Sure, the hooks are still there (is this band even capable of writing a lousy melody?) and singer/keyboardist Sean Davenport still steers the songs with those woozy, yearning vocals of his, but gone are the straight-ahead indie pop songs we’ve grown accustomed to from the group. Instead, they’re interwoven with spastic synths, disjointed guitar phrases and heavy, digital beats. What used to be an entirely smooth surface is now occasionally jagged -- and it provides the band with a slight edge they probably needed. The lead-off track "Non-Fictionalism" is the obvious single of the bunch, a catchy, mild electro number that builds while Davenport pleads, "Hold yourself together/All you ever do is run away," through its climax. Amid the trippy, slow-burn of "Fall Through," the quintet starts to steady its newfound musical footing, with "Acid Jelly" kicking off with heavy use of percussive samples before erupting into a cacophony of frenetic synthesizers and wild, echoed vocals. Word on the street is that Hills Like Elephants have yet another EP of material from these sessions ready to drop within the next few months, and if it’s anything like this one -- bring it on. Buy it.
Schitzophonics: I Can't Take It 7" (Released Feb. 8) Fuzz rock never sounded so good. If you’ve ever seen the Schitzophonics in action, you know they’re unforgettable. Guitarist/vocalist Pat Beers swings his guitar around -- usually with one hand -- all while somehow playing incomparably gnarly solos. Beers; his wife and drummer, Lety Beers; and bassist Tom Lord proudly wear their late ‘60s/early ‘70s influences on their collective sleeve and churn out three delightfully scuzzy rock tracks, seemingly ripped from MC5 or the Stooges catalogs. Recorded at Earthling Studios (which we named as one of San Diego’s top recording studios) by Mike Kamoo, all the songs here feel familiar, but they tear through them with their own unmistakable fervor. The true gem, and the single’s namesake, "I Can’t Take It" hops along with a Sonics-esque hook and killer background vocal harmonies that would sound right at home on old Kinks records. Since it was produced in extremely limited quantities by Munster Records, you should pick this up while you still can. Buy it.