Monday, April 24, 2017

The Crimea: Secrets of the Witching Hour at 10


The Crimea's Secrets of the Witching Hour came out on the 30th of April, 2007 - ten years ago this coming Sunday. It made headlines at the time not for its musical content (more on which shortly) but for the fact that it was released as a free download on the band's website.

That seems unremarkable now, so here's some context. In April 2007 - more than a year before Bandcamp was launched, more than a year before Spotify was launched, several months even before the release of Radiohead's pay-what-you-want seventh album In Rainbows - The Crimea, whose previous LP came out on Warner Bros. Records and included a UK top 40 single in Lottery Winners on Acid, decided to give their new album away for free over the Internet.

And it's not like Secrets of the Witching Hour was just bashed out on autopilot. It's clear that a lot of thought and feeling went into the creation of this album, and giving it away gratis was a very generous move on the part of its creators. These eleven tracks are dressed up in a lot of pop culture references and apocalyptic imagery, but strip it all back and what you're left with is a nakedly emotional and darkly honest break-up album. ("She did you no good; she brought you only harm," Davey MacManus tells himself repeatedly at the beginning of Requiem Aeternam.) It's one thing to spin your heartbreak into songs, but to then set those songs free - to allow people to store your deepest, darkest feelings in their iTunes libraries without asking for a penny in return - is something else entirely, especially given that the decision to charge nothing for SotWH pretty much ensured that all press coverage of the album would focus primarily on its price (or lack thereof) rather than on the songs themselves.

Friday, April 21, 2017

EP Corner: Four Songs Too Long by Low Horizon


Low Horizon are a band from Houston, Texas. There are currently four people in the band - John Gottlieb, Brandon T. Cane, David Dao and Jasmine Fuller - but it wasn't always thus. In fact, Low Horizon's website is home to this rather ambitious Venn diagram that maps out all the present and former members and the things they have in common:


You see, the band were originally a three-piece, and when two of the three members went off to medical school in 2015 it looked like the sun had set on Low Horizon. But John - the one remaining member - decided to keep going, and with the blessing of his former bandmates Jack and Travis he rebuilt Low Horizon from the ground up, re-recording their songs in his home studio and recruiting a new group of collaborators to help him keep the fire burning.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Fly Towards the Moon: Q&A with Morgan Murphy from Mothpuppy

Maryland band Mothpuppy make scuffed-up indie rock music that, in spite of its slightly melancholy side, is as warm and as comforting as that well-worn, increasingly threadbare jumper that you've had in your wardrobe for as long as you can remember. Their new LP Cool & Pretty is out now and Sad Cactus Records, and the band's singer/guitarist Morgan Murphy very generously agreed to answer a few of my questions about the album and how it came to be...

image source: facebook.com/mothpuppy

The Album Wall: So why did you call your band 'Mothpuppy'?

Morgan Murphy: I don't really have an interesting answer for that! It's something that people were calling me in my first year of college, and I couldn't think of anything else when I made my Bandcamp page. And then it stuck and people wouldn't let me change it.

TAW: Ha. And here I was looking at it and thinking 'ooh it's so interesting how they've put a universally reviled creature alongside a universally adored creature, I wonder what it means???'

MM: Ha, well I do love moths and puppies alike so maybe that was part of the reasoning.

TAW: What do you like about moths?

MM: I think they're beautiful and super-interesting to look at. Someone told me the reason they're attracted to light is because they're always trying to fly towards the moon - I'm not sure if that's true, but it's a nice thought.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Beautiful Bugs: Cool & Pretty by Mothpuppy


Kittens and puppies are cute. Moths and fleas are gross. Boys are tough; girls are pretty. Violins belong in orchestras, whereas electric guitars belong in garages. Good is good and bad is bad and everything is either one or the other.

These are the sort of pointless divisions and categorisations and over-simplifications in which Mothpuppy chew all kinds of holes on their new LP Cool & Pretty. Led by singer/guitarist Morgan Murphy, the Baltimore band revel in putting things in the wrong boxes, or even in emptying all of the boxes onto the carpet and just mixing everything together. The result is a raggedy slacker-indie album that's incongruously decorated with golden ribbons of gorgeous, mournful violin - ribbons that bring out the gorgeous, mournful side of the songs themselves. On the face of it, these songs are about drinking cranberry juice and taking out the bins, but on a deeper level, they're really about seeing the beauty in the things everyone else perceives as ugly.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Through a Kaleidoscope: Q&A with Philippa Zang

Philippa Zang's album Embarrass Yourself came out earlier this year on No Dice Tapes and it's an oddball DIY pop gem - listening to it feels like getting a fresh start in a sweet new world of fun opportunities and video games and oversized jumpers. There are lots of different feelings and ideas packed into its twelve little tracks, and I was lucky enough to ask Philippa a few questions in order to get to know the album better...


The Album Wall: Please introduce yourself - who are you and what should everyone know about you?

Philippa Zang: I am Philippa and I come from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania but am currently living in Dresden, Germany. I love the guitar, language and mango juice, and I don't trust rules or gender.

TAW: Why is your new album called Embarrass Yourself?

PZ: 'Embarrass yourself” was something I wrote absent-mindedly on the cover of a notebook when i first arrived in Germany in September. At the time it felt like everything I did had the potential to be embarrassing - I was in a country where I didn't know anyone and didn't speak the language. It was necessary for me to put myself in uncomfortable situations in order to open up even small opportunities and build a new home for myself abroad.