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Bubble Tea and Cigarettes take road trip to "Santa Monica"

In keeping with their name, Bubble Tea and Cigarettes capture the enduring pleasures of the most fleeting of pleasures. On the two singles they released in 2020 the bedroom pop combo were just as likely to be found in the kitchen unpacking their latest comestibles with dreamy elegies dedicated to eating empanadas at 5am or about ordering fried chicken from the takeout joint downstairs in the middle of the night and the inevitable reflections upon one’s own mortality (“people all die soon”) provoked by such activities. 

Newly signed to Madrid-based Elefant Records, the duo’s latest single ventures a bit further afield from their local bodega for inspiration, namely all the way to the Left Coast and ocean-adjacent “Santa Monica” in particular where the song and the sumptuous shot-on-location video (dir: Shicong Zhu) depict an amorous yet hesitant couple cruising down the “violet street” of a purple-hued Pacific Coast Highway shooting home movies and sucking on candy ring pops and smoking cigarettes while pondering the question “is this love ended or it never started?” before ending up at an sparsely populated amusement park straight out of Carnival of Souls and cavorting together in slo-mo illuminated only by the lights of the ferris wheel and the colored flames of hand-held sparklers before our narrator is finally left “lost in love” waking up alone in a parking lot as her partner speeds off on a motorcycle.

The languid longing and overall slowcore/sadcore/dreampop vibes of "Santa Monica" are ably assisted by twangy “Duane Eddy on Xanax” guitar, lugubrious strings and mournful castanets (two words you won't see together elsewhere) with vocals that sound as if they’re emanating from a wormhole to another dimension more than from a human body and it all exerts an appropriate gravitational pull. BT&C is comprised of Andi Wang and Ruinan Zhang and while I’m not sure which one of them is “Bubble Tea” and which one is “Cigarettes” it's no matter because together they capture the sugar-and-nicotine rush and subsequent comedown inherent in the combo and I’m guessing that they only left “weed gummies” off from their name because it got to be too long. So grab a jumbo straw and suck down some taro covered tapioca globules in musical form in between drags on a Pall Mall assuming this is up your alley. (Jason Lee)

Phantom Handshakes: Shoegaze on Broadway

ALT TITLE: "Dream-pop Girls"

Way back in 2020, the Phantom Handshakes put out a song called “Aisha (Vs the Dirty Tongues)” which just from the title alone sounds like it should be a rock opera. And it’s not just the title because the song’s dramatic, moody music is likewise suited to the stage and would likely appeal to the youth of today since they don’t yet have a rock opera to call their own. Anyway I’d say the time has finally come for a shoegaze/dream pop takeover of Broadway and the West End.

The newest release by the Phantom Handshakes entitled No More Summer Songs could be the album to break the impasse and tap the potential for a dream pop rock opera if somebody could just find the next Mr. Lin-Manuel Miranda and get him or her to write a staged adaptation. I mean just listen to “Cricket Songs” and it’s inner monologue describing the protagonist’s heightened sense of perception in the midst of a summer heatwave complete with bedroom dancing and sweaty sheets and overemotive mothers and drifting off to the sound of chirping crickets. It’s pretty evocative stuff and so is the video above.

The album’s opening track “I Worried” would make a perfect overture with its ghostly echoes looking back at past misspent summers (that’s my take on it anyway) which would serve as a perfect framing device for the musical, and then the next song “No Better Plan” would be the crossover crowd-pleaser with its wordless catchy yet slightly taunting “Nya Na Na” refrain which should translate well to foreign markets.

The song captures a doomed-yet-determined forlornness but with a sunny/boppy melody and beat (sidenote: the aforementioned hit song from Hamilton also has a “Na Na Na” refrain) with lyrics about “building sandcastles despite the wind” which is essentially what King George does in Hamilton

P.S. I’ll gratefully accept a producer co-credit and a modest percentage of the gross box office if this idea comes to fruition. But if it turns out to be the next Moose Murders just remember you didn’t hear any of this from me.

Jeremy Bastard threads the needle on debut LP

“Slipshod, down by evening

I needle cabarets

I cannot quit the feeling

I dressed up anyway--“


"Needle” is a word rife with many different meanings. A needle used to be required to hear pre-recorded music and maybe it still is if you're a vinyl junkie. You also need one to sew a sweater or scarf and other warm and fuzzy things. But "to needle" someone means to bug the hell out of them in a very un-warm and fuzzy fashion. Intravenous needles are used to save lives. But they're also synonymous with drug addition and deadly ODsAnd when you're on "pins and needles” you’re not sure whether to anticipate or to dread a future event. 

“Needle” is also the first song on Jeremy Bastard's Everyone Is History, There Is No Memory, his first full LP as the featured performer and producer. The album is full of warm analogue synths tones but mixed with a coldwave sensibility, and the overall sound is by turns murky and sleek or sometimes both at once. And who knows if we're talking about good needles or bad ones in a song like this, but either way much of music has a pins and needles quality to it in a way that reminds me of the Tech Noir scene in the first Terminator movie.

For one thing there's the death disco vibe of "Needle" that sounds just right for an 80s club with a chain link fence around a neon-saturated dance floor. But there's also something about the sound design like in how the soundtrack gets all echoey and distant sounding just as the scene above transitions to slo-mo visuals. And then the music transitions from diegetic to non-diegetic sound, but so gradually and seamlessly you could miss it if you're immersed in the action too much but it alters your perceptions either way.

Jeremy Bastard's music does this same thing too with overlapping layers of sound that alters your perceptions. Like when waves of echo seems to coalesce and follow their own rhythmic logic independent of the rest of the song. Or when a sound is pushed into the red far enough that you can get lost in its ruptured, distorted interiors. Overall there's a clear focus on being diffuse on the record (Official Paradox of the Day) but just don't get it twisted because this isn't an experimental noise project. It's still a dance record but one that threads the needle with sonic experimentation. 

Take for instance the first of the two tracks featuring Electra Monet on vocals, whose singing could be described as Nico-esque or if you prefer Jane Birkin-esque. Normally if you've got a voice like this to work with you'd expect the producer to make that voice sound as angelic and ethereal and "pure" as possible. Ms. Monet's singing on “Shadow Boxing” is all these things except pure (and all the better for it) because the production highlights the grit and grain of her voice (including, most unusually, the sibilance of echoing "Sssss" sounds) and of the instrumental sounds from the pounding drums to the insistent keyboard ostinato to the John McGeoch like guitar outro. These are dreampop angels with dirty faces.

But then next the third track "Love is a Mistake" (featuring Disolve) would be a perfect fit for John Hughes’ never realized sequel to Pretty in Pink because it's a hooky indie-electro-pop song with romantically tragic overtones that would be perfect for the scene where Duckie drives up to the class reunion blasting the song on his car's cassette player still bitter at how he didn't get Molly Ringwald in the end (sidebar: the ending of Pretty in Pink was changed because Duckie wasn’t considered Molly-worthy enough by test audiences). 

And Jeremy Bastard could play the DJ at the reunion prom because that's something he does too. And on Everyone Is History he holds onto that DJ-minded curatorial mindset by featuring a different singer/lyricist/collaborator on every other track or two, and according to Jeremy himself it was the motivating spark behind the entire project. Exiled to Florida for much of the past year, Jeremy turned to producing and long-distance collaborations as a way to maintain creative momentum and human contact. And in the process he may have found his future musical lane, or one of them, because this one-on-one approach apparently suits his creative muse, at least judging by other recent releases in this format (see below) and bonus non-album tracks from the album's various collaborators that keep popping up as b-sides to its singles like needles in a haystack. (Jason Lee)

Queen Mob bring on the "Pop Sickle"

Queen Mob are a two-piece from Psychedelphia, who as individuals go by the names Beth and Colin, and if they placed a band personals ad it'd probably read something like “freak-folk-shoegaze-vaporwave band seeks absolutely no one because we don’t collaborate and we don’t cooperate.” 

Over the past year Queen Mob have released one album and one EP (Easy, Liger and Against A Pale Background) and three singles (“Comeback,” “Sidecar,” and “Pop Sickle”) the last of which I’m declaring to be the best runaway-carousel/broken-calliope music I’ve heard since MGMT’s “Lady Dada’s Nightmare”. 

In their recorded work to date the band have already demonstrated impressive range by alternately sounding like an inebriated Beck, an inebriated Swervedriver, and an inebriated Jandek (so, just, Jandek). Or maybe instead of inebriated they're just experimental. It's not really our business how they get to that place. 

Beth herself describes the single above as “haunted dystopian electronic music” and that strikes me as pretty accurate for their lastest music. So hop on to the merry-go-round and hold to your horse pole becuase Queen Mob will take you on a ride. (Jason Lee)

Bootblacks on Cherry Bomb livestream tonight

Much like a certain storied pair of shiny shiny, shiny boots of leather, the music of Bootblacks is highly polished, austere and severe. And when it kicks you in the face you’ll beg for more, much like Severin in thrall to Wanda von Dunajew.

Residing somewhere in a batcave in Brooklyn (perhaps neighbors with Eddie Murphy?) these stalwart somber-hued postpunkers not too long ago released their forth full-length Thin Skies. Check out the music vid above for the full effect, and then give a listen to their Live At Saint Vitus set released in December.

Speaking of all thing Venusian, tonight Bootblacks appear as part of Cherry Bomb: International Women’s Day Charity Livestream originating straight outta Philly starting at 7pm EST with 12 bands & DJs benefiting 12 relevant charities with co-hosting duties shared by Lazy Astronomer and DJ Baby Berlin and streaming live on the latter’s Twitch channel. Click HERE for the full lineup and check out videos by a few of the other featured performers below.


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