Bandcamp Picks

Bandcamp Picks of the Week 10/15/2021

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It’s our Bandcamp Picks of the Week, featuring ruckus two-piece rock from JOHN (TIMESTWO) and stringy living room pop from Mini Trees!

JOHN (TIMESTWO) Album Cover

JOHN (TIMESTWO) – NOCTURNAL MANOEUVRES

Genre: Noise Punk, Post-Hardcore

Favorite Tracks: “Sibensko Powerhouse,” “Stadium of No”

By now, the duo is as synonymous with rock ‘n’ roll as stage dives and whiskey, but where does JOHN (TIMESTWO) (or is it just JOHN?), the group comprised of drummer-vocalist John Newton and guitarist Johnny Healey, rank amid that illustrious list? Well, you need only spin their third album, NOCTURNAL MANOEUVRES, to figure it all out. As it turns out, the most obvious answer is, “Well, they’re likely a heaping helping of all your favorite rock duos.” For instance, “Return to Capital” has the same kind of dreamy start as any Japandroids song–albeit before things devolve into crunchy madness. Meanwhile, “Austere Island” may feel like a more “subdued” Death from Above 1979, with a greater emphasis on atmospherics and biting intensity. The duo also channel a post-punk version of Royal Blood and The Black Keys with the menacing “Stadium of No.” And, since it’s almost mandatory, you could almost mistake “Sibensko Powerhouse” as the extra gritty, mean-spirited offspring of a White Stripes anthem.

Ultimately, these handy comparisons mean almost nothing, as it becomes clear that JOHN (TIMESTWO) are a beast unlike any other outfit. With little more than drums and guitars, they understand how to structure songs to make the most out of the heaviest notes as well as the most pregnant pauses and blank spaces. They bring chaos and clarity in equal measures, balancing snarling vocals and waves of dissonance with nuance and a dash of sneering wit. There’s a kind of heft to their sound, and yet they use all that density not only to bash you over the head but subvert your expectations of noise punk into something far less easy to categorize. It’s as familiar as those aforementioned acts because they use sounds and themes that feel wildly familiar. But it’s the crafty way in which JOHN (TIMESTWO) builds songs that tells you all about their larger mission–and that’s to get you bounding off the walls from chord one.

JOHN (TIMESTWO) have captured a formula that’s likely to gain them some excited new followers. This album, especially, manages to encapsulate their core skills, even as they find newer ways to enhance and extend their two-man shtick. No matter your favorite rock duo, though, these two blokes just might steal your heart (and smash your eardrums to boot). You can check out JOHN’s NOCTURNAL MANOEUVRES, out via Pets Care/Brace Yourself Records, over on Bandcamp right now.  [Chris Coplan]

Mini Trees Album Cover

Mini Trees – ALWAYS IN MOTION

Genre: Living Room Pop

Favorite Tracks: “Doomsday,” “Carrying On,” “Differently”

I’m in love with the idea of “living room pop.” It’s not just that it subverts the idea that lo-fi pop is reserved to our bedrooms, although that’s obviously quite clever. It’s that for many of us, our fondest memories at home happen in the living room; game nights and cocktail hours and late night soirees are built around collective spaces, near couches and coffee tables and bar carts.

The words are tethered to Mini Tree’s stunning debut ALWAYS IN MOTION, and like the genre implies, it’s an album that appropriately subverts the conventional bedroom pop sound from just a room away. Wiry, airy, occasionally homespun feeling guitar songs are presented in a more emboldened and playful context—the opening minute, with hushed layered vocals and a flurry of pulsing chords isn’t far away from what we’ve heard Soccer Mommy and the like do for the last six or seven years, but by the end of “Moments In Between” the song has taken on a new energy. What follows, from the groovy, spacy bop “Doomsday” to the off-kilter key changes and soloing of “Differently,” is spritely and visceral. Even when Lexi Vega does walk down the hallway to the comfort of warm blankets and a bedside table, the results take on a new context; “Now I’m hiding my face in the sheets,” she sings on highlight “Carrying On,” “Hovering somewhere between, at least it brings a sense of peace.” ALWAYS IN MOTION is thrilling to listen to, especially contextually compared to many of Vega’s obvious peers, because of the pacing. The album leans on quick tempos, be it driving, buzzy rock songs like “Numb,” or the fuzzy, dizzying rhythms of songs like “Youth.” That nimbleness makes even quieter tracks feel spry, and it recolors an album of songs that are extremely familiar sonically as bright and striking. Mini Trees have been quietly thriving in the underground, and ALWAYS IN MOTION justifiably has put them on many peoples’ radars. You can check the record out via Bandcamp. [CJ Simonson]

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