Mitchell Hillman listens to more local music than just about anyone in the Valley. He presents his picks for best new music in his column, Right Hear, Right Now.
Merit — "My Favourite Chords"
I wasn't sure how soon we'd be hearing from Merit again after their magnificently ambitious three-EP concept project last year. To be fair, this new song is not what you would expect from Merit. Hot Vodka Records put together a compilation album to help raise money for The Trevor Project, an American nonprofit organization founded in 1998 and the leading national organization focused on suicide prevention efforts among queer youth. Merit contributes a cover of The Weakerthans' "My Favourite Chords" that, for my money, is better than the original. It is an interesting turn and a pure delight to hear Merit slow things down, unplug a bit, discard the emo mantle for a moment, and make this song as disarming as it is charming. I had to listen to it back to back with the original a few times after this was released, because while I loved the entire Left and Leaving album, my first reaction was that this outshines the original, maybe for its soft simplicity and touching sentimentality. It may not have the slide guitar of the original, but it has a cozy warmth that more than makes up for it. This is a different side of Merit that we've never really heard on record, and it proves once more that they are one of our more underrated musical treasures.
PRO TEENS — "Goodnight Moon'd"
If the sound of "Goodnight Moon'd" is any indication, PRO TEENS' new album, Accidentally, will far overshadow their debut, which is impressive since that record was one of 2015's best. The track listing for the album has been released as well, and when this song appeared I remembered their first online single, "Teen Feels." They don't play it all that often live, and I was blown away that it will be included on the album, as well as other familiar songs like "Puberty." The first track to see the light of day is "Goodnight Moon'd," and it is lush, textured pop, with a heady, slightly psychedelic bend. Frontman Andy Phipps uses his crooning Elvis Costello vocals to their best effect yet on this track. The chorus is dizzying, dreamy, and swirling with harmonies and too many lovely sounds to name. The announcement of Accidentally came as something as a surprise so quickly after their highly anticipated debut was released less than a year ago. The song is just over three minutes long, but it takes you so much further. Accidentally will be released on July 22 via Broken Circles.
Ben Anderson — "Lukewarm"
Ben Anderson just released his debut record in January, and he's already releasing a follow-up single. If nothing else, you have to admire that ambition. "Lukewarm" is another great collaboration between Anderson and Olivier Zahm at Electric Lotus. I'm not sure if this was a leftover track from the recording sessions for the album or not, but it wouldn't have fit on Where The Lights Go? if it was. This has a jazzy feel that immediately sets your soul at rest, and has your head nodding to the groove and marveling at the production. Every little bit counts in this song, whether it's Anderson's fluid vocals that will melt you, the horn arrangement by Dan Puccio, Zahm's guitar parts, Mario Mendivil's thumping bass that ties the whole thing together, or Shea Marshall on the keys and synths. It almost seems like a song conceived in a fantasy, because it is so out of step with anything happening locally right now. The organ that kicks it off recalls early records by Faces, while the guitar feel sounds straight out of the '70s, and I'm just a sucker for Danny Doyle's trumpet and Anthony Reed's trombone, while behind it all you have the funky drums of Greg Jacks. It will work well as a soundtrack while I float in a pool this summer.
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Citrus Clouds — "Christine"
The House Of Love never quite translated to American audiences, save for a small bastion of devoted fans. This is unlike their reception in the rest of the world, where they are regarded with the same esteem as The Jesus & Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine, and Echo & The Bunnymen. The Blog That Celebrates Itself just dropped a tribute compilation, Soft As Fire In The House of Love, and they asked local shoegazers Citrus Clouds to lend a track to the project. The band contributed a loving and surprisingly accurate version of "Christine," which in 1988 was House of Love's breakout single abroad. Musically speaking, Citrus Clouds nails the track nearly note for note. The only thing missing here is Guy Chadwick's baritone lead vocals, but if that was here it would be a dead ringer for the original. Citrus Clouds already sound like several of my favorite bands from the shoegaze era; it's pretty fantastic to hear them cover one of them.
Weird Radicals — "Snow Queen"
Weird Radicals are a brand new power-pop-inspired band that started as the unlikely collaboration between Andrew Cameron Cline (aka Archie Children of Peachcake) and Nick Florence (Knights of the Abyss) with a pursuit bent on finding sounds that meet their criteria for impressive indie pop. For their debut, they released a double-A-side single of "Snow Queen/Julian," both showing off the resulting chemistry between Cline and Florence. "Snow Queen" is the faster-paced of the two, featuring pounding drums and chunky guitars all over the place, with an angular New Wave dance beat behind it. It's pretty smart pop from a songwriting stance and recalls the likes of Fountains of Wayne, Cotton Mather, and Jellyfish. With that in mind, they may want to start licensing their songs straight away. The two songs are pitted perfectly against each other and while I chose to spotlight "Snow Queen," I would encourage you give a listen to "Julian," which is an ode to Cline's son and is a wonderful track in and of itself. Keep your ears peeled for Weird Radicals. They are on a writing frenzy as they are working on additional material and adding members.