Beliefs, Beat Happening, Kishi Bashi: Listen to the complete new albums

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KCRW’s Album Previews — helmed by Eric J. Lawrence — offer a chance to hear new album releases in their entirety each week, prior to and just after release.

blog-spacerWhether you know it or not, Pacific Northwest indie-rock legends Beat Happening have been a major influence on what you listen to today, influencing the likes of Beck, the White Stripes, Deerhunter, Camera Obscura, Sleater-Kinney, and many others. The trio’s earliest recordings predate grunge, alt-country, chillwave, and most other genres popular with music fans of today and yesteryear. Spun out of the DIY spirit of punk, they ditched the macho aggression and replaced it with a more nuanced take on independent, guitar-based music. They combined primitive Velvet Underground-accented garage rock vibes with a genuinely romantic look at nostalgia over the course of over a dozen singles.

Calvin Johnson (also co-founder of iconic indie label K Records) offered up his sonorous voice and un-self-conscious dance moves, while Heather Lewis held down the beat and guitarist Bret Lunsford kept things things chugging along. And although they haven’t performed together in about 20 years, Look Around is a welcome chronological survey of their best recordings, including the oft-covered “Indian Summer,” and a great reintroduction to an essential band of the 80s & 90s.

blog-spacerCertain musical styles flit in and out of fashion depending on the sonic weather out there (I, for one, am still awaiting the return of acid house), while others seem to have drifted into oblivion (is “wizard rock” still a thing?). One such genre that has been making a comeback in a big way is the shoegaze variety. Spurred, in part, by the reunions of bands like Ride, Lush, and Slowdive, as well as the long, LONG awaited arrival of My Bloody Valentine’s mbv album a couple of years ago, shoegaze has returned to the scene, albeit most often with the moniker of “dream pop.” Whatever you want to call it, it is a sound that Canadian duo Beliefs have a lot of faith in (no pun intended).

Their sophomore album, Leaper, ebbs and flows with varying levels of fuzzy guitars and driving rhythms. Song titles like “Ghosts,” “Morning Light” and “Swooner” might give a hint to the diaphanous sheets of sonic gauze that adorn their tunes but which never fully obscure the catchy melodies therein. And the perfect blend of their male/female vocals keep things modern. 25 years from now, when “dream pop” returns from a number of years of exile, it may very be records like Leaper that inspire the next generation of shoe-gazers.

blog-spacer“Kishi Bashi is the pseudonym for violin virtuoso K Ishibashi. Having recorded, toured, and collaborated with diverse artists such as Regina Spektor, Sondre Lerche, and of Montreal, Kishi Bashi released his first full-length album “151a” via Joyful Noise in 2012, which received high praise and the title of NPR’s “Best New Artist Of The Year”. K’s follow-up album “Lighght” expands his palette to include more diverse and nuanced instrumentation, flirting with Eastern-tinged arrangements, Philip Glass inspired improvisations, and 70s prog. His latest, “String Quartet Live!,” finds K’s familiar songs reimagined, allowing his soaring vocals to take center stage above a foundation of interweaving strings.” – bio via Joyful Noise