Monthly Archives: September 2014

Published September 4, 2014 on The Le Sigh

Welcome to the Painted Zeros party.

Parties have a pattern. There’s the quiet start, when those who still think “fashionably late” is a thing haven’t arrived yet, and others are still warming up with their first beer. Then the first *right* song comes up on the playlist, and the worry of, “Will this night be fun?” starts to float away. Something strange probably happens to slow things down, but it’s over before you finish shotgunning a beer. Maybe next you start chatting with the cutie you’ve been making eyes with all evening, hopefully followed by some smooching. By the end of the night, arms are slung over the shoulders of friends old and new, the drunken shout-a-longs start and “too drunk to function” nears reality (drink responsibly, y’all.)

Painted Zeros’ debut EP Svalbard is like a condensed party score, pushing through all those ups and downs, sexy twists and drunk turns in just five songs. Opener “This American Life” has the same comforting breeze as The Spinanes’ sunset-driving “Kid In Candy”, and Katie Lau’s warm voice welcomes you into the party while handing you a drink. But this sunniness is only on the surface, and Lau confesses the darkness of dealing with depression: “Morning slips into my bed / Wake up so tired and I feel dead / Obsessive thoughts in my head / And I’ve already taken all my meds”. Lau plays all the instruments on the record and mixed the EP, though Painted Zeros performs live as a three-piece, based in Brooklyn. Lau does her best to shake it off on “Polar Night,” kicking up the crunchy guitars and repeatedly shouting “It’s okay, yeah it’s alright” over riffs, like the moment your buzz sneaks up on you. The 30-second-long “II. C ReE & SG Sek” is a wacky interlude which jumbles sweet guitar plucking, flowing water and braking cars as clips of movie dialogue and a stubbornly confused Siri almost converse. Kinky “Jaime” is when the flirtation proves successful, and you know it’s on. Lau’s so overcome by lust she doesn’t even care how she’s articulating her desire: “Jaime, I want you every way / I want you so bad, it sounds like a cliché”. She trades the warmth in her voice for seduction and playfulness, putting it all out on the line: “Jaime, don’t be so cruel / You know your love turns me into a fool”. Closing track “Too Drunk” is exactly what you hope it might be — descending into messy shouts of “too drunk of function”, as if the song is becoming more inebriated as it continues on. Like the opening track, the jolly drunken shouting is a cover for an existential crisis over the toll partying is taking on her life. She’s tired of wasting days hungover and making choices she’s no proud of: “It’s not any fun going home with someone when I wake up the mistake”/ That “I’m never drinking again” thought is only too relatable, as is all of Svalbard. Lau’s working through with her personal demons and desires, and life doesn’t unfold as predictably and perfectly as a teen movie house party montage. And that’s totally okay, because we have this great record to help cope.


Published July 15, 2014 on The Le Sigh

Honeyblood’s pioneering mean girl-core.

Honeyblood is really good at insults. On their debut self-titled album, there’s the sharp “When Mother Nature planned for age / She must’ve forgot about you,” followed by the backhanded, “Growing old gracefully / Is an art form, you see,” on “All Dragged Up.” “Super Rat” opens with a deceptively breezy guitar riff before going in, “You are the smartest rat in the sewer”. It gets worse. By the chorus, singer and guitarist Stina Tweeddale doesn’t bother sugarcoating it. “I will hate you forever”, she sings and drummer Shona McVicar joins to help with some classic, biting namecalling: “Scumbag, sleaze, slimeball, grease / You really do disgust me”. Something tells me “Super Rat” would fit right in on the Mean Girls soundtrack, which probably has something to do with its pretty, pleasant sounds that not-quite-mask the sharp, sometimes malicious, lyrics. But seriously, a Cady-Heron-hanging-out-with-the-Plastics montage always inexplicably starts rolling in my head when “I will hate you forever” kicks in.

The Glasgow duo doesn’t save up all their smart punches on the record for amazing jabs at exes, and Tweeddale’s smooth, sweet voice carries the strength and attitude behind the barbs through all of her emotions and stories. Honeyblood muses on happy relationships, moving on from bad ones, supportive best friendships and passes on practical life wisdom: “You know you’re destined to lose / When a fortune cookie dictates your next move,” (“Fortune Cookie”); “Cynics never fall in love / They just blame it on lust,” (“Joey”); “Time is against us / Circumstance likes to dick around,” (“Killer Bangs” — plus, points for the phrase “dick around”). As Honeyblood transitions through all sorts of relatable Young Adult Feelings, they naturally flow from noisy pop and ’90s rock to upbeat punk and bluesy ballads.Honeyblood, out on FatCat Records, isn’t missing anything by not having a bassist — Tweeddale and McVicar don’t need it. After releasing only a cassette and two 7″s, they’ve just about perfected writing full, lush pop songs that thrive by not having anything extra added in to muddle things up. It’s fitting that Honeyblood’s first full-length record opens with “Fall Forever,” because they’ll surely fall “straight into your heart”.