Posts Tagged ‘Champaign’

If Lush measures a 2 on the Swervedriver-O-Meter and My Bloody Valentine a 7, Hum is a definate solid 9. Unlike most American disciples of the shoegaze boom, this Illinois-based band delivered metallic riffs — riffs sludgy and heavy enough to earn fans like Deftones (Chino Moreno famously cited the band as an influence), Deafheaven, and possibly other metal bands beginning with the letter “D. Where have this band been or what have they been doing all these years.

On Hum’s overdriven “Waves,” you can hear the windy central guitar line try to outdo itself in real time as their pedal-fiddling reaches life-affirming heights. Its mythical scale is only enhanced by lines of an apocalypse—but a calming and poetic one at that: “And the traces of morning will lead us to the end / Where the dying landscape meets the water / And the waves of you roll over me again.”

Hum’s appealing mix of fuzzy swirl, post-hardcore intensity, and interstellar imagery reached its peak on 1995’s You’d Prefer an Astronaut, which even produced a minor rock radio hit with “Stars.” The band’s brief major-label run concluded with 1998’s Downward Is Heavenward, which also seemed to be the end of the band’s recording career — until a month ago. Inlet, the band’s new, long-rumoured fifth album, evokes cosmic expanse with lengthy, extravagantly textured burners like “Desert Rambler” and “The Summoning.”

When an album this thick drops out of nowhere, it’s bound to reverberate. For years, Hum had been providing regular updates on their first album since 1998’s Downward Is Heavenward. Yet when Inlet emerged without an official announcement or rollout in June, it was the best kind of startling. An even better surprise: The album holds its own with the Illinois space-rockers’ best. Inlet is monolithic in its splendour, its dense, churning power-chord riffs glazed over with a faint hypnotic glimmer. Few artists measured up to its heaviness or its prettiness in 2020.

It doesn’t seem like a good idea for any band from the 90s to reemerge now, in 2020, with their first record in over two decades. So much has changed. But one incredible thing that happened this very strange year was that Hum yes, “Stars” Hum—dropped with an absolute banger of an album, their first in 22 years. In their earlier days, Hum were outsiders, never fully fitting into the boxes of alt-rock or shoegaze or grunge. But they influenced so many contemporary bands that now, they somehow feel more modern. Sculptural, exploratory, and meditative, Inlet is a continuation of a concept (perhaps most succinctly put, “space rock”) and an ambitious re-examination of the possibilities of texture. Proggy without being nerdy, hard without being not angry, and vast without being hollow, it’s a mushroom trip through the cosmos, from the oceanic opener “Waves” to the swirling “Step Into You,” which offers an escape to “a desert that blooms in our darkest days.” “I’m lost,” sighs singer and guitarist Matt Talbott. That’s fine; just take us with you

To date Hum has only made one album. So in terms of recent achievements, the wholly unexpected “Inlet”

Hum’s first album in 22 years goes beyond the average expectations of a reunion album and pushes Hum’s sound in new directions left and right. It cements their legacy further than ever before, and it just might turn out to be their masterpiece.  I think many of us needed this without knowing, particularly those of us who love Hum and never imagined another album. Despite the undercurrent of melancholy in Hum’s music, that “look to the stars” hopefulness, and the lyrical explorations of when science, consciousness, and love intersect. Often times, a reunion album reminds you why you fell in love with a band in the first place, proves they’ve still got it, and helps re-establish the band as a force within an era that they had long been absent from. But in rarer cases, a reunion album cements a band’s legacy further than ever before, closing a book you might not have realized had been left open. Inlet, Hum’s first album in 22 years, is the latter. This type of heavy shoegaze/alt-rock is arguably more prevalent now than it was in the ’90s, thanks to Hum’s influence, and as good as many of Hum’s followers are, Inlet is the album that this distinct subgenre needed. Hum were maybe ahead of their time, and it’s as if they needed the world to catch up with them before they could release what may turn out to be their masterpiece.

Released June 23rd, 2020


All music written and recorded by HUM at Earth Analog and ELL.

Band Members:
Jeff Dimpsey,
Bryan St. Pere,
Matt Talbott,
Tim Lash,


Introducing Stay Home, a Polyvinyl Record Co. compilation featuring 16 tracks including previously unreleased music, demos, and covers.

We’ve been especially inundated with covers this past month, though most have been recorded live from the artists’ living rooms. Hazel English’s contribution to the covers-heavy Polyvinyl Stay Home compilation, though, is considerably less of a novelty item, taking the impossibly dreamy Mamas/Papas joint and cranking up the dreamy factor. It’s stripped to the essentials—vocals, guitar, tambourine, and a Mellotron cameo, making for less emphasis on the plot and more on its unique stylizations .


There are some tracks from recent Polyvinyl releases and some previously unreleased material. That includes Owen covering the 1975’s “Me,” Xiu Xiu covering Kim Jung Mi’s “Haenim,” Palehound covering Karen Dalton’s “Something On Your Mind,” Squirrel Flower covering Emmylou Harris’ “Icy Blue Heart,” and Hazel English covering the Mamas & the Papas’ “California Dreamin’.” There’s also new songs from Chris Farren and Radiation City, and demos from of Montreal, the Get Up Kids, Yumi Zouma, and STRFKR.

Stay safe, and stay healthy Polyvinyl family. Some gems in this one

Released April 7th, 2020.

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The Mike Kinsella-led group’s third full-length album “American Football” (LP3) is a beautiful return to form, brimming with the band’s signature sonic elements while also shedding and reinventing so many aspects of their sound. It’s a wonderful step forward for them creatively.

By rights we should hate this album. It’s an incessant moan, flips the math-rock-lite thing which gotten boring last decade and is stuffed to the brim with whiny Yank vocals. But the songs are undeniable good. And it doesn’t stick around long enough for you to get pissed off yourself.

LP3’s most defining quality is how expansive it feels. On the sweeping seven-minute opener “Silhouettes,” gentle bells and chimes greet lush dueling guitars and pulsating drums as Kinsella’s voice floats into the track’s misty corners. Whispery reverb draws out each note as he ponders the “muscle memory” of love, and whether or not romantic strife is just the result of simply going through motions.


The swelling ballad “Every Wave To Ever Rise” is pensive and cavernous, contemplating love’s inevitable heartbreak over wandering guitars and longing atmospheres. “Love is the cross you bear/ You’re every wave to ever rise/ Your slow retreat is no surprise,” Kinsella croons poetically, full of bittersweet acceptance over love’s ebb-and-flow. Buoyed by a trifecta of stunning features from guest vocalists Hayley Williams, Rachel Goswell and Elizabeth Powell, American Football (LP3) is 2019’s most endearing journey of melancholy, and another high point in the Midwestern band’s dazzling career.

Not long after Polyvinyl Records released American Football’s self-titled debut album in 1999, the band called it quits, having only played a smattering of Champaign-Urbana college house parties and sets at small clubs like Chicago’s legendary Fireside Bowl. Such an inauspicious turn of events made what followed all the more incredible. Over time, the record went on to become one of Polyvinyl’s bestselling releases to date, and ended up serving as “one of the single most influential rock records of its time” according to Noisey and many others.

The quietest voices can be the most durable.

American Football’s original triumph, on their 1999 self-titled debut, was to reunite two shy siblings: emo and post-rock. It was a pioneering album where lyrical clarity was obscured and complicated by the stealth musical textures surrounding it. Like Slint’s Spiderland, or Codeine’s The White Birch, even Talk Talk’s Laughing Stock, American Football asked far more questions than it cared to answer. But there wasn’t a band around anymore to explain it, anyway. The three young men who made the album – Mike Kinsella, Steve Holmes, and Steve Lamos – split up pretty much on its release.

Fifteen years later, American Football reunited (now as a four-piece, with the addition of Nate Kinsella). They played far larger shows than in their original incarnation and recorded their long-anticipated second album, 2016’s American Football (LP2). The release was widely praised, but the band members still felt like their best work was yet to come.

‘I feel like the second album was us figuring it out,’ says Nate. ‘For me, it wasn’t quite done. I knew there was still more.’

Enter American Football (LP3). ‘We put a lot of time and a lot of energy into it,’ says Mike. ‘We were all thoughtful about what we wanted to put out there. Last time, it was figuring out how to use all of our different arms. This time, we were like – Ok we have these arms, let’s use them.’ The band used the same producer, Jason Cupp, and recorded the album at the same studio (Arc Studios in Omaha, Nebraska) as its predecessor – yet they approached it in a markedly different way. There was a determination to let the songs breathe, to trust in ideas finding their own pace. The final result is a definite, and deliberate, stretching of the band.

As a result, LP3 is less obviously tethered to the band’s past than the second album. An immediate contrast between LP3 and its two predecessors is its cover. The two previous albums featured the exterior and interior of a residence in the band’s original hometown of Urbana, Illinois (now attracting fans for pilgrimages and photo opportunities), by the photographer Chris Strong. But American Football knew that LP3 was an outside record. Instead of the familiar house, this time the cover photo (again by Strong) features open, rolling fields on Urbana’s borders. It is a sign of the album’s magnitude in sound, and of the band’s boldness in breaking away from home comforts.

American Football also joked that LP3’s genre was ‘post-house’, because of this very conscious visual break. But, in a strange way, there are links in LP3 with an actual post-house genre: shoegaze. The more exploratory members of the original British shoegaze scene were inspired by the dreamtime and circularity of house music (ambient house in particular), cherishing its sonic possibilities. That spirit drips into LP3, most obviously on ‘I Can’t Feel You’, a collaboration with Rachel Goswell of Slowdive.

The album also features Hayley Williams from Paramore on the album’s catchiest moment, ‘Uncomfortably Numb’, and Elizabeth Powell, of the Québécoise act Land Of Talk. Mike wrote lyrics in French especially for her.

LP3 is contemplative, rich, expressive, yet with a queasy undercurrent. It is heavy with expectancy, revealing its ideas slowly, eliciting the hidden stories people carry around with them. ‘I feel like my lyric writing has changed a lot over the years,’ says Mike. ‘The goal is to be conversational, maybe to state something giant and heavy, but in a very plain way. But, definitely in this record, I keep things a little more vague.’ As on the first album, the lyrics on LP3 may seem confessional and concentrated, but the more you scrutinize them, the further their meaning slinks away. Or, as Mike tellingly sings on ‘I Can’t Feel You”: I’m fluent in subtlety.


‘Somewhere along the way we moved from being a reunion band to just being a band,’ says Steve Holmes. American Football is now a bona fide ongoing focus, and they are making some of the best music of their lives. American Football (LP3) stands with two other rare reunion successes – Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine’s mbv – as a fine example of how a band refinding one another can augment, rather than taint, their legacy.

‘I think that there are those albums, or the music that you heard when you were younger, and they imprint on you,’ says Nate. ‘And no matter where you go, or what you do they’re always there.’ He is talking of Steve Reich – an early and ongoing influence on American Football – but he might as well be reflecting what is said of his own band, and the ardent following they inspire. American Football stands as an enduring symbol of elusive emotional landscapes, where introspection can be as dramatic as confrontation.

Released March 22nd, 2019

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On their first album in 14 years, Champaign, Illinois, rockers Poster Children return with a sharply appealing, politically-charged set. Tracks like “Hippie Hills,” “Better Than Nothing,” “World’s Insane” and “Devil and a Gun” provide the kind of energy that earned them a following in the nineties, but it is the bludgeoning force of the spoken-word title track, which takes direct aim at the current administration, that really leaves a powerful impression. Rick Valentin’s deadpan verses and bellowing choruses still pack a wallop.

Band Members
Rick Valentin (guitar, vocals),
Rose Marshack (bass, vocals),
Jim Valentin (guitar),
Matt Friscia (drums)

Directed by John Isberg: The title track, single, and video from Poster Children’s album, “Grand Bargain!”

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Like free things? Well you’re in luck because you can get the latest Polyvinyl sampler absolutely free with any order!

Featuring great new music from Alvvays,Generationals, Hazel English, Mister Heavenly,White Reaper, Xiu Xiu, and more, plus incredible artwork by our friend Jerrod Landon Porter!

With over 300 releases from more than 100 artists, Polyvinyl Records has been releasing music independently since 1996 – home to artists such as of Montreal, Deerhoof, American Football, STRFKR and more.

Shout out to our new friend Sean Congdon for helping us come up with a name