I’ve always made it very clear that I think Lakes rule. I instantly fell in love with their debut, The Constance [best album of 2019, @ me if you need], and have championed each of their successive releases.
Start Again is the second album from the Watford sextet. They’ve experienced a few changes in recent years – a few new members, a global pandemic, and they signed to the indie label Big Scary Monsters. I think this is great news because this means their amazing music will find a wider audience, and they’ll possibly get chances to tour with other bands signed to BSM and other bands in that sphere, which should hopefully unlock even more opportunities for Lakes. [I’m holding my breath for a tour supporting NZ indie darlings The Beths]
They ease you in on Start Again with “Blind”, which seems more like a nice intro than a fully fledged song, but then we launch into the track “No Excuses” and you know they mean business. It’s lush and busy and charming and the drum parts remind me of Josh Sparks who drummed on the Into It. Over It. album Standards – frantic, driving and interesting. Gotta love those noodly guitar lines too. We hear the wonderful vocal harmonies and subtle mathy arrangements that made me fall in love with Lakes in the first place, and then they go and throw in some glockenspiel and cheesy handclaps just to add more magical fun to the mix.
Many of the songs in Start Again explore events that have been rocking our world in recent years. The populace being poisoned by divisive politicking, a global pandemic changing how we function and shifting our perception of normality, and how we cope in the face of all of this. I get it. I had big plans laid out and was hoping to go travelling last year, hoping on even making it to Watford to hang out with the musicians in Lakes. Instead I had a fairly traumatic year and got pretty depressed. But I chose to face my problems and move on, and I’m now better for it.
Like Frank Turner’s album Positive Songs for Negative People, Start Again is about fighting the demons and doing your best to progress and grow in the face of hard times. Heck, both albums even have a song called “Get Better”.
The video for the titular track is a perfect example. The setting is something we’ve all become accustomed to in the past year: Zoom meetings. But it provides glimmers of hope and humour, showing that despite all the disruption we’ve been going through, we can still find ways to connect with each other.
Hmmmm, I hadn’t planned on getting so deep during this review. Maybe this emo stuff is beginning to rub off on me?
For my money, the track “Talk!” is the best song on the album. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but some of the riffs and production reminds me of late 90’s/early 00’s pop-punk. It’s a really fun song. The cherry on top is the final bridge. It’s so cheesy, but you can’t help but love it. You’ve got handclaps, awesome guitar noodling, and gorgeous layered vocal harmonies doing rounds in the outro. Stunning. And the piano at the end is a great touch.
As a New Zealander, it is my duty to focus on the track “Taupo”. It’s just the way we’re wired. Honestly, any time some international talkshow host like Colbert or John Oliver even utters the name New Zealand or mocks our accent the entire national media goes berserk.
Anyway… Taupō is the huge lake at the centre of our North Island. Millions of years ago it was a supervolcano – very similar to Yellowstone in America. It erupted so violently that there are historic records in ancient cultures from around the globe that mentions how the smoke disrupted weather systems. And once the volcano had done its dash it left a crater that filled with water and became a lake the size of Singapore.
If you’re familiar with The Constance LP and the few EPs that Lakes released in those early days, you’ll know that they used to name all their songs after…. wait for it… lakes!
Matt Shaw told me that the two interlude tracks on this record – “Windermere” and “Taupo” are a throwback to how they used to name all their songs after lakes, and are also inspired by the Minus the Bear album Highly Refined Pirates, which used interlude tracks to great effect. [Minus the Bear are also signed to Big Scary Monsters label. Pretty cool huh?]. The interlude tracks work very well to break up the album and lead into new segments, just as intended.
Matt has actually travelled to NZ a few times and shared that “I have very special memories of travelling around New Zealand. We had a campervan and stayed in a campsite right on the river between Huka Falls and the lake.”. Howabout that tour with The Beths then?
Lakes are incredibly talented in an understated way. The way that they can just incorporate weird mathy time signatures, have multiple singers with voices that are simply to die for, use a whole array of interesting instruments (glockenspiel is key to their sound, for goodness sake!) and pull it all off and make it sound so effortless is outstanding. And despite writing songs that have come from some dark places, they emerge triumphant with an infectious fervor to bring joy to the world.
I had very high hopes for this record and as expected, Start Again is wonderful. It’s different to The Constance and shows that Lakes have grown as songwriters, but still contains the elements that drew me in when I first heard them.
Highly recommended. Start with “Talk!” and if you don’t enjoy it, check to see if you have a pulse.
Just Neighbors are an awesome math-rock band from Gainsville, Florida. They play wonderful happy tappy music with care-free vibes. They are about to release a new album, Inside Voices, which showcases a slightly different sound for the band.
Will Not Fade: Here in New Zealand, we put a “U” in “Neighbour”. I read somewhere that Americans stopped putting “U’s” in some words because when putting listings in classified ads they had to pay by the letter, so began dropping letters that weren’t vital in order to save money. No idea how true that is, but it’s interesting. Also, partly off topic, but the band Living Colour has a “U” because their guitarist Vernon Reid is English. [Real talk, I discussed this in an interview with Living Colour drummer Will Calhoun, and someone cited me on the Living Colour wikipedia page. Am I an academic now?]
Just Neighbors: Interesting fact, we always assumed it was another way to rebel against the Monarchy.
I’ve listened to Inside Voices a handful of times now. It’s quite a departure from your usual style. What motivated you to write such different music? It’s still got the chill vibes, but it’s a lot more straightforward.
Inside Voices is beginning to feel like a detour as opposed to a departure. Some of these songs were written years ago and some came about during the process. I think we were partly motivated by wanting to try our hand at home recording and wanting to change up what we were doing. Another reason this album came together was that two members were moving at the time and we wanted to get some ideas recorded before they left.
What is your stance on 4/4?
Overrated (we can swing it ;()
What artists have you been listening to lately?
Aerial M, Charlie Martin, Homeboy Sandman, Russian Circles, SPIRIT OF THE BEEHIVE, Cassandra Jenkins
Who influenced your songwriting with this album?
Land of Talk, Silver Jews, George Strait, Fog Lake
America confuses me. Places considered Midwest are on the eastern side of the country. Anyway… Do you get Southeast vs Midwest emo beef? Like West Coast/East Coast hip-hop where rappers do drivebys and gun down each other and also say hurtful things with their words?
While the west coast/ east rapper beefs died in the 90s, the southeast Vs Midwest emo beef is very much alive. Most southeast emo bands get labeled Midwest because they wrote a riff that sounds like American football. This is unfair because the last place we want our music to be associated with is the Midwest.
Did you grow up on MTV Unplugged albums?
I am a bit young to really say that I grew up on the unplugged albums, but I did grow up getting ready for school and watching MTV. Like I remember when Dashboard Confessional dropped ‘vindicated’ for the Spider-Man 2 soundtrack – that was big for me.
Just Neighbors is mostly an instrumental band. Do you find it scary or daunting writing music that features singing? [I’m a drummer. I did some backing vocals when my new band played recently and although I’d practiced a lot, it was terrifying.]
Justice Diamond: In a way it’s scary and daunting. It’s also exciting and challenging which has been the appeal to pursue it lately. It’s really nice to be able to add vocal melodies and lyrics to our songs.
Dan Lohr: It’s scary in that it’s so damn vulnerable. Rather than sitting, meditating, and writing a song based on a feeling and having the melodies do the talking – I am actually directly speaking about it; that’s a lot.
How did the writing and recording process differ with this album? Have you been stuck at home much over the past year?
Our past albums were huge undertakings for us with a lot of time spent preparing parts and tracking them in a studio. With this project we didn’t set out to make a Just Neighbors record in the traditional sense, we were really just interested in recording some song ideas we’ve been sitting on for a while. Inside Voices was recorded at home and was much more of an intimate recording process. We’ve all been stuck at home over the past year so it was nice to be able to continue writing and recording despite the circumstances.
I’ve noticed you have a visual theme of lights from what I’ve seen of this album. Do you have an overall theme or message with the music?
We don’t have an overall theme with this music but sometimes they emerge unexpectedly after the fact.
I remember that for your last album, If It Ever Comes Back, you made the album available for purchase and download on Bandcamp a week or so before you put it on streaming services. Talk me through how you settled on that decision.
We’ve always appreciated Bandcamp as a service that connects music supporters with the artist. Spotify and streaming services lack that connection, so we wanted to try and direct fans to our Bandcamp where they could purchase the music and more directly support us. It also helped us fund our tour to Mexico.
You also made extended versions of songs available for the people who supported you by purchasing your music. Is this like how Japanese CD’s often have bonus tracks?
It’s similar, we really wanted to provide something additional to anyone who bought the album and keep the streaming experience more succinct. Appreciate that you took notice! Those tracks have become some of our favorite moments from the album.
I notice that your URL link on your instagram leads to “Capture” on Spotify. So you still want Spotify streams?
Despite our criticism, yes. The fact is most listeners are on streaming services so it only makes sense to bring the music to the masses. It’s sad, because Spotify really has the opportunity to throw it back to the artists by *actually* paying them or integrating merch shops for any artist.
While we are on the topic of different listening formats, I love that I can support you through Bandcamp without needing to pay for expensive shipping fees by buying digital music. But you also have CDs and Vinyl for sale. How do you personally prefer to listen to music? I have a record collection, but just can’t afford to buy records most of the time. I saw on the witter page that someone recently bought Weezer’s Pinkerton.
We love listening to records on vinyl. It’s also a good time to pop in a CD while driving.
Have Bandcamp Fridays made much of a difference for you as a band over the past year?
In all honesty, not really. It’s a nice gesture from Bandcamp but it hasn’t made a particularly big impact on sales or revenue from us.
What is your relationship with Refresh Records?
Refresh Records are good friends and partners. They pressed a limited vinyl release of Being Where I Thought I’d Be and have done a great job at managing orders. They have some other kickass bands as well, shout out Cuzco and Catholics.
Tell me about the Gainesville music scene. I’ve never been to Florida but I have spent some time traveling around America with bands and I loved seeing DIY music communities and how the musicians support each other over there.
The Gainesville music scene is pretty eclectic and it has always felt very supporting. You can find just about anything here. Impressive how many scenes can exist in what started as a small college town. We were lucky enough to be a part of a mathy/progressive side of it. There are too many good bands we’ve shared the stage with getting started; you know who you are 😉
Have you got connections to the hardcore/punk scene? Do you know about the legendary band Jud Jud? [if not, please educate yourself and report back]
Not really and no but holy shit Jud Jud rocks.
My friends in Tides of Man are from Clearwater. That’s not a question, it’s just Florida related.
How are the local venues doing? Do you see yourselves playing shows or touring at any point in the future?
It’s hard to say at this point. It seems like shows are going to come back this fall so we are hoping our favorite spots survived. Shout out to the hardback cafe. As of now, we’re no longer all in Gainesville so we have no plans for shows or touring in the immediate future.
You featured on a Ripcord Records fundraiser compilation recently. Tell me about how that came about.
They actually reached out via email and we sent them a track to feature on the compilation. When the compilation dropped we couldn’t believe how good it was. It also raised a lot of money for a charity called Refuge that helps victims of domestic abuse. Both the link for the compilation and charity are below in case anyone is interested https://www.refuge.org.uk/
What have been some of your most effective ways of reaching wider audiences? [ I can’t even remember how I discovered your band.]
Releasing music has always seemed to be one of the most effective. The internet has its ways.
Some of the best math-rock bands come from Japan. How was your time touring there? [I went to Tokyo in 2014 I think. It was incredible. Toe are also on top of the bucket list for bands I need to see before I die]
Our time touring Japan was incredible. It’s wild how different the shows are from the US and It’s honestly surreal we were there in the first place. We wholeheartedly enjoyed meeting so many new people and bands. We got to play with so many kick ass bands like Paranoid Void, Nengu, pFpG, momoku, and the enigma RIL.
And you’ve played in Mexico a bit, right?
We’ve played in Monterrey, MX twice and absolutely loved it. We’d like to extend further down next time but it is a massive country. Our friends down there have a collective called Monterrey Emo Club and play in a band called ‘Local Champion’.
Let’s hear some tour stories! Got any crazy things that happened to you on tour? Interesting foods you ate? Strangest venues?
Well on our first tour we all got Norovirus *redacted* after one member (Justice) ate street clams so things got pretty hairy. We also have fond memories of muffulettas on the Mississippi, tacos in Mexico, and ramen in Japan. We’ve played just about any venue at this point: Rooftops, apartments, basements, ballrooms, verandas, offshoots, fouriers, truck stops, bowling alleys, Applebees, Chuck e. Cheese, Red Robin, Ace Hardware, Amazon Fulfillment Centers.
Nintendo time. What are your go-to characters in Super Smash Bros? Favourite video games? Fave video game soundtracks?
Justice Diamond: Ice climbers are my main and falco comes second.
Dan Lohr : I run villager
Reid Casey: Lucas that guy
Justice Diamond : Spelunky and spelunky soundtrack
Dan Lohr : FORTNITE!!! Was a good game :c
My friends in Man Mountain managed to get onto the Borderlands 3 game. What game would you most love to get your music onto?
We’d love to get featured on the Borderlands 4 actually, dm us.
Which band member is the most neighborly and why?
Jrok (Jarrett) because he was always the one to get the mail and he introduced himself to our current drummer (Reid).
If you were to get a face tattoo, what would it be?
(っ◔◡◔)っ ♥ based ♥
Thanks for taking the time to do this interview. Anything else you’d like to say?
Thanks for taking the time to interview us, this was really well done!
I knew I was onto something good from the moment I first heard Lakes. Someone had recommended their new album The Constance LP on an internet thread dicussing Into It. Over It.
Regular readers will know that I’m a big IIOI fan. He was the first musical act that I travelled overseas to see play live. So if I hear someone comparing an act to IIOI, I’m going to check them out.
And good thing I did, because this album is fantastic. Insomuch that The Constance has become my easy pick for favourite album of 2019.
Lakes decribe themselves as “glock-rock”. Don’t let that put you off – it’s not an NSA advertisment – it’s because they have a glockenspiel. Is that significant enough to warrant naming their genre after it?
Well the glock certainly adds to their sound, placing bright accents in just the right spots. The interplay between the glockenspiel and the other percussion in “Ontario” nothing short of sublime.
To describe their sound further: it’s happy music. Sometimes relaxed, usually upbeat. They play mathrock, but the time signatures switch so subtly that you’d only pick it up if you’re listening for it. There are elements of emo, indie and pop-punk threaded through as well.
The vocal harmonies are devine. This much is obvious from the very opening notes of the album. Then we hear the chiming glockenspiel and trumpet come over the syncopated rhythms and it’s instantly clear that this is not your standard pop or rock music.
The singing is outstanding. The Bandcamp liner notes state that the vocal duties are shared between four people throughout the album, but it sounds like more voices are in there. On tracks like “Reindeer”, the singing is ernest and urgent, but for most of the record things feel pretty calm. The tender “Erie” sounds like painful memories, with sparse acoustic guitar and gently layered singing. I just love it all, from the chanted shouts of ‘Hey!’ in “Geneva” to the staccato delivery of the chorus in “Lucerne”.
I hope I’m not being too misleading here, But Lakes remind me a lot of Toe: fantastic musicianship, quirky time signatures, busy drumming that isn’t overpowering, and songs that are perfect for putting you into a great mood.
Lakes didn’t do themselves many favours when they chose their moniker. It’s not an easy name to search for. On top of this, when I’ve had friends give me a lift in their car and offer me a chance to choose the music, I haven’t been able to find Lakes on streaming services. I’ve included a songwhip link at the end of the article that you can use to find them, so they are available, but I’ve never managed to find them on a friends phone when searching for them on Spotify or Google Play when driving in the car.
This is not a criticism of the music. All of their songs are named after Lakes, so it’s an apt name. But it makes it harder for me to share and recommend their music if I don’t have a URL link handy.
It’s a hard choice, but I’d consider “Ontario” the highlight of the album, thanks to the aformentioned glock accents, the vocal hamonies, and the soaring trumpet and great drumming in the outro. Everything comes together into a georgeous package.
Lakes are worth your time. I don’t blame you if you haven’t heard of them, but there’s no more pleading ignorance now. Treat yourself to some georgously catchy and carefree music. Like I said before, Lakes were my surefire choice for best music of 2019. Check them out and see if if you agree.
Regular readers will know that I teach toddlers for a living. It’s a lot of fun, drawing pictures, digging in the sandpit, building lego, reading stories, running around, acting silly, and generally doing things that don’t really sound like “work” (although believe me – it’s not easy!)
Trying to create a fun and vibrant feeling environment is an integral part of my job. It’s easier to learn things when we feel comfortable and at ease. I enjoy finding music that can help to elevate or lower the mood of the room, depending on the need. Relaxing ambient music by the likes of Rhian Sheehan or Steve Gibbs can help settle everyone down for the chilled out times of the day. And dance parties that feature Disney tunes from soundtracks like Frozen,Lion King and Moana are daily occurrences. But my favourites are upbeat post-rock and math-rock – fun stuff like Toe, Just Neighbours, Tom’s Story and Dorena.
Filipino quartet tide/edit just got added to that list. I can’t believe that they’ve escaped my attention until now, because this is exactly the kind of music I need in my life.
All My Friends ticks all the boxes: upbeat, energetic and melodic. It’s fun and interesting without feeling too distracting.
I’m sure that any math fans will know the deal: it’s happy, tappy music that makes you feel good and want to move your body. For the longest time I thought that math-rock only featured innaccesable bands like Dillinger Escape Plan or Messhuggah, which put me off. But bands like tide/edit have taught me that exploring different time signatures doesn’t alway make a band hard to listen to, it just means that they’re too talented for their own good.
But seriously, All My Friends is a great record. As the title would suggest, it’s the soundtrack to friendship and playfullness. We hear light tapping on guitar fretboards, twinkly riffs and busy drumming, all coming together to create wonderful music. “Chronograph” transports us to electronica territory with glitches in the beat. It doesn’t matter if you’re pumped up, or feeling dreamy and vacant, this music just makes you feel good about life.
Now I know that I cover a lot of instrumental music on this site, but I must disclose that the track “White Flag” contains (cover your ears, children)… vocals! Singing? How dare they? But jokes aside, Dee Cruz’s vocal addition makes for a lovely relaxing song.
It is the start of summer here in New Zealand, which means time spent with friends, cooking on barbeques, hanging out at beaches and rivers, and making time to enjoy what life has to offer. I dare say tide/edit’s carefree tunes from All My Friends will make worthy additions to the soundtrack.
To me, Toe are about as close as you can come to a perfect band. They are incredibly talented musicians who create great compositions that appeal to just about everyone. It’s never a bad time to listen to Toe, no matter what kind of mood you’re in. I have a funny anecdote that I shared in my Masaki Hanakata review, which involved me introducing Toe to American teenage girls at a Summer Camp I worked at, resulting in them all chanting “Toe! Toe! Toe!” until I played some of Toe’s music through tinny speakers at the campfire.
Their new EP, Our Latest Number picks up where Hear You(2015) left off. In fact, I feel that the new song “Etude of Solitude” could complete a trilogy started with the 2015 tracks “Premonition” and “A Desert of Human”, following similar sounding guitar lines. “Etude…” is my favourite track of this EP, featuring split tapped poly-rhythms, sparing yet effective use of vibraphone, splendid drumming, and possibly even sitar?
We hear light, airy songs that sound simple, but are deceptively complex. The songs are very repetitive, looping around groovy motifs that gradually evolve. Precise poly-rhythms of noodly guitars sit above concise, dry drumming, loaded with explosive energy, yet exuding chilled out vibes.
Most Toe tracks are instrumental, and when they feature vocals the singing is usually diverse and unpredictable. Hear You had male and female vocals, stunning harmonies and even rapping. By comparison, the two songs featuring singing on this EP are relatively straightforward and calm.
Thanos would love this EP because it feels so perfectly balanced. The playing is busy, but the musicians know where to leave space. The music sounds so clean and articulate due to the fact that there are very little sound effects added to the playing . Most post-rock music is saturated in distortion, reverb, delay etc… so these songs sound fresh by comparison.
That is not to say there are no effects or synthetic sounds utilised. “F_A_R” has a weird sliding sound – almost like a robotic heartbeat – at the start of the track. I first noticed it as I was walking to work a few days ago, and I thought the sound was my headphone cord rubbing against my clothes. The track continues to employ interesting sounds from synths and sequencers to add texture.
It says something about the quality of the music when you love a band so much without knowing much about them. I have no idea what they sing about on their songs that contain singing. It’s hard to keep track of what they’re up to over social media, seeing as most content I find is written in Japanese. I can’t understand what their message is, so I simply let the music talk on their behalf.
The only downside of Our Latest Number is that it is too short, last just shy of 20 minutes. And on top of that, some tracks almost feel like rehashed versions of older songs (compare the drumbeat “The Latest Number” against “You Go”, from 2009’s For Long Tomorrow). But my complacency isn’t justified – I just crave more music from this outstanding band!
This is an immaculate EP, in keeping with their previous output. Essential listening for most math-rock and post-rock fans, and I’m sure just as appealing to anyone who doesn’t usually listen to instrumental music. Just press play, and bask in the music’s genius and clarity.