Summer’s buried musical treasures | WBEZ
Skip to main content

Jim DeRogatis

The Sandwitches, Viet Cong and Fraser Gorman

Previous Next

Gearing up for this week’s “Buried Treasures” episode of Sound Opinions, here are two recent favorites flying under the radar but well worth a listen.

“Stay on the sunny side of life,” the San Francisco folk-pop trio Sandwitches sing on the opening track of their third album, but that optimism stands in stark contrast to the languid, world-weary nature of their gorgeous, dusky ballads and the sad fact that this album is their last, a farewell from the group as it calls it quits. Since coming together in 2008, Heidi Alexander, Roxy Brodeur and Grace Cooper have stood out amid their more raucous garage-rock peers in the Bay Area scene, where the sound is most notably typified by thee Oh-Sees. Think of a much smarter and cooler Haim, with roots that go much deeper than Fleetwood Mac and Laurel Canyon, produced with much less polish (as if the Shaggs could actually play and write). Perpetually lovelorn and melancholy, though never a bummer thanks to those beautiful harmony vocals and minimalist but fetching guitar lines, this is primo music from after the gold rush. And we all need a great soundtrack to wind down and wallow from time to time.

Sandwitches, Our Toast (Empty Cellar Records)

Rating on the 4-star scale: 3 stars.

A much more upbeat affair, the self-titled introductory album by Canadian art-rockers Viet Cong builds on a strong pedigree (two of its members were in indie-rockers Women) to create one of the most fetching mixtures of pop melodies, burbling electronics, and guitar noise since Wolf Parade, though heavier on the ’80s bubblegum psychedelia of bands like Echo and the Bunnymen and the Teardrop Explodes (gotta love those “lost in a cloud of reverb” vocals). The album more than delivers on the promise of the debut EP “Cassette,” overshadowed only by Courtney Barnett as the most striking debut of 2015.

Viet Cong, Viet Cong (Jagjaguwar)

Rating on the 4-star scale: 3.5 stars.

And speaking of Courtney Barnett, curly-haired, 23-year-old singer-songwriter Fraser Gorman is an Aussie pal who’s been championed by that powerhouse, and who makes his debut as her label mate. But rather than taking the ’90s alternative explosion as his starting point, he bases his refreshingly sincere and non-clichéd musings on heartbreak and the search for identity on a bedrock of Americana; he’s said his life was changed forever by seeing Justin Townes Earle (ah, youth!).  Emotional but never emo, sonically or attitudinally, and with deft use of steel guitar perfectly underscoring Gorman’s similarly fluid vocals, Slow Gum introduces a promising new voice. Oh, if only he could have shared a stage with Sandwitches.

Fraser Gorman, Slow Gum (House Anxiety/Marathon Artists)

Rating on the 4-star scale: 3 stars.

Follow me on Twitter @JimDeRogatis, join me on Facebook, and podcast or stream Sound Opinions.

Get the WBEZ App

Download the best live and on-demand public radio experience. Find out more.