Over this past Memorial Day weekend, four of the original members of the Anniversary — the much-beloved band from Lawrence, Kansas — reconvened to rehearse a few of their old songs. This would be the first time that the four of them — Josh Berwanger, James David, Adrianne DeLanda, and Chris Jankowski — had been in one room together since the band awkwardly and officially broke up back in 2004. It was a reunion that no one ever really seemed to think would happen. Having parted ways well over a decade ago, most of the band now live in different parts of the country and literally everyone has children, which makes the idea of getting everyone back together in a room to play songs that were written when most of them were barely out of their teens seem not only logistically difficult, but financially and commercially implausible. Still, after several months of chatting and testing the waters (everyone seemed genuinely surprised by the almost cult-classic status of their records), four of the original five band members managed to clear their schedules for a spate of reunion shows that will take place this fall. (Fifth original member, guitarist Justin Roelofs, isn’t currently involved, though he encouraged the other members to proceed with the reunion. Ricky Salthouse will be joining the band on guitar for the upcoming shows.) Fittingly, the reunion took place in same place the band first played together back in 1997 — the basement at guitarist Josh Berwanger’s mom’s house.
Of all the shoegaze reunions that we’ve been blessed with over the past few years, perhaps none is more satisfying than the return of Lush. Unlike many of their ’90s peers, most of whom either fizzled out due to lack of interest or were forced to close up shop for financial reasons, Lush ended their run on something of a creative high note. Between 1989 and 1996 the band released four increasingly pop-friendly albums, the last of which — 1996’s Lovelife — neatly bridged the gap between hazy shoegaze and the prevailing Britpop of the mid ’90s. At a time when Lush were poised to achieve even greater mainstream success, drummer Chris Acland tragically took his own life. Exhausted and heartbroken, the band simply stopped. So, for all of us who came of age with their records (and may or may not still have old VHS copies of 120 Minutes that are permanently warped from watching the “Sweetness And Light” video over and over), the news that Lush will reform after a 20-year hiatus is truly glorious. Having announced a run of U.S. shows leading up to a performance at Coachella later this month, the band is also releasing a new EP, Blind Spot — four tracks of blissed-out dreampop that picks up seamlessly where they left off nearly two decades ago. We talked to Lush frontwomen Emma Anderson and Miki Berenyi about the band’s great early days as well as their genuinely exciting comeback.
Few artists can boast a career as varied and oddly sprawling as that of Ben Watt. After releasing an acclaimed solo record in 1983, Watt would subsequently spend the next 16 years as one half of Everything But The Girl (with his now-wife Tracey Thorn), who eventually recorded nine albums before quietly going into what may or may not be a permanent hiatus. Watt would then delve into the world of electronic music for a decade or so, launching his own electronic label (Buzzin’ Fly) and traveling around the world as a highly sought-after DJ. In 2014 Watt once again made an abrupt left turn and decided to get back to his first love: writing and singing his own songs. Hendra — his first solo album in 31 years — was a critically beloved return to form, allowing Watt to once again take center stage and cementing what has become an enduring partnership with former Suede guitarist Bernard Butler. This month Watt will release Fever Dream, a graceful collection of songs largely concerned with aging and relationships featuring contributions from Marissa Nadler and M.C. Taylor of Hiss Golden Messenger. It’s also worth noting that in addition to having written and recorded some of the greatest music of the past couple of decades, Watt has also written two excellent memoirs (1996’s Patient and 2014’s Romany And Tom), which means he can essentially do pretty much anything.
Now in its third year, the Tremor Festival takes place on the island of São Miguel in the Azores — a place that, quite frankly, I didn’t even know existed until I was asked to go there. Located in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean, the Azores is a Portuguese archipelago — approximately halfway between Lisbon and New York City — though most Portuguese people I know have never even been there. Up until a year ago the nine islands that make up the Azores were only serviced by one airline, which made getting to and from the islands prohibitively expensive. Now that the island is serviced by multiple carriers, it’s easy — and relatively cheap — to fly there. Just a four and a half hour flight from Boston, Azores is like this crazy volcanic paradise that you never knew you wanted to visit and that you Now in its third year, the Tremor festival takes place on the island of São Miguel in the Azores — a place that, quite frankly, I didn’t even know existed until I was asked to go there. Located in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean, the Azores is a Portuguese archipelago — approximately halfway between Lisbon and New York City — though most Portuguese people I know have never even been there. Up until a year ago the nine islands that make up the Azores were only serviced by one airline, which made getting to and from the islands prohibitively expensive. Now that the island is serviced by multiple carriers, it’s easy — and relatively cheap — to fly there. Just a four and a half hour flight from Boston, Azores is like this crazy volcanic paradise that you never knew you wanted to visit and that you basically never want to leave.
For those of us who came of age in the early ’90s, Tortoise — Chicago’s iconic post-rock granddaddies — were a kind of gateway drug for what could be ostensibly deemed “experimental” music. The band’s landmark 1996 release, Millions Now Living Will Never Die, provided, for me at least, essential first contact with what was essentially genre-less instrumental music — a discovery that would eventually lead me to seeking out things like Can, Neu!, and Sonny Sharrock. And even though Tortoise have always been generally slotted under the vague banner of “post-rock” their back catalog — now seven albums deep — is pretty singular. Jazz-inflected and imbued with elements of rock, dub, and ambient electronica, their music has, for the better part of 25 years, remained wonderfully inscrutable. The same is true of the band’s forthcoming full-length, The Catastrophist, which might actually be their most weirdly adventurous to date. The LP includes funk-appropriate basslines, feather-light interplaying guitars, and a variety of otherworldly synthed-out instrumentals. Perhaps weirdest of all, the album includes a cover of David Essex’s 1973 pop hit “Rock On,” which the band manages to make sound oddly ominous. Elsewhere, Yo La Tengo’s Georgia Hubley shows up to add vocals to “Yonder Blue,” which is perhaps one of the loveliest songs the band has ever recorded. In other hands, so many disparate elements and influences might sound like a crazy mess, but The Catastrophist has the same kind of measured, sanguine quality that has been the hallmark of almost every Tortoise album. None of this should make sense, but for some reason all of it does. I talked to Tortoise drummer John McEntire and guitarist Jeff Parker about The Catastrophist and how they got here. And before you get to that, you can listen to “Rock On.”