Year in Pop: 2016

Sjimon Gompers

Proudly presenting some select highlights and standouts from this year's Week in Pop: 2016 features with our annual Year in Pop review edition; photograph by Sjimon Gompers.

Pangs

Nashville's Pangs (from left, Peace, Duane, & Michelle) return; photographed by Sarah Plotkin.

Nashville’s Pangs (from left, Peace, Duane, & Michelle) return; photographed by Sarah Plotkin.

Pangs blew up on our radar as Nashville group NUDITY’s deluxe luxury pop offshoot with the singles “Already Dead” & a cover of Wreckless Eric’s Whole Wide World. Pangs retains similar hook note traces heard from NUDITY as Lindsay “Michelle” Johns, Nick “Duane” Bennett, & Peace further refine the DIY scuzz & fuzz of their flagship band for bigger and brighter indulgences that push their own audio arrangements, depths, & dimensions of their sound into greater degrees of definition.

Today Pangs presents the world premiere of their singles “Audio/Visual” & “Rubicon” that illustrate Michelle, Duane, & Peace breaking through with audio gems geared to takeover all radio and musical channels dedicated to the glossiest of jams. Its sounds as if the trio studied every technical pop structure handbook of both modern and retro day compositions, as everything here is angled as a series of hooks, and every instrument and utterance of attitude contributes to a grand audio spectacle. Pangs here prove to the world that they can turn anything into the brightest audio aura heard ever, sequencing together the highest stem definitions that could provide other artists with endless remix opportunities (not to mention opening the door to the possibilities of what other artists might sound like as remixed by Pangs).

“Audio/Visual” establishes from the get go that Pangs (not unlike NUDITY) are artists who desire and revel in creating a series of well crafted and calculated hits. Like the insta-appeal of the lauded single “Already Dead“, Michelle’s punchy prosodic delivery matches Duane’s production heard in catchy lyrical rhythm sequences that spill in sections like, “Sunglasses and medicated, everybody’s getting jaded, in monotone and unison, I wanna voice that’s all my own.” A barrage of pop signatures abound everywhere, where Pangs cleverly arranges tough & sassy bridges of “got a problem, got a problem” in between lyrical couplets like, “What do you do when you watch tv? What’s on your mind if it’s not movies? You’re no good when you’re comfortable, but wait a minute you don’t have to go.” The manic bond of togetherness here is exhibited in arguments, rhetorical questions, fragments of conversations, criticisms, and demands for a vocal autonomy. The turnt up feels here is the sound of Pangs & friends starting their own backyard party on the budget while reaching for the stars delivering an assemblage of memorable ear-worms leaving you with poetic pop quips like; “Catch phrases, skinned up knees, bad credit to infinity.”

“Rubicon” examines the emotions and feelings that surround departures and movements that strive to make as clean of a break, while being still being completely honest with the self & former beloved. The circular maneuvers and reasoning move past the point of no return heard in the chorus commitment to cutting the chord heard in Michelle’s delivery of, “Don’t wanna keep in touch, I don’t wanna make up, or keep on keeping on”. Though the shiny pop appeal distracts with myriad hooks, and sections; where the entirety of a relationship is examined along with the things that change between a pair of lovers with the passing of time and personal growth. “Spaces change, lines are drawn, Honey tell me whose side are you on? Nothing ever lasts forever, so long, so long, so long…” This is the song for all broken and mended hearts who seek to hear that resolve that reminds us that all things work out for the better ultimately somehow down these erratic paths.

Pangs’ own Lindsay “Michelle” Johns & Nick “Duane” Bennett were kind enough to take the time to chat this past week about everything from the new singles, to NUDITY playing Happenin Fest, with insights into future events, & more:

When Pangs was launched last year with the single “Already Dead” b/w that Wreckless Eric cover “The Whole Wide World”, it was like the debut single that was buzzing throughout the states and all the way across the otherside of the pond. What was all that praise like for Pangs, and what have you all been up to since we last talked?

Lindsay: Yeah that was a really nice thing, having NME pick up our singles. It really came out of nowhere. Like, that NME is actually walking the beat on some level looking for new music is a revelation. Apart from that it kind of introduced us straight off to some fans which is just the best.

We’ve been busy at home in Nashville recording and rehearsing to have new songs and figure out how to do it all live. We hunkered down in our (very chilly) basement this fall and winter writing, recording and playing. The first of those efforts are these singles. That they’re finally out of the basement is exciting for us. And we’re starting to pop up with shows here and there beginning this month.

Feels like the production is turned up further on the new singles “Rubicon” & “Audio/ Visual”. Tell us what’s been happening behind the scenes and mixing boards here.

Nick: We’re figuring out better how to record. We work at home and there are limitations to that approach but they actually force you to maybe come up with something unexpected. I think innovation in sound comes from people not necessarily knowing how to do something “properly.” Skipping the instructions, etc. Over time we’ve pieced together methods and accumulated little tricks. It’s mostly been trial and error to get there but now we get to pick the best approaches and eventually got pretty good at getting the sounds we’re after. And knowing when to leave accidents alone. That’s been a slow process but we’re always turning corners and finally have a lot of control.

Pangs frontwoman Lindsay "Michelle" Johns; photographed by Hunter Alexander Dixon.

Pangs frontwoman Lindsay “Michelle” Johns; photographed by Hunter Alexander Dixon.

What experiences and interactions informed these new singles?

Lindsay: I was a bartender for a long time, and these people from my past kept coming in to the bar and every time I had that really awkward feeling in my stomach of not wanting to do the small talk thing, or pretend I don’t know somebody thing, or let’s talk about high school thing (absolute worst) and I thought to myself “I don’t want to keep in touch, what’s the point?” Just let these relationships die where they are. And then I wrote Rubicon and it felt like a weight off my shoulders. Audio/Visual was a culmination of a lot of different inspirations, one being the the kind of distracted or flighty tendencies of young people and what kind of love and admiration grows from living in a time like we’re in.

Nick: Yeah, “Rubicon” is like this melancholy triumphant break-up and “Audio/Visual” is so different; a summer song about young love and straight up drug-like infatuation. Complete accident but they’re sort of bookends.

Heard your sister act NUDITY is playing Happenin Fest 2016 on April 1 at Saturn, Birmingham, what are you all stoked on the most for Happenin Fest this year?

Nick: Yeah! NUDITY put out a 45 (“Supernatty“) with Happenin Records and this is the second of their annual festivals we’ve been able to play. I remember we all agreed immediately after the first that is was easily our best ever show. Such a good crowd and scene there.

JEFF and PUJOL are obviously great and our local heroes. We’re really into finally seeing Deer Tick play. And White Reaper has our attention. Happenin Fest is just a great party and we’re really looking forward to seeing our pals at Happenin Records and what new plans they’ve cooked up for the festival. Every year gets turned up a bit more.

Give us the latest goods, stories, gossip, and more from the streets and subterranean sectors of Nashville.

Nick: I’m maybe the least qualified person to answer this since I’m always in the studio. Lindsay is working at another Nashville studio called Welcome to 1979. It’s primarily analog format and they cut lacquers and will be plating records before too long. Pete Townshend was just there doing something or other.

Lindsay "Michelle" Johns & Pangs live; press photo courtesy of the band.

Lindsay “Michelle” Johns & Pangs live; press photo courtesy of the band.

Who and what are inspiring Pangs at this moment in time?

Lindsay: The state of politics. Social injustices. Grimes, the country of Norway, and David Attenborough.

What else are Pangs working on right now?

Lindsay: Some bangers, some ballads.

Pangs new singles singles “Audio/Visual” & “Rubicon” are available now.

PANGS

PANGS / NUDITY's own Lindsay Johns; press photo courtesy of the artist.

PANGS / NUDITY’s own Lindsay Johns; press photo courtesy of the artist.

PANGS are rapidly proving themselves to be some of the most clever pop phenomenons out there. The trio of Lindsay, Nick & Will began a more candied-out offshoot version of their beloved NUDITY band; PANGS stands for every pop single you have ever wanted to hear on the radio airwaves but never have (perhaps outside of the college/left of the dial channels at least). PANGS proved themselves with the get-go earning themselves international acclaim with the single “Already Done”, a cover of Wreckless Eric’s “Whole Wide World”, “Audio/Visual”, “Killing Kind” and now proudly present the world premiere of tied-up touch-tones and star-crossed connections with “Busy Signals”.

“Busy Signals” is the latest contribution to the great pop canon of songs made around the motif of phone tag games that go in circle like a landline serpent chasing it’s own RJ11 modular connector tail in circles. PANGS dismiss the smart phone age, but take us right before the rotary era by edifying the notes, tones, anticipation & connections made through touch tone technology. Opening with the titular tell-tale “Busy Signals” as heard on The Nerves’ classic power pop jam “Hanging on the Telephone” (later immortalized by Blondie); Lindsay, Nick & Will create a super catchy romantic ode to those special people in our lives that are on our minds of whom we desire to talk to on the telephone line. The analog phone system style employed by PANGS becomes the connective canvas that perpetuates the plot of attempting one of those miraculous emergency breakthrough maneuvers in the hopes of reconnecting with a beloved one. On “Busy Signals” both the touch-tone phone, the switchboard, and telephone wires becomes both the narrative enabler and obstacle at the same time where the very means of candid conversation is also an adversarial agent. We discussed all this and more with PANGS in the following exclusive interview feature.

Tell us about all the cool holidays and summer vacations that you all have been enjoying.

First time in the British West Indies last month. North Caicos is apparently what most of Caribbean was like before parrot heads or lifestyle branding nonsense. Just stunning. The islands are known for ripsaw music which is pretty upbeat and features a handsaw blade scraped with a knife or screwdriver. Our local host had mad love for Neil Diamond though.

PANGS Lindsay & Nick on holiday; press photo courtesy of the artists.

PANGS Lindsay & Nick on holiday; press photo courtesy of the artists.

What do you all over at the PANGS / NUDITY camp lament about how we are seeing less and less touch tone phones everywhere (like fewer and fewer landlines, pay phones, etc)?

We grew up on the weird teen ceremony of calling friends or a crush on the home phone and maybe finally getting a landline in your own bedroom. It hardly seems like that was ever real. There’s no wait by the phone and hope someone calls; we’re all halfway omniscient knowing exactly where all our friends are, connected and detached all at once. There’s some good in getting lost.

What connections do you all still retain to these now antiquated analog devices?

I thought I was on the phone a lot in grade school, in my room talking about everything and nothing; little did I know how much more obsessed we would become with our phones! Everything is sophisticated now. Identities meticulously curated. It’s lovely and exhausting.

I did love my touch tone phone though, with its big round colored buttons.

What else have you all been recording for PANGS?

We’re ready to put out a full length record! Just cut the last song this week at Welcome to 1979 in Nashville. Mixing and cutting vinyl next. There are a couple really beautiful cinematic 1960s-style things on it that we’ve not released. If the rest of our music is bombastic and summertime, these are decidedly different: lush and autumnal. It’ll probably be a fall release too; pressing records takes awhile.

Other events & artists we need to be hipped to right now?

Kind of obsessed with Giant Claw’s remix album of Guerrilla Toss right now. It’s like Tom Tom Club candyflipping. Along the same lines are Roar from New Orleans, a two piece—drums, trombone, moog bass and badass vocals.
Nashville’s HeCta are dope.

PANGS new single “Busy Signals” is available via Bandcamp, Soundcloud & Spotify.

Traversing through the catacombs with Pangs' Lindsay & Nick; photograph courtesy of the band.

Traversing through the catacombs with Pangs’ Lindsay & Nick; photograph courtesy of the band.

As the world scratched their head in the aftermath of what happened on election night & reckoned with what it all may mean for the days & next four years to follow; PANGS nursed our collective hangovers with the world premiere of their new single “Do Better” that attacks the patriarchal coliseum pillars with a radical & human approach with earworm hooks galore. Lindsay & Nick duet where every word is matched with a glamorous beauty on the beat style that indulges in the most luxurious & effective electronic instruments for maximum pop punch. Like every new single that arises from the PANGS/NUDITY camp, the crew carries forth their electric torches toward progressive grounds of thought, enlightenment, echelons of self-betterment while forever condensing & distilling arrays of influence into maximalist artifices all of their own.

“Do Better” operates on a buzz-saw guitar scuzz effect that is applied to the track’s rhythmic core as PANGS unleash their Wild at Heart-esque intentions of thrill-seeking radicals that operate like anti-establishments students in revolt. Nick starts the track off on the warpath with a fury that rages against the malevolent machines in fine form & fashion right before Lindsay follows up on the next verse with a shared energy where they become a Bonnie & Clyde force to be reckoned with like a current day Gainsbourg & Bardot or Beatty & Dunaway. The production on “Do Better” also speaks to the economies in arrangements & mixing where PANGS take all aspects of the delivery & execution into careful consideration where every uttered note feels like it is exactly where it is intended & appropriately purposed. We have said it before and we have said it again, but PANGS’ string of output & hints of an upcoming album have made them not only one of the top Nashville acts to watch out for, but their ear opening proliferation in our opinion has earned them a top spot as possibly one of the world’s most important acts that are poised to be larger than life.

PANGS’own Lindsay & Nick provided us with the following exclusive words all about the angst, ambitions & more that informed “Do Better”:

In the wake of the agonizing campaign and election we’re as resolute as always to acknowledge and call out cruelty, division, fear, tribalism, hubris and inequality now and going forward. We will not accept these things as the new normal, or an inevitable part of electioneering, or anywhere near our or others’ daily lives. Friends with minds and conscience, be together. This feels lonely but we are far from alone. This week hate found hope, but we will not let it flourish.

We had planned to hold onto “Do Better” for an album, but feel an urgency this week. Complacency is not okay. We want to encourage the pool of motivational art necessary to move into the future and out of the past. So this is our humble offering.

The song is for anyone who’s ever been condescended to; told they can do better when they might do best to defy that very voice. If you’re not pushing the hell back, we recommend it. We need kindness to ourselves and others to prevail, but it ain’t just naive love. We’re fucking angry and will absolutely channel that into loving, expressive things.

—Linds and Nick (PANGS)

pangs-do-better-week-in-pop

Lyrics:
under glass, wings pinned back
be my lead hammer headbanger on a warpath
run the streets to beat the blast
only weapon’s every second better than the last

eyes like revolving doors
stay awake cos i wanted more
went from hated to accolades
it’s not your fault lines just the way the world’s made
___________

hearts attack we’re cardiac
beauty on the beat ya better step back step back
summer heat on your back
sweating bullets, gunning for ya in a Cadillac

keep your cash gimme the car keys
middle finger to your patriarchy
say your prayers, all the best
won’t take back what you said
___________

yeah yeah I can do better
yeah y’know I get confused
yeah yeah i can do better than you!

PANGS / NUDITY's own Lindsay Johns; press photo courtesy of the artist.

PANGS / NUDITY’s own Lindsay Johns; press photo courtesy of the artist.

PANGS also recently recorded a single dedicated to all refugees seeking asylum titled “Home On The Range” that provides an evocative & heart-felt twist on an old Americana standard. Lindsay’s sharp harmonies fosters the eternal classic into a lullaby for all displaced/misplaced persons everywhere where we are reminded that we all deserve asylum somewhere in this super weird & short of stable world that we enjoy.

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