Reviews for [RL57]
Make It Plain "Somersault"
- Modern Vinyl
Armed with an endearing simplicity, Make It Plain’s newest 7? record, containing the tracks “Somersault” and “Hutch,” is an effective tease from the indie-rock outfit, pushing the listener to at least pay attention to, if not seek out future material from the group. Fronted by the subdued, yet charming vocals of Kristin MacDougal, the New York-based band appears to be more concerned with the effectiveness of their melodies, rather than the complexity of their arrangements. This focus not only puts more deserved attention on the previously mentioned MacDougal, but also allows the listener to hone in on the lyrical content, which for a beginning entity, is surprisingly impressive.
Take the A-Side, “Somersault,” as an example. Touching on the often broached subject of summer love, MacDougal paints a vivid picture, singing, “Sit and watch the sky/And the wind turn in the trees/Smell of fallen leaves/Never expecting more/Than a long night/And in the morning/A short goodbye.” The track goes on to depict the regret following an overnight stay, with the final lines asking, “Can we erase the summer?” The track is accompanied by a relatively simple beat from percussionist Chris Von Nolte and catchy, rhythmic work from both Duncan MacDougal (guitar) and Tom Comerford (bass).
On the B-Side, we find “Hutch,” an impressive track featuring both powerful lyrics and instrumentation. Speaking of faith, MacDougal sings, “Total submersion is a popular delusion/Taking me back to where I came/The starts don’t have a concept of inclusion/No one shedding blood in any of there names.” Accompanied by driving work from Duncan MacDougal on the guitar, the track serves as the standout of the two, and one in which you’ll see yourself revisiting in the near future.
Sound Quality: Cut at 45 RPM,instrumentation from the entire group is highlighted in the pressing, especially the strong work on the drums. Unfortunately, the vocals sound a bit muddled. Both sides of my copy also contained spots in which distortion was a major issue. Hopefully, only my copy suffered from this ailment, as the music deserves to be heard in as strong of a pressing as possible.
Packaging: Housed in a 2-panel, fold-over cover, the structural nature of the 7? packaging is nothing to write home about. The vintage artwork makes up for its structural faults, though, with little touches across the piece helping to create a visually appealing experience. From the reference to stereo sound on the cover; to the advertisement for an early cassette deck on the inside; to the doo-wop influence present in the text choices; each visual aspect chosen by the group and label represents a very interesting direction. One last fault comes with the center labels, though, which are red and black. That combination looks nice, but doesn’t exactly match up with the artwork colors, which are brown and white.
Extras: The record was pressed on only the standard black variant. You do not receive a digital download with your order. And while I didn’t expect numerous variants, a download would have been appreciated. The songs are at least available through the label’s Bandcamp.
Summary: With the newest 7? release from Make It Plain, the charming indie-rock group utilizes simple melodies and strong vocal work on their way to an effective couple of tracks. Simplicity doesn’t translate to laziness in this case, as the group wisely does just enough to shine the spotlight on some powerful work in regard to the lyrics. Rok Lok Records presents a visually appealing set of packaging for the record, but the sound quality, at least in my copy, suffered from several instances of distortion.
- Depression Chamber
A joint venture between Rok Lok Records and strictly no capital records.
I think I just want to turn up the volume, close the blinds, shove my head under my pillow, and wish I just could disappear. Sometimes bands sound all too human. Hearts on sleeves, without fleeting moments of reality. Scenes don’t really breed these types of bands, these sounds, these lyrics. I’m not sure what does. Emotions might help, letting yourself feel might as well. I do not know anything about Make It Plain, but I feel like they knock the pedestal I have created for them over and over. They’re all too deserving of the praise I’m about to give them.
Somersault is a jammer. Really somber or melancholy, sometimes I feel like I get all these feelings wrong and jumbled up. This music is not wrong, but it is jumbled up. There is no hiding it though. Make It Plain do not drench their guitar in too loud reverb, and the vocals are crystal clear. We can hear the sounds of defeat, and the somewhat at peace with an uncontrollable environment. Nothing is too abrasive, nothing is out of the ordinary. A band that knew what kind of song they wanted to write so they wrote it. They are not like I. I never know what I want to write, so I don’t write. I hide. Hence why this review took too long to put out. I’m sorry Mike.
Hutch, is a slower and steady-paced output than its A-side Sister. The lyrics are less tangled than Somersault, and more focused. Less cryptic. You feel where they are coming from simply from the melodies. It’s no joke to them. We are all impacted by those who force themselves upon us, delusions, hopefulness, the want to find a greater “self”/”thing,” the reality of it all. This song ends.
I just wish I was as captivating as this band. Their beautiful and harmonious two songs aren’t even spiteful or too cute. I feel in the dark when this 7” plays. I feel so miserable and discontent that I should change my life to reach the heights of these songs. It’s okay. The 7” itself does sound a little weird, but weird is good. It’s a fucking 7” not a FLAC file. I love this 7”.
- Collective Zine
This is some gorgeous indie rock that'll grab you if you like a 90s twist along the way. They come from Long Island and put a demo out absolutely ages ago which was really good but this is another step up from there. The vocals are lovely and remind me of someone like Juliana Hatfield - just a voice I can listen to all day. The guitars are jangly but still have a nice amount of drive. A side "Somersault" is mid-paced and led by that lovely jangly guitar sound (I need another word similar to jangly but when I looked up some synonyms on the internet it gave me a load of words like "cacophonous", "immusical" and "grating" which is definitely not what I mean!). Over on the B side is "Hutch" which is slower but still packs a little kick as it breaks in and picks up the pace. Both these tracks are laced with melancholy and have a poppy slant. If you like bands like Pohgoh and Lindsay Minton's solo stuff I think you're going to like this. I've been flipping this 7inch over and over constantly this week.
- Half Gifts
As if I needed another neo-90s indie rock band to fawn over, this single by New York's Make It Plain has recently been getting some serious airplay on my mind's radio station and many spins on my turntable. Falling somewhere between the innocent pop-punk demeanor of Tiger Trap and the even more lighthearted jazzy jangle we've come to love from Belle and Sebastian, the feelings to be had on both sides of this single are cozy and dulcet. If you enjoy bands with shimmery guitars and vocals that recall the riot-grrrl movement, then I can't stress how much you're going to love Make It Plain.
The A-Side, "Somersault", kicks off with chords of melted butter and the simple, steady thwack of a snare, breaking down into a charming chorus. It's a perfect song built from rudimentary components about an age old subject: the last gasps of summer. "Hutch" is the B-Side of the single, but it's not to be overlooked. The mellow, yet more fervid tune seems to draw from different influences than its counterparts, perhaps Sebadoh instead of Beat Happening. In fact, there's a bridge in the track that kinda reminds me of Sebadoh's "Skull". Although I prefer full albums, sometimes singles like this can really get the job done
Just reading the about page on Rok Lok Records is exactly why I love writing about singles for this dumb blog. Back in 1998 Mike Andriani was inspired by the success of DIY labels like KRS, K Recs and Shrimper and wanted to do something similar with his local scene. That’s it. It’s the simplest plan and the hardest to follow through with. Especially at first. One day you have nothing, the next day you have to figure out a release, come up with the money, design the thing and maybe start organizing shows for the bands involved. If you’re lucky, you break even, but even better you make your town a little better for everyone involved.
One of the bands that Rok Lok Records (and let’s not forget their UK pals strictly no capital letter Records) wanted to support from their scene is Make it Plain. They’re a five piece out of Patchague, Long Island featuring a married couple Duncan and Kristen MacDougal on guitar and vocals…pretty sure that’s her on the sleeve, channeling an early Sunny Day Real Estate or Rainer Maria indie pop punk sound.
A-Side’s "Somersault" has that ultra crisp production, capturing every gated slice of distortion. The insert has the lyrics two ways, one written out on an old cassette and the other on an old dirty typewriter. This reaches for an epic melancholy emo sound with upper register Tanya Donelly vocals; she’s perfect for delivering this late summer track of an unrequited relationship. It’s hitting on all those things that Sunny Day did for me at the time; a misguided angst and the exciting parts of hanging out with your friends while also being bored out of your mind. Everything was incredibly important in your self-centered world and then you meet someone and the whole thing eventually falls apart. Adventureland captured this period perfectly as well and I wish the soundtrack would have taken more chances with sounds like this.
On the B-Side "Hutch" has a slow start reminding me of another favorite of my depressed-no-one-understands-me- days, The Spinannes. The heavy, unusual beat with that bass end in double time after a false start. Thumping against Kristen’s butterfly vocal, they work with and against each other before coming back plowing right into the belly of this one. Bursts of chords over her layered vocal is sadder because it comes off so blindly optimistic? It’s just too damn fresh and shiny, you start to question what they know about heartbreak or tragedy - except they're really digging deep into those heavy emotions that come out in huge dynamic changes that grab your collar. Kristen’s vocal is a incredibly unique fit with this mathy, tougher emo punk sound, they found a great vocalist hitting those nostalgic chords.
- Tuning Into the Obscure
An interesting blend of indie goodness, sounding a bit like the Catherine Wheel, Mazzy Star and maybe a light dusting of Dinosaur Jr. Call me crazy if you don’t get those same vibes. I’ve just finished the first track and I already feel they’ve conquered songwriting and the arrangement of their instrumentation. The vocals here are amazing and I feel quite refreshed after playing this single. Both tracks pack a nice punch… makes me wish I had a better turntable—I can’t plug external speakers in and I feel like I am losing a lot of the sound. This is just a perfect record. (5.0 out of 5)
- Get It On Vinyl
Rounding out this wonderful package is a 7” from Make It Plain.
Sometimes a songs subject matter does not need to be clear in order for the listener to be moved. While this songs lyrics are cryptic, with powerful metaphors, it is easy to understand the feelings of regret, fear, and longing that this song delivers. While we like to think it is a song of summer love lost, it remains open for interpretation. Lead singer Kristin MacDougal shines with raw emotion poured out over airy angelic indie rock goodness.
There is no denying the subject matter of the B-side, “Hutch.” While it begins slow and melodic, this anger fueled track aimed at the pitfalls or organized religion picks up pace with great precision. It is as powerful as it is moving