Vol. 11 Issue 132 September 2016
August? I hardly knew ya! It was too hot to do much of anything except sweat and complain. And believe me, I did plenty of both. And now? Well, I can’t speak to the sweating (chances are I’ll keep that up) but who can complain when we have new records from Beach Slang, Psychic Twin and another batch of kid soul from the gang at Numero! Dig in!
Posted by John On Sep 22, 2016
Before we get going this week and watch a bunch of great new videos, I wanna... Read More
"A Loud Bash Of Teenage Feelings"
The reports of Beach Slang’s “death” have been greatly exaggerated. Well, sort of. The tour in support of Beach Slang’s debut full length album The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Uswas either gonna destroy the band or make them even stronger on the other end of the road. It did both. Feelings were felt. On-stage fights were had. But it’s no surprise that fans were made, good times were also had, even more Replacements comparisons were made and Beach Slang reminded countless fans of just how great emotionally-connected rock and roll can be when it messily unfolds right before your very eyes. Seeing as how the only word their two LP titles have in common is “feel.” A Loud Bash Of Teenage Feelings (Polyvinyl) is everything your teenaged self would have wanted it to be. It’s also what your adult self has been searching for. Duel guitar pop-punk catchiness mixed with James Alex’s sandblasted vocals. Check out the beyond catchy anthemic build of the Psychedelic Furs meets Joan Jett “Punks In A Disco Bar.”
Really Psychic Twin? Strange Dairy? You called your new album Strange Dairy? Is it just about like cheese curds and buttermilk or something… Oh. Strange Diary (Polyvinyl)? Yeah. That makes a lot more sense, and is a much better title for this album. As I listen to the record now, it’s even more appropriate. Otherworldly washes of synths and keyboard arpeggios, somehow sounding like the bombastic intro from Billy Jean and the most delicate, sci-fi work of Tangerine Dream simultaneously. The album was written and recorded over the last 4 years before, during, and after her divorce. If that wasn’t enough life upheaval, she also moved from outside of Chicago to Brooklyn while working on the LP. As the listener, we are as disoriented as she likely was, yet the whole thing can feel as deliciously off kilter as a modern retelling of Annie Lennox. Yes, that hauntingly beautiful and strange - like the title says! Check out the pulsing swells of the avant pop “Lose Myself.”
"Afterschool Special: The 123's of Kid Soul"
It’s been nearly a decade since Numero released Homeschooled: The 123s of Kid Soul. That revered compilation gathered the soulful wake that followed in the Jackson 5’s rise to fame. Many parents thought “hey, my kid could do that too.” Thankfully more of those parents were right than could fit on one collection because here comes the sequel.Afterschool Special: The 123s of Kid Soul picks up where the last one left off. Precocious kids singing songs of love that adults probably shouldn’t have been giving to kids to sing. But their innocence lost is our soulful gain. Filled with raw, funky tunes, this one is every bit as good as the last release (and that was a damn good release) . Get your groove on with Scott Three and the “Am I The Same Girl (Soulful Strut)”-esque vibes of “Runnin’ Wild (Ain’t Gonna Help You).”
Emma Ruth Rundle
"Marked For Death"
Something funny happened on the way to the forum… er, I mean, on the way to this record being done. The noisy nature of the electronics in the studio Emma Ruth Rundle recorded Marked For Death(Sargent House) forced her to record most of the guitars via a direct line, as opposed to recording amps with mics. The result of this process allowed Emma a chance to be more textural and intimate with the axes (people still call guitars axes right?) The multi-layering nature of both her vocals and the guitars with their detuned, gloomy beauty leaves the record sounding somewhere between Red Red Meat and if Chelsea Wolfe was a guest vocalist on Elliot Smith’s From A Basement On A Hill. I know that’s a pretty wide gap. Well this haunting album covers a lot of ground. Check out the beautiful and buildy “Protection.”
Sometimes who a band is opening for this year is the easiest way to shorthand a band’s sound. Take, for instance, the melodic heavy metal riffage of Helms Alee. In support of their newest album Stillcide (Sargent House) they will be supporting, back to back, The Melvins and Russian Circles. The off-kilter metal sounds of the Melvins mixed with the math-y syncopation of Russian Circles goes a long way to describe this band. However, it won’t get you all the way there. Epic, tom drum heavy passages a la Godspeed You! Black Emperor, early Faith No More passages of beauty, and Dana James’s haunting vocals as she also masterfully drives the songs along with her bass prowess. You want epic? Oh brother, is this one full of epicness. Take, for instance, the triumphant strains of “Tit To Toe.”
New Wovenhand album alert! Mixing the sounds of Nick Cave at his grittiest, David Bowie at his ‘90s gloomiest, Tom Waits at his most obtuse, and the singularity of David Eugene Edwards (because, you know, he’s the driving force behind Wovenhand), Star Treatment finds David shedding most of the metal tendencies of this band and embracing more of their Americana side. But don't expect Americana like you’ve ever heard it. Distorted, weird, creepy at times, lovely at other times, this is like dropping the needle on your favorite Waylon Jennings record right as the drugs start to kick in, and you watch as Waylon’s face on the album cover melts into some weird Peter Murphy/Glenn Danzig double headed monster and now the two (three?) of you are in a convertible at night on a desert highway and the cacti have sparklers stuck in them and even David Lynch is like “oh my, isn't this Lynchian?” Buy the ticket, take the ride, and start with “Golden Blossom.”
There is a reason that the music of Justin Sweatt, known here as Xander Harris (yes, it’s a Buffy reference. No, the actual Xander from Buffy isn’t recording synthwave records) has made it’s way onto every media outlet’s “If You Liked The Music Of Stranger Things” playlist. This dude has been making engaging, spooky, oddly sweet synth music for years now, combining the gritty keyboards of John Carpenter with a bit of a modern dance floor beat and just a hint of audio collaging. If you’re listening to California Chrome (Rock Action) during the day, his tunes can harken back to the heady days of drug-fueled sci-fi of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. If you are listening at night however, his music can be as unsettling as a night spent in a haunted mansion as per your crazy late aunt’s will (as scored by an extra-creepy version Brian Eno). Decide for yourself with the unsettling strains of “The Eye in the Triangle.”
"False Readings On"
If, when you have the chance to listen to a new Eluvium record, you aren’t already expecting a dose of masterful ambient music a cut above the genre, than you haven’t been listening to Eluvium. False Readings On (Temporary Residence) started out as an album about “cognitive dissonance in modern society” which eventually became “a mirror rather than a magnifying glass” (I’m quoting beautifully written press here). Quivering, looping tapes and sounds and an operatic voice somewhere in the cathedral-esque mix singing it’s heart out, the whole effect is sort of like coming down from psychedelic drugs at church. I do not recommend the real-life version of that at all, however I highly recommend the musical equivalent. Check out the first haunting single from the album, “Fugue State.”
"Shape Shift With Me"
Against Me! is releasing their follow-up to 2014’s much heralded Transgender Dysphoria Blues with the equally amazing Shape Shift With Me (Total Treble). As Laura Jane Grace says in the press release for the record, the LP is her “transgender response” to records like Exile On Main St. and Exile In Guyville; “the trans perspective on sex, love and heartbreak.” The result is the poppiest pop-punk of the band’s career. Pitchfork said their last album skewed “more Sex Pistols than Foo Fighters.” This time around I’m saying they’re skewing more Cheap Trick than Sex Pistols, as a stadium pleasing pop air hangs over the whole record. Plus Laura Jane’s voice has never sounded better. Confident and wry, anthemic and exceedingly fun, this one is definitely a record for the ages. Check out the next rock anthem “333.”
It is no mystery why Merge Records wanted to signSneaksafter hearing the album Gymnastics. Eva Moolchan has stumbled onto a sound that is as beguilingly new as it is comfortable. A punk-y, DIY combo of a drum machine, electric bass, and her dry, almost spoken word delivery. The longest jam on the album is 4 seconds over two minutes. The shortest tune is under a minute. Immediate, beyond fun, an art school sounding dance party consisting of post-post-post-punk-no wave. It’s like Pylon and The Minutemen gave themselves an afternoon to write an album as a supergroup, and then stripped everything down as much as possible and just let Kim Gordon perform the whole thing herself. Yeah, I know, those are hugely powerful reference points. Trust me? Trust Merge and check out the stilted, angular “Red.”
Richard Barratt has spent the better part of 30 years making people dance. Whether it’s as renowned the Sheffield selector DJ Parrot, or in one of his different electronic band setups, or in his latest incarnation, as Crooked Man. This self-titled debut on DFA continues on with the ideas he first introduced on the Happiness single. Confident, sophisticated, and a bit of a throwback to his ‘90s days as a both a DJ and creator of house and blip techno. This is music from a man that has seen groups of party people reacting for longer than he’d likely care to admit, and that sure footedness is apparent as he masterfully controls the ebbs and flows of his off-kilter beats. Check out “The Girl With Better Clothes.”
Psychedelic multi-instrumentalist duo Grumbling Fur are back with their fourth album Furfour (Thrill Jockey). Strange sound beds were created, and then songs were created around them. The band’s motto: First thought best thought, is on full display here. A weird sci-fi world where chamber pop is preferred over waves of synth to get the other worldliness across. Strings and e-bow’ed guitars mixed with psych-folk drum beats, occasional keyboards, and literate lyrics from the boys (although it might be that I’m also easily impressed by a British accent. All those lovely vowels.). The result is a combo of the sophisticated silliness of El Vy, and the most pastoral passages of late ‘70s/early ‘80s new age music. Check out the bass driven first single from the album, “Acid Ali Khan.”
Please welcome to the Thrill Jockey fold experimental cellist Helen Money. You know what, I almost shouldn’t have called her “experimental” and let you try to guess what a cellist’s album would sound like released from Thrill Jockey. You might have gotten close. “Post-rock heavy metal cello” gets us pretty close. After all, she is touring in support of Russian Circles (wait how many bands are supporting Russian Circles this fall?). Become Zero is a cavalcade of emotions, due mostly to this being the album Helen wrote in response to the death of both her parents. Dramatic, grandiose, and also impossible personal, she somehow has the ability to make the cello sound like an entire metal group at times, other times it sounds like Robert Fripp’s most distorted guitars. Other times, it sounds just like a cello. Combining her talents with that of Sleep and Neurosis drummer Jason Roeder and pianist Rachel Grimes, as well as co-producer and collaborator Will Thomas, who is in charge of sound effects and samples. The whole thing sounds a little like a supergroup consisting of Yo Yo Ma, Jimi Hendrix, and Tony Iommi all playing one cello at the same time. Right? So dig in with the title track “Become Zero.”
Jesse Mac Cormack
"After The Glow EP"
Montreal-born Jesse Mac Cormack has released a few EPs, but it is his latest, After The Glow (Secret City) that cements him as a beguilingly original, excitingly new artist. Perhaps it’s his fascination with sound engineering, or just the maturation that a few releases will afford you, but this is the real deal. Sparse, specific arrangements of his tunes, varied instrumentation, and a mellow voice all swirl together to create a familiar sound that’s brand new. I know, that doesn’t make any sense. But it’s somehow true. His tunes will remind you of Angel Olsen, classic rock, world music, and also not sound like any of them. To make matters even more conundrum-filled, his beautiful tracks are also eerie. Like a riddle wrapped in an enigma wrapped in an EP. Try to make sense of my confusing words by giving the title track “After The Glow” a listen.
Tim Presley, he of White Fence, has stepped out from behind the fence (huh?) and has recorded a proper solo album. The WiNK (Drag City) comes after Tim put White Fence on the back burner while he worked on the latest albums from both DRINKS and Cate Le Bon. Cate, in turn, is returning the favor here, as she produced Tim’s new album. If you liked Crab Day, you’re gonna love The WiNK. Beefheart-y guitar tones and syncopated bursts, angular art school dance beats, Niko-like lyrical phrasing and Tim’s off-kilter sensibilities are on full display. God I love a good weird record, and this is exactly that. You’ll see what I mean when you check out the bouncy first single from the album with “Clue.”
Will Sheff had kind of a rough couple of years since the release of Okkervil River’s 2013 album The Silver Gymnasium. Family members passing away. Band members leaving. Industry connections falling away. Thankfully, one of Will’s friends offered up her empty house in the Catskills for him to get away. While there, he challenged himself to write the enough songs for a new album. He met the challenge, then recorded the tunes in a Long Island studio using the same console that Steely Dan recorded Aja and John Lennon recorded Double Fantasy. Yeah. Pretty good company. These songs deserve it though, as Will poured his heart and soul into each moment of chamber-pop beauty on Away (ATO). A surprisingly hopefully sounding set of songs emerged, as if this is a rebirth album, not a wallowing album. Think Mark Kozelek fragility meeting up with Bon Iver beauty and Van Dyke Parks arrangements and you get the idea. Check out the first single “Okkervil River RIP.”