Vol. 9 Issue 106 July 2014
As I write this, no one (save Nostradamus) knows what is going to happen in the Worldwide Soccer Competition (that’s what it’s called, right?) Not even the kick-y-est of kickers knows what’s gonna happen. But at some point this month, after I write this, the fates will be decided. So let’s pretend they already have. Can you believe they won? What a game! What a finish! I’ve never seen soccer like that before. Man! I know what music I am playing at my party to celebrate the winning team, who also happened to be the team I was rooting for. Nothing says worldwide soccer victory like new albums from Bishop Allen, Anders Parker, Army Navy and more. Check ‘em out!
Let’s watch as the talented and handsome Greg Cartwright, leader of The Oblivions and (for our purposes) Reigning Sound, steps into the Merge spotlight with Shattered. No, this is not a Some Girls tribute record, but it is a grizzled mix of Motown and Sun City. So where does that leave us? It leaves us with a band that kind of sound like an alternate universe version of Wilco that are far more interested in Brenton Wood than Woody Guthrie. Greg recorded the album in Nashville, not too far from his hometown of Memphis (and you will hear the ambiance of those two cities all over this record.) Check out the Keith Richards led Rolling Stones-esque “My, My.” it will leave you in better shape then Mick on SNL playing "Shattered" in 1978 (not his finest moment for sure).
"To The Recently Found Innocent"
The world of the new(ish) lo-fi psych rock is kind of like reading comic books. Much like super heroes, all the bands sort of exist in the same universe and there are crossovers and team-ups sometimes Wolverine shows up. Take, for instance, the killer new album from Tim Presley, better known as White Fence. To The Recently Found Innocent (Drag City) is his 6th studio album. He has, in the past, teamed up with Ty Segal to release 2012’s Hair. This time around, Mr. Segal produced the album as well as played some drums. Other drums were played by Nick Murray of The Young Veins. See? It’s like the Justice League of freaking out. Hints of early Kinks and Syd Barrett’s Pink Floyd fill out the lo-fi sound on this mad platter. Check out the Small Faces sounds of “Like That.”
Raf Simons, the artistic director for Dior, is a big Plastikman fan. So big a fan, that when it came time for him to book the music for the Guggenheim’s annual fundraiser, he asked Richie Hawtin (who is Plastikman) to provide the sonic wonderment for the gala. I know, this kinda sounds like the cold open to an episode of Law & Order: CI, but I swear no one got murdered and I can (almost) guarantee that Vincent D’Onofrio wasn’t there. What was there was the first new music from Plastikman in over 10 years. Rather than play his already written live set, which Simons said he would have been fine with, Plastikman took the opportunity to write some new music, relishing the idea that he didn’t have to write for the dance floor, and took the opportunity to stretch his sonic legs. Recorded live during that event, EX (Mute) is playfully sophisticated. Sure, the beats are still there, but they are laid back, and the synths stretch out to infinity as knobs are twisted and sounds are allowed to decay. Ambient, but with more of a sense of melody than usually comes along with that word, this really does sound like the soundtrack to the social event of the year. D’Onofrio should be pissed he missed it. Give the post-apocalyptic “EXtend” a listen.
"The Grand Tour"
James Brooks, the auditory and visual artist behind Land Observations has release the follow up to his well received 2012 album Roman Roads IV-XI. The Grand Tour (Mute) is just that. A concept album about the roads often traveled by wealthy 18th century university graduates. I know, that sounds pretty high concept. But you don’t need to know anything about this albums gist to enjoy it’s bucolic beauty. The entire album was recorded on just one 6 string electric guitar, near the edge of the Bavarian Apls. James tracked himself over and over onto analog tape nudging every possible nuance out of the ol’ axe. Guitars as every instrument, all of them warm and inviting. He is obviously not afraid to write beautiful music, as that is what he has done here. Check out the prelude to a long walk with “On Leaving The Kingdom For The Well-Tempered Continent.”
There are usually two unfortunate outcomes of the recent tidal wave of ‘90s bands getting back together. Either they do a reunion tour, and play nothing but the old music, which can be fun if a little hollow as an audience member. The other (worse) thing that can happen is said band gets back together and does record some new music, and it’s awful. Thankfully, neither of these things happened to second wave Emo superstars Braid. Breaking up in ’99, right as Emo was cracking the mainstream, fans were unsure if they would ever get back together. Thankfully they did, and recorded No Coast (Top Shelf). It was a great magic trick, because they made the last 15 years disappear in the blink of an eye. Showing no signs of age, the songs rock just as hard as they used to, with the ultra tight playing, the ability to stop and start out of nowhere. Braid did the unthinkable. They reformed 15 years later and made an album at least as good as anything they’ve ever done before. Check out the Promise Ringing of the title track, “No Coast.”
It’s hard to believe it’s been like 5 years since the last Bishop Allen album came out. To put that in perspective, you were totally rocking Grrr… on your iPhone 3G while you watched teaser trailers for Avatar. Well, unlike Avatar, the wait has totally been worth it. Lights Out (Dead Oceans) is an infectious brain-pop gem from beginning to end. It’s obvious to me that the time between albums has been great for everyone involved's song craft. Snappy drums chug along as this mini rock-orchestra keeps all the corners filled out with sonic wonderment. Every flourish exactly where it would be. A little bit of late-era Paul Simon world sound has been added to the mix this time around. And maybe it’s just me (I don’t think it is…) but Justin Rice’s voice sounds more and more like that Ira Kaplan/Lou Reed thing to me with every release. Conversational and confidant, just like the songs he is singing. For a perfect example check out the first party of a single from the new album “Start Again.”
Toronto based dream-rockers Alvvays have released their full-length self-titled debut on Polyvinyl (Is it just me, or is not naming your first album "Full-Length Self-Titled Debut" a missed opportunity?) For pronunciation help, head over to polyvinylrecords.com (I swear, it's on there). For help hearing the album, look no further than here. Cavernously reverbed guitars angle around the gorgeous vocals of Molly Rankin as reserved drums chug along. Think a little Wedding Present, a little Best Coast and a lot of hazed-out spacey pop. This is guaranteed to be a rooftop favorite this summer. Check out the adorable proposiality (no way that's a word, right?) of "Archie, Marry Me.”
It would be impossible for me to write about new London-based band Woman’s Hour for very long without using the word “sophisticated.” So I’m just gonna go ahead and use it right up front. Woman’s Hour is sophisticated (don’t say I didn’t warn ya’). From their monochromatic visuals to their stunning album artwork. From their chilly art-pop vibes to their immaculate production. The whole thing makes you feel like you are at the rare art opening that doesn’t make you roll your eyes at it’s sillyness, when something real and moving is actually happening (as opposed to your ex-roommate’s bad pottery). Fiona Burgess’ delicate vocals mix perfectly with the ‘80s synths and swirls. But unlike most nu-new wave indie rock, there is no way anyone would mistake Conversations (Secretly Canadian) for a previously missed relic. It’s like Bjork produced an opera written like David Byrne. Modern, weird, intimate and out there all at the same time. Like I said. Sophisticated. Check out the Beach House-y yearning of “Darkest Place.”
"The Wilderness Inside"
For a band with a name that is almost impossible to google, Army Navy (and trust me, searching “Army Navy band” does not help…) certainly went all internet savvy in releasing their 3rd full-length record The Wilderness Inside. They went the indigogo.com route, and that route worked out very well for the trio, as their album was quickly funded and is now in our hot little hands (seriously, why is my hand so hot? It’s burning up! I should probably seek medical attention, my pen just melted…) Back is the indie-pop-rock bliss that the dudes are known for. Somewhere between the hook-y addictiveness of Spoon and the guitar rock simplicity of The Byrds or the Hollies comes another disc of wonderment. Check out the Petty-power-pop-punch of “Spinning On The Record.”
"There’s A Blue Bird In My Heart"
Anders Parker's newest release There's A Bluebird In My Heart, is a loving return to the sound found (nice rhyme, me!) in his early solo work. Loud, quiet, and all the places in between. Much like the t-shirt I’m wearing right now, Anders Parker’s career has spanned two decades. Unlike my t-shirt, Anders is a singer-songwriter, a multi-instrumentalist and 100 % cotton. Oh wait, that’s my t-shirt… nevermind. Besides his solo work, he’s also known as a member of Varnaline and Space Needle, as well as Gob Iron (with Jay Farrar) and his work on the New Multitudes tribute to Woody Guthrie with Yim Yames. Often known for his easy, country tinted folkish Americana-style rock, this new one is definitely a return to the sound of his early solo work. Less acoustic guitars; more driving vibrato, back porch wisdom and constant rock hooks. He has distanced his sound from his recent, more abstract work. At points on this new album, he sounds like each member of The Traveling Wilburys separate careers. But all this talk of returning to his earlier sound isn’t to say that he has gone all Metal Machine Music on us or anything, as is evidence by the brief sweetness of Anders and a ukulele on “See You On The Other Side.”