Vol. 9 Issue 107 August 2014
August. Already. Ugh. It’s like summer barely even happened this year. I guess snow through May will do that to one’s internal clock, eh? (It was still snowing in May, right? Sure seemed like it was…) So the chances for unmitigated outdoor fun are running out. So if you plan on cramming all of your fun into one 5 minute stretch, Apu style, then you better pick your tunes carefully. Luckily, we have thinned the herd for you a great deal. So choose from new tunes by The Rentals, The Rosebuds, David Kilgour and more.
Posted by Lyle On Aug 14, 2014
It is well documented that Morticia was the first goth lady most boys had crushes... Read More
"Sand + Silence"
Rock couples come and rock couples go. Case in point? The Rosebuds. Ivan and Kelly's relationship came and went (without really going anywhere, just kind of shifting) over the bands 5-ish albums from Merge. Thankfully, it would appear that the “let’s be friends” thing is working out okay for the two, as Sounds + Silence is the second album to come out since their uncoupling. Enlisting the help of old pal Justin Vernon as producer, the band have had their poprockfolksynthpeanutbuttergoodness
sounds heightened on their Western Vinyl debut with a little bit of Doobie Brothers and Boz Scaggs (thanks Justin) thrown into the already tasty mix. But it’s easy to put away any backstory when you listen to "Blue Eyes,” it’s simply an awesome slice of rock and roll.
Upon the release of their debut album, Al Spx of Cold Specks described her bands sound as “doom soul” and thusly made it super easy to describe her sound. Because that is exactly what is happening again on their fantastic second album Neuroplasticity (Mute). With a voice as soulful as Tina Turner’s, and a sense of phrasing as jazzy as Norah Jones, Al is singing her heart out over a band that you would think would be backing Nick Cave, not a chanteuse. But it’s this juxtaposition that makes them what they are. A powerful use of dynamics with a little creepy and a little gospel-y. Call it “gothpel” maybe? Or maybe not…
Cymbals Eat Guitars
LOSE (Barsuk), Cymbals Eat Guitars’ first album since 2011, is a heavy one – it’s frontman Joseph D’Agostino’s tribute, in a way, to friend and writing partner Benjamin High. Disillusionment figures heavily in the vibe, and D’Agostino’s emotions are raw and right there on his sleeve. But that doesn’t mean we’re going to be dour here, are we? The fist-in-the-air angst and airtight riffage remain, cementing the band’s status as go-to gods of rock action. Imagine a milkshake where Titus Andronicus, Cloud Nothings, Superchunk and Japandroids were the main ingredients, and then chug it until you get a brain freeze and tinnitus. Yeah, that’s what the kids (and I) want! People playing real instruments and no lap top on stage? Hopefully that will catch on! “Warning” is all sorts of rock and feisty deliciousness.
Sometimes the universe just works the way its supposed to. Sometime you are Chris Staples, and you've just recorded a new album around the time you are installing a screen door at Josh Rosenfeld's house. And Rosenfeld just happens to be the head of Barsuk Records. Sometimes your screen door installee is having dinner with industry friends who have heard your carpenters new album, and really think you should probably release that album. Sometimes that album happens to be just the kind of personal, folk-ish music Barsuk loves so much. Sometimes you recognize the installer as a former member of Telekinesis, and decide your dinner-mates (who happened to be Nada Surf's Matthew Caws and Telekineses' own Michael Benjamin Lerner) are probably right. Sometimes you play the album for your staff, who all agree with you. And Sometimes, American Soft winds up being your gorgeous Barsuk-debut. Check out the Buddy Holly meets Bon Iver Americana-tinged ode to "Dark Side of the Moon.”
Lia Kessel adopted the stage name Lia Ices because “Ices” sounds way cooler (and literally cooler too!) than “Kessel” in my book. Actually, let me backtrack – she could’ve gone by either name, because Kessel’s pretty good too. Han Solo did that Kessel run thing that he’s always bragging about in Star Wars, right? He won’t shut up about it! And “Lia” … that’s really close to “Leia”! Conspiracy! I’ll stop now. Kessel’s new record Ices (Jagjaguwar) has a lot going for it, and it showcases the artist’s background in dance and theater, weaving in a variety of influences and expressing in a multitude of palettes. In fact, Lia Ices’ output has been favorably compared to such songwriting luminaries as Kate Bush, Bat for Lashes, Feist, and Cat Power. That’s pretty good company! Check out the bohemian/M.I.A. vibe of “Tell Me,” and if you’re not won over, you have a heart of stone, my friend.
Architecture In Helsinki
"Now + 4EVA"
The last ten years have seen precocious-pop pioneers Architecture in Helsinki completely change from the band they once were to the band they are. From their ramshackle pop-orchestra beginnings to their sleeker, modern pop sound now. There was a time when you could barely keep track of all of the members of the band on stage. The roster has been trimmed, as has the out-there experimentation of their earlier releases. The tunes are still super hook heavy, and the instrumentation is still above the norm. But make no mistake about it. They are a super fun, straight up pop band now. For a band that once could have been accused of taking themselves too seriously, they are almost a straight up party band now. Who says getting older sucks? Somewhere between Richard Marx and of Montreal we find the sound of their new album Now + 4EVA. Check out the summertime disco-funk of “Dream A Little Crazy.”
"Things Haven’t Gone Well"
After the death of his longtime friend drummer Jerry Fuchs, Harvey Milk bassist Stephen Tanner was pretty depressed. And for a guy who is normally pretty depressed, drunkenly watching 6 hours of the original 90210 every day was a new low. He attempted to deal with this by working on some new Harvey Milk material, but what wound up happening was the material for his first solo album as Music Blues. Things Haven’t Gone Well’s (Thrill Jockey) sound hangs out with the same bands Harvey Milk’s sound does. A little ZZ Top, some Judas Priest and Kiss, and the sludgy punk of Melvins and the stoner metal of Dopesmoker. Every disenfranchised sound here is made by Stephen himself. A rather cathartic album to be sure. Check out the aforementioned Dopesmoker stoner metal of “91771.”
"Lost In Alphaville"
I’m not kidding when I say my jaw pretty much hit the floor when I got the news that The Rentals had a new album, Lost in Alphaville (Polyvinyl), slated for release. I mean, who doesn’t throw on Return of the Rentals every once in a while, to experience the joy and exuberance pop music can bring? No one, that’s who. (Seven More Minutes was good too, but Return was the best.) So I can’t justify a quippy blurb for this one, because I’m just freakin’ thrilled, man, that Matt Sharp’s making music again, who cares if it’s 15 years after Seven More Minutes came out. This time he’s joined by the Black Keys’ Patrick Carney on drums, Jessica Wolfe and Holly Laessig of Lucius on vocals, Ryen Slegr of Ozma on guitar, and Lauren Chipman of the Section Quartet on strings. (Aw, no Hadens!) Do you need any proof at all other than “It’s Time to Come Home” that Sharp, formerly of you know, Weezer, was the heart and soul of that band? Is it a coincidence that everything they released after his departure was garbage? It is not, I tell you, and Sharp’s, ahem, return to recording and releasing music is the most welcome thing in the entire world, pretty much, next to the REESE'S Peanut Butter BIG CUP (SO much peanut butter you guys!).
David Kilgour & The Heavy Eights
"End Times Undone"
The newest album from New Zealand’s David Kilgour & the Heavy Eights took three years to finish. But that’s like saying it took me 3 years to build my Lego Jabba’s Palace. I mean, sure, I may have been working on it during three calendar years, but not actively. And not the whole time. Mr. Kilgour would only assemble the band for a weekend or so every 5-6 months, run tape the whole time and then put together the pieces in the interim. Seeing that Mr. Kilgour, of the magnificent The Clean fame, has been making his jangly pop-rock for more than 30 years, he has earned the right to make an album however he sees fit. Thankfully he saw fit to make End Times Undone (Merge) as infinitely listenable as he did. It’s like time hasn’t slowed down his sound one bit. He is still creating bib pop ideas with a small indie sensibility. Guitars can be as sloppy or as shimmeringly clean as he sees fit, it always works within the song. A little bit late night Yo La Tengo, a little bit XTC excitement. This is the real deal. Check out the late-era Velvet Underground hints of the first single “Comin’ On.”
"Frozen Letter "
What began as a long-distance projects between old friends has turned into a fully formed, fully rocking band (maybe I should call my elementary school pal Freaky and see if he wants to write an album with me). Spider Bags was born of the ashes of NY punk band DC Snipers. Once that band ended, Dan McGee wanted to continue along with his musical career, but figured he had just done about everything he could within the structure of punk tunes. So he discussed sending some demos with a more psychedelic garage sound to some old pals. He eventually headed to Chapel Hill, NC (where those dudes had relocated) to record an album with them, and just kinda never left. Frozen Letter is their fourth album, but the first to be released on Merge. Early rock ’n’ roll riffs, indie rock melodies, bass breakdowns, saxophone solos, peppy drums and McGee’s wonderfully smarmy, slightly country, baritone. Theirs is a messy, chicken-fried sound. Think a louder Silver Jews with access to stronger coffee and the Nuggets re-issue series. Check out the sax solo having lead-off track “Back With You Again in the World.”
Bear In Heaven
"Time Is Only One Day Old"
(Bear knocks on St. Peter's gate. St. Peter puts down his newspaper, sighs, and folds in the footrest of his BarcaLounger before getting up. He walks to the gate and opens it. Upon seeing the bear, his eyes widen.) St. Peter: “You're a bear, you can't come in here!” Bear: (Eats St. Peter.) Chorus: “Behold, St. Peter did not die in vain!” Pray, listen to yonder tunage from mssrs. Philpot, Elliott, and Wills of Bear in Heaven, and console yourselves with the strata-shaking indie rock anthem "Time Between" (think Here We Go Magic meets M83) from the forthcoming Time Is Only One Day Old on Dead Oceans (which you will not have to listen to at a speed 400,000 times slower than intended, like you did with the pre-release stream of their last album I Love You, It’s Cool.) Truly, you may mistake it for the ursid tones of paradise ... and it will possibly help you overlook these egregious anachronisms.”
Why start capitalizing your letters all of a sudden? When Swedish duo J J, then jj, released jj no. 2 in 2009, they got BNM’d by Pitchfork. So why change anything? Is it something symbolic, some sort of meaningful thing cooked up by Elin Kastlander and Joakim Benon? Maybe it’s because they thought the two lowercase j’s just looked weird together, like how the word “hijinks” looks weird because three dotted letters appear in a row. It’s probably in reality a declarative move – like V, JJ’s new album on Secretly Canadian, is their definitive mission statement album, and the capital J’s now reinforce that. Whatever the real reason, the tremendous “All White Everything” filters the ethereality of St. Etienne through a distinctively Swedish lens, where traces of fellow countrymen The Tough Alliance, Air France, and The Honeydrips can also be heard. Kastlander’s vocals are gorgeous – can another Best New Music designation be far behind?
Ahh Wand. Gloriously thick and fuzzy garage rock. It’s like Jefferson Airplane powered by warm jets. And crashing. A heady psychedelic rush of swirling vocals and layers and layers of guitars and guitar-like noises echoing off into the distance. San Francisco freak-folk hints nestled next to glam-y, heavy metal dueling guitar harmonies. It would make sense that Ganglion Reef is out on GOD? records, Ty Segall’s Drag City imprint. It would also make sense that they are on tour right now in support of him. It will also make sense when you fall in love with these dudes, they are just the kind of thing that the world needs right now. Music nerds making rock and roll for music nerds. Make sure you thank them on the way out as you listen to the Spoon-edelic sounds of “Broken Candle.”
"Migrations on Glass"
Those of Sun Kil Moon and Red House Painters like to dip their toes in as many projects as possible. And for a certain kind of music fan, no toe is finer dipped than one that has been in Desertshore (did that come off as creepy? I can’t tell anymore…). Guitarist Phil Carney (of the aforementioned bands) has teamed up with classical pianist Chris Connolly before, but not since their debut have they kept the album strictly instrumental. I say “not since” because Migrations Of Glass (Caldo Verde) is just that, exploring the space between classical and rock music. Cinematic walls of melody and ambience creating an atmosphere that is a little Sea And Cake, a little Dismemberment Plan-lite. Check out the dewey glisten of “Until Morning Comes.”