Vol. 10 Issue 116 May 2015

Well look at that. May sure is full of super new tunes. And what a varied collection too. I mean, where else are you gonna find tunes from Faith No More, Mikal Cronin, and Mac McCaughan together? It’s diverse like the lineup of the VMAs, if the lineup for the VMAs wasn’t the absolute worst. So, like… the opposite of the VMAs? Like the BMAs? (Note to self: Make the BMAs a thing). Enjoy!

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Posted by John On May 21, 2015

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Saddle Creek
Sargent House



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Mac McCaughan


It’s almost impossible to believe that it’s taken this long for Mac McCaughan to release a solo album. Sure Portastatic has been his solo idea spot for years now, but those have evolved from a side project for Mac alone to a full-fledged band. Either way, the album art didn’t just say Mac McCaughan. At least, not until now. Non-Believers (I mean, do I even have to say Merge?) is the proper solo-debut from a man whose voice you’ve probably heard more than your best friend’s at this point. So what does a solo Mac sound like? Well amazing (duh) and surprisingly early ‘80s. The paranoia and isolation of those early ’80s albums hang heavy over this one, but these tunes are so much warmer than those. So imagine Mac fronting an A-HA cover band that doesn’t actually play A-Ha songs, and you kinda get to the ballpark. Check out the Cure-ish angst of  “Barely There.”

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Mikal Cronin


Besides being a pretty good name for a Cronut with raisins, Cronin is also the last name of pretty good musician. Nay, a great musician. Y’know. Mikal Cronin. Known for his melodic take on melodies (unlike my way with words…) and his hyper-personal lyrics. He’s also known for being someone who is a bit of a control freak when it comes to his sound. Take the lush arrangements on his last two albums. All those instruments? Played by him. This time around, in an attempt to get out of his own head, and make his sound a little bigger, he arranged those parts for a real life string quartet. Complete with other people! So somewhere between the pop leanings of The Pretenders, the arrangements of Van Dyke Parks, and the brain of Mikal Cronin comes MCIII (Merge). Check out the poppy bounce of “Turn Around.”



Du Blonde picture

Du Blonde

"Welcome Back To Milk"

Beth Jeans Houghton is dead. Long live Beth Jeans Houghton! No, she is fine, I was just being colorful. See, after she released that one tremendous album under her own name, she had an epiphany at a David Bowie museum exhibition (duh, where else does one have an epiphany? (After all, the CBGBs bathroom doesn’t exist anymore.) She stood there, looking at all this Bowie stuff and realized she was denying what she always wanted to be. A larger than life rock figure. She mentions the three Bs as influence for this realization. No, not the Beatles, the Band, and the Beach Boys. Bowie, Bolan, and Beefheart. So she went back to the drawing board, and thus Du Blonde was created. Angry, theatrical, riff-heavy (drums heavier), melodic. Really, it’s blissfully bonkers. With a husk to her voice that kind of reminds me of Fiona Apple, and a musicality that reminds me of the latter B-boys I mentioned up there earlier, Welcome Back To Milk (Mute) is a thunder crashing dynamite machine of an entrance. Long live Du Blonde! Check out the first (excellently titled) single “Black Flag.”



Jacco Gardner picture

Jacco Gardner


In classic psychedelic revivalist fashion, Dutch-born Jacco Gardner dabbles in baroque pop, incorporating harpsichord, strings, flute, and other non-traditional rock instruments into a swirling paisley lysergic party. Yeah paisley – I bet he wears an awful lot of it! It’s like the uniform for worshippers of Syd Barrett and Ray Davies. His new album, Hypnophobia (Polyvinyl), won’t disappoint those looking for a throwback head trip, as it’s masterfully crafted for the ultimate in shifting perspectives. It’s like you’re in a dream, but you’re still kind of awake. And you’re a little bit scared of that feeling. Hey, THAT’S what the title means! What kind of crazy stuff are they smoking over there in The Netherlands? Oh, right. Check out the ELO-esque single “Find Yourself.”

Saddle Creek


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Icky Blossoms


Stadium-sized quirkdance-pop. Let’s go with that. As soon as I saw that the Icky Blossoms were releasing a new album, my brain did two things. First, it said “awesome, that last album was great.” Then after a moment, my brain said “oh no, you need to write a blurb about that, good luck describing their sound…” For some reason my brain was feeling antagonistic that day. Too bad it was right. The Icky Blossoms are many things at once. They are poppy and noisy at almost an industrial sound at the same time. They are avant-garde and they are club music. They are ‘80s-ish and futuristic simultaneously. They are neon and goth. They are all of their influences at once, and it’s a wonderful hot mess. Seriously, this is great stuff. Like Joy Division covering Madonna covering FKA Twigs. Check out the paranoid-party of “In Folds.”

Twinsmith picture


"Alligator Years"

Somewhere between the crisp sweater vibes of Vampire Weekend, the jubilation of early Arcade Fire, the guitar tones of Duran Duran and the AOR re-imagining of The War On Drugs are Twinsmith. Their newest album, Alligator Years (Saddle Creek) is a marathon of catchiness. It’s a tonic for every recent album you’ve heard by a band that loved the ‘80s, but forgot that a lot of that stuff was super fun, and not all eerie and paranoid. This is a bouncy good time, in a sort of a Talking Heads sort of way (without really sounding anything like the Talking Heads at all… But the vibes are there). Get ready to catch yourself grinning and then get all self-conscious about it with this one. Check out the organ zaps of the beach party that is “Alligator Years."

Sargent House


And So I Watch You From Afar picture

And So I Watch You From Afar


I love puns. I really do. And if this blurb was somehow auditory instead of written, I could make some killer “jokes” pretending to think the name of And So I Watch You From Afar’s new album is Airs, not Heirs (Sargent House). Oh well, I guess just pretend I did, and pretend they were hilarious. Now get ready for one super-exciting album. Take a guess. Right! Heirs! The name is apropos, as they are trying to pay homage to all the influences they have at once. What a job of that they have done. Really, it’s like every super-album at once. How many times can I say “it kinda sounds like Trans-Am, Radiohead, Grails, Japandroids and Marnie Stern” and get away with it? Once. Just this one time. Thrash away with the joyous synchronistic vibe-changes of “These Secret Kings I Know.”

Click to see:
Dead Oceans
Temporary Residence Ltd
Thrill Jockey
Deathwish Inc



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Faith No More

"Sol Invictus"

I’m not sure what’s more exciting, the fact that there is (finally!) a new Faith No Morealbum, or the fact that we are working it? Both are beyond exciting. Most bands have sort of replacement bands that can give you the same feelings as another band (and thank goodness for that, otherwise we’d be out of jobs…) but there really isn’t another band that sounds like Faith No More. Frankly, the fact that Anthony Kiedis hates them is enough of a recommendation for me. You know what’s gonna happen here, heavy metal mixed with the occasional prog elements and middle eastern flavor on occasion all while Mr. Mike Patton does what only he can do with his gift of a voice. It helps that office pal & Imperial Teen leader Roddy Bottum is back on keys, but Sol Invictus (Reclamation) really sounds like they picked up where they left off nearly 20 years ago. Check out the epic chug of “Superhero.”

Dead Oceans


The Tallest Man On Earth picture

The Tallest Man On Earth

"Dark Bird Is Home"

The first time I heard Kristian Matsson’s voice (better known as The Tallest Man On Earth) I was floored. I honestly didn’t think I had it in me to like someone’s voice this much. But as soon as that first album started, I was slack-jawed. And now, here we are 5 albums later and I am just as in love with his voice as I ever was. It helps that his songs are always amazing, and Dark Bird Is Home (Dead Oceans) is no different. Well, I mean it’s lots different from other albums, I just meant… Oh you know what I meant. This time around, he continues to explore the many facets of songwriting. Used to be, you expected essentially Mr. Matsson’s voice and an acoustic guitar alone, now that would be weird. He’s using his talents for bigger and better things. Horns. Drums. Backing vocals (from other vocalists!). Joyous and sad at the same time (like all the best records, right?) it’s like The War On Drugs are covering Van Dyke Parks (yes, that does sound excellent). Check out the first single from the album, “Sagres.”

Temporary Residence Ltd


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Prefuse 73

"Rivington Nao Rio "

Are you kidding me? Prefuse 73 – or Guillermo Scott Herren, as his mom and the specifically designed AI personality installed in his Macbook Pro call him – is dropping not one, but three releases this year. That’s like wishing for a delightful ice cream sundae on a hot August afternoon and receiving three ice cream sundaes instead! (You could just drown in all that caramel sauce…) Rivington Não Rio (Temporary Residence) is the centerpiece of the triptych, the full album surrounded by the Forsythe Gardens EP and the Every Color of Darkness EP. And don’t even trip – Herren’s dropping beats on these bad boys, in true head-nod classic fashion, and they will seriously make you break your neck (to paraphrase Busta Rhymes). Because you really, really will never be able to stop nodding your head to these beats. I can’t. Actually, I might need a ride to the hospital – I seriously can’t stop. Damn you Guillermo Scott Herren! I mean, uh, thank you! Check out Prefuse’s return to form, “Infrared (feat. Sam Drew),” and get schooled.

Rachel Grimes picture

Rachel Grimes

"The Clearing"

In Rachel’s, her chamber-rock ensemble with the late and lamented former Rodan/June of 44 member Jason Noble, Rachel Grimes was at the forefront of where modern classical and post rock intersected. The collective was responsible for some of the high-water marks of the genre with The Sea and the Bells and Handwriting. And although Rachel is now recording as a solo artist under her own name, she’s far from alone. Her sublime new record The Clearing (Temporary Residence) features players such as Scott Morgan (LOSCIL), Kyle Crabtree (The Shipping News), and the Amsterdam Sinfonietta, infusing it with texture and life. Not that Rachel wasn’t going to do that herself anyway – you could sit her at a piano and hit record on a boombox in the same room and I’d be enthralled with hours of those results. Think I’m kidding? I actually have a bootleg tape of exactly that! What? How do you THINK I got it? So what if that was my boombox under her piano during the recording of the album? I went in through the back door. It was open. Check out the smoky moodiness of the latest-night jazz club you can think of on “The Air In Time.”



Made In Heights picture

Made In Heights

"Without My Enemy, What Would I Do?"

LA based duo Made In Heights are back with their sophomore album Without My Enemy, What Would I Do. Consisting of vocalist Kelsey Bulkin and alt-hip-hop producer Sabzi (who has worked with Das Racist in the past among others) are about as a collaborativee effort as you can get in pop music. Make no mistake, the two are making pop music. Kelsey’s angelic voice and Sabzi’s intricate, spacious beats need each other to complete the vision here. The vision being sexy, soulful alt-pop. Somewhere between Portisehead and Annie Lennox’s solo albums, we have the beauty of this release. Check out the eerie haunting bounce of “Murakami.”

Thrill Jockey


Circuit Des Yeux picture

Circuit Des Yeux

"In Plain Speech"

If you can imagine a collaboration between Steve Reich, Trent Reznor at his most atmospheric, and Antony Hegarty (of Antony and The Johnsons) then you are sort of getting the idea of what Circuit Des Yeux sounds like to me. And I bet after my colorful introduction, you might hear it too. In Plain Speech (Thrill Jockey) is an experimental, heady trip. Really, it is somewhere between ultra-modern classical music and Reznor’s soundtrack stuff from the last few years. Moody, the album almost sounds like it’s emanating from a church on fire. Check out the piercing melodies of “Do The Dishes.”

Deathwish Inc


Coliseum picture


"Anxiety’s Kiss"

Coliseum are back! 12 years in as a band, and Anxiety’s Kiss (Deathwish Inc.) might be their most experimental release yet. Sure, you have your post-punk metalness (like you always did), with more but the songs are blissfuly all over the place, in the best possible way; like mini-operas. Mini-metal-operas. Drums thrash, bass rumbles forward relentlessly, as Ryan Paterson’s vocals and guitars leave him soul-bared up front. Check out the first track of the album “We Are The Water,” which somehow manages to sound like Rush and a late-era Nirvana b-side at the same time. Neat trick fellas!