Vol. 8 Issue 91 April 2013
Alright, I gotta keep this short, or else I might miss my boat ride home. Did I just say SHORTS? Can you believe dudes out here are wearing shorts already? It is barely sixty degrees, and I'm not ready to see those hairy gams. But I am ready to board that ferry! So without any further delay, here are some new tunes from She & Him, Mikal Cronin, Small Black, Eluvium, Saturday Looks Good To Me and more! Ahoy!
Posted by AJ On May 17, 2013
Spring is really trying. I get it. But I think it’s supposed to be... Read More
They must be putting something awesome into the water in the San Francisco bay area these last few years (other than fluoride, I mean). There has been a tremendous upswell (like the ocean, get it? California!) of bands and musicians recording a surf-tinted-garage via ‘70s FM singer-songwriter kinda punky mish-mash of kick-ass. It’s like you got my Beach Boys records mixed up with my Stooges records. At the forefront of this movement has been Ty Segall and his sometime cohort Mikal Cronin. Having released his solo debut a few years ago, and also a cassette only release (convenient!) with Ty, Mr. Cronin is back with his Merge Records debut in MCII (Merge Rec… oh yeah, just said that). If his last album was about the end of certain things in his life (and it was) then this one is about new beginnings (Zen!). Check out Mr. Cronin playing every instrument recorded on the Television goes on Spring Break sounds of “Shout It Out.”
She & Him
Playing the new She & Him album is like turning the radio on during a perfect summer afternoon and finding that they are playing nothing but your new favorite songs. Each one is like 4 minutes, and akin to an old friend telling you new stories they somehow haven’t told you before. M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel continue the story of two friends who have been celebrating their common love of the sprawlingly wide world of ‘60s pop music. The result is a quir…. (no, I promised myself I would write this without falling back on the “q” word). Volume 3 (Merge) is a thrift shop tour of past - masterpieces, with most of the vocals falling on She’s shoulders while Him provides his many signature musical flourishes. Check out the love-lorn longing of “I Could Have Been Your Girl."
"Limits Of Desire"
It’s been just a few years since their full length debut, and thankfully Small Black have released their second LP in Limits Of Desire (Jagjaguwar). Here we find the band perfecting the ideas they introduced us to with their debut. Smoke machine synths pulsate over steadily driving beats and loops and drums. Josh Kolenik’s hazy vocals ring like church bells during a storm (it was a dark and stormy night…) Sometimes things get a little funky, with definite disco teasing here and there. Check out the chiptune keyboards zapping alongside the funky Prince guitar on standout track “Breathless.”
Combining the intertwining guitar lines of Scandinavian psychedelic music both old and new (think Mikael Ramel and recent favorite Goat) and a love for the folk music produced in Britain in the ‘60s (think the more adventurous offerings from Trees) Wolf People have invented a genre unto themselves. Fain (Jagjaguwar) has frontman Jack Sharp (whose voice reminds me more than a little of Greg Lake) deconstructing traditional English and Scottish folk songs and arriving at a Fleet Foxes meets Citay destonation (if I still played Dungeons and Dragons I would totally try to impress my fellow nerds with this album. And no, you can’t see my dice collection…) Flatly recorded ‘70s drums roll relentlessly as huge, billowy guitars are quickly tightened into prog precision. Recorded in the rainy countryside of London, the whole album is like trying to see clearly through a foggy window. You can see recognizable shapes moving, but you can’t quite place them. It’s familiar yet entirely new. Try to convince yourself that knee-high lace-up leather boots are a bad idea as you check out the flashback-flashing-forward sounds of “All Returns.”
"The Plain Where the Palace Stood"
Codeine. The Red Krayola. Bitch Magnet. Dirty Three. Royal Trux. Matmos. Palace Music. Will Oldham. No, I am not making a desert island list of bands (though it would kinda work in that regard as well). I am listing just some of the bands David Grubbs has played with. Very few musical resumes are as impressive as Mr. Grubbs’. Beginning with the influential proto-hardcore Squirrel Bait he has made a name for himself as a tremendously creative guitarist, and his latest release The Plain Where the Palace Stood (Drag City) is going to do nothing but further his reputation as a super talented songwriter and player. There are vocals on a few tunes, but it’s mostly just a dude working out all of life’s problems “one fret at a time” (and no, that is not a spinoff series where Schneider gives up his job as a super and starts a guitar school…). Sometimes he is plucking away at the acoustic in a solo manner, sometimes it’s wildly distorted guitars with just a smack of drums and bass and maybe that is a recorder on the lead-off track? Check out the acoustic musings of the plucky “Second Salutation.”
Matthew Robert Cooper has spent the better part of a decade releasing his minimalist, textural ambient gorgeousness both as himself and as Eluvium. Known for his ability to seamlessly combine wide open strings, haunting piano and Enoesque loops (at my house, I am known for my ability to seamlessly combine chocolate and milk…), it is obvious to anyone listening that he loves sound (and I love chocolate milk). Whereas his last album shocked his longtime fans with unexpected vocals, Nightmare Ending (Temporary Residence) finds Cooper returning to his haunting roots. Prepared piano and keyboards stretch out like they are about to run a marathon, leaving the listener in a haze of swirling beauty. Check out the tension-filled allure of “Chime.”
It’s no surprise that 10 years after their formation, power-trio Coliseum is releasing their most complex, compelling music to date. They have always been a doomy, punky, growly affair, but with a little more consideration for composition and texture than their genre is often afforded. Their newest, Sister Faith (Temporary Residence) finds the boys mixing their thick drop-tuned guitars and relentless beats with the occasional spy theme guitars, dizzying, swirling breaks and other sonic wonderments. It’s like Cheep Trick covering Sleep’s Dopesmoker, 4 minutes at a time. Really, I couldn’t wipe the slobbery punk rock grin from my face the whole time I listened to this. Check out the tremendously titled face-melting album-closing standout “Fuzzbang.”
A good way to get me to love something quickly is to tell me it sounds like the Beach Boys. It is obvious that Zach Yudin, the talented multi-instrumentalist that is Cayucas, loves the brothers Wilson. What is shocking is that he also appears to equally love the Brian-less, Mike Love led sounds of ‘80s Beach Boys albums. Cavernously reverbed harmonies and vinyl-sampled beats and loops, it’s like Beck did an album of Kokomo remixes. But the amazing thing in all this is that I love an album that made me reference Kokomo. Yudin’s sly sense of humor and conversational approach at lyrics give Bigfoot (Secretly Canadian) a hanging out in the basement trading inside jokes vibe not unlike Weezer’s first album (without sounding anything like them, mind you) Adding to the already unlimited sonic landscape is more top shelf production from the super-talented (and super busy) Richard Swift. Check out the neo-surfing retro-fresh sounds of “High School Lover.”
When I was in elementary school, we were assigned pen-pals. So for half of a school year we wrote wide-ruled letters of ambiguity to each other (they were mostly about baseball. He was from… I forget... somewhere that liked baseball). Writer and producer Jon Ehrens of White Life and Art Department and Wye Oak vocalist Jenn Wasner are also sort of pen-pals. Except instead of misspelled letters about America’s pastime, they revel in their mutual love of Top 40 and R&B music. Mr. Ehrens would devise these tracks to send to Ms. Wasner while she was on tour, and they bounced ideas back and forth. The result is the self-titled debut of Dungeonesse (Secretly Canadian). Dance floor beats and ‘80s club synths keep the party moving as Jenn’s vocals pay homage to the great soul voices of the past. It’s like Bear In Heaven remixing Sister Sledge, and if that doesn’t get the party people to the dance floor, then I don’t know much about the party people. Check out the slow jams of “Nightlight.”
Martin Crane, Brazos’ songwriter and guitarist, has no tattoos, and neither do I, meaning he and I will get along just fine. I imagine sitting at the bar with Martin, grabbing the first round of beers, and settling back on my stool for a long, fruitful conversation. Martin’s work as Brazos is just as relaxing and fruitful to listen to – so I guess listening to Saltwater (Dead Oceans), his new album, is the aural equivalent of grabbing a brew and shooting the shit. He’s clearly (and it’s been documented) influenced by some heavy krautrock names this time around (Can, Harmonia), but he really knows his way around a pop hook too. The combination of influences plus the breezy style Brazos exudes puts them in the same ballpark as crisp Chicago stalwarts The Sea and Cake. But Brazos is its own entity, and although you could lump them in a “scene,” you’re never gonna pin them down. Saltwater is fresh and exciting, like a wave to the face (but without the attendant burning nostrils) – get ready for the total pleasure rush of “How the Ranks Was Won.”
Saturday Looks Good To Me
"One Kiss Ends It All"
Much to the chagrin of Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Sunday (word count padded!), Saturday Looks Good to Me return to the public eye with One Kiss Ends It All (Polyvinyl), a welcome addition to your spring playlists. Influenced equally by 1960s girl groups, New Zealand pop (think the Flying Nun records output), and good-ol’ indie rock, bandleader Fred Thomas’s new-look lineup is still cooking up jangly, lean-and-mean pop songs. And don’t get fooled by lineup shifts – there’s no real departure from early-2000s lo-fi classics All Your Summer Songs or Every Night – the SLGTM ethos is still beautifully and classically retained, and in each song there’s a sunny but bittersweet anthem waiting to break out. And hey, Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard even plays drums on the record! How’s that for multitasking? (What? Different Ryan Howard? How come nobody mentions this stuff before I write it?) Swoon endlessly to “Invisible Friend.”
What began as a dude with an acoustic guitar and a loop station has turned into a full-blown pop-orchestra. Aleks Martray was that lone dude, but starting with the 2010 debut from Grandchildren, he has surrounded himself with a tremendous array of multi-instrumentalists (whereas I have surrounded myself with a tremendous array of uncertainty and cheeseburgers…) Continuing on the ideas formed with that debut, Golden Age (Ernest Jenning) finds the group building pop masterpieces with constantly shifting instruments swirling around Mr. Martray’s easy going vocals. Like a prog-oriented Beach Boys with a penchant for world music scales and rhythms, Grandchildren are somehow familiar and beguiling at the same time. Sure, you will recognize the elements they put together, but you certainly have never heard them constructed together like this. It’s like they found an alternate solution to a jigsaw puzzle where all the pieces fit together but the picture looks nothing like the one on the box. Check out the thumb piano and angelic choruses of “Sunrise.”
"In Film Sound"
Shannon Wright’s been around for a while, and has a bunch of Touch and Go releases under her belt, but sadly, the insanely influential label had to shutter its doors recently. (Hey, record buyers of the world – what the hell? I blame you.) Instead of despairing like the rest of us (especially me) at T&G’s demise, Wright became super popular in Europe. And why not? The French have a pretty good track record regarding taste, and Wright’s got a pretty universal appeal, especially on In Film Sound (Ernest Jenning). The new record finds Wright switching her approach from caustic to pensive to melancholy at will. Actually it’s still mostly caustic – and why wouldn’t she rock as hard as she can with Shipping News (yay!) vets Kyle Crabtree and Todd Cook in tow as her rhythm section? So here is Shannon Wright, recalling Come, PJ Harvey, and Helium, and yet sounding like none of them, forging her own important style and identity, yet again, on this fascinating album. Be bludgeoned, intelligently, on “Noise Parade.”
Seth Olinsky of Akron/Family fame has gone and recorded a solo EP as Cy Dune, and it is a scruffy, stomp ‘em up electro-blues dirge of a good time. Somewhere between the not so vast distance between the in the red mix of Iggy & The Stooges, the cool restraint of Lou Reed and the rock and blues repurposing of Jon Spencer lies this gritty, barn-burning tussle of a collection. Scattered drums barely keep it together as Olinsky oozes fuzz-pedaled excess and bed-headed charm. No Recognize (Family Tree) is here to kick over you bookcase and steal your girlfriend, and you are powerless against it’s bad-boy charms. So say goodbye to your girlfriend (and your bookcase) and dig on the distortedly clipping rock-out that is “Where The Wild Things.”