The Loyal Seas "Strange Mornings in the Garden (Rough Trade Publishing)"
For the last decade, trailblazing alternative rock figurehead Tanya Donelly — co-founder of Belly, Throwing Muses and The Breeders — has pursued meaningful collaborations with favorite artists and friends. The resulting work is by turns poignant, delightful and entirely surprising, melding folk, rock, pop and orchestral sounds. Her latest, The Loyal Seas, pairs Donelly with New England cult-favorite Brian Sullivan, who’s worked under the moniker Dylan in the Movies since the mid ’00s. A skilled singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Sullivan’s debut, Feel the Pull (2005), and follow-up full-length, Sweet Rebel Thee (2014), are each teeming with a lush, discrete form of alt-pop, Sullivan’s private mind garden translated as cinematic vignettes.
Donelly and Sullivan first met in the mid ’90s at Fort Apache Studios, the famed New England recording studio that has produced legions of beloved albums. They were friends almost instantly and have collaborated over years, appearing on two of American Laundromat’s most popular tribute compilations. The pair contributed a sparkling cover of “The Lovecats” for Just Like Heaven: A Tribute to The Cure (2009), where Donelly’s honeyed rasp is brightened by the contrast of Sullivan’s lower-register growls. Their take on “Shoplifters of the World Unite,” from Please, Please, Please: A Tribute to the Smiths (2011), glimmers with melancholic wonder, Donelly’s silken lead vocals textured by an orchestral scythe and Sullivan’s backing anchor.
The Loyal Seas’ dynamic debut single, “Strange Mornings in the Garden” b/w “Last of the Great Machines,” released in December 2020, is a label exclusive. Each side is an individualistic statement showcasing a particular side of the pair’s personality, one a luxuriant, sweeping ballad, and the other tightly-knit, kinetic alt-pop. The group’s full-length debut “Strange Mornings In the Garden” will be released in 2022.
American Laundromat Records
Plankton Wat "Hidden Paths"
The music of Dewey Mahood is steadfast in its pursuit of transcendence. For the past two decades as Plankton Wat, Mahood has contoured his melodic guitar playing into wholly transfiguring pieces. His fluid compositions apply ethereal, elastic textures to grounded rhythmic grooves that recall the cosmic and the earthly in equal measure. Hidden Path is an album built on reflection and discovery, turning the thrill of exploring obscured passages into inward revelations. Originally presented as a limited cassette in 2017, and now presented on vinyl for the first time, remastered by Amy Dragon, Hidden Path is a distillation of Mahood’s musical practice as a way of life, a patient celebration of the unexpected, unhurried and exhilarating.
The seeds of Hidden Path were planted when Mahood was completing his 2013 album Drifter’s Temple. Title track “Hidden Path” was composed alongside that album, but stood out from the rest as a new starting point. “I was thinking of escape, and finding calm,” says Mahood. “But after working on the new album for a while the title Hidden Path took on a new meaning for me. It became about my life, and the path that I’d chosen for myself.” Having grown up immersed in the communities of underground music, Hidden Path became a personal affirmation. “It’s about knowing yourself and following your heart and passion,” adds Mahood. “It is a political album in the sense of saying it’s okay to opt out of everything mainstream, you don’t need a great job, or much money at all to be happy and feel satisfaction in your life. My music and art are about rejecting anything that seems normal or status quo or of the modern capitalist world. This music is about life outside of all that.”
The process for building out the album’s sound world is mirrored in the pieces themselves. Mahood instilled his relaxed pace into the pieces which flower into moments of joyful surprise and release. The feel of each piece is effortless, but maintains subtle tension that Mahood masterfully compounds with repetition until washes of elation take hold. The cadence of album opener “The Inward Reflection” dissolves into a crest of roiling wails. A forest of percussive rustles, folk-driven 12-string, meandering bass and billowing wisps of flute grows dense and murky before opening out into a welcoming meadow on “Dream Cascade.” Oozing guitar textures on “The Everflowing Stream” sift and smolder as a steady pulse carries the drift deeper into the unknown. “Hidden Path” wades through primordial synthesizers and Ash Dybvig’s trickling flute, driven by longtime collaborator Dustin Dybvig’s hip-hop inspired drums. Whether playing with an ensemble in the same room or layering his own overdubs, Mahood harnesses improvisation to revel in curiosity and connection.
Hidden Path is an expedition into the unknowable. Mahood’s lush compositions guide one from dreamy verdence to pensive ragas with the jubilence of walking a new path for the first time. The searching pieces are layered with a sense of mystery that reveals new details on each trek through their winding routes. Plankton Wat’s Hidden Path embodies the bliss in remaining inquisitive about worlds both exterior and interior to divine unearthed wonders.
Pkew Pkew Pkew "Open Bar (Rough Trade Publishing)"
Pkew Pkew Pkew is looking on the bright side.
As a band that lives and dies by touring, it’s been a while since they could say fuck it, we’re taking a year off to make something. That decision wasn’t entirely theirs, but 2020 handed them an opportunity. Open Bar doesn’t navigate any of the tired pandemic tropes. Instead, Pkew is celebrating the things that make their lives awesome, even if those things suck sometimes.
The band was forced to take a step back and use a slower approach. Mike Warne (guitars/vocals), Ryan McKinley (guitars/vocals), Emmett O’Reilly (bass/vocals) and David Laino (drums) bounced song ideas off Craig Finn of The Hold Steady, and went into the studio with Jon Drew, who produced their first album.
“Since we didn’t have a hard deadline to finish, we felt a lot more freedom to take our time and mess around in the studio. Jon is the kind of producer that is down to try anything, so we had lots of fun playing with trumpets, old moog synths, glockenspiels,” says Warne.
In a weird year, the familiar Pkew themes—navigating life’s small daily troubles with a sardonic grin and your friends by your side—are comforting, nostalgic.
The result is tight, rowdy modern punk with the heart and soul of classic rock. It’s cracking a beer in the park, plugging in the AUX cord on a summer road trip, cramming into a sweaty bar with your friends and a million strangers.
Maserati "37:29:24 – Anniversary Edition (Rough Trade Publishing)"
Originally released in a very limited capacity in 2001, Maserati’s debut album finally gets reissued on all formats to commemorate the band’s 20th anniversary. Remastered from the original master tapes by Josh Bonati, 37:29:24 featured Maserati’s original lineup of Coley Dennis, Matt Cherry, Steve Scarborough, and Phil Horan, and includes many of the most placid and meditative moments in Maserati’s storied catalog – a darker, more pensive night drive than they would come to be known for on their later albums.