Dan Friel "Factoryland (Thrill Jockey)"
Two decades into his solo work, Dan Friel continues to push the boundaries of pop and noise, gleefully manipulating explosive drum machines, abrasive found sounds, and a child-sized keyboard and compounding them into clamorous anthems. Friel has a preternatural ability to warp ugliness into rapturous beauty. In both his solo work and his rock trio Upper Wilds, Friel’s playfully rebellious approach to crafting pop songs is anchored by an unending love for new, strange sounds which only Friel could twist into melodies. Factoryland lives at the junction of apocalypse and revelation, reflecting the burden of industrial gentrification with an undaunted spirit that embraces fantasy as a force of resistance.
Sleepyhead "New Alchemy"
The Special Pillow "Mind Wipe (Rough Trade Publishing)"
MIND WIPE is the latest, greatest release from The Special Pillow, a full-spectrum, string-driven sound encompassing concise ’60s-flavored pop gems, dreamy hallucinogenic reveries, and pulse-pounding propulsion redolent of your favorite antipodean indie upstarts of the ’80s. Six synapse-snapping songs that address Greek tragedy, artificial intelligence, and voluntary brain erasure, MIND WIPE will clear your consciousness of everything else.
Friendship "Love the Stranger"
Friendship’s Merge debut, Love the Stranger, moves like a country record skipping in just the right spot, leaving its fellow travelers longing for a place they’ve only visited in their dreams. Guitarist Peter Gill, drummer Michael Cormier-O’Leary, bassist Jon Samuels, and hawkeyed balladeer Dan Wriggins map out the group’s particular, breathtaking landscape and invite the listener to share in its glory.
Between instrumental pit stops at “Kum & Go” and “Quickchek,” local references in Love the Stranger create a catalog of human perception, presented as roadside attractions. From grape jelly residue (“Ramekin”) to the site of a demolished cathedral (“St. Bonaventure”) to King of the Hill quotations (“Smooth Pursuit”), the record’s images craft a symbolic language of high and low Americana, both evocative and consistently accessible. Spending time with Love the Stranger creates a community—one in which the window between the listener and the music-maker shatters in full, until all that remains are the fragments you decide to pick up together.
Friendship is probably already your favorite band’s favorite band, a long-revered IYKYK of DIY with a devoted cult following from Wawa to In-N-Out. With Love the Stranger, the Friendship universe only continues to expand and grow more open-hearted, more inviting, with every passing note. It’s a record that locates the listener exactly where the listener is, and wherever that may be, makes a friend out of them, too. All said and done, the age-old maxim of “Mr. Chill” holds true: “You be real with me and I’ll be real with you.”