Hand Habits – placeholder
Producer: Self-Produced with Brad Cook
Label: Extreme Eating Records
The singer-songwriter amble is an admirable trait, but without even a laidback percussionist it has no live drive, no appeal in the flesh. So placeholder, much like its predecessor, does well in studio but it’s all moot in today’s game if she can’t get that drummer to help her hold the stage. A girl and her guitar might work on record but today’s records always require something more lest it’s all the less compelling.
FEWS – Into Red
Producer: Joakim Lindberg
Label: PIAS Group
Genre: Post-Punk, Shoegaze
Another day, another post-punk band, one word, all caps. But where FEWS(!) prior sounded similar to say, industrial Violent Femmes, now they seem overwrought in that Linkin Park gothica. Gracefully they don’t go the full emo—that would too much, y’know?—but they definitely make this post-emo punk sound their own, combining the drained emotion vocals with that reverbing, warehouse shoegaze. Of the two though, the instrumental fervor far outstrips whatever vocal flavor they’ve chosen.
Pink Mexico – Dump
Producer: Jeremy Scott
Label: Little Dickman Records
Genre: Garage Punk, Surf Rock
I don’t know why I let this factory (forget about garages, this is a warehouse) punk record run three times over before moving to the next guy. I don’t mean that in a bad way; I let it just kind of take me, beat my skull in with a shovel, and then left me three times in a row and remembered why I like the taste of blood. Sadistic, I know, but then so is listening to this record spin after spin after spin.
Pkew Pkew Pkew – Optimal Lifestyles
Label: Dine Alone Records
Genre: Pop Punk, Punk Rock
If American Pie ever needs a reboot, Pkew’s got the soundtrack ready and waiting.
Pond – Tasmania
Producer: Self-Produced with Kevin Parker
Label: Marathon Artists
Genre: Neo-Psychedelia, Dream Pop
Pond usually like to make their albums difficult, sucking on a lower-grade fume than Panda Bear and his Animal Collective buddies go for, but I think spending all that time with Kevin Parker has paid off—Tasmania follows The Weather in creating records that are their most digestible long-players since Beard, Wives, Denim all without stepping on Currents’ toes. All in all, a fine addition to the burgeoning Australian neo-psych tradition.
Royal Trux – White Stuff
Label: Fat Possum Records
Genre: Hard Rock, Psychedelic Rock
Famously off-kilter, bizarre and out of their minds, White Stuff is as the title suggests: a collection of wonking tonking honking mixtures of hard rock, hip-hop and neo-psychedelia. At times I don’t know if I’m listening to the Gorillaz, Limp Bizkit, Aesop Rock or Cage the Elephant. None of these are contemporaries, all of them came after Royal Trux, but goddamn does Trux make it sound like none of that matters.
Sundara Karma – Ulfilas’ Alphabet
Producer: Alex Robertshaw
Genre: Indie Rock, Pop Prog Rock
Oscar Pollock’s voice perplexed me all the way to the shops and back, I, struggling to identify the ingredients, nearly got caught in traffic solving that tenor too low for the Peters, Gabriel and Green, yet not as overblown as Bono’s ever oddly inspiring yelp. That voice even reaches for some of the Nick Cave sardonic appeal and tries to hit notes in Mika’s lower range. But then the lightning was bottled; at its core this is a voice of the Davids: Bowie and Byrne. And Sundara Karma lather that voice in music with so many influences it almost feels Ulfilas’ Alphabet is but a tribute record to turn-of-the-Seventies art-rock replete with keyboards, pianos, violins and time changes.
Sun Kil Moon – I Also Want to Die in New Orleans
Label: Caldo Verde
Genre: Singer-Songwriter, Folk, Spoken Word
I don’t think Sun Kil Moon records can be graded along the jists of poor, mediocre, good or great. Rather, every Sun Kil Moon record is like a folk rendition of a PT Barnum exhibit. Shit at this point, Mark Kozelek could fill the whole museum with his inane neurotics and obtuse lyrics, no problem, and we’d all take a tour just to see what’s going in that head. The answer is saxophones, random, yet tasteful, saxophones.
Solange – When I Get Home
Producer: Self Produced with Panda Bear, Pharrell and Tyler the Creator among others
Genre: Neo-Soul, Alternative R&B
The mark against neo-soul is a predisposition to never assert itself, requiring other genres to add some vigor to the venom as Anderson .Paak has so gladly demonstrated over the course of his career. Well, Knowles said fuck it to all that noise with Seat at the Table. If Knowles, mad and frustrated, demanded for some r-e-s-p-e-c-t on her 2016 long-player, then When I Get Home is wont for some tranquility. It barely even raises its voice not that Knowles really needs to. But she continues to astound by making psychotropic soul without lo-fi sensuality seem easy.
Wander – March
Producer: Jack Shirley
Label: Headless Queen Records
Genre: Post-Rock, Math Rock
Wander continue to perfect the already perfected: that sound of post-rock, the quiet-loud pyroclastic flows; oozing, exploding, oozing, then exploding again without much thought given to the reasons why a volcano would explode. It’s all one word titles bhereft of worded explanations; fine, I really don’t mind it, being the guy who finds post-rock relaxing via a twisted meditative value of virtue in volume—yes, I really do use cacophony to contemplate—but its not about that, first impressions limit predictions on whether March will be worth walking back to. Time, unfortunately, never moves at a run.
Yves Jarvis – The Same but by Different Means
Genre: Neo-Soul, Psychedelic Folk, Ambient Gospel
Montreal-based singer-songwriter-producer madlad galore, Yves Jarvis by any other name, really has made the most confuddling gospel records this year. The neo-soul coating intrigued me, the psychedelic folk gamed me, but it was the vacillation between lo-fi and ambient gospel that perplexed me. And it’s not like the record is a real barn-burning affair; it’s not even a flame, nor a spark. It’s that last little coal that won’t go the hell out, instead burning the whole night long.
Astralingua – Safe Passage
Genre: Experimental Folk
Totally not intended but a happy accident nonetheless, DM’s should thank Astralingua now for providing them a soundtrack when the squad heads to the High Forest.
The boys with the perpetual nervousness – Dead Calm
Label: Pretty Olivia
Genre: Garage Rock, Surf Rock
Andrew Taylor (Drop Kick) and Gonzalo Marcos (El Palacio de Linares) make up the boys with the perpetual nervousness if the only reason they could so nervous is if the rest of were just gonna shrug and say “yep, you made some surf rock.” Like, what do they have to be nervous about with their debut? It’s fairly innocuous, twenty-five minutes of easy-listening with no bite.
Dido – Still on My Mind
Producer: Self-Produced with Rollo
Genre: Downtempo, Electropop
It’s not that Dido’s released bad records; more that some don’t take as much as others. Well, Still On My Mind is probably her first LP since Life For Rent that really takes. She’s always played on the edges electronic music with her brother Rollo; and Still on My Mind’s predecessor, The Girl Who Got Away, was so forgettable, you wouldn’t be wrong to think this was the first real deep dive embrace of skittering electronic. But here, now, on this long-player: Dido has contructed a pixie cut Cher attitude with no autotune, transformed and mastered her role as an elder stateswoman of electropop while the rest of us were just making “Thank You” memes.
Foals – Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost, Part 1
Producer: Self-Produced with Brett Shaw
Label: Transgressive, Warner Bros.
Genre: Art Rock, Alternative Dance
Art rock is the best that could be done; because Part 1 is beyond any single genre. Not even alternative dance feels right, damn it. Both are superlatives that square this record in. Imagine calling Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon fucking prog-rock. Exactly. It feels wrong and for eight-tenths of the way, Foals tesseract on their style. At then ninth of ten, however, Foals collapse, indulging at the end to slow ballads of gluttonous wrath and ruin to their own irony and lose the pointedness that carried the rest of the record. They rob the record of a good cliffhanger by trying to tidy it up. Still, don’t dabble in some foppish contrarianism; this is a serious album of the year contender.
Ghost Chief – Paint Leaves
Producer: Self-Produced with Jim Keaney
Label: Self- Released
Genre: Folk Punk, Emo Folk
Oh man, this was not as advertised. Do you like moshing to a folk soundtrack? Well, maybe you’ll like unleashing your inner emo to one. Ghost Chiefs somehow manage to combine the twee pluckiness of early Los Campesinos material with some raw emo rock mike swallowing. I like it and I don’t even like it when artists mike swallow! Oh and Jack Shirley mixed and mastered this thing; dude gets around.
KOKOROKO – KOKOROKO (EP)
Genre: Afrobeat, Instrumental Soul
All the promise in the opening notes of KOKOROKO display that Afrobeat style brimming with energy and then trimmed with free jazz noodles on leading cut “Adwa,” and an absolutely sublime guitar felt on “Abusey Junction,” but the middle of this record just devolves into instrumental soul and that’s not what Afrobeat signed up for. Where’s the flare? Where’s the pidgin message of oppression? Gone, leaving an EP half proficient, half unsurprising.
Nick Waterhouse – Nick Waterhouse
Label: Innovative Leisure
Genre: R&B, Soul
If you couldn’t guess it, till now, yes, Nick Waterhouse really plays up that new-age reincarnation look of Buddy Holly. But here’s the thing: he still doesn’t sound like Buddy Holly—and that’s a good thing. His style intertwines, wraps, grips hard on the soul and funk elements that only accent a Black Keys LP. There’s a dangerous swank to Waterhouse’s eponymous fourth record that is all Waterhouse. The closest comparison is Eric Burdon and the Animals with more horns but even that cannot do Nick Waterhouse justice; this record manages to connect 1969 with 2019.
SASAMI – SASAMI
Producer: Self-Produced with Joo-Joo Ashworth, & Thomas Dolas
Genre: Indie Rock, Shoegaze
Wildin’ stats time: a lion share (90 to 95) percent of music is made for consumption; a lion share of that music made for consumption (somewhere north of 60 percent) is to be consumed mindlessly; and the percent that all these statistics came from my ass is a steamin’ Benjamin. But listening to SASAMI kind of reveals how jaded one can get listening to music written as melodic testimonials; no matter how much SASAMI can break her heart and mine over the course of forty-ish minutes, the temptation is conclude with “another one for the pile.” Not a bad pile, mind you, but another one for another pile nonetheless. Here’s my ultimate suggestion however, pull this one from the pile, dust it off and enjoy it—this shoegazing affair uses all the power of the rustle and whistle to make some efficacious slow tempo rock.
Sigrid – Sucker Punch
Producer: Martin Sjølie, Odd Martin Skalnes, Askjell Solstrand, Patrik Berger, et. al
Label: Universal Island Records
Genre: Electropop, Dance
If Sigrid wasn’t already before, her debut record will skyrocket her demand as an ace in the festival season undercards. Stitched together from the better part of her EPs, what’s most satisfying isn’t how high she reaches with lead singles, but how the deeper cuts fulfill the early inklings of orchestral dance (“Don’t Feel Like Crying”) or the bluesy Adele-like vocal warbles (“Dynamite”). For the casual fan, she does well to differentiate from Tove Lo’s heavier house dynamism of a bad girl with a conscience, the bar of measure for Scandinavian electronic vocalists for the near-future.
VICTIME – Mi-tronc, mi-jambe
Producer: Simon Provencheur
French experimental punk band, VICTIME seem to have gotten their wires crossed: trying to fuse together no wave and new wave into a screech jangling affair that sounds like some Thurston Moore tapes better left forgotten.
Baiuca – Misturas (EP)
Label: Raso Estudio
Genre: Indietronica, Galician Folk
I am a simple man. I hear Maghrebin influences and I like. Even when the indietronica doesn’t quite do that divine sound justice as with Ammar 808’s Maghreb United. Now, Baiuca might not be using any maghreb instruments, and the choral synchronicities with Berber chants might just be coincidence, but it’s done so well. Vocal dervishes exaulting the spirit at its most primal then there mashed together with heartstring and flute melodies, snapclap beats, bass punches and snare slaps. It’s cruel that this EP sounds so easy to make; really it’s just testament to how effortless it is to like the thing.
The Brian Jonestown Massacre – The Brian Jonestown Massacre
Label: Tee Pee
Genre: Neo-Psychedelic Rock, Blues Rock
Maintaining standard is hard, man. Even when one hasn’t been in a biz for a long time; that creeping feeling of compromising tastes becomes known, becomes present, becomes hard to stave off. But just as sometimes this feeling gets bucked off for certain bands, other bands know just how to make people tick. The thing is, I like it when the Brian Jonestown Massacre do this space blues sound. And that it swings with the Allah-Las at the same time just puts a peach in my cobbler. It’s nothing amazing from Anton Newcombe and the gang, but it makes the passing of the days easier.
CHAI – PUNK
Label: Sony Music
I don’t think any culture will ever attain the same level of zany as Japan’s. Yes, I just used zany nonironically to describe a culture with, let’s say, easily 1000 years on the United States. Likewise, CHAI’s Punk effort. It’s dance-punk taken to the logical Japanese extreme. It’s sugary-acid to the point of decaying your teeth. But you’d be too high to care. It’s Kero Kero Bonito but everyone in the band is a Powerpuff Girl. There’s four members. So that metaphor doesn’t really work. Guess what, I’m riding too high to care.
The Comet is Coming – Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery
Producer: Tom Arndt
Genre: Nu-Jazz, Avant-Garde Jazz
Dr. Manhattan listens to Sun Ra. I’m sure of it. And the Comet is Coming, well, they listen to Sun Ra too; and being a Jazz troupe they’ve probably listened everything else in between too. But adeptly, they don’t step on any one other jazzman’s shoes. They play their game, they go to space, they live a life on Mars, but they make music for Earthlings as if Martians who only listened to the underground FM stations of the twentieth century. What’s evident from the start, however, is how much they want this record to be heard—no, really, the mixes are obsecenely loud, maximal affairs. Apparently they picked up the sound wars too.
Danger Mouse and Karen O – Lux Prima
Producer: Danger Mouse
Genre: Indie Rock, Experimental Soul
A gem, Danger Mouse sounds revitalized with Karen O in the booth and unconstrained to stretch their experimental sides; this ambient soul funk record is probably his most ambitious since Rome and his best since St. Elsewhere. Karen O matches it with some of her most haunted vocals yet. Together, they fill out a ghost-story collection of under-the-skin spookiness that could haunt any nightclub anywhere.
Elizabeth Colour Wheel – Nocebo
Producer: Seth Manchester
Label: The Flenser
Genre: Shoegaze, Noise Rock
Elizabeth Colour Wheel are cheeky; edging their thundering toes to the line between noise rock and metal. Of course, these things are always more of a scale, but it’s pretty telling that these boys have tipped it. Curious though; they don’t seem to find any, well, (joy is too happy an idea,) let’s call it catharsis, in doing so. A little lacking in conviction despite the boneshred dread they’ve so clearly made their own. If the difference between metal and blues is that between the hunter and the hunted, then why does this particular hunter sound so lackadaisical about what he’s doing here. It feels less like the most dangerous game and more like the most boring frame.
Flevans – Part Time Millionaire
Genre: Soul, Funk, Nu-Disco
There’s not much new here on Flevans’ fifth record—regardless if it’s new to him, that is—see this thing here is a simple soul record refreshed with disco tinges in that n-u style; Flevans is just mixing, layering, lathering it all together to give listeners that classic Sly-by-Chic Sunday soul record. It’s a step below the headinessof the .Paak, but that’s no dig; .Paak can get a little too lo-fi for his own health. And anymore flattery would ruin this record, so don’t twist your head off when Laura Vane belts it out on “Ex-Factor” like the second coming of the black Mary Magdalene, the famous Ms. Lauryn Hill. Flevans smartly dials back the piano, letting the organ, bass and drums carry this cover cut with a glide. The downside? No cathartic guitar solo to see us off. So sure, Flevans plays clever, but the emotion is being poured in by his guest singers.
The Hazzah – Post
Producer: Michiel Mutsaerts
Genre: Garage Rock, Alt-Country
Fuzz is, among other things, fanatically overrated—they ain’t bad, but as with any semi-good symbolic band (Led Zeppelin, Nirvana, Tame Impala), they get hoisted. Well, I’m a hoister and so are The Hazzah. Aptly named, but not sure about this alt-country appelation; it’s about as right as the Rolling Stones were considered alt-country. They might be to country as Weezer are to independent rock. Yeah, but no. And really, they’re hoisting these influences high and mighty (but never too much, less we all grumble comparisons to Greta van Fleet in low tones of disdain). I’ll take it, what is a debut supposed to be if not some sort of overall rip-off or covering affair? Beatles did it, Stones did it, Zeppelin sure as fucking hell did it, the Hazzah do it. The lasting cultural contribution of rock and roll, folks, finding something and making it your own.
HVOB – Rocco
Genre: Deep House
It’s always a struggle with electronically sourced melodies, beats, harmony; always a struggle to identify if there is something human behind the music. Mr. Fingers, breaking ground, might have known this. Might have not. But he was afforded the affection of being one of the first. Moby’s Play, well that’s a different story; you try to avoid words like “heart” and “soul” when describing musicality and motivations and in that way music writers becomes a car aficionados gushing over Alfa Romeos. But Play, now that was a sleek package. Every bit of pedigree was evident in that set of wheels, 4C power in a fourth record. So, where does HVOB come into this wax? Well, it’s simple; when I have to say that it feels like there is no “heart” or “soul” in the record, then there really is nothing going for it. Sure it gets moody and exploratory, but it’s long-winded, unwieldly, taking too long to accelerate to an unimpressive top speed. At least Silk and Trialog had the decency to cut back somewhat and the debut gets an overall pass for being a long-form introduction, but aïe, aïe, aïe, I have to ask if this double long-player could have done with a little more elegance in its engineering; cutting off the unneccesary toggley wobbley bits on either side of the engine. Huh, guess I’ll just have to keep listening and wondering.
infinite bisous – period
Label: Tasty Morsels
Genre: Dreampop, lo-fi
This record is a five out of five, as in, upon playing, five out of five hours. All of them knocked. That is the true mark of an infinite bisous’ record. Can you fall asleep to it and then awaken without a subconcious hatred of the tunes? Glad to say that with period, that you can, and, even better, once you’re awake you will have a solid record to enjoy for a spin before finding something with more of a pulse. Much in the Beach House fashion, this isn’t music for every waking moment, folks; it’s music for the resting ones. But unlike in the Beach House fashion; people can admit it’s a snoozer.
Nanami Ozone – NO
Producer: Alec Noni-Muss
Label: Tiny Engines
Genre: Indie Rock, Noisepop
When an indie rock band doesn’t want to fully commit to the noise, we get a record like this. Some people will postively puke out the putrid words, “noise pop” to describe it—but I fucking refuse. That’s selling this twee Phoenician quartet the short-stick—and they’re the ones with a good record to sell, no less! Sophie Opich works her Rachel Goswell vocal angle while the rest of the band plays at a decible higher than shoegaze and a couple lower than noise rock. It’s a most gosh darn adorable tweegaze record on the market this year, and somehow I think will it stay that way.
Oozing Wound – High Anxiety
Producer: Self-Produced with Gregoire Yeche
Label: Thril Jockey
Genre: Sludge Metal, Noise Rock
It’s often stated that metal is violent. In reality, it’s a purifying sponge. I just don’t listen to metal often, having made the divorce final with Blue Öyster Cult’s Fire of Unknown Origin, but Oozing Wound hit something with High Anxiety, either by riding the universe’s vibes of outed anger, gorging on culturally enshrined stupidity or complaining about that tween shitbag who plays FortNite and would simultaneously call you a faggot while boasting his sexual prowess with, who else, your mom. I would be angry about it, but Oozing Wound beat me there.
Andrew Bird – My Finest Work Yet
Producer: Self-Produced with Paul Butler
Label: Loma Vista
Genre: Chamber, Singer-Songwriter, Indie Folk
Virtuoso and idiosyncratic, Bird does what he does best and melds chamber, folk and singer-songwriter traditions together while discarding his his more neo-classical compulsions from Echolocations: River. There’s no time to lose on My Finest Work Yet, waxing on the absurdity of health pills, civil cold wars and online vitriol and making peace with the modern times. Hell, the recreation of Jacques-Louis David’s Death of Marat should speak plenty of how dire Bird finds America’s current predicament; hence his attempts to summon the feel of pre-electric Dylan into his lyricism, mixing it with literature and scripture to build arguments covering many bases. So you can bet he’s still haute-culture, but you have to listen for it a little harder.
Avey Tare – Cows on Hourglass Pond
Really, hypnagogia and neo-psychedelia should just count as one as the same—the intent is the same and to the untrained ear (read: most consumers) the differences don’t exist. So instead of getting all highbrow critical, sorting tape machine recordings from delay-based synthesizers, I propose we just call it all Neo-Pyschedelia and call it a day. Avey Tare agrees and does his best to combine the two into one cohesive argument here; with the music dabbling in the same ambient haze of AnCo’s Tangerine Dream, while still putting together a pulse à la Ariel Pink. Wirey, phased out vocals, freeform solos, electric cowbell percussion, the occasional acoustic guitar, they all weave together in Cows on Hourglass Pond to create the first certified GOOD neo-psychedelia record this year.
Capsula – Bestiarium
Producer: Self-Produced (?)
Genre: Psychedelic Rock
Neo-psychedelic surf rock is certainly en vogue when pre-dated bands like Capsula have jumped into the mix; offering their spin on a La-Luz-by-Oh-Sees-by-Fuzz mélange-à-trois but without sounding nearly as inspired as any other band doing it too. Capsula just sound like Ghost King who sound like Segall when he was doing this shit for demos with Jon Dwyer. Capsula are no instrumental schlubs, it’s true, but Bestiarium is just stale as hell. They would have done better to take a single angle and lean into it with occasional accents, rather than take all three and murk them into a sloppier-than-needed goop of all three because they’re trying to sound like someone else, the problem is I don’t even think they know who that would be.
CROWS – Silver Tongues
Producer: Self-Produced (?)
Label: Balley Records
Genre: Post-Punk, Punk Rock
There is a certain magnanimity to this popular revivification of ancient styles, an effervescent bubbling over of stylistic re-review after the dog years of the hip-hop revolution and the “alternative” rock imperium. It’s not that the underground did not exist, it’s that the public consciousness had lost interest in it. The new revival of new wave, “second wave” become ever more apparent in this, as has its grittier, more belligerent brother, post-punk. CROWS, a typographic and sonic contemporary to Joe Talbot’s IDLES (and signed to his label) and well, that’s about it, the songwriting might swirl in indecision between punk, post-punk and new wave, but its fatal wound came when I asked myself if Silver Tongues was a pseudo’d IDLES record the entire time.
Dream Ritual – Trips Around the Sun
Producer: Self-Produced (?)
Label: 693977 Records DK
Genre: Alternative Rock, Psychedelic Rock
It’s fair to say this record is a bit of psychedelic sure. But as soon as “Breathe In” finishes, it’s gulping garage rock by the gallons—it’s more akin to some sort of half-in, half-out stoner rock at times. Stoner Grunge, even, which “Outside Your Window” does admirably. But at no point do I feel the psychic peel that it purports to have. The best that could be said forTrips Around the Sun is that it performs The Wall trick to middling results as if it were the trump card to the game when really it’s just a high-five to the self.
Flume – Hi This Is Flume
Label: Future Classic
Genre: Glitchhop, Deconstructed House
Ahh, the mixtape, the electronic and hip-hop equivalent of impromptu spitballing and combobulation. The sketch book to the long-play canvas. Flume’s second LP Skin, was big—too big—and Hi This Is Flume is the kickback reaction; Flume’s just looking for features and collabs that don’t lend themselves to stadium shows but to a Boiler Room set. This thing glides in a way that Skin dreamed it could and allows for more of Flumes glitchy, futurebass sounds to just ooze into each other before being chopped up Benihana style by JPEGMAFIA bars, Eprom collabs and SOPHIE remixes. It’s also not as bloated as Skin, presumably because it’s arrival isn’t dead in the water, but also because it soaks up all 38-minutes of runtime without turning to a soggy, sopping mess.
Ibibio Sound Machine – Doko Mien
Producer: Max Grunhard, Tony Hayden
Genre: Afro-Funk, Electrosoul
Ibibio Sound Machine is the type of future Talking Heads presented to us in “I Zimbra,” not one curated by white artists in the slimy post-punk slums of Seventies London, but one powered by a fusion of West African immigrants in the high-tech wizardry of a society struggling for a path to post-scarcity. One thing not in short supply on Doko Mien is creativity; they’ve given up a bit of new wave and moved towards Chic-like discofunk—that chucka-chucka guitar no lie, man—but in doing so they incorporate a bit of Tuareg blues and major electrosoul vibrations. Eno Williams and the gang are cooking on Doko Mien and inching closer and closer to M.I.A.’s title as Britain’s premiere world music act.
Marble Arch – Children of the Slump
The other day I made a declaration: I don’t like dreampop—it’s crawling with too many disaffected sad bastards and bastardettes for me to enjoy. And yeah, I fucking know—the xx are criminal in this regard—but at least they realize that dreampop in-and-of-itself is no longer an album seller; so they send out Jamie xx to do some fieldwork and bring back house and soul elements while Romy and Sims perfect their guitarwork at the cost of putting ANY EMOTION WHATSOEVER in to their lyrics. But that’s alright, it works most of the time. But… uh, shit, this was supposed to be a Marble Arch impression and well, that’s the thing, as much as this French shoegazer imbibes on this whole Dream Academy jive he at least has the courtesy to stick closer to that Galaxie 500 source and even insert some classic Eighties ballad guitar work auf Spandau Ballet, most notably on the tail end of “Today.” So no, I don’t like dreampop, I like dreampop when the artists go beyond it.
Orville Peck – Pony
Label: Sub Pop
Genre: Singer-Songwriter, Alt-Country
Mix Chris Isaak, Elvis Presley, some general Eighties stadium reverb of the Bon Jovie type and a sparse instrumentation that warbles between shoegaze and psychedelic folk and you still couldn’t match the slow burn affair of Orville Peck’s Pony. It’s like an entire record compilation of “Wicked Game” vibes with one glaring exception: this cowpoke’s been poking around the pies and found some colour-inducing caps. It’s heartbreak on the Badlands horizon, so just sit for a while and admire Pony like you admire that big ol’ sky—she’ll never let ya down.
Ritual Howls – Rendered Armor
Genre: Goth Rock, Post-Punk
Rendered Armor is the type of the record that sounds like it came out in 1983 and Ritual Howls sounds like the kind of band that wears all-black, skin-tight leather, jack boots and sunglasses that barely cover its eyes. And that because it would and, actually, they should. They really did just say fuck it to everything else in between then and now and made a record that would b-give, give Bauhaus a run for its money. I mean, er, I’m not complaining, I’m just, er, just laughing. Paul Bancell sells the lyric: “The roses are melting, dripping with science, dripping with hope” too, er, too fucking well and I really don’t know how to deal with it.
The Sh-Booms – The Blurred Odyssey
Label: Limited Fanfare
Genre: Garage Rock, Soul
Good God, this is just excruciating—nearly 40 minutes of garage and soul—the second record this month I’ve done the service to listen with this genre-clash and invariably the worse. At least Bencoolen could pass off as well-paced and punchy and even then I feel like my premiere piece on Atwood Magazine gave too much positivism in place of what was solidly serviceable. The opposite of a hit piece. So allow me to right the ship: The Sh-Booms epic aims of the The Blurred Odyssey only manage to make flou the lines of mediocrity. It’s not that the entire record is bad—they just have a violent fascination playing with a thrashing vomit garage-rock brand for far too long and drown out the more interesting Sixties beach R&B, black and white swirl sonic that just complements the soul in a way that their alt-rock propensity fails. Shit, the album-ending cut, “The Final Sleep,” might be the best one on the record because it finally lets you, I dunno, BREATHE. Even Sabbath knew that if you wanted to be a fucking riot, you have to at least pump some goddamn space and oxygen halfway through the record.
Vendredi sur Mer – Premiers émois
Producer: Lewis OfMan
Label: Profil de Face
Barbie Lafebvre is brune, petite, and chic. Contures that cut diamonds, aviators that hide amethysts. She goes to the beach. Sometimes with friends, sometimes just alone. This is one of those days alone, vendredi sur la mer. She has an AM/FM radio from the eighties, y’know the one, small, black, rectangular, grilled with a slight warm fuzz. She smokes cigarettes, puts them out in the sand and leaves them for the gulls to pick around. Life ain’t nothing but a phase; people ain’t nothing but some means; music ain’t nothing but a sound. And this biopic summary is just like chère Barbie; she’ll drop you off right where you were found. Horny and confused.
Wallows – Nothing Happens
Producer: John Congleton
Genre: Garage Rock, Shoegaze, Electropop
Well this is just fucking criminal man; most weeks only get one or two records for the year end lists but March 22nd, 2019, well this one might well go down with five big ones. It’s funny too, considering this all might change by years ends, but Wallows’ Nothing Happens is just the right formula: a Garage Rock base marinated in notes of Electropop and Shoegaze, fucking “Scrawny” is your Diary of a Wimpy Kid cum summerbop come early. I mean, when mother earth is moving the schedule up summer, why not start rolling out the hits early? They even throw some latin horn flares on “Ice Cold Pool,” pushing some soulgaze out to keep this hotbox fresh. And when you need cooling off, look to the the B-Sides on this long-player. I mean, aw hell, March has just been a good month for rock n’ roll fans and Wallow just showcases how spoiled for choice they are this month.
Billie Eilish – WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?
Genre: Electropop, Bizarropop
If you didn’t know Billie Eilish, you would have thought her the ghoulish princess of electropop, a little shopkeep of musical horrors, and WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? does nothing to allay this sense of creeping creepiness. Simultaneously trying to lull you asleep and warn you of the monsters under the eyelids, her vocals are ASMR threats and coos, and at times she places hard limiters on her bassier tracks, leading to disconcertion via distortion. Something has possessed this woman creatively and if you’re already a fan, you’ll love it; if you’re a general observer, you will be intrigued by it; but I don’t know if much observers will stick by Eilish’s heavily idiosyncratic bizarropop proclivities.
Chris Cohen – Chris Cohen
Label: Captured Tracks
Genre: Singer-Songwriter, Neo-Psychedelia
Folk neo-psychedelia is a weird genre type. It’s broadly a minimalist aural affair; kind of like space punctuated by sound, but without the pure quantum melodicism (or lackthereof) of free jazz. Singer-Songwriter, on the other-hand is the soft-rock of folk and bluegrass genres. Yeah it’s folk-eeeee, but it’s not quite folk. So sure, Chris Cohen is by all accounts playing on similar vibes to James Taylor, but with radically different sonic results. I thought this was a Damon Albarn solo record (and a fucking bizarre one at that) for the first three tracks, but no, that’s Cohen. And has me curious; curious to hear Avey Tare or Tobacco go acoustic and gentile—“Edit Out” is a cloudwatching anthem and a sonic that could house some more tenants.
Garcia Peoples – Natural Facts
Producer: Self-Produced with Jeff Zeigler
Label: Beyond Beyond is Beyond
Genre: Psychedelic Rock, Jam Band
Garcia Peoples can’t really wait to let you know how much like they loved the great ones: Jerry Garcia, Duane Allman, Dickey Betts, Tom Verlaine, Richard Lloyd, the guys who knew how to jam and new how to noodle. They portend to be a part of this group, but I’m not so sure. See I like it when a jam band actually, I dunno, jams and doesn’t just work in little noodles around their songs. It might flow better if I have some cannabisical favours and flavours rolling around inside me, but that’s a poor litmus test. Good psychedelia is the drug and Natural Facts no matter how folksy or outdoorsy it tries to be, is just chock-full of bobo melodies. It really just sounds like a couple dudes from Jersey mucking about with guitars and moaning about vaguely proto-philosophical mary-janeisms and if there’s one thing psychedelia is about, it’s a place of mind, not a sense of place.
Laura Stevenson – The Big Freeze
Producer: Self-Produced with Joe Rogers
Label: Don Giovanni
Genre: Indie Folk, Sing-Songwriter
Yes, there’s the woo of Emmylou Harris, swaggering down the roadside, but Stevenson sings more akin to a pop vocalist rather than an interstate vagabond; not as much weather on the chords, I’m afraid. And yes, there’s a big-brew-sky offering the little comfort that it can, but this time it’s not blue and the “Hawks” caught outside now have to contend with the rain. It’s the smallest “big-bluegrass” sound that Stevenson puts on the record, employing reverb to make her voice resonate and reflect like a tidepool caught in Kansas. It’s not natural, but it looks and sounds good and it glides the track right into “Big Deep.” And just like a person caught in the tidepool caught in Kansas, the segue is shivering cool.
Lower Slaughter – Some Things Take Work
Producer: Self-Produced (?)
Label: Box Records
Genre: Garage Rock, Hard Rock
Self-described noise rockers, Lower Slaughter, do more harm than good by calling themselves noise rockers then making a record that never amounts to such. There’s nothing wrong in this record being a run-of-the-mill garage rock record. It does the job quite well and thankfully I was tipped off in that direction by the noble indieheads over on reddit. But if I hadn’t, if I had gone in to this expecting a noise rock affair and instead receiving garage-rock-rabble, there would be a markedly different attitude in this here blurb. Moreover, I think Lower Slaughter would do better to actually discover their noise rock sound rather than rely on fairly standard grunge licks and disaffected soul singing. They sound tired and while Some Things Take Work, some things require too much work for too little return. This garage rock sound is one of them.
Marvin Gaye – You’re the Man
Genre: R&B, Soul
Most “recovered” projects usually never pan out well; always keep the expectations low. Last year’s Coltrane package via Impulse! was meticulously curated by Ravi, but it wasn’t exactly a screamer. Coltrane heads would be keen to collect it, but much like Zeppelin’s Coda, it’s not absolutely necessary. So then, is You’re the Man ultimately necessary for someone looking to bridge the gap between the street slanging What’s Going On and the supplicating Let’s Get It On? Well, I can guarantee it roughly crosses the thematic crevasse, switching between the political and spiritual on a dime, hell, it even does throwbacks to the classical Motown sound; but it also could do without the SalaAM ReMi remixes as much as Thriller 25th Anniversary edition could do without Kanye West and will.i.am reworks. Gaye doesn’t need someone to spruce his message up when “Politics and hypocrites/ Is turning us all into lunatics” proves a more prescient line in 2019 than it was in 1972. Gaye’s augurations aside, even the down-side cuts demonstrate just what we had nearly lost; the smattering of side-project singles sound like they should be a part of the actual record’s runtime and not just tacked on peripheries. Hell, they prove the simplest truth: we came for the Marvin, and Marvin is all we need.
Quelle Chris – Guns
Producer: Self Produced with Dane, Chris Keys
Genre: Abstract Hip-Hop, Jazz Rap
I thought I was joking when I mentioned Donald Trump has become the best lyrical gift for songwriters and MC’s looking to inject topicality into their music. Like silicone to the ass, it’s unnatural yet standardized, beautiful revulsion: “I-could-stand-in-the-middle-of-5th-avenue-and-shoot-somebody-and-I-wouldn’t-lose” is broken up word-by-word by third party persons and caps off Quelle Chris’ “It’s the Law” and his simmering anger on legal double-standards wrapped up in a louche, slithering bassline that recalls MF Doom, “your favourite rapper’s favourite rapper.” Quelle (pronounced Kwel-A) works this angle, abstraction menacante, into a jazzier space, like he’s just a New-York-stones’-throw away from Harlem but close enough to a lo-fi Lower East Side, y’know what I mean—it’s all artsy and shit—that instead of your youtube study beats channel, all you political scientist majors could just put this record on and go on your way, enjoying your Dialogues and your Guns.
Ty Segall & Freedom Band – Deforming Lobes (Live Album)
Label: Drag City
Genre: Psychedelic Rock, Garage Rock
Ty Segall is not a man; he’s a machine, a project, a collective. A Miles Davis. A Pink Floyd. A Ty Segall. Difference is with Miles Davis and Pink Floyd is I have the in with those groups. With Ty Segall things are harder. I’ve not consumed every Ty Segall product, but that speaks more to the sheer cliff of output Segall has managed in a period of 10 years, moving from aJohn Dwyer understudy to the three-hundred album man, then to a weakness of the flesh. Regardless, these are impressions, and on first impression Segall is at once a standard-bearer and an outfit apart from the garage psychedelia of his peers. On Deforming Lobes he moves from puckish Eric Burdon bluesboy vocals to shredding, tone-delayed riff-and-chord-work as if he’s trying to play Television or Replacement licks with the stage presence of Mark Knopfler. Much like the Dire Straits, the crowd is! there to see him. But unlike King Tuff’s Live at Third Man Records “official” bootleg, this record trades live ambiance for studio-like fidelity. You wouldn’t even know if this were a live record had they not faded in audience noise at the end of each track. It’s probably one of the easier Segall products to digest and probably a good buy for some newbie curious to get in on action (even if only chalked together with b-sides and even if probably marketed for the veterans). So as a record, it’s good stuff, but as a live record, it’s kind of just not.
White Denim – Side Effects
Producer: Self-Produced (?)
Label: City Slang
Genre: Psychedelic Rock
“So thas it? We some kinda, uh, sui-side-b squad?”
I like to think that’s what these cuts would say if they had sentience. And it makes since, considering that this album fits together like multiple pieces from multiple puzzles from multiple years, accrued by White Denims mercurial transformation from noise-punk to garage-psych to jazz-and-jam. The highlights are evident: the off-kilter “Hallelujah Strike Gold,” the whacky neo-psych “NY Money,” the baritone bumper “Introduce Me.” The problem too, is evident: the record kind of languishes between them with cuts more like curios than actual curations. As a record, this is the antique roadshow interupting White Denim’s regularly scheduled programs. Side Effects is for the eclectic, the curious, those devoted enough to spend a Jackson for three nuggets and six oddities.