Beat Detectives – Nefertiti Abstract Movie
Label: NYPD Records
Genre: Deconstructed Electronic
Sounds like a collection of samples to be sampled rather than songs sampled, like an electronic sketch book filled with vague half-renderings of parts rather than wholes, like a bunch of cuts fragmented into prolonged concurrent miniseries, all telling different stories over a lifelike pace despite depicting very particular moments with “Sex Taper/Sex Tape” series as my favourite, a downtempo ambient soul collage of bleeps and coos, then “High as Fuck” in the same vein of “Rolling Stoned” by which I mean absolutely elementary sounds sounding like a hazy deconstruction of cruising before bringing me back to this single question: is deconstructed electronic music now a trend, did Hi This is Flume just forecast us this trend?
Drahla – Useless Coordinates
Label: Captured Tracks
Genre: Post-Punk, Art Punk
Damn those Sonic Youths, those Wires, those Parquet Courts; always taking up the mental real estate of the quotidien cityslicker, the common clay of found materialism, the post-modern automatons at once taut and tautological (y’know, morons) regurgitating shreds and bits of pulp faction, varying between inconsequential and inflammatory, to gangsay and score, add points to our digital and daily discussions with friends and strangers alike and count them as our pithy, burning highlight reel much ado about nothing. That this becomes the ultimate acolyte’s task of masturbation and self-flagellation, most often a mixture of both in truly fashionable S&M fashion, it’s not really a surprise that bands like Drahla find themselves precluded by how well they gather the attention of the “mainstream” artists and how well they can contribute to what the courant consider art. They might not even discuss the album—just what it means to consume it.
Laura Misch – Lonely City
Genre: Downtempo, Neo-Soul
Now here’s a proper use of genre; playing into a sonic strength to highlight its emotional counterpart. Downtempo is nothing if not a meditative remedy, like a sort of balm of loneliness rather than for loneliness. I like to play this record as a driving companion, in the same way as Nick Cave’s Push the Sky Away or Cat Power’s Dear Sir are made expressly for the late night drive. True loneliness, however, is the sound of silence, and Misch plays with that across the record (ballsy for only a 7-track, 20 minute EP-esque long-player), something Nick Cave never much attempted excepting Boatman’s Call and The Skeleton Tree and those records have too much going on around them to truly qualify in this select two record club right now. No, Lonely City, Dear Sir and Push the Sky Away can content themselves on feeling nothing but immense loneliness in a city of lonely faces; earthbound or celestial, the metaphor still works, you can drive to this record around the witching hours of an urban purgatory or a country sojourn.
Sunbeam Sound Machine – Goodness Gracious
Label: Dot Dash
Genre: Neo-Psychedelia, Dreampop
Sunbeam Sound Machine (Nick Sowersby) is your mechanical cousin to the Black Moth Super Rainbow (words like songs interchangeable) and Sugar Candy Mountain and y’know, a delight for the AnCo freaks out there. I don’t mean to be rude, but the Animal Collective (hence AnCo) inspires some freakish levels of faith in people, probably in the same way I sound like a complete douchebag everytime I wax about Alt-J. Sunbeam Sound Machine, however, by virtue of their dreampop tedencies on this record is a neo-psychedelic mind-massage in near-ASMR fashion. Not even Avey Tare sounds this disinterested in the ephemeral, which is why I prefer his clinic to Sowersby, he gives us more. Neo-psych and dreampop can content themselves all they like, but both are too similar not to require some third wild-card genre to spice it up and make compelling music rather than atmospheric sound. And why spit some acid on this while cooing Laura Misch’s downtempo Lonely City? Simple: downtempo doesn’t pretend to be music for the awake, it understands itself as the electronic equivalent of sleepwalking. Laura Misch knows this, Avey Tare does too and so I assume Sowersby as well; he sells to the name, however, so he can enjoy his little sleep music gig here while throwing us melody-addicts a hook or two before we go back to criticizing just to criticize. And for what its worth, I liked those hooks.
Versing – 10000
Producer: Self-Produced with Dylan Wall
Label: Sub Pop
Genre: Noise Rock, Indie Rock
Versing do a good job of it, actually sounding more like the Thurston Moore-led byproduct of a Sonic Youth revolution as opposed to Drahla’s more experimental “found sound” experiment, but don’t quite have the derisive sonic guff that Sub Pop is known for: acerbic sarcasm against its own punkishness, firepower deafened by its own Guns of the Navarone, revolution dulled by its own commercial interests; you know what, maybe Versing are the right stuff, the terminus of this particular line of thinking, the natural end of the next thing which will do the same thing, so all ye dads of the grunge generation, disaffected, late-to-the-party Gen X’ers listen the fuck up: Sub Pop has found your new noise rock summer squeeze and they’re called Versing.
Boogarins – Sombrou Dúvida
Producer: Gordon Zacharias & Benke Ferraz
Genre: Psychedelic Rock, Neo-Psychedelia, Tropicalia
Brazillia neo-psychedelic tropicalia act Boogarins are an interesting sort of psychedelic band for me, a casual learner of Portuguese with ambitions to see Bossa Nova and Tropicalia acts live in their native Brazil. It’s difficult if to say what exactly makes this music sound so tropical, perhaps its just the fact that four Brazilians are playing it and automatically the brain is ready to ascribe some tropical subtext to whatever the hell they might be doing or maybe it’s just because Portuguese sounds like someone giving up halfway through pronouncing the equivalent Spanish and thus sounds as a more relaxed intonation. Whatever the case, the groove on this record is understated, murky and covered in underbrush, as if you have to cut through this dense sonic with a machete as contrast to when Glass Animals peeled it all back for their R-rated Jungle Book record, aka Zaba. The name Sombrou Dúvida itself is a play on words, “a contraction of “Sombra ou Dúvida”… which translates as ‘Shadow or Doubt’” per the press release and which highlights a Joseph Conradite twist: perhaps the only heart of darkness surrounding this record is the tangle of nerves listening to it.
Emotional Oranges – The Juice Vol. 1 EP
Producer: Azad Nacify, Azad Right, Dante Jones, Stephen Feigenbaum & William Leong
Label: Avant Garden
Genre: Nu-Disco, Contemporary R&B
Fresh on a new indie label, Avant Garden, Emotional Oranges isn’t a debut LP, just a compilation EP of single projects including “Motion” and “Personal,” released in 2018. They claim a wide-berth of influences in neo- soul, nu-disco and contemporary R&B, y’know, new school stuff for the young’uns. The kind of shit for cruising down the El Camino Real in SoCal highway or, hell, making love to the light of a lava lamp. Ooey, gooey, oozy, woozy words which all do to describe this genre conglomerate of what is basically the Toronto-school of R&B; heartbeat bass beat taps, snare slaps, finger snaps and hand claps; let it be known Timbaland was the grandfather of the Toronto-school, they just decided to turn the bass way the hell up and let those low-frequency waves shake the rust from your brokendown palace of a heart. Well, The Juice Vol. 1 is certainly capable, if for one problem I’ve yet to solve, are they capable and nauseating like DVSN, or, nu-style aside, are they capable and refreshing like Jamila Woods?
Jamila Woods – LEGACY! LEGACY!
Producer: Odd Couple, Peter Cottontale & Slot-A
Genre: Neo-Soul, Alternative R&B
I must admit, between Toronto and Chicago, I’m going to pick Chicago every time—in true American fashion, it’s not an old city, but it’s old enough that it doesn’t need neo- qualifiers to American songbook styles and I’m using American in the general sense that Canada and Mexico are American too, but I’ve yet to hear Mexico City soul; Until then we’re comparing Toronto and Chicago. Anyways, Chicago’s continued renaissance development into one of America’s foremost musical hotbeds has been well documented since Common and Kanye lit the joint on fucking fire in 2004 with Be. I’m probably simplifying this more than I should, but to hell with it: Jamila Woods is committed to continuing Chicago’s preeminence in neo-soul but she takes time to step back from modern addictions of BASS, BASS, BASS and some stereo percussion in favour of something more; guitar solos? Sure, that, but for those clamoring for stripped down moments, when the production team around LEGACY! LEGACY! peel her voice away for simple piano melodies, it’s almost reassuring—even the fiercest women need a moment to reflect on their softer sides, things without need for words, demonstrate as to what makes their persons so full. She doesn’t for many moments of the record, mostly just flourishes still hidden in the corners of the BASS. Furthermore, Jamila’s, like her contemporary Noname’s, major strength is in their wordsmithing and thematics; the play for this record? Big names of legacy, like ”ZORA” (Neale Hurston), “EARTHA” (Kitt), “FRIDA” (Kahlo), (James) “BALDWIN”, “SUN RA,” or (Jean-Michel) BASQUIAT, proverbally all about their legacy on her person, community or society and how she channels their various energies into each song.
Pottery – No. 1
Producer: Self-Produced (?)
Genre: Art Punk, Post-Punk
I don’t usually try to read reviews of the artists I do impressions for, but while researching newest Montreal art punk outfit, Pottery, and their debut album producer, I couldn’t help but note some blogs highlighting this album’s “danceability” and on second listen, I see it—in the same way that I see Parkay Quartz last art punk record as a “dance” record: I think our standards for dance have just fucking plummeted. Moshing, strictly speaking, is to dancing what air guitar is to writing music—even grinding has more credentials then moshing—and sure you can shimmy to No. 1, but dance? With partners? Just mosh with more rhythm for cryin’ out loud. Leave those coordinated movements to the dance-punk records and maybe people will start taking this solid little chip off the old discography more seriously: art college punk.
Hey Colossus – Four Bibles
Producer: Ben Turner
Genre: Stoner Rock
Alter has proclaimed Hey Colossus as Britain’s most successful “stoner rock” band of the milennium, not really a tall order consider it’s only been 19 years, but still my population bitching aside, I would think that another group of limeys would at least challenge for the throne, there’s enough of them on those mossy rocks to do so, but I’m trying to be facetious (it just comes out that way sometimes, a trait passed down from my mother’s side), I’m just putting “stoner rock” in quotations to explicate the difference in decibels and drone effects between stoner rock and stoner metal and, for practical purposes, drone. Stoner rock employs drone as an effect, metal lives on it, drone lives in it. So, it took me three listens to get my bearings—Hey Colossus take their liberties to provoke your wonderment: just what fucking brand of rock related music am I listening to? And whether your disgusted, disinterested or delighted by it, I must admit to somewhat liking it, even if it isn’t exactly what I want to hear when I’m stoned out of my gourd.
The National – I Am Easy to Find
Producer: Self-Produced with Mike Mills
Genre: Art Rock
I’ll come out and say it: the first National record I ever listened to was Sleep Well Beast, I’m new to this whole Matt Berninger-fronted world of understated alternative rock, having only crawled backwards to Boxer and only remembering enough to know that I Am Easy to Find is a radical step in electronic flare, just as understated as Sleep Well Beast, but a lighter, almost inspirational touch of synthesizers, no buzzing bzzrts and burps like its immediate predecessor, no, I Am Easy to Find is exactly that. And it reminds me of a band I do know well (as much as I hate to say it), Coldplay’s X&Y, with its teeming, eerily under-the-skin vibrancy in an overextended, near-double-album-length way. And if I ain’t right about that, then I might as well immediately retire from this goddamn gig. But while Coldplay’s entire career has been this sort of banal, limestone rock so soft it melts upon touching your very ears (the goddamn Jerrys of rock n’ roll, I tell ya), that the National moved in this direction is a mindfuck for both the casual observer and I assume the diehards with Berninger lyrics tatooed on their forearms and Dessner melodies embedded in their brain. This is a band that doesn’t need to bite because the threat has always been there since Boxer, but I spent all night sleeping to this record, just to prove its qualifications as a defanged beast of a record produced by a band firmly in a mid-life crisis with too much artsy pretensions (visual albums are always a dubious project), and while I can forgive these Bad Seed-lites for following in Nick Cave’s footsteps, I can’t forgive them for going in a route that reminds me of the Christ Martin Project, no matter how much better this album will age than X&Y ever has.
Black Mountain – Destroyer
Producer: John Congleton
Label: Jagjaguwar (US), Dine Alone (CA)
Genre: Hard Rock, Psychedelic Rock
John Congleton is more up to my speed, see, I might’ve bitched a bit how Hey Colossus delved too deeply into drone without any post-rock pacing (the quiet-loud dynamic can get tiring if used on every track, but put it in a couple of spots across an album—three is a magic number—and you can be an artsy-fartsy post-rocker too!) but here on Black Mountain’s fifth effort, we have ourselves a ball with Congleton (who is quickly shooting up the ranks among my favourite producers) who turns this hard rock outfit into a serviceable neo-psychedelic stoner rock hybrid, on one of my favourite labels, no less (Jagjaguwar). So, I’m already predisposed to like this project from Vancouver (my favourite American coast, no less! Man, these guys just cannot lose) even if it’s not exactly revolutionary. I have absolutely no idea what they are singing about because it’s all outclassed by droney, moogey forays and backstops and well, goddamnit, I don’t wanna gush, so if you love Blue Öyster Cult, Wooden Shjips or Thee Oh Sees, just sit back and enjoy this monster, this machine, this Destroyer.
Cate Le Bon – Reward
Producer: Self-Produced w/ Samur Khouja
Label: Mexican Summer
Genre: Art Rock, Neo-Psychedelia
I like to think of Cate le Bon as a girlfriend to Laura Marling—a little flashier sure, Reward is proof enough of that—but still somehow intimately connected even if they never have even said a word to each other. Listening to their records back-to-back, one from Marling, one from Bon is like watching two folkies (the former thoroughbred, the other alternative) riposte in musical conversation and weirdly, while Marling is more self-affirmative, Cate le Bon comes off as the more positive one—even when her lyrics drift into the pessimistic; slight of melody, I suppose. But when Laura Marling thew us all for a psychedelic-folk loop on LUMP, I didn’t expect Cate Le Bon to (relatively) break out the ritz: there’s some sparkle to her art rock step here on Reward, hell, she’s sipping on the same guava as Zach Condon with this latest offering. It’s a nice little ditty, but for me, it’s dubious whether the record can match toe-to-toe with the creole Cyrk or Mug Museum.
Earth – Full Upon Her Burning Lips
Producer: Self-Produced w/ Mell Dettmer
Label: Sargent House
Genre: Psychedelic Rock, Post-Rock
The trick of it is this: I couldn’t tell you when one song stops and another begins excepting the small detentes between them. And while lead guitarist/bassist Dylan Carlson and drummer Adrienne Davies do enough to make each song feel fresh, they all just feel like movements more than pieces. They could’ve done without the titles begetting goth poetry and just made this record an hour-long jam sesh, and split it into one, two, three, four sides on the vinyl. I’d respect them more for it, that’s for damn sure—I’d even deem it necessary to describe it as “cool jazz-esque,” ‘long-form experimental” or “post-rock adventurism.” As it is now? It’s capable, but it doesn’t quite capture the sense of freewheeling musicianship that they tease at on the longer cuts. Where’s the earthen, 30-minute jam-monster, Full Upon Her Burning Lips? I yearn to hear it.
Steve Lacy – Apollo XXI
Genre: Neo-Soul, Psychedelic Soul
New guy Steve Lacy has wasted no time since joining The Internet to strut his stuff, Hive Mind and Apollo XXI now being the biggest examples, the latter showcasing us the smoothest shit since the Eighties bumped that underground electro R&B shit on the downlow, mixed together with some new school ethereal funk that would make Funkadelic and Chic turn cheek to cheek and blush up. Seriously, the Chicness going on is absolutely off the charts and still sounds absolutely sublime. It lags a bit in between but never on the big moments, y’kno, the ones that push out the units; the first five cuts off this record have me thinking Lacy is a successor to Prince!(!!) Early-Eighties-era Prince, but still, credit where credit is due, Steve Lacy has my attention, moreso than the Internet ever did.
Psychedelic Porn Crumpets – And Now For The Whatchamacallit
Label: Marathon Artists
Genre: Garage Rock, Psychedelic Rock
Look, I know Highly Visceral Vol. 1 & 2 were nothing to write home about as especially mindblowing; but as far as albums go, I found these Perth boys to be superb in crafting a distinctly isolated space and garage rock, their records nothing if not essays on existence from literally the other side of the world (legitimately about 20-22 hours ahead, depending on the season). Perth is as isolated as a big city could get in our modern world—good news for climate crisis paranoiacs who need an out once this country goes to shit—surrounded by miles of ocean, desert and venomous animals that, should we commence nuclear upon the collapse of international diplomacy, make the beasts in Fallout look like absolute childsplay (I rescind my climate change advice). Sort of like what And Now For the Whatchamacallit is to King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard’s 12 Bar Bruise or, to be more topical, Fishing For Fishies, except you just need expand the space-rock elements of reverb to every track and highjack the Aphex Twin wizardry of “Acarine” and lo-fi funk bop “Cyboogie” with some jazz rock à la Sketches of Brunswick East or hell, any other Mild High Club musing. I’m not complaining, I just prefer Highly Visceral Vol. 1 & 2 for being, ultimately, more original than their mutant third record; as it turns out, Perth isn’t so isolated after all.
Rose City Band – Rose City Band
Producer: Eric “Ripley” Johnson
Label: Jean Sandwich Records
Genre: Psychedelic Rock, Space Rock
The moment I saw Rose City I knew this was a Portland band, but I didn’t quite understand how they could sound so close to Wooden Shjips and feel so copycat. I was a little dismayed until I did the research; Ripley Johnson is behind the control board! No wonder this folk psychedelia, tapped straight from the Kurt Vile and space rock trees, is so wonderfully zonked out to the heavens from my native Portland, home of the California transplant brought here by his Wooden Shjips, this record is nearly 37 minutes of superbly mixed music, not psychedelic by virtue of its effects, but by its melodies. When the guitars already stretch when they sing, then the reverb doesn’t need to work hard to add some depth to the cuts. It’s music like this which I live for. It’s such an effortless record, with melodies that just tick.
Rose Hotel – I Will Only Come When It’s A Yes
Genre: Dreampop, lofi
Rose Hotel’s debut has a rough go of it; dreampop records usually do when trying to figure out that secondary genre which makes it all click—the xx were an anomaly, you heard it here first! And so were Slowdive, for that matter, you heard it here second!—for Black Belt Eagle Scout, it was dollops of grunge-painted folksiness. But here I am, left scratching my head as to what secondary spice most consistently rides on Rose Hotel’s commitment to what is the sonic equivalent of drooling on the hues of your shoes or admiring the texture of your local concrete mixture (aesthetically, I’m a big fan of the solid slabs, sonically, I respect the asphalt bridge with some wear). A large part of me wants it to be those New Orleans horn sections, blown to proportions contradictory to a lofi record. But it’s a damn hard thing to self-release and self-produce a record, but it’s an even harder thing to convince people that you’re as different—forget about capable—as all the things they’ve heard before.