Angel Olsen – All Mirrors
Genre: Art Rock, Chamber Music
To be fair to Angel Olsen, she’s quiet the busy artiste in a big bushy coat of no fucks left to give on All Mirrors, and she’s accelerated her artsy chamber rock trend since MY WOMAN with competence and confidence to the point of being one of indieheads’ favourite heavy-hitters, up there with Mitski and St. Vincent. And despite all this forewarning, I was not, I repeat, was not expecting that violin flare on “New Love Cassette.” And that’s what we all want in a relationship, ain’t it? The ability to surprise and keep things fresh. Because All Mirrors is a fucking fresh effort. I still prefer the surf rock Americana of Phases more, but let’s all be glad there are some artists out here keeping us on our toes.
Chromatics – Closer to Grey
Producer: Self-Produced (Johnny Jewel)
Label: Italians Do It Better
Genre: Electropop, Synthwave
I give Chromatics much shit for being lukewarm milquetoast synthwave that never really breaks from its artistic milieu much in the way that Beach House also can’t seem to stop making the same goddamn record seven disks in. So thank whatever spaghetti monster you Italians Do It Better fans believe in (probably just Johnny Jewel t-b-h) because the guitar on “On the Wall” is anything but. That second solo is everything opposite to that we expect from a Chromatics record: it rips like a motherfucking chainsaw. And that’s just one hit on a record of many, plus a Simon and Garfunkel cover to start it all off. As far as covers go, “Sound of Silence” might be the most appropriate for a band like Chromatics, and they pull it off seamlessly. Moreover, this is the only band to undercut by saying they got them Stranger Things vibes, if anything, when Hawken, Indiana gets spooky, it’s got them Chromatics vibes. It all adds up to my last words: sure, this the first Chromatics record since Cherry that I give a shit about, but what’s more amazing is that it’s the first Chromatics record that I think other people should legitimately give a shit about. Now there’s a fucking plot twist.
DIIV – Deceiver
Producer: Self-Produced w/ Sonny Diperri
Label: Captured Tracks
Genre: Shoegaze, Dreampop
It would be wrong to say what’s new about DIIV is Zachary Cole Smith’s lease on life. Neither would it be correct to moralize over opioids and heroin and point to such addiction as a reason for why a band should fail or be obscured from the consumer’s dollars or even attention. My position on smack can be summarized in four words: “speed killed the Dead.” Thus, I’m glad to sound the trumpets like a Priests cut: “He’s clean.” But that still leaves me at a loss on what’s new about this record. It’s no minor scale, as DIIV has used such notation in the past (and that it’s still a mystery to me how to describe a minor scale other than evoking sadness in western audiences). Really, the melodies are just more jagged, less dreampop and more garage, less Souvlaki and more Dirty. This is not a 100% comparison, as any ol’ Sonic Youth noise rock record would do, but if DIIV was trying for a more angular, razor’s edge sound, then they’ve found it.
Gold Celeste – The Gentle Maverick
Genre: Psychedelic Rock, Indie Rock
Gold Celeste’s second record is a case study for lo-fi psychedelic rock, featuring a lowkey MGMT-esque (Congratulations-era) sonic along shades of Melody’s Echo Chamber, Dungen, Drugdealer, Ariel Pink and so on. In this way, it is a mood album which is both cure and curse: on the one hand, the long player is inoffensive and soundly well-made, on the other hand, it never has a chance to grab you; it just sounds like everything else on the market. So not only is this a case study for a genre, it’s an argument for the collectioneers: if you’re looking to fill out your neo-psychedelic rock library, you wouldn’t do wrong to fit in an indie gem such as The Gentle Maverick, but if you’re looking to fill out the big ones first, this Norwegian trio might not fall on the shortlist.
Julie’s Haircut – In the Silence Electric
Label: Rocket Recordings
Genre: Post-Rock, Psychedelic Rock
Julie’s Haircut has been stalking the European art rock scene for a while now, working a weird angle of rock that is simultaneously industrial alternative and neo-psychedelic rock ever since their debut. And this record isn’t much different from that—but what’s refreshing about it is that it simultaneously scratches an experimental and entertaining itch. There’s little by way of bad music here, most people might take umbrage with the amount of tape loops worming their way through the record, but there’s also plenty of straightforward rock riffs to rip through the noise and make the record palatable. I’ve also just realized my language is underselling my enthusiasm for the record, don’t get me wrong: this is another great record from already an excellent week.
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Ghosteen
Label: Ghosteen Ltd.
Genre: Singer-Songwriter, Ambient, Chamber
A fan on /r/NickCave is calling it the MicroKorg trilogy and I’m one for calling the last three Cave records just that, regardless if Warren Ellis really did play his MicroKorg across all three records or picked up a different synthesizer halfway through. Of course, it’s a bit hard to hear Nick Cave call Ghosteen a triptych topper in theme, the only way this would be possible is via instruments not lyricism. And in ambiance and pace, Ghosteen does much to continue the pace of Push the Sky Away and accentuate the funereal ambiance of Skeleton Tree. The latest Bad Seeds effort however, even in its absolute catharsis, does not do much to demonstrate pulse. Analyzed from an angle of Boatman’s Call (the last time Cave did such a piano heavy product), it has too many ethereal loops, more becoming of a Sigur Rós record, with a piano just breaking the tedium. Analyzed from a Push the Sky Away angle, it doesn’t feature enough balance of instrumentation. Even Skeleton Tree suffered from this (though not nearly as stingily, nor as long), and it makes both albums a chore because all we have is a man grieving the death of the child, a musician mourning the loss of a bandmate, and then pondering the salvation of the survivor in a manner that doesn’t much surprise. And Skeleton Tree can get away with this by being an absolute brutal listen—no need for secret corners of grief, the dark is already scary enough—but Ghosteen needs more than beauty, because that’s all the album is: beautiful. It’s one-note and it plays one note on the MicroKorg for far too many bars.
Swim Deep – Emerald Classics
Producer: Dave McCracken
Label: POP COMMITTEE
Genre: Neo-Psychedelia, Dreampop
Torn between the Balearic beat and the peppy Spiritualized sonic, a barn-burner this record is not. At the least it’s big, but in many ways, it reminds me almost too much of b-sides from a Matt Healy effort. What’s the big deal you might wonder, I did in fact just give The Gentle Maverick cred for sounding like its peers. Well sure, The Gentle Maverick fills out a corner like wood putty, but that doesn’t mean that it’s necessary. And Emerald Classics meanwhile does move into new territory developed further from the stacked stimuli on Mothers, but those weren’t peers, they were influences and their influences on Emerald Classics are watered down to a Matt and Kim-type sugar water posing as health drink for the longueur of the LP. It infuriates me like Americans pronouncing their love for “La Croy” (your French is shit and your drink is shit, Becky, it’s pronounced fucking La Cr-wha). Alas, music criticism, like food, is 90% taste.
Wilco – Ode to Joy
Label: dBpm Records
Genre: Indie Rock, Americana
Another confession, I’ve never much listened to Wilco. Never much had an interest because of a general youthful ignorance that wasn’t broken until my gap year between high school and college. My team leader in AmeriCorps NCCC was a fan, hence my introduction to the name, but not the sound. And be not surprised, this was the first Wilco record I ever bothered to listen to. And it doesn’t take a fan to realize that this record is a soft lowering of expectations without being catastrophic, a To the 5 Boroughs-esque effort for one of the standard bearers of folkish, foppish indie rock. And that’s alright with me, if anything it’s a bit of a pleasantry to meet a band now in its middle age, figuring out third puberty. Sort of gives hope that no matter how far we get in this life, we’re always gonna be slightly bizarre and yolky. Now there’s a tall drink of relaxing reality.
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Allah-Las – LAHS
Producer: Jarvis Taveniere
Label: Mexican Summer
Genre: Psychedelic Rock, Surf Rock
LAHS is an affirmation, a continuation, no approbation, maybe some stylized masturbation over everything else they’ve done previously. I mean, I love the Allah-Lah’s but what’s new, pussycats? Nothing. Nothing at all. So excuse me for being a bit bored during the listening session and all sessions since. I want the lahs to become the rahs. Let’s get a little more jagged boys, because all this lowkey smoked out Beach Boy stuff is start to really lose its zip.
Blue Hawaii – Open Reduction Internal Fixation
Label: Arbutus Records
Genre: Deep House, UK Garage
More and more as I listen to the breakbeat proliferation in the deep house scene, I wonder to myself why am I at American Eagle? If it’s being made for anyone right now, it’s being made for the next generation of consumer capitalists. I don’t care how much kale these hipsters eat: eventually their mores and music will calcify and unless they get over it they’ll still be showing up at shows for the hottest bands and shopping at Forever 31 or just straight duking it out fucking Mad Max style over the next scrap of food (who knows, either way, it’ll still be a dog eat dog world so if you’re not first you’re last, Scotty-Freddy). I’m interested in watching in the fans age as much as the DJ’s. How the fuck are people going to rave with a metal hip? Glowstick life alert necklaces, anyone? So my qualm with Blue Hawaii is still twenty years out: when I inevitably catch their legacy act, will they be playing small clubs, or will they fill out a stadium? If the latter is possible, than I very much look forward to watching old woman do the shimmy-bop-and-clap to this slow tempo subgenre.
Golden Dawn Arkestra – Darkness Falls on the Edge of Time
Genre: Psychedelic Rock, Afrobeat
In terms of bombast, Golden Dawn Arkestra work hard to make sure you know they’re just as ostentatious as the best of ‘em—lead man Zapot Mgwana claims his father to be Sun Ra and his headgear suggests he’s a big fan of Jay Kay and Jamiroquai. His album art is Jamie Zurvezan in nature and for Darkness Falls on the Edge of Time combines spook fueled Afrobeat psychedelia. So I suppose we should all be searching for the Zurveza piece with melting jack-o’-lanterns that sparked the Golden Dawn Arkestra to action. The créole infused “Allo Allo Boom” heads off a solid middle section of songs showcasing Golden Dawn Arkestra’s biggest come to Pumpkin King moment in terms of yéyé, psychedelia and acid funk as my girlfriend and I carved up his subjects.
“Sounds like Jamiroquai,” said my mother naught but a moment later.
Julien Chang – Jules
Genre: Psychedelic Rock, Singer-Songwriter
I am quite over the fashionable indies. Not over the fact that they still (and always will) continue to make music. Not over the fact that their placid musicality and sugar-on-sugar songwriting sensibilities give me a headache. But I am quite over these peppy prep boys who think they’re the next Passion Pit or Shins guy being waited on. I’ve spent a couple years now, keeping an ear on the indie rockers, listening every chance I can to them and I’m already over the movement or movements that almost certainly started before I was born and had me to believe this one thing: indie bands are fucking boring. And unfortunately for Julien Chang so is his record. Like jazz fusion indie prog rock had a dull, boring baby that listens to Weather Report live records and Jaco Pistorius rarities.
Kim Gordon – No Home Record
Producer: Justin Raisen, Shawn Everett
Genre: Noise Rock, Post-Industrial, Electronica
So this is it: the first record of Kim Gordon’s solo career (well not including the extended players peppered between her Sonic Youth output). And what an album it is: a combination of post-industrial, electronica and neo-classical elements with her traditional noise rock. And what is post-industrial you might ask? Well it’s a combination of Industrial Records tricks filtered into different genres. In truth, post-industrial and noise rock just equates to industrial rock. Think if Sonic Youth basically played in burnt out Soviet Bloc warehouses for neu-wave crowds. The particularly piquing, pulsing rap beats on “Paprika Pony” act as some sort of industrial trap rock experiment gone horribly right. I don’t want to be tautologist and say that it’s because of Kim Gordon that a Kim Gordon record does so well, but the key here is big ideas filtered down into recognizable traits. No element is too overbearing on the original intent: a noise rock record. And once again, boy, what a noise record it is.
La Féline – Vie Future
Producer: Xavier Thiry
Genre: Yéyé, Synthpop
Agnès Gayraud is a pop vocalist, sure, that is as simple as a descriptor as one can get, but she’s also a bilingual writer, soon to release her next critical essay, The Dialectic of Pop, in English and French. So the lead woman of La Féline knows her stuff and faire analyse (make an analysis) of it. But does that really translate to a well-made and enjoyable record? Certainly the French have proven their art to be intellectually stimulating and morally provocative, but to the lay anglo-saxon, when have we ever connected the ideas of “fun” and “French?” Vie Future might as well be the latest geometric proof that these disparate notions seem diametric. And it’s not that her ideas on the unsound present are incorrect or that she has no edge, it’s just that her edge is a cold analytical mind, which makes sense; her two greatest influences on this record seem to be coldwave and an old guard of French singer-songwriters à la Anne Sylvestre or Brigitte Fontaine, who can be related to as francophone Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell respectively for anyone not in the know. Aïe, I wish I liked this record more, I really do; but sometimes the cool diagnostics and studio electronics do not make for compelling theme or melody.
Underground Lovers – A Left Turn
Producer: Self-Produced w/ Glen Bennie
Label: Rubber Records
Genre: Shoegaze, Dreampop
Australian alternative rockers get no credit, it’s true. Before Tame Impala lit up the neo-psychedelic rock movement to a global scale, who was really paying attention to Australia? Who could name a band from Australia that wasn’t AC/DC or Midnight Oil? (honorable mentions: Silverchair and Men at Work.) These guys formed the basis for globalized cultural products that one might actually be able to sell Australian music as a well-made music forum incubating far from the eyes of the capital world. Surely, Underground Lovers should get more mention for being the foremost and longest-lasting renders of noise, shoegaze and dreampop down under. Or perhaps I’m just really trying to sell myself on the merits of a record which is highly proficient, teetering on the edge of transcendent. And if you don’t believe me then “Bells” will kick out the jams as “Rock Endings (A Left Turn)” makes your stereo rumble.
Wet Tuna – Water Weird
Label: Three Lobed Recordings
Genre: Psychedelic Rock, Jam Rock, Space Rock
Wet Tuna is the kind of jam band you hear about that has potential based one good track. That track is “Cowpath 40,” a kind of a mix between Damon Albarn’s The Good, The Bad and the Queen project, Jerry Garcia’s collabs with Howard Wales and Jimmy Kahn and a slight dash of Funkadelic. Right up in my wheelhouse, then. But none of the other tracks really come close to the third cut off the record. A shame, really, because the vibes on that sucker were just the right type of slowburn funk rock that I want to hear.
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Ariel View – Until My Lungs Are Cleared
Genre: Indie Rock, Surf Rock
In a sentence, Ariel View sound like La Luz: Supercharged Edition. Super charged with everything mid-Aughts alternative rock. So really, La Luz and the Killers, right? Nah, too grandiose, Ariel View keep it more lowkey than that. But nothing should be surprising about how they ended up on Epitaph once listeners give this record a spin. Their alt-rock inclinations might please certain Smashing Pumpkin fans of all people, which isn’t mid-aughts at all, actually. So just take this band as your omnibus post-grunge phase surf rock band and do whatever alternative rock fans do… probably moping to Beavis and Butthead reruns and cursing the ever rising cost of cigarettes.
Béret – Jesus White
Label: Born Yesterday
Genre: Art Rock, DIY Punk
Béret certainly is a hard fellow to track with his first two heralded records, Popularized Architectural Movement and Emmanogogue Hotel, not found on Spotify. Ian Kurtis Crist has also certainly got the well-read cred—Stendhal, what a reference—to sound like your DIY art punk contemporary to Andrew Savage. And on Jesus White, Crist plays with a certain Thurston Moore air about his more unconventional takes (hello there, “Solace,” you glorious bit of industrial park echo) and even his more conventional ones, “Relapse” is every bit a rocker as it is trying desperately to make sure you can’t rock to it with the guitar being used as a looping feedback machine. But then you also have simple, straightforward punk rock cuts like “Fade out the World” to make sure we all know this is a kid who grew up listening to the Clash and Yo La Tengo records. I was hesitant, but now it looks like I’m going to have to get off the Spotify and do the research.
Common Holly – When I say to you Black Lightning
Producer: Self-Produced with Devon Bate
Label: Barsuk Records
Genre: Chamber, Indie Rock, Singer-Songwriter
I have a hard time with the genre “chamber pop.” (Just for reminders: pop is an adjective, not a genre.) And yes this is all a vanity crisis brought on by Common Holly’s contemporary effort to Weyes Blood and Sharon Van Etten, an LP which people all fall in line to call “chamber pop” despite my objection to such. But that leaves me with a hard resolution: drop the pop and just call Common Holly’s sophomore record chamber music, right? Perhaps drop off the music entirely and just say it’s a chamber record. But no one refers to chamber music frequently enough, thus calling a record a chamber album would also make little sociolinguistic sense. Further, calling a genre “chamber” is about as grammatically appealing as calling an LP “bedroom (pop).” So what is an enterprising music critic to do in these two cases? I’m caught between admitting the existence of a “pop” genre or being grammatically unaesthetic over a good but not great LP.
Foals – Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost, Part 2
Producer: Self-Produced w/ Brett Shaw
Label: Warner Records
Genre: Indie Rock, Alternative Rock
Foals are one of the few bands that can pierce my heart even when the only thing thing exceptional about their music is its nonplus formula. Perhaps that’s the line between fan and critic, the difference between “yep, that’s a Foals record” and “fuck yeah, that’s a Foals record.” And it’s also the difference between my overall reaction to the parts one and two of Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost. I had to force myself to love Part 1, resulting in an overenthusiastic review. The record now rests at a low rung on my album of the year ladder, knocked down by other, better paced releases this year. That is far from the case of Part 2. This was instant love, akin to my reaction for Holy Fire and, to a lesser extent, What Went Down. Hell, “The Runner” is like the amped up bigger brother to “Inhaler,” while “Neptune” does what “A Knife in Ocean” had trouble pulling off: the epic finish. A 10-minute track that depicts a cold end over Earth as we know it. In many ways this double album project has me thinking about Robert Frosts’ Fire and Ice, frigid and sheer. But who then represents the fire? I purport King Gizzard’s Infest the Rats’ Nest. Now there’s an interesting comparison.
Garcia Peoples – One Step Behind
Label: Beyond Beyond is Beyond
Genre: Psychedelic Rock, Blues Rock
The one guitar line on “One Step Behind” is catchy but by 12 minutes in it’s repetitive. The fear here is that they’re not going to have enough adjacent music to really interest listeners, though I doubt casual psychedelic rock listeners have heard of Garcia Peoples. I somehow doubt most psychonauts have either. They are playing music of a bygone era to people who probably, deep down in their core wish they could have experienced the Seventies at all it’s lurid, burnt-out, marijuana-and-coke ridden glamour. A party to which I will admit wanting to leave by 1975—give me Physical Graffiti and I’ll gladly take the time machine back—lest I get stranded at the discotheque listening to Chic without end. Alas, where was I? I seemed to have rambled. Oh yes, well, jamming blues rock, what else can you do but take a puff, sit back and relax. At least that repetitive guitar line disappeared for most of the last 10 minutes, hell, Garcia Peoples even throws in a sax again to stave off someone’s boredom. Not mine, I can barely remember how I even got here.
P.S. Thank God they added a 7 minute single edit.
Strawberry Girls – Tasmanian Glow
Label: Tragic Hero
Genre: Math Rock, Progressive Rock
Multi-instrumentalists and record producers, Zachary Garren (lead guitar), Ben Rosett (drums) and Ian Jennings (bass) have been doing this math rock thing for a while now. Imbiber in the “intelligent” shred or the “informed” funk, as a pretentious twat might say. But whatever, my one drawback to any math rock player is that they lack humour most of the time, playing highly complex music just to prove it can be done rather than to have fun. And Tasmanian Glow draws a tightrope between the math and the fun; in between every “holy fuckballs” maximalist moment, there’s a funky jam section to suggest these guys do, in fact, make silly faces and plenty of jokes. The meaty wah from Garren’s guitar during the break on “Dreamgirl” is just bubblegum candy to a math rock detractor’s ears, and “Faith Healer” easily counts the best mashup between the rock and the fun however, I’m a much bigger fan of the laidback shoegaze intro to “sasha” rather than the post-hardcore moments. And that might be the biggest practical joke of them all: I think they made me admit to my own preferences for noise based rock in stunning fashion. And I quote:
“WAIT AM I A SHOEGAZE FAN NOW?”
Tourist – Wild
Label: Monday Records
Genre: Downtempo, UK Bass
“Elixir,” “Bunny,” “Wild” and ”Kin” are indicative of an LP with more pulse than prior Tourist records, and indicative that William Phillips could make a sugary record just as much as any. But this slow march says much more about how he thinks about his music: he would rather say too little, too soft rather than too much, too loud. And for what it’s worth, Wild is better than any recent Moby LP and certainly more approachable than any Nicolas Jaar project while still retaining cerebral credibility. Perhaps I am just staring a master craftsman in the face and refusing his best collection yet for a mish mosh of gems and baubles. Certainly, the farther he drifts from that ambient sheen, the more I like him, see: Wild.
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Anna Meredith – FIBS
Label: Moshi Moshi
Genre: Glitch Hop, Art Rock, Singer-Songwriter
No one is going to say you just need listen to M.I.A. to understand the fundamentals of glitch hop (Machinedrum, Dabrye, Prefuse 73 and the Glitch Mob, in case you’re wondering) but the comparison would float by pretty well with fans of the genre and fans of worldbeat. Yet there’s very little worldbeat on this record and I stand by my steadfast refusal to credit this record with the false genre of art “pop.” No this LP’s more tender moments and ballads remind of some cross between late Seventies prog records and the diffusion of singer-songwriter elements into unrelated or seemingly incompatible genres. So what of Anna Meredith’s efforts on FIBS, mostly a concurrence: it’s up and down, switches styles like wardrobes and proceeds flighty in mood. It’s the work of an incorrigible and restless savant, but no masterpiece. Temperamental, but unmoving.
Capitol – Dream Noise
Producer: Josh Korody
Label: Capitol Records
Genre: Dreampop, Post-Punk
In a way this combination of records has Capitol sounding like transmutation of Modern English and Cocteau Twins to acclimate a record contemporary to Souvlaki or Nowhere. Which brings me to conclusion number one: only in shoegaze and dreampop can a record that goes back to square one be thoroughly impressive. It’s not an update, it’s just a timepiece almost thirty years late to the party—a bit like my writing, really—but also, and this is conclusion number two, it speaks volumes to dreampop and shoegaze bands that there are three kings (Slowdive, Ride and, of course, My Bloody Valentine) rendering everyone else is but a prince in a backwards genre. Is this faulty thinking? Not really, this is conclusion number three: when the best thing a shoegaze band can do is pay fealty to the masters, that suggests a regressive genre predicated on traditionalism rather than transformation. And I’m all for the shoegaze sound, I’m just all against a stagnating style.
Dry Cleaning – Boundary Road Snacks and Drinks EP
Label: IT’S OK
Genre: Post-Punk, Art Punk
Much ado about your latest indie gem, the little find that you’re so goddamn glad to have found but whom probably have no bearing on popular music as of yet (nor will they). This is the purity of the fanatic: when it’s something you out and out like and want crystallized in your memory as “a moment.” Dry Cleaning have released not one but two solid extended players this year circuiting between all the mental illness you can muster and the foibles they create in both social and personal situations read to you as hyper aware observationalist thought streams over post-punk surf rock Americana. And both have me thinking in moments of pure post-post-post-post-whateverism. If punk is anger then post-punk is over it, and the vocals on Boundary Roads (as on Sweet Princess) are fucking over it. Whatever it is. But I’m not, I’m a fucking fan.
Frankie Teardrop Dead – Plane Eclipse
Producer: Jason Shaw
Label: Little Cloud/Captain Beefart Records
Genre: Psychedelic Rock, Shoegaze
Things just don’t come easy for psychedelic shoegaze wunderkinds Frankie Teardrop Dead, whose first two records have received favourable comments on their respective bandcamp pages and touring credits include stages with The Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Cambodian Space Project. But look on their Spotify and you’ll only find a handful of listeners. A pity considering their latest project is a sneaky good combination of modern psychedelic rock and shoegaze without playing its way into some half-assed spacerock (although the last half moves into a more indulgent space). The question is, for a band with little of a base, how do they break through? This record may be indulgent, but it’s ultimate conclusion is conservative and very much in line with the rest of their discography. And while no one needs fans, musicians do need some semblance of financial security.
The Growlers – Natural Affair
Label: Beach Goth Records
Genre: Garage Rock, Surf Rock
Let’s start with the basics, this is not psychedelic rock. It’s surf rock, which admittedly, when your brain is frying under the hot glare at the beach while corking off colita after colita, can sound psychedelic. Also, where would we be if the beach boys didn’t make doobies and surfboards such a wonderfully funny cliché? (Without The Big Lebowski, that’s where!) I just want The Growlers for paying some attention to this. And I also would like to commend them on their name for no reason besides, perhaps, residual marijuana effects from college, the “Pulp of Youth,” one might say. Who said flashbacks can’t happen?! Anyways, where was I… oh, yes, Natural Affair, a record with more pulse than the standard-bearing Allah-Lah’s latest. What more could you ask for?
Hemlock Erst & Kenny Segal – Back at the House
Label: Ruby Yacht
Genre: Abstract Hip Hop, Jazz Rap
Most people are going to associate Aesop Rock with this record and right they should: it’s lowkey, it invokes wokeness without saying it, Erst has an urban zen and a conversational candor to the lyrics—everything the cityslicking hippy needs to stay sane in the world and the glamper needs to keep the party at an acceptable level of chill. Erst and Segal switch songs with elegance, but there seems to be little conversation inside each song, as they’re writing separate from each other and then seeing if the banter can match the beats; there’s no moment of absolutely sublime conversation between the words and sounds in the same way that a Black Star or Tribe record can almost conjure at will (by this token, the last Tribe record didn’t do this either, but it’s hard to have conversations with the deceased). Either way, good, not great.
Juana Molina – Forfun EP
Producer: Self-Produced w/ Odin Schwartz
Label: Crammed Discs
Genre: Post-Punk, Indie Rock
Argentina’s multitalented Juana Molina is somewhat of an indie Carla Bruni, a television star yet a niche musical ideologue, her records bending to folktronica inclinations even when accentuated by popular influences; I guess it would be better to describe her as the indiehead’s Shakira, but that would be disingenuous. None more so than on this latest ditty, a post-punk departure released on Crammed Discs just “for fun.” I want to say it’s nothing to sneer at, but no track in particular pulled me in, it was all just serviceable—like a student project more than an artist’s experiment. There are worse things, but Molina might want to flesh out her ideas with some more time.
Leprous – Pitfalls
Producer: Self-Produced w/ David Castillo
Genre: Art Rock, Progressive Rock
Music is truly a subjective medium, which opens subjective opinion up to corroboration, disagreement and even abuse. So I say this with a disclaimer, Leprous have done me wrong. But I ruined Pitfalls for myself because it reminds me of one simple thing: Godsmack.
Lost Film – Zero Summer
Genre: Dreampop, Indie Rock
Like a miniature classic DIIV record out of the blue, Zero Summer is here for all you DIIV fans who might not have been one for the Deceiver. Except me, I loved Deceiver and I loved Lost Film, which would play over your modern day lovescene between two garagekids with little problem. Play it over Hi-Fidelity and it might not much sound out of place in John Cusack’s stereo. It’s twenty minutes for the hell of it, seven tracks for the trendiness of it and an album because Lost Film couldn’t think of another format for it. I would suggest an EP, but what I do know? I’m just the moron listening to it.
Pharaoh Overlord – 5
Label: Ektro Records
Genre: Minimal Synth, Krautrock, Psychedelic Rock
Oh Pharaoh Overlord, you’re so coy with this Krautrock phase, not thinking anyone would notice your shift from bluesy psychedelia into the German machine music. Kraftwerk’s music came 40 years too late for Metropolis but it came just in time for you to listen to it (which is to say, anytime after it’s release; it’s never too late to get into Kraftwerk, I recommend it to myself!). The slow shift from there to Brian Jonestown Massacre-style psychedelia is also done tastefully, with electronic drumming maintained but the guitar growing in power, rising to meet that machine music with cold impudence—it still has more to say and it will not be ushered so soon! Well, I don’t want it to be anyways.
Qrion – Waves (EP)
Genre: Ambient House, IDM
There’s a twitch of fear every time I see the word ambient coupled with a style of music that I enjoy. A terrible suggestion that every great aspect of the genre will be rendered null due to the objective void that ambient music proves time and time again to be. It’s just an excuse to not write melodies all long- or extended-player long. So imagine my fear that Qrion is going to turn out like Tourist, or Chrome Sparks or some other hack DJ with a knack of understatement so large they might as well copy paste their cute little logo on a blank album cover hosting 48-minutes of direct-pressed void. Hell, they don’t even need a logo—it’d be on brand. But Qrion does need a logo, because she has a taste for space, a skill for pouring it on and then pulling it back and some damn good tunes on this little EP; title tune “Waves” is a solid downtempo chillout track, prime playlist material for all your neohippy buddies who need to set a vibe, yanno? Hit me with it, I say, I need a new muse for when I spin that contact staff.
Shana Falana – Darkest Light
Genre: Dreampop, Goth Rock
I get it, I get it, most genre purists will tell me that Goth rock technically doesn’t exist, that it’s really just a heavier, more psychedelic version of alternative rock as heavy metal was to rock and roll. But, man, when you roll the bones with the gloomier imagery, fuck it, that’s goth. When your music sounds good at the feet of steeple, that’s goth. When your hair is jet black and you’re ready to moan out all your problems to the recording, that’s fucking goth. So Shana Falana went goth with Darkest Light. Good, I’m happy for her—someone’s gotta be—the Cure were the best band of the Eighties all you maxed out metal machismo machines and limp-wristed independent fellatiators be damned. And while I don’t want more bands to lift their material from the Cure, I do want Goth Rock to be finally recognized as a goddamn genre. It’s more a genre than “pop” ever could be.