Currents: Album of the Decade?

In rock criticism, commercial success doesn’t so much attest to quality as corroborate it”

John Rockwell

For the first listen, the writer tried the vinyl version, not a bad way to experience a record; if you’re willing to get up and change over the sides.

This conundrum made worse by the deluxe edition’s double 180 gram LP requiring a total of four complete disc changes and the inevitable fact that the writer was, indeed stoned, trying to scribe some reactions and then, inevitably, just rambling about the fact that Currents—with good reason—is and will be found on every somesuch end of the decade blah-blah blurb circlejerk article about that particular publications’ invariable great, worldly or wonky brand of taste. (Can you believe those motherfuckers at Pitchfork didn’t even mention An Awesome Wave? Assholes!) Some will rate it higher than Lonerism, some will rate it lower than Lonerism. The writer’s yada yada will continuing running on in sentences while furiously replaying 10-second samples and even listening to the record back to front. Not because it’s actually a discussion of taste but because the lay reader will view any music critakcism magazine and it’s list as a be-all end-all decade’s (if not year’s) worth of essential eye-rolls. Yes, the writer and many others are attempting the Sisphyian folly on determining what was essential for this decade.

(Once again, can you believe those Pitchfork ivy leagues really never slotted in An Awesome Wave to some honorable mention of a 97 or 83 spot?)

 

 

 

 

 

And the writer supposes that this was bound to happen. That it was, indeed inevitable. That Kevin Parker is the one. He is the guy. The dude that connects the critics and the fans, the hipsters and the basic girls, the neurotics and the sports jocks, the art snob and the popular culture fiend. And thus he was bound to be on everyone’s list for the decade. Pitchfork, AV Club, NME, this very extend-o-blurb, every one of ‘em had to pay their respects to the king (sorry Gizzheads and noble Flaming Lips lovers), Kevin Parker isn’t just the new kid in town but the new boss on the street. Music mag reviewers await his next record at the pulpit, fans hope he’ll stop teasing new music in between festival seasons and everybody wishes he’d just do another fucking world tour comprised of more than just festival dates.

But these were all words that flowed from a place non-listening. Recycling the red splatter records front to back and then back to front while dreaming up quotidian introductions to this piece. There was no intimacy.

Oh I see, you’ve turned something that should be treated into a successful career (sic).”

Conan O’Brien’s Dad

So the next attempt to listen was immediately after, wherein the the writer sat, headphones in place, at 10pm, trying to gauge the record’s every sonic capability. Every time the synthesizers and drums suck in all the air of the song and then exhales with the power of vacuum on reverse, that’s one, or when the song fractalizes on a particular jarring scratch of the tape, looping itself into phase two from a drum machine, an organ or a bad mama synthesizer, that’s two, or when the bass guitar vivisects “Gossip” for the raw sex entrance of “The Less I Know The Better” that’s three. But this didn’t do much either. Now the magic of the product just dissipated to the mind as smoke to the grasping hand. There seemed a wall in between the ears and the ‘phones and besides, I was high and sleepy, listening to a record for the fifth time that night, the new 5 o’ Clock alarm for work prowling on the edges of his waking consciousness; it was time to sleep. Nothing to show for it but words of adulation and, of course, a ramble about Pitchfork’s, AV Club’s, Atwood’s et al desire to showcase music that need be remembered for the decade. The writer actually resents that he cannot share in first person. But, (haha!) a call was made and an answer was given (hit me with your worst, you editing fiends!) and a record was chosen. Alas, it was time to sleep.

 

 

 

But slap the writer awake to explicate the listening experience of each Tame Impala record in the canon and it would follow suit: InnerSpeaker is the Sixities on acid, Lonerism is the Seventies on acid and Currents is the Eighties on acid. And Lonerism might be his favourite, but Currents he heard first.

To be more specific he heard “The Less I Know the Better” first. And to be most specific, he still thinks the sounds of teenage fellatio were exactly the intro needed for the album version too. But alas, it was only the music video, played from his fraternity brother’s jambox, birthing the phrase “Come on Superman, say your stupid line” and a budding predisposition to state “Fuck Trevor” after giving to the world one of the nastiest thud-thud basslines that sounds like the wretched heart of a P-Funk record. A bona fide bow-chic-a-wow-wow panty dropping thing backed up by a flatslapping snare-happy drum machine and synth samples like tubular bells ringing out the plaintiff plea of a guy going falsetto through “not the greatest feeling ever.”

The Less I Know the Better might just connect every modern rock fan on this planet. That might be the one imprint that every Anglophile remembers; but that didn’t stop Parker from making a damn good record long-player. How about that sudden game of red-light-green-light, freezing the train in place and then looping its synthline rumble into “Let It Happen Pt. 2”—oh shit here the writer is again, caught in a loop—fabricating a new fractal from the kaleidoscopic first. Psychedelic inclinations meet oozing electropop, R&B sonic conjurations. So nice Parker had to do it twice with nearly every track on the latter third of the LP, singing, reading spoken word over organs and stutter-stepping time signatures—who wouldn’t stutter when proscribing a positive future for their ex-copine? Or seeing an ex-ex-ex-fling?—wooping synthesizers and a drum machine reintegrated with a dry thud bang. They’re not so much coming to a head as they are detonating a thought bomb. As if mid-composition Parker has come to epiphany (egads!) and reinvents the battery with manic compulsiveness. And it’s not so insane as it is just creative.

Yes I’m changing, yes I’m gone
Yes I’m older, yes I’m moving on
And if you don’t think it’s a crime
You can come along with me”

Kevin Parker, “Yes I’m Changing”

The key to understanding this record is realizing the absolutely neurotic nature of Kevin Parker’s discography, transforming each sonic and lyrical shift from intense introversion to lonerism to acceptance into epiphany, a constant current of self-improvement. “Reality in Motion” thrives on this momentum—is it all about learning pragmatism specifically in the context of flirting? Perhaps. But it is Kevin Parker songwriting on the edge of his instrumental instincts. There has been a great disservice done to Currents—an electropopping R&B record in hallucinogenic drag—in categorizing it but another popular neo-psychedelia record. Parker plays to the same inclinations that made Van Halen “Jump,” or rendered Yes “Owner of a Lonely Heart.” And he does it for an entire record. Don’t take Currents for just the hits. From sugar snap beats in “The Moment” to the oozing bass distortion of “Causing I’m A Man,” the record is hardly any filler and literally all ripper; even the B-Sides “Powerlines” and “Taxi’s Here” show this record could have been an hour long with ease, perfect for a mini road-trip.

 

Not that it already isn’t: the third time listening session set out on the car stereo. Fuck it, might as well get the trippin’ mojo on and ride this shit out on the road. Thus the writer, in his car at approximately 7:53PM, regarding the full moon bright, out of her harvest yellow phase, a plane journeys across the nightsky as Charon through the mist of a cirrus Styx and listening the guitar solo pluck his brainstem, “EVENTUALLLLLLY” moaning from the stereo, kick drum resetting the song, the Farfisa reentering the fray, setting it into tailspin, pausing the beat—INHALE—“EVENTUALLLLYYYY, IIIIIIIII”—BOOMeverything exhales, the beat, the synthesizers, the organs, everything exhales and everything slaps. Twinkling piano melodies and whirring melodies trail the writer off to the thoughts of ex-girlfriends, bad trips and friends deceased too young telling him that Currents’ track 5, “Eventually,” was a new favourite, souvenirs all happening in the same car to the same record on the same track replayed in the writer’s head at the same time. The writer doesn’t cry, but he does experience a crisis. Everything exhales and everything slaps.

And that is where this album’s conceit links listener to song to other listeners—it is wrapped in breakups, late night drives, writing fevers, card games, acid trips, sex and chores. It has scored and mapped out the writer’s brain so thoroughly to separate listener from product is to separate artist from piece. This is not a record, Currents is a totem, one of the indisputable records of the 2010’s, a generational milestone in the same vein as Dark Side of the Moon or Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club or Nevermind, and yet even that does not matter.

It does not matter that Currents is Kevin Parker’s or anybody else’s totem. This is a record of my decade because everything exhales and everything slaps.


Tame Impala – Currents

Album Artist: Kevin Parker
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Modular/Universal
Genre: Psychedelic Rock, Alternative R&B, Electrofunk

Tracklist:

  1. “Let It Happen”
  2. “Nangs”
  3. “The Moment”
  4. “Yes, I’m Changing”
  5. “Eventually”
  6. “Gossip”
  7. “The Less I Know the Better”
  8. “Past Life”
  9. “Disciples”
  10. “Cause I’m a Man”
  11. “Reality in Motion”
  12. “Love/Paranoia”
  13. “New Person, Same Old Mistakes”

 

Anak Ko: Jay Som’s lo-fi ambitions win out

a1017312610_16If you know anything about dreampop, you might have heard of the name Jay Som.

It’s the title for Melina Duterte’s project, based out of San Francisco and now three albums deep in the always-underground indie dreampop scene. And one that should be seeing some actual validation now.

Because Melina Duterte’s latest project Anak Ko, is a fucking good goddamn LP.

Whether the eight-bit keyboard to “Crown,” the shining synth phrase ending to “Anak Ko,” the lazing, acoustic, Dream Academy violins on “Nighttime Drive” or the charging energy of “Superbike,” this is a record of callbacks made into stunning continuity with the rest of dreampop and the independent female singer-songwriter revival. There’s nothing raw about “If You Want It” or “Tenderness” or “Nighttime Drive” or even the title track. There’s nuance to the way they wave in and out of each other. It’s an LP ingratiating Galaxie 500 listeners with fans of Lucy Dacus and Allanis Morrisette, reconciling Weed with the cure, while still finding times to pick on shoegaze phase outs and mimic down tuned guitars, hence the perfect ménage-à-trois between grunge, shoegaze and lo-fi that is “Peace Out.” By the time that guitar solo blasts, Duterte’s impulses are validated, they are balanced and they are wonderful to behold.

And that’s the real risk here: Duterte’s playing a genre that can be utterly repulsive.

All new dreampop/shoegaze hybrids want to get in on this craze and so make their new™ and original© take on a genre that’s been so stale it’s only seen three bands really shake things up: Galaxie 500, Medicine and the xx2.

Most standard dreampop wants to paint life in some disaffected John Hughes flick, a Ferris Bueller’s Day Off where the only thing Ferris does is go to the mall and stare at the glass pane sunlight coming down off of four tabs his buddy Cameron gave him so that “he could have a real good time” for his next “big day off.” But not every comedown a good movie or good album makes and this is where dreampop seems to live: a perpetual state of “whaaa?” Unable to complete a phrase, no less a song. They stick to what they know: mindless noise, hopelessly buried melodies and airy vocals, all muttering the underwhelming sound of “k.”

At least, that was my first impression of Everybody Works, the mediocre follow-up to the already spotty demotape of Turn Into, which I appreciated much in the way that John Cusack appreciates the tape handed to him by two skateboarders with a dream. There wak Ko is the project most people heard possible on Everybody Works and the record I’ve wanted since listening to Turn Into—the potential made into the real—a singer-songwriter record double-dipped in dreampop and sealed with lo-fi.

Now if only I could buy it in magenta.


1 Listening to the Shoegaze originators, My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive and Ride, one is struck by the impeccable depth of sound and ability to recover and recap these moments with a solid, if dissonant, tune. If the Righteous Brothers were looking for an unchained melody, then Kevin Shields wanted to find a shackled sound. To detail the sheer heaviness of being with a great drone, to encapsulate the concrete jungle into black vinyl walls. The brilliance is that while Shields describes fifty shades of grey in a midnight cell, he then takes that one moment to explain love in an orange jumpsuit. These aren’t just simple motions to go through, but emotions to play for and with.

Which is an instant plus for purchasing considerations, if not in and of itself an indiehead flex. Special editions, man special, editions.

Jay Som – Anak Ko
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Polyvinyl
Genre: Dreampop, lo fi Rock, Singer-Songwriter

Tracklist:

  1. “If You Want It”
  2. “Superbike”
  3. “Peace Out”
  4. “Devotion”
  5. “Nighttime Drive”
  6. “Tenderness”
  7. “Anak Ko”
  8. “Crown”
  9. “Get Well”

Release Date Buffet: October 2019

October 4th

Angel Olsen – All Mirrors
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Jagjaguwar
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.
Link

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.
Link

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.
Link

Gold Celeste – The Gentle Maverick
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Self-Released
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.
Link 

Julie’s Haircut – In the Silence Electric
Producer: Self-Produced
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.
Link

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Ghosteen
Producer: Self-Produced
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.
Link

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.
Link

Wilco – Ode to Joy
Producer: Self-Produced
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.
Link

Indieheads weekly roundup here!

October 11th

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.
Link

Blue Hawaii – Open Reduction Internal Fixation
Producer: Self-Produced
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.
Link

Golden Dawn Arkestra – Darkness Falls on the Edge of Time
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: self-released
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.
Link

Julien Chang – Jules
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Transgressive
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.
Link

Kim Gordon – No Home Record
Producer: Justin Raisen, Shawn Everett
Label: Matador
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.
Link

La Féline – Vie Future
Producer: Xavier Thiry
Label: Kwaidan
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.
Link

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.
Link

Wet Tuna – Water Weird
Producer: Self-Produced
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.
Link

Indieheads weekly roundup here!

October 18th

Ariel View – Until My Lungs Are Cleared
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Epitaph
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.
Link

Béret – Jesus White
Producer: Self-Produced
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.
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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.
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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.
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Garcia Peoples – One Step Behind
Producer: Self-Produced
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.
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Strawberry Girls – Tasmanian Glow
Producer: Self-Produced
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?”
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Tourist – Wild
Producer: Self-Produced
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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Indieheads weekly roundup here!

October 25th

Anna Meredith – FIBS
Producer: Self-Produced
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.
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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.
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Dry Cleaning – Boundary Road Snacks and Drinks EP
Producer: Self-Produced
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.
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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.
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The Growlers – Natural Affair
Producer: Self-Produced
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?
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Hemlock Erst & Kenny Segal – Back at the House
Producer: Self-Produced?
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.
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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.
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Leprous – Pitfalls
Producer: Self-Produced w/ David Castillo
Label: InsideOut
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.

*shudders*
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Lost Film – Zero Summer
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Self-Released
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.
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Pharaoh Overlord – 5
Producer: Self-Produced
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.
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Qrion – Waves (EP)
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Anjunadeep
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.
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Shana Falana – Darkest Light
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Arrowhawk
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.
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Indieheads weekly roundup here!
HiphopDX monthly roundup here!
Consequence of Sound forecast here!

Release Date Buffet: September 2019

September 6th

Bag Raiders – Horizons
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Universal Music Australia
Genre: Dance, Electropop

Australian duo Bag Raiders have heard enough of me japing about their memed existence. So really what do we have here on Horizons? Who did they make this music for, the club or the home? Well, ostensibly, tracks like “How Long,” “Wild At Heart,” and “Back to Myself,” the three main cuts of this record, could all stand a club remix. And there’s plenty of parts in this record which maintain EDM integrity; breakbeat intros, bass and drum slaps, tropical house tempo, a topical fixation on love. And I don’t care how much artists comment on the polychromatic subject, but sometimes there really are only so many ways you can skin a cat. But eh, there’s my problem with a whole subset of music rather than just Bag Raiders. Yet it is also a problem I have with this record: the parts suggest so much more than the lyrics deliver. And I know sometimes most people don’t listen to the lyrics and I know I don’t hear every lyric on first go, but damnit, why should keep tuning in when people are gonna bleat on about the found love, the lost love, the broken love, the rebuilt love, the love that binds, the love the envies, the love that kisses, the love that stalks, the love that isn’t love at all and the love that blah blah blah blah blahs.
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Bat for Lashes – Lost Girls
Producer: Self-Produced w/ Charles Scott IV
Label: AWAL
Genre: Electropop, Synthwave

At first note of Natasha Khan’s voice of this record, I had to ask does she sound very much like HAIM or does HAIM very much mimic her? Well she does very much remind me of the sisters indie, but this is all coincidental; Lost Girls just calls for a much huskier, darker tone of voice than any of Khan’s previous efforts as Bats for Lashes. The Bride and certainly The Haunted Man were airy, not necessarily uplifting, but uplifted. Lost Girls brings us back down to Earth, a cyberpunking, synthwaving earth, mind you, but Earth nonetheless. If you’ve followed her career since Fur and Gold, you’d know too that’s she’s played with the Goth angle of electropop for just over a decade, but now instead of whisking and fretting over insomnia and boys, she’s gone for a Banarama meets Kate Bush empowerment angle for the Lost Girls of a gender-bent Neverland led by Tiger Lily. But really she’s just flicking through the pages of Eighties synthwave artists, drinking in the Banarama, the Cyndi Lauper, and the Blue Nile while indulging classics like the Cure and Kate Bush to craft her most listenable record yet.
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Blushing – Blushing
Producer: Elliott Frazier
Label: Self-Released
Genre: Dreampop, Shoegaze

If you’ve been following the Total Trash podcast, you’d know my friend Kelly is a grand fan of My Bloody Valentine, sealed in ink, and an even bigger proponent for listening to their magnum opus Loveless. I’ve yet to do that, but I’ve undoubtedly listened to a great deal of records influenced by the whole shoegaze movement. Blushing is one of those records. If nothing else because on their biography they reference Lush, The Sundays, Cocteau Twins and My Bloody Valentine without much prompting. Dual bandleaders Michelle Soto and Christina Carmona (reader’s note: now that’s a fucking rock and roll name) had been honing their skills in Austin, prepping for his record with EP’s Tether and Weak and I’m pleased to say Blushing features no repeats; it’s all new material. Moreover, they blur that line between dreampop and shoegaze to their benefit, because that line is already blurry as is. The general consensus being that dreampop is a more synthesizer heavy version of shoegaze. Either way, this is top form feel-it-not-hear-it, drool-on-your-shoes music and it’s a goddamn shame they only have a hair over 4,000 followers. Where are all these shoegaze fans I keep hearing about? They must be dreamin’.
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EXEK – Some Beautiful Species Left
Producer: Self-Produced by Albert Wolski
Label: sdz
Genre: Post-Punk, Krautrock

Australia might be my favourite music making continent right now. If somebody said rock n’ roll was dead, point to the various bands coming out of the Land Down Under as proof: rock still lives. Yes, their government might decidedly be all cock n’ balls and no brains (Anglophones assemble!), but that’s because the smarts are firmly in other industries, such as music. Psychedelic Rock, Post-Punk, Electronic (in all its forms, really) the Australians are at the forefront of the global music industry. Thanks to the internet, their audience expanded past a piece of 20 million to smorgasbord of billions for potential listeners. And that gives us bands like EXE, ready to make amends for their underextended pose for a long-player (A Casual Assembly is as advertised length-wise) by releasing this 37-minute reach for paradise between two genres: Krautrock and Post-Punk. It’s all very mechanical, dare I say German, Authobahnesque to a point I find hilarious considering Australian freeways are lined with speed cameras. But consider this: IDLES have proven that the market for industrial ambience and punk have some merit for discussing post-post-post-post-post-modernist themes. So why not post-punk? The first three tracks, “Hobbyist” “Lobbyist” and “Commercial” are a bit hard for the hard of hearing, was the music intended to say more than the words? I suppose so, but “How the Curve Helps” is perhaps worth the admission price, moving somewhere between Bauhaus and David Bowie circa The Man Who Sold The World.
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Frankie Cosmos – Close It Quietly
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Sub Pop
Genre: Singer-Songwriter

I’m much a fan of this general movement of female singer-songwriters posing under their indie outfits (as long as they don’t dabble in sadgirl acoustics), if nothing else because that’s what the boys have been doing since forever. I’m not much a fan, however, of the Tony Molina style for songwriting. Short compositions can be great thoughts, but I’d hardly call them songs, maybe more like isolated movements. Shocker, longwinded writer showcases distaste for brevity. Oh the romantic in me dies hard for the variated medley, not just the single melody, and he wants to speak and speak and speak on that point. But bandleader Greta Kline has shown no sign of giving up on her fleeting thoughts—she’s just written more: 21 pieces to fill 39 minutes, as it were—and I suppose she has more of a grasp on the new millennium attention-span, you’ve got 2 minutes to prove your point, no more. So Frankie Cosmos has written a sort of concept record for all those afflicted with a serious case ADHD. The songs are interchangeable and the record itself plays like an extended suite broken down its parts and parcels. And when I think about it that way, it becomes a much more palatable experience.
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Guaxe – Guaxe
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: OAR
Genre: Psychedelic Rock, Tropicalia

Guaxe is as it’s name sounds: babble. And the eponymous debut of this tropicalia psychedelic rock band doesn’t do much to change that, nor do I think they really have to. It’s 27 minutes of blues, psych and tropics, it’s Os Mutantes playing “When the Levee Breaks,” it doesn’t overextend its stay—once again, only 27 minutes means you have limited time to overexpose (and please, don’t try to prove me wrong on this)—it’s healthy enough a runtime to be marked and short enough to be a blip. Personally, I like this marked blip. And I keep forgetting how much I enjoy the rockier moments of this record. No doubt, both Sid Barrett and Ariel Pink would enjoy this record, hell there are times where I’m wondering if Guaxe found old Bowie demos from The Man Who Sold the World. And I’ll be honest, I really like that.
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L’épée – Diabolique
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: a Records
Genre: Psychedelic Rock

It was an old friend from my college fraternity that opened me to the mind of Anton Newcombe when he passed along Musique de film imaginé and asked if I could translate the title. As far as first translation jobs go, it was quite easy. As far as records go, it was an ambient attempt at yéyé. Fit for purpose as the soundtrack to a post-industrial social commentary rendered on 35 mm film and directed by François Truffaut, naturally. And naturally, it was that Mr. Newcombe would be interested by la psychedelie française; current psychedelic practices are all about the pitter patter water sounds you can’t hear and French is all about the sounds you don’t say. Parfait exemple: L’épée is a contraction of “Le” (pron. Luh) and épée (pron. Ep-ey) but is pronounced like “lep-ey” rather than “luh ep-ey.” And while that’s an easy one, try as I might, French lyrics still sound like greek to me. I’m picking out words, which means Emannuelle Seigner’s efforts on this record are all still sweet sounds while The Limiñanas, Lionel & Marie and Newcombe craft this long-player into an altogether Anglophonic sonic. You’ll find more references to the Kinks, the Troggs and Link Wray, hell, more Maghrebin percussion and shoegaze, than you’ll find references to Mr. Hallyday or Marie Laforet. Still, the mod rock, shoegaze and French paroles check my boxes. I just wish they checked ‘em in permanent ink.
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Lower Dens – The Competition
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Ribbon Music
Genre: Synthwave

The latest product from Lower Dens represents a natural trajectory for the band, which has been edging away from their lo-fi alternative sensibilities towards snappy eighties synthwave since the debut. Now Jana Hunter just looks like Annie Lennox with a diet of pure Bangles and Fine Young Cannibals, upbeat but still terminating with all that techno menace. As it were, the record is an adjacent release to Natasha Khan’s Lost Girls and will make anyone missing that synthesizer heavy, dance-lite new wavery happy. Good deal, my mother’s been wearing out her copy of Dare for a while now.
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Mermaidens – look me in the eye
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Flying Nun
Genre: Neo-Psychedelia, Alternative Rock

I was ready to roll my eyes at “Crying in the Office,” the last thing I needed in life was the sadgirl music to begin overwhelming the neo-psychedelic basis of this record. No don’t hate me, because my distaste for sad girl/boy music does not mean I think artists can not make depressing music, they just need to master it better and work with different aspects of the emotion, rather than sticking on the one note “woe is me” routine which belies a certain sparseness. Yes, yes, the lack of melody is meant to be some contrarian phrase, a point of order that sometimes the music doesn’t play, but after twelve cuts?1? You’re bleeding my dry here. So with that, yes I twinged with pain on the opening track of look me in the eye, you might even say I was triggered. But press on and it all falls away, the second instrumental on “Crying in the Office” pulls out more than whatever hypnagogia could give you. Neo-psychedelia sure, indie rock no, garage rock yes. By “bastards” they are out and out snarling with PJ Harvey, forget about Cat Power and Warpaint, however healthy their influence is throughout the record, because the real interesting parts on this long-player happen when vocalists Gussie Larkin and Lily West start growling and playing and railing against an office that did them wrong.
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Moonchild – Little Ghost
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Entertainment One Music
Genre: Neo-Soul, Downtempo

Earlier this year I saw J-Calvin, a small independent souljazz troupe from Colorado, live at Oregon Country Fair touting J-Dilla-type beats and a sense for all things smooth. Their lead singer even sounded like Esperanza Spalding, while fulfilling a role akin to Billie Holiday in Count Basie’s orchestra of swing. Well, if you switched J-Calvin’s Heart Glow with Moonchild’s Little Ghost no one would be able to say it sounds like a different genre. Which bodes well for J-Calvin; they have a sound adjacent to Moonchild. Except for one thing: Moonchild is a little more expansive. It’s not just about the neo-soul ballads or the percussion clicks, but just the fact that Moonchild have been in this game a bit longer, their sound is honed, their name is easier to recognize. I could call J-Calvin muzak and it might taint how you hear their sound, I call Moonchild muzak and, what, is that the worst I really can do? Little Ghost would shrug it right off and keep singing, keep putting people into its relaxed dreamy stasis just fine, and I would just sound like Wynton Marsallis with a bad attitude and no horn.
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Octo Octa – Resonant Body
Producer: Self-PRoduced
Label: T4T LUV NRG
Genre: Deep House, Breakbeat

It must be said, or perhaps it will be said, a good breakbeat cut is worth its weight in drum machines. Something about filtered percussion slicing into the time signature of a deep house record is beyond gorgeous. And for me it’s the missing piece to good electronic music. Octo Octa figures out what Avalon Emerson, Daphni, hell, even Peggy Gou cannot seem to grasp: deep house is only so much of a genre and there’s only so much a single genre can do for a long-player before making it stale. Resonant Body even passes the sleep test, which is how I grade all good electronic music—the beats and rhythms should pet the cerebral stem till hair stands on end as you sleep. This record does that, mostly, ok so “Spin Girl, Let’s Activate!” might be the one exception, but fuck me, if this record aspired to be a SUBTRKT effort I think I’d venture for death rather than suffer a boredom under the eyelids rather than tessellate wonderland tales of a deep sleep with good soundtracks that include Jamie xx’s In Colour, Against All Logic’s 2012-2017 or Octo Octa’s Resonant Body.
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Secret Shame – Dark Synthetics
Producer: Ricky Olson
Label: Self-Released
Genre: Post-Punk, Darkwave

You know, when I popped on this record, I expected to hear some sort of umbrous undertow, some sort of abstract menace that made good scary Cure records and was the modus operandi for groups like paranoid android Radiohead or the too-cool-to-be-emo Gorillaz. But darkwave consistently fails to deliver my inner existential Joy Divisions. I ask you: can someone cut happiness in half with portents of climate annihilation or wondering of World War III? Perhaps, but if you really want to gouge your own enjoyment of life in general, find the worst darkwave possible, SoundCloud highly recommended. The internet, ladies and gentlemen. It’s not that I hate the genre, I just despise it’s emphasis on everything Bauhausian rather than venturing out to something more. They don’t even need to reach too far; anything by the Cure would do. Synthesizers are all well and good, but when was the last time you thought about the jazz piano riff on the end of “Every Planet We Reach is Dead?” That’s right: never. And you should have, because it’s these small moments in between your normal sound that provide evidence for an artist’s place among the essential. I never hear that in darkwave, no one has the stomach to use something other than Roland 808’s and fucking Rhodes pianos for forty minutes! Not even Depeche Mode had the nerve to do this. So, I put on Secret Shame’s Dark Synthetics because I thought the post-punk advertisements would save me.

They did not. They made 27 minutes feel like an hour.
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September 13th

Charli XCX – Charli
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Asylum Records UK
Genre: Electropop, Bubblegum Bass, Dance

Much ado about the deconstructed-prefix craze that artists like Blanck Mass and Beat Detectives take this year. Random instrumentation seems to have brought back the thrill for these guys and in the case of Flume, a certain degree of recuperated critical respect. But here we have Charli XCX declaring “it’s all electropop to me” on her latest LP, Charli. And no, I’m not saying she made a deconstructed record and didn’t know it. I’m saying deconstructed house as a genre and particularly it’s status as a style en vogue means that when I hear Charli get a little weird with it, I have the reflex to think “oh deconstructed!” Bad habits die hard they say. And so do long albums. And this album is long, including HAIM and Lizzo, Charli’s accumulated quite the number of features: Clairo, Yaeji, Sky Ferreira, Troye Sivan, the list goes on. And while I may have found the HAIM feature forgettable and the Lizzo feature neither here nor there, I did enjoy Sivan’s work on “2099.” Because frankly, it was getting hard not to tune out by the midway point, she’s flipping through this features and her own songs like dusty vinyls in the recent arrivals bin and it sounds like sensory overload. Too much, too fast, too long; a hard sell, even for me.
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Devendra Bahart – Ma
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Nonesuch
Genre: Singer-Songwriter, Indie Folk

It seems to me that this man likes Leonard Cohen, and I’m not saying that because he helped produce a Leonard Cohen cover album if my Wikipedia research is to be believed. It’s because you listen to this man’s voice and you can’t help but hear a lighter version of that gravelly, two cigarettes and a bottle of whiskey drawl of Leonard Cohen. Maybe he only smokes one cigarette. Or maybe he forgoes the whiskey. Who knows. But if Ma is light on the substances, it’s not light on the substance, nor the worldliness. Which some people might scoff at, “worldliness” often does get twisted into a fake sense of substance. But I trust that a man who moved to Paris to kickstart his career will have some degree of worldliness. Anyways who the fuck am I to judge his character? Dude sounds like Leonard Cohen and has delivered a solid folk record for your lazy Sunday. For the people who enjoy music as a textural wallpaper, that’s more than enough.
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Djo (Joe Keery) – Twenty Twenty
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Self-Released
Genre: Indie Rock, Psychedelic Rock

It took some time for me to be brave enough to attack this record. The weeks before putting it on felt like a death knell. Was I actually going to dislike Steve Harington again? Associated act Post Animal has kind of experienced the slow death of having a good record for a year and then slowly being tuned out for other artists and I fear that this would happen with Keery’s artistic pseudo “Djo.” However, there were glaring items for why When I Think of You In A Castle found itself listing despite being a solid debut. One, it repeats itself by record’s end, two the influences were quite static. Only so much can be written vis-a-vis your Black Sabbath, King Gizzard, Ty Segall influences and the like. So what’s a poor Djo to do? Create the recorded sound of Tame Impala, Rupert Holmes and ELO having a baby of course. Really, you’d never see the Pina Colada guy coming, and the moment your realize “Personal Lies” sounds like a recharged slice of Partner In Crime, you begin to laugh. Djo might be dressed in a trench coat and sunglass—mustachioed to boot—but he knows how to have fun. And no matter the subject matter on this record, he’s having fun for a solid hour.
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Jerkcurb – Air Con Eden
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Handsome Dad Records
Genre: Neo-Psychedelia, Hypnagogia

I listened to this record with my dog.

No seriously, we sat on the couch, I put this record on and we just chilled. And I’ll be honest, this is how I’ve wanted to experience every Beirut record ever. But the sonic just isn’t there sometimes. And if you want to know what soulcrushing disappointment is like, it’s wanting to like an artist and not being able. Hence Air Con Eden, which is your latest Avey/Pink disciple disc out this month, putting you in between states of consciousness and soundtracking your lazy afternoon. Maybe him and Bahart should get a room.
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KAZU (of Blonde Redhead) – Adult Baby
Producer: Self-Produced w/ Greg Saunier, Ryuichi Sakamoto
Label: Adult Baby?
Genre: Indie Folk, Folktronica

Kazu Makino decided here to make an ambient folktronica record much on a similar path as Blonde Redhead’s last record, Barragan, which featured her voice heavily while keeping catchy melodic phrases to a minimum. For Adult Baby, she has shed the melodies almost completely in favour of sculpting out sonic entirely based on her breathing pattern. Ethereal is an understatement. And it all seems a bit weird for, to my ears, sounds like a long-player of adult lullabies, a record meant to put people to sleep. Not because this is new, mind you, Cross Record pushed such an idea to new heights lows with their eponymous junior effort and Emily Cross’ other project, Loma, dabbles in the remains of Blonde Redhead b-sides quite frequently to great effect. But because of how a child’s lullaby is founded upon a solid but soothing melody while music like Emily Cross’ is hydrophobically melody-averse. But that’s Emily Cross, and this Kazu Makino, who deals in much softer and less apocalyptic flavours even when steering clear of overt melody. The melody is still there, it’s just all in her voice. And the question for enjoying this record, as with Cross Record is if you’re willing to enjoy that and pretty much only that.
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The Paranoyds – Carnage Bargain
Producer: Self-Produced (?)
Label: Suicide Squeeze Records
Genre: Riot Grrrl, Garage Rock

The Paranoyds are like La Luz but with an energy that is more manic, alive and fierce. Fierce as in they’d probably eat my throat out for daring to call them such a monotone moniker as “fierce.” What a joke they’d think of me. It’s like calling a Florida State Police stop on Cops “wild” or a Portland Police stop in the Pearl “bizarre.” That doesn’t cut it. But what does cut is the way the Paranoyds take their one-stop shop of blazing riot grrrl through a whirlwind 30 minutes of surf punk boogie and post-punk disaffectionism. Ah, to be young and alive; oh shit, they’re the same age as me! So what’s my excuse? Have I just been working on my boyfriend degree for the least four years without knowing it, should I get off my ass and be a person or will The Paranoyds just be that person for me?
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Pixies – Beneath the Eyrie
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Infectious
Genre: Alternative Rock, Indie Rock

I don’t feel like I’m listening to a proper Pixies record until the opening guitar riff of “Bird of Prey,” which would be great if the preceeding nine tracks sounded like nothing we had heard before, something of an artifact drowned in the nu, but they’re not: it’s the commencement of a respite from the Pixies doing absolutely non-original alternative rock material, which is a shame for a band I considered adjacent to many genres, but never part and parcel to one—as all the best albums if not bands are. I still consider them like Pink Floyd: “this, but also much more.” Alternative, but beyond such. Yet now they’re no longer beyond, they’re just behind.
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(Sandy) Alex G – House of Sugar
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Domino
Genre: Indie Folk, Neo-Psychedelia

(Sandy) Alex G is sparkling this time ‘round for Domino. And I don’t know if that’s a good thing. The element that most struck me about Alex G is how his lo-fi tendencies lent such a palpable dustiness to the music. Like an oddly comfortable beach bungalow with an old guitar and a weathered keyboard and some old, small amps. It wasn’t bedroom music played because of any social limitation (your parents in the bedroom next door) but because of a technical limitation—it was deliberate that Alex G kept the music musty so that when he finally found the good melody, it washed over his listeners like an ocean breeze, a tide roar or a crashing wave. Such was his wont, such was his gift to listeners. And alas, I am complaining ever so slightly that Alex G is changing his sound when in any other case, this would be cause for excitement, an “oh my God, it’s happening!” moment that deserves some commendation for its risk taking nature. But if anything, I would have expected a more rock oriented adaptation, not a shinier electronic one. Who knows, maybe now Alex G has polished his seashells, he might find more people perusing his wares.
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September 20th

Chastity Belt – Chastity Belt
Producer: Self-Produced with Jay Som
Label: Hardly Art
Genre: Indie Rock, Jangle Rock

Two things: Chastity Belt are the standard bearers for the too-emotionally-exhausted-to-riot-girls and vocalist Julia Shapiro is the singer-songwriter of the worn out manic pixie girl aesthetic as Carole King was the icon of the post-bohemian college gal. Ladies who prefer the frumpish sweater to the skintight leather. And this was all done before Jay Som stepped into the picture to co-produce the Belt’s eponymous fourth effort. I can detail how this record differentiates from its predecessors in two words: more whisp. Really, Chastity Belt is an expansion of the calmer influences on Time to Go Home and I Used to Spend So Much Time Alone, a long-player’s worth of cuts as softspoken as “Complain” or “On the Floor” but it’s only with Jay Som that Chastity Belt lay out this long-player like a Julien Baker album. Which is fine, if that’s to your taste, but I didn’t come here for washed out emotions, I came here for the girls who might not shout their displeasure but still outwit and maybe sneer at that which disturbs their world. I’m not feeling it on their latest record.
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Fly Pan Am – C’est ça
Producer: Redwan Moumneh
Label: Constellation Records
Genre: Progressive Rock, Post-Rock

There’s a certain degree of bullshit we should all be willing to put up with; the clenched smile of an American waitress, the waiting room at a doctor’s office filled with last month’s news, the missing item in a superstore aisle—y’know, the exact one you needed—or the driver who pulls out in front of your forty-mile-an-hour ass only to slow down to 30. And we all have to put up with it like that waitress: with a clenched smile. You’re told to be polite, not friendly. And Fly Pan Am’s return with C’est ça is all politeness. They’re holding back because they’ve got some points of order to make: one, metal vocals are cool; two, progressive rock doesn’t need words, anyways; and three, quiet-loud is so passé. The fourth album from these Quebecois post-rockers penetrates the truth of post-rock formulae like a needle to a bubble. Using electronic segues to craft giant sonic suites from ant like volumes, the record only reaches its head at “One Hit Wonder” and then surfs from there with its vocal textures (really, the words never mattered in a post-rock record) on the waves of metal and shoegaze over a reef of old motherboards and sound cards all reverberating with an oceanic white noise. This all being summoned from a sputtering, crackling livewire introlude, “Avant-gardez vous,” Fly Pan Am finds time to both deconstruct (oh there’s that word again) post-rock and also make a record worth listening. All the credit to these Montreal troubadors.
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Foliage – Take
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Z Tapes Records
Genre: Jangle Rock, Dreampop

Manuel Joseph Walker (dit Foliage) has a very uncanny ability to reduce genres like electropop, hypnagogia, dreampop and synthwave to their boilerplate techniques yet entirely engaging on Take. More importantly, Foliage can ride that Eighties nostalgia brought in force by Stranger Things with a degree of authenticity: almost nothing on Take went unforecasted by III, Truths or Silence and the oldest element, the jangle, doesn’t sound out of place. In that way, Walker is much like Beirut’s Zach Condon. Sure the music is quietly beautiful, but it also feels quiet, unassuming and therefore overlooked. And to be fair to Condon, I confess a general dislike of his music as a concept. Restraint and horns just never works for this brash, abrasive rock n’ roll fan. But there are no horns on Walker’s efforts and I hope there never are unless he decides to dive whole hog into the world of big-band jazz. Until then he’s just going to quietly collect competent room record after room record. Hardly a sexy, druggy, rock n’ roll existence, but I have to ask, would I really want to live like that either?

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somesurprises – somesurprises
Producer: Paul Walsh
Label: Drawing Room Records
Genre: Shoegaze, Dreampop

I finally broke and listened to it today. No, not somesurprises, I listened to Loveless. And I learned nothing. Nothing that I already didn’t know now (in meme form!): the balance between noise and melody is precarious and is what lends the genre its surprises and moments when respected. somesurprises respects this balance. For the most part. Expecting perfection at first or second record is the demand of a lunatic. But somesurprises have managed to deliver two very competent records in the space of a year. Intuition says that bandleader Natasha El-Sergany’s outfit is going to learn quickly, and make time for in-studio study. As of right now however, their potential far outweighs the product and listening to their second cropping makes this view only more tangible, if not tantalizing.
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slenderbodies – komorebi
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Avant Garden/Island
Genre: Alternative R&B

slenderbodies are falling upon us from indie label Avant Garden, which produced this years Emotional Oranges’ hit EP The Juice, Vol 1. But alternative is such a fluid prefix for any genre, no less rhythm and blues. Electronic influences are not necessarily alternative anymore, they’re expected, the rhythm guitar solo is standard to any neo-soul cut and the Timbaland snap beats are also on-brand for any self-respecting soul artist looking to make a hit. So what exactly does this album boast so alternatively? The Japanese influence; whether by using classical instruments from Nippon or just tuning their guitars to sound like, this record has the ambiance of an entrancing Shinto ritual, of watching Michio Miyagi playing Koto. So throw in those vocals that remind of Choker and I’m tentative to buy into these guys’ alternative cred. But I’ll need something more next record before I’m all in.
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Twen – Awestruck
Producer: Self-Produced (?)
Label: Frenchkiss Records
Genre: Shoegaze, Neo-Psychedelia

Awestruck is ostensibly what we all feel about this record upon first listen, yet here I am, only somewhat astonished on “Honey Smacks.” The bassline is just too tasty not to be noted. Otherwise, this is a record for the shoegaze kids, for the dribbler-stoners, for the ceiling-staring gamins of the new millennium and all that shite. Really, it’s just a genre heavy record made for anyone happy enough to have DISSONANCE and REVERB melt their face off in the glory of SOUND.
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Weird Owl – Wet Telepathy
Producer: Self-Produced w/ Jeffrey Berner
Label: Little Cloud
Genre: Psychedelic Rock, Indie Rock

I have never heard of Weird Owl before this album. But I suppose that’s true of most bands for the majority of these buffet posts. And as for Wet Telepathy, it’s the usual suspects of upbeat sixties-tinged garage. Get your money’s worth bumping “P.UM.P.” in your car, if you so incline. Nothing much else leaves me curious. What is curious, however, is that Weird Owl would opt for a 24-minute record when all their contemporaries usually expand minds on expanded tracklists. But I have to ask you: has anyone ever had an epiphany that’s lasted for an hour?

Whoa.
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September 27th

The Comet is ComingThe Afterlife EP
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Impulse! Records
Genre:
Nu Jazz, Jazz Fusion

If Trust In the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery was King Shabaka, Danalogue and Betamax’s statement to breathe deep and relax, then The Afterlife is the therapeutic aftermath, starting with a bizarre spoken word segment punctuated by Shabaka’s twisting saxophonic phrases. Q-Tip used to rap that hip-hop and bebop weren’t so different and I suppose The Comet is Coming just want to test this theory of cycles, but the fact still remains: everything else on this extended-player sounds relatively normal to what we heard earlier this year, all in formula and not far beyond what Channel the Spirits would have predicted—perhaps less jungle and more cosmic—I assume the reason for this companion record’s existence is the same Robert Plant’s Principle of Moments was to Pictures at Eleven: keep the ball rolling. And in that regard, the ball continues to roll all over The Afterlife.
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Girl BandThe Talkies
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Rough Trade
Genre:
Noise Rock, Post-Punk

I really like the twin denominations of new wave and post-punk. Because, like post-modernism or new age, they encompass a vagueness that allows mutually exclusive ideas to coexist if not cohabit the same philosophy. Oh and you can legitimately claim that post-modernism never ended, only began and anything since is to be prefixed with another post. I recently even saw the term “new wave of new wave.” However, we can all agree the joke wears out pretty fast and that continued use of prefixes sounds pretty uninspired. I don’t really want new wave revival nor do I want post-post-punk. If you want to call your band new wave and post-punk, that’s all fine to me, but if you want to go beyond those denominations, find a new name that doesn’t include the orthodox in it. And if you want to go beyond the sound, make sure there’s truly something controversial about it. Jeez, the more I talk about this the more I actually start to understand why I like Girl Band’s latest record, The Talkies. There’s a raw Irish frankness to their music, as if they recorded the long-player in abandoned industrial mills and post-apocalyptic housing developments. And there’s a willingness, like IDLES, to discuss troubles, be it personal, societal or musical. I wouldn’t know about if that’s the basis for the lyrical content, however, they cloak lead singer Dara Kiely’s voice in such a thick soup of white noise that deciphering his thick accent is like trying to find the sun in a thick fog.
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Heaven’s ClubHere There and Nowhere
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Profound Lore
Genre:
Shoegaze, Neo-Psychedelia

Alright, alright, I get that this a side project for lead guitarist Shiv Hevra of Deafheaven, I get that it’s a far more archetypal shoegaze sonic and I get that this is meant to be a sort of experiment with surreal. What I don’t get is how the lead singer Chris Natividad manages to sound like Thom Yorke, Damon Albarn and Chris Martin all in the same album. Someone explain this to me.
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Moon DuoStars Are the Light
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Sacred Bones
Genre:
Neo-Psychedelia, Psychedelic Rock

I have a general rule: the more you call something psychedelic, the less it actually is. Which puts psychedelic genres in a pretty bad spot, eh? Because clearly revealing the mind is the goal, it’s the end point, to melt the ego from the id and then rebuild it. A pretty far out and troubling predicament if the person resists such psychological ordeal. Hence, psychosis. Perhaps the truth of Moon Duo’s chosen genre is that, only after repeat listens, was I massaged into these moments of the eternal “whoa.” And I suppose that’s why it takes 45 minutes for an acid trip to kick and 2 hours for it to peak—the brain needs time before it fully acclimates to a substance trying to rewire it. And if there’s one thing I know about music, it’s a brain altering agent, and if there’s a second thing I know about music, all good music is naturally psychedelic. It doesn’t need to be categorized as such, it just will be. I’ve never considered Alt-J to play psychedelic rock, but aside from Steve Miller’s Fly Like an Eagle, no other album has really hit me like a full dose of lysergia other than An Awesome Wave. The only other addition as of late is CAN’s Tago Mago. And from there we can appreciate Moon Duo’s musicial lineage. Because if there’s one thing Moon Duo did, it was study their history: Stars Are The Light is product if Avey Tare and Brian Jonestown Massacre had a baby baby listened to the funkier tunes by CAN and Tangerine Dream. And that’s alright with, psychedelic or not.
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Telefon Tel Aviv Dreams Are Not Enough
Producer: Self-Producedµ
Label: Ghostly International
Genre:
IDM, Ambient, Downtempo

The term “Intellectual Dance Music” is the worst thing any music critic ever did to a burgeoning megagenre of music. After all, what makes any some such genre more intellectual than any other? Lyrics, if anything, might be the only true demarcation between smart and stupid because they can fundamentally change what a piece of music is discussing. Two problems however: one, people don’t usually bother with lyrics on first listen and two, electronic music doesn’t bother with ‘em much either. It’s mostly just single phrases and emotions. In that way I could see someone argue that electronic artists are more “musical” than most popular artists. Mainly because it would be me arguing that anything Rihanna does pales in comparison to what Nicolas Jaar does. But that still doesn’t absolve Telefon Tel Aviv or Nicolas Jaar from making some pretty flacid new age meditation music in the latter’s early stuff and the former’s latest project, Dreams Are Not Enough. Not that I suspect Tel Aviv to play any ambient tracks in a club except maybe as preparatory to the main set, but because ambient electronic music really has no excuse to give a person a poor excuse for rhythmic sound. Music is representative of people and people have heartbeats; ambient is representative of a coma and comas barely include a heartbeat. I don’t want to listen to coma music. I want to listen to living music.
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Release Date Buff: August 2019

August 2nd 

Ami Dang – Parted Plains
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Leaving Records
Genre: Neo-Psychedelia

It was a Thursday night out with friends, grabbing a bite at a deli/bistro in Southeast Portland where I laid it out: I don’t listen to singles. Not my thing. It’s not that I don’t listen to some songs on repeat (sometimes grievously so, over days), I just consider any single a b-side because if’s not on the long-player, then it’s not the A-material. See, now that’s what I prefer: long-players. Any schmuck can make a good song. Only an artist can make a good body of work. And most musicians are schmucks. Shit, I’m a schmuck—we all got suckered into this music industry thing! Talk about lowballing yourself. Well, at least we get to do something creative. I’ll pay the landlord on that. Anyways, Ami had me surprised; I did not expect all the synthesizers and the computers to incorporate the classic Sikh sitar nor did I expect the inverse, that sitar melts right into the technological mist, ferrying the midnight fog, carrying passengers to its destination. The absolute sublimity of each piece falling into the next is what I live for in music. Even if these pieces don’t actually jam into each other, the hint that they move together is a plus in my book.
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Black Milk – DiVE
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Mass Appeal/Computer Ugly
Genre: Jazz Rap, Conscious Hip Hop

Read through Black Milk’s biography and you’ll be hit with one phrase: “trusted virtuoso” that is enough to make any first impressionist such as myself pause to figure out if this is true. Unfortunately, the veracity of this career claim will have to be left for later, as from all points of his extended-player-but-not, DiVE, hits the bases of modern social conscious hip hop evolved from the likes of Jurassic 5, Tribe and the Soulquarian collective. Mixed together with eighties synthfunk flourish, downtempo beat considerations, a souljazz guitar-and-bass duo, and what should be acclaimed here is an album which stands unabashedly on its creator’s own strengths. There’s rarely a feature and most skip over; I’m just here for the Black Milk, I suppose, and the penmanship did not disappoint: “Watchin’ America’s dream sit right there/ That path to money put Blacks with money Seem like it’s America’s nightmare/ You die if you fight fair” alone is a better bar than anything Chance has released in the intervening three years.
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Cory Wong – Motivational Music for the Syncopated Soul
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Self-Released
Genre: Funk

This record is all about buttering you up; there’s a moment when I think Cory Wong’s about to break free from his metropolitan Eighties Police Procedural instrumentalisms and deliver something a little more concrete. For roughly 21 minutes, Wong submits us to a guitar-induced, saxophone heavy, Cagney & Lacey-type vanilla funk and then has the gall to take us through the emotional hassle of “Today I’m Going to Get Myself a Real Job.” And to some extent he got me, the motherfucker got me, because today I’m having a panic attack over working retail as a college graduate while I clean the house, clean the mind, review records and apply for jobs I actually want to do. No time for the anxious, I suppose. But it reeled me in for the rest of this record, maybe Wong’s ready to drop some knowledge on me. Enter “Companion Pass,” which also manages to tug on the ol’ heart string with some powerful motivational speaker lines before devolving into a 1-800-SALES-PITCH. Goddamnit. I just want to be motivated, Cory, not pandered to with the latest self-help book about my Defining Decade. And frankly, that’s all this long-player is.
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Cross Record – Cross Record
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Ba Da Bing!
Genre: Dreampop, Slowcore

Emily Cross’ latest eponymous work is an effort to comb through. Which means it succeeded: it is effectively slowcore, which is essentially dreampop for goths. Tape delay and looping abound in an indie vocalist long-player, a sort of dry snow ambiance of being in the middle of a north Texas prairie after snow. I don’t know if that actually happens anymore due to global warming, but hey, this is my memoir of things that may not have actually happened ™. As for Cross Record I would have been happy had this thing not happened between my ears. I love Emily Cross for her apocalypto-folk triphop records from Loma but Cross Record has always been more hit-or-miss, Wabi-Sabi being the most interesting project of the lot due to a passing flirtation with that music thing. No melodies though, this isn’t that kind of grilled cheese shack. Which makes Cross Record all the more bare: there’s not even much of a cart, just a girl with premade grilled cheeses singing songs of misery for a dollar. And I suppose by now you expect me to write that actually, Emily Cross can shut up and take all of my money, before opening up to sing again, but honestly, I’m just going to avoid further eye contact and act like this interaction never happened. It’s the only way to save face for a vocalist I enjoy very much.
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floral print – floral print (EP)
Producer:
Label: Tiny Engines
Genre: Jazz Rock

floral print’s second EP is a self-described deconstructionist record; taking airy jazz and droning garage to swirl it together in a most discomforting jazz rock formula; pieces which both want to engage in bebop whistle changes and shoegaze phase outs. One eye twitches, one eye glazes over. I let it play over a bit, repeat so I didn’t miss anything, but often I found myself checking out mentally by “alice arm” because of the warbling effects on this record, dizzying me into comatose. In this essence, I’m reminded of the more savage Jean Dubuffet pieces, regarding his wilder “art brut” work, it’s something you have to sit down for and even then, you’re going to miss a lot of the why. There’s also no need to simplify it further because, like this record and like Dubuffet’s art, much of the methodology is a matter of adulterated child’s play.
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Mechanical Museum – Three Simple Steps
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: //bloompunch
Genre: Downtempo, Indietronica

I go through spurts of Overwatch, playing like a madman for a few weeks before hibernating for a few months. In that short period time, I’m listening to as much video game music as possible without thinking. And indeed, I don’t much care for video game tunes. I have my favourites, sure, Age of Empires and a great deal of World Warcraft coloured my childhood palette and artists Darren Korb, Ben Prunty, Austin Wintory, FlybyNo, nervous_testpilot all rank highly in my personal library, but this isn’t music I come back to unless I’m replaying the game. Of that list, only FlybyNo and Ben Prunty are picked to soundtrack my sleep schedule. Otherwise, I’m looking elsewhere and thus my search for whatever video game Three Simple Steps could possibly soundtrack. And after thinking on it, I’m pretty settled: this is chillstep video game music for the disquieted soul, not bad, but also not very interesting. It’s the electronic equivalent of D.Va’s spa music.
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RF Shannon – Rain On Dust
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Keeled Scales
Genre: Americana, Psychedelic Folk

Not much ado about anything, Psychedelic folksters often fight themselves over how much ambiance is too much ambiance, how few notes is too few notes, thus reducing their efforts to pulpits of silence and eerie shoegaze drool psychedelia. Trickster Blues edged on that line between silence and sound to a fine, fine, fine degree. Fractions of an inch between the toe and the threshold. Much obliged RF Shannon finally decided to play melodies for their third effort in as many years; their muse being the open road in his odyssey for America and penning thoughts about vultures hanging in the air and the lonely passes of panhandle Texas. Shane Renfro doesn’t sound like someone weathered by a dust bowl, but he’s trying. And I suppose that’s as much as one can do when your muse is found in the great plains, in a place where only grass reaches for the sky, but for Rain On Dust, Renfro is still on the move, still searching for where the grass turns to gold. In a sick way, I hope he doesn’t find it—the journey is just getting interesting.
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String Machine – Death of the Neon
Producer: David
Label: String Machine
Genre: Folk Rock, Psychedelic Folk, Twee

In a recent conversation with the manager of Music Millennium here in Portland, I learned something very important: choosing a record based on the cover art is not uncommon. And yes, as an impressionist I do select the works I review for this thread based on three things in descending order: artist>artwork>genre. If I know the artist, of course I’ll be listening; if like the artwork, I’m probably going to listen; and if I’m versed enough in the genre, I possibly might listen to it. Psychedelic twee to put it lightly, is one of those things that interests me. So, was String Machine’s second record a worthy endeavour? Yes and no, precisely because it is dilly-dallying around its own tweeness for most of Death of the Neon, I mean how many times can one use transmigrate on a long-player before we wonder how many pages were in the lead singer’s thesaurus? Because this language is nothing compared to the feeling of the young and the restless caught in social paralysis and presented by String Machine’s folksy storytelling. If anything, I’m more irritated at how the orchestral musicality attempts to drown out these raw poetics rather than the non-ironic appreciation for twee music. Because for all the jibes of naivete in the music, none punches harder than the realization that it’s all a mask for a serious observer in lyricist David Beck’s mind.
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Tearjerker – Faded
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Almost Communist
Genre: Indie Rock, Hypnagogia

Tearjerker wants me to cry about something. I’m sure of it. They really do. There’s a fair share of piano for a hypnagogia record and a fair share of simulated eight-track taping for an indie rock record. It’s good stuff, but I’m not much one to cry over music when it’s the music attempting to force the issue. The only record which has gotten me in that vein is the xx’s Coexist, which is a fucking brutale record if you’ll excuse the French. Faded, meanwhile, is all very grand for bedroom indie rock, akin a lo-fi rendering of Florence & the Machine’s Ceremonials. And while I was blasted away by Florence Welche’s vocal performances on that record, I still didn’t cry over it. So Tearjerker is determined instead to pull a tear from my eyes by consistently prodding me and I’m not having it. I’ll turn the record off before it finally replays enough for me to postulate some moisture in these ol’ tear glands.
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Ty Segall – First Taste
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Drag City
Genre: Garage Rock, Psychedelia

I don’t much like Ty Segall; I know it’s wrong, but for some reason his image is linked to Mac DeMarco more than it is to John Dwyer. And one could say this is a dislike tied distinctly Mac DeMarco, but I dislike anyone I’m told I would like—which is ironic considering my subject matter—the first taste becomes tainted and it never seems to live up to expectations. I’ve been told Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is supposed to be Tarantino’s best and now, I’m worried it won’t hit me as well if I went in with no appraisals in mind. So let’s turn a phrase, “life: emergency evacuation of opinions required,” and listen to First Taste. All in all, a more listenable Ty Segall record (Deforming Lobes notwithstanding) in recent years. Fudge Sandwich being a smattering of semi-interesting covers, Joy managing to be too-dry-a-cider and Freedom’s Goblin going… oh shit, looks like I missed one. Well, my point still stands, Ty Rex is the only Ty Segall record I give a damn about, a mix of Lou Reed Metal Machine Music assholery with Electric Warrior lofi blues-balling. I don’t know if this is Ty Segall’s stab at “going pop” (du calme, my beating heart) or just a refresher for all of his nutty Laguna Beach fans looking for a bit of Fuzz, but the new record sounds more like stream of consciousness reads rather than curated artist’s statements and, well, First Taste must mean something, right?
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New Music Friday thread

August 9th

Bon Iver – i,i
Producer: Self-Produced w/ Chris Messina and Brad Cook
Label: Jagjaguwar
Genre: Folktronica

To date, Justin Vernon is the only indie artist I have ever felt truly pressured to listen to and thus have. I can say no to Radiohead. I can say no to Mitski. I can say no to Elliot Smith. I can say no to Sleater-Kinney. I can say no to Stephen Malkmus. Hell, I have said no to Jack White, Interpol, the Kings of Leon and Franz Ferdinand among others. And I could even say no to David Berman, though the winds might have a-changed on that one—morbid curiosity is a powerful motivator. But I quite literally have sat in front of my computer screen for hours and just repeated to myself: “you should listen to Bon Iver.” And today I did. I broke. I didn’t just listen to i,i but 22, A Million, Bon Iver and For Emma, Forever Ago all in that order. And I liked it. I’ve already seen him live too, a curio to my Pitchfork Paris escapades. But I want to make it clear, I didn’t like listening to most of Bon Iver. I liked the vanity of saying “I’ve listened to Bon Iver.” Because, aside from the always tried and true diehard fans (which seems to be 99% of /r/indieheads), I assume most people listen to Bon Iver to say they did. Once. And then proceeded to find other artsy folktronica bands to listen to once before moving on again. But I will admit to this: I did like listening to i,i and thus 22, A Million. I found i,i to pick up everything 22, A Million had put down. And if there was ever a reverse diptych for listeners to get into Bon Iver, these last two records are it.
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Bule – Wild Wild West Island
Producer: Frank Marino
Label: Stale Stew
Genre: Alt-Country, Country Rock

Bule being the brainchild of—well, considering they don’t have much info on the press release for this record, I have no idea, so I’m just going to assume—vocalist Benjamin Vallée, I’m trying to figure out what exactly what makes this outfit “alt-country.” Vallée is dressed smart, like a suited-up Sam Smith-Dan Auerbach lovechild with love for steel and bluegrass topped in a Stetson hat. And his record is smart, efficient country. I don’t hear a hint of alternative influences—just the classic bluegrass. In fact, I would say the only alternative thing about this record is the fact that Vallée sings like an Auerbach clone. Which isn’t really alternative at all. Just derivative.
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Electric Youth – Memory Emotion
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Last Gang
Genre: Synthwave, Dreampop

*synthwave warble starts* *foreboding Hammond* *airy vocals* *warbling intensifies* *instrumental breakdown* *telekinesis* *Mind Flayer meat monster* *Battle of StarCourt* *dramatic sacrifice* *bittersweet victory* *end song*

Yeah, I think that’s how this record happened. All I know is, I really liked the Battle of StarCourt.
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Josh Garrels – Chrysaline
Producer: Self-Produced w/ Isaac Wardell
Label: Small Voice
Genre: Singer-Songwriter, Folktronica

Who said you had to be Mr. Chet Faker to use that high pitch falsetto with folktronica muzak? Apparently, no one passed Josh Garrels the note for Chrysaline, or, to heap praise, he saw a market opportunity with the shedding of Nick Murphy’s alter ego and so took a chance. And now he shall be king of the Coachella ladies looking for some heartfelt folk-adjacent tunes for somesuch exploration of serendipitous being. If nothing else, these tunes will show up on the Apple Music playlists of the next Joel Barish or Walter Mitty, ripe for some fruiting emotion in those candid profile shots captured in ultra-high definition focus of a 60 frame-per-second spirit quest, once again on the serendipitous nature of being. And if that doesn’t sell you on this record, just know that it doesn’t matter what your or I or anybody thinks because it’s live and let live until we all die from letting live the innocuous treats and sugars of life as testament to the absence of clairvoyance and ad hoc philosophy of seeing and doing rather than premeditated reading and writing. Of course, it could just be a little bit of both, as Mr. Gump would say, a fistful of fatalism and a wad of free will, as I would wax. But then again, so does Josh Garrels, who could do with cutting 20 minutes off this record to keep the effort taut. As it is, the point’s been protracted—alas, serendipity is a daisy chain.
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Lea Porcelain – Love Is Not an Empire (EP)
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Self-Released
Genre: Alternative Rock, Post-Punk

There’s not much ado about space rock, is there? But as far a stylism goes, I didn’t expect a space rocking post-punk record with languished singer-songwriter lyrics. Yes, yes, what a bleating heart Markus Nikolaus has I will say while all my other clever turn of phrases can cram it. I must concur with the slogan, however, Love Is Not an Empire is just the euro-hippie tautology I need in life, though I’m pretty sure that phrase has been kicking it for a while now. Either way, producer Julien Bracht and Nikolaus use their skills to make an extended player for people in need of validation. They might not get much of the lyrics without headphones and they may not feel much different between “I Am Ok” until “Till The End,” but hey, this is just mint musical ice cream. There’s no judgement here, I’m feeling pretty validated.
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Loudness War – Mystifier Deluxe
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Melt House
Genre: Garage Punk, Psychedelic Rock

Another day, another crop of bands, another krautrock group. If nothing else, I consider myself a specialist of the psychedelic rock scenes. Still in need of more exploration but getting there. And I’m not mad, I’m just spoiled for choice. Shit, Loudness War made a better record than my dear Psychedelic Porn Crumpets this year, I’m ecstatic. Recently I was at a barbecue for Music Millennium to celebrate the joint. A local band called the Reverberations was playing and was staffed by the lovechild of Jack Black and every member of the Byrds on vocals, Geddy Lee ca ‘67 on the keyboards, Your Dad on the bass and Who Really Knew? on the drums. They weren’t too bad, but everything they could do Mystifier Deluxe does better. The biggest asset and drawback to living in the Sixties is there is no bite. There is no willingness to break the song somewhat. Loudness War may not entirely break their songs but will split your eardrums before Steve Spring croons like Roger McGuinn. Now that’s a crossover.
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Pete Yorn – Caretakers
Producer: Self-Produced w/ Jackson Phillips
Label: Shelly Music
Genre: Folk Rock, Singer-Songwriter

I don’t think he should, but for some reason or another Pete Yorn reminds me of Rory Gallagher. Must be the way he holds his guitar. Or the earnestness in his voice about what ills him. Pete Yorn is also approaching the same age as Rory Gallagher at the time of the latter’s death. But really, it’s just a legacy thing—Pete Yorn made folk-rock rock again (Musicforthemorningafter) and Rory Gallagher made blue-eyed blues blue again (Deuce). Well, anyways, Yorn’s latest record dabbles in synthesizers and a peppier sonic for some cuts and I’m wondering if he’s inclining towards a John Mayer approach, the skill being undeniable. But the skills is undeniable, and there’s a hint of that sad bastard music about him that makes you wanna drown in champagne and Prozac while listening all the way through Caretakers. But he’s just hopeful enough where you couldn’t bring yourself to destroy yourself after “Idols.” See, I like to believe I’m crazy enough to “lose my life out on a limb,” like CeeLo sings, but when Yorn purrs “Won’t you try,” he knows too well, I won’t.
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New Music Friday thread

August 16th

Channel Tres – Black Moses (EP)
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Godmode
Genre: Deep House, West Coast Hip Hop

Deep house aficionado, Channel Tres, has released unto his fans an EP, and being jaded as the moment of this writing, fucking finally. No help—I’ve been blueballed too hard by Peggy Gou’s albummixtapethingermajig which I really just wanted to be either an album or a mixtape, but not some softcore tease of both. Anyways Channel Tres doesn’t disappoint, and he doesn’t put your ass to sleep here. The Black Moses himself delivers the tablets with “Brilliant Nigga” (“Fuck with me, you’re toast, you know/ Nigga’s trippin’, I get cynical/ The drugs is in the groove, you know/ I’m the shit that got you comatose”) and “Sexy Black Timberblake” (“She know I knock the pussy out”). Oh yes, he’s catty and he’s a baddy. But don’t buy too hard what’s in his baggy, Channel Tres is still just putting on another face until he gets real with a mixtape.
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Dry Cleaning – Sweet Princess (EP)
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: IT’S OK
Genre: Post-Punk

Dry Cleaning’s debut extended-player is as the band’s name: dry. The guitars are a lo-fi rendition of what we heard earlier this year from Priests. The drums are live room recorded. The lyrics aren’t so much observational as they are field recordings of party conversations had while sipping on a lukewarm can, or a mock phone conversation with onomatopoeic “brrt-brrt’s”. Forget sampling this shit, the only ambiance at the joint is the pure post-punk Americana being delivered in East Side Londoner lite candor. Yet, even when lead singer Florence Shaw cusses out every which way on “Good Night,” I can’t help but feel he’s really just laying a lullaby to our ears, sweet nothings to make the mill effect of work, party, sleep, repeat seem worth it even when the effort is absolutely Sisyphean. Moreover, this little six-piece portfolio is mastered to taste: there is no social gathering ambiance. No clinking of bottles or overt fuzz of blown out speakers—the instruments, the voices, the rhythm are all the ambiance you need. This is when that mill finally produces flour; when for once the band in the living room/basement/garage is good.
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Firefriend – Avalanche
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Little Cloud
Genre:  Psychedelic Rock, Shoegaze, Darkwave

I actually love when a band isn’t on Spotify (or 100% on it, at least), I love when you have to plumb Bandcamp to find a good cut or simply stream from their website before deciding if, then and there, they are worth whatever you’re willing to pay. The only thing Spotify can half-promise is exposure, and even then it’s a tenth of a promise. A fraction of a cent. And this fact separates the weak from the chaff. If you really love a band, buy a ticket, buy a shirt or buy the record. That’s the statement most groups make when they put themselves on BandCamp. Stream me once, buy me forever. And so, after streaming Sao Paolo darkwave group Firefriend’s fifth record, Avalanche and enjoying the pitch black noise of tropicalismo waves beaching on Robert Smith vocals and wry Nick-Cave-by-the-beach lyrics, (if any at all, the majority of these tracks are instrumental and skirt on the edge of an oppressive post-rock drone canyon) accompanied by all the tape delay and reverb that any Os Mutantes fanatics or Anton Newcombe nuts will enjoy. Loveless fans line up here. Myself, I’ve come to a realization: This might be one of the better records I’ve heard all year. And I’ve gotta have it.
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Friendly Fires – Inflorescent
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Polydor
Genre: Dance, Nu-Disco

Ah, nu-disco, I always look at you with hope glistening in my eye. I listen to you with my heart swelling to your horn sections. I indulge in you like a Five Guys cheeseburger with fries and a large Sprite. Yeah, you’re not McDonalds, you don’t have to get me drunk to love you, but you sure as shit aren’t good for me. No more when you fake me out and become a dance record before the first side’s even done. This is like finding ketchup on my burger two bites in–yeah, I hate tomatoes—I’m disgusted. Not because you can’t mix the two well, just look at pizza or sauce bolognaise, but goddamn if Inflorescent didn’t just crush mushy dance music and lathered it all over what I wanted to be a seminal funky multicolored disco ball experience. Zesty and topped with mustard. Fuck, I might be just out of touch, but y’know what? The kids are wrong, too.
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Ikebe Shakedown – Kings Left Behind
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Colemine
Genre: Afrobeat, Jazzfunk

I recently read Chuck Klosterman’s book Killing Yourself to Live, completely unawares he would be releasing one this month, Raised in Captivity. While the jury’s still out on that one (I’ll read it myself, as you should do in regards to any art, before passing a judgement, if at all), I can unequivocally say I’ve never been so engrossed in a book of music travelogues as Killing Yourself to Live. In it, he mentions the Greil Marcus concept of “shock of recognition,” of feeling sudden utter simpatico with an otherwise foreign agent, case in point Robert Johnson, the blues flashpoint guitarist (aka Mr. Sold My Soul For a Few Good Hooks) and inspirator for thousands of bluesman on both sides of the Atlantic. I don’t really care for Robert Johnson, but what I do care for is Mr. Fela Kuti, the African President. Which is fucking hilarious. I, like the members of Ikebe Shakedown, am a skinny white kid from Portland, Oregon—if being white were a sport, Portland would be churning out Okie-doke Olympians by the thousands—but the moment I heard “Beasts of No Nation” it was like Zeus launched a lightningbolt from Nigeria right to my very fucking soul. And I imagine for the Ikebe Shakedown, the Afrika 70 were something to emulate. So much so we’re spoiled for choice in the muzak section, shocker, Kings Left Behind is technically sound, plentiful in integrity, holds a better beat than I ever could and features funk guitar solos for DJ’s to drool over. I’m still hesitant, I recognize it, but I’m not shocked by it.
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King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Infest the Rats’ Nest
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Flightless
Genre: Trash Metal, Stoner Metal

I have listened to this record exactly once: at the Roseland in Portland, August 16th. King Gizzard played this record in its entirety for a crowd of garage rockers, punk teenagers, psych-rock aficionados, prog devotees and the hippiest of hipsters—a truer cross section than any Stumptown Coffee roast. And it was dangerous. I counted two whole seconds before the mosh pit began in earnest. The first bar hadn’t even finished and people were climbing upon each other as if ravenous mind-parasite cannibals leapt from the pages of Max Brooks, ready to eat flesh and mosh. This was a three dimensional pit of apocalypto ascendant, people were fucking airborne at times. And this still wasn’t the better of the two King Gizzard shows I’ve ever been to (it’s hard to beat the first when it features your first time crowdsurfing as well), but even I can say—there might be no better record than Infest the Rats’ Nest. I like to say if we ever finally kill ourselves as a species, at least we’ll make some good tunes while doing so, because this is everything Murder of the Universe promised and less (you know the adage). This is pure unbridled climate driven apocalypse put to Mad Maxian fury after sailing right off the goddamn cliff presented in Flying Microtonal Banana. This is dystopia distilled, “Planet B,” “Mars For the Rich,” “Organ Farmer” and “Superbug” all leading us right to “Venusian” living and by extension “Hell.” On Earth? Hell yeah.
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Oh Sees – Face Stabber
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Castle Face
Genre: Psychedelic Rock, Krautrock, Progressive Rock

Finally, I sat down and listened to this record. Thee Oh Sees, or whatever name they go by these days, have been riding this Punkin’ n’ Dragons wave for a while now, Orc being the big stylistic header. Oh sure, Dwyer has always appeared like a fan, seemed like a nerd, but in 2017 he wiped his hands clean of any judgement and went full hog in progressive rock roleplay. But both Orc and Smote Reverser didn’t quite do it for me, the former being a little too coy and tight, the latter being too loose and scatterbrained. Music for any encounter, as it were. But “Henchlock,” now here’s where it all cooks, the jazz fusion klaxon-sax, the krautrock wherewithal, John Dwyer conjuring nonsensical. “Where is that cup of… TEA?!” might be the most meta question for sessions spent in the tavern doing investigative footwork, but really, it’s all references to Can here. Add in the electric kool-aid blues rhapsody “Scutum & Scorpius,” the manic imperiousness of “Fu Xi,” the straight acidic “Snickersnee,” the sped-up War-Pigs-on-Parade cut “Psy-Ops Dispatch” and we have a pork stew going on. This record finds the best balance between the jam and the mania that Thee Oh Sees have quested for since Orc.
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Ross from Friends – Epiphany (EP)
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Brainfeeder
Genre: Techno, Deep House

Ross from Friends’ first record was a bit of a sleeper hit, edging dangerously on the precipice between deep house (a la Mr. Fingers) and sleep house (a la SBTRKT), despite a benign sonic. Family Portrait was naturally dedicated to Felix Clary Weatherall’s parents, explaining the insulated nature of the record—it didn’t take much risks. Listening to it didn’t quite make it clear why Ross from Friends’ was such a hot commodity, a big commotion, in clubs. His new extended-player, Epiphany, fixes that. Dedicated to Weatherall’s sister, this is three tracks and two reedits of pure techno hailing from the finest traditions of UK Bass, deep house and techno. No crushed tomatoes here, this is the whole bolognaise al forno.
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Surfer Blood – Hourly Haunts (EP)
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Persona Non Grata
Genre: Indie Rock

I find Surfer Blood to be one of the blandest rock and roll bands in the independent arena. I categorize them adjacent to Real Estate, Wild Nothing and Dirty Projectors, there is something so devoid of personality in this music which kills me, even my dear Beach Fossils commits this crime: they make music devoid of emotion, perhaps bludgeoned by their own to the point that expressing any somesuch feelings is taboo. Even being excited is a dare. Of course, Hourly Haunts changes nothing of this, it’s just my type of bland: Morriseyesque vocals and Johnny Marr-style hooks galore, what here hasn’t been already done by the Smiths? Is John Paul Pitts really an idol for the closeted homosexual? I assume nothing. And I suppose it’s similar to Cake, this band would do better with a record of covers than an EP of originals; they’re competent, somewhat able to display a pang or pain or joy, they tease musicality like Zach Condon and in there somewhere lurks a mean riff waiting to be unleashed. But I’m not sure it’s their own.
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New Music Friday thread

August 23rd

Ceremony – In The Spirit World Now

Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Relapse Records
Genre: Post-Punk, New Wave

Ceremony’s latest, In The Spirit World Now, is cashing on all this blatant Eighties new wave synth nostalgia in line with multitoned windbreakers, frizzy perms and neon decals. The album art frames a hallway quartered in Hot Space vibrancy and leads to a world designed to a lithographic cross of dark children’s book illustrations and minimalist abstraction. But what does this tell us about the music? Nothing that isn’t already on the record: vibrancy, Duran Duran; dark children’s book, Eurythmics; minimalist abstraction, Joy Division. Drum loops, synthesizers and wolfish lyricism complete the job for Ceremony in a terse, tight 32 minutes. This really is new wave: soundbitten and precise to the tune of a machine. An automated affair that reads like a digital display on your microwave: ENJOY YOUR MEAL. But could I recall to you a single song after listening, a single spice after tasting? Hell no.
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Ghost Funk Orchestra – A Song For Paul
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Colemine/Karma Chief
Genre: lo-fi Funk, Psychedelic Soul

Colemine has done as well as any recording company in the biz to keep old school soul a somewhat fresh commodity, pushing out Black Pumas, the Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio, Barbara Howard and Ikebe Shakedown products as of late in addition to uncovering unto us Lee Moses rarities. And I might have been a bit down on those Afrobeat boys, but no one can deny their coherence with the Colemine brand, nothing in their catalogue sounds out of place. And neither does A Song For Paul have to fight to prove its place. This is firm Colemine-type Ohio soul, proclaimed a fitting soundtrack for a Quentino Tarantino flick. Well, maybe. It’s been a while since Jackie Browne hit theatres and calling something as a score can either strike as a slur or a stunt and to say that 35 minutes of instrumental soul can grace an ex-indie director’s next big film imaginé denies the eclectic nature of Tarantino’s creativity while shackling expectations of their record to his image. All I’m saying is, let me blow the smoke. Because this is a blaxploitation instrumental, this plays into what we imagine every club in American Gangster plays for their morning patrons. Do I think that’s good enough to buy it? For the inquisitive DJ or the avid Culture fan, sure. Otherwise, those who need watch some more Seventies pulp cinema might find this record a nonplus.
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Jay Som – Anak Ko
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Polyvinyl
Genre: Dreampop, Indie Rock

I remember being stunned by Melina Mae Duterte’s dit Jay Som’s first album Turn Into to the point that I bought a limited magenta copy and a long-sleeve band tee, and if I’m honest, my opinion on the tee shirt has aged considerably well, while the debut has been forgotten. Not that her brand of music is bad, just that my dreampop phase had hit a high point while perusing Jay Som’s material au milieu of a craving for anything remotely DIIV-esque, even if it was softer, less jagged. Perhaps imbued with a little less speed too. But both Turn Into and Everybody Works reflected an auteur still unfocused or nuanced. Intimate, sure, but still unwilling to stick her neck out on any stylistic gambit. And that is where Anak Ko is different. The whispering vocals are still there, but there’s a focused lo-fi fuzz in place of the ambient dreampop weariness. It’s still bedroom rock, but not as fatigued by the struggles of juggling music with life. Anak Ko is no tautology though, it’s just taut while plumbing through shoegaze, downtempo and chillwave for all the parts that’ll stand your hair on end and roll your skin on a whisper. It’s also the first album where I can conclusively commend Duterte on using her voice as the melodic tool it is. No untamed air about it, she fans tight breezes on us all long player long. While Everybody Works was a work of prodigal daughter searching for footing, Anak Ko is her finding it.
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Modern Nature – How to Live
Producer: Self-Produced w/ Will Young (Moong Gangs)
Label: Bella Union
Genre: Indie Rock, Neo-Psychedelia

I’m uncertain How to Live is indie rock. I’m more inclined to believe Modern Nature had this been sold as folktronica or even indie folk with neo-psychedelic tendencies. But every once in a while there happens to be a guitar riff snazzily nineties enough to convert this nonbeliever. This is where indie rock and neo-psychedelia come to a head, the balance between the synthesizers and the guitars sees both mastered with sophistication to a point of ever-too-much slightness. There’s nothing here to pull you in on first listen; which is perhaps the weakness of this very format—records like How to Live will be overlooked, while records like Fishing For Fishies will see plenty. Bah, it all comes down to taste, and neo-psychedelia techno musings do not pique my buds, all so often. So consider that a good thing—because when a neo-psychedelic record actually does have me salivating, you’ll know about it.
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Raphael Saadiq – Jimmy Lee
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Columbia
Genre: Neo-Soul, Rhythm & Blues

Raphael Saadiq’s first record in eight years is not a triumphant return. It’s not even a return to form. It’s a form of reconciliation. In the interval between Stone Rollin’ and Jimmy Lee, Saadiq’s brother and title inspiration died of drug addiction. This is the new normal for Americans regardless of race. But in the mind of a creative, the quotidian is lens and license for creation; Jimmy Lee sees the death of a brother and imagines its significance as a symptom to society. Saadiq expands it to what ills the modern black community, Americans who have gone unhealed since the first whip hit the first back. Serendipitous then, that Saadiq’s brother’s name pairs with civil rights activist Jimmie Lee Jackson, my first thought for the conceit of this record. Intentional or not, this record travels time, taking classic R&B, fusing it with guitar riffs Princeian  and collaborating with reverends and rappers alike. There’s more than just righteous fury à la DAMN. or social irritation à la Black Messiah, Saadiq is questing for probable cause and possibly a cure, which makes this record more profoundly American than anything I’ve heard all year.
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Shannon Lay – August
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Sub Pop
Genre: Contemporary Folk

Lay has always been a noted finger-picking guitarist and the press release to August pays notice to it, stating her practice regimen of deliberate picking and tuning to find intricate melodies. Look no further than her debut, Living Water, which takes through her folksier impulses. The sophomore record decides to move into more avant-garde spaces, introducing the ever-exotic Eastern progressions and Mikal Cronin saxophones for extra sauciness. She also hasn’t given up on the metaphors aquatic, most notably “Sea Came to Shore.” And August really does flow from Living Water in tone, there’s a solid one-two—well punch might not best describe it, let’s go with a one-two pattern. Both as guitarist for FEELS and for herself, the past year has been one of ascendance and naturally, it should crest; Lay herself has admitted to her writing impulses to come in waves. Try as I might to keep these first impressions as just that, sometimes the sentiment simpatico powers past any official statement and lives right in the music. Less August is contemporary folk and more this is the millennial truth: life lives in cycles and the first step to creating something from ourselves is to recognize how we are ourselves. In other news, I think the chicken came first.
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Surfer Blood – Covers
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Joyful Noise
Genre: Indie Rock

Your honor, what I wrote of last week and what spins before me today can hardly be fathomed. I didn’t actually think Surfer Blood would do as much. That they could go from Cream to Outkast to Pavement to Liz Phair and on, is testament to their influences, to what makes them tick. That deserves some respect, and in that way, I enjoy this long-player as Surfer Blood’s own B-Sides and Rarities. There is much here to dissect and then research. And after you’re done doing so, you’ll be listening to those bands, perhaps as a new convert to one or two of ‘em. But you won’t be listening to this interpreter’s record. You’ll just remember it fondly as the X that got you into Y.
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Toro y Moi – smartbeats (EP)
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Self-Released
Genre: IDM, Ambient

I only have two questions:

When did SBTRKT kidnap Chaz Bundick and how much is he ransoming him for? Wait, he’s doing this thing on his own merits? Thank fuck it’s only an EP. I hope didn’t jinx anything. Shit, I probably did.
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Tropical Fuck Storm – Braindrops
Producer: Self-Produced w/ Mike Deslandes
Label: Flightless
Genre: Art Punk, Punk Blues, Noise Rock

Braindrops strikes a balance contemporary to Blur and Parquet Courts while referencing psychedelic rock icons Syd Barret and Pink Floyd. Manic bordering on schizophrenic, Gareth Liddiard and Fiona Kitschin tag team vocal duties of joy and fear while guitars ratchet down the hatchet of this long-player’s grooves. It’s not so much that the noise rock is that riotous Soyuz rocket launch sonic, but the sound of racket. Many artists try their hand at the kitchen-cookware rock band but get too literal about it; they decide that the pots and pans really can replace a drumset or that jerry-rigged string simulacrum serves as guitar. That’s not the point: you’re supposed to imitate deconstructionism, not construct it. The mindset needs to change, not the instruments. And Braindrops does this quite superbly, actually. I lean quite heavily on Barrett-tinged “Who’s My Eugene?” or the chantry-anthem “Braindrops.” Only one cut, “Maria 62,” drops below 4-minutes and yet it drags on the longest. No that’s a lie, “Maria 63” drags longer (almost four minutes so), but it’s an album closer and I’m a big proponent of the downer closer, the sunset over the cuckoo’s nest, a Rhapsody in Punk Blue. What better an image to dye the light to?
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New Music Friday thread

August 30th

Black Belt Eagle Scout – At the Party with My Brown Friends
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Saddle Creek
Genre: Indie Rock, Dreampop

Katherine Paul is the millennial artist: self-producing, self-playing and I assume willing to self-release had Saddle Creek not foot the bill, she’s self-agency all around. But similar to Jay Som’s first two records, At the Party with My Brown Friends has moments where the dreampop aesthetic is put over all else, and the melodies in the middle of this second long-player can be hard to find; this is all fine and good and a rather solid continuation from her shoegaze-grunge combo of Mother of My Children, but it means I’m looking at the edges of this LP fondly,  particularly the last two “Half Colored Hair” and “You’re Me and I’m You,” that remind me of Mother of My Children. As whole, her sophomore effort features solid percussion, mastered to  slice through the mess of ambiance and melody that swallows stereo speakers whole for a solid amount of cuts. Her talent is still apparent, slowly refining itself, and her productivity is worth noting: two records in two years, does she go three for three next?
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Common – Let Love
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Loma Vista
Genre: Conscious Hip Hop, Neo-Soul

Lonnie Rashid Lynn switches between three phases: most skilled rapper, most spiritual rapper and most appearances on Ellen rapper, which is technically untrue because Jamie Foxx wins the Ellen Degeneres belt. So I suppose we should state he desires to be all three at different times; for Like Water for Chocolate, he was the most skilled wordsmith in the room; for Be he was the most ponderous person in the booth and for the last 15 years he’s been slowly accumulating the Ellen appearances and watering down his lyrics to inspirational mass appeal. He’s alternatively K. Dot, Marvin Gaye and Malcom X in rap sermon, forget about verse. Common certainly poses hard at the pulpit for “HER Love,” the third piece in his triptych on a love for rhymes and beats. At times I wonder if he’s not Marvin Gaye because he superimposes his own godhead for a love divine with almost every consequent cut. He’s no poseur, but he’s definitely a performer re entertainer. The release of his twelfth record came the release of his second book, Let Love Have the Last Word, an inspirational therapy memoir I imagine Cory Booker caresses to sleep each night while the last seconds of “God is Love” peter out under his stylus which now has dreams of being a rocket ship. Poor bastard, if only he knew he wasn’t recyclable. Common’s last record was a listenable experience, but you have to stretch all the way back to Be for the last enjoyable long-player. Anyways, I suppose what Mr. Lynn really has achieved is status as a renaissance man. Highly credited as an actor, a writer and a rapper espousing unity and kindness through thoughts on paper. He certainly still has the same vocabulary and topics, but he should probably book for another Ellen appearance soon, he’ll find more language and tone fans there.
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Four Tet – Anna Painting (EP)
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Text Records
Genre: IDM, Downtempo

I’ve always been a fan of Kieren Hebden dit Four Tet. His double album, Live at Alexandra Palace providing a master class listen of what a modern live record would do well to emulate. It’s not a raucous rock record, but EDM fans have a heightened importance for communion and interconnectivity than most other genres I’ve seen live. (It’s certainly more than can be said for shoegaze, which is a bunch of standing and gawking.) Live at Alexandra Palace provides an aural recording to that sensibility. But to capitalize on that not-for-Spotify effort, Four Tet released Anna Painting, an extended-player laying down the Four Tet formula for this past decade: hypnagogic intro, solid deep house beat (no more than 140 bpm), shimmering trancelike climaxes, reintroduced beat, outro. But by EP’s end, he dips into my greatest fear for most of Four Tet’s career, he dips into the sleep house ambiance. Not that he doesn’t already play with this electronic subgenre on his long-players, just that his best records don’t overextend the plot and segue it into meaningful sound. The first two cuts on the project use this philosophy to provide collaborating artist and childhood friend Anna Liber Lewis some beats for colouring the canvas. Then it’s just a dreamy, four minute piece as simulacrum and as witness to Lewis’ final product powered by Hebden’s own. Talk about interconnection.
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Lana Del Rey – Norman Fucking Rockwell!!
Producer: Self-Produced w/ Jack Antonoff
Label: Polydor
Genre: Singer-Songwriter, Chamber Music, Neo-Psychedelia

There’s much to be said about Norman Fucking Rockwell!! and as always not enough time to say it. (Proverb problems, what can ya do?) The absolute first image in mind’s eyes from this record was it’s similarity to Missy Higgins’ On a Clear Night based on what but superficial musicality—the stark echoing warble of Lizzy Grant’s voice as Lana Del Rey showcasing the difference between the person and the performer, Missy Higgins’ record never captured this difference, nor did I think this was her goal. But when your sound becomes bigger so too does the performer have to swallow the person. If anything On a Clear Night was a fight between person and the performer with the opposite eventually occurring—her person swallowed the performer. Norman Fucking Rockwell!!, consistent with the rest of Grant’s recording history, doesn’t let this come to pass despite its big-but-earnest intent to showcase sadness as defiance, but this time without the ostentatious electronics of her earlier efforts. It’s the first time I’ve felt her America Noir, Lynchian aesthetic has matched her musical sensibilities—Jack Antonoff wisely says no to beefing up her voice with technology, it can stand on its own thank you very much. If nothing else, this is the LP LOVE + FEAR wanted to be, but Diamandis never made. And I’m glad it was Lana Del Rey who made the record; if nothing else because it’s knocking the legs out from under the detractors of her supposed reality or irreality. America is as unreal a country out there, why wouldn’t her popular artists reflect this image of ironic exceptionalism? Norman Rockwell, the title inspiration, was an artist who juxtaposed America as the jingoists wanted to see it with the America as the everyman experienced it. Between the 27 Club, suicide rates and drug addictions, this country is one which eats its young, its poor, its immigrants, its natives and its rich. There is a certain mortification to its immortality as an image, in the same way that Peter Pan is the boy that refused to grow up, America is country that kills to retain her youth, bathes in her attention to remain secure. The disturbing undercurrents of the Stateside society are not be shied away from or mocked for their merits of artistry (which boils down to a matter of taste, really). Norman Fucking Rockwell!! is Lana Del Rey singing “[America,] I love you, but you’re killing me” in as many shades as possible until we get it.
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Matthew Squires – Visions of America
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Sub Pop
Genre: Contemporary Folk

I’mma be honest with you: if we can’t talk about music with each other, then we’re not going to be close friends. We’ll be friends, we might even be what some consider “close friends,” but we won’t be tight. Thus some, my favourite moments in college were spent with my mass communications faculty adviser and better friends in life, over an hour of talking it was about 15 minutes of business and 45 minutes of music. One day, we were discussing the Grateful Dead (and, yes, you better believe I’m a Deadhead just as much as I’m a Zephead, a Floyd fan, a Black Sabbath acolyte and an Allman Brothers Band enthusiast, although it would be fair to say I prefer the Allmans to the Dead). But it was during these conversations that he notified me of something horrific—“have you ever noticed how they can’t sing?” my professor told me, a grapevine commentary from his own friend and one that launched him into a five year exodus from Deadheadery. And while it didn’t push me to stop listening—they were indeed vocalists ranging from poor (Phil Lesh) to serviceable (Bob Weir), but they could harmonize out the rough spots—it did serve to help me scrutinize singing ability. Even your favourite vocalist can dirge like a jagged knife and lo, I absolutely cannot stand Matthew Squire’s voice on this record. His melodies are great, he’s working his Americana angle just fine. But goddamn do I wish he would terminate that unconscionable bleat. That’s the litmus taste test for this record, and I bid thee well.
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The S.L.P. – THE S.L.P.
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Sony Music
Genre: Alternative Dance, Neo-Psychedelia

Ostensibly The Sergio Lorenzo Project, but also deriving from Sergio Pizzorno’s initials, the self-titled debut record is a bid for solo credibility outside of his projects with Kasabian and Loose Tapestries, as well as recording music for Noel Fielding, this is perhaps the first long-player of Pizzorno’s which recalls the Chris Karloff efforts in Kasabian without being a rote recreation. Neither is it a positive vision, the long-player languishes in a dystopic cyberpunk soundtrack, a Blade Runner sonic of sorts. By “((trance))” it hits a stride consisting of an electropunkish “The Wu,” a throbbing “Soldiers 00018,” and a X-File theme knock off crossed by an ode to Major Tom called “Meanwhile… at the Welcome Break” all vibing on a similar Tron-in-real-life simulacrum. To cap it off is the cross between West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum and Kasabian that we’ve all been waiting for: “Favourites.” Mercy, mercy me, I’m 12 all over again, the cut even curves into a Gorillaz-esque effort featuring Little Simz as guest vocalist. What relieves me most however is that after the first cut, this felt like it was doomed to big studio, little results status; that Pizzorno’s musicality would dry up outside of the ecodome it helps sustain. But by the interluding “Welcome Break,” it crystal clearly has not. The S.L.P. is easily the best thing that any member of Kasabian has put out since Velociraptor!
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New Music Friday thread

Release Date Buffet: July 2019

July 5th

Emma Russack – Winter Blues
Producer: John Lee
Label: Universal Music Australia
Genre: Singer-Songwriter

Emma Russack’s record is fast. So fast, I let it play just about ten times before realizing I was imprinting these cuts on to my head like triggers for a Manchurian Candidate or something. But I digress, these little songs aren’t actual earworms, I can barely hum a tune on the record, they’re just solid 3 minute blocks for your chill out algorithm, an Australian Joni Mitchellite come to tell you you’re not crazy, love is hard, winter is cold, people are flighty. Tautologies, but sometimes a tautology is what you need when things get rough. You might also be wondering why Russack released a record called Winter Blues in the middle of summer, so just a friendly reminder: it’s topsy-turvy down under, they’re experiencing a warmer winter down there right now, global warming and all, and they just reelected a reprehensible Liberal (i.e. conservative) government over a terribly incompetent Labor opposition. What does that have to en lieu of a long-player for interpersonal drags? Possibly nothing, but to say that an apathetic sociopolitical landscape doesn’t seep into the psyche is a claim that one lives in a vacuum. And, I dunno about you, but living in a vacuum would fucking suck. So, for whatever reason, this record is about winter blues and it feels like it.

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KOKOKO! – Fongola
Producer: Débruit
Label: Royal Mountain
Genre: Afrosynth, Afropunk

I made up those two genres, I’ll be honest. But, hey, what else is a writer to do when the music presented is such a phenomenon for Talking Heads heads. The instruments are street synthesized, the recordings steal the exclamation point from Wham and place this long-player squarely in the streets of Kinshasa, the city formerly known as Leopoldville, what with Bantu-tree langage that tosses the official, commercial French out the window. Good riddance! That the colonizer’s language can be assumed and warped and mutated to the indigenous use (re Fela Kuti & the Afrika 70 or Tony Allen, for starters) has been established, I don’t need another resumé for how Things Fall Apart. Dear Chinua Achebe, it’s time to bulldoze forward with sound of Africa Future, not Africa Past. KOKOKO! do just that, daring more than even Ibibio Sound Machine’s proficient third record could. Hence the excitement; hence the revolutionary fervor, hence the Afrosynth, hence the Afropunk.

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Material Support – Specter (EP)
Producer: Sasha Stroud
Label: Aklasan
Genre: Punk

10-minutes of pure punk accentuated by an album cover that doesn’t even remotely scream punk, but rather some flowerchild Esmeraldan worldbeat. I guess the punkiest thing a punk could do is subvert expectations, but the music is rather straightforward, what-you-hear-is-what-you-get musicality, and it goes at Tony Molina speed (not tempo or time, just track length) so what do you really have to lose with this EP? 10 minutes?

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Moon Honey – Dreamlet
Producer: Self-Produced w/ Greg Saunier
Label: International Anthem
Genre: Dreampop, Psychedelic Rock

I’m not a fan of austerity. As in economics, so in music, austerity relates to me a certain lack of daring or enterprising native to our human nature from the moment a caveman decided to wield fire—of course he would be burned, but he warmed himself anyways. See, austerity ruined Genesis unto pop (ew), it clipped the wings of Animal Collective, it transformed Missy Higgins into Just Another Vocalist, it renders James Blake, Mount Kimbie, Four Tet and Moby remote, distant. It is one of many ways to reduce R&B to just rhythms and beats sans soul. It turns industry into dusty factory muzak, played on the bones of Detroit or whatever other city rusting at the belt buckle of Middle America (or Anglophonia for that matter). This is the chance Moon Honey takes when gambling on a more austere sound for Dreamlet. Dreampop belies this, a sanitary take on shoegaze, when it decides to rear its head without a backup influence to inject some spice into its tofu blandness. I hate the word pop and only acquiesce its presence in dreampop because I’ve yet to find a term that better describes the music (the moment I do, though, I will scrub that shit from my musical lexicon). So Thank God™ that they decide to juice themselves with the occasional lick here or there or I might just have to hate this record when compared to their lo-fi garage psychedelia early work. I kinda still do.

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Necking – Cut Your Teeth
Producer: Jesse Gander
Label: Mint
Genre: Noise, Post-Punk

This isn’t some simple nooking, necking action, this is full blown biting, hickey hacking at your beloved’s neck. This is 22-minutes of macking, marking, making maroon territories of their skin, right on the line between looooooooove and lust. No surprise they have a playlist filled with the best punk songs for smooching sessions—hell, punks don’t smooch! They bite! They claw! They animalize!—lionizing just what they want their sound to resound: intense red vision revolution (forget about resolution) that, when all done, will leave you like a Werewolf transformed back to human asking colloquially just what the fuck happened.

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The Soft Cavalry (Rachell Goswell & Steve Clarke) – The Soft Cavalry
Producer: Michael Clarke
Label: Bella Union
Genre: Dreampop, Indietronica

I suppose we should be grateful that this record is simultaneously less challenging than any Slowdive long-player yet more intriguing than any Mojave 3 product. Melodious and freewheeling, there’s no fear within this package to actually punctuate some notes and write a hook for one sitting, a fulcrum swing from Neil Halstead’s shoegaze sensibility to bury the lede (not that I have room to complain; I do that all the time!). It’s refreshing, a change of pace to hear flutes and keyboards and guitars working together across the cuts like a shoegazing Jethro Tull album. The last time Goswell separated from her pack, it was to double down on a subtle sound without its keen master. If there was a hook in the Mojave 3 oeuvre, then I’ve yet to hear it. As it stands, The Soft Cavalry is damn near chockfull of them. Perhaps that’s all to be asked from husband/wife duo Goswell and Steve Clarke as the press release constates the prolonged development hell for Clarke to finally make this record. Perhaps it’s good enough to make us all believe it was worth the wait. Well, almost, I’ve still yet to administer the sleep test (as I do with any Slowdive record) to figure its capabilities in accompanying a rest, while also remaining a record worth staying awake for. This is only first impressions after all.

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Trash Kit (ft. Rachel Aggs) – Horizon
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Upset the Rhythm
Genre: Post-Punk

If this album has you believing that Trash Kit are an upbeat British-form Chastity Belt (or maybe it’s the other way round?) then you just don’t know Sleater-Kinney have inundated us in garage post-punk gals with a bone to pick with the world. For this particular LP Trash Kit is dealing with lo-fi Zimbabwean guitar-based musics that render Horizon into a low-volume afrobeat punk fusion and I’m all here for it. Post-punk predicated itself on a racist premise that it is not influenced by black music, but where’s the fun in that? That’s the rhythmic question Trash Kit ask and I thank them for it. So, sit back, sip your coffee and daydream to the sound of pillow fights and Sunday naps enhanced by some softcore post-punkadelia life-music smashing the whateverarchy one track at a time.

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New Music Friday Thread

July 12th

Africa Express – EGOLI
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Gqom, Kwaito
Genre: Afrosynth, Afro Futurism

Nuts you say! Another Afrosynth record? Yeah, I didn’t expect it either, but I’m not fighting it. Africa Express being a collective effort of Pan African musicians showcasing their different countries to the world, or at least, that’s what hopeful message I think this collective of auteurs wants us to engage with. And to be frank, I don’t understand how someone doesn’t enjoy African influences across music; when whole cultures use beat to create music, you can be damn sure they’ve got a thing or to add into the ring of rhythmic inventions, devices, ways to pull you in. That said, I’m not quite a fan of Afro Futurism, most house/downtempo cuts just soundtrack spin practice sessions (it’s all about how you use it, sometimes; no spin sessions, no appreciation for lowkey electronic music), but to hell with it: let the musicians musician, I’m curious to hear, to listen to a part of the world I feel we all should know more about. Ah shit, there goes the inspired Ben again, and you know what he’s right, he’s right; don’t call him fucking “woke,” you memeing knuckleheads—his ego doesn’t need that—call him curious. It’ll do more to inspire research, the willingness to engage in dialogue or listen to more Afrosynth, there’s things to learn, friends. And that’s what excites me the most about this long-player, a whole introduction to a South Africa far beyond Johnny Clegg and Savuka.

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Blood Orange – Angel’s Pulse
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Domino
Genre: Alternative R&B, Hypnagogia, Neo-Soul

“My new record is called Angel’s Pulse & I performed, produced, and mixed the entire thing myself. I’m calling it a mixtape… Usually this material is made directly after the album I’ve just put out. Somewhat of an epilogue to the thing I’ve made before.”

-Devonté Hynes

So Blood Orange is on script as the hoarding artist of his day, an Emily Dickinson or Ingrès or John Frusciante of hip-hop, settling to just make music for enjoyment rather than a sucker who needs to create for the sake of money. But there are artists who probably do this beyond even our own expectations. Does anyone really doubt that Kevin Parker or Kendrick Lamarr or Daft Punk don’t keep libraries of sounds and loops and samples of their own minds eye: just popping out random ideas to see what tickles the brain in  a funny way. And much as they don’t need to release all these sounds, but rather mold them into a gelstat state; as if curating a sonic Louvre with enough elements and wings to keep you coming back to see it all. The sheer size of the collection being a metaphysical comment on that depth of human creativity. I once had the dream of collecting every known piece of released music. People scoffed, I didn’t get it, this Promethean idea; I do know. I like instead to find aural translations to the Orangerie, a bastion of the tableau, gifted from one friend, Claude Monet, to another, Georges Clemenceau, and then displayed for the (paying) public. Cutting out the middleman, that’s what, this mixtape does: Angel’s Pulse reflects a raw Blood Orange that makes Nefertiti Abstract Movie and Apollo XXI seem trite and unambitious, makes Ariel Pink his mentor and confirms Devonté Hynes as a leader in neo-soul: this is Monet at his best; this pure tableau heaven, this is the Orangerie in a mixtape.

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Dope Lemon – Smooth Big Cat
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: BMG (Australia)
Genre: Indie Rock, Neo-Psychedelia

Copy it down: Angus Stone alias Dope Lemon wants you to know he’s a slick as they come. That he’s a rock n’ roller ready to raise the ante as he lowers his voice to the drawl of a black hat cowboy, a Johnny Cash of Neo-Psychedelia of sorts. He assumes we’re not really impressed either, and he’s correct, I’m not exactly impressed that he has a style—if nothing else, having a style should be a bare minimum for surviving this life, even if you don’t agree with some—but I think what really doesn’t impress me much comes after “Lonely Boys Paradise,” Dope Lemon’s swing at a boys-of-summer Eighties hypnagogia, trying hard to merge sentiments of Don Henley with a sonic vaguely becoming of Ariel Pink’s latest work, the album vaguely wanders into some Drugdealer folk-adjacent neo-psych and then harps on that for the rest of the record, only taking time to drop in a shoegazing, “Boys Don’t Cry” interpolated foray for the title track. Either way, on the first listen, this record pitter patter petered out around the halfway mark because smoothtalkin’ your many flaws can only get you so far in your game before the rest of us tune out. But I would like to add a counterpoint: sometimes honesty is a slow burn.

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Flower Graves – Living in Disguise
Producer: John Griffin
Label: Wallflower
Genre: Garage Rock, Psychedelic Rock

There’s an element of audaciousness to this still very small and independent psychedelic rock band: “embodied,” “organic,” “studies” are what reads as adverbs/adjectives/advertisements for what is essentially a pluckier, dirtier Temples. Oh sure, they may not be as aged as the Brian Jonhttps://www.reddit.com/r/indieheads/comments/cf9zsc/new_music_friday_july_19th_2019/estown Massacre and leader Anton Newcombe but they do have more of an ear pressed to the ground than most new garagey-psyche wibbly-wobbly bands. If nothing else, I appreciate them in the way I do La Luz: they’ve got your youth culture right here. So take them to the beach, put them on, roll a joint, smoke it, get wet, do the elevator, follow the “Mystic Signs,” have fun and live in disguise. What did they say? Who cares? When did anyone listen to psychedelia for the lyrics anyways?

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Gauche – A People’s History of Gauche
Producer: Self-Produced w/ Don Godwin
Label: Merge
Genre: Post-Punk

Gauche being French for left and awkward, maladroit, as it were, which is also French for clumsy. As it were, their sound isn’t exactly clumsy, choral vocalists Adrienne Berry, Mary Jane Regalado, Daniele Yandel and Jason Barret all throwing in their own particular brands of post-punk vocal influence while the music is commercially satisfiable to the term “Truth In Advertising.” There’s something not quite all there, like they’re searching for a breakthrough yet always settling on the mundane. Might also be that, as a post-punk band, six people counts for much, too much. They’re bristling against, time and stylistic constraints to fit six voices into cuts no longer than four minutes and an overall record runtime of 35. Now damnit man, I’m a music writer, not a doctor, but I feel adequately educated enough to tell Gauche to breathe. Let the long player go longer, throw in a seven-minute suite or something, incorporate or efface a couple of the more blitzing tracks (you are a POST-punk band, after all), but don’t just play into our expectations; oftentimes that’s more awkward than swinging big and missing wide.

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Girlfriend Material – Cool Car
Producer: Nyles Miszcyck
Label: Dine Alone
Genre: Indie Rock

No one should have to suffer an indie rock record without a banger. It simply would not do, it would hang the petals of the flower, crack the windshield of a car, depress the wings on a hummingbird, pale the blush of a smile. It would break my friend Drew’s heart, were Girlfriend Material impotent providers of the basic requirement for any indie rock band trying to breakout: the slapper. Or maybe it would, I’ve yet to talk to him about it. But in conversation, there is no world where he doesn’t mention a song that slaps in endearing fashion. Unendearingly, I feel this is where most people, including myself, confuse the terms good piece/cut/song and good record/album/long-player. And I’ll stop any nerds before they point it out: I don’t care if most critics use record in the former group, a record is short for record album in my mind, thus it belongs in the latter. And still we confuse good cuts for good https://www.reddit.com/r/indieheads/comments/cf9zsc/new_music_friday_july_19th_2019/records. Sometimes it really does only take one-cut to make the rest of your record glow sheen. Remember Post Animal’s “Ralphie?” Remember Catfish and the Bottlemen’s “7”? You ready to start remembering literally any Fray record? Any Matchbox 20 record? There was no used to be, this culture has been around since before you and I were probably born. And I’m pretty sure “Deep V” is just another form in today’s garb from now to the future.

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Khruangbin – Hasta El Cielo
Producer: Self-Produced (Bonus tracks produced by Scientist)
Label: Dead Oceans
Genre: Dub, Downtempo

Khruangbin’s first and second records were some serious moodblocks. Forty-minutes of lofi study psych each, with the first record edging out the second in terms of catchiness and repeatability. Unfortunately, Con Todo El Mundo slept a little too hard, so it was hard not to sleep through it, rather than actually engage with it. Which is fine when the long-player has revolved the mind for the umpteenth time, not so good when it’s your third listen and you already need a moment to rest. That said, it had still its moments, “Evan Finds the Third Room” being one of them and Hasta El Cielo is an essay for finding that punch in other genre forms, hence the major dub reworking of the record. So for the majority of this record, I’d like to say they’ve reformed one middling moodblock into a solid one, replete with reverbing, splashing synths, punchy Donald John’s percussion (forget about drum kits), Laura Lee and Mark Speer pickathoning away in the background, all working for a gestalt that is touched far more often here than on its original incarnation, only really petering out to dreamland by record’s end. The Scientist’s redubs stir me from my stupor, but only enough to say this: I’ve yet to hear a dub infused rock song I didn’t like, hell, take away Mighty High and I struggle to like Govt Mule for anything else. The extra low frequency hum really giving credence to Meghan Trainor, esq.:  sometimes, it really is all about that bass.

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Tijuana Panthers – Carpet Denim
Producer: Johnny Bell
Label: Innovative Leisure
Genre: Garage Rock, Surf Rock

This was a methodic record, says the press release, and considering I haven’t listened to Tijuana Panthers ever (this is first impressions, y’all!), I wouldn’t be able to tell you how a record plumbfull of three-minute surf rock tracks is any different from their previous records plumbfull of three-minute surf rock tracks, other than a cleaner, sleeker sound. Methodical really just means you’ve had more time for polish and no, I’m not calling this record a turd, just… manicured. There’s a surf boogie to it, sure, there’s some stomp in there, somewhat of a woodstained boardwalk version of the Black Keys, perfect for a band that comes from Long Beach. But I also hate Los Angeles with a fiery passion only matched by the scene in 2012 when John Cusack watches the city slide into the sea like a modern-day Atlantis, so I guess I should hate these guys on principle. I don’t, really, because I assume before this sparkly little thing, they had a propensity to write about the underbelly of Hollywood, California, palm trees, unbalanced budgets, Minnie Mouse the nightowl, Arnold the Governator etc., and not this serendipitous Disneyland ditziness that the sonic of this formulaic Carpet Denim record portends. It’s too clean to be garage rock and I’m prejudiced against it for that very reason.

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New Music Friday Thread

July 19th

Chris LaRocca – Saudade EP
Producer:  Self-Produced
Label: Little Italy
Genre: Alternative R&B

Saudade, as it can best be translated, relates from Portuguese an intense sadness, longing and melancholy wrapped into one word and punctuated by a national sentiment of decline diametrically in opposition to the idea of American Exceptionalism. In Portugal this semantic theme is transformed to an emotive, musical one: fado, the folk music of Portugal, is all about the saudade. So much so, the Portuguese will tell you any foreigner’s attempts might be technically sound but still a pale imitation of the fadistas who walk the streets of Lisboa at night; amateurs they might be, but to a Portuguese listener, an amateur with saudade will always outshine a professional without. And when it comes to LaRocca’s newest extended-player, Saudade, he might be a sugar-tongued MC across all seven cuts, but it don’t mean a thing if it doesn’t have that sting. Saudade might be too lofty a goal to achieve  in just an EP. Especially when the potential for intercultural flavour is drained in front of the omnipotent Toronto Sound machine (c’mon, LaRocca, not even a little guitarrista lick here or there?). Seems like if I want the real thing modernized, I’ll just have to stick to Mariza, Gisela João or Ana Moura.

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The Dead Sound – Cuts
Producer:  Self-Produced w/ Christian Bethge
Label: Crazysane Records
Genre: Post-Punk, Dreampop

I love the word cuts. As a loquacious writer, I can’t help but enjoy when my sentences start to condense. To grow terse. To cut. Sure, longer sentences can draw out extended ideas and horrors. But nothing can make you scream like a small, deep cut. It’s probably why, when other people think about Cat Steven’s “First Cut is the Deepest” as a love song to a person, I think of it as a love song to a song. Think about it, what was the first song that ever cut you to the emotional bone in one fell stroke? Now imagine that feeling everytime I listen to Rod Stewart’s version, eschewing the chamber musicality in favour of (somehow) lighter string sections, keyboards and horns which transplant any reason I had to its knees. But what does this all have to do with Karl Brausch’s project, The Dead Sound? Well, when you title a record Cuts, I’m hoping that the music really does wound me (I know, I’m sick), if nothing else because then I’ll know you meant it. Coexist is a record that did this; immediately the heartbeat on “Sunset” shackles me in stereo. On Cuts, however, I’m still struggling to find the jagged ends to this droning  new wave krautrock. Some records are like that, I know Kelly would be citing Loveless back to front right now, were I to relate the fact. Right now however, The Dead Sound are paired with Rendered Armor, influenced by a subset of new wave I am not especially fond for, but am nonetheless curious of.

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The Flaming Lips – King’s Mouth: Music and Songs
Producer:  Self-Produced w/ Dennis Coyne and Scott Booker
Label: Warner
Genre: Neo-Psychedelia, Psychedelic Rock

Human society builds up images, it’s what we do. Ever since the first caveman crushed pigments and etched them on the sides of the Lascaux caves. I often wonder what the first reaction this piece of prehistory most have been. Did the first caveman lose their shit at the idea that a drawing looked like his tribe, that the idea of a mammoth could be transmitted visually? Or did Og decide this was all very unimpressive and grunted that they still needed to go hunting, simultaneously becoming both the first cave art critic and the inventor of the phrase: “get a real job, pal.”  I digress, our modern neanderthal society has come to invert—to a degree—the idea of image-buiding, not only do we build images of society, but we build images of ourselves. Every Kanye West episode both showcases his worldview and his self-perception, every new indie rock band needs a brand manager as much as it needs an album and while agents aren’t new, self-agency is; it’s never been easier to set one’s image in stone (a bad idea if there ever was one). Thus Wayne Coyne, the alternative rock beau ideal; the eccentric with unparalleled longevity, who, along with Michael Ivins, has come to outlast ‘em all via chameleon interests. You honestly can’t blame him for presenting himself the John Williams of psychedelic rock in when King’s Mouth plays like the soundtrack to a Wes Anderson space rock opera. You also can’t really fault this record for being relatively muted—there are no absolutely bonkers moments, just incredibly emotive scenes breathing heavy on the Spiritualized juices, were any other band to release such a record, it would hail a masterpiece—instead, I commend it on being a solid project, a story sufficiently silly (as I can gather, a giant cosmic infant becomes king) and an ending adequately satisfying. This is no great work of art, but like the Lascaux Caves, I find myself attached to how honestly the story weaves the record together.

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Kit Sebastian – Mantra Moderne
Producer:  Self-Produced
Label: Mr Bongo
Genre: Neo-Psychedelia, Anatolian Rock,

Anatolian Rock is the ultimate lounge music. Sixties jetset written all over it, the music of the playboy in his Monte Carlo suite, on his riviera-cruising boat, his backroad carving Ferrari. Whether Kit Sebastian know this or not is irrelevant, because what they have crafted here is 36-minutes of Anglo-Turkish nirvana, touched with tropicalia, trip hop, French yéyé and jazzmatic expressions. The lofi dervish of ouds, cuicas, tablas, darblukas, balalaikas and a Farfisa organ whizzing through the ariwaves crafts something that souljazz struggles with: authenticity. Were there a counter-culture timepiece film set in Istanbul, 1967, this pairing of Kit Martin and Merve Erdem would have the soundtrack covered. Written and recorded in 12 hour straight-to-tape sessions, I really can’t remember listening to a record that was so well tuned on the fly. As it stands, Kit Sebastian surpassed any expectations I had.

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The Liza Colby Sound – Object to Impossible Destination
Producer:  Self-Produced (?)
Label: Oh Baby
Genre: Blues Rock, Psychedelic Rock

For 10 years, The Liza Colby Sound have cultivated an underground reputation for performance akin to Tina Turner on Zeppelinite Ice. James Brown battering himself like Iggy Pop. Anthemic is just the byword of Liza Colby’s sound. Livewire might also apply. But this is a problem as much as it is a boon: it’s a rare thing for the liveshows and the records to stay at par. For them to somehow matchup. I know Deadheads are wont to collect the original records, but why? Stick to the live records, that’s where the magic happens; and I give the same advice to Liza Colby fans: her records will never sound like the real thing. So instead of spending your money on Object to Impossible Destination, wait for the live record, even better, wait till she’s in town, then go hog wild with all your fantasies of erstwhile era-living. You might just get your money’s worth. If you’re diehard, however, well, I can’t stop you.

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Message to Bears – Constants
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Self-Released
Genre: Ambient, Folktronica

I read ambient post-rock on the indieheads thread and instantly thought: “Oh, like Sigur Rós, should be interesting.” Instead what we have here is an even more ambient Bibio. The latter being an already intensely meditative music well suited for my former Yoga professor’s purposes, this dials it to negative three. I can already feel that yogi shiver creep down my spine as I type and I know this was made to put my restless mind to ease. Hard pass. I’ll meditate to some nutty shred instead. Oh, and to qualify what constitutes a negative eleven: complete and utter silence.

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Sungaze – Light in All of It
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: 779856 Records DK
Genre: Shoegaze, Americana

Sungaze is perhaps a good way to describe this band. This is shoegaze made for Apache Deserts and Canyonland ranges. Cowboy daydreams, come alive for a walk between the mesas. All that pensive American romanticism of the west that cityslickers can only imagine with our vocabulary of drones, whirs and whizzes. Horns and beeps and scores of percussive bleats. It’s not exactly as compelling as the imagery of the sun rising for Forrest Gump’s country run but Sungaze’s metaphors are there: timbre heavy yet oddly, chorally melodic, a weird thttps://www.reddit.com/r/indieheads/comments/cf9zsc/new_music_friday_july_19th_2019/echnological ersatz substituted for what folksters would consider Americana. You might be forgiven to think this is music for the long exodus among the redrock formations arching the Earth like scared pylons if only for the way the cuts drag out the mind like a small dose of mescaline (Shoegaze is a subgenre of psychedelia after all). But to fall back on an adage: all good music is psychedelic. But I have to ask, if this debut long-player is trying hard to stretch my brain back on itself, is it any good at doing so, or is it just tiring me out?

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New Music Friday Thread

July 26th

By and By – Caamp
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Mom + Pop
Genre: Indie Folk, Americana

I dig Americana. I dig the fact that the name of this genre is a completely manufactured devise to describe artsy-fartsy folk-roots. I dig the fact that out of all folk genres, it has the greatest anthemic and roots-rock proclivities. Bluesy, but not too much so, Americana is the folk equivalent of pico de gallo: plenty of vegetables and flavour, but no spice. While watching the Grateful Dead documentary, former tour manager Sam Cutler depicted the story of the Grateful Dead as “a quest to find America” while also plain stating that shit would never fly in his home country of Great Britain. And he’s absolutely right: one of America’s favourite things to do is to pack it up and hit the road; you don’t even need a car, just start running. And for most Americans, to “find America” is to find oneself or somesuch new-age credo for self-discovery. Hence Caamp’s By and By. To be fair, Caamp’s story doesn’t much leave Ohio. But the principal remains even if the distance doesn’t change, if Americana is about finding America is about finding yourself, then Caamp presents a solid block of introspective story-telling about growing-up, coming-of-age, finding-your-stride, looking-ahead, remembering-what’s-behind etc. set to popular themes of folk music (banjo solos, deep guitars, raspy Dylanesque lyrics, light gospel) that make you b’lieve that you can create cultural artifacts out of whatever you can find.

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Chance the Rapper – The Big Day
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Self-Released
Genre: Hip-Hop, Contemporary R&B

Consider it irony: this is Chancellor Bennet III’s debut record, but it doesn’t feel like it. For Chance’s Coloring Book, there was almost no difference between calling it a mixtape or a record. A mixtape being a compilation of songs without singular purpose, Coloring Book, for all intents and purposes, was a debut record. It had purpose: within the long-player, Chance shed his skin as the silly, high school prodigy and emerged a deeply complex artist. If 10 Day was the pluckiness of prep school and Acid Rap was the fugue of college, then Coloring Book was more a graduation then The Big Day itself. The latter sounding like a step backwards to that mixtape philosophy of general assembly; finding whatever slight melody works, spitting bars over it and then releasing it to the stans without filter or fanfare. Really, this record was dropped like a mixtape, there was only one month of preparation for all of us to wrap our head around it: Chance was officially going official… er. And while I much appreciate Chance sticking to his gospel all the same, I still think he lowballed his own skill. I’m not asking the man to be perfect and deliver a five-star record, but (if you’ll indulge this cliché) with Acid Rap and Coloring Book being in a scrap fight for the title of his best project, I was really hoping to see a third contender enter the ring. Instead, we have an undercard, a record that I might enjoy in highlights, but never in full, and for my listening habits, that may as well mean this record never existed.

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Cuco – Para Mi
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Self-Released/Interscope
Genre: Alternative R&B, Hypnagogia

I have resolved to rename hypnagogic pop to hypnagogia in a move consistent with my relabeling of fresh psychedelic pop to neo-psychedelia. This is the only way to maintain sanity when your mind refuses to believe pop is a genre. Because it isn’t. Because pop would be dishonest to Cuco, who fuses Chicano with modern R&B and inducing the fugue between conscious and unconscious—the feeling that the eyes will imprint the top of the skull; I used to play with this state of (un)consciousness in high school all the time. The memorable part was when I shook back awake with a nervous twitch and my eyeballs were pried from the bone like a dried egg on a wall. This was a feeling I thought was only for me. The interlude state that I found most compelling between point A and point B. Which might explain why I found “Brokey the Pear” to be a most delectable little piece. That or because it tastes like a canned pear covered in sugar. One of the two. Thus, the relatability of Cuco’s wackiness finding me simpatico, I like the rest of the record immensely. But, like dreams, I can’t remember it as well as the uncanny sensation of almost falling asleep. And this record is full of the uncanny.

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De Lorians – De Lorians
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Beyond Beyond is Beyond
Genre: Progressive Rock, Jazz Fusion

I am a walking contradiction: I have an irrational love for John Coltrane’s work. But I only have two of his records on vinyl* (one-and-a-half, technically, the half is a Coltrane/Monk concert). I am only interested in Miles Davis. Yet I hoard Miles Davis records. Bitches Brew is one of those records. I have not listened to it in a great deal of time; but I still think of it as a challenging, intriguing piece of work that only boosts in opinion (though never surpassing Nefertiti or Filles de Kilimanjaro). I do the same with any Marc Chagall piece: on viewing, it is ugly and blotchy, seemingly random. But on memory, it is surreal, a cherry to impressionist memories. This seems practical to me: separation breeds affection. So, De Lorians and their self-titled record have a good shot to earn my unremitting appraisal in four years, give or take. Right now, however, I’ve only listened to the record but a couple times and it’s not nearly enough. Progressive Rock and Jazz Fusion are genres that provide much bluster in the name of art, sometime so much so they obscure themselves from their own point. I am still uncertain as to whether De Lorians has a point. I am willing to say it doesn’t need one. But I am most definite in saying the Back to the Future pun is appreciated.

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Florist – Emily Alone
Producer: Self-Produced (Emily Sprague)
Label: Double Double Whammy
Genre: Indie Folk, Singer-Songwriter

Normally, Florist are a three-piece indie chamber band. Normally, they would work collaboratively to make a release, as any normal group. Normally, their albums are hairline lush; music as a simulacrum for the mundane, like the act of driving your car to and from work. On Emily Alone, it is just Emily Sprague, alone. Using her band name to release what is a solo record. And on first lesson, it passes the Julien Baker test. It passes the Hand Habits test. But I don’t really care for it to pass this test because I find this sadgirl music to be entirely depressing in a way that makes it unrelatable. Why this is, I don’t know, but I suspect it’s the same reason one would find most of Turn Out The Lights or Wildly Idle punishingly unmoving: I find the vocals airy and ethereal to a degree that renders them both emotionally unavailable and structurally unreliable. When the melodies are sparse, I want vocals that are stable and solid. Hence my adoration for the xx. Yes, yes Romy Madley Croft is also emotionally unavailable, but at no point does her voice fade out of the mix—not even on I See You—I can count on it to point-counterpoint the melodic devices which fall in and out of focus. After listening to Emily Alone a couple of times, I grant its devastation, but I can’t feel it. And I want to feel it.

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Four Tet – Live at Alexandra Palace
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Self-Released
Genre: Microhouse

Kieran Hebden (dit Four Tet) has carved out a space in the modern house landscape thanks to their seeming “quiet-is-loud” microscopic sound ) alongside such acts as SUBTRKT, Caribou, Mount Kimbie, James Blake et al. However, where SUBTRKT and Caribou and so on may sound like your average wallpaper sounds, Four Tet has stumbled into common critical appraisal for his intelligence and wry approach to electronic music. Intelligent Dance Music, that is. A bunch of bullshit, that is. There’s nothing inherently smarter Microhouse, about one EDM genre over any other, not unless you want to sound elitist; there is such a thing as trite genres, however and sometimes, it’s hard to discern a purpose for SUBTRKT that doesn’t involve my eyes firmly being shut. Four Tet has ventured into such spaces before with New Energy and Morning/Evening, but these all seem like exercises in meditative calmness when viewed retrospectively. What Live at Alexandra Palace does most basically then, is prove that Four Tet can be a rousing live act. That his style of DJing industrial sound into downtempo and deep house ecosystems can set a crowd a light. And so as far as I am concerned, this is a live record done well, able to transmit both the music at high quality and the live atmosphere with affirmed validity.

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Of Monsters and Men – FEVER DREAM
Producer: Self-Produced w/ Rich Costey
Label: Republic
Genre: Indie Rock, Dance Rock

Wild speculation time: I wonder how much an artist fears to be bottled into a Mumford and Sons situation. To be a band so predictable, their formulas have been broken down into memeform and then derided at just a tier under Nickelback or Imagine and Dragons, but still a tier above Dave Matthews Band. Concrete belief: I don’t think this has anything to do with FEVER DREAM wherein Of Monsters and Men are ready to make sonic leaps. See, our Icelandic folk wunderkinds have finally broken with their rootsy anthemics to release a punched-up danceable affair for a third record. And it’s only for their benefit: classically, the third record is all about the break with form, the quintessential search for a depth of skill whether lyric, rhythmic or melodic. Of course, some things never last and others should not, as all things must change and while the music has shifted form and the lyrics have grown more pointed (something to really kick out the jams, as it were), I find it all very dull and faceless; I must admit to having fallen in love with the duets between Raggi and Nanna’s, the constant back-and-forth between lovesick birds chirping and twittering and responding to each the others’ many idiosyncrasies, terrors, follies and so on. Not much of that here, but I suppose if it were, we’d all be cracking jokes about the clairvoyance required to dissect a song by Of Monsters and Men, and I just couldn’t do that to them.

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New Music Friday Thread

Fishing for Fishies: This Lizard Wizard is a-chooglin’ in the bayou, beamin’ in the UFO

Jack of all trades, master of none, oftentimes better than a master of one.”

r-13539769-1556382991-6700.jpegIt was her favourite King Gizzard record, Kelly told me.

But I hadn’t listened yet; I hadn’t really been catching up on missed records at all while riding the inter-cities train and ruing a cold just caught on the way back. Having spent the late April day roaming the battlements, greeneries and streets, spinning flow staff in the park, writing sloppy verses in the gardens, remarking tiny insects exploring the ridged roll of bloodshot knuckle hills and the inherent nihilism creeping (it’s always either washing or creeping, I’ve yet to hear an in-between) on them, as all crap poetry is written: rich in theme, poor in language. I was unhappy to say the least—the teaching assistant program ended, my creative well posted with signs all over (“come back tomorrow,” for a baker’s dozen of days in a row) and nothing but immense loneliness to drink from—Billy Joel, you sonuvabitch!—I was finally homesick, at the exact moment I was leaving home, to write and fail my ass back Stateside. Where did I want to be? Just about anywhere goddamn else. Probably fishing for fishies.

Barring that, I put on King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard’s latest, Fishing for Fishies, sat back and thought about it, drifting off, fishing for fishies. Result: not a lick but a couple of nonsense sentences and charivari crosses of word and sounds, a hubba-baloo of bullshit about billabongs and rig-a-ma-rols, how their music is as country as some raftin’ buddies chooglin’ down the Delta and how the Lizard Wizard portends to it, I mean damn to hell, King Gizzard sound like they is! Is a ridin’ down in a done danged-up dingy, crusin’ in crew shirts and lookin’ and hookin’ for them little wrigglin’ aquaticals, searchin’ for the catch, that is, rootsy catfish n’ crawdads, mud slicking muck suckers speckled and squirmy, cleaned (just a lil bit) and served on horns, keyboards and guitars for the crowds all ready and a-steamwhistlin’ like the Prides o’ the Mississippi. But from raft to riverboat, no Tom Sawyer ain’t got nothin’ on our cultured Huckleberry Finns, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. But spend much longer thinkin’ like this and your brain’ll turn to fucking Gollumite mush.

Yet, I’d been pretty dead-set on the merits of King Gizzard’s Fishing for Fishies as a prime example of Zeppelin’s and T.Rex’s influence in rock, since my late-April train ride from Pau back to Lannemezan, debating why no one was quite brave enough to broach playing a brand of blues-rock as titanic as Led Zeppelin or T.Rex put-together while also sounding so fresh; perhaps the freshness is because King Gizzard do it well, but they don’t deny their influence, aren’t stupid enough to claim it as wholly original work with no outside tastes coming to play (Greta Van Fleet will forever be marked for death for this very reason). Having spoken with quasi-band-leader Stu MacKenzie after a Crystal Ballroom gig in Portland last summer, he made it quite clear interviews opportunities are rare for a band that likes to speak through their music; and the long-player paints it in picket-fence clarity: Bolan, Zoso, Jonesie, Bonzo and Percy Plant were here. But I didn’t like how simplistic this sounded—it was too neat—throw in some turn-of-the-decade Rush/Who commentary and I could tie this off nicely with a cute little bow and a happy wrapper.

Fuck that noise; Stu Mackenzie, Ambrose Kenny-Smith, Joey Walker, Cook Craig, Lucas Skinner, Michael Cavanagh and Eric Moore have one more artist up their sleeve, not exactly a sonic influence, but a kindred influence, something that you can only hear or feel when you’re bugging out listenin’ and thinkin’ and listenin’ and thinkin’ some more on the subject. King Gizzard’s uncanny sense for the Delta that their river raft record skims right across haunting me—there’s a reason this piece’s first thoughts were the similarities between backwoods and bushman dialects—perhaps an insight into how billabongs and marshwoods produce similar colloquial jowlsome jargon. Well, I searched and searched and searched my worried mind of sixties blues-rock in the name of comparative merits tossing out names like the Animals, the Box Tops, Credence Clearwater Revival, the Holding Company, Canned Heat, Johnny Winter or Rory Gallagher but found nothing, coming up short on a manic swamp blues sound with which I could compare the King Gizzard of Fishing for Fishies, because, to be honest, this is all covering the fact that these bluesmen are just recyclers of T-Bone Walker, Muddy Waters, BB King and Chuck Berry riffs. So it was on a rainy Memorial Day that I decided to enjoy one last session soundtracked to Fleetwood Mac live in Boston, 1970 and whether it was the colitas in the air or the fact that Peter Green is a downright spooky frontman, I came out with the beliefs that:

  1. Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac fully imbibed in and embrace such sagacity for the sticks, what with Peter Green taking enough acid to qualify as a government experiment, what with Danny Kirwan breathing beer and other fermented products, what with Jeremy Spencer basically joining a cult, what with Mick Fleetwood and John McVie both trying to keep it all patched together with a rock solid boogie (hence Fleetwood Mac) represents the fundamental core of delta blues: not knowing what tomorrow will bring when yesterday was some serious pain. That may drive every stinging blues riff in existence, but how does that not drive a person insane?
  2. This acumen, having suffered decades-upon-decades of mutation muzakal, twisted and warped towards ends eclectic, if not downright defrauded as cypress for swamp ash or whatever-metaphor-have-you, has been sufficiently preserved and spoken for in Fishing for Fishies as to make you believe that the dinosaurs truly can be resurrected from the blood of a amber-trapped mosquito. That is to say, the crazy bastards of King Gizzard did it, they actually did it. They roar like Zeppelin, stomp like a T.Rex and boogie like a Fleetwood Mac-o-saurus.

But the truth of the matter is that the kings of prog-garage are the ultimate shapeshifters; go through their discography and you will find at least one insanely enjoyable record.

Psychedelic garage? Float Along – Fill Your Lungs; Progressive garage? I’m In Your Mind Fuzz; Heavy metal? Murder of the Universe; Jazz metal? Nonagon Infinity; Psychedelic jazz? Quarters!; Spaghetti western? Eyes Like the Sky; Worldbeat? Flying Microtonal Banana; Surf rock? 12 Bar Bruise; Jazz rock? Sketches of Brunswick East; Folk Rock? Paper Mâché Dream Balloon; Acid rock? Polygondwanaland; Psychedelic rock? Oddments;  Progressive rock? Gumboot Soup;  Roots rock? Fishing for Fishies.

This is a list of 14 records which have been made in roughly seven years. Essentially two records per year, a classic record release rate of the classic rock band, that has produced a body of work edging past any somesuch classic lifespan. Most groups either fade or flame out—the toll of rock n’ roll, our mythologizing, as it were—instead of bathing at the summit of their powers at seven years. King Gizzard than, have passed over the limit, the line, the demarcation barring the Traffics from the Jethro Tulls, the Faces from the Rolling Stones, the Bands from the Grateful Deads, Jeff Beck’s Groups from the Led Zeppelins, the Bluesbreakers from the Fleetwood Macs. That’s not to say these former groups were right to disappear because of a lack of longevity, but there is a point where a group moves from a feature to a standard, when we start institutionalizing their contributions, mythologizing their characters as Ellen Willis and Lester Bangs rolls in their graves at the thought that we might actually be searching for the next Jerry Garcia, the next John Lennon, the next Lou Reed. The Death Dwarves should be out in force by now, rendering unto us another hero which we, the mob, can pull, push, shove and tip over like a fallen despot’s statue. Will we do that with the rapidly rising edifice of the King? Have we learned any better? I don’t know and my misanthropy hesitates blinking even once for the fact that rock is forever a tenuous balance between the awesome and the improvised; the practiced and the imprudent; a game of chicken jousted by the skilled and the fraudulent (until the latter, too, becomes a clockwork machine in the gears behind the ears of his listeners or a fireball finally flaming out re the Stooges or the Replacements, respectively). There is also no mark against that most of these bands had one particular sound; that Credence Clearwater Revival died once their bayou boogie roots began to lose its moonshine isn’t a condemnation but a confirmation of the nomadic nature of inspiration. Music may never die, but muses will move on. Hence my unquantifiable obsession for that crossover period from the Sixties into the Seventies on to the (early, early) Eighties. Bands died, but artists continued to live, the 27 Club not withstanding. The skilled artists found new styles, new subject matter to mull over and write with, the unskilled did not and were not heard from again1.

1For all the thrashing glam and beauty of the New York Dolls, their post-proto-punk careers go unheralded because it struggled against the mixed glass ceiling of their commitment and their commercial viability; who really was ready to listen to the aging punk-of-the-party in 1976? Everyone was very much still trying to hold on to their vestiges of youth (or did disco and punk lie to me?) not be reminded of their aging. Perhaps, the old rock writers were right: rock and roll is about the nonscript, the stranger picking up a guitar and just doing something with it, lunatic fiddling rather than expertly playing with it. I can’t help but be reminded of that Sweet chorus: “And the man at the back said/ Everyone attack and it turned into a ballroom  ablitz/ And the girl in the corner said/ Boy, I wanna warn ya, it’ll turn into a ballroom blitz.” Once that blitz is over however, what’s left? I may be a self-destructive person, but after a while, I want to know what my corpse will fertilize, what the remains of my music will inspire. This might be the underlying point to my obsession with transforming my mind to a wholly cybernetic feature in order to answer the proverbial question: “what’s next?”

As for our subject seven-piece ultracollective, their status as skilled was postmarked in 2017, whence they released a grand total of six records (five as sole album artists and one as a collaboration with the mild High Club) all dabbling in polyrhythmic, exotic instrumentation and nonstandard time signatures for substance in the same way that a mad scientist dabbles liberally to find solutions to problems no one is particularly asking for. Alchemists with an Electronics degree; musicians who specialize in maths. It would be wrong to label this band an institution when their label, Flightless, would deserve such a surname as the first independent Australian imprint of international recognition akin to the Elephant Six, an Umbrella Academy of producer-musicians for which King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard are the deans: Stu Mackenzie, Ambrose Kenny-Smith, Cook Craig, Michael Cavanagh, Eric Moore, Lucas Skinner and Joe Walker. Their chameleon style mixed with an unfathomable work effort has earned my respect as (probably) the best damn modern rock outfit this side of the millennium if not the most productive, most active and best likened to a certifiable release-date force of nature, only taking 2018 off in order to recuperate on a whirlwind world tour, selling out theatre after theatre, running from crowd to crowd, blowing out performance after performance. My own experience of the King live at the Crystal Ballroom in 2018 was capped off by crowd surfing, an interminable mosh pit and beers galore all pared to a setlist that dragged the nerves from your flesh and set them alight with a rhythmic timbre pyre doused in bass-o-line, or the “Cruel Milennial” isn’t my favourite tune on Fishing for Fishies.

Can’t relate face to face with modern day youth
Outdated, the post-millennial will get you
I was born in the echo boom
Yet I rust as the cruel millennial

– “The Cruel Millenial”

Which it probably isn’t, because the tracklist on Fishing for Fishies is chockfull of rootsy guitars, loose-strung strings and Bolanite vocals turned suddenly to mathematics, synthesizers and unidentified melodic objects from planet Aphex Twin rerendered into lo-fi funkadelia. Yes, in microcosmic fashion, Stu Mackenzie, Ambrose Kenny-Smith, Cook Craig, Michael Cavanagh, Eric Moore, Lucas Skinner and Joe Walker demonstrate what makes a good band great: an ability for metamorphosis. And they do it before our very ears within a record. It may not be a long-player of my desire despite my adamant admiration for the groups and time periods it pulls from (I love Led Zeppelin, Fleetwood Mac, Eric Clapton, Funkadelic et al more than bands influenced by Zeppelin, Mac and Clapton et al) but it’s a damn testament to the skill of the premier prog-garage band; so Fishing for Fishies may remind me of all sorts of connections between Zeppelin or Rush or Fleetwood Mac, but in truth King Gizzard are the Genesis or Flaming Lips of their day, simultaneously indulging on the drug of workoholism and weaving together the eclectic world music interests of an art rock collective with the grit and mania of a garagepunk group angry with modernia that allows me to skip over a lukewarm reaction to the casual throwback “Bird Song” and the groovy “Real’s Not Real” as a pair of Sketches at Brunswick East b-side if there ever were one. They’re probably as close to “calm” cuts this long-player could get; the rest of this record is a rocket-strapped raft, a mission on the Mississippi travelling through the Delta (“Fishing for Fishies”) to the bayou (“This Thing”) before beaming up (“Acarine” and “Cyboogie”). For every bit that this record may sound a casual perusal of jazzrock turned gumbo garage, the moment this album shifts unto the electrorock odyssey of “Acarine” is what elevates it to an experience-of-the-year level.

And while we can all agree that King Gizzard, our industrious, psychonautic Fëanor, have yet to craft their Silmarils, we can also agree that the royal jewel collection is vast and only growing vaster. It’s easy to bet against a fourth or fifth record’s shot at excellency, but the Kings are fast approaching their fifteenth effort, Infest the Rat’s Nest, and the closest they came to stumbling might have been Murder of the Universe, but on balance, they used the dizzying off-kilter Black Sabbath-by-Flaming Lips lunacy to catapult into Sketches at Brunswick East, Polygondwanaland and Gumboot Soup. And any jewel before or since had a glint to it, something soliciting someone and their undivided interest. It’s almost an impossibility for me to identify my favourite record of theirs; to be trite, it depends on my mood, but what I can say is that, increasingly, there is a King Gizzard record for any kind of mood and now there is one for all my Zeppelinite, T. Rexian, Fleetwood Macker needs.

When was the last time you could say that about a band?

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Fishing For Fishies

Producer: Self-Produced

Label: Flightless

Genre: Progressive Rock, Blues Rock

Tracklist:

  1. “Fishing for Fishies”
  2. “Boogieman Sam”
  3. “The Bird Song”
  4. “Plastic Boogie”
  5. “The Cruel Millennial”
  6. “Real’s Not Real”
  7. “This Thing”
  8. “Acarine”
  9. “Cyboogie”

A Diatribe on the State of Society as Told Through My Favourite Albums of 2019 (Thus Far)

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The Comet is Coming ­– Trust In the Cosmic Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery

I yawned at The Comet is Coming live at Doug Fir, I must admit.

But I must also admit that I don’t know whether this made it a good avant-garde spacejazz show or a rather pisspoor one—see, I yawn at all concerts. I yawned at Judas Priest live three days later and I know that was because I was bored.

I don’t spend my days swimming amongst a cobweb collection of old Judas Priest records, I don’t own any—my period of metal is the early seventies what with Sabbath, Deep Purple and Iron Butterfly, I just need to add some Jeff Beck, Blue Cheer, Steppenwolfe and some early live Zeppelin. And I suppose I like Judas enough to give British Steel, Sin After Sin and Sad Wings of Destiny purchasing thoughts that probably won’t receive a follow-throughs, but the truth of it is hard metal and I had a hard divorce after 1982—shit I wasn’t even born and already metal and the amorphous collection of cells that were shitkicking the can down the road until I came screaming into this world had decided: no hair metal—the quantum severance package resulting from this polarity shift came grâce à Blue Öyster Cult and their record Fire of Unknown Origin, which showcased their wholehearted hat toss into the classic metal arena where they had previously spent their careers coddling the line between hard rock and metal, the same line which Led Zeppelin toed like ballerinas. Unfortunately for Judas Priest (and Iron Maiden for that matter,) they came in just at the time I was leaving; Aerosmith too was passed over for that Post-Punk Reggaeska sound of New Wave. Only AC/DC truly survived this musical holocaust and I’ll still bury them with a copy of Back in Black abreast of a bottle of Jack. You did good, Bon Scott, you did good. Unfortunately your successor, Brian Johnson, only got in as I closed the door behind me. The noise pollution may never die, but it can change scenes.

So what the fuck does this all have to do with The Comet is Coming anyways? Well, spacejazz, like that sticky late period of seventies hardrock/metal settled in the “meh” bin, Sun Ra, for all his austere swirling propheteering compositions, doesn’t affect the same pull that a simple hook from Trane, Davis, Monk, Getz, Baker, Rollins or Cannonball or Fela Kuti works me. Granted this is all time capsule work, and any new follower of the Arkestra is going to have to transcend past time, which is exactly what Danalogue, Betamax and King Shabaka achieve on Trust In the Cosmic Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery and worth me properly reciting that record’s babbling name. It sounds like a new age parody and in some ways, it is, with “Birth of Creation” introducing Shabaka Hutching’s menacing afrobeat sax as your chauffeur through this deserted electronic, non-ironic new Dali-wood world record. This is a highlighted change from their preceding record, Channel the Spirts, a jungling affair that not even Zaba can compete with (that said, Zaba has the melodies to go with the timbre, which will pull listeners into orbit far easier) and which worked hard to muddle any sense of melody we might need, rather abandoning us to slogging in the mudmuck of music. Thus Trust in the Lifeforce, made to be played live and for a solid thirty minutes, I was there—no yawns—just absolute dead concentrating on how this trio was a glorified series of assists to the saxophone-holding Hutchings. I guess some things just never change, but I don’t really want it to, because all those Rolands and Moogs and Rhodes only add up to noise and I want something to rampage through that noise like a roadrager through heavy traffic—I was quite certain that it was just the same sax solo with barely any variations besides tempo (but I’m not educated enough to be right on this matter) and I was also quite certain that if they kept going on that extended medley, someone would finally blow a vein and suffer a cerebral edema. Hutchings finished before that happened. Pity, it would have probably pushed that show into a memorable category. What it did do was heighten my respect for their latest record at a new level, because what I’d heard is what I got, plus some extended spacejazz jams (my favourite part of any late-eighties Grateful Dead show, I must admit). Hell, the sophomore effort itself is just an extended jam stretching only 45 minutes but sounds like a grand spinoff tale from the Planet Dune by the drum solo on “Timewave Zero,” brought home with (what else but) a Shabaka solo on “The Universe Wakes Up” before the LP just clicks back in at “Because The End is Really the Beginning.” However, at The Comet is Coming concert, I only began to open-wide in serial gormless form once the opening thirty minute melody had finished and my patience had worn thin with Danalogue’s vamping—about a 50 minute hard cap, unless your record/show is real special, hence why King Tuff and King Gizzard and K. Dot live are memories precious to me, the records were good and the sets were a non-stop feed of live wired electrocutionary sensibilities. As for the Comet is Coming, the rest of their time was fine, but it never had the same wired feel as their long-player. This show was just the extended deluxe remastered edition’s kicker re I’m still kicking myself for not buying an original copy at the Doug Fir so I could back home, slap it on and proceed not to yawn.

And in some ways I’m mad for constantly kicking myself, but really I’m just addicted. I like feeling down-on-my-luck and uncool. I get told I exceed expectations for most people and all I know is that I’m just a chameleon, the real me is extremely unhappy with his slice of life—it’s just never big enough, the vinyl collection is always left for wanting—mainly because he kicked himself while he was down in college and never applied for one of those fancy shmancy internships. Instead it’s all minimum wage from here, baby. In a way, I’ve chosen the way of the struggling artist, so I’m to blame, but I’m not blaming myself for a bowl of your pity; I just want another hit of my own. And if emotional self-harm is the hit, then music is the come-up, the peak and the comedown. It is the heroin, the morphine, the Oxycontin re opioid of my day, everyday. Hence why this isn’t just some confused show/record review for the Comet is Coming, but rather a megapiece on five records that managed to simultaneously relax me yet stir something more than just 200 words of written soundbyte reviews. Only Trust in the Lifeforce along with four other records did this. That’s not true, other records did this too, but these five did it best. And I’m just here to struggle and starve and write to them, hit after hit after hit.

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Julia Jacklin – Crushing

But I can’t deny I am, as of this writing, still mad for not redacting myself on this faux-listicle after committing to only one a year, if anything because you’re starting to believe each successive longplayer to be better than the last and, well, that’s nowhere near the bleeding truth because if I had to stand on a hill and hemorrhage and die for one of these records, it’d probably be Crushing. Unfortunately, a fellow Atwooder picked her sophomore record and I, not being one to steal someone’s thunder—in writing that is, in conversation all bets are off—so I’m just gonna write about here in very plain terms: no one release an album of the year in the debut months. And so it should be immediately written off there, right? Wrong. The dearth of good records being released in February aside, it seemed like everyone was gearing up for an early Spring Cleaning of the tape archives to begin in March when Julia Jacklin jumped the gun and dropped this 39-minute mood colossal upon our sorry fucking asses, maybe she was confused by the seasonal switcheroo between the Southern and Northern hemisphere? No, you misogynist, get your head out of the gutter, what better time to release than early in the year, when no one is expecting it, so that when all the critics have to review their notes on potential albums of the year, they notice Jacklin all the way out there in fucking February, and, scoffing at the idea that someone would be so foolish to release out-of-season put it on only to melt to a runtime chockfull of those good Joni Mitchell/Joan Baez/Laura Marling vocalizations before dry-singing: “I raised my body up to be mine.” Well fuck me if I don’t have a list of girls I need to call up now for my piss-drunken rapscallion behavior that by any normal standard breathes creep in and out just to say I’m sorry on behalf of—no, not Julia—my former self. Except that talking about how much you’ve changed is about as effective as writing about it, so I’m just gonna sit here listenin’ and a-tappin’ my foot along to Jacklin as she lay down her laws for some r-e-s-p-e-c-t (all lowercase because that’s all anybody merits minimally. Save your capslock for those whose who might actually fucking deserve it; Aretha Franklin, Capt. Richard Winters, Sacagawea, Hua Mulan and le bon roi Henri IV all make my shortlist) and agreeing with every melody she fingerpicked to herself a million-times over, every falsetto howl she outbursts into and every word she penned straight to the humanist in every human. Because she’s not really talking about any somesuch fourthwave feminist power, she’s talking about relationships and boundaries:

“Started eating at your favourite place/
And I, I stopped eating with you/
You were always trying to force my taste/
But now I’m eating there ’cause I want to”

You don’t need a body-positive boygirlfriend to know this crushing feeling of domineering tastes—I remember the first time an on-again-off-again friend recommended I listen to Tom Petty as I inhaled a dab-and-a-half of 80-percent THC before staring straight-faced at him and then “no’d” that thought six-feet under the fucking foundations of his house at which point the mood shifted to a reprimand of my audaciousness to refuse his request in his fucking house. How close minded was I to shutdown his suggestions with such cold authority?! I don’t care, my relationship was that we shared good music suggestions, noodle some guitar licks and partook in the weediest of weeds, the boundary was Tom-fucking-Petty, who, just like Jackson Browne and early-period Eagles was just trying their best to sound like cowboy-rock competitors to their bumpkin jamband Southern rock contemporaries and who I would never listen to unless it was “Last Dance with Mary-Jane” on the car radio and I was feeling particularly guilty for saying no to listening to the same man who bled my ears out at every Blazers game giveaway parachute drop in the Rose Garden with “Freefallin.” Oh how I hate that song for being just about the biggest pussyfoot Freebird rock ballad before “I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)” came out and wiped out all other pretenders, “Freefallin’” included1. Nobody said this reasoning would be rational, but the boundary was overstepped and I said no and I want you to say that despite my understanding of this piece as you reading it for my recommendations among the thoughts, rambles and ideas, I hope you say no to at least one of them—mayhap even all of them!—no matter how hard I try to drag you screaming into my listening quarters for a session to Julia Jacklin’s Crushing, because lines like “How do I keep loving you/ Now that I know you so well” and  “I don’t care if you lie/ Breathe in, breath out/ You’re still a good guy” don’t normally pop up like daisies in February. If you like any of these records, just please let it be this one.

God, now I know my friend felt.

1I’ve been sorting through my parent’s CD collection and as much as I was incredibly impressed by their Eighties micro-conglomerate of college alternative, some hip-hop, alternative funk (aka Prince) and classic rock from stadium to intimate, I must confess to knocking major points off for Bat Out of Hell II, not that this a controversial opinion, just that my parent’s CD collection took a serious hit for allowing the Meat Loaf abomination into its gates. Alas, I digress.

And to be honest, there’s always the chance that I’m just conforming in some way, either by tuning in or out based on some preconceived notion, hell, I’ve barely listened to any rap this year; I’m not the most knowledgeable in anything but my Soulquarian movement; I’ve yet to give IGOR a spin. But I’m hoping to save it for my end-of-year palooza, I like to keep some good records for that time of year, hence why I didn’t start raving on Against All Logic’s 2012-2017 until a full year later, I mean, who needs release dates anyways? All you writers looking to stay hot-to-topic, fuck me reviews shouldn’t need be made in three days, they gotta live with you for a while. Hence these companion thoughts made directly as the record plays. Hence why I am tangential to the max. I don’t think I’m smart, I just think my brain is hyperactive. I think I’m anxious. I bet you I’ve majorly depressed. But I dunno, I’ve never been medicated for it, I only saw a shrink once to get over a non-romantic breakup. I guess I’m just a fragile wide-mouthed glass cannon of opinions shooting off on things from singular observations rather than astoundingly deep knowledge. I’m god awful at hounding sources and dropping ledes, so don’t come to me for news. I’m just reacting in my own delayed way. It’s weird.

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Orville Peck –  Pony

Yet if weird has been your keyword for the present year (really have the headlines stopped reading like Onion parodies yet?) then I hope you’ve been listening to Orville Peck. Here is the queer cowboy of your dreams, shoving the heteronormativity and turning country on it’s binary-head, a homosexual man writing about them easy Rodeo Boys and Girls, roadside prostitutes walking the loneliest highways of America and steelhorse cowboys burning the midnight oil. Classic Subpop, I mean where did they find this woke country poke? He’s got plenty of Johnny Cash and Marty Robbins in him to keep up the costume and he is a heartthrob à la Elvis or Chris Isaak what with that voice. At least, he might be if it weren’t for his streamer style mask, it must get hot under those ribbons of leather. Yet the Zorro effect is quite the attirant. So we’re only left with clues cut and slapped on record; so does the music actually speak to the man? Yes and no, the LGBTQ+ effect was never heavily applied until the cameras were out for music videos, before it only mattered if you listened to the lyrics, which I did and came to wondering if he was actually straight which he isn’t (Billboard solved that real quick) not that it matters which makes it kinda great; it’s just music about the constant tour and the sexual frustrations and experiments that happen on it. It’s conceit is delirious in its affection for rendering distance both geographical (“Kansas,” “Big Sky”) or interpersonal (“Dead of Night,” “Queen of the Rodeo” “Hope to Die”) or both at the same time (“Winds of Change,” “Nothing Fades Like the Light”). See I’m glad the beer is no longer a lyrical device but just a given; of course there are beers on ice, he’s a fucking country singer. But no car, no dog, no women needs get lost. Every muse on this record is already lost, no questions asked. And the on-the-road relationships might only mean deleterious ends, but damnit what’s a young man with a dick to do? Break and be broken, young man, go west, young man. And Orville Peck actually did it, he went West for Reno, eased back East to Topeka, headed South for the border and then he turned round, mumbling something or other about Montana and a date with a big blue sky. This is the first time I’ve actually listened to the record since writing my impressions on it, which might reflect well on it’s memorability, but I think it’s just the product Working As Intended. A long-player long on tour come back home for a week or two before heading out again. I don’t need to listen to it every year, just for moments. The hooves on this Pony are tenderizing and sometimes a single listen is enough. That it has been entered into my “old friend” category is a credit to how long-lived this record should live in the collection, even if I’m waiting on the funds for that vinyl store visit2 but I guess these are not weird reasons to irrationally respect a record like this (a debut one, too!), so I’ll be tangential about it.

2I’ve already got my shopping list: one copy of Pony, one copy of The Seduction of Kansas, one copy of Tasmania(more on both soon), one copy of Trust in the Lifeforce, one copy of Crushing, one copy of the new Tame Impala, one copy of PostEarth, a copy of Fishing for Fishies and Flying Microtonal Banana each, one copy of Bottle It In, one copy of all Courtney Barnett’s stuff, one copy of Live at KEXP!, one copy of 2012-2017, one copy of Electric Warrior, one copy of Your Saving Grace, one copy of Brave New World, one copy Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs, one copy of Portland Memorial Colosseum 5/19/1974, one copy of The Chic Corporation and one deluxe copy of Physical Graffiti. All looking to set me back a solid near-grand when what I really need doing is to upgrade my record player and finally grab a preamp, easily another half grand. It’d be a tough choice, maybe I’ll need a compromise, perhaps just grab everything up to the Against All Logic record. Yeah, that could be found cheap enough so I can grab a preamp and be halfway there. Which ever path, all five of my favourite midyear records are already picked for home.

See, what’s weird is I wouldn’t have reviewed this record as fast I did—but I did—only just now I’ve listened to it again and realized why I called my grandmother in Minnesota in a fever pitch to rave to her why she should listen to this record: it was summer, I was 14, my sister Rachel and I were roadtripping with our grandparents all the way from their newly fabbed farmhouse in Northern Minnesota to our hillside boxhome in Beaverton, a suburb of Portland, but I like to say I’m from Portland anyways, so fuck it: we drove from Hill City, Minnesota to Portland, Oregon over the course of three days. And when I say our house was a hillside boxhome, I mean that legoblock of house should slide down the mountain any earthquake now. It’s a threefloor bungalow castle on crannogsticks and when the ground starts to wobble, it’ll snap that toothpick palace and send it right into the ravine to stack up with the rest of it’s ill-conceived neighbors. Digressing our destination was far away—and in the deserted east of Montana, home was ever a word of hope image of smoke, lithe and long from your fingers. The word desolate only serves to adequately describe only two places on this earth: the Australian Outback and the east of Montana, this never seemed so obvious as when traversing the US 12, meandering under a sky so big it would dwarf any Tower of Babel modern or antique. The ocean was above us; Lakes? A dream behind us; Doug-Firs? One before us. After a month away, I had made myself at home among the familiar glens and meadows of my grandparents’ farm. I wouldn’t wake up until 10 at the earliest. I would practice cutthroat pool; my uncle Nate and I would grill cheese sandwiches with onion as an optional extra; I was house guitarist for our Rock Band band; I would attend graduation parties, but I wouldn’t drink; I would have felt guilty for both that and the constant masturbation (four weeks on a remote farm? You do that math) because on the inside I really was still a club member for Weenies Hut Jr. I was just insecure and horny about it. Too much time, not enough responsibility, you might suppose, but I say not enough creativity. “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop,” you might say, but I’d say it feels more paradise found for but minutes in the life of a lazy sot, like mine was, like mine were. Mostly, I was a gregarious anti-social—shyness was still a lil sport move I could still pull, despite a foot’s difference since the last time I visited—I still hated most people, I was indifferent toward my cousins’ friends (an improvement!) and by the end of any vacation, I hated myself; perhaps that’s how I knew it was a vacation, even though I acted like it wasn’t. And I both loved and hated the middle of Montana, finally ceded free from the local country cacophonia of our Grandparents’ CD collection; I had just discovered Zeppelin (only the hits) and I reviled country. But we all finally agreed in compromise to listen to silence. We reached an object on the horizon; it was a farmhouse. Abandoned. A car rusted in the lot, metal fried under the sun, wood warped. I could hear nothing but the groan of the road, the bumps on the asphalt, my pulse was in my ears. That was the sound I remember of Montana, the sound of a boring, terrifying, awesome open road, the horror of ghost towns on the horizon. The sound of Pony.

2I’ve already got my shopping list: one copy of Pony, one copy of The Seduction of Kansas, one copy of Tasmania(more on both soon), one copy of Trust in the Lifeforce, one copy of Crushing, one copy of the new Tame Impala, one copy of PostEarth, a copy of Fishing for Fishies and Flying Microtonal Banana each, one copy of Bottle It In, one copy of all Courtney Barnett’s stuff, one copy of Live at KEXP!, one copy of 2012-2017, one copy of Electric Warrior, one copy of Your Saving Grace, one copy of Brave New World, one copy Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs, one copy of Portland Memorial Colosseum 5/19/1974 and one deluxe copy of Physical Graffiti. All looking to set me back a solid near-grand when what I really need doing is to upgrade my record player and finally grab a preamp, easily another half grand. It’d be a tough choice, maybe I’ll need a compromise, perhaps just grab everything up to the Against All Logic record. Yeah, that could be found cheap enough so I can grab a preamp and be halfway there. Which ever path, all five of my favourite midyear records are already picked for home.

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Pond – Tasmania

But I fully expect that record to be forgotten like a high school friend’s number, left for a technological stumbling on the vespers of inebriated escapes, a fleck of gold, found and called and hung up to be lost again; the Tom Bombadil of your 21st century address book. See, some albums are so great, they do us a favor to make sure we don’t remember them—only so when we relisten to them, we get a single perfect listen. This is not in the same fashion as muzak; I’ve listened to Currents enough times to merit a multi-yearlong break before next listen. Same with any Zeppelin record or John Coltrana But with records like In Colour by Jamie xx, Sticky Fingers by the Stones or Travelling Without Moving by Jamiroquai or for some reason or another, any of Miles Davis’. I routinely forget how good Sketches of Spain and Nerfertiti are. I’m routinely struck by the little moments, the vast space in between the crazy blink-and-you’ll-miss-it peaks. These are friends that don’t require your time; but will improve it in unfailing fashion, creative sparkplugs to the battery so to speak. But one you forget to charge or text every once in a while.

Enter Pond’s latest longer-player, Tasmania, to be forgotten by me once that mophead Kevin Parker finally releases that goddamn Impala album this year or the next (he’s such a goddamn tease, I say with love). Which is a goddamn shame, Impala, because were it not for you then Tasmania, and really Pond’s entire career would never have left Australia. And like it or not, Pond always gets written by the common psychonaut as the Kevin Parker backer band—and despite this warrant for their early career as a mutual symbiosis for both projects, I myself only find Beard, Wives and Denim to be overwhelmingly memorable precisely as it separates from their MGMT/Impala influences—if for just a brief moment—while critics have written them up as being abreast if not leading “the movement.” Well, I don’t buy that for an instant either, if anybody’s pushing this damn musical effervescence from it’s King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard’s Flightless coop, bric-a-bracking together a competitor to the likes of Elephant Six or the Animal Collective, i.e. neo-psychedelic history, and Pond just can’t compete with that level of musical-social engineering, no matter how wide they and Kevin Parker cracked open the door. What they can claim however, is a damn good follow up to The Weather, a topper to an upward trend since Man, It Feels Like Space Again, divided into an “upbeat-side” and a “downbeat-side,” one for all the Oracular Spectacular fans and one for all Congratulations diehards, still thumping on about its clear and undebatable *huffs* SUPERIORITY to the former. Really it just reminds of the Dead’s Blues for Allah, what with a side for jamming and a side for spacing. Where Blues does the ancient Caliphate crossing caravan, Tasmania crafts a requiem for a dying Adelbaran while notching more wins in Nick Allbrook’s book of damn fine poetry, none better than the faceup to political realities on “Hand Mouth Dancer” (“So you got political, can you speak on that?/ I didn’t get political, I just faced the facts/ Is it critical we react?”) or the pure desperation of the commons in a country run by rabble with “The Boys are Killing Me” (“I’m lucky, I’m lucky, I’m lucky just to sleep at night, oh/ So we linked arms and we staggered off into the night/ Drunk, but overjoyed just to be employed”). It’s not all doom and gloom either as the band takes time to do the good thoughts, bad thoughts routine on “Burnt Out Star” and give us the Carl Sagan rap that at the end of the day, we’re just star stuff—“a way for the Cosmos to know itself.” And I don’t want to sound trite in gushing “WOW, THEY ARE SO BRAVE,” or rant on the merits of their commentary being a keystone moment for socially conscious psychedelia because it would all amount to a circular psychotropic diatribe trying to prove that Pond actually is *huffs* OBJECTIVELY BETTER THAN TAME IMPALA, LEMME TELL YOU. That’s not what it’s about here, it’s about what has been rather than what will be, the joy of the moment-thing and all that entails, so enjoy the death rattles of society, read some Léo as it sobs and moans, regard some of your buddy’s art as it hacks and coughs, and find yourself a Tasmania to breath in that fresh air before it’s all gone.

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Priests – The Seduction of Kansas

Well, I did all of this and still found myself unable to console my wondering brain: how did we get here? Answers came to mind, some more sophisticated than others, some intricately linked together: pride, laziness, coal, oil, corporate consolidation, true-wage compression, Alan Greenspan and his easy-money, fifty years of “middle class” tax cuts for the wealthy, the Telecommunications Act of 1997, Rupert Murdoch, automation, woeful religious interpretation, automobilism, foreign proprietors, Ethics of Care, anti-vaxxing and other new crystal-bitch fuckery, Republican zealot-senators and limp-wristed Democrat reps, all transforming us into neoliberal policy addicts for cheap consumer electronics re goods re “a life worth living.” Well, those make up many parts of a product and bad parts make bad products. And society as we structured it is a bad product, saving the human race by destroying the soil it lives on—what a steal!—and no amount of cheap new age hippie-isms are gonna save you from that fact if my heart of darkness is correct, because I’m certain the Neo-Nazis and other brownshirt-jackboot paramilitaries are gonna win, precisely as they don’t wear that traditional-authoritarian shit no more. They wear think-tank badges and business suits and slick Wall Street haircuts, working on computers with brass bull balls for screensavers and playing a video game called life all while spouting about more tax cuts, small business and Making [Country] Great Again if it means laundering their Russian/Panamian/Swiss bank accounts to their global ventures while doing nothing to stem a tide of new robotics here to take your corporate-sponsored-valium-popping neighbor Billy Bjornson’s dead-end decal factory job as he laps up their shit and thanks them for defending his right to stockpile enough weapons to overthrow the fragile African democracy we are inevitably becoming in order to protect his country from those “goddam transgender librul’s and their vegan mohametan allies” while all of us goddamn liberals keep getting demoralized by whitebread identity-politic democrats with barely an ounce of courage are consistently outwitted by an impossibly infuriating conservative sense for political decorum in preserving the power structure of the corporate lettuce feeders. And thus we leave the political arena because we think it’s all rigged (true) for the benefit of some poor white ruralist (untrue). The only thing it’s rigged for is to keep us stupid as Haliburton, Comcast and Amazon run off with all the fucking money to their underground bunkers in Appalachia, the Swiss Alps or the Northern Rockies. Has been that way since a thief finally settled on the land he stole and needed convincing the local populace that he earned it and it will probably stay that way until our species survives some localized nuclear holocausts. I hope I die in the nuclear blast, myself, and I’m willing to download my conscious into a mechanical host to wait until it happens. I won’t try to cause it, but I sure as shit don’t mind dying in it, just so long as get to keep a copy of The Seduction of Kansas by Priests and this email I wrote to no one in particular but a figment of my overactive imagination:

To: postpunkur1979@yahoo.com

From: howdidyougetthis@email.com

Subject: A listening suggestion during the newfound halcyon days of restlessness

Well, I’ve been doing some thinking (always dangerous), and I know you haven’t really listened to anything new since Franz Ferdinand up and blew your mind on their first shot only for Interpol to release Antics seven months later and leave your 2004 bookended quite nicely, but I suppose just about now, in 2019, that we should be asking ourselves a new question, lest we never and have this whole thing blow over us: just how exactly did we not expect post-punk to make not one but two comebacks in our new millennium?

How exactly do we not expect any genre at this point not to make some form of comeback or leave some impression on some art college reject (inclusively rejecting of or rejected by) holed up in a bedroom or a garage listening to records-upon-records of jangling, technobopping, musique concrete flirting, new wave waxing, post-punk vagaries at volumes too loud for their parents’ Christian homes. See when, in the age of Instagram feeds (perhaps the greatest archive of the commons with a shot to be recovered by some betentacled alien or Earthling civilization circa 100 million years from now, finally managing to decrypt our databits and reassemble them into the millennial Calima: dickbutt) we no longer need worry about the word phase. Replaced, it has been, by new netslang slung by fingers swyping. The difference is recurrence; if it happens once it’s just a fad, thus 1979; if it happens again it’s a renaissance, thus 1999; if it happens a third time, it’s an aesthetic, thus 2019. The movement is a filter now, an overlay on your profile record just as much as it is a delay or reverb on your record. Good. I couldn’t think of anything better; this is the same genre that birthed us The Police, The Talking Heads, disposed itself to the The Yeah Yeah Yeahs and the White Stripes and now undergoes exploitation of everyone looking to add fashionable iconoclasm to their art: Parquet Courts, Iceage, Protomartyr, Drahla and, for my pick of the post-punk album of the year, Priests’ The Seduction of Kansas. A throwback look, if ever there was one, to the Topeka punk scene during the Regan administration; an aural accompaniment to Stranger Things days of horror submerged in Eighties fluff, substituting the Demogorgon’s for the whiteteeth-lying politickers and the stark industrialism for a good surfrock riff, while keeping that barnhouse reverb and fuzz—Footloose with some actual angst—all demonstrating the budgeted wasteland of middle America rife with the new breeds of armchair philosophers and mental health nuts and speed freaks that we call neighbors, if not ourselves. This might not fill your gullet with the same coolismo as your dearly beloveds, but it might just remind you that in 1979 Elvis Costello was drawing on Americana to define a new aesthetic of beatnik punk. And if 100,000 years from now, when the Edenites arrive on our planet’s burnt out husk, I hope by freak chance this remains the only record left on an Apple server readily available for download. Because I expect them to immediately destroy it for its blasphemous sound, but not before it freaks them right out of their unisex bathrooms, kale-lined plates and purplepicket spaceships. Conservatives, pah!, they never change.

Best,

-Benjammin

Release Date Buffet: June 2019

June 7th

Drowse – Light Mirror

Producer: Self-Produced

Label: The Flenser

Genre: Shoegaze, Slowcore, Dream Pop

I love press releases that open with the most pretentious axioms. And man, does Drowse give us a doozy for Light Mirror: the simplest questions are often the most difficult to answer. Well, let’s start the simplest question possible that still pertains to the topic: why did Light Mirror get made? Ooh, I have an answer: because slowcore nerds need another album to cry to? Ding-ding! Ooh, I have another: because creation is a flighty bitch you need to pin down? Ding-ding! Ooh, I have a third: because someone needed money! Ding-ding. According to the very-same, native Portland sadboy slowcore songwriter/producer Kyle Bates went into self-imposed exile in Northern Ireland—a hoity-toity way of saying artistic residency—to give him “ample space to ponder the nature of solitude and what it means to be “closed or” or “open” to the world.” At this point, I was having more fun reading the press release on The Flenser, then I was listening to the damn record. But by “Physical World” it finally got me; the existential sadness, the crushing sense of loneliness, the actions of self-inflicted pain, emotional and physical. Oh my God, why do us people listen to this stuff? Why do we hate ourselves? Fuck, now I need another album to cry to.

Link

French Vanilla – How Am I Not Myself?

Producer: Sean Cook

Label: Danger Collective Records

Genre: Post-Punk, Art Punk

Art Punk is gonna be the overused genre of the year isn’t it? Well, not as long as artists find new or barely scratched instruments to make punk with. And French Vanilla decided what all us art punks, all us wine-and-mosh mates, all us ay-oh-lets-go Dadaists need is some funky French Quarter horn sections to break us into new, blatantly un-Dada-esque territories. Jazzpunk is rarely a genre I thought possible, an ignorance I attribute either via my musical illiteracy or ahistory on the subject. But to virgin ears this record will go either one of two ways: either you’ll hate it, or you’ll love it. Or you’ll be indifferent to it and everything I say will, as always, be fulla shit.

Link

Froth – Duress

Producer: Joo Joo Ashworth w/ Tomas Dolas

Label: Wichita Recordings

Genre: Psychedelic Rock, lo-fi Rock

Froth did a number on their debut, introducing themselves in so-so manner, where the drone is kind of wimpy; shoegaze trying to make a point instead of being one. Now, when all that subsides and they do just fall back into a wavvey-fuzzed out sonic not dissimilar from Beach Fossils, Meatbodies or even Sugar Candy Mountain it’s enjoyable. From “Dialogue” on, they introduce some plainly wonderful lo-fi jams that actually outstrip most of my sentiments for Beach Fossils or Sugar Candy Mountain. What I’m saying is, I talked my way into liking this record when I was ready to rip it to shreds—or maybe that was Froth’s intentions all along?

Link

JAMBINAI – ONDA

Producer: Self-Produced

Label: Bella Union

Genre: Post-Rock, Atmospheric Sludge Metal

Ever heard of Tuvan Throat Singing Death Metal? No, well you should at least give it a whirl. These human didgeridoos possess a skill of Khoomi, made to portray the Mongol steppe; it also sounds just like the kind of thing a murderous horde would use to give the scene that peak amount of ambiance before chopping your head off and destroying everything you’ve ever known. And what we need for the desolate aftermath is the perfect music for howling fields, which is exactly why JAMB—oh wait no, they do that too. Well, there went the conceit for this little bit. See JAMBINAI is still the perfect music for the windswept post-rock decimation, something that sweeps over the corpse of kraftwerk Scottish experiments and picks the bone cleans while still leaning to some crushing form that goes beyond the designation of hard rock. Hence the atmospheric sludge metal. What remains is the local touch, just so that we know these are three twenty-somethings from Korea rather than oh, Seattle or Edinburgh or Melbourne. But JAMBINAI doesn’t leave us hanging—right off the bat, it’s native melodies and instrumentation before transmuted to synths interfacing with atmospherics. The album ends at such a point that I don’t know who is doing the Dune soundtrack but they should be fired immediately,  and replaced with these guys.

Link

The Mattson 2 – Paradise

Producer: Self-Produced

Label: Company Records

Genre: Jazz Rock, Neo-Psychedelia

I’ve recently come to a conclusion that I should have realized far sooner than now, while living with parents and sorting out the next stages of my life: my mother could request a “Supermarket Music” mix from her Amazon Alexa corporate spy tower and it would hardly need change her normal regimen of Jack Johnson, John Meyer, Dave Matthews, Coldplay et al and she would hardly miss a beat as musical elitists upturn their nose denigrate her muzak choices. I’m neither here nor there on these trite pieces as I can’t help but feel a certain nostalgic duty to defend In Between Dreams to the death while slagging every other Jack Johnson record which is, ostensibly, the same. That being said, no one can really detest a muzak form for being bad, just savage it for being a watered down or filtered variation for mass consumption—I dunno, I suppose I’m too concerned with whether the music is good enough to care about. In that way, the Mattson 2 are good, serviceable musicians making the latest additions to your jazzy coffeshop neo-psych muzak out on Company Records today. And really, their label sums it up: a faceless, easy-going and plain name serving out your generic genera of music made to soundtrack the comedown from the nine-to-five working day. In short, my mom should love this shit.

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Silversun Pickups – Widow’s Weeds

Producer: Butch Vig

Label: New Machine Recordings

Genre: Alternative Rock, Dream Pop

I’m a very patchwork music listener—I find myself only listening to certain eras of certain artists and web together my impressions on modern music; that said, I would have never known the Silversun Pickups existed had it not been for a colleague from Atwood Magazine (Thank you, Ditta), and while not being exactly enamored with her recommendation, knowledge can’t be bad can it? I suppose not, so when I saw the Pickups had a new record out this month, I thought to myself “what the hell, I’ll see how it pans out.” It’s produced by Butch Vig of all people. So, forgive my erstwhile ignorance because if the cost for “Simpatico” was the Pickup’s continued decline into mediocrity, then it may just well be worth it.

Link

New Music Friday Thread

June 14th

Crumb – Jinx

Producer: Self-Producer w/ Gabe Wax

Label: Crumb Records

Genre: lo-fi, Neo Psychedelia

Crumb! Where the hell have these artistes been since leaving us with only two EPs in two years? Where did they leave their guitars? Why is it just some synthesizers and that singular sax? Are we adding by subtracting? Doing that Beach House thing? Start with little so every step along the way seems like a lot? Is this meant to be  muzak? Is this for my Spotify Good Vibes playlist? My Chill Me playlist? Do they get their guitars back? Is this a Tangerine Dream-lite experiment? Do they get dizzy easy when they’re stoned or what? Or do they just want to write lullabies before things get serious? Is it “Nina” again yet? Big arena tours for the next DIY sensation? DIY isn’t that just another name for the new indie? They’re killin’ it though, aren’t they? Just plodding along like the next lofi synthwave ready to beach on the surround sound, you s’ppose? I mean do they really mean it? Will Jinx be that next xx, slowly filtering into the airwaves of this great nation once car commercial at a time? From sea to shining sea covered in oozing big mood cuts tinker tailored to size twenty-eight in minutes, I see us now, cruising in an electric car so silent you’d think it’s the newest Hotwheel scaled to actual size, so insulated you can bust out Crumb on the soft-apocalypse drive for sanity, clarity or no reason at all. What a daydream.

Link

Mattiel – Satis Factory

Producer: Randy Michael, Jonah Swilley

Label: Heavenly

Genre: Blues, Folk Rock

Before we start the tour around Satis Factory, I want to say I’m not one for modern blues, they’re not bad or uninteresting, just that for whatever reason, blues struck me the hardest when it was sung by chromatic English mods posing like pretty modern dandies with the black coal voices of Deltamen, I don’t know, it’s just one of those intangible reasons that mayhap be in fact a myriad reasons congealed into one conglomerating glob of dabbery; the slow ooze of many moments squished by the compression of memories to bare essentials—your brain is a bit like a twenty-first century paperback writer, in that way, using memetic devices to unlock the files and rerender full quality video playback of candid moments, like watching a catterpillar crawl along the leaf in your hand or the sheer deep clear periwinkle sky seen from a field of humans compounding and eroding along the shaded tree beaches surrounded by high tides of green grass and people, caravanning to their next destination before settling to sit and rest upon a manmade crowd of cross-legged sunbathers frying at the noonday sun. I don’t remember a stranger’s face, but I remember the strangers, the people. So it is with Satis Factory and Mattiel’s terse vocabulary, reduced further yet made to go farther when she sings “Je Ne Me Connais Pas” (“I Don’t Know Me”) as if she was some svelte nouvelle-vague band engage in new wave révolution—tu speak du franglais, bébé?—that blues kind of had in the 2000’s but also didn’t really invite my taste unless it was littered with a Black Keys stamp, either way, when I listen to this blues-garage thing (I hesitate on movement) I want it be short and sweet and succinct, we already know he/she/they are the devil incarnate, we know they run you around town, we know you want a piece of that next ass, but now I got to feel it from the heat of a punk because you old bluesmen were sad! Oh, you might be too real! Too harsh! Too romantic! We want either full on cold psychopathic socialites (soup du jour: cold serial) or quirky observationists (Ally Sheedy acolytes very welcome). Give me Courtney Barnett or give me death! Which kinda places me on the other side of Mattiel’s work, I respect it, but it doesn’t control my heart. I’m happy to know she’s sticking to it, she just needs to find the right amount of soul to introduce to make her garage rock pop instead of fizzle by the record’s end. The end of my tour is, to borrow her wordplay, satisfactory, but it could be much more if it didn’t Mumford and Sons’d it at parts.

Link

Meernaa – Heart Hunger

Producer: Self-Produced w/ Robert Shelton, James Riotto

Label: Native Cat

Genre: Blues Rock, Alternative Soul, Post-Rock

Why do I get the sense that I’m not listening to Meernaa’s debut, but also a lowkey B-Sides souljazzblues recording of early nineties Whitney Houston? I like it. It restrains the overwhelming power of Carly Bonds’s voice to support the music in subtler ways, like a much calmer record from a half-sister to HAIM. And it’s a record worth listening to; a real Nico effort without all the subtextual crises of “Deustchland, Deustchland über alles” nonsense and heroin use, y’know? Maybe Nico should have tried amphetamines like her Nazi heroes instead of that Berlin smack that sent Reed and then Bowie into catatonia and then rebirth in that enclaved half-city state. Maybe that would have just made her worse. Ze spiders crawling over your skin can give a real perk to your creativity but turn you into a different person, they will. Bond doesn’t really sing about these psychological hangups, but that’s because Heart Hunger gets so post-rock-y at times that even if she were singing about slapping the arms, tying off the elbow and flicking the needle, who’s to say? I get it, I get it, it’s a technique for that shoegazing murk, but the most compelling moments on this record is when we gasp hear that these ambient neo-goths (a whole group of people who listen to Henry’s Dream and ( )1 all in the same week, if not day) might have, I dunno, possibly, maybe some SoulTM because they may have listened to “Nobody Loves Me Like You Do” for some slice of time in their life. I’m convinced that this is simultaneously a milquetoast Desert Shore piece of muzak and the best thing released to this midsummer market of 2019. Something frigid for ever-hotter dog days and boiling hyper-summers.

1That’s Parentheses to you, neophyte

Link

Stonefield – BENT

Producer: I dunno, probably Stephen McBean

Label: Flightless

Genre: Heavy Psych, Hard Rock

So it’s just a trend now for this lithographic minimal spacescape music to feature on the next record of any somesuch prog/psych/sludge rock band, I take it. Because after  trying on an art nouveau cover and a much leaner one in all green with stripes and a noncandid band photo, we now have the increasingly traditionalist first edition DnD terrain shots (colorized). No biggie though, Stonefield play like persons with an interest in Sabbath and Eighties-Yes for some minutes; a good number close to 25 or so, which includes them piling on to the prog-garage heap of the last decade. Hell, for some moments I wonder if I’m just listening to Iron Butterfly reincarnated as some made-for-business chicks. Of course, now I’m putting it all on a pedestal but the directness across BENT is an astonishing turn of events from predecessor records; those long-players being solidish, but not really putting Stonefield on anyone’s “ooh, I wanna hear them” list. Except no one’s heard of this record, it’s not even charting in Australia—come on guys, what the hell!—Greta Van Fleet can set fire to the world but  some actually proficient young-players gets neither jack, diddley or squat? These girls kick all that stoner rock in the ass with some proper doom. Deep Purple with a sense of Blue Öyster Cult about them? Oh goddamnit, sure it ain’t revolutionary, but fuck me nobody today is revolutionary; just the next iteration. And this Stonefield iteration does not deserve to be ignored.

Link

New Music Friday Thread

 

June 21st

Beak> – Life Goes On EP

Producer: Self-Produced

Label: Temporary Residence Limited

Genre: Krautrock, Neo-Psychedelia

I’m not sure if I’ll ever be impressed with another krautrock, neo-psychedelia band that doesn’t mix it up with something unexpected like an inherent latin rhythm or some bebop licks. Because even if the Spanish chant heading off “Life Goes On” piques interest, I’m short on mental patience by the tapering end of “We Can Go.” I mean “Minus Pillow” and “Allé Sauvage” are examples of a Kraftwerkfeature and your resident ambient house remix, but I’m not their audience for it and I still find them kind of dull, dare I say limp-wristed. Pure sound forever might just not be for me and I think I might just know why: we’re the contaminants. Pure sound is a bark or a bird chirp, but we want what out of this purity is pleasantry; searching for the melody from the sea waves is what we do. And any attempt to unravel that mystery should look to Flume’s meditations on the subject from earlier this year for some measure of the best reception they could attain. Be the snooty art college student if you must but beware the traps when translating your way to entertainment from Rosetta Stones and musiques concrètes, there’s a reason why the sedentary sedimentary name stuck.

Link

Black Pumas – Black Pumas

Producer: Self-Produced (Adrian Quesada)

Label: ATO

Genre: Soul

I recall thinking about a sense that I had moved past the delta movements—they formed a good base, a good core for what I enjoy about music: moments brought to life, sound given narrative—that what I needed now was a healthy dose of the future. Well that came and went with two full years of college and nothing but TheSoundYouNeed and MrSuicideSheep to keep my room comfy for no one in particular, not even me, because I couldn’t afford mood lights and slept on a couchbed until it fucked up my back (Poor “Little Blue” didn’t deserve to die the death he did). Well, it was some weird combination of the Tedeschi Trucks Band, Tame Impala, Dead and Company and the Allah-La’s that yanked (yeeted) my ass back to reality. I’m a firm believer in the present being infinitely better than the past for the sole reason that the present gives me a berth of choice from the past. So no, not every soul duo is going to belt out a St. Elsewhere or Turn Blue for your modern major record label, but Black Pumas is as solid a start for anyone trying to put some soul into our phrases memetic of all those “big moods.”

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Cassius – Dreems

Producer: Self-Produced

Label: Universal Music

Genre: French House

So the artwork had me thinking a sort of jangling aside spiritbonded in someway to Hi This Is Flume, probably just the cover, really. What I listened to however was 50 minutes of good reasons for why Cassius are the real powerhouse behind the French House throne; they make records Daft Punk want to make, but I don’t think ever could—who’s got the funk? they got the funk—because while they pay respects to the man, Giorgio Moroder, they don’t quite follow his blueprints. If the extreme is to play soul music with some house beats, then you’re selling yourself short: you gotta evolve and while the quest for the perfect sound might be the most soulless endeavor I can think of (the Noise Wars being the only other fad that proved to do more damage to our ears and our ability to enjoy music on repeat), it is an endeavor, but at what point at your making music for machines instead of people? This Kraftwerk obsession for the “pure sound,” sound made for “it” rather than for “you” perturbs me because it is an obsession on only one half of what renders pieces unto another plane; the ability to absolutely transcend time and boundary. I want music for all, not in popular sense, but in a functional sense. To incline tastes with a forward direction, instead of planting a lance on the driver’s side and rocket into the horizon declaring the dawn of a new new music. Cassius toil and nudge, to bring us a more perfect union that Moroder and Donna Summer put to record in 1977. If that ain’t a noble endeavor than I don’t know what is.

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Earth Tongue – Floating Being

Producer: James Goldsmith

Label: Stolen Body

Genre: Psychedelic Rock, Sludge Rock

Now here’s a smart debut record. 30 minutes. No more no less. C’mon, what you think this industry is a charity? No? Then payup, because the product is tight and solid and smart—a smart thing. Now there’s a list of products, smart products: smart ads, smart Phones, smart cars, smart homes, smart speakers, smart TVs, smart watches, smart detectors, smart libraries, smart fridges, all sold, all told, just another smart PC, just another smart package, just another smart thing to make us dumb, see. And as we float on this catapulting spacerockship, I hope they get so smart they can start answering the real questions like: “Alexa, why are we here?”

“—to save 30% on your next purchase.”

“Where are we going?”

“—get double miles on any order of 200 dollars or more!”

“Will things get worse?”

“—premade natural disaster survival kits, on sale now!”

“Do we have any time left to change?”

“—I’m sorry, I didn’t understand the question.”

“Neither do I, Alexa. Play Floating Being.”

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Taiwan Housing Project – Sub-Language Trustees

Producer: Self-Produced

Label: +Ever Never

Genre: Noise Rock, Post-Punk

This a record that starts off the conversation with a giant “fuck you” to your ears (Lou Reed smiles) and then commences into post-punk diatribes of potbanging and spitsinging all amounting to a maximalist gust of “SO YOU WANT TO HEAR SOME NOISE?” The charivari aside, they find time to down the licks, but they’re hard to find compelling when not left to work their magicks; instead their consistently reabsorbed into the folds of this kitchenkraft nowave. The Noise Rock notice is not because Sub-Language Trustees plays traditional timbre distortion noise à la Talk Talk, foresting any potential hook. It’s a play on less is more, but in this case, less is not much which makes it harder to swallow the intense distortion when the carrot on the stick is sour. I don’t meant to sound like a sensitive nutsack, but goddamnit I am. So father Lou Reed was fulla shit, Metal Machine Music can be abrasive, so can Sub-Language Trustees, they can push the avant-garde any which way they want, but I’m not putting it on repeat.

Link

New Music Friday Thread

 

June 28th

The Black Keys – “Let’s Rock”

Producer: Self-Produced

Label: Nonesuch

Genre: Garage Rock

I want to make it absolutely clear: you can have too much fun. And when it came to the 1970’s, Steve Miller was having the most fun. The people were entertained when The Joker hit the airwaves, admiring the peaches for the trees and picking out their character—I’m a midnight toker, personally—but Maurice, kept speaking on the pompitous of love and produced an exceptional uberklassisches Fly Like an Eagle, followed up by a reminiscing B-Sides heavy Book of Dreams, all the stuff that just didn’t make the cut but still needed a public ear. And the Party should have ended there. But it didn’t: Circle of Love happened. It tried to rebottle the lightning. Tried to party like it used to. Tried to take us back to them Sixties. It just wasn’t the same. And that was the deathknell to popular and critical success for any Steve Miller record since. It just isn’t the same. “Let’s Rock” is the Black Keys out to party in the only way they know how: as aging garageblues boys. It’s been 5 years since Turn Blue left us all melancholic, roughly the same distance between Book of Dreams and Circle of Love. But the Black Keys’ latest is more like an Abracadabra. I hate Abracadabra like I hate shapeshifting new-wavery Rod Stewart. Both are cop outs, but at least Abracadabra has “the tunes,” whatever that means. Well, “Let’s Rock” also has those “tunes” and I’m going to just drop the sarcasm for a sec: yeah, they’re good and yeah, the Black Keys are back to party, to have a bit of fun. But: can they accept that the party might have finished a half-decade earlier? If they can then, artistically, they are fine—just working out that pent-up rager juice is all—but if they cannot, well, this might be our best Black Keys record for a while re forever.

Link

Bench Press – Not the Past, Can’t Be the Future

Producer:  Paul Maybury

Label: Poison City

Genre: Post-Punk

I think my favourite parts on this record are when the guitars bust out into a slow surf rock riffs and the occasional misirlou lick while the lead singer—who these cats all are still remains a mystery to me—goes to nine for eleven to make sure, whether dancing or headmoshing, you have all that rage unlocked. And honestly, I’m just happy my chosen city of interest, Melbourne, has another good band that is not a part of the psyched-out scene. I grew up there for three years and still can’t process how Melbourne has become the epicenter of Australian music, a position traditionally vied for between Sydney and Perth/Freemantle. Well, ok, I might be wrong on Sydney, I’m 11 years out of Vegemite practice and Aussie Rules tastings, but hell, can’t a post-punker just be fond and melancholic at least once?! I like to think that’s what Bench Press would want us to do or my ears wouldn’t be so happy to oblige.

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Daniel Caesar – Case Study 101

Producer: Self-Produced with Jordan Evans and Matthew Burnett

Label: Golden Child

Genre: Neo-Soul, Contemporary R&B

There’s a certain level of eyeroll I do whenever I see the words “neo-soul” now. Really, what does that even besides slightly more pulse-inducing downtempo composed to moodlight a room rather than illuminate it. Sort of like how my Bob Marley tapestry is bathing me in a yellow glow—it’s not actually useful for seeing anything—just to give my room more character than charcoal blackness (although charcoal blackness is pretty great when I’m vamping the night away). But I’ve never heard a mood record open up with a J. Robert Oppenheimer quote and neither will I opine it. The record is a solid block of mood and Caesar highlights it with Pharrel on “FRONTAL LOBE MUZAK.” Well Pharrel usually is an all-caps affair, but here he’s behind a vocoder, recalling Julian Casablancas’ performance on “Instant Crush” but not absolutely stealing the show—just adding a falsetto that weaves its way from the tree tips to a soft landing on the ground. Perhaps that’s what makes this record such a good study: it’s a routine flight; prepping, launching, landing, cruising as if it already were driven by robots and we were none the wiser. Perhaps that coldness is why I can’t relate to it as much as I want to. Or maybe I’m just letting it stop me.

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Peggy Gou – DJ Kicks

Producer:  Self-Produced

Label: !K7 Records

Genre: Mininmal Techno, Deep House

Really, it’s just a high-grade mixtape, a seamless adaptive metapiece on what makes Peggy Gou tick. But look, this isn’t some crazy idea; this is what friends used to make friends—maybe not as smoothly put together—but there’s only “Hungboo” as an original, and yes, I am complaining; Aphex Twin, Black Merlin and Kode 9 might be solid choices to show off your electronic roots (whatever the fuck those are) but I need Peggy to start thinking big: I do not care for what next mix she wants to rock. I want to know is what music she wants to make. Until then Peggy will flag before my preference for Jamie xx, Nicolas Jaar or Moby; they don’t pose behind others’ music, they figure what they want to say and they do it. I can’t tell you how hard I’m waiting for Peggy to make this jump.

Link

Resavoir – Resavoir

Producer: Self-Produced (Will Miller)

Label: International Anthem

Genre: Avant-Garde Jazz, Neo-Psychedelia

I’m guilty, I’m afraid. Guilty of falling into these patterns of enjoying muzak. A crime, if ever there was one, to some critics. And the instrumental souljazz trio/orchestra thing may horrify Wynton Marsalis, but the traditionalists be damned, Jazz is dead. Long live jazz. Avant-garde, too, is just an adjective now and any attempt at Post-Jazz is trying too hard for the same tropisms of Post-Anything. Prefixes are always a persuasion trick. And Resavoir double dips: avant-garde and neo? C’mon Mr. Miller, you compose music for ambiance and I know I just gave good service to this big mood thought for Black Pumas, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves, you’re still a bandleader like any Duke Ellington or Count Basie, you can’t just produce mood, you gotta lead that shit. Otherwise you’re just… Blevans, an assortment of good sounds but with no real weight (not necessarily political edge, but at least some “oof”) behind your music. What I want is some steampowered soul found in the Delvin Lamarr Trio, Charles Bradley and the Menahan Street Band and, if you listen just right, the Budos Band. Your Robert Glasper and Bibio pretensions might prove taste, but when I hear that band, all I want is some style.

Link

New Music Friday Thread

 

And Now For the Whatchamacallit: Sound of the Gizz

porn-crumpets-lp

I think the Psychedelic Porn Crumpets made a resume of the best of King Gizz.

That is to say, if you need a catchup on why alla us weirdo John Dwyerites, acolytes to la psychedelie à la frenesie, are listening to, then this is it: the sound of our own garage-bound mania; the absolute bonkers timber-timbre shake of an otherworld derived from the concrete-and-car-covered asphalt pour of ours. Like the sonic maximalist garage-opera renditions of German Expressionism; a genre of aural accompaniments for The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari or Metropolis replete with distortion and delay, portraying both the twisted horror in the shining city, opulent in their exploitation of visual metaphors as much as the modern prog-garage sound’s travail in timbre and dronework. The film music in employ of Nonagon Infinity paling in comparison to the horror soundtrack of Murder of the Universe, music made to determine the internal device via the sonic observations or whatever other mumbo-jumbo I would bullshit for my 11th grade English professor. Simply put the Australian and Garage-Psych scenes have been seeing an apogee these past three years that the words “See now: a facet of purely psychotropic warehouse music crafted from drone, garage, math and krautrock” hardly surprise us anymore.

So here I am with a bowl and a laptop, jotting down thoughts on the lastest offering of 2019 in a year still teasing the return of Kevin Parker, the next chapter of Ty Segall and the Freedom Band and a thrash metal record by King Gizz all while touting new Avey Tare, Pond, Wand, Stonefield, Murlocs and the rest of the flock of the Flightless and pondering why the Psychedelic Porn Crumpets have tried to resume other bands’ trajectories. Oh sure; it’s not exactly as I describe it—there’s still the same spacerock fundamentals which King Gizzard records have thus far avoided and still link the Crumpets’ And Now For the Whatchamacallit back to both volumes of Highly Visceral. But those horns, swooning and jazzing and lowkey bopping your head along do naught but recall Sketches of Brunswick East while the synthesizers, when not blowing fuses in your brain, keep petting those hairs on the back of your neck like words of encouragement, except that they’re not words—they’re beyond words—just sounds, the unconscious sighs and coos, hmms and mmms that come with body language, all translated into Rolandspeak to give us the chansons that confide in us feelings of safety and home before abusing this space to kick out the jams with a 12 Bar Bruise.

I’m not even mad these Perthans open And Now For the Whatchamacallit with a brand of music one level-up from Post Animal’s brodown surf-party interpretation—the sound is just too within my tastes for me to absolutely hate it unless I was working from an absolute distaste of muzak, which I have thus far built up a tolerance to in the same vein one would for the tinnital ring in your ears from repeated years of heavy earbud listening, despite all warnings by teachers, coworkers, friends, whoever, you just learn to appreciate it behind a new set of earplugs; you might not be listening at full force, but should it come on it will neither disturb your day nor cause you to violently rip the radio out of your car and throw it on the street yodeling “FUCKING DANIEL POWTERRRRR” because you consider different standards for different banners, you modern emotional mute, you. Well, I do, and you do too!

Or maybe you don’t—I dunno who the hell you are reading this, I don’t know if you want to be as curved as my creature listening to music almost nonstop until a Gollumite wretch mumbling incoherencies re the jazz guitars forms comparate of “The Spider and Me” brimming into the portcullis “Sketches of Brunswick East II”and “Digital Hunger” caressing the back-six soft of your neck into “Dezi’s Adventure.” Because this is exactly what psychedelia should be doing—accompanying high people into their own seven hells of highness, a DnD sesh with no dice, just as my mother is accompanied unto her state of semi-serious Margaritaville bliss by a glass of red wine and some Jack Johnson in the garbs of Charon. Music makes scenes makes music.

And now for the twist: what I’m hearing is not just a King Gizzard record; it’s a Mild High Club record and a Portugal. The Man record, too. Because this Australian Psychedelic Rock conglomerate goes beyond Flightless, forming not a monopoly but a cartel of bands loosely colluding their talent; King Gizzard has made friends with every Neo-Psychedelic band bordering the Pacific—they have to!—They’re record moguls too, after all, and even if you don’t sign a band, tours are always on the table. Well, not this tour, Stonefield and ORB are primed and ready to banner for the King and His Label, so maybe next time, lads. Anyways, where was I? Oh yeah, colluding talent. Should we really be surprised that bands of similar genres and countries are beginning to sound so alike? Should we criticize it? I hesitate: some of the best, most thought-provoking rap was produced at the turn of millennium by a collective called the Soulquarians, comprised of Common, Mos Def, Tqlib Kweli, Erykah Badu, J Dilla, D’Angelo, Bilal, Q-Tip et al powered, and in some cases directed, by Questlove and the Roots and Pino Palladino, formed into a afrobeatnik boho jazzrap hive of creativity that buzzed out a set of records that ranged in influences from Funkadelic to Fela Kuti to to John Coltrane to James Brown; there isn’t a point they don’t hit in celebrating the history of and removing the whiteface over black music. The Porn Crumpets may not be a part of the movement as much as the Soulquarians were a movement; but there is a scene and it is producing conspicuously similar music within and without itself—Cook Craig and the Mild High Club are due to converge on a neo-psychedelic Jetsonian long-player, Orb’s work to add a healthy dose of Sabbath to the tried-true timbre attacks of Castle Face cousins Oh Sees progresses and the Murlocs continue to add potent sixties garage forms to neo-psychdelic melodies. As for the wave of Ty Segallites? Every year brings a fresh batch of pasty strawberry-platinum blonde lookalikes; for the some of them, it’s a phase, for others, it’s a shtick, for the vast majority, it’s a dead record.

But the Porn Crumpets’ And Now For the Whatchamacallit variegates from punk-of-the-party to moodsetter DJ, hence the moments where the record distends upon uncompromising territories of thrashmobbery and delay-heavy chockblockery whips and lashes heads in orgies of rhythmic violence and the moments which harness the power of said forces to catapult you through space in your concrete vault you once called a garage and the moments it consequently repeats and renders old hat while also poking fun at themselves (“When In Rome”). It’s much more than the word heady could ever describe yet not as tasteful as their previous records. It’s not a dead record, just a record playing dead like a cheesy joke, as the bulk of this long-player is fine form, with only the “Fields, Woods, Time>Native Tongues>Social Candy” section wearing patience thin with so-so Portugal. The Manism’s from Censored Colours—a shame, really, as I find both records to observe a certain distance from their listeners in a trite, manufactured sense, but not an uncommon one in my experience with any Psychedelic Porn Crumpets record—there’s always a point where their sound begins to obscure any chance at widening their scope. After a while all this maximalism gets tiring and the brain just needs a rest, making the last triptych of this record all the sweeter, despite their Black Moth Super Rainbow pretensions.

The difference is, while I end up at the same place at the end of And Now For the Whatchamacallit, as I do Highly Visceral Vol. 2 I find myself lacking in wonder after listening to the former because of its transitional, myriad tastes—there is no concrete vision, just a bunch of tidbits and style quirks incorporated into the vision. Some albums do this well (Houses of the Holy, Aladdin Sane), the Porn Crumpets have only attained a level of “ok.” They’re fine artists, but I’m not yet sold on their importance to any somesuch scene when their music reminds me so much of their contemporaries anymore than after the first two iterative records.

There’s a wall holding stopping this band; I hope they can break it one day.

Album Artist: The Psychedelic Porn Crumpets
Producer: Self-Produced w/ Michael Jellinek
Label: Marathon
Genre: Neo-Psychedelic Rock, Garage Rock

Tracklist:

  1. Keen For Kick Ons?”

  2. Bill’s Mandolin”

  3. Hymn For a Droid”

  4. Fields, Woods, Time”

  5. Native Tongue”

  6. Social Candy”

  7. My Friend’s a Liquid”

  8. When in Rome”

  9. Digital Hunger”

  10. Dezi’s Adventure”