Over the past few years Brian Pyle's (Starving Weirdos) solo project has begun to blossom into a force of atmospheric synth propulsion. Evolving from early sound sketches into fully formed soundtracks filled with longing, paranoia and encroaching darkness; his songs have come to exemplify the current synth resurgence while also rising above it to achieve a larger vision. Crossing The Pass, By Torchlight is undoubtedly Pyle's most complex and complete album to date. It unfolds as a narrative landscape that's as dense as the most poured over musical scores and equally as emotionally complex. The swelling single "To Feel The Night As It Really Is", which first appeared on its own, is now entwined in a album wrought with cracked glass emotions, wire wrapped tension and a bittersweet ebb of ennui. Though there is no companion script, it feels as if characters rise and fall, weep and sigh throughout the course of the album. Pyle has rendered a tensile world of feeling through his score and in the end you're left wondering what will happen to his and your own imaginary characters next.
The Drones - Further Temptations Long before the Australian newcomers appropriated the name, Manchester's The Drones were cutting their teeth on the grit of 70's punk. The band started a few years prior to the break of punk but quickly switched from pub rock
to punk with the addition of a new drummer in '77. The band held some local popularity and had ties with man about Manchester (and Art of Noise member) Paul Morley who managed the band for a short time. Following a self-released single and the split of Morely, who chose to air his grievances with the band in the press, the band recorded this album containing both sides of their first couple of singles. The album wraps plenty of disenchanted sneer and scowl and did well enough to get them noticed by Island offshoot Fabulous who signed them after its release. Though the band would never be able to finish the sessions for their second album as they split before any of them could be released. This one stands as a testament to their impact and strength at the time though and should fit in nicely amongst your early punk collection.
As the end of the year draws close there's still plenty of gems to pluck out of the pile and Swiftumz has recently jumped up the stack over here. If your copies of the last few releases by Ariel Pink and James Ferraro are getting worn then its time to add Chris McVicker to your list of favorite R. Stevie Moore acolytes. McVicker's past pop pedigrees (he's been a collaborator and songwriter for Hunx and His Punx) grow clear from the first few tracks on Don't Trip. The bubblegum glitz gets a home taped make over here but the hooks stick just as hard into the cracks and crevices of your brain. Though it seems that on his own McVicker's more at home sweeping up bits and pieces of 80's British dance pop than he is on the punk-eyed soul that his boy Hunx invokes. Still the driving tempos and chewy pop center of this record have it quickly eking into the rotation more and more. Don't count 2011 down and out yet, there's still one more month to find a few favorites.
This video came out a while ago but the band hadn't gotten the singles pressed yet so I'm reminding you of how adorably awesome Dirty Cupcakes are. Chances are if you've read RSTB you're aware that anything Matthew Melton is involved in, we're usually fans of. Well he and Rob from Southpaw recently started Fuzz City records and the Cupcakes are the inaugural release. It’s a pretty great song and a really great video so pick up the single below!
Secret Affair - Glory Boys Secret Affair met with a barrage of Jam comparisons on their arrival in 1979 but after the release of Glory Boys which showcased a much less dour attitude than anything in Weller's canon, most of those were dismissed. In fact, the band's
decision to add brass to several songs actually prompted The Jam to do the same sometime later. The album's full of Mod rockers that have an upbeat feel and a couple of the songs enjoyed time on the charts in the UK. Unfortunately for them the Mod revival began to wane in the next year when they released their sophomore album and the band's strong alliances to the scene made it difficult for them to distance themselves in the wake of its implosion. In 1982, after their third album they decided to call it quits but Glory Boys will always stand as an essential time-piece of the Mod sound.
The Jameses have just unleashed a video (directed by Sunset Television/Weird Days' Drew Blatman) for the chaotic b-side to their "Caribou" 7". The visuals are a fitting blur to the song's candy-coated A.D.D. pop and it only makes us want to sit down and listend to that single over and over again. If you don't have it already pick it up below and check out the video above.
Ty Segall – Spiders 7" Ty fires back after a pretty packed year with a follow-up single to Goodbye Bread that packs three great tracks onto on scrap of plastic. The A-side's a trip to fuzzier territories than Segall's recently been encamped in, but any fan of his past
work should find themselves in familiar territory. On the flip, in true TS fashion, there's a cover that gets a nice stamp of the Segall signature sound. The fact that it was already a stellar Groundhogs original only makes it more enticing. Chances are you know the drill by now, if you're a fan, then you know that your collection won't be complete without this one. Pick it up!
Slovenly Records continues to bring the fire from foreign shores. As if this year's release of that Acid Baby Jesus record wasn't enough, they've also unleashed this unbridled stomper from Magnetix. The band hails from Tula, an industrial center south of Moscow famous for gingerbread and accordions but there's no sweetness and even less accordion to be found on their latest, Drogue Electrique. Rooted in the nihilistic garage of The Mummies and The Gories and shot through with a sinister rockabilly sneer, the album is full of rough edges and jagged punches. Perfect for the coming onslaught and grim realities of winter, I've got a feeling this one will be the soundtrack to our grey days for weeks to come.
Another great bit of cinder and smoke from Stephen R. Smith's Ulaan Khol. La Catacomb acts as a proper follow-up to the impressive Ceremony trilogy that saw release over the past few years. Like those releases, this too is entrenched in strata of guitar noise and ambient flake. The release unfolds with the behemoth pacing of lumbering doom, or perhaps the sooty calm of its wake. Tenterhooks seem to be a favorite of Smith's as the album leaves the listener hanging on them, constantly waiting for the explosive fury to drop. But the genius of Ulaan Khol has always been in its restraint, constantly under the ax but fading before the chop. La Catacomb is definitely recommended for all who loved the trilogy or the darker elements of Elm and Barn Owl.
The Toms - The Toms I've been on an unabashed power pop kick lately and with those grey clouds swirling, little else can scare away the early winter blues like the sunniest of genres. The Toms (or rather just one Tom, Tom Marolda) have secured a place in most Power
Pop collectors hearts from an inclusion on the heralded Yellow Pills compilations but long before those days, The Toms self-titled LP fetched high prices due to its solid wall to wall pop hooks. The album has seen a couple of CD reissues with the second installment fleshing out the album with quite a few extras that rival the simple pop charm of the album tracks. The album is all the more impressive knowing that Marolda recorded the whole thing himself, overdubbing the parts for drums and bass long before the current conveniences of home recording made it so accessible. The album wafts in and out of print still and is in sore need of a vinyl reissue but for now you can pick it up digitally.
On a similarly minded note; if you're up for a night of garage, power pop, glam and 70's era punk and you're in the NYC area, come on out to K&M in Williamsburg tomorrow night where I'll be DJing the first of what will hopefully a monthly series.
Caught up with Lee Noble a few times in the past but always just on the tail end of tape runs that were about to extinguish. His hushed specter pop is on full display on his vinyl debut. Swirling through ethereal planes, memories and the low frequency murmur of electronic voice phenomena; Noble harnesses the creeping darkness into his own shadowy world. While tethered to pop in the leanest sense, Noble wanders off the recognizable grid often, burying his mournful croon in puddles of static, click and amplifier foam. Unfortunately copies of these are becoming scarce as well but the digital is readily available and a few distros are still holding onto lingering copies. You'd be well advised to pick one up.
After a video teaser last week we finally got our hands on the full Wounded Lion album and its as wonderfully weird and intense as we could hope. Jumping off of the movement made on the band's ferocious debut, IVXLCDM adds the talents of Lars Finberg of The Intelligence/A Frames/Oh Sees fame and his bombastic drumming only winds their sound tighter. Though, at the heart of the Lion is and always will be Brad Eberhard's off-kilter vocals and intense lyrics sprikled with heart and humor and there are plenty of prime examples littered all over IVXLCDM. It's clear that something's brewing in the underground caverns of Los Angeles and Wounded Lion have tapped the well deep.
Late to the party on this one but damn glad to have arrived in time for the crushing aftermath. King Blood's Eyewash Silver was issued in a scant run of 100 copies in late 2010 only to disappear as quickly as it reared its fuzz addled head. Recently Chicago's Permanent Record repressed and reintroduced this guitar storm back into society, but even at a run of 300 those are going quick as well. The man behind the blood is Ryland Wharton head of the undersung labels Skulltones and Twonicorn. The LP is full of fried guitar slabs that capture the same lone stalker on the edge of the apocalypse feeling that early Wooden Shjips and Purling Hiss releases were wrought with. Eyelash Silver is a one man fuzz-humbucking blues kicking the roads with and amplifier strung low on the hip. Doom-boogie freaks get excited, because there's a new lost son on the horizon.
Tubeway Army - Tubeway Army Gary Numan would become gain more footing with this album's follow-up and become a household name with The Pleasure Principle, released under his own name but this is where it all began. The band cut a previous single for Beggars
Banquet called "That's Too Bad" that followed a tried and true punk palette but immediately following its release Numan fell in love with the sound of the Moog and decided to apply synthesizers to the punk aesthetic. Incorporating a fair amount of icy cool via Kraftwerk's influence on the time, Tubeway Army were able to push the nihilism of punk through the dystopian valves of Krautrock's clockwork universe. The album rarely flags in its ability to create the sound that would come to be synonymous with Numan and though their next album would rank higher on a list of favorites if pressed, the debut is an often overlooked classic that shows the band really coming into themselves.
There's something about 2011 that just seems perfectly aligned for a massive influx of garage punk with a heavy dose of power-pop glitter and plenty of glam swagger. Sitting on the shelf next to your newly purchased Bare Wires, Bad Sports and Mickey releases you'll need to clear a slot for the latest offering from The Barreracudas. The cheekily titled Nocturnal Missions sounds carved straight out of the 77-81 reign of wide-eyed power poppers, even going so far as to cover a nugget from the Cheap Trick catalog. The biggest contrarian arguments I've seen against the current crop of garage pop-a-teers seems to be that they're not breaking any new ground. To that I say, "I'm sorry I can't hear you, this Barrercudas record is way too loud." New ground or not, these are some damn fun records that deserve your feet to be dancing and your worries packed away for tomorrow.
Max Capote – Ana 7" Though the information on this single is minimal its hard to resist a good cover paired with a great record label. Spain's Munster Records is responsible for some great reissues of Spanish garage along with classics like The Cramps and The Gun Club. This time
around they take aim at Uruguay's Max Capote, a current day garage/beat/lounge sensation who offers up a cover of Los Saicos' "Ana" and pairs it with an original B-side that kicks just as much as the cover. Defintely a fun little package.
Denton TX's Video contains a few names familiar around these parts, chalking up another great release from members of the Wax Museums/Bad Sports/Silver Shampoo axis. Leather Leather is a tougher and weirder offering than many of the other projects its members inhabit, though. There's an element of Chrome run through the punk gutters of '84, though not quite to the degree of some recent punk outposts like Total Control or Nothing People. Though mostly there's just ball out, ripped kneed, massive headwound punk that's got not use for pop pretentions or pretty perfections. Adding to the fun, the record was recorded by Bad Sports/OPN III's main man Orville Neely in an all analog fashion, bathing the record in rough-etched grey and black hues and cementing the core of Video's rough chewed punk output.
Seems like we were just talking about this one and now its on the speakers. Thee Oh Sees kick out their second long player of the year and its a true burner. Originally intended to be released as two EPs (hence the split title) the album is surprisingly cohesive and definitely a little less sprawlingly ambitious than its predecessor. Carrion Crawler/The Dream is a true to form, full-steam Oh Sees album. Fans of Dwyer and co.'s red-lined, yelp strewn thunder-punk will no doubt find refuge amongst the tracks here. Castlemania proved they can push the boundaries but this follow-up proves that the boundaries can push right back. Thee Oh Sees are one of the current great live garage acts and sometimes the fury just has to be put down on tape. Carrion Crawler/The Dream goes a long way towards bringing the live energy to tape. Reportedly this one was meant to "pummel and throb". Seems like a goal well accomplished.
Sic Alps have captured a fair amount of our attention this year with an undeniable album and two equally captivating follow-up singles. Napa Asylum has seen its fair share of video accompaniment so far but now the band tackles the track "1/2 Rabbit Sandwich with Fries" from the Breadhead 7" and the clip flies by in a flurry of blinking, bedraggled imagery that seems to sum up the track's shambolic qualities quite nicely.
If you're on the West Coast the band has shows coming up in Pomona and LA, the latter of which is with Sun Araw. That one's not to be missed.
The FRKWYS series has facilitated quite a few unlikely but brilliantly inspired pairings in its short run and its always a treat to see what they'll come up with next. Volume 8 sees RSTB favorites Blues Control go into the studio with Laraaji, master of amplified zither and a collaborator of Eno's, whose name may be a bit more unfamiliar around these parts. The collaboration yields a languid soundworld filled with delicate spaces, bubbling synths and ripples of zither. The session yielded almost four hours of improvisations, deftly cut down into an album by the artists and as RVNG points out its almost impossible to believe that the two parties had never collaborated prior to the sessions. The resulting album is a pulsing, tonal landscape that reveals more depth and structure on each subsequent listen. In a series this consistent its hard to pick favorites but FRKWYS 8 is certainly one of the best and most essential they've produced yet.
Wooden Shjips have a new video for the quiet cool burner "Crossing" from their latest album West. The vid shows the band in their element live, but with a nice psych twist on the visuals. The band's on tour now so catch them if they come through your town. They're not to be missed!