After a couple of promising releases on NNA Tapes and Root Strata, labels whose rosters work as litmus tests of their own, Jonathan Sielaff's and Matt Carlson make the jump to Thrill Jockey for their most ambitious album yet. The duo have often been known for their sythscape via free jazz approach to drone-out tactics, garnering more than a few comparisons to Emeralds and Oneohtrix, but the duo also wrangle in a large swath of the German Progressive lineage and siphon it through the frayed wires of Keith Fullerton Whitman's tonal entropy. Here they cut dense chunks from pieces whose original lengths exceed the thirty-minute mark, and once trimmed to just below the ten notch, fume and writhe in their constrained quarters. Its amazing how the root sources of analog synthesizer and bass clarinet can quickly transform their output to that of trapped communications from otherworldly caverns. Occupied with the Unspoken taps the lysergic plane and runs it through your veins in unpredictable pulses; a true elevator of an album.
Check out the video for "Serene Velocity" below (co-premiere with No Fear of Pop)
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It feels like forever ago that we were lavishing praise on Broken Water's debut album Whet but in between that release and their sophomore follow-up the band has been nothing if not busy. Three EPs and a smattering of singles fill that gap nicely and now the Olympia group returns to with a force on Tempest. Fleshing out their dirt patched experimental rock to a full tilt smasher of a record that's soaked in the influences of their Northwest roots along with a healthy dose of Sonic Youth reverence. The band may have an eye on the past but they mash those 90's obsessions nicely into a cutthroat record that feels like just what the world needed right about now; disenchanted, turbulent and dissonant to the core. Sometimes "nice" records just don't cut it and Broken Water knows that sometimes you need to chew gravel to spit blood. This is one for the damaged.
In the midst of wannabe Chrome-humpers and weirdo punk six month converts there looms large the specter of Timmy Vulger. A Detroit breakdown since the days when most of these kids were just pluggin' in the 14th birthday Fenders, Vulger's blown cones in Clone Defects, Human Eye, Epileptix and under his own distorted moniker, laying down the path for the new breed of lo-fi tweakers. The man cracks Venus' surface, huffs the gasses and blows that smoke through the strings. If you've ever seen him on stage then you'll understand how many audiences walk in confused and leave converts. After some stellar singles and a pair of solid albums as both Timmy's Organism and Human Eye on Sacred Bones, the Organism trips on over to In The Red for Raw Seweage Roq. This one's just as unhinged as the past catalog and probably one of the cleanest sounding, yet ragged and right bits of Vulgar lore yet. Plus, unlike the last one that was mostly recorded by Tim alone in his Vulgarity, this one brings the whole touring band on board for the sessions and its a tougher bite as a result. Its highly recommended you get this on the table soon.
The Late Show - Portable Pop
Another great Power Pop classic rescued from the wreckage of circumstance. The Late Show formed in '72 and took a promising trajectory, moving from Indianapolis to New York in '74 and garnering attention from CBS, Epic, Windfall
and a few other labels. The band turned them all down, thinking a bigger deal was around the corner. The next few years saw lineup changes and the eventual recording of their undersung record Portable Pop. The record wasn't widely distributed but kept attention on the band. They recorded a follow-up in 1983 but again were courted by a label (this time Atlantic) only to have the deal shelved and the record wind up mired in uncertainty. Portable Pop has found a new life through Trashy Creatures and Burger Records. The former will also reissue the "lost" record, Recordio in Stereo later this year. Portable Pop is indispensable for power pop nerds (like us) everywhere.
Though Forever Falling Toward the Sky is Lisa McGee's first solo album, the songstress is no lightweight when it comes to the hazy pop underground. McGee is a veteran of the Root Strata stable; acting as one half of Higuma with Barn Owl's Evan Caminiti and lending her lush vocals to Jefre Cantu-Ledesma’s Love is a Stream. She's also spent time in the ensemble Portraits but it seems that she's now ready to shine on her own and this album is suitable proof of that fact. Swept in a hazy, sun-spotted torrent of restrained feedback and dream pop vocals, McGee throws herself into the ring as a contender for 2012's gauze-pop dark horse. Forever Falling... burns slow and sweet, simmering with a fragile tension that feels set to break but thankfully never gives in. Instead it languishes in the soft static crackle that breaks against the fray. Definitely one to pick up quick and in a scant run of 300, probably the sooner the better.
The Intelligence return to the fold with another collection of blown out, schizophrenic rock n' roll. As always the band is anchored by Lars Finberg, but since their last outing the main force has joined Thee Oh Sees on drums and Wounded Lion on guitar and drums. It seems that playing with a few other West Coast erratic outfits has only refined Finberg's vision and Everybody's Got It Easy But Me winds up being one of the band's most accessible offerings to date, bouncing all over the garage-punk universe and landing some solid punches in the process. Finberg seems clearly aware of the pitfalls that have begun to emerge in the garage idiom and he's taken pains, as usual, to distinguish The Intelligence from a few of their peers via an elastic sense of influence and a predilection for the frayed edges of the pack. Hell at this point there are so many releases by these guys its hard to keep track but this one's floating to the top of the necessary inclusion pile for sure.
Expanding on a miniscule 70 piece run of this album, originally a tape from Sweat Lodge Guru, Mpala Garoo's Ou Du Monde is given a sweeping breath of life on vinyl. It seems implausible that Ivan Karib could channel such sweetly tropical vibes from Moscow, but despite his Northerly latitude the album sways with the kind of sweat dappled guitar and floating ambient headspace that first drew me to Ducktails' early records. The feelings swing from enchanted to elevated and the whole record seems to float in a dreamlike trance that can't be broken no matter how much rain pounds the windows or snow cakes the sidewalks. It’s a living postcard that never fails to ease the day.
Wicked Lady- The Axeman Cometh
Wicked Lady came to our attention due to their connection to Dark, another collector nugget that's been featured in this column before. Both Dark and Wicked Lady share the membership of guitarist Martin Weaver, whose blistering leads
and love of feedback are in full effect on Wicked Lady's recently reissued debut The Axeman Cometh. The band had a reputation for rowdy antics and a huge biker following that may have damaged their credit with club owners, and lead to some of their downfall. Regardless they cut two impressive albums before imploding, with Weaver leaving for the ranks of Dark. The album has languished in collector's piles for a while now but Guerssen Records has put this one back in its rightful place on the world's radar.
While Heavy Cream picked up the leather tough reins of The Runaways half of our 70's/80's punk crushes, Midnite Snaxxx pick up the sugar sweet gauntlet thrown down by Nikki and the Corvettes and run with it. The album is a constant clash of guitar crunch and Ramones-ready pop hooks delivered with the perfect squeak of ratty punk charm. The trio has made its way around the San Francisco punk scene but it seems that the stars have aligned and delivered the perfect moment for the Snaxxx to shine. The eponymous debut is a perfect 12 pack of malt shop pop and its guaranteed to make each summer breeze a little bit sweeter. Pick it up and play it loud with your dancing shoes close.
English Singles - Backstreet Pages 7"
Slumberland has a knack for finding the best bits of jangle-pop and transferring their sunshine strums to lacquer. This first single from Sacramento's English Singles is a four-shot of ramschackle DIY aesthetics, Creation Records love
letters and 12-string rattling jangle. Sure, its not the most original ground to cover but as with a lot of records we fall for around here, when its done with such conviction and pitch-perfect dedication, the enthusiasm just creeps through the speakers and into our hearts. A fun one for the warmer days to come.
Well plenty around have taken their stab at the latest from Liars but being a longtime fan there's never a bad reason to tell people to pick up a release from that camp. WIXIW strips back much of the guitar laced aggression that marked their last two releases and while we around here definitely enjoyed the band's return to their upfront ferocity, its interesting to see them lay into the warm electronic slipstream that crackles through WIXIW's wires. Still dystopic as hell, but feeling like the quite resistance of ghosts in the machine rather than the cracked riot helmet assaults that marked the dismayed cries on the previous two. Say what you will but the band never stands still and while the synth pop strains that eke through are a far cry from ragged witch-trial noise, its still the same perturbed heart at the core of the beast. I believe Fred Williamson once said it best, "Don't let the smooth taste fool ya." This one still packs a punch.
Another great track from one of our 2012 favorites. Check out the break dance action in the video above for the album track "Love's A Rondo." Plus, the whole album is streaming over at our friends AdHoc so you can hear the whole intangibly invigorating new offering over there.
It seems that more and more each year the sphere of influence closes in, which moves the needle from Jesus and Mary Chain devotees to post-Animal Collective acolytes by the dozen. Sometimes however its an interesting fit when a band jumps off from a favorite, and though they probably aren't conscious of it Crash Normal feel like a new wave of post-Thee Oh Sees fervor. The Parisian duo has stripped away any sense of clutter, arming themselves with two guitars and a smattering of drums banging away in a frenzy and foam of reverb that recalls Dwyer's prolific group across their sonic journey from ramshackle pop to the full-bore force they've become over the last few years. The album is a fun chunk of French garage-fuzz and its easy to see how they've shared stages with everyone from Ty Segall to The Spits. Definitely one to set the volume knob on high and annoy your neighbors with.
Eddie Callahan - False Ego
Last week we were espousing the tradition of loner-psych, a niche that found more than fair share in the private press world of record collector lore. While there are a lot of oddball, loner psych records not all of them are as charmingly odd
as Eddie Callahan. Sure JT IV and Bobb Trimble are skewed with pop charm on the side and Carl Simmons is infinitely weirder, but Callahan had a way of mixing swirly psych with a chewy pop center that made for a sweet combination. Slathered in effects and at times showing the true nature of a man left with too many choices and the ability to multi-track, the album plays on genre conventions that float into incongruous territory like the boogie blues of the tin-pan "Shake Your Woogie". However, in amongst the fluff and four-track are moments of true fractured beauty. The album pushes out of its psychedelic indulgences and hits moments that feel very much in line with lush era classics like Chris Bell's I Am The Cosmos. Time-Lag has spent considerable effort to make this a testament to the lost classic that it is and its a welcome return to vinyl.
Ben Cook's been running the Young Governor side gig for a while now, and what started as a scrappy, fuzz crusted garage-punk enclave has blossomed into a crisp pop nugget with touches of The Replacements and GBV at its core. Its amazing the amount of material that Cook has amassed, especially considering its all strewn upon singles and EPs without an album in sight. Then again, maybe he's just been finding his voice before he commits. This is the best we've heard yet from Young Governor. The Scuzz seem to have, rather ironically, filled off the erratic bits of his sound and funneled his efforts into a streamlined pop rocket that's been plastered with a permanent smile.
Plateaus - Do It For You 7"
San Diego's Plateaus follow up their Art Fag debut with a 7" on HoZac that's equally infectious, stripped down and chock full o' pop. The double shot isn't quite as heavy on the "beach" vibes as the last one but any fan of Wavves or Fidlar will
find their fill here. The A-side is the straightforward pop nugget on display while the flip thrashes out with some flailing guitar and a good dose of angst via Replacements styled vocal tics (though the label's touting Red Cross and that's not a bad comparison either). Its a solid second effort and packs on the hope for an album soon. We'll be here with open ears to see where they go.
Gotta hand it to Thrill Jockey, they've mined the best of the heavy instrumental psych crop and this first solo outing from The Heads' Simon Price is on par with some of their best. Haven't heard much from those English psych wizards of late but it seems that Price has hit the bedroom and laid down some high Sahara inspired instrumental epics. The inspiration for the venture is rooted in his childhood spent in Africa, and though this is a long way from Soweto dance breakdowns that usually seep into any band's "African" record, its easy to see how the sweeping, droning pieces could balance the majesty of a crystal clear sky and the shaking dread of what's lurking in the tall grass.
Following a band's arc over a long period of time can yield surprising results, especially when the band in question is Wet Hair. Rising out of the dissolution of the still under-sung Raccoo-oo-oon, Shawn Reed began the band with humble beginnings on tapes put out by his own Night People label and since those noisy, lo-fi beginnings the band has evolved into a pop underdog I'd never have imagined possible. Following on splits with Rene Hell, Naked on the Vague, Peaking Lights and the band's own Ryan Garbes; they shifted from more abstract directions into the focused yet shambolic psychedelic form that rode its way through last year's In Vogue Spirit on De Stijl. That album's follow-up (also for De Stijl) has arrived and, though still riding the cloud of psychedelic pop, there's a new rhythmic intensity that's shaped the band into a shining new form. That change is thanks in most part to new bassist Justin Tye who's stepped in after the exit of Matt Fenner, who'd been holding down things previously. The new sound is lacquered with haze; Reed's voice familiarly obscured by an eight-ton layer of reverb, but cut deep into muscled bass and loose, splashed drumming and vivid swirls of keys that punch through that haze like a beacon. Spill Into Atmosphere is worlds away from those first tapes, but its the sound of a band finding footing, then jumping off into the deep end of the pool and making a splash as big as possible.
The Electric Prunes - Underground
I feel remiss that somehow The Electric Prunes have never shown up in this column, but alas its true. The band, most known for their first album and its hit single "I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night)," ventured away from as much outside influence on their
sophomore LP. The results were less hit singles, but a more cohesive sound and still some pretty raucous garage-psych. The album let the band stretch their chops and grow but alas perhaps it was too much for the powers that be as it would be the last that the Prunes would make as a band. Though the name would live on, but with the core members replaced by studio musicians and the force of the band stretching into over-indulgent quasi-religious disasters like Mass in F Minor. Still, you get the sense that the band was having fun while it lasted. Check out some awesomely dated video of the boys below in full on psychedelic garb that includes a cape and a top hat, not to mention a freakout solo. Necessary viewing!
Tim Cohen's expanded his solo endeavors to a proper band, adopting his 2011 album Magic Trick as a name for the cadre of players that have backed these songs up live. Following an expansive, four-track full length from last year that pushed the stylistic boundaries and track lengths into the 12-minute range, he's back to digestible song size and a gorgeous mix of whimsical moodiness stark pop sensibility. Cohen's always taken the road of the poet troubadour, but with Fresh &; Onlys the lyricism is masked behind a grittier sense of pop. His solo/Magic Trick self seems more raw and open, more clouded in dreams and the fuller group sound has brought out some of the best work of his homespun persona. Hardly Art seems to be on a tear this year and this one is another great entry into their canon.
The Resonars – Long Long Thoughts EP
A one man blink to the past, Matt Rendon has a knack for jangly harmonies and all the bright-eyed optimism that associated hits from '64-'66. There have been many paisley pop resurgences over
the years but this four track EP seems plucked straight out of the time capsule. Hard to believe that this is all the work of just one guy, but every note and shining croon is from the hands and lips of Rendon himself. The Hollies seem to get thrown around as and influence and its pretty clear that Rendon has more than his share of the lads on his stereo and he's absorbed every bar. Though any number of 60's janglers also creep into the picture here, meaning you can shelve your Dave Clark Five, Move and Buffalo Springfield records as well for a few hours and just play this one over and over.
Sonny Smith has always had a lacerated honesty to his music, though its also usually come with a quick pop smirk that belayed its open-hearted approach. On his latest, Longtime Companion, Sonny drops the smirk and uses the breakdown of his longterm relationship as the basis for a country album that feels soaked in authentic, dirt scrubbed openness. Bolstered by members of his lesser known band The Fuckaroos, the album hangs on a shuffle beat and sways bittersweet and low down on strums and slides of guitars. Its a classic kind of country but run through a pop filter, with echoes of The Byrds and Flying Burrito Brothers running in its veins. Sonny's a bit of a musical chameleon and I can't say this is the move I expected but then again I can't say its all that surprising that with a huge emotional nudge, this is the territory he's run into. Each listen seems to endear Longtime Companion to the quiet moments and sad valleys in your life and run in perfect accompaniment alongside the tears and to the bottom of each glass.