Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Stars Around My Heart: A Quick Review Of The New Album From Steve Mason (The Beta Band)

That Steve Mason was in The Beta Band is relevant information for a potential listener to this record, surely. However, that fact shouldn't predispose you to judge his record, About The Light, out on Friday via Domino, a certain way prior to hearing it. In reality, for all the creative anarchy that the Betas unleashed in the studio, and spilled onto tape, About The Light reveals that Mason was always trying to write a great, big tune, even as the Betas sounded as if they were flailing about and splicing reels half the time. Which is another way of saying that About The Light is a great, direct pop album, no matter what you thought of The Beta Band.

Opener "America Is Your Boyfriend" offers up the sort of thing that Graham Parker once routinely cranked out, while the peppy "No One" is more straightforward alt-rock, with soaring hooks and big drum fills. Mason worked with Stephen Street here and, as a result, it makes sense that About The Light benefits from that partnership, with single "Walking Away With Love" a near-Britpop classic, while the title cut is a loose, flowing ramble with hints of both Traffic and late Blur about it. At his best here, like on the tighter "Stars Around My Heart", Mason marries an instrumental confidence with an easygoing charm, the sort of thing that suggests (somehow) a mix of the Beta Band and solo Noel Gallagher. Now, trust me, it works, as most of About The Light is remarkably tuneful, and the sort of release that offers up superb, modern indie-pop.

About The Light by Steve Mason is out on Friday via Domino.

More details on Steve Mason via his official website, or via his official Facebook page.

[Photo: Uncredited promo image from Steve Mason's Facebook page]

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Celebrate: A Quick Review Of The Debut Full-Length Album From Angelic Milk

There's something approaching a PNKSLM sound. To say that is not to suggest the kind of overarching sameness that one found on, say, 4AD right before the label signed Throwing Muses and Pixies, but, rather, to highlight that this label has an aesthetic. And the folks at PNKSLM pursued that vision perfectly when they signed Angelic Milk.

The Russian band has released a few things already, but this Friday sees the four-piece drop their debut full-length release. Divine Biker Love is, as its title suggests, the finest sort of glam-smash mash-up one could possibly envision coming from these musicians. As "Acid and Coca Cola" rockets out the speakers, equal parts Transvision Vamp and Phil Spector, a listener is knocked on the heels. The sound here is at once pop and the deconstruction of pop music. Nay, it's the obliteration of the form and reconstruction of it all at once. If a number like "Ball Gag Ki$$" suggests The Glitter Band covering early Siouxsie, it's also a superb rock-'n'-roll number, equal parts snarling and seductive. Elsewhere, the bright "Celebrate" sees Angelic Milk offer up something that sounds like The Cure circa-Head On The Door mixed with The Primitives. Lush and catchy, this is one of the best tracks this lot have offered up so far, and an indication of some subtle progression in their approach.

Divine Biker Love stands on its own as an excellent record. And for those of us who already loved this band, it reveals a refinement of the act's attack. "When The Limousines Pass By", for instance, is elegant and stately, even as "Black Flaming Hotel" nods directly back at The Jesus and Mary Chain. I suppose name-checking other acts is a futile cause here as so much of Angelic Milk's music is beyond easy description. Sure, stuff like "Winona" chimes with a certain indie familiarity, but the rest of Divine Biker Love stands as truly original in an era of safe approximation. There's something genuinely dangerous bubbling under here, and yet Angelic Milk have managed to craft something divinely catchy on this album. Divine Biker Love really is one of the best long-players I've heard yet from PNKSLM and I can think of no higher praise to offer than that.

Divine Biker Love is out on Friday via PNKSLM Recordings. More details via PNKSLM's official Facebook page.

More information on Angelic Milk via the band's official Facebook page.

[Photo: Uncredited promotional picture]

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Best Thing I Have Heard So Far In 2019 Is This New Single From Brighton's Winter Gardens

Brighton's Winter Gardens wear their influences on their sleeves, and, yeah, lots of new bands do. What Winter Gardens do that is so remarkable is blend those influences into something unique that stands on its own. The band's new single "Coral Bells", set to drop on Austerity Records next month, is a superb debut record, and the sort of thing one wants to play about a dozen times in a row after a first listen.

The players here -- Ananda, Jim, Matt, and Alex -- positively soar on "Coral Bells", and if a listener (obviously) thinks back to mid-Nineties-era Cocteau Twins stuff thanks to Ananda's incredible vocals, one should also notice how easily the other three players here have mastered this sort of thing. Shades of classic 4AD bands abound -- it is worth noting that the band has opened for Modern English already -- but flashes of "Spellbound"-era Siouxsie and The Banshees are also apparent, along with rhythmic lines reminiscent of early singles from New Order.

This is an absolutely fantastic track and I cannot wait to hear more from this band.

More details on Winter Gardens and the whole Austerity Records roster over at Austerity Records, or the label's Facebook page.

For more on Winter Gardens, head over to their official Facebook page.

[Photo: Uncredited promotional picture]

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Play New Video From Babyteeth Here!

Fresh from supporting Adam Ant in London a few weeks ago, Babyteeth are here with a brand new video. And believe me, if you loved stuff like Sleeper and Veruca Salt back in the Nineties, you'll likely love this band.

"Cocoon" soars and roars in equal measures, the vocals and guitar-attack blending nicely here. If it sounds like something from Garbage's second album, that's all the better. The band members are young but they sound totally in command here.

I dug this a lot and now I'd love to hear more from this group. Follow Babyteeth via the band's official Facebook page.

[Photo: Uncredited promotional picture]

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Understand: A Belated Word About The New EP From Silver Screams

Silver Screams dropped a new EP this year and I'm regrettably only getting to it now. Alive In The Afterlife, out now, is a superb slab of American hardcore. That it contains a Government Issue cover is only one more reason to recommend it.

Sean Koepenick was in Sleeper Agent! with John Stabb so that should draw others to this band, the way it did me, but, really, the riffs here are appealingly brutal, with the title cut roaring like Iron Cross or Youth Brigade. It is an excellent reminder of the power of this sort of music, as well as a surprisingly tuneful bit of business. "Stitches Up" is less harDCore and more early Black Flag, punishing beats and hard riffs colliding in the aural pit, while Alive In The Afterlife closes with an excellent cover of "Understand" by Government Issue. The track blasts past like a juggernaut, the players here positively on fire.

Alive In The Afterlife by Silver Screams is out now.

For more on Silver Screams, follow via the band's official Facebook page. To read band-member Sean Koepenick's nice, heartfelt tribute to John Stabb, click here.

[Photo: Uncredited band pic from band's official Facebook page]

Sunday, December 16, 2018

My Top 30 Albums Of 2018

You might notice that I've expanded the list this year. Last year I upped my top tracks list to 30, a practice I continued this year. So why not up the albums list too? After all, there were a lot of great records released in 2018.

So here goes, in no particular order...

Kenixfan's Top 30 Albums of 2018

1. Could It Be Different? by The Spook School

The Spook School dropped Could It Be Different? on Slumberland Records early in 2018. Invigorating indie-anthems filled this record, as I explained here, and one would be hard-pressed to name another album as inspiring as this one this year.

2. What a Time To Be Alive by Superchunk

As soon as it dropped, What A Time To Be Alive seemed like one of the best records the Merge Records band had ever released. Timely and vital, the music here was, as I raved here, full of energy and spark. I loved this band before this record and I love them a little bit more now.

3. I Don't Run by Hinds

Hinds released their second album this year, and, sure, I Don't Run had compositions that indicated that members of the band had grown up a tiny bit. Still, despite that, the tunes here were just as much fun as anything this band had released before. I reviewed the album here, and I'm still playing many of the tracks from the record every week even now at the end of the year

4. Resistance Is Futile by Manic Street Preachers

Leave it to the Manics to surprise yet again. After a string of releases where the band sounded more revitalized and bristle-y than ever, the Welsh trio went and made something that's nearly a pop album. Resistance Is Futile is a superb record, as I raved back here back in April, but it's also an album full of superbly-realized near-anthems that felt familiar to long-time fans of this band, and which seemed boldly accessible too.

5. Little Acts of Destruction by Red Hare

Red Hare (ex-Swiz, Dag Nasty) dropped a punk-bomb in 2018. The Dischord release Little Acts of Destruction is one I hyped up here earlier this year, and it's the kind of record that felt like one of the best, recent releases from a D.C. scene that continues to offer up vital examples of the original harDCore spark.

6. Hope Downs by Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever

Hope Downs, the debut full-length from Australia's Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever was easily one of the most-listenable releases of 2018. As I said in my review of the album, the long-player was full of effortless blends of The Go-Betweens and C86 bands, with each cut seeming like a big (indie) hit single.

7. Floating Features by La Luz

Floating Features found La Luz expanding their normal sound, and, as I said in my review, the band still managed to make music that felt at once similar to their earlier releases, and a bit adventurous.

8. Constant Image by Flasher

The debut full-length from D.C. band Flasher, Constant Image, reviewed by me here, was a set of bright, bold New Wave numbers. If the D.C. band didn't seem to make music that fit in neatly with the legacy of this city, the tunes bore more than a hint of stuff from Priests, and the other bands the members of Flasher first played in.

9. Babelsberg by Gruff Rhys

The concise and elegant Babelsberg was, as I said in my review, a fantastic record, and one that's likely the best solo release from the Super Furry Animals singer so far.

10. Future Me Hates Me by The Beths

The latest album from New Zealand's The Beths, Future Me Hates Me is full of the sort of indie-pop that harks back to the glory days of bands like Belly, and That Dog, among others. As I wrote in my review, The Beths made one of the most enjoyable releases of 2018.

11. Everything Is Love by The Carters

I didn't review it but I sure played it. A lot. Back in summer-time, this seemed like a masterpiece. And if the pairing of husband-and-wife Jay-Z and Beyonce as The Carters didn't exactly set the world on fire, at least speakers were banging, with tunes like "Black Effect" and "Nice" the anthems of summer as far as I was concerned.

12. Across The Meridian by Pram

The return of Pram should have received a lot more fanfare. If Across The Meridian re-affirmed anything, it was this band's ability to be more than just one of those bands who get compared to Stereolab. As I stressed in my review, Across The Meridian saw Pram mix elements of post-rock, free jazz, and soundtrack music all together in the service of their otherworldly tune-age.

13. Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino by Arctic Monkeys

I didn't review Arctic Monkeys' new record when it came out but I liked it a lot. Despite hints on earlier records of this new direction for the Monkeys, Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino was still a bit of a stylistic surprise. An enveloping record, full of soul and New Wave textures whipped up together, each cut here was nearly hypnotic.

14. Digital Garbage by Mudhoney

More than grunge, the music on the superb new record from Mudhoney, Digital Garbage, was sharp and energetic, the sort of post-punk that did more than just crank up the volume. I loved the record, and I think it's fair to say it might be one of the band's best releases ever.

15. The Lost Record by Escape-ism

Ian Svenonious offered up a new Escape-ism LP on Merge Records in 2018, and The Lost Record was an excellent concept record from the only artist who could possibly have made that hoary device work again. In fact, the whole record also works as a parody of the reverence feted upon classic rock albums. Meta, man, and, remarkably, The Lost Record managed to be both fun and incendiary.

16. Snow Bound by The Chills

The new album from The Chills, Snow Bound, on Fire Records, was a rollicking record. As I said when I reviewed the album, there was a new vigor here that was positively infectious, a point Martin Phillipps seemed to acknowledge when I interviewed him last Fall.

17. Ten Fables Of Young Ambition And Passionate Love by St. Lenox

St. Lenox offered up another one-of-a-kind album in Ten Fables Of Young Ambition And Passionate Love, and the compositions here have that familiar wordplay his earlier records had, even if the music offered up a few new touches.

18. Possible Dust Clouds by Kristin Hersh

The new Kristin Hersh album, Possible Dust Clouds, on Fire Records, found Kristin revealing a sonic debt owed to Led Zeppelin, with the tunes benefiting from slight blues-based hooks. Still, it was a Kristin Hersh record, and the former Throwing Muses leader did not disappoint, as my rave review indicated.

19. Proto Retro by Dot Dash

Proto Retro, the new album from D.C.'s Dot Dash, was, as I raved here, a near-masterpiece of the power-pop form. Terry Banks' compositions are tight and economical masterclasses in how to write this sort of thing, and with Hunter Bennett and Danny Ingram beside him, the band is punching with the sort of focus that recalls the glory days of Tommy Keene and his band.

20. There's A Riot Going On By Yo La Tengo

Yo La Tengo offered up one of their most mellow, and yet best, records in 2018. There's A Riot Going On was nearly elegiac in spots, but it was also a superb release, as my review explained. For fans of this band, it felt like further confirmation of their continuing greatness.

21. Modern Meta Physic by Peel Dream Magazine

The debut album from Peel Dream Magazine, Modern Meta Physic, was one of the best releases on Slumberland Records in 2018 and that was saying something. A nice riff on Stereolab, the music here also owed some debts to Unrest and other indie bands of the Nineties. Still, the music here was affecting, even if reviewers like me were left fumbling for comparison points when writing about this release.

22. Parallel Universe Blues by Papercuts

The new release from Papercuts, Parallel Universe Blues, was yet another essential record from Slumberland Records in 2018, and one which was full of music that mixed the best elements of shoegaze with a bunch of really strong melodies. When I reviewed the album, I hesitated to call it shoegaze because it's so much more. If the term dream-pop was ever to be used, it would be here, because these are tunes from a pop-music lover's dream.

23. Code Word by The Moles

The Moles offered up an unruly record in Code Word this year. Still, as I said when I reviewed Code Word, it was a superb release, full of elegant chamber pop and raging post-punk, amid an assured White Album-like presentation.

24. Space Gun by Guided By Voices

Space Gun, reviewed by me here, was an absolutely fantastic record. Further proof that Robert Pollard is leading Guided By Voices through a new heyday of power-pop greatness, the LP was a blast.

25. Don't Look by Young Romance

The second album from Young Romance, Don't Look, was, as I explained in my review,an expansion of the band's expert blend of shoegaze and C86 styles. Claire and Paolo served up an excellent record here, one which is even better than their earlier releases.

26. Always Ascending by Franz Ferdinand

The latest record from Franz Ferdinand was, like the latest from Arctic Monkeys, the band's first in 5 years and a stylistic leap. If the electro-pop on Always Ascending sounded a bit like earlier FF releases, it also revealed a new iteration of the band's sound, one mixed with a larger dollop of Talking Heads-style white boy funk and sleek New Wave.

27. Birds Of America by Lake Ruth

Lake Ruth served up their best release to date with 2018's Birds of America. And while reviewers like me still reached for Stereolab and Pram as comparison points, the music being made here by Allison Brice, Hewson Chen, and Matt Schulz was uniquely elegant chamber pop. A lovely and captivating record, Birds of America deserved all the praise it earned by reviewers.

28. MITH by Lonnie Holley

MITH is more than just a pop record, or a jazz record. It is, as I stressed in my review, a fantastic album that blends genres while leaping over them. Lonnie Holley, an artist in every sense of the word, crafted something here that veered from protest rock ("I Woke Up In A Fucked Up America"), to epic, free jazz ("I Snuck Off The Slave Ship"). That Holley can get away with those kinds of stylistic strides spoke volumes to his talent and command of the material at hand. One of the very few releases on this list that could possibly change the very way you think, MITH by Lonnie Holley is high art.

29. Rest In Peace by Boys

The debut full-length from Boys, Rest In Peace, was another in a string of excellent releases from the PNKSLM label. It was also, as my review indicated, full of otherworldly pop of the sort that defied easy categorization but which was remarkably easy to enjoy.

30. What You've Heard Isn't Real by Porcupine

The latest record from Porcupine was a real pleasant surprise. Full of alt-rock that sounded punchy and forceful like stuff from Foo Fighters, the Midwest trio's power was undoubtedly amplified by the presence of Husker Du bassist Greg Norton in the band. I reviewed What You've Heard Isn't Real earlier this year here, and I was delighted to be able to further explore the creation of the band's music when I interviewed Greg Norton later in the Fall.

[Photo: Flasher by Jen Dessinger]

Monday, December 10, 2018

My Top 30 Tracks Of 2018

There are not going to be any huge surprises here today. I mean, if you've followed my site the last year, you could almost have guessed some of these entries. That said, there was a lot of fantastic music released in 2018, a lot of great songs. In about a week, I'll be offering up my Top 20 Albums Of 2018 list. And while that may contain a few surprising choices, for now, enjoy this list of my top songs of the year, in no real order.

Kenixfan's Top 30 Tracks of 2018

1. "Still Alive" by The Spook School (from Could It Be Different?)

The Spook School kicked 2018 off with a bang, with the energetic Could It Be Different? on Slumberland Records. The record was full of life-affirming indie-anthems, as I explained here, and "Still Alive" was one of the best.

2. "What a Time To Be Alive" by Superchunk (from What A Time To Be Alive)

I've been a Superchunk fan for a quarter-century now and even I was surprised at how vital What A Time To Be Alive was. The Merge Records release, reviewed by me here, was full of timely, and punk-y numbers and the title track seemed like the best selection to highlight here.

3. "The Club" by Hinds (from I Don't Run)

Hinds finally dropped their second album this year, and while I Don't Run did show signs of a more mature sound, the band's music was every bit as compelling and invigorating as it had always been. The first single from the album, "The Club", positively rocked, a subtle rock-funk number that seemed like a masterpiece to me back at the start of 2018, as I probably gushed in my review of the album.

4. "Dylan and Caitlin" by Manic Street Preachers (from Resistance Is Futile)

There were so many great songs on Resistance Is Futile that I felt a real challenge here in picking just one. Still, this ode to Dylan Thomas and his wife Caitlin, with The Anchoress singing the wife's part here, really hit a nerve with me, taking me back to being an idealistic 17-year-old clutching a book of Thomas' poetry in high school. I raved about Resistance Is Futile back in April here, but, in truth, this song is the one that I seemed to play the most in 2018.

5. "When My Stars Sleep It's For Ages" by Red Hare (from Little Acts of Destruction)

The latest album from Red Hare (ex-Swiz, Dag Nasty) rocked my socks off in 2018. The Dischord release is one I gladly reviewed here earlier this year, and it's a record that popped and soared with a surprising amount of energy.

6. "Make Me Feel" by Janelle Monae (from Dirty Computer)

This was Janelle Monae's year, and not least because of her good taste in choosing projects, or the excellence of the forward-looking Dirty Computer. At her very best here on this contender for single of the year IMHO, Janelle adds a cute-as-fuck Tessa Thompson to the video to showcase not only a monster hook, but Janelle's skills that have (rightfully) earned her comparisons to Prince. If he had an heir, it's Monae.

7. "Mainland" by Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever (from Hope Downs)

Hope Downs, the debut full-length from Australia's Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever was every bit the record us fans of this band's earlier EP's had been eager to hear. I probably mentioned back in June in my review of the album, how much I loved this song, and what an absolutely cracking live band this lot are.

8. "Cicada" by La Luz (from Floating Features)

Floating Features saw La Luz broaden their unique surf-y sound in some subtle ways. I loved the record, as my review explained, with one of the standouts for me being the surging "Cicada", a song that had a great, fun video.

9. "Skim Milk" by Flasher (from Constant Image)

The debut full-length from D.C. band Flasher, Constant Image, reviewed by me here, was a neat updating of New Wave and post-punk forms, with tracks like "Skim Milk" burned into the memory because of a great hook.

10. "Selfies in the Sunset" by Gruff Rhys (from Babelsberg)

The Super Furry Animals front-man released perhaps his best, most concise solo record this year, in the elegant Babelsberg. I think I said in my review what a superb number "Selfies in the Sunset" was but I'm saying it again.

11. "Future Me Hates Me" by The Beths (from Future Me Hates Me)

The title cut from the latest album from New Zealand's The Beths, "Future Me Hates Me" is a blast of bright power-pop of the sort that indie-pop desperately needs more of. The rest of the album is great too, as I wrote here.

12. "Waiting for Summer" by Smokescreens (from Used To Yesterday)

The superb "Waiting for Summer" from Smokescreens is a standout on an excellent record, Used To Yesterday, reviewed by me here. The Slumberland Records band made this sort of hooky indie work so well that it was impossible not to love this single, and the rest of the record.

13. "Betting on the Sun" by Bird Streets (from Bird Streets)

I'll admit that I picked up Bird Streets because I heard Jason Falkner was on it. But I came away loving the release from main-man John Brodeur. While the whole album is good, "Betting on the Sun" positively soared, a fact I highlighted in my review.

14. "Nothing I Can Say" by Tony Molina (from Kill The Lights)

The newest album from Tony Molina is a brief bit of brilliance. Full of the sort of songs that seem the direct heirs to the legacy of what was heard on albums from The Left Banke or The Zombies, the cuts are all short but excellent. "Nothing I Can Say" is a standout from yet another Slumberland Records release that I loved in 2018.

16. "How Long Will This Last?" by Blossoms (from Cool Like You)

This single caught me off-guard late this year. A neat blend of The Feeling and The Killers, the single from the U.K. band Blossoms was instantly catchy and instantly a fave of mine this year.

16. "Kill Yourself Live" by Mudhoney (from Digital Garbage)

The grunge legends returned this year. Mudhoney dropped the superb Digital Garbage on Sub Pop and the release saw the band offer up acerbic, smart, and blistering rock with the sly "Kill Yourself Live" being a standout on the great record.

17. "I'm A Lover (At Close Range)" by Escape-Ism (from The Lost Record)

Ian Svenonious offered up a second Escape-Ism record this year on Merge Records and while I loved The Lost Record, I was also a bit unnerved by it. I think that's sort of what Ian wanted here, with stuff like "I'm A Lover (At Close Range)" serving as a good example of the kind of claustrophobic indie found on this record.

18. "Deep Belief" by The Chills (from Snow Bound)

The newest release from The Chills, Snow Bound, on Fire Records, was a record full of spry, energetic indie-pop. Still, it was the elegant ballad "Deep Belief" that shone as one of the very best things Martin Phillipps has written in ages. I raved about the track when I reviewed the album, and I made a point to ask Martin Phillipps about writing the song, when I interviewed him last Fall.

19. "First Date" by St. Lenox (from Ten Fables Of Young Ambition And Passionate Love)

St. Lenox offered up another singular album in Ten Fables Of Young Ambition And Passionate Love, with "First Date" being one of the best compositions on the record. Andrew Choi (St. Lenox) is making some of the most unique indie-rock today and thank goodness for that.

20. "That's When I Feel It" by Richard Ashcroft (from Natural Rebel)

I haven't followed Richard Ashcroft's career much since "A Song For The Lovers" but darn it if "That's When I Feel It" didn't immediately grab me. Catchier and less ponderous than a lot of his back-catalog, the tune is a joy.

21. "Gray Blue Green" by Dot Dash (from Proto Retro)

Heck I could have picked any song off of Proto Retro the newest record from D.C.'s Dot Dash because the album is just that good and full of rich power-pop gems. Still, having heard "Gray Blue Green" live before the record came out, and in an even rougher mix from the band, it seemed like the obvious choice for this list.

22. "Usual Freaks" by Chemtrails (from Cult Of The Sacred Calf)

London band Chemtrails dropped their debut full-length in 2018 and while nearly any song on Cult Of The Sacred Calf could have made the cut for me, I went with the spindly, glam-racket of "Usual Freaks" for this list. The track, like so many from this band (and others on the fine PNKSLM label), is warped-indie, a skewed pop hit from a realm where Ziggy and Slade are still ruling the tops of those pop charts. Divine!

23. "Qi Velocity" by Peel Dream Magazine (from Modern Meta Physic)

The debut release from Peel Dream Magazine, Modern Meta Physic, was a superb approximation of early Stereolab, which made perfect sense considering that Peel Dream Magazine are on Slumberland Records, the label that introduced so many of us here in America to the early singles of Stereolab some decades ago. All that being said, "Qi Velocity" was a haunting bit of business, and clearly one of the most memorable tracks of 2018.

24. "Laughing Man" by Papercuts (from Parallel Universe Blues)

The latest album from Papercuts, Parallel Universe Blues, was yet another superb offering from Slumberland Records in 2018, and one which served up a whole lot of great music. When I reviewed the album, I was hard pressed to single out just one highlight from the album, but "Laughing Man" is exceptionally catchy and effervescent.

25. "Queen Anne" by The Moles (from Code Word)

The Moles brought forth an unruly-yet-magnificent set in Code Word this year. When I reviewed the record, I stressed the disparate styles on the release. And yet even so, some numbers seem quite accessible. "Queen Anne" is a catchy bit of business, perfect indie-pop as far I'm concerned.

26. "See My Field" by Guided By Voices (from Space Gun)

Robert Pollard is having a bit of a renaissance at the moment. Even while hyping up a few releases for 2019 during his current concert stops, he is rightly leading the band through recent winners like "See My Field" while on tour. The number is one of the best selections on Space Gun, reviewed by me here, and that's saying something since any Pollard-penned release is full of equally high-caliber gems.

27. "Sunshine Rock" by Bob Mould (from Sunshine Rock)

Sunshine Rock won't be out on Merge Records until February but Bob Mould thankfully shared the title track earlier this year. The song is positively glorious, the sort of soaring guitar-rock that sees Bob once again draw inspiration from his own past (Sugar and Husker Du), as well as the best numbers from The Who.

28. "By My Side" by Young Romance (from Don't Look)

The second album from Young Romance, Don't Look, was an expansion of the sounds on the band's debut. With so many good songs here, as I explained in my review, it's hard to focus on just one cut but "By My Side" seemed a nice encapsulation of the band's unique shoegaze-y appeal.

29. "Bay Of Pigs" by Des Demonas (from Bay of Pigs EP)

Des Demonas didn't drop a new album in 2018 but they did unleash a ferocious single. "Bay Of Pigs", the A-Side, was a recent live favorite. While the whole garage rock-as-done-by-The Fall-vibe is still present here in the band's attack, there are new bits too, snatches of electro-pop and post-rock jostling for pole position. More details on the EP here.

30. "Don't You Know" by Durand Jones and The Indications (from American Love Call)

The new album from Durand Jones and the Indications won't even be out until March of next year but "Don't You Know" arrived late this Fall. The cut knocked my socks off! A neat blend of The Chi-Lites and modern rock-soul, the song is elegant and easy to love and I can't wait to catch up with everything this band has recorded.

[Photo: Hinds by Alberto Van Stokkum]

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Beyond Hidden Words: A Brief Review Of The New Album From Moderate Rebels

The new album from London's Moderate Rebels, Shared Values, dropped on Everyday Life Recordings last Friday. The record is a bit abrasive but within reason, melodies jutting up against angular post-punk flourishes.

Even as numbers like "The Value of Shares" and "Faith and Science" suggest bits and pieces of acts like Pere Ubu, The Fall, and The Raincoats, the lighter "Facade" goes down easier, hooks not entirely submerged under New Wave affectations. Similarly, "Beyond Hidden Words" nicely nudges things into other directions, brief indications of a Joy Division-like sheen heard throughout the song. Elsewhere, "Have To Save Myself" and "Eye In The Sky" offer up hints of American acts like Television and Sonic Youth, the sound of Moderate Rebels here more accessible even amidst brief, largely safe excursions into the truly transgressive.

Shared Values is a decent record, and one that indicates that Moderate Rebels have crafted a compelling sound, even if it's one that owes so much to many acts from the glory days of post-punk. If the band's influences remain crystal-clear, at least the resulting music stands on its own as something cohesive and compelling.

Shared Values is out now via Everyday Life Recordings.

More details on Moderate Rebels via the band's official Facebook page.

[Photo: Colin Williams]

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

It Will Never Be Simple: A Brief Review Of Two New EP's From Guided By Voices

When I saw Guided By Voices a few months ago in D.C., front-man-slash-legend Robert Pollard kept telling the audience about the band's many intended releases for 2019. One of those, Warp and Woof, is due out in April even as 2 EP's featuring songs from that record will be available to buy as of this Friday. Of course, even as I'm typing this, the band is hyping up another release: Zeppelin Over China, and that record drops on February 1.

Now as for these 2 EP's, let's start with 100 Dougs, the home of earlier single "Cohesive Scoops", a bright bit of power-pop business. And while 100 Dougs starts with the dirge-y "Bury The Mouse", a recent live favorite, it closes with the lovely "It Will Never Be Simple", an instrumental that recalls both Reckoning-era R.E.M. and earlier offerings from The Durutti Column. The track is sublime, as is the very fun "Coming Back From Now On", a stadium rock stomper.

The second EP that's going to drop this Friday is called Wine Cork Stonehenge and it starts with the superb "My Angel", a number that wouldn't have sounded out of place on last year's Space Gun. The cut is very nearly eclipsed by the great "Skull Arrow", think Bee Thousand-era stuff spruced up to be more crunchy. Elsewhere, "The Pipers, The Vipers, The Snakes" is glorious, equal parts angular post-rock tinged with flashes of real glam glory.

I'm thrilled to report that Bob Pollard and the boys in Guided By Voices are on such a roll. Pre-order 100 Dougs and Wine Cork Stonehenge via the links below. And then, fasten your seatbelts and get ready for a Guided By Voices-riffic 2019!

More details on Guided by Voices via the band's GuidedByVoices.com, or from the band's official Facebook page.

[Photo: GBV in DC by me, 2018]

Born To Its Image: A Quick Review Of The New Chemtrails EP

London's Chemtrails continue to push the envelope with their unique blend of indie-pop and glam rock. The band's newest EP, Cuckoo Spit, will be out this Friday via PNKSLM, and it is a remarkable release, as one might expect from this group and this label.

While the title cut climbs an ascending figure like that found on some of the band's best, earlier numbers, "Born In Its Image" expands the Chemtrails sonic palette with subtle additions to the group's approach. The tambourine and percussion hark back to singles from the C86 boom, even as the main hook treads a path somewhere between Love and Rockets and early Blondie. It's aces, really. Elsewhere, "Vultures" surges with purpose, while the nicely-titled "Tedium's Jaws" marries a nearly Queen-like sense of guitar-rock with a very cool vocal turn from leader Mia Lust. As Laura Orlova cranks out the big guitar riff alongside Mia's performance, a fan of this band is rewarded with a song that soars like so many of the best Chemtrails songs soar, even as bits and pieces in this one suggest a richer mix of influences creeping into the group's music. Cuckoo Spit ends with the more languid "Pink Fog", an appealing mix of Syd and Bolan over a more expansive melody.

In the space of just a few years Chemtrails have managed to emerge with a truly distinct sound. And Cuckoo Spit certainly rewards those of us who've been following this PNKSLM act from the start. You might be able to hear things here on this latest EP from Chemtrails that seem familiar, hints of past gems from the popular genres of the Seventies and Eighties, but so much of this music is so richly unique that it still surprises.

Cuckoo Spit is out on Friday via PNKSLM.

More details on Chemtrails via the band's official Facebook page.

[Photo: Uncredited band photo from band's Facebook page]