Sunday, October 30, 2016

My Quick Look At The New One From Dischord Renaissance Man Jerry Busher

Jerry Busher is probably best known as the guy from French Toast, right? Or maybe that guy who added percussion to some Fugazi releases? Or maybe a member of the legendary Fidelity Jones? Or the touring-drummer for Deathfix? Well, now let's hope that he'll get known for a release under his own name.

Bowl in a China Shop may be the first true solo release from Busher and for that reason it's significant to anyone following harDCore and its legacy. Mind you, this is not harDCore. No, what Busher's unleashed here is part Durutti Column, part tape mix, part gentle rumination. If the superb "How It Goes" is a bit Nick Drake, then it's a sort of post-punk spin on that sort of thing. The excellent "Gated" is eerie sound collage and jazzy trip-hop percussive workout. Frankly, this one wouldn't have sounded out of place on any of the last few Radiohead albums. Elsewhere, the woozy "B.I.A.C.S." churns like a bit of an Elfman soundtrack at the wrong speed, while "Wait" nods in the direction of Iron and Wine and similar neo-folk acts.

All that said, this is unique music that is a bit hard to describe. My comparisons are simply reference points. A far easier way to understand what is hopefully the first of many solo releases from Busher is simply to buy this and immerse yourself in it.

Bowl in a China Shop by Jerry Busher is out now. You can follow Jerry Busher's solo career via his official Facebook page.

Angelic Milk Drop New Single Rowland S. Howard Tribute Single

Angelic Milk have released some of my favorite tracks of 2016. That should not be a surprise given that they are now recording for the superb PNKSLM label. Following on from their recent Teenage Movie Soundtrack, the band have now dropped a 2-track single, Demos to Rowland S. Howard, which serves as a tribute to the Birthday Party legend. That the single also hints at some new directions for the sound of this band is an added plus.

On the Rowland S. Howard cover "Dead Radio", Angelic Milk seem to be channeling any number of Nick Cave-related projects that featured Anita Lane. They do this expertly and in such a way that their sound is not entirely diminished as they branch out into another style. On the B-side, the previously-unreleased demo "All For You", the sound is even more expansive, part early near-goth rumination, and part expansive post-rock. The cut is the flip of the band's usual goosebump-inducing rush of female vocals and feedback but it's also just as effective.

Demos to Rowland S. Howard by Angelic Milk is out now via PNKSLM. Follow the band via their official Facebook page.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

A Look At This New 3-CD Set On The African Pop Heyday Of Burkina Faso

I'm not going to approach Bobo Yeye: Belle Epoque in Upper Volta, out now via The Numero Group, with any pretense of being an expert on this sort of African pop. Nor am I going to approach it as a socialist via some angle that explains what this music represents about the state of an African state in the Seventies. No, no, I'm going to review this set simply as a music fan and on those terms I can say that this compilation was a blast from start to finish.

This collection chronicles a golden age in the music of what is now Burkina Faso. Known as Upper Volta after 1960, the nation produced a few decades' worth of the best Afro-pop, for lack of a better term, and the majority of the best moments are collected here on Bobo Yeye: Belle Epoque in Upper Volta.

Wisely, the folks at The Numero Group have structured Bobo Yeye: Belle Epoque in Upper Volta in such a way that each disc covers one extraordinary set of performers. Disc 1 covers the fab Volta Jazz, an ensemble whose output coves spry Afro-pop like the smooth "Mama Soukous", the percussive workout of "Nago Fala", and on to the utterly sublime and infectious "Air Volta" with its big hooks. Even casual fans of African popular music, or those with my sort of limited knowledge of this music, will find much to love here on the first disc of this excellent collection.

Disc 2 is given over to legendary vocalist Coulibaly Tidiane and his Dafra Star orchestra. The material here is more designed to highlight his vocals, naturally, and things are, in spots at least, a bit less propulsive than those on Disc 1, though stuff like "Sie Koumgolo" and "Yafamma" work up tremendous, percussive riffs that carry the material forward.

On the final disc of Bobo Yeye: Belle Epoque in Upper Volta there's a bit more variety with tracks presented from groups like Les Imbattles Leopards and Echo Del Africa. The progressions here highlight how the entire scene in Upper Volta (later Burkina Faso) expanded as music-making became more common. This is largely music made for dancing and live performance so the social aspect of this material shines through; this is "party music", of a sort, redolent of its era and locale. And there's a lot of value here in simply absorbing all this and trying to place it in the context of global pop trends in the era outside Africa.

Bobo Yeye: Belle Epoque in Upper Volta is out now via The Numero Group. This is highly lively and fun music and there should be nothing daunting about diving into this set at any starting point. Things are presented in such a way that even those new to these genres can appreciate what's here. The mammoth book of photographs from Sory Sante adds to the understanding of this era in Upper Volta's history as the country moved towards becoming Burkina Faso. The music here, the purest distillation of this country's burgeoning pop culture, reveals so much about the aspirations of the generation dreaming of so much more as a result of the country's growth in the Seventies.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Wish You Well: A Short Review Of The New Future States Album

If I told you that Canada's Future States sounded remarkably like Younghusband and Talk Talk on their debut full-length, Casual Listener, out Friday on Golden Brown, you should read that statement as a pretty strong endorsement. The band here make music that is supple and lyrical and full of joy for a listener.

On "Apostolic" the music of Future States nods in the direction of the indie traditions of both The High Llamas and The Beta Band. What ensues on tracks like this is a sort of light, ruminative take on the sort of music pursued by those acts and a few others. Airy keyboard figures run through the background of this cut as the vocals ease a listener's ears. On "Lulu" and "You've Got It All Wrong", Future States hit at something effortless and nimble. This is catchy, bright indie that is a less arch take on the sort of thing early Talking Heads records were attempting. If there's a sameness to some of these Future States tracks, a listener cannot complain when the results are this enticing. Elsewhere, on "Wish You Well", Future States offer up something that wouldn't have sounded out of place on 4AD at some points in the past, the production full of depth and space for the myriad guitar effects at work. This all-too-brief album closes on "Sudo Su", all hushed Durutti Column chords and gentle electronic textures.

Future States have made something special in Casual Listener. At their best, they recall The Blue Nile, China Crisis, and a whole raft of acts that once offered layered indie of the very best sort. Melodies here dominant the cuts and, as a result, things are concise and focused. Other acts would probably get lost in the studio wizardry that surrounds this sort of material but Future States manage to keep things simple but fairly interesting throughout.

Casual Listener by Future States is out on Friday via Golden Brown. More details on Future States can be found on the band's official Facebook page.

[Photo: Uncredited Promo Picture]

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Honeymoon On Mars: A Quick Look At The New One From The Pop Group

The music of The Pop Group was, at one time, beyond punk, outside the normal genre boundaries. As such, it was wildly innovative, raucous, and some of the boldest music made in what is commonly termed the post-punk era. That the band survived and continue to make music that is very nearly as brave is more than impressive. The band are back with Honeymoon on Mars and this new album is out via Freaks R Us on Friday. You have been warned.

Featuring production from the legendary Dennis Bovell and the equally legendary Hack Shocklee (The Bomb Squad of Public Enemy fame), the tracks here are clattering sonic bombs lobbed at the mainstream, kinda like everything this lot has released. "Instant Halo" updates the Birthday Party template for a new century, while the Shocklee-touched "City of Eyes" unravels like recent Primal Scream cuts mixed with peak-period Iggy Pop screeds. It's fantastic, frankly, and my words probably don't do it justice. Similarly, the ominous "War, Inc." rumbles along on a vaguely techno underpinning, the effect one reminiscent of some of the best stuff produced by Mark Stewart with his other acts too. Elsewhere, the Shriekback-like "Little Town" tempers down the rage with a bass-heavy, dub-influenced backing track. If "Zipperface" is the P.i.L.-ish hit single, then reggae-tinged "Heaven" is the kind of stuff most fans of Stewart's back-catalog will be more familiar with. As the wonerfully-titled "Burn Your Flags" closes the record, a listener is thankful that Stewart and crew are still making angry, awesome music like what's found on Honeymoon on Mars.

Honeymoon on Mars, out Friday, is a statement of intent from The Pop Group. Seemingly full of as much fire as they had 30-some years ago, these provocateurs have sacrificed nothing in their approach even as the sound has mellowed in some ways. Brash, bold, and brave, the tunes here on Honeymoon on Mars are invigorating for any fan of this band, or Mark Stewart, or any of his projects.

More details via ThePopGroup.net.

Wonderland: My Review Of The New Book And CD Release From Kristin Hersh (Throwing Muses, 50 Foot Wave)

No one has had more luck at translating the language of those voices in your head into songs than Kristin Hersh. The founder of Throwing Muses, leader of 50 Foot Wave, and acclaimed solo artist is ramping up to the release of her new book-and-2CD-set Wyatt at the Coyote Palace. The collection drops this coming Friday in the U.K., and in the U.S. a few weeks after that and it is, easily, one of her most ambitious solo releases so far. And, yeah, saying that I'm well aware of how bold the last Throwing Muses release was. On that one, Kristin and her crew offered up a book and tons of music, a project reviewed by me here. This one feels different mainly due to the fact that this is entirely a Kristin Hersh solo record.

Playing everything on these 24 tracks, Hersh has created her own sound universe again, those voices tempered down and capable of unfolding mysterious tales now. As she said recently in a quote included in the promotional material for Wyatt at the Coyote Palace:

"But it's always felt to me that songs were pushing my life around so they could be born: I live the stories and then the song lives. Very much like children. A baby isn't born because you got pregnant, you got pregnant because a baby was going to be born."

And while in the old Muses days that sort of thinking made perfect, if odd, sense when one heard material like "Mania" or "Fish", corrosive-yet-exhilarating bursts of the Hersh genius, it now seems even odder. I say that 'cause the material here is remarkably thought-out and evenly paced. If these tracks were inside Kristin all along, they certainly were well-formed; she gave birth to some of her most cohesive solo material this time out. Disc 1 offers up the intimate "Secret Codes" not too soon before it yields the Zeppelin lurch of "Hemingway Tell", Hersh having found a way to work up a new effect on these every bit as unique as the tempo shifts on her early tracks. Stuff like "Wonderland" seems anxious and relaxed at the same time, if that makes any sense at all. And if "Diving Bell" near the end of CD 1 seems vaguely like early R.E.M., a nod in the direction of some-time collaborator Stipe, then the one-two punch of "Killing Two Birds" and "Guadalupe" finishes off the disc with a whole lot of power, both cuts echoing moments from glam rock and shoegaze traditions admirably.

The second half of Wyatt at the Coyote Palace quickly gets moving with the sway of "August" and the near-furious strums of "Sunblown", Hersh here sounding like nothing so much as Patti Smith commandeering a mariachi band. If "Soma Gone Slapstick" is the single-worthy single, all clear hooks, then the superb "Between Piety and Desire" is the rocker with the ascending Page-like guitar figure. If I had to guess, Hersh has got a dogged copy of Led Zeppelin III in her collection, or maybe just the second LP from Physical Graffiti. More than ever, she's brushing up against near-blues styles here, which makes some sense given her New Orleans connections, to create a new style for herself. Yes, this is a Kristin Hersh solo album but it sounds nothing like Sunny Border Blue (2001) to me, if you know what I mean. Kristin has harnessed a new kind of power this time out and one can play these seemingly disparate songs, soundtracks to stories all, and hear so much force, force that's unlike what was on offer on those early Throwing Muses sides, and unlike the stark folk of her Nineties solo albums.

If Throwing Muses shows off Kristin Hersh the poet, the one with an amp, and 50 Foot Wave serves as a highlight reel for her skill as a musician, then this double-album, the start of a new era in her solo career, parades her talents as a storyteller, one capable of using every instrument at her fingertips to evoke meaning and convey her tales. And, sure, her musicianship on this mammoth set is more than impressive, but it's the very nature of the project, the presentation itself, that makes this all work so well. Even more than Purgatory/Paradise from Throwing Muses, Wyatt at the Coyote Palace stands as a self-contained piece of art, full of the things we all love about this woman's work, and full of so many moments that charm and inspire. And as things end on the noisy lullaby of "Shotgun", one can hear echoes of both "Walking in the Dark" and "Your Ghost" here, Hersh having now harnessed her peak-moment talents and put them to work so efficiently.

A work that on paper seems so sprawling, so disparate, but one which one finds so cohesive and enveloping when approached attentively, Wyatt at the Coyote Palace is clearly one of Kristin Hersh's best solo releases. The near-folk of earlier solo records has fangs this time out, real bits of menace akin to what we raged with on those first Muses long-players so long ago. Having found a new sound, of a sort, Hersh is to be applauded for making something that echoes so much of what we follow her for. How could any fan not love this one?

Wyatt at the Coyote Palace by Kristin Hersh is out on Friday in certain territories, and a few weeks later in others. Either way, order or pre-order it now. More details via KristinHersh.com, 'natch. [Photo: Peter Mellekas]

Saturday, October 22, 2016

New Hard Left Single Is Here And UK Tour Dates Announced (For All The Comrades Over There)!

Hard Left are inspired by this election year nonsense apparently. Every few years, when those of us with avowed left-ist goals of a sort have to invariably compromise again, there's a bit of rage that bubbles up inside. Hard Left, the collective featuring members of Boyracer, D.C.'s legendary Fire Party and Black Tambourine, is back. They've tapped into that rage in order to offer up this 2-track missive aimed at the mainstream.

"Strike for America" rallies the workers on this side of the pond, while "Western Rifles" seems to aim its lyrical sights at the arms trade in this hemisphere, among other things. If you happen to be in the U.K. -- and this site still gets nearly half its hits from there -- you'd be wise to check out the official Hard Left Facebook page for details on the band's upcoming U.K. tour.

In the meantime, buy the new single from Hard Left via the link below. Proceeds from the sale of the single will go to Jacobin Magazine.

[Photo: Nommi, via the Hard Left Facebook page]

Old Enough To Know: A Look At The Superb New Tony Molina EP On Slumberland Records

There's a very real fear I have that in the highly justified hoopla around the excellent new albums from Real Numbers and Terry Malts, that another Slumberland Records release is going to not get the similar amount of hype. The release in question is the new EP from Tony Molina. Called Confront The Truth, the 8-song collection is out on Friday via Slumberland Records and it is excellent, and, obviously, worthy of just as much hype.

What's clear from the outset is how many The Left Banke and pre-disco Bee Gees records the kid's been consuming. Gentle guitar plucks intro things on the delicate "Lisa's Song", while "I Don't Want To Know" manages to echo both the previously-mentioned Left Banke, as well as pre-Dark Side of the Moon Floyd singles.

So, given all this, by the time we got to "Hung Up on the Dream", it was only natural that I was expecting this to be a cover of my favorite Zombies cut. It's not but it is a lovely, mournful memory of a past love set to a simple tune that echoes both "Blue Jay Way" from The Beatles and various Syd Barrett sides a bit. Elsewhere, on the Chris Bell-ish "See Me Fall", Molina seems to be inverting the chords from "And I Love Her" by The Beatles for a pretty effective hook. By the time that Confront The Truth ends, on a brisk run at Thin Lizzy's "Banshee", a listener almost feels like starting up a letter writing campaign to flood Slumberland Records boss Mike with missives demanding/pleading for more new Tony Molina tracks. The EP is short but perfect in its execution, offering up the sort of chamber pop that fans of any band I've mentioned here in the course of this review will surely cherish.

Confront The Truth by Tony Molina will be out on Friday via Slumberland Records. More details on Tony Molina, including information about his upcoming November 7 gig at D.C.'s DC9, can be found on his official Facebook page.

Bitter Blessings: A Few Words About The New One From Muuy Biien

The new album from Georgia's Muuy Biien is so unlike most current indie that surely it deserves some credit simply for that reason alone. That the record is full of insistent tunes is another reason it is something to seek out when it drops this Friday on Autumn Tone.

Age of Uncertainty opener "Moral Compass" saunters in with a whole lot of Gun Club-style swagger, while "Sike Song" offers up more propulsive charms. If "Bitter Blessings" channels Nick Cave's early projects a bit, "Another Chore" adds some elements from Cabaret Voltaire and Fall records to the music on offer. The melodic "Mara" seems the highlight of his release, while the grimly fun "In The Pits" charms with a bit of Iggy Pop-style energy. At their best, like on the Saints-recalling "If It Pleased You", Muuy Biien work up a formidable racket that seems to echo so many other worthy post-punk pioneers. Fans of The Triffids, The Birthday Party, and The Cramps should find much to love here.

Age of Uncertainty is out on Friday from Autumn Tone. Follow Muuy Biien via the band's official Facebook page.

[Photo: Jordan Reyes]

Let It Come Down: A Look At The New One From Marching Church (Iceage)

Elias Bender Ronnenfelt is known as the lead singer of Iceage but now he's going to be known as the leader of the formidable Marching Church. The new one from this Danish band, Let It Come Down, will drop on Friday via Sacred Bones Records and it's a brash bit of indie full of call-outs to the touchstones of the post-punk era's peak years.

Opening with "Let It Come Down" and the more propulsive "Up for Days", the new Marching Church album immediately recalls the best material from Crime and the City Solution. If the songs are not quite as languid at times, they have a similar sound that is unshakable. The lanky "Inner City Pigeon" is full of menace and coiled power, while the superb "Lion's Den" nods in the direction of the more sinister moments from the Rolling Stones back-catalog. Elsewhere, on the nearly-uplifting "Achilles Heel", Marching Church sound like nothing so much as Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds even while bringing the faintest trace of a melody-line from American gospel to the fore.

At their best, Marching Church bridge the sounds of current indie with styles from the Eighties. That one can hear traces of influences as disparate as The Gun Club and The Lords of the New Church here gives the music of Marching Church a fairly broad appeal. Invigorating despite the dour nature throughout the record, what's on offer here is fairly interesting for any fan of anything that Nick Cave touched in the first few decades of his career, as well as for fans of Iceage or Choir of Young Believers, bands whose members participate here.

Let It Come Down by Marching Church will be out on Friday from Sacred Bones Records. Follow Marching Church via their official Facebook page.

[Photo: Elizabeth Peyton]

Thursday, October 20, 2016

A Very Overdue Look At The Latest 50 Foot Wave EP

Kristin Hersh, genius behind Throwing Muses, dropped a new EP with her trio, 50 Foot Wave, a few months ago. Somehow I missed it back then, and that's a shame 'cause 1) I've been a big fan of anything Kristin-related for nearly 30 years now, and, 2) it's awesome! Read on.

Bath White offers up what can best be described as that 50 Foot Wave vibe right from the start. The band -- Kristin, Bernard Georges on bass, and Rob Ahlers on drums -- work up a shuffling hook on the title cut that unfurls with a bit of menace. Superbly lanky, the tune reminds one of how much great work Kristin has done outside Throwing Muses and her own impressive solo career (she's prepping a new 2CD-and-book set for release in the very near-future). If the humorously-titled "God's Not a Dick" rocks in the manner of Real Ramona-era Muses jams, the near-punk-y "Human" offers up the sort of time signatures favored by a whole slew of Dischord bands, the influence of Kristin's earlier groups shining through as she takes inspiration in turn from the whole post-rock generation of acts. "St. Christopher" echoes tunes from the first 50 Foot Wave releases, while the affecting "Rattled" shimmers in the manner of stuff on 4AD back in the Eighties when the Muses were busy ruling the label. The all-too-brief "Sun Salute" closes the EP with a nod back to the sound Hersh favored on "Snailhead" and other earlier Throwing Muses gems. If her voice here is not quite as corrosive, she's at least settled into a style that suits her as middle-aged rock legend, and it's a style every bit as distinctive as the wails on her early albums with Throwing Muses, those albums that soundtracked my youth so memorably.

While you're waiting for the new Kristin Hersh double-album, enjoy this 50 Foot Wave release. Bath White is, like everything this trio has cranked out, propulsive and invigorating post-punk, full of life and musical inventiveness. More than perhaps any other Kristin Hersh-project in the last few decades, there's a synergy here among the players that is amazing. If jazz guys played rock it wouldn't sound like fusion -- it would sound just like this.

Bath White from 50 Foot Wave is out now via HHBTM Records. More details on Bath White from 50 Foot Wave, and any other Kristin Hersh-related project, from KristinHersh.com.

A Quick Word About The Stunning New Album From St. Lenox

That I can't quite think of which genre the music of St. Lenox fits into makes my job here harder. It makes it harder for me to trot out any lazy reference point in describing the genius of Ten Hymns From My American Gothic: A Gift For My Father In Honor Of His 70th Year, out Friday via Anyway Records.

And, let's be honest: call this outsider music, or even gimmicky (due to Andrew Choi's unlearned and unorthodox delivery), but there is simply no way to deny the visceral impact of stream-of-consciousness opener "Fuel America". The effect is an enriching one, especially so in this year of such ugliness from the Trumps of the world. And that the words are being sung by a Korean-American man about the experiences of his own father in emigrating to this country makes things a bit more poignant. This is big, beautiful, important music and I couldn't help but be profoundly moved, even as the indie fan inside me struggled to come to grips with what exactly this music is. Still, when Choi sings about going to California to see the "end of the universe", or words to that effect, I was gladly along for the ride.

Similarly, the transcendent "Thurgood Marshall" serves as a sort of anthem for those who believe in what the American Dream remains for so many. And while that sounds incredibly trite, even naive, Choi has struck here at something simple and direct about the experience of coming to this country to thrive and taste great opportunities. I will admit that I am not quite sure if on paper it works, but when Choi sings the tune and the lyrics just tumble past you in a rush of break-beat Aaron Copland-isms, the effect is one of the most moving moments in my listening life this year.

Touching on some unpleasant truths in this great country, Choi brings a great deal of wit to the spry "Conspiracy Theories" and when he tells the unnamed kook to go out and "have a beer now", I laughed a bit. This is confident, fun music unlike anything else you're enjoying these days. Similarly, he manages to carefully and poignantly evoke both the country of his parents ("Korea") and the somewhat difficult transition to being American ("People From Other Cultures"). Choi is doing so much here that it's easy to sort of overlook what's on offer. Simultaneously coming to grips with a generational gap and a cultural one, Choi is so deft here that I wish more performers could pull this sort of material off. This is important music but it's not pretentious music and that makes all the difference as far as I'm concerned.

On the achingly beautiful "What I Think About When You Say South Korea", Choi subtly addresses what he imagines his father thinks of the journey from Korea to America. The effect, over simple Brian Wilson-esque chords and sleighbells, and with a brief bit of a hook that echoes "Crazy Love" by Van Morrison, is a tremendous one and I'd venture to say that I'm not going to hear a more moving song this year. Ten Hymns From My American Gothic: A Gift For My Father In Honor Of His 70th Year closes on the upbeat, proto-gospel-infused "When I Return", the note of triumph in this very American record.

Stunningly direct in spots, Ten Hymns From My American Gothic: A Gift For My Father In Honor Of His 70th Year by St. Lenox is the very rarest sort of album, one that defies so many easy categorizations. And, ultimately, this is a record that surprises and challenges a listener while offering some big, big emotional moments. Uniquely American in outlook, Choi's material here is stunning and necessary, all the more so as so many become so disillusioned in what the American experience offers, or the way in which it's pursued.

Ten Hymns From My American Gothic: A Gift For My Father In Honor Of His 70th Year is out on Friday via Anyway Records. Follow St. Lenox via the official website, or the official Facebook page.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Play New Split Single (Jason Narducy) Track Here!

The upcoming album from Split Single is generating a lot of the buzz at the moment, thanks mainly to the attention these new tracks are rightly getting. Today I'm going to share a new one, "Blank Ribbons", and it's a taut stunner from the upcoming album.

Riding a tight, tense rhythm, Narducy uses "Blank Ribbons" to showcase his brand of smart post-punk. The guy has played with Guided by Voices and Bob Mould and Superchunk and, sure, one can hear bits of those acts here but really Narducy's success is all his own. Closer to the best moments on old Polvo records than those on Foolish, "Blank Ribbons" is a yearning rocker and a nice tease of the upcoming album.

Metal Frames will be out in a few weeks. In the meantime, follow Jason Narducy's Split Single via the band's official website.

[Photo: Jason Richards IV]

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Catching Up With The Beautiful Sounds Of The Julia Jacklin Record

The new Julia Jacklin album, Don't Let The Kids Win, out now on Polyvinyl Records, is a collection of stunning tunes which can best be described as alt-country, even though that label isn't quite accurate.

If "Pool Party" has a faint trace of stuff like Lucinda Williams, it's got more of a trace of Lana Del Rey about it too. Similarly, the catchy "Coming of Age" rides by on a big hook that's as much Maria McKee as it is Neko Case. Yes, ostensibly this is "country music" of a sort, never mind that Jacklin is from Australia. And, yes, there's a bit of a twang about things here at times but, really, what we're hearing throughout this record is as much the sort of big pop that Dusty Springfield pursued as it is the kind of thing Loretta Lynn perfected. Jacklin wisely keeps things simple, and that means that a quiet track like "Small Talk" gets to shine without too much extra being added to the production. But the highlight of Don't Let The Kids Win is clearly the near-epic "Hay Plain" which sees Jacklin take on the mantle of Kendra Smith of Opal, or Hope Sandoval of Mazzy Star. Veering closer to alt-rock here than alt-country, Jacklin owns this one and this is the song that made me a firm fan of what's on offer here.

Don't Let The Kids Win is a fine collection from this relatively new performer and I urge you to seek this one out now instead of waiting to stumble upon it like I did. More details on Don't Let The Kids Win via Polyvinyl Records. Follow Julia Jacklin via her official website.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Rock Your Little World With The New One From Allyson Seconds

The new album from Allyson Seconds, Little World, really caught me by surprise. Awash with the sort of Beatlesque hooks that the Bangles once created, the record is full of rays of power pop sunshine.

If the title cut, featuring contributions from Anton Barbeau and XTC's Colin Moulding, shines like something off of Everything (1988), stuff like "Dust Beneath My Wings" jettisons the Bangles bits in favor of some big Lesley Gore-style hooks even as the guitars wail like something from the acid rock era. Elsewhere, "Your Velvet Year" charms with a sort of gentle Jayhawks-style underpinning, while the lyrical "Eye Kinda" unfurls like an Aimee Mann track, only one with more upbeat bits of goodwill sprinkled throughout. If "Burning Burning" hints at something darker lurking underneath the summery pop, then things are put right again with the glorious "Sun Don't Shine", all poppy Belly-meets-Susanna Hoffs goodness.

Some of the material on Little World by Allyson Seconds could use a bit more fire and a little less production but, on the whole, this is a fantastic record full of the sort of power pop followers of XTC and Jellyfish are sure to love. Fans of Hoffs, Jason Falkner, and (obviously) The Bangles, are going to dig this a lot.

More details on Little World by Allyson Seconds via the Beehive website.

It's My Feeling: A Quick Review Of The Superb New Album From Holy Sons

If I told you that one of the season's best indie albums had a cover of a Del Shannon gem on it, and that said cover was a track of aching depth, you might laugh at me. But, look, that's the truth and, yeah, this new Holy Sons album, In The Garden is a fantastic record outside of that cover. Out on Friday on Partisan Records, In The Garden sounds like a lost masterpiece from the Sixties, the sort of long-player that would have been counted as a big artistic statement back then. Still, regardless of all that, Emil Amos' new work is most definitely worth your time here in the 21st Century.

The lush and expansive "Robbed and Gutted" rolls in like Grant Lee Buffalo remaking a lost Beach Boys single, while the ominous "Original Sin" marries a Nick Cave-like sense of mood with melodies straight out of old Gene Pitney sides. Exquisite and unlike anything else being made these days, the cuts here on In The Garden have a sort of timeless power that is unshakable. On "Denmark" and "Double Negative", Amos filters the sort of indie made by Iron and Wine and Bon Iver with the songwriting legacy of the early pre-Beatles Sixties. The superb "Too Late" offers up what could best be described as a mix of post-Pet Sounds Brian Wilson compositions mixed with the sort of delivery and arrangement favored by Scott Walker on his best albums. "It's My Feeling" is a revelation, the kind of track that just stuns a listener. Equal parts Jeff Buckley and Del Shannon, this take on the Shannon standard is moving and lyrical and clearly the highlight of this fine album. In The Garden closes on the title cut which recalls Cave's work again, specifically selections from The Boatman's Call (1997) album, as much as it does stuff like early Gilmour-era Pink Floyd, oddly, thanks to the fantastic guitar-work on this one.

Holy Sons have released something special here. In a world of ordinary indie, this is extraordinary music, full of big emotions, big hooks, and ornate arrangements. Poised somewhere between the chamber pop of an early generation and the sort of tunes crooners crooned a few decades before that, the cuts on this album are precisely the kind of music I wish more artists made these days. Adventurous and bold while remaining melodic and intimate, In The Garden is one of this season's best releases.

In The Garden from Holy Sons will be out on Friday from Partisan Records. Follow Holy Sons via the band's official Facebook page, or the band's official website.

[Photo: Eliza Sohn]

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Hybrid Souls: A Quick Look At The New Dyr Faser EP

While Dyr Faser began as a solo project, it is now a real band. Not only is it a real band, it's one that features Thalia Zedek (Live Skull, Come). Called Trio, the newest EP dropped on Friday and it's now time to get caught up with the compelling tunes made by this trio of Eric Boomhower, Thalia Zedek, and Katherine "Kate" Murray.

While the title cut charms, it's the superb second track, "Estranged", that immediately grabs a listener. Riding in on a few slide-guitar lines, Boomhower's vocals sound like nothing so much as Jason Pierce's on an old Spacemen 3 side. As the guitars offer up intertwining figures, the keyboards and drum machine patterns add texture. This is an excellent examle of the various strengths of this band. Elsewhere, "Don't" works up a fine Krautrock-meets-Thurston Moore-style riff, while "Just a Face" adds a bit of menace to proceedings, Boomhowever's treated voice echoing in from somewhere far away. "Koso Biru", featured on an earlier Dyr Faser release in a shorter version, is here expanded into a near-epic, all Stones-y takes on the blues filtered through a very modern sensibility. On closer "Hybrid Souls", Dyr Faser share a cut that has a listener feel like something is being barely held in check. There's a sense of doom creeping up through the near-surging riffs as the drum machine races behind them. It's a pretty good distillation of the band's sound and it encompasses so many essential elements of the post-punk era that it's a bit hard to even begin to categorize this sort of thing.

At their best, Dyr Faser make music that is beyond shoegaze styles and which remains poised somewhere between early Ultra Vivid Scene, Spiritualized, and Daydream Nation (1988)-era Sonic Youth. The cuts are expansive and a bit noisy at the same time. Soundtracks for a new landscape, Dyr Faser have taken inspiration from the No New York era as they've created something entirely more modern.

More details on Dyr Faser via the band's official Facebook page. You can buy Trio via the link below.

[Photo: Daniel Chavis]

Can't Go Home: A Look At The Beautiful New Weyes Blood Album (Updated With New Video Links)

There's something stately and regal about the voice of Natalie Mering. She's the one behind Weyes Blood. And the "band" are set to release a new album, Front Row Seat to Earth this week on Mexican Summer. The record is full of rich beauty and one should pay attention to the work of Ms. Mering.

On opener "Diary", with its near-classical musical underpinning, Mering's voice recalls that of Sandy Denny. The remarkable thing here beyond her voice is the material. There is so much to enjoy here, from the gentle folk of "Be Free" to elegiac and austere pop of "Used to Be". Each cut offers seemingly simple arrangements designed to complement Mering's amazing voice. On "Can't Go Home", Weyes Blood recalls the best moments from the work of one-time 4AD mainstay Heidi Berry. On "Away Above", Mering's delivery brings to mind Judee Sill in spots, or even June Tabor. This material would all easily lend itself to a more pretentious presentation but Mering wisely keeps things simple and largely understated. When envelope-pushing elements do enter the material -- like the sound effects on the all-too-brief title track -- they are just embellishments to gently accentuate the material, not overpower it. Mering's voice is such a warm and inviting instrument that any other part of the recording is at risk of being overshadowed. That said, these tracks suit her voice and if a few of them start to sound a bit similar at least the whole effect of Front Row Seat to Earth is a charming one thanks to the moments of rich beauty that seem to arise in each cut.

Front Row Seat to Earth by Weyes Blood is a wonderful record and the sort of surprise that the indie world needs far more of. Lush in spots, austere in others, this set of 9 cuts is one of this season's most pleasant surprises and a representation of one of the best voices in the music world today. Natalie Mering, otherwise known as Weyes Blood, has presented appreciative listeners a real gift with this album.

Out Friday on Mexican Summer, Front Row Seat to Earth by Weyes Blood is an album you must seek out. More details on Weyes Blood via the band's official Facebook page.

[Photo: Cayal Unger]

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Can't Fight Forever: A Quick Look At The Bouncy Indie Of The New Jacuzzi Boys Album

The new one from Jacuzzi Boys, Ping Pong, out Friday on Mag Mag Records, is not particularly original in any way. It is, however, full of energy and there's something to be said for that sometimes. Read on.

If "Boys Like Blood" is atrocious -- all Volkswagen TV commercial-style "punk" -- then at least "Refrigeration" bounces along like The Pulsars or The Rentals. "Can't Fight Forever" impressively works up a slight bit of menace in its building hook, while "Strange Exchange" faintly recalls an American version of early Supergrass. At their best, like on the Ash-like "Seventeen", Jacuzzi Works invest this routine material with a lot of spirit and they somehow manage to make this stuff at least marginally catchy.

I tend to only review stuff on this site that I genuinely like and I can't say that I loved Ping Pong by Jacuzzi Boys but at least in spots it was a lot of fun. There's something here and maybe with better material these 3 guys could really deliver something worth raving about. As it is, this is a tentative half-rave at best.

Ping Pong by Jacuzzi Boys is out on Friday via Mag Mag Records. Find more details on Jacuzzi Boys via the band's official website.

[Photo: Dustin Aksland]

A Quick Look At The New One From Christian Kjellvander

The new album from Christian Kjellvander dropped yesterday and while you might not know that name, you really should. His new record is a striking collection of equally striking music full of drama and depth.

A Village: Natural Light, out now on Tapete Records, is an album of rich musicality. If stuff like "Dark Ain't That Dark" marginally recalls Bon Iver and Iron and Wine material, it's also uniquely different, drawing on other traditions than those which informed the work of those artists. On the ominous "Riders in the Rain", Kjellvander wraps his rich tenor around a tune that smoothly flows like a late period Nick Cave composition. Elsewhere, on the wonderfully-titled "Misanthrope River", Kjellvander allows the subtle instrumentation to exert as much of an effect as his wonderful voice. On "Good Child" there's something unsettling bubbling slowly under the surface of the cut. And on elegiac closer "Gallow", Kjellvander allows A Village: Natural Light to end on a slightly upbeat note as the tune seems somehow more uplifting than those which came before. All that isn't to say that this is depressing music but that it's dour and yet hopeful stuff that all showcases Kjellvander's beautiful voice and the ornate instrumentation behind it.

A Village: Natural Light is out now on Tapete Records. Check out the website of the label for more details.

[Photo: Simon Fessler]

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Everyday Monsters: A Look At The New Album From The Wolfhounds

Thank God for The Wolfhounds. I mean, really. British indie remains something that sustains my interest year in, year out, but rarely -- and I mean rarely -- does a band strike at both the heartstrings and the brain. That unique ability to inspire both musically and intellectually is a thing to be cherished and, luckily for us, The Wolfhounds are doing it again on their first new album since 2014 comeback Middle-Aged Freaks.

The C86 legends are set to release their new record, Untied Kingdom (Or How To Come To Terms With Your Culture), tomorrow and it's a splendid and somewhat unsettling examination of British society and the glue that holds things together precariously.

If "Now I'm A Killer" offers pleasures familiar to any fan of this band, "My Legendary Childhood" brings a strange near-ska shuffle to the usual spry gallop of the best Wolfhounds cuts. If things like "Everyday Monsters" shine with some sinister glee lurking under the grooves, then the superb "Stupid Poor" unleashes a rough Krautrock-esque riff in the service of one of this band's best recent releases, and a tune that sounds not entirely unlike one from Moonshake, a spin-off group from this lot so many years ago. "Fire in the Home" slinks by with a certain weird wooziness, while "The Comedians" lures with a big guitar hook that just won't quit. Epic closer "Across the River of Death" recalls stuff like some Mekons cuts, old Joy Division singles, and the very best moments in this band's own back catalog.

Now, given this album's subtitle, it would seem like I've neglected mentioning the lyrics here and what this album is about. And, I reckon that's a tiny bit hard to do since I'm a Yank. And, yeah, when it's the Wolfhounds and the record is called Untied Kingdom (Or How To Come To Terms With Your Culture), it's clear that there's a lot here -- a lot of commentary, really -- on the worst (and better) attributes of British society, of what is expected of an Englishman or Englishwoman. And while my 2 brief stints in the United Kingdom do not give me the insight needed to entirely get all of this one, there's a lot here that I do understand and a lot that David Callahan and crew clearly meant to be universal. And sitting here, on this side of the Atlantic, and suffering a media landscape dominated by a monster like Trump, I can certainly listen to a record like this and feel the weariness with dealing with the very worst of ourselves. It's an ugly time, folks, and we can only console ourselves with the meaning provided by the very best sort of music sometimes. Music just like this here on Untied Kingdom (Or How To Come To Terms With Your Culture) by The Wolfhounds.

Untied Kingdom (Or How To Come To Terms With Your Culture) by The Wolfhounds is out tomorrow. You can purchase it from the Bandcamp link below. Follow The Wolfhounds via the band's official Facebook page.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Celebrate Life: A Quick Review Of The Invigorating New Album From Les Kellies

The new one from Les Kellies, called Friends and Lovers, out Friday on Fire Records, is the sort of thing that is uniquely hard to describe. Writers who spin this and love it are invariably going to reach for comparisons to certain post-punk legends in descriptions of this record: The Slits, ESG, The Raincoats. What makes this album different, however, is the buoyant pep in the grooves here. I'm going to attempt a quick review of this fun record without resorting to too many of those references.

If opener "Sugar Beat" has a faint hint of Gang of Four in its central hook, "Tied to a Chain" adds a rhythm track that wouldn't have sounded out of place on an old Stereolab single even if the rest of the cut is more supple and jazzy. "I'm on Fire" -- which could be a reference to the band's new home label -- segues nicely into the more sinister "Summer Breeze" which pairs a Budgie-like drum pattern with vocal coos that aren't entirely unlike those found on a Cranes record. With the end result being entirely unlike both of those bands, you can a sense of how different this sort of music is. Les Kellies skirt the edges of punk rock with the shouty "I Don't Care" only to circle back to near-shoegaze territory with the fine "Breath of Light", all angular blurred vocals and fuzzy chords. At their best, the 3 women in Les Kellies -- Silvina Kelly, Cecilia Kelly, and Manuela Ducatenzeiler -- create memorable, woozy indie that owes as much to the legacy of The Raincoats as it might to the angular, rhythmic fury of certain Dischord bands. Friends and Lovers closes with the invigorating "Celebrate Life" which revs up the earlier bits of the record that sounded like Moonshake into a subtle fury that's closer to Luscious Jackson with more punk chops.

Friends and Lovers from Les Kellies is nearly impossible to describe adequately. Presumably, the tunes of this Argentinian 3-piece will really take off in a live setting. But that's not to deny how lively and fun this record is. Simple elements put together to produce something entirely modern, the tracks here from Les Kellies are things of some new genre, one which owes so much to the post-punk greats even as it spins off in new and fresh directions.

Out Friday via Fire Records, Friends and Lovers by Les Kellies is one of this release-heavy week's best and most pleasant surprises. Buy it now. Follow Les Kellies via the band's official Facebook page.

[Photo: Fire Records]

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Unraveling: A Look At The New Axis: Sova Record

The previous Axis: Sova record, 2015's bold Early Surf, was a one-man band effort. This time out, front-man Brett Sova has been joined by Tim Kaiser and Cooper Crain. The results here are similarly chaotic but there's more focused fire on Motor Earth, out Friday via Drag City.

If epic opener "Love Identity" is any indication, the band's association with Ty Segall has only furthered their streak of experimentation. For all the conventional hooks here, the music is brash and messy Sixties-inspired garage rock of the very best sort. That said, stuff like "Sanity Range" shows a subtle flair for this kind of music, adding a bit of nuance amid the feedback. If "Eyes Have It" has a bit of Krautrock menace to it, "Unraveling" takes things even further into sinister territory by nodding in the direction of drone rock, or Non. "Violent Yellow" whips up a fun racket, while album closer "Routine Machine" tries to spin something transcendent out of the chaos whipped up by these 3 players.

Motor Earth shows a sign or two of progression from the last Axis:Sova album but not too much; fans of that earlier grunge-y shakedown will be pleased by what's here on this new release. No sense re-inventing the wheel, eh?

The new album from Axis:Sova, Motor Earth, drops on Friday via Drag City.

[Photo: Grant Engstrom]

Monday, October 10, 2016

Play New Live Clip From Teenage Fanclub Here (And Remember To Get Your Tickets For The D.C. Show Coming Up This Friday)

This post is just a simple reminder that Teenage Fanclub are playing D.C.'s own 9:30 Club this Friday, October 14. If you're like me and have never seen the band before now seems like a pretty good time to do it, what with the band touring superb new album Here, out now on Merge Records. My review of the album is here, and if for some reason you're still on the fence about this one, read that, watch the video below, and go buy the album on the format of your choice.

The clip below, of the boys doing the Gerard Love-penned "Thin Air", was shot when the band recently stopped at Lauren Laverne's studio for BBC6 Music. That the song sounds remarkably warm is a hallmark of this band's best material and all of Here is just like this. There's just no denying that this is very much one of the band's most consistent releases.

For more details on Teenage Fanclub, follow the band on their official Facebook page. Here by Teenage Fanclub is out now via Merge Records.

Teenage Fanclub play the Washington, D.C., on Friday, October 14. Details and tickets available via the 9:30 Club website.

[Photo: Donald Milne]

Fell Through The Skies: A Look At The Complete Version Of Big Star's Third From Omnivore Recordings

And then there were two, for a third. Big Star's Third is, in whatever title you choose, one of the most important works of art in the post-Beatles era. To say that is not to get all pretentious about what is, really, a bunch of Southern guys-slash-musical geniuses goofing around in the studio to see what will stick to the tape but, instead, a way to remind you that this is music that has spoken to so many already that to not have any working knowledge of it is to be illiterate in some sense as the record is that important to an understanding of contemporary music. That the "album" was never exactly finished, and the running order never quite finalized, has only made the packaged scraps from the fun times of these cats -- Alex Chilton and Jody Stehens and assorted producers and engineers and girlfriends -- the sort of release that allows for hours of investigation; if there was ever an album to get lost in, Third has been it. If Big Star was our Beatles on these shores, and the first 2 records like With The Beatles and Help!, then Third is The White Album. Big Star had gone from being a four-piece group to being simply Alex Chilton and Jody Stephens and the sound from everything that American power-pop was and would be, based on the template of the first 2 Big Star albums, to something closer to fractured chamber pop on Third.

Now many, many of you know this album. I mean you know it precisely like you know those Beatles records but maybe you've never heard it like you're gonna hear it on this one. Complete Third is an impressive compilation of the entire genesis of this album, from demos to rough mixes to finished tracks, and the 3-CD set is out Friday from Omnivore Recordings. And after listening to this lengthy collection in order I can say 2 things with utmost certainty: the first truth is that these cuts, especially the album versions, have never sounded this good before. Massive praise must be heaped on Cheryl Pawelski, Adam Hill, and Michael Graves for wrangling this material into sequence and restoring it in such as a way that listening to this set feels like you're hearing so much for the first time.

The other truth I can share with you today kids is that the fun is back. Complete Third has made hearing this stuff such a joyous experience. For an album so fraught with added, near-mythical levels of accrued drama over the years, this version feels so light and effortlessly enjoyable. There's a palpable sense of discovery throughout this set and unlike the Beatles on any version of Let It Be, where the end is apparent at every turn, the sound here is of what remained of Big Star turning into something new. Was it to be a new band called Sister Lovers? Was it a Big Star record with a new line-up of the band, an Alex Chilton solo album, or an Alex Chilton and Jody Stephens release? We'll never entirely know but what's here, on Complete Third, is some of the most essential music you're likely to hear.


Of course it wasn't just those 2 guys up there as Alex Chilton and Jody Stephens were joined by so many people on these recordings: producer Jim Dickinson, engineer John Fry, Lesa Aldridge, and others. And Complete Third offers testament to those contributions, both in the tracks here and in the copious liner notes. The structure of this set shows the progression from seemingly-sloppy demo sessions to what became rough mixes to what became an album (even if the track sequence is still a tiny bit up in the air, according to most).

Among the surprises on Disc 1 are the cluttered "Pre-Downs" which shows the germ of what would become "Downs", a carefree take on T.Rex's "Baby Strange", and a drum-heavy rough take on "Thank You Friends" built around Alex's guide vocal. And, yeah, it would've been nice to have the stab at "Don't Worry Baby" on the album itself as a nice counterpoint to stuff like "Take Care", since its inclusion here reminds a listener of what Chilton was attempting, his own compositions being skewed, Southern runs at the Southern California sort of chamber pop Brian Wilson had already mastered.

And it's worth noting that "Like St. Joan (Kanga Roo)" reveals that the song was always a bit fucked up from the start, the fucked-up-ed-ness not, one hears now, just the result of studio wizardry by Dickinson. As Chilton's sitar-like guitar runs get underway, we can hear a slightly more direct version of a song that would be an instant standard, and even more of one when This Mortal Coil would cover it in the Eighties.

Disc 2 offers up both Dickinson and Fry rough mixes of "Nightime" and a Dickinson rough mix of "Take Care" that presents the song as a near-shambolic warning, and less a lullaby. The precisely-played Fry mix of "Blue Moon" shines a light on Chilton's knack for singing with exquisite tenderness. Like Lennon before him, Chilton may have been a real smart-ass in real life but he could melt hearts with the best of 'em. The rough mix of Kinks cover "Till The End of the Day" sounds more like Richard Hell and the Voidoids than it does Ray Davies and crew and one can understand now so perfectly why Chilton's music was embraced by the punks some few years later.

What Complete Third does so well is recast that whole idea that this is cluttered, dark music. The lightness in these rough mixes on Disc 2 is apparent and there's a certain directness that most seem to have missed when discussing this album for so many decades. Fry's rough mix of "Thank You Friends" near the end of this disc shows what I mean and I couldn't help but think of the fun bits on the Stones's "Sing This All Together" from their neglected masterpiece Their Satanic Majesties Request. And a take of "For You" with Alex's vocals on it is, of course, a revelation, an alternate universe version of what remains a classic from the album proper as sung by Jody Stephens. But, most importantly, these are the pieces to the puzzle that would be put together on the album itself. For that reason, Disc 2 may be the most interesting for many long-time Big Star fans.

Now, of course, the success of Complete Third really hinges not on how much material the folks at Omnivore Recordings managed to dig up but, instead, by how they made Third sound. The verdict is, quite simply, that you've never heard the album like this before. Whatever Hill and Graves did to clean up these recordings might be the stuff of alchemy 'cause I very nearly ran my car off the road while I got transfixed by how sharp and clear album tracks like "Blue Moon" and "Take Care" now sounded.

Following the track listing on the original white label test pressing used to shop this album to labels in the Seventies, Pawelski and the Omnivore crew have then put the remaining finished studio takes on the end of the third disc. The effect works, preserving the pleasures of so many earlier versions of this classic record while shining a light on the corners of the work that bad mixes had hidden before. The bright pseduo-Christmas anthem of "Jesus Christ" is even brighter, those piano runs bolder, and Stephens' Ringo-isms even more enjoyable. And if "O, Dana" had an odd Dylan lurch, it's got more of one now. Heard here, one could even be so brave as to state that "Nighttime" is the bridge between the late-period chamber pop of the Beatles filtered into something new, something uniquely American that would inform so much of what was to be revered in the Eighties (R.E.M., The Replacements, Chris Stamey, Mitch Easter).

But look, there's no getting around "Kanga Roo" on this one. Breathtakingly beautiful in this new version, I finally find myself loving the original version as much, if not more than, as I love the cover by This Mortal Coil. And recalling the impressionable 19-year-old I was in 1986 whose world was changed by stuff on the 4AD label, those are big words for me to write. Somehow not as much of a downer as "Holocaust", "Kanga Roo" is sublime, the equal always to what one-time Big Star mate Chris Bell would record on "You and Your Sister", Bell the McCartney to Chilton's Lennon, even outside the confines of the group proper. Frankly, this entire set is worth purchasing simply to hear this one for the first time (seemingly).


I gush a lot on this site. I'm prone, obviously, to hyperbole. And the downside of that is that I sometimes worry readers won't take it seriously when I do genuinely rave about something. And yet I hope it comes through how revolutionary this set is. Complete Third offers a way to reassess the legacy of a band who've had more than their share of reassessments. If nothing else, by presenting all the demos and rough mixes that pointed the way to whatever version of Third you already own, Complete Third offers a glimpse into the creation of this art that was so unfairly tagged with the difficult tag for so long. Really, this is remarkably simple and direct rock-and-roll and for all the odd bits on something a tiny bit cryptic like "Kanga Roo", the crystalline genius of Chilton and Stephens is there, ringing clear as a bell through your speakers.

So Complete Third by offering up so much beyond the album itself opened a new window on this act. And the mix of this record on Disc 3 is so fundamentally sharper than any you've heard and loved before that I can say that you should offer up a massive thanks to these folks for attempting this.

It's not very often you can buy something that lets you relive the joy of hearing something special for the first time. Complete Third does. If it's even possible to, you'll probably love Big Star a little bit more after playing this one.

The enormously essential Complete Third by Big Star is out on Friday from Omnivore Recordings.

In Which I Review The New Albums From Real Numbers And Terry Malts To Prove That Slumberland Records Rules This Week

If it seems, hmm, "lazy" to group together 2 reviews instead of spacing these out separately, so be it. My mission here is simple and not one that's designed to save time typing: I need to tell you how great these 2 new Slumberland Records albums are. One is from a new band and one advances an established band's craft and, by extension, the whole Slumberland ethos (in a sense). The new band is Real Numbers, from Minneapolis, and the other band is Terry Malts, from L.A. But first, let's look at the Real Numbers disc.

Wordless Wonder, out Friday from Slumberland Records, is the first Real Numbers album and it's a downright wonderful way to let this band introduce themselves to the indie world. If one of the first (and best) Slumberland bands took their name from a Primal Scream B-side (Velocity Girl, if you didn't know that) to let you know what they liked, then this lot have absorbed the entire C86 sound whole in order to perfectly recreate it here in the 21st century. "Frank Infatuation" sounds so utterly English that one could be forgiven for thinking that this was a Bodines rarity, or another Primal Scream flip from the same era. Stuff like "Only Two Can Play" manages to remind listeners that prior generations' indie, specifically the stuff that came out 1986-1987 or so, didn't just favor feedback; there was then, as there is on this cut, a decided throwback to not only the Nuggets-era stuff's anti-mainstream appeal, but a very intense Sixties-style appreciation of melody and a good hook. Tracks like "Falling Out" are then a bunch of kids in the 21st century referring back to a bunch of kids, on another continent, some 30 years ago who were aping styles from the first few years after the Beatles hit it big. That's a pretty complicated way to describe what is such simple music but it gets at how perfectly the cuts of Real Numbers accomplish their mission. If "New Boy" very nearly goes back even further past the obvious C86-isms, to a bit of Buzzcocks or Undertones new wave chord-heavy pop, then the insistent "Public Domain" blends a trace of Joy Division with something that feels like Jesus and Mary Chain minus the feedback.

Even more than what Baltimore's Expert Alterations accomplished on their superb debut full-length last year, the tracks here from Minneapolis's Real Numbers are so perfectly redolent of the past that it's downright eerie. For now, this debut is enough. The joys here are rich for anyone who's loved any C86 band so fervently and so I can only say buy this one to relive that earlier era and hear the start of a brand new one. Wordless Wonder is an excellent distillation of a (past) generation's best indie-pop into one flawless album. And there's not a dud in the lot, really.

Wordless Wonder by Real Numbers is out on Friday via Slumberland Records. Follow Real Numbers via the band's official Facebook page.

Which now brings us to Slumberland Records mainstays Terry Malts who are here to change minds with new one Lost at the Party, out Friday.

This being the third record from the band on the label, one could enter into this thinking that one had a good idea of what was to come. No, no, no. Lost at the Party is a major step forward for this act. The band has managed to retain their fire while making things a bit slicker, a bit more evenly produced. If things here have an Eighties sheen, it's in order to communicate more directly to listeners. Cuts like "Used to Be" and "Seen Everything" manage to offer strong alt-rock moments that should please fans of stuff from Echo and the Bunnymen to The dB's. I don't say that lightly as "Seen Everything" very noticeably echoes the hook in dB's staple "(I Thought) You Wanted to Know", enough so that Chris Stamey should be a fan of this band now.

Still, for all that, there are tracks here that are downright sublime: the New Order-ish "Waiting for the Bomb" or the pulsing Joy Division-ish bits on "Playtime", for instance. By name-checking so many bands like those in this review it would seem as if I'm implying that Terry Malts, on this their first album recorded in a genuine studio, are simply pilfering from the past, ransacking the best bits from a lifetime of new wave staples, and that's hardly my point. The reality is that rather than nick those bits haphazardly, the group has expertly blended some pretty disparate elements in order to produce a record that is something new, and certainly something different than quite a bit of the earlier guitar-rock that made this label famous. Terry Malts are, like The Killers before them, cranking out something slick that still retains a hint of the genuinely alternative with the difference being that Terry Malts are far better at this than Brandon Flowers' crew, frankly. Lost at the Party has a holistic sheen that makes you forget that some of these bits you've heard before in an old Simple Minds or Psychedelic Furs single, you know? I mean, stand-out cut "Gentle Eyes" simultaneously echoes a Sugar hook, the rhythm track from "I Melt With You" by Modern English, and about a dozen Bernard Sumner pieces of work. And to say that is not to diminish the effect here but, rather, to celebrate how seamlessly Terry Malts have reinvented themselves as a band who can get away with this kind of throwback college rock. 'Cause, really, if the pieces on Lost at the Party are all not entirely original, at least the overall effect is a fresh one. It's an invigorating listen, this album, 'cause nearly every cut feels like a single. And, yeah, there are going to be a whole lot of new Terry Malts fans out there after this one drops.

Lost at the Party by Terry Malts is out on Friday via Slumberland Records. Follow the band via their official Facebook page.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

A Few Words About The Glorious Racket On The New Album From Rats On Rafts And De Kift

On the last Rats On Rafts album, 2015's Tape Hiss, the Dutch band worked up a furious racket of post-punk that was somewhat accessible. Now, in 2016, the group has linked up with De Kift to offer something much more abrasive. Rats On Rafts/De Kift will be out on Friday via Fire Records who are to be commended for bringing music this bold to mainstream audiences.

There are moments here where things seem just on this side of the more familiar strains of new wave (the stomping "Last Day On De Zon" or the surging "Brass Poison Face") but far more that really push the envelope a bit. Despite a few faint steel drums on the epic "Melk en Benzine", the cut is hardly a party anthem. Things rev up ominously and the assorted players here impressively create a powerful churn that recalls nothing so much as Einsturzende Neubauten. Elsewhere, there's a sort of Beefheart-like jazz clamor going on during "Moonlight Flit", while the fine and wonderfully-titled "Powder Monkey" recalls Die Haut and similar Nick Cave-associated acts from a braver decade in the past. Despite some softer moments, like on the nearly-gentle "Swan Song" this release is a difficult, though challenging, listen.

Rats On Rafts/De Kift will be out on Friday via Fire Records. Follow Rats On Rafts via their official website.

[Photo: Erik Christenhusz]

Follow You Around: A Look At The New One From Purling Hiss

It's been more than 2 years since the release of the last Purling Hiss album, 2014's wonderful Weirdon, and the new one, High Bias, out Friday from Drag City, is no less wonderful. I'm here today to tell you, in this brief review, how the wonderfulness of one record has now been superseded by that of the next. Read on.

What becomes immediately apparent from one spin of High Bias is that Purling Hiss main-man Mike Polizze has been listening to a bit of PiL lately. I mean, come on, "3000 AD" practically echoes "Public Image" from Lydon's gang of homewreckers. The lurching sway of the expertly-titled "Notion Sickness" ups the ante with a shot of Dischord-style post-punk in the rhythm. If front-man Polizze brings a Jesus Lizard-like power to the fine "Teddy's Servo Motors", he modulates his approach on "Get Your Way" so as to sound not entirely unlike a punk-influenced Liam Gallagher. Look, things have not gotten exactly Britpop-y on High Bias but the presentation here is more forceful, more direct, and, by extension, more effective. The angles of "Ostinato Musik" reveal an affection for spry post-punk from the Faraquet school, while "Pulsations" raises the ghost of Lydon's Johnny Rotten persona only to pair it up with the sound of early Killing Joke. The epic closer, "Everybody in the USA", serves up a Stooges-like stomp that is memorable but, truly, Polizze and his band's attack is more more enjoyable in smaller doses. For the most part, the punk-ier tracks on High Bias are superb.

High Bias from Purling Hiss will be out Friday via Drag City. It's a scorcher for the most part and one that will postively rock your socks off in spots. You can follow Purling Hiss via the band's official Facebook page.