Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Now I Feel It: A Quick Review Of The New Sam Evian Album

The new record from Sam Evian, You, Forever out Friday via Saddle Creek, is the sort of album that is so full of easy hooks, and buoyant charm, that a listener can't but help and fall in love with it. The release from Evian is the newest project from Sam Owens, along with Brian Betancourt (bass), Austin Vaughn (drums), Adam Brisbin (guitar), and Hannah Cohen (backup vocals), and the release is marvelously appealing.

"Where Did You Go?" purrs and coos, a faint hint of Nineties Yo La Tengo creeping through the groove, while the rougher "Health Machine" crunches with dashes of glam-stomp and solo Lennon. Elsewhere, the lyrical "Summer Day" offers up the kind of vulnerable loveliness that the late Elliott Smith was the master of producing, while "Now I Feel It" twangs like solo George, all All Things Must Pass-style hooks pushed in new directions for appreciative indie-pop listeners in this century. The peppy "IDGAF" is obviously catchy, while the more languid "Next To You" is quiet and sublime, an aching beauty at work here, whiffs of Prince and Bolan seeping through the melodic hooks on this one.

You, Forever is an album that seems to exist outside of any easy genre categorizations even as it dabbles a tiny bit in many. While gentle nods in the direction of worthy forebears can be heard here, Owens and his team have offered up music that is heartfelt, light-as-a-feather, and catchy here on this new record. It's nearly impossible to find fault with much here.

You, Forever will be out on Friday via Saddle Creek.

More details on Sam Evian via the official website.

[Photo: Josh Goleman]

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Should Be: A Brief Review Of The New Album From Deeper

Chicago's Deeper make music that recalls in some obvious ways that of peers EZTV and Omni. That said, there's a robustness at work on the band's self-titled debut record, out on Friday via Fire Talk, that suggests a firmly emotional engagement with this sort of material, rather than just a perhaps ironic dabbling in the forms of forebears like Television and Talking Heads.

Opener "Pink Showers" twists and turns like stuff from Field Music, while the more forceful "Should Be" suggests some odd pairing of a young, yelping David Byrne with the instrumentation of The Voidoids behind him. The comlex "Transmogrified" offers up a spry XTC-like interplay between guitars and bass and vocals that is positively exhilarating, even as the down-tempo "Message Erased" made me think of both Slanted-era Pavement as much as it did Nineties Fall stuff. Still, for all that talk of those comparison points, there's a real sense of heart here as the song swells that brings a certain lushness to what would otherwise be a too brainy brand of art-rock. The players here -- Nic Gohl (guitar and vocals), Michael Clawson (guitar), Drew McBride (bass), and Shiraz Bhatti (drums) -- attack this material with a real sense of mathematical purpose even as flashes of sweetness, or a warm melodic hook, pop up throughout the post-rock found here on Deeper.

Deeper is out on Friday via Fire Talk.

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

[Alexa Viscius]

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Gift: A Quick Review Of The New Album From Wand

Wand have certainly not been getting enough attention over the last few years. The band have released a string of interesting, challenging records that straddle the sort of new psychedelic that Ty Segall is perfecting on a seemingly daily basis, as well as the more traditional breed of chamber pop that front-man Cory Hanson pursued on his superb solo album nearly 2 years ago. The L.A. collective's newest record, Perfume, out Friday on Drag City, is perhaps their most seamless yet.

If obvious single "Pure Romance" sees Hanson offer up the sort of lush lyricism he's known for, even as the chorus charges, Segall-like, towards the heavens, many other tracks here seem intent on breaking the mold of what this group's achieved previously. Elsewhere, the more complex "The Gift" made me think of old Flaming Lips, or Super Furry Animals, numbers, the rhythmic track an insinuating offering here on Perfurme, even as the title cut serves up an epic-length, percussive attack. The rough "Town Meeting" is countered by the gentle "I Will Keep You Up", all Bolan-isms churning with a dash of VU.

Wand make music that really stands so far apart from what other contemporaries are crafting in today's indie environment, even as one can, clearly, hear a hint of Ty Segall about things here on Perfume. Still, don't let that be seen as a knock on Hanson's skills as he is truly one of the real visionaries in rock today.

Perfume by Wand will be out on Friday via Drag City. More details on Wand via the band's official Facebook page.

[Photo: Abby Banks]

Friday, May 18, 2018

Holding: A Quick Review Of The New All India Radio Album

The new album from All India Radio, Space, out next week, is the sort of release that straddles a line between ambient and dream-pop, all while explicitly harking back to the glory days of Pink Floyd. The album is spacious and full of soundscapes that enlarge a listener's sense of the cosmic. No mean feat that.

Opener "Vega" and follow-up "Monsters" nod in the direction of Floyd circa Dark Side, even as the more supple "Heirs of Ineptune" pulses and throbs with bits of Can and Kraftwerk pieces being referenced by the musicians here, as does the spry "Holding". Elsewhere, "Eurydice in Scarlet" recalls bits from The Church, especially so since Steve Kilbey makes an appearance here for a spoken word passage, while "Anja's Eternal Light" is equal parts Eno and late Cocteau Twins, soothing stretches punctuated by electronic bits that embellish the song with subtle flashes of emotion.

Space is a more lyrical release than earlier offerings by All India Radio, even as the lyricism is of a stretched out and blissful nature. Martin Kennedy and his crew have imbued this with enough touches that suggest the early Seventies that heads from the era should love this as much as younger fans of newer ambient releases.

Space by All India Radio is out next week. More details on All India Radio via the band's official website, or via the band's official Facebook page.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Get Back Down: A Few Words About The New Modern Studies Album

The new record from Scotland's Modern Studies, Welcome Strangers, out tomorrow via Fire Records, is chamber pop of the highest order. Expanding the band's palette from earlier releases, Modern Studies have here offered up affecting music that uses strings to add emotion and shades of meaning to the superb indie-rock on offer this time out.

Opener "Get Back Down" churns a bit, tension uncoiling, while the smoother "Mud and Flame" sees the vocals from Emily Scott and Rob St. John suggesting any number of classics from that other great chamber pop band from Scotland (The Delgados). "It's Winter" is elegiac and yearning, while the supple "Young Sun" has a faint whiff of The Go-Betweens about it, the highest praise I could give something like this. Elsewhere, "Fast As Flows" builds up a significant momentum, while the epic closer "Phosphene Dream" made me think of both Crime and the City Solution and The Triffids, even as emotions are kept closer to the vest here.

Welcome Strangers is a remarkably good record, and one that offers up expertly-realized chamber pop that sounds utterly unlike anything else you're going to encounter out there in mid-2018. Ambitious and yet grounded, the music of Modern Studies is a special thing. Grab Welcome Strangers on the format of your choice tomorrow when it drops via Fire Records.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Almost Had To Start A Fight: A Brief Word About The New Parquet Courts Record

They've hooked up with producer Danger Mouse, and have artwork and band photos in a new, Eighties-style color scheme so, yeah, Parquet Courts have entered that dangerous phase of wanting to do a band reinvention. I suppose that's good; far too many comparisons to Pavement in reviews of earlier records from this crew, and, obviously, no one is going to compare Wide Awake!, out Friday on Rough Trade, to a release from Malkmus and the boys.

Yes, "Almost Had To Start A Fight / In And Out Of Patience" bristles with a kind of infectious energy, and it's the sort of refinement of this band's approach that suggests a need to set things moving in a new direction. If anything, Danger Mouse has made things clearer in the group's sonic attack, the vocals and instruments perfectly separated in the headphones to offer up a listener a burst of jittery pleasures. Opener "Total Football" seems to me to be one of the band's very best songs to date, A. Savage's Richard Hell-like performance on the mic brushing up against a backing band that's part Fall circa "Hit The North", even as the chorus recalls that big hit from The Godfathers back in the dawn of college rock. It is, frankly, the sort of track that screams "bid for a wider audience", even as it plays to the considerable, and familiar strengths of this band. Elsewhere, "Freebird II" sees a smart-ass title wedded to a rather lovely melody, while "Death Will Bring Change" is art-rock by way of Ray Davies, an imagined run at an early Roxy tune by a bunch of Muswell Hillbillies. If the title track of Wide Awake! largely failed for me -- too much Remain In Light without the musical chops to back it up -- lots of this album works in small doses, even if it's not nearly the sea change this band believes it to be.

Wide Awake! is an okay record. I didn't love it, nor did I hate it, but I suppose it's going to get highly rated by critics who see it as a rather bold stylistic change for this post-punk crew. In offering up the best production this band has ever had, Danger Mouse may have inadvertently highlighted the relative paucity of real hooks in the Parquet Courts quiver. There's a lot of busyness on Wide Awake, but don't mistake that for progress.

Wide Awake! is out on Friday via Rough Trade.

More details on Parquet Courts via the band's official website, or official Facebook page.

[Photo: Ebru Yiliz]

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Solid Silk: A Brief Review Of The New Stephen Malkmus Album

The new record by Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, Sparkle Hard, out Friday on Matador, is yet another notch in the former Pavement front-man's belt. Alternately playful and precise, the album sees the indie hero entirely at ease as a performer, maybe more than he's been in the nearly 2 decades since his other band called it a day.

Now, it goes without saying that despite having had a longer career post-Pavement than he had with them, Malkmus efforts are automatically-if-unfairly judged by the yardstick of that other act. And, frankly, there are parts of Sparkle Hard that do favorably compare to Pavement songs, if that sort of thing is important to you. The bouncy "Shiggy" charms on the back of a fuzzy guitar hook, while the lighter "Middle America" sees Malkmus refine the sort of loose twang he first offered up on "Range Life" in the Clinton years. Importantly, Malkmus has not neglected to bring a lot of hooks with him here on Sparkle Hard, and the record has more melodic treasures within its grooves than some, much-earlier Jicks releases had. And yet, even as the slowly-insistent melody of "Solid Silk" segues nicely into the brighter "Bike Lane", the later song, however, very nearly confirms fears that Malkmus is a cynical hipster a-hole.

Now, I say that because "Bike Lane" is about Freddie Gray and one wonders why we should view the rare appearance of a real world concern in a Malkmus song with anything less than skepticism, given the tone of his past compositions. The jaunty tune doesn't help ease our worries here, but let's give Malkmus the benefit of the doubt and assume that he is, like Mark E. Smith before him, juxtaposing the music against the concerns of the lyrics. One can't possibly believe that Malkmus would turn the senseless death of the young man from Baltimore into an indie-pop song, so one must remember that beneath the smart-assedry, Malkmus is still calling our attention as listeners to the tragedy of Gray's demise at the hands of the cops. Elsewhere, a duet with Kim Gordon nudges parts of Sparkle Hard into real Glimmer Twins territory, "Refute" having a decided grime about it that is indeed infectious. For all that's catchy here throughout the record, Sparkle Hard sees Stephen Malkmus indulge himself a bit on the longer cuts here, "Kite" and "Difficulties / Let Them Eat Vowels" re-affirming his real skill as a guitarist, with the riffs coming loose and fiery on both.

Sparkle Hard sounds enough like Pavement classics that long-time fans should be as happy as I am with this record. The album also fits neatly in with the most recent releases from Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks in offering up a pretty good -- superb in spots, really -- showcase for the talents of Malkmus as a singer, composer, and guitarist.

Sparkle Hard by Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks will be out on Friday via Matador Records.

More details on Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks via the band's official Facebook page, or official website.

[Photo: Leah Nash]

Monday, May 14, 2018

Affirmation: A Quick Review Of The New Album From Red Hare

For those of you who still listen to a lot of classic harDCore tunes only to lament, "They don't make stuff like this anymore", I'm here to tell ya: they do make stuff like that now. One listen to the superb new record from Red Hare, Little Acts of Destruction, out now via the band's own Hellfire label and Dischord, is enough to convince even the most jaded of aging rockers, that this form has a lotta life in it yet. Of course, it helps immeasurably to have Shawn Brown on the mic, as the cat was the original vocalist for the seminal Dag Nasty. He's joined here by band-mates Dave Eight and Jason Farrell (from Swiz, along with Shawn), and Joe Gorelick, and the D.C.-based four-piece make thunderously-good rock-and-roll.

Recorded and mixed by J. Robbins of Jawbox and Channels, Little Acts of Destruction bristles with life, from brief opener "Distractor", and on to the affirmations of..."Affirmation", and on into "Binary", a train full of dangerous cargo roaring down the tracks. Lots of this, like the pulsing "Surrogate", positively burns in the fashion of any number of acts Brown's been associated with in the past, but it's on slower numbers, like the tense "Live Wire", that the other players get chances to shine, the rhythm section of Eight and Gorelick keeping things moving under Farrell's prickly guitar-lines. Similarly, the nicely-titled "When My Stars Sleep, It's Forever" offers up some sort of journey through a tense landscape, while the surging "Panic Training Session" seems on the verge of lift-off even as the players keep things coiled and edgy throughout. While so much of this feels like a punch in the solar-plexus, there's more texture and interplay in stuff like "That's Not The Same" than one might expect, as these players from the first few waves of harDCore explore the edges of what's possible in this genre in the 21st century.

Red Hare are not re-inventing the wheel here, even as they push down the pedal as the car goes off the highway. Little Acts of Destruction is focused chaos, the sound of rage barely being contained, and the sort of record that delightfully recalls late-period Bad Brains stuff, when the punk was leavened with blasts of the ole' metallic K.O.. A record that deserves to be played at deafening volume, gleefully, Little Acts of Destruction is out now via Dischord.

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

Red Hare are playing Black Cat D.C. for a record release show in a few weeks.

[Photo: Uncredited promo shot from band's Bandcamp page]

Saturday, May 12, 2018

New For You: A Few Pics From Last Night's Hinds Concert In D.C.

Spain's Hinds took the stage in D.C. last night to a rapturously-responsive audience. Having played here a few times already, the band's infectious live show was a known quantity, and the audience seemed to receive the newer songs, like "The Club", with as much affection as they did the older numbers, like "Bamboo" from way back in 2014.

I reviewed I Don't Run back in April, and I thoroughly enjoyed all the new songs that Ana, Carlotta, Amber, and Ada performed with such energy last night.

I Don't Run is out now via Mom + Pop Music, and folks can catch up on the adventures of Hinds via the band's official Facebook page, or via their official website.

[All photos here were taken by either myself or my wife, except for the one of us with the band which was shot by some dude walking up U Street after the show.]

Thursday, May 10, 2018

End Of Time: A Quick Review Of The New Boys Album

The debut full-length album from Sweden's Boys is the sort of thing that one would expect the PNKSLM label to release. And that's another way of saying that Rest In Peace, out tomorrow, is an excellent, haunting record brimming with hooks and otherworldly melodies.

Nora Karlsson, the main driving force behind Boys, uses tracks like "Hemtjansten" to positively haunt a listener, the tune echoing classic tracks from the likes of Julie Cruise and Cranes. "Rabbits" is brighter, some big, catchy chords here carrying this one into the sort of territory once inhabited by old Dusty Springfield singles, while "Love Isn't On My Mind" is more direct still, dashes of Broadcast and early Stereolab popping up here liberally. Karlsson succeeds in preventing lots of this from being too ethereal or precious, and the grounding of the material is in her sharp pop-sense. For all the parts of "End Of Time" that sound breathy and fragile, the underlying riffs are precise, a sharp march into new pop lands, while the epic "What If You Would Die?" sounds like Lesley Gore being remade by the Cocteau Twins. Utterly unlike anything else on the market these days, these tunes from Boys here on Rest In Peace are exquisitely lovely, and perfect cures for the cynicism jaded listeners of indie-pop may feel from time to time.

Nora Karlsson, working here with Hannes Ferm from label-mates and some-time band-mates Holy, has crafted a record in Rest In Peace that straddles a fine line between what some would call dream-pop and what others would call classic songwriting, the tunes wrapped up in effects even as they retain rather traditional, classic forms. Lots and lots of Rest In Peace is breathtaking and, of course, it's yet another PNKSLM release that stands head and shoulders above so much of what passes for indie these days.

Rest In Peace will be out tomorrow via PNKSLM.

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

[Photo: Anna Rauhala]

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Dark Spring: A Quick Review Of The New Beach House Album

Beach House make music that lends itself to lazy categorizations. The truth is, to reduce this sort of stuff to dream-pop or shoegaze would be both wrong and far too simplistic. The reality is that this duo, from Baltimore originally, craft sonic landscapes that blend elements of those genres with bits and pieces of other things -- soundtracks, Brill Building pop, ambient -- in the process of making their brand of sublime, totally unique American indie.

The new album from Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally is called 7 and it's the 7th Beach House album proper, and a set of tunes that marks the 77th songs the 2 have released together, according to the press materials. All that suggests a band that might be on the verge of running out of ideas but, with 7 producer Sonic Boom in tow, Beach House have brought forth something special here. The album, out on Friday via Sub Pop, kicks off with the pulsing otherworldly charms of "Dark Spring", a cut that is still grounded in traditional pop-craft. "Drunk in LA" and "Black Car" are breathy explorations of the space between trip-pop and drone-rock, the production by Sonic Boom surely seen here by astute listeners as the progression from the sort of tunes he was pursuing in Spacemen 3 and, later, Spectrum. Elsewhere, the more direct "Lose Your Smile" suggests a debt owed to West Coast pop of the past, think faint hints of Jimmy Webb and Neil Young here. If "Girl of the Year" sees Legrand coo in the fashion of Liz on a Cocteau Twins record circa 1990, then album closer "Last Ride" is a near-epic rumination that's closer to Seefeel, or a Ride ballad, than anything else.

And to name-check other artists is, perhaps, to do a disservice here as the music of Beach House remains indelibly one of a kind. The duo manage to imbue their explorations in these genres with a freshness that the offerings of any number of new, proto-shoegaze, or dream-pop wannabes will never possess. So, name-dropping in a review like this is only meant to place this fine material in a sort of context for newer fans of this duo. Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally have made a record here in 7 that envelopes, and rewards a careful listener. Effortlessly easy to embrace, 7 is something to seek out when it drops on Sub Pop on Friday.

More details on Beach House via the band's official website, or via their official Facebook page.

[Photo: Shawn Brackbill]

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Walking Into The Sun: A Review Of The New La Luz Record

The new record from La Luz, Floating Features, out on Friday from Hardly Art, feels like a reward. For those of us who were late to discover the joys of the band's music, or who came in on the release of Weirdo Shrine in 2015, it's been quite a wait for new La Luz music. And now, with Finally Floating, it feels as if the band has hit the sort of artistic peak that rewards our patience over the last 3 long years.

The epic "Cicada" sets the tone with a mix of surf and soundtrack hooks mixing up in a blast of tune-age that's damn hard to describe in writing. The excellent video for the song nearly threatens to eclipse the significant charms of the cut itself, but the offering is a nice sample of what's going on here on Floating Features. La Luz blend a lot of stuff up in the pursuit of some real pop pleasures, like on the roiling "California Finally", or the very lovely "Mean Dream", all Margo Gruyan-tinged, sun-dappled dreaminess. Elsewhere, the epic "Loose Teeth" nods in the direction of both early Kid Congo Powers and the Pink Monkey Birds as well as Los Lobos, while the sinister "The Creature" builds tension through the use of some throwback vibes and eerie riffs. The deliberate "Walking Into The Sun" is a standout too, as is unsettling closer "Don't Leave Me On The Earth" which marries a near-C86-style bit of vocal business with the band's usual guitar attack.

The real problem with La Luz is that the band's music is likely to get labeled dream-pop -- a label that's seen frequently if defined far more infrequently -- or as surf rock. And while I can understand that need to put this music somewhere, it's far easier to say that it's simply damn near impossible to really describe what makes this stuff magical. The players here -- singer/guitarist Shana Cleveland, drummer Marian Li Pino, keyboardist Alice Sandahl, and bassist Lena Simon -- have used Floating Features to reveal the sort of musicianship that modern indie bands rarely possess. All the pieces fit here, even if a listener can't quite describe the infectious symmetry being heard brought to life. The soundtrack to the David Lynchian imaginings in your head, Floating Features is vitally enjoyable.

Floating Features is out on Friday via Hardly Art.

More details on La Luz via the band's official website, or via the band's official Facebook page.

[Photo: Chona Kasinger]

Monday, May 7, 2018

Dream Away: A Quick Review Of The New Connections Album

I've been a fan of Connections for a few years now. At first, the Columbus band's stuff provided an easy fix for me in a world with no more new music from The Grifters, and in the spaces between Robert Pollard-associated releases. Now, with the new album, Foreign Affairs, out on the fine Trouble In Mind label on Friday, it feels like Connections have finally found their own style, which is a roundabout way of saying that Foreign Affairs is likely going to be seen as the band's best record to date.

Sure, there's stuff here that nods in the direction of familiar indie-rock touchstones -- the faint hints of The Replacements in the revved-up "Low Low Low", the ramshackle Pavement touches in "Isle Insane", the power-pop of "Ballad of Big" -- but there's lots here that suggests that Connections have progressed, and refined their approach in some substantial ways here on Foreign Affairs. The languid "Misunderstanding" blends a neo-psychedelic-sense of melody with the sort of DIY approach that has always charmed about this lot's brand of American alt-rock. Elsewhere, the lovely "Cynthia Ann" suggests both early Foo Fighters and late-period Pixies, no mean feat that. The players here have a knack for not overpowering this material, allowing some of this to ease by with a real lazy grace that one once found in lots of American indie, but which has been replaced by ironic detachment ever since Malkmus took up a guitar. Wisely, these guys in Connections are not trying to be too clever, instead focusing on riding the mid-tempo "Short Line" through a series of punchy hooks, or letting the bright "Dream Away" burst forth in a little energetic mini-riot.

I suppose it's still fair to say that if you like Guided By Voices, you'll probably love Connections, but it's increasingly unfair to compare the bands so easily when you hear the melodies here on Foreign Affairs. Where Pollard is prolific to the point of being an obsessive, Connections are more content to bring a near-classic rock sense of how a tune works to the world of American indie, where ambition is never very clearly expressed. Foreign Affairs is simultaneously a record with an easier air about it than earlier, punchier Connections releases, even as it's one that's full of the rough edges that made the group's sound so appealing in the first place.

In a season of big releases, Foreign Affairs, out Friday on Trouble In Mind Records, is, perhaps, one that's remarkably easy to love. Connections have sacrificed none of their charm in the pursuit of these sharper, and more composed selections, and the leap to a new label has evidently served these musicians well. The tunes here are spacious and full of warm hooks, and one realizes again how Connections are one of the most underrated bands in America today.

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

[Photo: Seth Moses Miller]

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Unfair Weather: A Few Pics From Tonight's Dot Dash And Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever Gig

Dot Dash opened up for Australia's Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever tonight at DC9 and they used the occasion to preview a lot of songs from upcoming, and as-yet-untitled album number 6, due to be released on TheBeautifulMusic.com this summer.

Highlights for me were the roaring "TV/Radio", the R.E.M.-ish "Tamed A Wild Beast", and the superb and punchy "Unfair Weather", all numbers that play to the strengths of these three musicians. If the band is now morphing into a decidedly-Jammy affair, it's The Jam of "Running On The Spot" that seems to have inspired front-man Terry Banks, and versatile bassist Hunter Bennett, even while D.C. punk legend Danny Ingram is probably channeling Rick Buckler's fills on "In The City" as he attacks the kit with his substantial skills.

Keep an ear out for news of the upcoming record via the band's official Facebook page.

Australia's Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever are set to drop their debut full-length album on Sub Pop in June. And while Hope Downs isn't out yet, the band managed to fill up the club tonight largely on the strength of advance hype for that record, and lingering goodwill for the band's last superb release.

The 5-piece throttled through a tight hour-long set with the standout tracks for me being "Mainland" from the new record, the chiming "Julie's Place", a real crowd-pleaser, and "Wither With You", an earlier number which recalls The Go-Betweens quite a bit.

More details on Hope Downs via Sub Pop and the band's official Facebook page.

[Photos: me or my wife]

We Could Do It: A Brief Review Of The New Luke Haines Album

One wonders what drives Luke Haines. What makes him get up in the morning, you know? A few years ago, I'd have said it was his (lingering) rage at the never-ending legacy of Britpop. Still, he is capable of surprises as 2015's risky British Nuclear Bunkers showed. And now, after a career retrospective, he's back with yet another concept album. I Sometimes Dream Of Glue, out this Friday on Cherry Red Records, is perhaps his wildest one yet. It's a record that begs re-upping the official synopsis of the concept:

Just off the Westway, in the motorway sidings, you can see a small sign. Actually you probably can't see the sign as it is the size of a child's fingernail clipping. The sign says 'Glue Town.' The name of a village. There is little or no documentation of Glue Town. You will not find any information about it on the 21st Century internet. Gluetown is a rural settlement born out of mutation. Of the estimated 500 or so dwellers, no one is thought to be over 2 1⁄2 inches tall. The citizens of Glue Town exist on a diet of solvent abuse and perpetual horniness. The residents only leave to carry out daring night-time 'glue raids' on Shepherds Bush newsagent shops. On a tiny screen in the town centre, an old Betamax cassette of 'Michael Bentine’s Pottytime' plays on a loop all day and all night. The reduced size villagers go about their daily business pondering whether the lessons of Pottytime can show them a way out of their drudge lives of sexual abandonment and human sacrifice…

Okay then. Whatever the hell that's about, the next question is, how's the music here?

There is a certain fierceness at play on this one, the kind of quiet resentment set to music that Luke's a master of. Stuff like "She Was Ripe As A Meadow" and "The Subbuteo Lads" see Haines pursue his singular concept with a decided braveness that counts for a lot in today's moribund musical environment. "Everybody's Coming Together For The Summer" very nearly jumps off of I Sometimes Dream Of Glue as an obvious single, while the title cut here purrs with the sort of sinister charm long-time fans of this guy's long career will easily recognize. And sure, "We Could Do It" is also nearly accessible, but this remains a radically out there record conceptually.

Look, there's no easy way to describe I Sometimes Dream Of Glue as the record is an odd release from a guy who's released plenty of difficult records. Still, there are joys here, and for long-time fans of Luke Haines, there's going to be a lot to enjoy here as the artist pursues his singular vision.

I Sometimes Dream Of Glue is out on Friday via Cherry Red Records. More details via Luke's Twitter feed, or his official Facebook page.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Catch It: A Brief Review Of The New Iceage Album

The new album from Iceage, Beyondless, out tomorrow via Matador Records, is the sort of record for people who'd normally reach for an Interpol one, or, better still, a Joy Division LP. The album, the Danish band's fourth, is a release that's at times easier to admire than it is to love. Still, there's something here that catches fire, and the band at least suggests an approach near something marginally dangerous in certain moments.

A track like "Catch It" brims with the sort of lugubriousness that one once found on Crime and the City Solution offerings, while the more successful "The Day The Music Dies" blends a dash of early Birthday Party with the sort of modern indie-pop that bands like Editors and Interpol once rode into the sun. If Iceage are better at making this sound a tiny bit unhinged, I would say that that's a good thing. The players here, wisely, pour their souls into lots of this, and numbers like "Take It All" and "Plead The Fifth" make one think of stuff from The Gun Club updated for a new century, the messy edges now smooth as the vocals lead us to the edge of a cliff. Elsewhere, the excellent "Pain Killer" pushes the throttle into the red, and adds vocals from Sky Ferreira to the chaotic and careening sound of the band. The effect is very nearly hypnotic and one finds a new reserve of tolerance for this sort of very emotional, very disheveled brand of throb-rock. Hearing bits of this, a listener could be forgiven for thinking that it was 1990 again, or even 1995, and while that sounds like a backhanded compliment, at least this lot cares enough to pour some passion into their pop.

Beyondless is out tomorrow via Matador Records. More details on Iceage via the band's official Facebook page, or via the band's official website.

[Photo: Steve Gullick]

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Losing Myself: A Brief Review Of The New Album From Sugar Candy Mountain

Sugar Candy Mountain make music that draws from a range of disparate influences and which seems the sort of thing that's sure to appeal to anyone who likes, say, Stereolab as well as The Andrea True Connection. The band's new album, Do Right, is out on Friday and it's a fab listen.

If a number like "This Time Around" seems to be looking to stuff from the disco era in some ways, the more precise "Crystalline" marries a Beach Boys-like hook with the sort of presentation found on Beach House records. It's a fantastic track, and one which lingers in the ear long after the song is over. Elsewhere, the lovely "Losing Myself" nods in the direction of Julie Cruise recordings, while the bright "Mar-A-Lago" sees Sugar Candy Mountain looking to Broadcast and Gainsbourg for inspiration. At times here, like on the more accessible "Split In Two", the music of Sugar Candy Mountain seems to be approaching the sort of blissed-out vibe of late-period Cocteau Twins releases, or even the more mellower moments on a My Bloody Valentine offering. Still, what's here is consistently inventive and the band's grasp of songwriting indicates that the players understand how to compose near-shoegaze material with indie-pop that has real melodic heft.

Do Right is a resounding success, and the players here -- Ash Reiter (vocals and guitar), Will Halsey (vocals and drums), Sean Olmstead (guitars and synths), and Jeff Moller (bass) -- have managed to make a record like this, full of music like this, that stands as more than just another offering in an already-crowded near-shoegaze scene. By melding in bits of Gilberto, and High Llamas, and Boo Radleys, the musicians in Sugar Candy Mountain have crafted one of the best releases of Spring 2018 here in Do Right.

More details on Do Right via the band's official website, or via the band's official Facebook page.

[Photo: Yasamine June]