Sunday, September 30, 2018

Nutty: A Word About The New Lost Thelonius Monk Album

The new lost Thelonious Monk album, called Monk and out now via Gearbox Records, is the sort of release that, understandably, has the potential to set the jazz world on fire. The long-player, a concert recorded in Copenhagen in 1963, constitutes an excellent example of Monk's power, if not further proof of the pianist's genius in this era.

Backed by Charlie Rouse on tenor saxophone, John Ore on double bass, Frankie Dunlop on drums, Monk runs through a mix of standards and originals for an appreciative (and thankfully, quiet) audience in Denmark. An epic "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You" showcases Monk's ease with a ballad, the piano lines unfurling like ribbons, while the looser "Monk's Dream" sees Monk choose his notes and chords with expert care even as Rouse boogies up and down the hook with his sax. Throughout this set, Ore is to be commended for serving as the anchor as so much of this concert feels like a duel between two titans, Monk's piano and Rouse's sax battling it out for a listener's undivided attention. On "Nutty", Thelonious exercises some lyrical restraint amid Charlie's squawks. If the runs on the keys on this one are nearly gentle, Rouse seems to be the one carrying the melody forward, Monk's piano-work so subtle here.

For those of us who, like me, positively love that Columbia Records Monk stuff, Monk is absolutely essential as it features the players for those releases at the peak of their powers. The folks at Gearbox Records are to be thanked profusely for putting this out on a variety of formats (download, vinyl, and compact disc).

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Space Rinse: A Brief Review Of The New Album From GØGGS (Ty Segall)

The super-group GØGGS is Chris Shaw (vocals), Ty Segall (guitars), Michael Anderson (bass), and Charles Moothart (drums, guitar). The guys have worked together before -- Ty having teamed up with Moorhart on that Fuzz release a while back -- but perhaps never in the service of something so hard. Pre Strike Sweep, out as of yesterday on In The Red Records, reveals GØGGS to be the sort of band that may be up to something nefarious.

If the title cut here has a near-playful strut, the more in-your-face "Space Rinse" is an unholy racket, bits of hardcore blended with real noise-nik stuff. Elsewhere, GØGGS uses the longer "Vanity" to explore the sort of territory Black Sabbath once charted on numbers like "Electric Funeral" early in their reign. Lots of what's here on Pre Strike Sweep is furious proto-metal and a bit unhinged, things nearly going off the rails on "Disappear" and other neo-grunge-y selections here.

To their credit, Ty and his crew keep things moving and focused in order to deliver the maximum punch. And while lots of Pre Strike Sweep feels like a fun side-project for these guys, so much more has a genuine sense of purpose. GØGGS have put out a record here that feels like that of a real band, whatever the hell that means, and Ty Segall and his boys are to be commended for making this work so well, and feel so legitimately and wonderfully unsavory.

Pre Strike Sweep is out now via In The Red Records.

[Photo: Denee Segall]

Friday, September 28, 2018

Dark But Bright: A Brief Review Of The New Album From Ana Da Silva (The Raincoats) And Phew

The new collaboration from Ana da Silva (The Raincoats) and Japanese punk-and-noise pioneer Phew is a record that's almost entirely not what you might expect it to be. Island, out today, is a truly adventurous exploration of textures and soundscapes that both provoke and soothe.

The more-or-less title song, "Islands" coasts in on a glide of electronic washes, a glistening surface made into a composition, while the percolating "Strong Winds" sees a jittery beat roughed up by bursts of static and whirring noise. The two musicians here are both experimenting and enjoying themselves, the cuts uniformly easy to enjoy even as they push at the boundaries of what constitutes indie-pop. Elsewhere, "Bom Tempo" purrs and throbs, dark undercurrents coming to the surface, while the more playful "Konichiwa!" offers up some vocal samples and more obviously-placed beats in the service of thoroughly-enjoyable electro-pop. If album closer "Dark But Bright" suggests a more abrasive direction, thankfully Ana da Silva and Phew didn't pursue it here on Island.

Out now, Island by Ana da Silva and Phew is one of the most challenging, and most enjoyable, records of this busy release schedule.

[Photo: Uncredited promotional image]

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Things To Keep Up With: A Brief Review Of The New Hater Album

It was only natural for Hater to modulate their sound when they made the leap from PNKSLM to Fire Records. And while the band's new record Siesta, out on Fire Records tomorrow, reveals a refinement of the Swedish band's approach, it's, like those earlier releases on that other wonderful label, just sublime. This is really, really special music.

In the past, Hater have sounded a tiny bit like Bettie Serveert, and there are moments here where I still feel that way ("Closer", "Things To Keep Up With"), but there are loads more where this band's music hits new transcendent peaks ("It's So Easy", "Your Head Your Mind"). At their very best, Hater whip up a rich stew on Siesta of indie-pop inspiration-points into something fresh, faint traces of The Cure peaking through the seams of "Cut Me Loose", or a near-Cocteau Twins-like elegance in "From The Bottom Of Your Heart", the first selection on this one. Caroline Landahl is really a fantastic vocalist, and she imbues these cuts with heart and a bit of mystery. It's not fair to call this shoegaze, but there's the same sort of vibe here that carried so many of those recent Slowdive songs to success, the languid "Fall Off", for example, or the cathartic whirl of "Seems So Hard" near the end of the album, being the best examples of what I'm talking about.

Siesta is an album that's easy to love. It's also the sort of album that one can positively sink into. Quietly euphoric, the tunes on Siesta reveal what a great band Hater has become.

Siesta is out tomorrow via Fire Records.

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

[Photo: Kamila Schneltser]

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Oh Yeah: A Quick Review Of The New Mudhoney Album

The new album from Mudhoney, Digital Garbage, out on Friday via Sub Pop, is full of the exact kind of unhinged, unstable, unsafe alternative rock that 2018 oh so desperately needs. Who ever knew that one day the guys in Mudhoney would be hailed as pop saviors, eh?

From the Iggy-strut of opener "Nerve Attack" and on to the more hard-charging "Paranoid Core", it's clear that the boys -- vocalist Mark Arm, guitarist Steve Turner, bassist Guy Maddison, and drummer Dan Peters -- are intent on being topical this time out on Digital Garbage, or at least hold a mirror up to these awful times. While "Please Mr. Gunman" seems to tackle the rash of mass shootings, and our propensity to let them happen over and over again, the Nuggets-flavored social media-skewering swirl of "Kill Yourself Live" mixes a throaty vocal turn from Arm with some stellar kit attacks from Peters. The cut, one of the real highlights here, manages to be sorta smart and altogether unseemly. If the tunes on Digital Garbage seem a bit punchier than lots of stuff from the band's peers from that first wave of grunge, it's as if the band wanted to remind listeners of the kind of garage rock that so many of those acts were inspired by in the first place.

The wonderfully-titled and surging "Hey Neanderfuck" is a savaging of the worst sorts of fellows from our society, while the more direct "Prosperity Gospel" drives a car into the heart of the sun, Stooges-hooks mixed up with a sort of rough metallic kick. Frankly, the only misstep here on Digital Garbage is the blues-tinged one-two-punch of "Prosperity Gospel" and "Messiah's Lament" near the end of the record, before "Oh Yeah" comes in to push us all right up and into chaos.

The strength of these players this time out, especially Mark Arm and Dan Peters, seems perfectly showcased here, Arm having grown into an uncanny approximation of "Loose"-era Iggy Pop and Peters punching far above his weight, Moon-like, on the skins. Steve Turner and Guy Maddison shine here too, but it seems at times that Peters' percussive skills are the things that are both pushing this whole unholy endeavor forward, and beating out its time as it runs into the void. Digital Garbage is boss, babies, and I'm thankful that Mudhoney are here to save us all.

Digital Garbage is out on Friday via Sub Pop.

Follow Mudhoney via the band's official Facebook page, or via the band's official website.

[Photo: Emily Rieman]

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

You Have Got To Feel It: A Brief Review Of The New St. Lenox Album

An artist's music, it's said, should stand on its own. And while I sometimes believe that, I also believe that sometimes the back-story of the artist informs a listener's experience in such a way that it would be silly to not at all acknowledge it. Would the new St. Lenox album, Ten Fables Of Young Ambition And Passionate Love, out Friday on Anyway Records, succeed on its own, a listener unaware that Andrew Choi was a gay, Korean-American man from the heartland of this country and now a lawyer in NYC? Sure, yes. The poetry here would make that happen.

Now, that said, knowing Choi's background adds a depth to things here, a richness that informs the intellect, even as the tunes touch the heart. From the heartfelt "First Date", and onward to "More Than Romantic Love", it's clear that St. Lenox has this uncanny skill at making his specifics things that we can feel, his voice an instrument that can convey so many universal truths by casually rattling off this one guy's own personal story. One marvels at how easily Choi turns "Don't Ever Change Me New York City" into both his own personal anthem and a near-rallying cry for those struggling in 2018 to not sell out. A cry of the heart that's remarkably observed and related, the track is utterly unlike anything else you're going to here this year, Choi's voice a reassuring reminder that real art can be crafted in these dark days of Trump.

If "The Hungry Years" reveals some personal details of Choi's family, the realities of being the child of immigrants in Middle America, it also punches with a broad and bracing force, flashes of easy electro-pop and "Dancing In The Dark"-style optimism-in-the-face-of-defeat blending nicely. Choi, like The Boss before him, manages to take very American forms and bend them to his vision, his POV informing the material with a kind of soul every bit as valid as that pumped out for decades from Motown. When Choi turns his gaze further out, like on the stately "Vincent Van Gogh", he manages to frame the struggles in the song in stark relief against those of the Dutch painter. While that sounds presumptuous and silly on paper, it works spectacularly here, Choi's voice quivering on the chorus. A long-time fan of St. Lenox should rightly see this track, and the straightforward "You Have Got To Feel It", as proof that there are still new avenues for Choi to travel as a performer. "You have got to feel it, baby, you have got to feel it..." indeed!

So much of what's here on Ten Fables Of Young Ambition And Passionate Love is so invigorating that a listener is really pressed to not rave about this. And if part of that urge to tell your friends about St. Lenox is due to how different his work is from that of 99% of what's out there in indie-pop, that's okay. Representation matters, as they say, and Andrew Choi is owning that (and on multiple levels). The American Dream refined, dissected, and re-defined effortlessly, Choi's Art is never oppressive, even as it imparts some deep truths with wit and ease. There's a vibrancy here -- in the style, the words, the performance -- that is downright exciting. Informed by his own unique experiences, Choi's made one of his most universally-appealing St. Lenox records so far. Ten Fables Of Young Ambition And Passionate Love is a wonderful, wonderful album.

Ten Fables Of Young Ambition And Passionate Love is out on Friday via Anyway Records.

More details on St. Lenox via the official St. Lenox Facebook page, and the official St. Lenox website.

[Photo: Uncredited photo from the St. Lenox Facebook page]

Monday, September 24, 2018

Gone Tomorrow: A Brief Review Of The New Album From Exploded View

The new album from Exploded View, Obey, out Friday on Sacred Bones, is an affecting release, the sort of bravely-iconoclastic sonic offering that suggests a real desire to strike out into uncharted territory. If the album is palatable and challenging at the same time, that says a lot about the skills of the 3 players here: Annika Henderson, Hugo Quezada (Robota), and Martin Thulin (Crocodiles).

At times, like on the bleeping "Open Road", one supposes that this band owe a debt or two to Dots and Loops-era Stereolab, even as the more sinister "Dark Stains" buzzes with the sort of bad intent found on certain Throbbing Gristle records. Elsewhere, the elegant "Gone Tomorrow" and the title cut venture closer to traditional forms of electro-pop, even as the stark "Sleepers" sees Henderson deliver an arch, ice princess-sort of vocal performance, equal parts Sadier and Nico. The jittery "Rant" and rough "Come On Honey" suggest another path, dashes of Non and Mary Chain atop a techno throb.

Exploded View have produced something a bit abrasive here, and yet it's also lovely in spots. Obey straddles a line between the truly alternative and something closer to alt-rock, Exploded View favoring an approach that balances norm-challenging with a desire to maintain accessibility.

Obey is out on Friday via Sacred Bones.

More details on Exploded View via the band's official website, or via the band's official Facebook page.

[Photo: Exploded View]

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Selfies In The Sunset: Play New Gruff Rhys (Super Furry Animals) Video Here!

The lead singer for Super Furry Animals consistently amuses and enlightens. His latest record, Babelsberg, out now on Rough Trade, and reviewed by me here, is a special thing. Full of elegant alt-rock, and flashes of bright chamber-pop, the long-player reaffirms Gruff's special place in the world of indie.

One of the better tracks from Babelsberg, "Selfies In The Sunset" now has a fine, and funny, video featuring Lily Cole. The video has dropped as Gruff Rhys is heading out on the road abroad and here, including a stop in D.C. at DC9 next month.

More details on Babelsberg and Gruff Rhys' tour via his official website, or his official Facebook page.

[Photo: Delphine Ghosarossian]

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Secret Escapes: A Brief Review Of The New Album From Picturebox

The new album from Picturebox, Escapes, out tomorrow via Gare Du Nord, is perhaps the finest this band has released to date. Fans of The Great Escape-era Blur should find lots to love here. And I can think of no higher praise than that.

Now, even as main-man Robert Halcrow (bass, keys, guitar and lead vocals) sounds a tad like Albarn on the sly "Divvy Cabs", or on the languid and lovely "Sirens", there's loads more here on Escapes that reveals debts owed to The Kinks, XTC (in their The Big Express phase), or even Television Personalities. The fun "I Got The Pox" nods in the direction of "I'm A Boy" from The Who, or even something from Jilted John, the effect a gently-unhinged one that made me smile. The track seems a distant cousin of stuff from Go-Kart Mozart, and drummer Ian Button was featured on the last album from that Lawrence-fronted act. Elsewhere, the title cut borrows a bit from the glory days of power pop to give energy to an infectious hook, while the elegant "Nice Boys' Mobile Disco" again channels Go-Kart Mozart and even Luke Haines for a cut that's at once elegiac and a bit silly.

On Escapes, Halcrow and the rest of his crew -- Ben Lockwood, Button, Alex Williams, Jack Hayter, and Matthew Dutra -- manage to make this material seem entirely original despite the bits and pieces that clearly owe so much to earlier pioneers like, say, Martin Newell and Andy Partridge. Escapes works so well because Halcrow and company exercise a light touch. Nothing feels forced here, and the strong melodies and clever lyrics shine with a listener left to sort of marvel at how refined the Picturebox approach has become in just the space of a few years.

More details on Picturebox via the band's official Facebook page, or via the Gare Du Nord website. Escapes is out tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

How Far Is Spaced-Out? A Brief Review Of The New Album From Lonnie Holley

The new album from Lonnie Holley, MITH, out this Friday on Jagjaguwar, is a transcendent thing, the sort of record that illuminates, educates, and invigorates. Not since the peak years of Patti Smith has an artist really tried to bring the worlds of Art and rock together like this. Bits of poetry bump up against riffs, rhythms caress vocals, and it's all in the service of something that aims so much higher than most of what's out there right now.

The timely and urgent "I'm A Suspect" sees Holley blend his soulful voice with free jazz and atmospherics, while the excellent "How Far Is Spaced-Out?" skirts the edges of coherence, a Sun Ra-like sense of performance imbuing the cut with a loose verve. Elsewhere, on the harrowing and epic "I Snuck Off The Slave Ship", Holley uses his voice like an instrument, purring and roaring underneath and around the jazz and ambient passages. The song is nearly 18 minutes long and seems the sort of bold and brave endeavor that only an artist of Holley's stature would attempt. A Big Music that is nearly impossible to pin down to one genre, the cut reaches out and grabs the soul, quite frankly. "I Woke Up In A Fucked Up America" is far more direct, the necessary anthem for these awful times, while the lighter "There Was Always Water" recalls Monk and Mingus even with Lonnie's plaintive vocals over top of things. There's a near-funky looseness on album closer "Sometimes I Wanna Dance", Holley pulling everything together here in order to leave a listener with something vaguely hopeful after the earlier, starker selections.

MITH is a staggering work, the sort of album that will rightly be feted on year-end lists. Lonnie Holley has done some serious stuff here, but it's a release that rewards a listener, despite the heaviness of the subjects covered within. An adept visual artist, Holley is equally adept here as a musician.

MITH is out via Jagjaguwar on Friday.

Follow Lonnie Holley via his official Facebook page, or his official website.

[Photo: Tim Duffy]

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Heads Up About The New Album From Skeeter Enoch Thompson Of Scream

That guy is Skeeter Enoch Thompson. The world knows him as the bassist in harDCore legends Scream but now he's gone and recorded a solo record. That the album, The Book Of Enoch In E Minor, is full of ferocious rock-and-roll shouldn't be a surprise, but I think a few folks are going to be impressed at how far outside the confines of hardcore punk Skeeter strays here.

Opener "Andalusian Dog" roars in the fashion of early material from The Cult or Hanoi Rocks, even as the more adventurous "Spoiled To The Facts Of..." offers up flashes of funk and dashes of reggae, the insinuating rhythm one of the highlights of this album. Elsewhere, a rough cover of "Down In The Hole" by Tom Waits charms, while the fierce "You Wanna See Me Bleed?" sees Skeeter at his best as a singer and performer, the cut a deft blend of both punk and metal forms. And while Scream took some chances, broadening the palette of punk, Skeeter pushes things a bit further with "Dirt", a languid near-blues-y work-out with some excellent guitar hooks.

Lots of us know and love Skeeter for everything he's brought to this city's legacy of harDCore, but it's clear that the guy has many skills as a performer and musician. And for many fans, it is a real pleasure to hear Skeeter venture into new territory, and succeed so admirably.

The Book Of Enoch In E Minor by Skeeter Enoch Thompson is out now via CDbaby, and other online retailers.

[Top photo: me, 2012]

Monday, September 17, 2018

Written In Lightning: A Brief Review Of The New Album From Mutual Benefit

The new album from Mutual Benefit, Thunder Follows The Light, out Friday on Transgressive, is a lovely piece of work. I suppose there's already a following around Jordan Lee, AKA Mutual Benefit, but I'm a bit late to that party. Having heard this new release, I'm now firmly on-board here as a fan of this guy.

Opener "Written in Lightning" pursues a path once trod by Jon Brion and the artists he's produced, while the achingly-beautiful "Storm Cellar Heart" coos with the sort of gentle melodic grace found on certain Lennon records, and late-period Elliott Smith offerings. Elsewhere, "Come to Pass" succeeds thank to a faint folk-y hook, while the elegant "No Dominion" purrs by with a real neo-classical sense of deliberation. Lee has a knack for crafting compositions that feel like ornate contraptions with some of the pieces removed. At times, like on "Mountains Shadow", his music makes me think of early efforts by Ed Harcourt, but Jordan Lee seems to owe less to forefathers like Tom Waits, say, than Harcourt does, and that absence of messiness adds a real vibe of care to things. And what Lee is doing here is presenting an updating of familiar chamber pop forms, albeit in decidedly modern trappings.

Fans of Radiohead ballads, Badly Drawn Boy, and Philip Glass, should find many things to love here. Thunder Follows The Light is lovely and contemplative, and yet never pretentious. Jordan Lee as Mutual Benefit has grounded his material in such a way that each cut shines around a central hook, the pieces around the hook carefully-chosen ornamentation designed to remind a listener what a great songwriter is capable of.

Thunder Follows The Light is out on Friday via Transgressive.

More details on Mutual Benefit via his official Facebook page, or his official website.

[Photo: Ebru Yildiz]

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Here In The Shadows: A Brief Review Of The New Album From Film School (Featuring Adam Wade Of Jawbox, Shudder To Think)

The band Film School makes music that's perched somewhere between that of Swervedriver and Slowdive. To suggest that the tunes found on the band's newest album, Bright To Death, were shoegaze would not be entirely wrong. Still, there's a lot more life here than that genre-label might suggest, and things are buoyed considerably by the presence of stellar drummer Adam Wade (Jawbox, Shudder To Think) on lots of the cuts.

"Don't Send My Love" shimmers and chimes, shades of early Church singles popping up here, while the bright "Bye Bye Bird" offers up a faint hint of the sort of electro-throb that propelled many an O.M.D. or New Order single in the Eighties. If Film School are interested in the textures of that era, they are also keen to update the sounds for a new century. The excellent "Two In Sun" is a model of how to marry a melody to a pristine arrangement, and every bit as affecting as the slower numbers from that recent Ride record, even as "The Celebration" goes all-in on the sort of twitchy New Wave that soundtracked an era between post-punk and alt-rock. If this superb cut sounds a bit like, say, both Bauhaus and Wire Train (think "Chamber of Hellos"), that's the highest praise I could give the music of Film School. I wouldn't want to label this group a retro-act but I do think that by highlighting the portions of this record that feel so familiar, a prospective listener can get a better idea of what these superb musicians are capable of, and the ease with which they blend some worthy influences.

Bright To Death is out now via HausKat Records and the link below.

More details on Film School via the band's official Facebook page, or via the band's official website.

[Photo: Howard Wise]

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Ivory Past: A Quick Review Of The Next 5 Felt Reissues From Cherry Red Records

Following on from their reissues of the first 5 albums from Felt earlier this year, the fine folks at Cherry Red Records are set to offer up reissues of the next 5 (and final to date) albums from the band. Collected here in a box-set are Forever Breathes The Lonely Word (1986), Poem Of The River (1987), The Pictorial Jackson Review (1988), Train Above The City (1988), and Me And A Monkey On The Moon (1989), along with scattered singles. The releases cover both the peaks of this band's output, and the odd detours they were to take later in their career.

Let's dive in, shall we?

Forever Breathes The Lonely Word (1986)

When people talk about Felt, the sound of this record is what they're really talking about. "Rain Of Crystal Spires" and "Grey Streets" positively chime, even as Martin Duffy's organ takes a more prominent role in conveying the melodic aspirations of this band. If a few numbers here sound a bit like contemporaries Lloyd Cole and The Commotions ("Gather Up Your Wings And Fly", "Down But Not Yet Out"), it's likely that Lawrence was, like Cole, revealing a huge debt owed to Tom Verlaine, and a smaller one due to Bob Dylan. Still, there's no mistaking that this is British indie, and for the morbid wit displayed here ("All The People I Like Are Those That Are Dead"), a listener would be right in holding this band's work in 1986 right up there with that of The Smiths.

Poem Of The River (1987)

Produced by the legendary Mayo Thompson (The Red Krayola), Poem Of The River (1987) sees the band's sound expanded a bit, enough to take in the languid "She Lives By The Castle" as well as the brief "Stained Glass Windows In The Sky", an easy, organ-fueled swirl. Perhaps nothing here is as adventurous as "Riding On The Equator", which, at nearly 9 minutes, sees Felt venture into new territory even as familiar guitar-figures (played by front-man Lawrence himself) trace patterns that one could almost say prefigured the work of shoegaze bands not so long after this.

The Pictorial Jackson Review (1988)

Released here in slightly-altered running order, 1988's The Pictorial Jackson Review features some lovely, spry numbers (the bright "Apple Boutique", the Lou Reed-aping "Ivory Past"), even as a few other cuts here ("Tuesday's Secrets", "Christopher Street") seem to prefigure the sort of jangle-rock acts that would, in the early Nineties, name-check Felt as a big influence. A strong contender for being their most consistent long-player, The Pictorial Jackson Review (1988) sees Lawrence at the height of his powers, his best compositions here ("Jewels Are Set In Crowns", "Don't Die On My Doorstep") offering proof of the man's talents and examples of his knack for both a hook and an effect.

Train Above The City (1988)

Train Above The City (1988) is a mess. It's a record that I really don't feel bad about not loving. More a curiosity than an essential release, the brief offering sees Martin Duffy and Gary Ainge deliver an album's worth (barely) of near-jazzy instrumentals. And, as if it needed to be said, without Lawrence, selections like "On Weegee's Sidewalks" and "Run Chico Run" are nothing more than tracks that sort of make you scratch your head. Bully to Lawrence for letting the band put this out under the Felt name as the move seems more astute and clever now than it did then, when it seemed like an act of career suicide.

Me And A Monkey On The Moon (1989)

The final Felt album, Me And A Monkey On The Moon (1989) offers up both familiar moments and quick flashes of a new style in the band's arsenal. Produced by Adrian Borland (The Sound), the record finds Lawrence adding more players than in the past, even going so far as to include B.J. Cole on pedal guitar. Some of what's here works spectacularly ("Free"), but parts of this ("New Day Dawning", "Down An August Path") seem like leftovers from a Dire Straits record. There was no way that Lawrence could have produced such great music for so long, and after nearly a decade, one can't be surprised that quality finally flagged a bit here. And, for all that snark on my part, Me And A Monkey On The Moon does contain "Mobile Shack", a Sixties-tinged ramble, and the simply-effective "Get Out Of My Mirror", a neat approximation of "Foggy Notion"-era Lou and the Velvets.

Spread throughout this batch of reissues from Cherry Red, are a few of the absolutely essential singles from Felt's back-catalog, notably "I Will Die With My Head In Flames", the sublime and affecting "The Final Resting Of The Ark", and "Primitive Painters", an utterly-transcendent collaboration with members of the Cocteau Twins. Felt were, in some ways, a singles band, and that case can be made just by listening to these 10 or so singles from this set. And yet, the albums here show a real progression of Lawrence and his assorted band-mates. Frankly, there remains more variety on these final 5 Felt albums than I remembered from the era, and only a churlish old grump would deny that the band took some spectacular chances, and succeeded far more times than people remember. The building blocks of the output of every indie band you've listened to in the last 20 years are here, really, and there's no other way to explain just how essential this handful of records is.

You can order Forever Breathes The Lonely Word (1986), Poem Of The River (1987), The Pictorial Jackson Review (1988), Train Above The City (1988), and Me And A Monkey On The Moon (1989), from Cherry Red Records now.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Losing Myself: A Brief Review Of The New Album From The Goon Sax

The Goon Sax make music that sounds a whole lot like 1996. I say that by way of offering a compliment, really. The band is set to drop their second album, We're Not Talking, this Friday on Wicita Recordings, and the release features so many passages that are reminiscent of the glory days of alt-rock that anyone even close to my age bracket should love this one as much as I do.

Opener "Make Time 4 Love" drips with a sort of lazy collegiate charm, while "Losing Myself" sees the boy-girl vocals serve as enticements to the brand of smart pop contained within. Melodic and richly tuneful, the music of The Goon Sax is also unhurried and a bit hazy, even on a spry cut like "A Few Times Too Many" or the ramshackle "Get Out", early NZ rock riffs peeking through those of this Aussie trio. So much of what's on We're Not Talking has a similar kind of appeal, equal parts Pavement and Beat Happening, for instance, jumbled up with enough bright hooks that one can guess that there's a Clean album or two in this lot's record cabinet. These 3 young Australian musicians -- Louis Forster, Riley Jones, and James Harrison -- have mined a quarter-century's worth of indie rock and managed to still make something strikingly unique here, no mean feat considering that Forster's dad was in The Go-Betweens. We're Not Talking feels familiar in spots, and yet it's fresh enough that it still surprises with its brief, direct flashes of creative spark.

We're Not Talking is out on Wichita Recordings this Friday.

More details on The Goon Sax via the band's official Facebook page.

[Photo: Ben O'Connor]

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Some Deep Belief: A Brief Review Of The New Album From The Chills

It is with some mixture of gratitude and relief that I share with you today my review of the newest album from The Chills. Snow Bound, out this Friday from Fire Records, is the sort of thing that makes long-time fans of this band grateful that these New Zealand legends are still around, and relieved that the talents of front-man Martin Phillipps have not diminished a whit since 2015's comeback album, Silver Bullets.

if anything, Snow Bound is evidence of a new energy in Phillipps' craft, tracks like "Bad Sugar" and "Scarred" positively bouncing out of the speakers. If matters here seem more general, a quick look at lines like "...all shades build a fairer nation" (from "Complex") reveals that Phillipps has sacrificed none of his compassion in these difficult times, his voice now that of someone searching for some more enlightened era ("The Greatest Guide Has Died"), or realizing the need to face a grim reality ("Time To Atone"), or pointing the way towards an ideal ("In Harmony"). And if Phillipps' lyrical concerns are serious -- sometimes grave -- ones, the lightness of touch throughout the music on Snow Bound is impressive, these players -- James Dickson, Todd Knudson, Erica Scally, and Oli Wilson -- creating a humble racket behind Martin's plaintive-yet-hopeful vocals. At his best here, Martin Phillipps seems to have found renewed purpose in life, and a more devout faith in his own gifts as, truly, "Deep Belief" stands as one of the finest things he's penned in decades, and every bit the equal of earlier Chills classics like "Double Summer" from Soft Bomb (1992) or "Singing In My Sleep" from Submarine Bells (1990). Simply put, the cut is the sound of this songwriter finding his own secure place in the world of rock-and-roll.

A tight collection, Snow Bound is economically-great, the kind of casually-brilliant record Phillipps can routinely create, his brain and heart ruling things here in a way that few other performers would allow. In other hands, there would be no such deftness as that found on this record. And, to his enormous credit, Martin Phillipps renders these compositions beautiful things, chamber pop that's smart and heartfelt, never labored or smug. I'm so grateful for this man's music and have been for more than 30 years now.

Snow Bound is out on Friday via Fire Records.

More details on The Chills via the band's official Facebook page, or their official website, softbomb.com.

[Photo: Alorx]

Monday, September 10, 2018

Always Trying To Work It Out: A Quick Review Of The New Low Album

Low consistently do not get enough credit. I'm old enough to remember when this band's music got casually lumped in with that of Codeine and yet, even as the output of Low has progressed impressively, the praise the group deserves has not been forthcoming. It's safe to say that with the release of the outfit's new album, Double Negative, out on Sub Pop this Friday, the band is sure to earn high points for making something brave and challenging.

Opener "Quorum" is abrasive and sinister, the faint hum of everything slowly rotting from within, while the more accessible "Dancing And Blood" sees Alan Sparhawk, Mimi Parker, and Steve Garrington pursue a muse that's nearly neo-classical, the music austere and affecting. Elsewhere, "Fly" and "Always Up" succeed thanks to Parker's light touch, while the harsh "Tempest" bristles with ideas churned up into a murky stew. If Low here on Double Negative are doing anything it's deconstructing alt-rock.

What's left, after that deconstruction, are the pieces of richer music, re-arranged and assembled into new forms, the richness now that of being able to hear invention as it happens. At every point on this album where a listener feels a familiar mood creeping into things, Low throws a wrench into the mix, melodies and hooks scattering to the winds. "Always Trying To Work It Out" recalled, for me, the earliest stuff from His Name Is Alive, while the stark "The Son, The Sun" pulses with a kind of lovely beat, a faint throb of life. If so much of Double Negative is brutally uncompromising, there's some material here -- the methodical and loping "Rome (Always In The Dark)", the nearly-catchy "Disarray" -- that is easy to embrace, even for new fans of this band.

Triumphantly boundary-testing, Double Negative is a record that one's quick to admire and (very) nearly quick to love. Low are not content here, and there's no choice made on this release that was the safe or obvious one for these musicians. Double Negative takes a lot of risks and one can, at minimum, admire this band's chutzpah in releasing a record like this. Spin it twice and you're likely to love it too.

Double Negative will be out via Sub Pop this Friday.

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

[Photo: Shelly Mossman

Sunday, September 9, 2018

High And Guided: A Quick Review Of The New Album From Downpilot

Downpilot is essentially Paul Hiraga. And while one could say that this was a one-man band, Downpilot make big, spacious music that stands on its own next to that of other bands. The latest Downpilot record, This Is The Sound, is out this Friday via Tapete Records, and it's even better than his last one.

Opener "Your Supply" rocks like something from Stereophonics or The War On Drugs, while other selections here, like the lighter "High and Guided" suggest Eighties numbers from Robbie Robertson or Daniel Lanois. Elsewhere, Hiraga steers things towards a more delicate form of chamber pop, like on "Thievers", with its light near-country twang. And if "Wear It Like A Crown" faintly suggests Elliott Smith, a lilt that's a bit down-tempo prevailing, it's an indication of yet another direction that Hiraga could take things as Downpilot.

A solidly catchy album, This Is The Sound sees Paul Hiraga expand on the sound of Downpilot even while delivering reassuringly solid rock. This Is The Sound is out on Friday via Tapete Records.

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

[Photo: Peter Hilgendorf]

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Light And Shade: A Brief Review Of The Reissue Of The Second Solo Album From David J (Bauhaus, Love And Rockets, The Jazz Butcher)

In 1985, David J had already been in Bauhaus, The Jazz Butcher, and Love And Rockets. Still, the urge was there to record solo material and, luckily, he put out the superb Crocodile Tears And The Velvet Cosh that year on Glass Records. Now, thankfully, the folks at Glass Modern are bringing that album back out.

Crocodile Tears And The Velvet Cosh is a largely subdued release, and the style suits David J spectacularly. The title cut feels like something off of Seventh Dream Of Teenage Heaven, even as the lilting "Too Clever By Half" rides a nice jangle-pop wave forward. Elsewhere, the simple "Light and Shade" sees David J pursue a sort of minimalist style that vaguely echoes Bowie's classic Berlin albums, while the more spacious "Stop This City" finds the Bauhaus member working electro-pop textures into the material. Still, lots of Crocodile Tears And The Velvet Cosh is light, faint-chamber pop of the kind that recalls Marc Bolan as much as Bauhaus.

With appearances from members of The Jazz Butcher such as Max Eider, Crocodile Tears And The Velvet Cosh stands as a vital release from the early days of U.K. alt-rock, and further proof of just what a fantastic musician and vocalist David J was. That he continues to perform is something to be thankful for.

More details on David J via his official Facebook page, or official website. Crocodile Tears And The Velvet Cosh is out now via Glass Modern.

Friday, September 7, 2018

It Goes Off And On: A New Video From Dot Dash And A Free MP3 From The D.C.-Area Rockers

D.C. area super-group Dot Dash recently released their sixth long-player, the superb Proto Retro, reviewed by me here, and now they are offering up fiery album-opener "Unfair Weather" as a new music video and free MP3.

The cut manages to bristle with the kind of spiky energy one found on early R.E.M. sides even as it punches with the force of something Weller and Co. would have committed to vinyl in 1980 or so. This is brief to-the-point pop of the very highest caliber, with these 3 players -- Danny Ingram on drums, Hunter Bennett on bass, and Terry Banks on vocals and guitar -- absolutely revved up.

If you like the song, you'll likely love the rest of Proto Retro, out now via TheBeautifulMusic. And if you like the song and the band, you'll likely love the new video for "Unfair Weather" which is embedded below.

Download "Unfair Weather" by Dot Dash

[Photo up top: me, 2018]

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

You Darken My Night: A Brief Review Of The Lost Record From Escape-Ism (Ian Svenonius)

Ian Svenonious has perhaps never skewered hoary rock tropes as effectively as he has here, on The Lost Record. The new release from his Escape-ism project, the outfit's second in less than a year, out this Friday on Merge Records, is an imagining of a lost album. And, by jumping over decades where the "band" would keep going, Svenonious has offered a current relic, some impossible future's imagining of what an unappreciated masterpiece from 2018 would have sounded like, or something like that. It's a great game of pretend, and that Ian makes so much of this actually work as intended speaks to his skills as a craftsman, as much as a performer.

"I'm a Lover (At Close Range)", all "Red Right Hand"-isms swirled up with rickety gospel organ, purrs with that familiar power this guy brings to every project, even as "(I'm Gonna) Bite The Hand That Feeds" sounds a whole lot like "Nag Nag Nag" injected with a truckload of sinister motivation. If this all sounds fairly convincing, Svenonius is to be applauded 'cause if nothing else, he believes in his own shtick.

Now, I'm not trying to be dismissive but, rather, acknowledge the artifice here. And, for all that should feel familiar on this one for long-time followers of Svenonius, there are a few tracks on The Lost Record that managed to surprise me: "Bodysnatcher" with it's rough soul beat; "Exorcist Stairs", all Throbbing Gristle end-of-the-world-stuff whipped up into pop punch, and "You Darken My Night", a goth deconstruction. A release that is both (wonderfully) unhealthy and invigorating, The Lost Record sees Ian Svenonius fully commit to this Escape-ism racket...even if for only 40 or so minutes at a time.

The Lost Record by Escape-ism is out on Friday via Merge Records.

[Photo: Alexandra Cabral]

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Thank You For The Songs: A Quick Review Of The New Mommyheads Album

Years ago I heard a song called "Box" by The Mommyheads on a compilation and was transfixed. The track, a neat blend of XTC and lite Zappa-isms, was supple and concise. And, thankfully, there's more of that sort of thing on the band's new record, Soundtrack To The World's End, out this Friday.

Sure, "Crooked Picture" swings a bit, and "Antidote For The Ascent Of Humanity" has a lilting near-ska bounce to it, but it's the more Beatles-y numbers here ("Three", "Time Will Tell") that warm the heart (and ears). Elsewhere, "Thank You For The Songs" offers up some easy pleasures that recall numbers from Elliott Smith and Jon Brion, while "Phantom Limb" soars amid a few passages that sound a lot like late-period Police offerings. For all this disparate praise, it's worth noting a certain consistency here that allows the sound of The Mommyheads to be distinctive, even amidst the bits and pieces that recall other, worthy points of inspiration.

If you are, like me, thankful to see the return of The Mommyheads, seek out Soundtrack To The World's End when it's released at the end of this week.

More details on The Mommyheads via the band's official Facebook page, or the band's official website.

[Photo: Uncredited promotional picture]