Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Man In The Mirror: A Brief Review Of The New Album From Dusty Wright, Along With A Song Premiere!

The new album from Dusty Wright, Gliding Towards Oblivion, is the sort of release that surprises and charms. The singer-songwriter imbues these tunes with melodic flourishes that subtly touch the ear and the heart. I'm happy to also offer up a premiere today of another song from the record, "Man In The Mirror", before Friday's official release date.

The title track on Gliding Towards Oblivion is ruminative and incisive, with flashes of Lou Reed peeking through the seams, even as the more spry "Silence Of The Knowing" veers towards the sort of material that Tom Petty and Bruce Cockburn once routinely offered up. Elsewhere, amid musical embellishments from the coterie of players here, the direct "Man In The Mirror" serves as an excellent showcase for Dusty's voice and instrumental prowess, while "Ashes" blends some mandolin in for a number that reminded me of stuff from Peter Case a bit. At his best here, Dusty Wright conjures up memories of Robbie Roberston's solo material with "Rhythm Of Dreams", a languid, well-produced swirl of emotions, while "I Wander" is lighter, nearly as peppy as an old Los Lobos cut. Gliding Towards Oblivion closes with an unexpectedly excellent cover of "Mellow Yellow" with Donovan himself joining in.

Dusty Wright's skills are numerous, and his work here on Gliding Towards Oblivion harks back to earlier eras where listeners were routinely rewarded with offerings like this. As it is, Dusty Wright's record stands out as a throwback, the sort of album that should please any of us who loved those Eighties Lou Reed and Bob Dylan albums, especially the ballads, Wright's smooth voice carrying us forward into an uncertain future with ease.

Gliding Towards Oblivion is out on Friday. More details via, or from his official Facebook page.

[Photo: Uncredited promotional image from Dusty's official Facebook page]

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Liberator Of Minds: A Brief Review Of The New Album From Dead Can Dance

It is virtually impossible to adequately write about the music of Dead Can Dance. For more than 30 years the duo -- Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard -- has conjured up the sounds of a mythical past, using a variety of instruments (including Lisa's rapturous voice) that come from every corner of the world, and nearly as many eras.

Still, one listen to the band's newest album, Dionysus, out on Friday, ought to re-affirm (again) the timelessness of the group's compositions. Structured in two long sections, with multiple passages within each, the album seems even more focused than earlier Dead Can Dance releases, with each section being a journey backwards in time, to some pre-Judeo-Christian ancient world where ritual and magic ruled hearts. "Act I" sees generally bucolic passages segue into the more expansive "Liberator of Minds", the mood that of proto-psychedlic rock. As things slide into the "Dance of the Bacchantes", the tempo steadies, things rhythmically concise, even as Lisa Gerrard's voice weaves into the mix, the spirit of Dionysus and his followers made real.

As Act II begins, "The Mountain" looms. Representing a journey to the birthplace of Dionysus, the music blends both Brendan and Lisa and their powers to wonderful effect, such that fans of Within The Realm Of A Dying Sun should find so much to embrace here. Things move forward, with the the music pointing the way to the harvest festival and the journey to the underworld, the spry "The Forest" calling us into the ritual (think "The Carnival Is Over" deconstructed into more jarring fragments). Dionysus ends with the "Psychopomp" passage of the second act, Brendan and Lisa cooing and singing bits and pieces of words and phrases nearly beyond language, beyond literal meaning. An expert blend of the more subtle aspects of the approach of each player and vocalist, this is a simple and eerily beautiful way to end the album.

Raising more questions that it can answer, Dionysus may very well be the most oblique release Dead Can Dance have ever brought forward, even as it's the most thematically-focused record in their substantial catalog. The sound of ritual, fearful worship, thrall to forces and gods we'll never face, Dionysus is a wonderfully-effective record, and the sort of progression of the sound of this group that rewards long-time fans. Devotees of those earliest offerings, and those who found succor in The Serpent's Egg should find equal enrichment here as Dionysus is a fine, fine Dead Can Dance record.

Dionysus is out on Friday but you can pre-order via the link below.

More details on Dead Can Dance via the band's official Facebook page, or the band's official website.

[Photo: Uncredited promotional picture]

Monday, October 29, 2018

And Then There's You: A Brief Review Of The New Album From Bill Ryder-Jones (The Coral)

Bill Ryder-Jones was a founding member of The Coral. He's also played with Arctic Monkeys and loads of other vital indie bands. However, he's likely going to be henceforth known for his own recordings, the latest of which, Yawn, drops on Domino on Friday.

A work of intimacy, the album is poetic and rueful in turn, with numbers like "Time Will Be The Only Saviour" swaying with a kind of melodic grace that suggests a lifetime spent listening to Leonard Cohen records, even as the more direct "And Then There's You" veering closer to territory occupied by Nick Cave in the Nineties. "Don't Be Scared, I Love You" swoons with a lovely bit of drunkenness, the tides of the composition every bit the equal of Ryder-Jones' Buckley-like way with a vocal-line. Now, you'll notice that I didn't say which Buckley I was referring to and an easy answer would be to say that I was talking about Jeff, since tracks like "Happy Song" and "Recover" swing with the sort of folk-power the late singer brought to his every performance. And yet, a compelling case could be made for a comparison to Tim Buckley as well, Ryder-Jones' way with this sort of lyrical approach suggesting an intuitive understanding that the worlds of the singer-songwriter and jazzman are not so far apart after all.

And while there are moments here ("There Are Worse Things") that will inevitably draw comparisons to Ed Harcourt, Bill Ryder-Jones' album stands entirely on its own, Yawn being such a stunning bit of business. A record that offers a dive into some serious emotional depths, Yawn enchants even as it stirs up something from the dark chasms of the soul. Serious but not heavy, Yawn is a great album.

Yawn will be out on Friday via Domino.

More details on Bill Ryder-Jones via his official Facebook page, or his official website.

[Photo: Uncredited Facebook picture]

Friday, October 26, 2018

Dandy On The Circle Line: A Quick Review Of The New Album From The Cleaners From Venus (Martin Newell)

The arrival of a new Martin Newell project, or, as is the case here, new Cleaners from Venus release, is always a cause for celebration. This album, Life In A Time Machine, out today, is another in a string of superb offerings from the legendary English songwriter. There is, frankly, no indication of Martin slowing down any time soon, and thank God for that!

If the title cut suggests some time spent listening to The Dukes of Strasophear, pal Andy Partridge's XTC spin-off, the elegant "Dandy On The Circle Line" makes one consider both solo Paul McCartney and peak Kinks. This is really excellent and one of the best tracks here on Life In A Time Machine. Elsewhere, "Dandelion Falling" echoes certain Robyn Hitchcock numbers, even as the more stately "Rainy Rose" serves up a nice blend of Move-ish riffs layered under Martin's plaintive vocals. At his best here, like on the chiming "Let's Steal A Train", Newell nods again in the direction of his most memorable material, stuff like The Greatest Living Englishman album, even as simpler numbers here, like "The Kensington Girl", stand as excellent examples of exactly how to do chamber pop in the 21st century.

Life In A Time Machine is the sort of release sure to please fans of Martin Newell and The Cleaners From Venus. Easy to love, and full of spry and smart rock, Martin's succeeded (again) at conjuring up an impossibly English sort of musical bliss, his vocals and guitar-lines carrying us back to an imagined past made radiant by his songwriting.

More details on Life In A Time Machine via the official Martin Newell website, or the official Cleaners from Venus Facebook page.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

The Thing Is: A Review Of The New One From Christian Kjellvander

The new album from Christian Kjellvander, Wild Hxmans, out tomorrow on Tapete, is the sort of record that haunts a listener on first listen. Much like his last release, reviewed by me here, this one offers up high art that remains accessible, and thoroughly affecting.

Opener "Strangers In Northeim" unfurls with the deliberate pace of a cut from the Tindersticks, while the more supple "Curtain Maker" skirts just this side of accessible, Christian's alt-rock succeeding admirably here. If the vaguely Nick Cave-meets-Radiohead-vibe of that selection suggests that Christian Kjellvander is trying to reach a new audience, he can only be applauded as these 7 offerings here on Wild Hxmans still remain wildly adventurous and vast in scope. The superb "The Thing Is" blends bits of Red House Painters with dashes of Crime and The City Solution, Christian's voice the instrument that anchors this heavy music. Elsewhere, the epic "Faux Guernica" nods in the direction of modern Americana pioneers even as it charts a smooth, nearly-symphonic course, the instruments pushing and pulling under Kjellvander's honey-rich voice.

Wild Hxmans seems somehow easier to sink into than previous releases from Christian Kjellvander. And yet, to stress that fact is not to diminish the Art that's being made here. Kjellvander proves, yet again, that serious music doesn't necessarily have to be ponderous as Wild Hxmans is full of resonant material.

Wild Hxmans is out tomorrow via Tapete.

[Photo: Simon Fessler]

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Sun Swallows The Moon: A Brief Review Of The New EP From Holy Golden

Holy Golden is Leslie Schott and Andrew Valenti. They make music that is a bit unearthly and altogether memorable. The duo's new EP, Sleepwalkers In The Milky Way, drops on Wallflower Records on Friday. It's a beautiful thing.

On "Lost Island" one can hear faint traces of Heaven Or Las Vegas-era Cocteaus peaking through the seams of the music, even as the more percussive "Strength" mines a vein of bracing electro-pop that's a good deal more accessible. Elsewhere, the evocatively-titled "Sun Swallows The Moon" sees Leslie croon over music from Andrew that echoes the sort of stuff Kate Bush put down on The Dreaming. These two don't take quite as many chances as Kate ever did, but on the spry "Wheel Of Fortune" the duo manage to work up an infectious sound that intoxicates. Fans of Cranes and early Lush, for instance, should like this EP quite a bit.

Sleepwalkers In The Milky Way is out on Friday via Wallflower Records.

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

[Photo: Dana Trippe]

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Into The Ring: A Brief Review Of The New EP From Public Practice (Beverly)

The new EP from supergroup Public Practice is a reasonably-compelling facsimile of No NY stuff, chords rough and beats pounding. The release, out on Friday via Wharf Cat Records, is called Distance Is A Mirror and it's certainly worth seeking out for fans of this sort of thing, or those who are impatient waiting for a new Priests album.

Featuring members of Beverly and WALL, Public Practice churn up an infectious racket on "Bad Girl(s)", all proto-Blondie revved up to 10. Elsewhere, the neatly-jarring rhythms of "Into The Ring" and "Foundation" serve up memories of The Slits and Gang of Four, which is to say that Public Practice are doing this right, while the best cut here, the complex "Fate/Glory" echoes Elastica and those numbers from Sonic Youth that Kim Gordon sang lead on.

Look, Public Practice are not going to win any awards for originality but it's okay 'cause so much of this succeeds on its own modest terms. Concise and bracing, this EP is a whole lot of fun, even if the huge debts the band owes to earlier pioneers are writ large here.

Distance Is A Mirror is out on Friday from Wharf Cat Records.

[Photo by Colin Sussingham & Josie Keefe]

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Daily Get Ups: Guided By Voices At The Black Cat In D.C., 101918

At some point last night, I tried to figure out just what it was about Guided By Voices that made the band's fans so loyal. Looking at the fervent, wildly-appreciative crowd, I thought of Deadheads almost, only these guys (and a few gals) were not there at the Black Cat in D.C. last night to hear jams but, rather, Jams! I mean, Guided By Voices are nothing if not slavish messengers of the best riffs in rock-and-roll, with Robert Pollard and his assorted band-mates serving up alt-rock that's full of big hooks.

And while the band was there to ostensibly promote Space Gun from earlier this year, reviewed by me here, Robert Pollard joked about the band having six albums in the can already. Dancing nimbly through "King Flute" and "Daily Get Ups" from the release, the five-piece seemed to be still finding ways to make those tracks so much fun, despite Pollard's insistence on showing us "our new shit", as he said while introducing numbers from next year's Zeppelin Over China or The Rise Of The Ants.

Of these new compositions, it was hard to make out the titles, but one that caught my attention was called "You Own The Night" and it was a mid-tempo churner with bits of prog popping up in the chord changes near the end. Still, however much those new songs charmed, it was the "hits" that the guys in the front were there to hear, with stuff like "Cut Out Witch" positively roaring. On this one, and a few others, the band had the sort of punchy power that The Buzzcocks once had, guitarists Bobby Bare, Jr., and Doug Gillard doing some of the heavy lifting. On other cuts, like on a bouncy "My Kind Of Soldier", and a lyrical "The Best Of Jill Hives", one could hear the rhythmic force of bassist Mark Shue and drummer Kevin March helping out a whole lot too.

"Thanks for coming out tonight. We have no hits!", Pollard joked at one point. But, as he said later, and as the crowd understood, "They're *all* fucking hits!" And, yeah, stuff ike "Teenage FBI" seemed like the best thing since The Beatles, really, with Pollard, ten beers in, holding it together for the song's tight riff-attack.

With Robert Pollard hitting his stride (again) with this line-up of the band, one should really try to see Guided By Voices on this tour. Fans of Space Gun will be happy, as will those of us who have been listening to this band for 25 years. And, if you want sneak-peeks of the numbers from next year's Zeppelin Over China, you'll get those too. A gloriously-affecting "Glad Girls" closed last night's two-and-a-half-hour set at The Black Cat and, once again, it really felt like I was seeing the best band in America.

"And we're alright, and they're alright, and you're alright!"

More details on Guided By Voices and the continuing adventures of Robert Pollard via

[Photos: me and my wife, 10/19/18]

Lift Me Up: A Quick Review Of The New Album From Ryan Auffenberg

Ryan Auffenberg was in a band called Halsted but now he's gone solo. His new album, Daisy Chain, dropped yesterday and it's a batch of affecting Americana-tinged compositions with traces of folk-rock peeking through the seams.

Some songs here, like the buoyant "Lift Me Up", made me think of stuff form Jeff Tweedy and Wilco, while others, like the gentle title track, made think of earlier precursors like James Taylor and Gordon Lightfoot. Ryan Auffenberg has a real knack for making this material work so well, given how simple lots of this is. A number like "Don't Call It Love" suggests a more complicated approach, one that would place Auffenberg closer to Michael Penn, say, than the more maintream sounds he's pursuing here. Still, given that, some of this, namely the bright "Siren Song" indicates that Ryan Auffenberg is probably capable of chasing his own muse while making music that is fairly catchy.

Daisy Chain is out now.

More details on Daisy Chain and Ryan Auffenberg via the official site, or Ryan's official Facebook page.

[Photo: Ryan's Facebook page]

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Walk Backwards: A Quick Review Of The New Album From Papercuts

The new album from Papercuts, Parallel Universe Blues, aligns in sonic terms with a lot of what's on parent label Slumberland Records. And yet, at the same time, there's a gentle lyricism here that suggests new directions for modern indie-pop bands to pursue. If Jason Quever's project is the sort of thing that chimes in all the right ways, it's always a record that bridges smart-pop with dream-pop, the brain and the heart sharing control here.

While some of this ("Clean Living", "Waking Up") indicates a love of shoegaze pioneers, Quever at least imbues this material with a remarkable amount of charm, such that the bigger numbers here ("Laughing Man", "How To Quit Smoking") positively ring with promise. These brighter selections are buoyantly tuneful and ripe with a lot of possibilities. And while the catchier tracks here on Parallel Universe Blues took me back a few decades to the heydays of bands like The Ropers and Lilys, a few others, like the poppy "Walk Backwards" brought to mind both The Clientele and Ride. While I quite liked the Medicine-y "Sing To Me Candy", I preferred the compositions here that put more emphasis on melody than effects. Now, that's not to say that Quever gets lost in his pedals here, but, rather, to praise how easily he finds his way around a big hook. There are loads of bands out there mining this vein of shoegaze gold, but few finding nuggets as peppy and promising as, for example, "Kathleen Says", a nice blend of Ultra Vivid Scene and Black Tambourine.

Jason Quever as Papercuts has already earned plenty of praise for earlier releases, but Parallel Universe Blues is such a pleasant listen that I'm sure he's going to get lots of new fans when this one drops. Fans of Pale Saints, Swallow, and all those bands I referenced up above, are sure to love this one as much as I do.

Parallel Universe Blues is out on Friday via Slumberland Records, or the official website.

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

[Photo: Courtesy of the artist and PR firm]

Heads Up About The New Single From Shogun And The Sheets (Ex-Royal Headache)

Shogun was the lead singer of Royal Headache. He's now fronting his own band, Shogun and the Sheets, and the band's debut single is out next month on What's Your Rupture.

Now, there's not a lot to write about at the moment but I do like this, and I liked Royal Headache quite a bit, so this is certainly something to pay attention to. These two tracks are, hopefully, nice indications of what direction Shogun and the Sheets will go on their debut album next year (fingers crossed), with "Hold On Kid" having a vibe like something from Rich Kids or The Undertones, while "Pissing Blood" is more lean, bad intent dripping off Bad Seeds riffs.

More details on Shogun and the Sheets via the band's official website, or via the band's official Facebook page.

[Photo: Aaron Blakely]

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

What If: A Brief Review Of The New Album From The Moles (Richard Davies Of Cardinal)

Richard Davies is an Australian-American with a Welsh name. I think he's a lawyer here in America now. And, of course, he's also one of the most brilliant songwriters to have bubbled up from the indie-pop depths in decades. He's recorded with Robert Pollard (as Cosmos), Eric Matthews (as Cardinal), and Bob Fay (from Sebadoh), but he's also the main-man behind The Moles. The band, without a lot of fanfare, have been prepping a new release, and I'm happy to share some thoughts on it. Code Word, a double-album, drops on Super Secret Records on Friday, and it's a big, sprawling, sometimes-messy-but-never-boring sort of record.

Some of this, like opener "Moon in the Daytime" and the supple "Queen Anne", sounds a whole lot like those solo albums Davies offered up to some quiet levels of acclaim a few decades ago. If this is chamber pop, it's a robust sort, the kind that suggests that Davies has been influenced by not only Davies (the other two), but also McGuinn. The punchy "Riptide" segues abruptly into some spoken word stuff, while the excellent "What If" seems a funked-up cousin to the best material on that one album from Cardinal. Oddly, despite a large list of players under his command here on Code Word, Davis seems more confident throughout this offering than he did on parts of the last excellent Moles release. And that gets at the crux of the difficulty in praising what is -- perhaps intentionally -- a disjointed collection.

Now, that's not to say that Code Word is more seamless overall, 'cause it's not, but, rather, to indicate that Davies' strengths as a singer and performer still positively leap out of the speakers as the selections on Code Word unfurl. While the title track is a jazz piffle, the blast of "Prison Girls" restores faith in this guy's chops once again. A rough beast that's part Stones, part GBV, the cut is one of the real highlights here, as is the lovely "After May", a Forster-ish ramble punctuated by the bleeps of a Stereolab single. Swinging between the lilting psych-folk of "Psych Folk" and the DIY rawk of "Cheaper To Keep Her" seems a bit insane, frankly, but Davies makes it work. Not once during Code Word was I anything less than charmed, and that's saying a lot for what is essentially a double-album.

Code Word is a slightly schizo release, but it's one that shows the genius of Richard Davies succeeding far more often than it fails. Assuredly adept and boldly out-of-step with expectations, this is a borderline-great record, and one that should please fans of Cardinal, Sebadoh (Boy Fay's on this too), and Seventies stuff like solo Harrison, Rockpile, Roxy, and Nick Lowe.

Code Word is out on Friday via Super Secret Records.

Monday, October 15, 2018

"I Am A Hopeless Optimist At Heart": My 2018 Interview With Martin Phillipps Of The Chills

The music of The Chills has meant a lot to me over the course of the last 30 years. There's something smart about the indie-pop of this group that has made Martin Phillipps one of my very favorite songwriters and performers. The band is riding high after the release of their most recent album, Snow Bound, out now via Fire Records, and reviewed by me here. It is, perhaps unsurprisingly, a superb record, full of life and energy, and the sort of release that really makes me happy as a fan and a reviewer.

What also made me really happy this year, as it did in 2015, is that I got a chance to sit down and talk to Martin Phillips about Snow Bound and other Chills-related matters.

Glenn, kenixfan: Snow Bound has a slightly more holistic feel than Silver Bullets, to my mind. Is this, not Silver Bullets, really the first full record you've produced with the new line-up of The Chills? How did the other band members contribute to the creation of these songs?

MARTIN PHILLIPPS: The whole band has been involved with both the Silver Bullets and Snow Bound albums, but there was material (or parts and ideas for material) which dated back a long way for Silver Bullets whereas nearly all of the parts for Snow Bound have arrived since the previous album. The band were therefore much more involved in the development of the new material and had a much better idea of what I was trying to achieve. They also were able to put forth better ideas and solutions to musical problems than I could possible have come up with by myself.

Glenn, kenixfan: Can you speak to the role of producer Greg Haver on this one? Snow Bound has a very clean and uncluttered sound.

MARTIN PHILLIPPS: On the album Silver Bullets I didn't want to work with a "name" producer as I was determined to find our own atmosphere and style and bring the sound of The Chills up to date using only an excellent engineer/co-producer -- who we were lucky to have in Brendan Davies. But with Snow Bound, having shown everyone where we could be heading with our albums, it was time to work with a good producer who could take us further than we were able to go ourselves. Greg Haver was excellent in understanding what I was trying to achieve and also in seeing the whole potential of the band to take the material to a higher level. He respected my song-writing but was prepared to push me further when necessary. He also has an excellent team who he works with to achieve the wonderful audio quality that many are commenting on.

Glenn, kenixfan: Your music has admittedly helped me when I've been depressed as a young man, and yet I read that you have suffered from depression in the last few decades which seems astonishing given how "positive" so much of the music of The Chills seems. How much of the tone and mood of your more recent songs is a result of these battles you've faced?

MARTIN PHILLIPPS: I guess that one of the problems with depression is that if someone puts on an outwardly bright front or sends out positive messages then most people can miss the darkness that may often be eating away at the person behind those messages. This is something I am not alone in having to battle with constantly and life will always provide new fuel for that fire -- but it can also bring a sense of acceptance as we grow older and learn to see our situation, and that of others, with a much broader view.

Glenn, kenixfan: Songs like "Time To Atone" and "In Harmony" could be read as both personal and political. Has the way you write lyrics changed in the last few decades?

MARTIN PHILLIPPS: The main thing that has changed for me is that I now tend to filter out the more frivolous material and concentrate on what seems more important because I believe we live in a time of urgency and I don't wish to add more mediocre material to the growing heap of disposable rubbish being produced these days. That is not to say that there is not also more wonderful and adventurous music and art being produced now around the world than perhaps ever before, because I believe that could be the case, but one may have to look that little bit harder to find it.

Glenn, kenixfan: One of the things that drew me to the music of The Chills so many years ago was what seemed a lack of ironic detachment; I can think of no other songwriter who could get away with songs as directly affirmative as "Look For The Good in Others And They'll See The Good In You" and "Heavenly Pop Hit", for example, and have the results work so well. Do you write for yourself or do you write for some imagined audience?

MARTIN PHILLIPPS: I began by trying to create the albums that I wished to listen to myself but could find no-one else actually creating at the time. Now I feel I have made some of that music become real and that I have also inspired other people to explore similar areas. But the downside of that is that I can never really separate the final product from the memories of what went into its creation, so I can never simply enjoy it as others might when hearing it unaccompanied by the baggage of the back-stories. So I keep moving forward because, in some ways, I am a hopeless optimist at heart.

Glenn, kenixfan: Is "Deep Belief" the result of your recent health battles? A hymn to finally turning a corner and getting healthy, if not cured?

MARTIN PHILLIPPS: I think that "Deep Belief" is one of the more important songs I have written and it deals with that knowledge which comes with maturity but also having to face the reality of one's own mortality. Yet it also acknowledges the realization that you have not therefore been given the right to preach to others about your own beliefs just because you are starting to experience the calmness of acceptance.

Glenn, kenixfan: Looking back at the last 30 years of The Chills, do you ever feel like you've had to compromise your vision as an artist and performer?

MARTIN PHILLIPPS: I feel that we have generally been very fortunate in that we have existed largely outside of the trends of the mainstream and we have also been lucky enough to have produced a string of catchy tunes which have made, for many, The Chills music a recognizable sound after all this time. And that is without us having to bow unduly to the pressure of adapting what we naturally do to achieve more far-reaching commercial success.

Glenn, kenixfan: What's next for this iteration of The Chills? Any U.S. tour in the near-future?

MARTIN PHILLIPPS: Plans are being finalized to tour and promote Snow Bound in the U.S. and also the U.K. and E.U. as early in 2019 as is possible. There is a feature-length major documentary about The Chills being released early next year which will also be needing our promotion. Then we will be working on the next album because we feel we are in a very positive place again and that we need to keep creating and moving forward.

Glenn, kenixfan: Will the box set ever see wider re-release?

MARTIN PHILLIPPS: The Secret Box box-set was really a kind of official bootleg release but we are hoping to re-issue it in a much expanded form with improved quality and replacing tracks like the BBC sessions (which are now available separately) with other lost gems from our catalogue of rarities.

(NOTE: the BBC sessions are available here from Fire Records, and the disc was reviewed by me here).

Glenn, kenixfan: Thank you so very much for your music and your time today! All the best Martin!

MARTIN PHILLIPPS: Thank you and thank you for the interesting questions. It does make a difference.

Snow Bound by The Chills is out now via Fire Records.

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

Special Thanks to Scott Muir for helping set up this interview!

[Photo: Alorx]

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Heads Up About The New Anna Connolly Album (Featuring Joe Lally Of Fugazi, Stefan Bauschmid Of Numbers Station, And Devin Ocampo Of The Effects)

The new album from D.C. figure Anna Connolly, After Thoughts, out tomorrow, is a set of bracing post-punk. If some of these numbers seem like skewed folk, there are a few more that suggest pioneers like Kristin Hersh or PJ Harvey.

"21" is a frank confessional that is surprisingly astute and clear-headed, no easy nostalgia for the early days of the scene here, while the affecting "Stars" sees Connolly offer up a Joni Mitchell-like vocal performance even as the rough chords underneath her voice suggest bands from Dischord in the Nineties. That makes sense given the presence of Joe Lally on this album. The Fugazi bassist adds subtle inflections here, as does drummer Stefan Bauschmid (Numbers Station, Garland of Hours). The lilting "Jewels" haunts, while the rougher "Three Times" serves as a superb showcase for Anna's vocals, and the production by Devin Ocampo (The Effects). After Thoughts closes with an austere cover of "Copper" by Shellac. The track for me echoed the sort of thing Kristin Hersh frequently pursues, poetic post-punk for lack of a better term.

Connolly has poured a lot of herself into these tracks and a listener is rewarded with music that is at times confessional but never too confrontational. After Thoughts was a record that was surprisingly easy to dive into, numbers like "Drink Up My Love" seeping into the ears like honey being poured. That Anna didn't simply rely on her own gifts as a singer is to be commended as the bits and pieces here that momentarily punctuate or complement the tunes make this record something special indeed.

After Thoughts by Anna Connolly is out tomorrow. Anna Connolly is playing a record release show in D.C. tomorrow night at Dew Drop Inn.

More details on Anna Connolly via

Monday, October 8, 2018

"I Don't Want The Spell To Be Broken": My Interview With Lawrence (Felt, Denim, Go-Kart Mozart)

In early 1987, my friend Wolfgang bought Forever Breathes The Lonely Word (1986) from Felt on vinyl at Olsson's in Georgetown largely because the album cover vaguely reminded us of the front of Filigree and Shadow by This Mortal Coil. I can still recall Wolfgang's frantic call the next morning to say, "This sounds nothing like 4AD stuff! The singer sounds like Tom Verlaine!" As we were also fans of Television, this was seen as a good thing.

Sometime after that, I got Gold Mine Trash on import cassette, likely at the same store, and I drove around D.C. for ages memorizing those singles, and the instrumentals on side two. And that's how I fell in love with Felt.

The folks at Cherry Red Records have this year been putting out remastered editions of all 10 albums the band Felt released in the Eighties. The reissues have been offered up in two batches, reviewed by me here, and here. This is the sort of undertaking that fans have long deserved, the albums from the band having long needed this level of attention. And while front-man Lawrence has pursued other projects after the demise of Felt, it's these records that have secured his place in the hearts of anyone who loves UK indie-rock.

I sat down today to call Lawrence, to discuss the new Felt reissues, Denim, and Go-Kart Mozart. Having read recent interviews with the man who is nothing if not an enigma, I didn't know what to expect. In other pieces, there are indications of recent hardships suffered by Lawrence, hardships that have prevented him from being as famous as he surely deserves to be, and as famous as he longs to be. Knowing all that stuff, I was pleasantly surprised by how gracious Lawrence is with his genius and his time.

"I can't remember the actual seed of it anymore," he says describing the idea of reissuing the Felt albums. "It seemed to be the right time for Cherry Red," he explains, "but I was never satisfied [in the past]." As he says, "This was the last chance to get it right," a process that has taken six years.

When asked if he is happy with the albums now, Lawrence said, "Absolutely. We made those 10 albums really fast in a decade," making what he calls "minor mistakes" at times. "But, at this point, I was able to rectify [any minor mistakes]."

In some instances, those "minor mistakes" were really the results of others. The Robin Guthrie mixes of the tracks on album number 4 famously remained a big issue to be fixed. As for Ignite the Seven Cannons (1985), Lawrence has gone back, having kept the tapes of the six vocal tracks from the release, to "re-model," in his words, the album.

Having been present at the mixing of "Primitive Painters", Lawrence explains that it still sounds great, "because I was part of" the mixing with Robin Guthrie, unlike the other selections on the album. And "'Primitive Painters' has not been need to mess about with that." As for the rest of the record, he elaborates: "You couldn't hear the songs for the production. Robin Guthrie from the Cocteau Twins produced the record...and I wasn't allowed to be in the studio when he mixed the songs." That lack of input from Lawrence allowed Robin too much of a free rein and, as Lawrence explains, "he covered the songs with a blanket of effects." By making the songs on Ignite The Seven Cannons "shine" now, Lawrence has dramatically restored the album to its intended glory, and one gets a real sense of the front-man's genius here in this noble and well-intentioned mission to save this LP. Long-time fans may be surprised (as I was upon first listen), but this version of Ignite the Seven Cannons is how it was always intended to sound, and Lawrence's work with John A. Rivers has removed "the fog over the tracks." As Lawrence explains, "All I've done is peel the fog away," partly to elevate the sound of Maurice Deebank's gutiar "right to the top" of the album's mix.

This discussion really illuminated for me how involved Lawrence has been with the 2018 reissues of the Felt records. While Cherry Red rightly has a lot riding on these, it remains Lawrence's project, his intentions guiding this effort to shape the releases that will continue to grow "the cult of Felt," as he calls it.

Naturally, I had to ask some questions about a few of my favorite Felt songs, songs I know and love because of the versions on Gold Mine Trash. The demo versions of "Sunlight Bathed the Golden Glow" and "Dismantled King is Off the Throne" found on that compilation are the result of the band being poised to sign to a Warner Brothers label, a proposed offshoot from Cherry Red. Lawrence and the band recorded those for that Warners pitch, but having nowhere else to place the cuts once it seemed Warner Brothers was not going to sign the band, he placed those two John A. Rivers-produced versions on Gold Mine Trash (1987). "We had to do demos for Warners, basically," he explains. "I thought it was the perfect place to put them," in order that Gold Mine Trash would not have just album tracks.

For The Pictorial Jackson Review (1988), the eighth album from Felt, Lawrence says, "What I've done, is put it back to the way it originally was." When it was about to come out, "I panicked," and "that's why the original album is an album of two halves," with the instrumentals on side two. But with this 2018 version, he's righted what was a "wrong thing to do," and now he's "gone back to the original album... This is how it was when we actually made The Pictorial Jackson Review" in 1988.

Following the dissolution of Felt, Lawrence launched Denim, a project he agrees one can hear foreshadowing of in the grooves on the final Felt release, Me And A Monkey On The Moon from 1989. "We were trying to get out of an independent ghetto, that's what we were in." And that's a sentiment one gathers applies to both Felt and Denim. "We wanted to be part of the everyday pop world." As for Denim, the need to hit the road to support the band's releases seems to have taken its toll on that group. "We had to do some shows," since the band had to play live to get an audience. "What we're gonna do is, in a couple of years maybe," he says of Denim, "we're probably going to do a Denim box," he indicates, "The three albums, and the single that was never released." But the band was an "idea that was so big, so grand, it couldn't possibly last."

"It's very unusual for someone to have three great bands," he says of what he accomplished with Felt and then Denim. "Go-Kart Mozart was... [taking my] foot off the pedal" Having realized he would never have a hit, he approached the Go-Kart Mozart efforts with a new perspective. "It's not a big commercial venture, it's about having fun...and making some great music with some great musicians." Does Lawrence agree that he might sound liberated here on these recent Go-Kart Mozart releases, like 2017's Mozart's Mini-Mart? "Yeah, I think so." Having released a few albums now, "We're coming to the end of the cycle now. Go-Kart Mozart was about doing four albums really quick, in really quick succession." But, as he explains, "Another one is coming in February [2019]", and then the band will have a break and "wait for people to catch up again."

And while the other projects are certainly important ones, it was with Felt that Lawrence rose to some sort of fame. And it's that band which will assure that Lawrence is rightly heralded as a genius forever.

"We had to wait a long time for the cult of Felt to happen, and I knew that was going to happen. I knew that," Lawrence instructs. And, if fame is the one thing he's never quite entirely grasped, "At the moment, I'm satisfied. Obviously, I'd love to be in a big band," with a bigger level of fame, and one imagines, greater familiarity with newer waves of fans. "I want to be on national television. I want to be famous." But, as he explains, by way of discussing Denim and Felt, and the lack of ambition he sees in other indie musicians, he seems content. "But at the moment I'm satisfied, because the cult [of Felt] is building. It's not like an avalanche. But it's building everyday," he says of the enduring legacy of the band.

And these reissues, this whole A Decade in Music project is a way for Lawrence to correct the record, and the records themselves. As he says, the blogs -- (hopefully not this one) -- have "gotten lots of the facts wrong about the Felt Decade" project, he says, indicating his displeasure with some of the reactions to the 2018 versions of the albums. "There are lots of misrepresentations of what we've done. All I've really done is try to make something really special and beautiful for the fans," he says. And when Lawrence says he's put his "heart and soul" into the project, one realizes how monumental this undertaking has been for the artist. These 2018 reissues of the Felt studio albums are meant to be the final word on the releases, and given the input from Lawrence himself, they certainly should be.

Dismissing any fears that these would need to be reissued again, "This is it," he states. "This is the final look at the decade of Felt." Gold Mine Trash and Bubblegum Perfume are out next year [on vinyl from 1972 Records], but this whole project now with Cherry Red represents the final, purest versions of these 10 Felt albums.

"There's nothing [else] in the can. When we recorded a record, we recorded all the songs we had," he says, "We recorded what we had and everything's been released." And, he stresses, "All I've tried to do is make something really, really special for the fans," he says of these reissues of the Felt albums. "There's no extras at all. I'm really proud of that, and Felt have not joined in the disease," of reissuing everything from sessions, like demos and live albums, which "spoils it, really."

"Sometimes people make too much stuff," he says. "I think I'm in a good place now because the time away gave people a chance to catch up and re-evaluate [the Felt records]," he explains.

"I'll always hold on to that mystery. I've been safeguarding the reputation of Felt for so long even when there was hardly anybody interested," he stresses, "nurturing" the band's image and legacy. And, he adds, "If you say that you're a fan of what I do, please go out and buy a vinyl record. You don't have to buy them all. Just buy one. Don't listen to it on Spotify. If you don't buy the vinyl, you're not a fan. If you don't buy the vinyl, we're gonna lose the chance to make more music."

While Lawrence's music has meant so much to me and many others of my generation, it seems as if the legacy of Felt is one that is to be cherished by Lawrence, and cherished in such a way that it's never tarnished or diluted. And, at times in the interview, I felt like I was simply a happy-and-willing messenger for the conveyance of Lawrence's final word on the band's work.

"I'm going to do my best to make sure nobody writes a biography of Felt," he says. "I do not want Felt to be broken. Felt is about mystery. It's about 'under-the-covers, in-the-dark', and it's not about shining a light on the background of the members, what we did in school, and all that shit." And that's why he says, "I'll never collaborate on a Felt biography."

"I don't want that spell to be broken. I really think that the music stands up for itself."

All the Felt albums are out now via Cherry Red Records.

More details via

Many thanks to Lawrence. Extra special thanks to Matt Ingram from Cherry Red Records for arranging everything. And special thanks to my friend Stan for helping me prep for the interview.

[Photos: PP Hartnett; Deegan; P. Kelly; Band photo by Jane Leonard; Color band photos: PP Hartnett]

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Heads Up About A Brand New EP From Des Demonas

While many of us are still playing that first full-length from Des Demonas a whole lot, a few of us are also looking forward to new tunes being offered up by the D.C.-based band. Now, while the debut Des Demonas, out now on In The Red Records, and reviewed by me here, was a superb album, new music from these guys can only be a good thing.

The new Bay of Pigs EP from the band is, unsurprisingly, superb. Out on November 16 from the Slovenly label, this is a blast of post-punk sure to please fans of this group, and devotees of this esteemed label.

Opener "Bay of Pigs" glides in on a keyboard riff like something off a Tubeway Army single, electro-menace positively oozing out of the speakers. The cut is a progression of what's on Des Demonas but Jacky Cougar's vocals anchor this, his near-drone on the mic an instrument every bit as formidable as the others in the mix, while a fiery, closing guitar solo by Mark Cisneros pushes this further into the ether. The flip, "Skrewz", is punchier, a nice amalgamation of Sex Pistols riffs and faints hints from the hooks of a slow-burner from The Buzzcocks throughout.

There's a real wall of sound-thing here on this EP that suggests Des Demonas have stepped up their sonic attack for 2018 and beyond, their garage rock now louder and more ruthless. Bay of Pigs will be out on November 16 from Des Demonas. Des Demonas by Des Demonas is out now via In The Red Records.

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

[Photo: me, 2018]

Friday, October 5, 2018

A Little Jumpy: A Quick Review Of The New Album From Electric Six

The new record from Electric Six, Bride Of The Devil, out today via Metropolis Records, is a blast. A set of tight, punchy pop-punk tunes, the release flies by with more enthusiasm in its grooves than records from newer bands.

"Daddy's Boy" roars like earlier Electric Six numbers with the guitars only louder this time around, while the peppy "(It Gets) (A Little) Jumpy" is a spry bit of guitar-rock, a nice melody wrapped in a studded glove. Elsewhere, the tight "Hades Ladies" buzzes with real bad intent, even as the title cut suggests the best hair metal from the Eighties, the riffs crunchy and the lyrics tongue-in-cheek. Amazingly, on this, album number 14, Dick Valentine manages to sing these cuts with the conviction of a young upstart, the sleazy "You're Toast" another riff-tastic throwback, and "Full Moon Over The Internet" an admirably tuneful bit of alt-rock.

At their best, Electric Six make music that's a bit silly, very loud, and entirely fun. There's not a lot of depth here, of course, but there's a lot of cleverness behind these numbers. That (and a big hook) counts for a lot in my book.

Bride Of The Devil by Electric Six is out today via Metropolis Records.

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

[Photo: Uncredited promotional pic]

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Sleeping With Angels Is No Way To Live: A Brief Review Of The New Kristin Hersh Album

There's a point during "No Shade In Shadow", one of the standout tracks on the new Kristin Hersh album, Possible Dust Clouds, out tomorrow on Fire Records, where the whole Kristin Hersh machine grinds-and-churns like the joints of the Tin Man as he stumbles down Yellow Brick Road. If the cut, like many here on this superb record, suggests a new path for this sonic explorer, it seems if Hersh is already on the scent, the ruminative and vaguely-sinister compositions here making up one of her best releases in years.

With multiple Throwing Muses alums and other players in tow (Fred Abong, David Narcizo, Rob Ahlers, and Chris Brady), Kristin here charts territory that juts up against that found on Led Zeppelin IV ("LAX", "Lethe"), and some other stretches that nod in the direction of those who've taken formative inspiration from Hersh herself like PJ Harvey ("Loudmouth"). If lots of Possible Dust Clouds sounds more direct and in-your-face, it's worth noting that this is her first release on Fire Records, and her first since the epic Wyatt At The Coyote Palace in 2016, reviewed by me here. Which is all to say that, something like a fresh start was all but inevitable.

While one might be tempted to fall back to praising "Gin" and "Lady Godiva" since they feel familiar to a long-time fan of Kristin, it's clear that Hersh is interested in stretching here, with the real standouts on Possible Dust Clouds remaining the woozy "Breathe In", and the hard "Tulum", a swampy slow-boil, all undulating bass-lines and caveman drum-thumps. If these numbers, and a few others here, signal Hersh's desire to try some new musical shadings, the lyrics throughout Possible Dust Clouds retain that Muses spark. And even with tempos slowed, and frenzy coiled, Hersh remains an amazing singer, lines like "sleeping with angels is no way to live" (from "No Shade in Shadow") purred as if foreshadowing something wonderful and terrible coming over the horizon.

A rough beast of a record, Possible Dust Clouds has a heavy creak about it that indicates something timeless being brought to life, the neo-primitive hooks here carrying forward Hersh speak-and-beats like Karloff lumbering as Frankenstein's monster. For old school fans of Kristin Hersh -- and are there any other kinds!?! -- Possible Dust Clouds reveals some new tricks in her kit, fresh sinister angles from which she can pursue, or stalk, her own muses.

Possible Dust Clouds is out tomorrow via Fire Records.

More details on Kristin Hersh via

[Photo: Peter Mellekas]

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

My Word's The Only Thing I've Ever Needed: A Quick Review Of The New Album From Cat Power

Cat Power does more with less than perhaps any other musician active in 2018. Her approach on her new album, Wanderer, is minimalist, perhaps, but there's depth here that's lacking in the releases of nearly any other artist making music these days. The record, her first since her escape from Matador Records to Domino Records, is an elegant, nearly elegiac tone poem, the sort of album that manages to feel as light as air and as heavy as the purest blues.

Chan Marshall marries a slight classical piano-figure over the trace of a rumba on the catchy "In Your Face", even as she touches a nerve on "You Get", the rough marriage of a soul hook with an admirably Simone-like stab at a jazz ballad. Throughout Wanderer, there's a real purity in the presentation, Chan's mission seemingly one that aims to strip away everything unnecessary from these compositions.

Now, if that sounds suspiciously like the austere approach one found on a few earlier records from Cat Power, Marshall, thankfully, projects a new vibe of limber confidence here, a cut like "Nothing Really Matters" retaining a power that stuns in its simplicity. If the strut-shuffle of "Woman", a selection with guest vocalist Lana Del Rey, is more direct, Marshall boldly declaring that "my word's the only thing I've ever needed", the hazy "Horizon" pulls us further into the void. The tune is, clearly, one of the highlights here on Wanderer, Chan once again blurring the lines between genres even as she conveys a starkly beautiful, profoundly sorrowful flash of feeling here. This is music that is flush with emotion even as it's remarkably concise, a note or chord never wasted.

Her skill as a performer extends to an exquisite run at the Rihanna hit "Stay", rendered here so perfectly that one forgets this is a cover. A breathtaking piece of work, the cut stands as, frankly, one of the best covers Chan's ever committed to vinyl. Still, for all her skill as an interpreter of others' songs, Chan Marshall remains a stunningly gifted performer of her own compositions. Numbers like "Black" and "Robbin Hood", and a bunch more on Wanderer stick in the memory with the sort of instant immediacy that sets Cat Power up as the heir of artists as diverse as Leonard Cohen, Nina Simone, and Laura Nyro, among many others.

Wanderer by Cat Power will be out on Friday via Domino.

More details on Cat Power via her official Facebook page, or her official website.

[Photo: Eliot Lee Hazel]

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Poison: A Quick Review Of The New Album From The David Nance Group

The new album from The David Nance Group, Peaced And Slightly Pulverized, out Friday on the fine Trouble in Mind label, is a strange beast. Equal parts acid rock nostalgia trip and post-rock exploration, it's a formidable release.

Some of the shorter numbers here, like the greasy "Poison", suggest a neat blend of early Royal Trux and Stones-obsessed Primal Scream, while others, like the epic "Amethyst", hint at a seamless melding of the sort of guitar-rock Neil Young favored with Crazy Horse with the mindset of formative Sonic Youth work-outs. The music is, if not accessible, at least brave, the kind of thing that takes skill to pull off. Thankfully, David Nance and his crew can make credible stabs here at this brand of stuff, a number like "In Her Kingdom" roaring past with the fervor that one can find in earlier Bad Seeds selections. If Nance is not quite Nick Cave, he's at least wholly committed to this approach. And if I can't quite love the entirety of Peaced And Slightly Pulverized, I can at least admire its brute force, and the bravado with which the David Nance Group even attempts this sonic attack.

Peaced And Slightly Pulverized is out on Friday via Trouble in Mind Records.

[Photo: Anna Dewey Nance]

Monday, October 1, 2018

Anorak: A Brief Review Of The New Album From Peel Dream Magazine On Slumberland Records

If a record could be said to have time-warping properties, it's likely Modern Meta Physic. The debut full-length from Peel Dream Magazine, out on Friday via Slumberland Records, sounds so much like bits of Transient Random-Noise Bursts with Announcements in spots, that a listener to this NYC-originating band's new release could be forgiven for thinking this was some lost recording from Sadier and co. Now, that said, there's loads more here that suggests a fresh spin on the sort of indie being perpetuated in these grooves. The band might have a song called "Anorak", but even anoraks can advance the form, you know?

Opener "Qi Velocity" purrs with a familiar near-Krautrock rhythm, even as the dreamy "Shenandoah" strays just this side of dream-pop, the strong hook here keeping this from flying away into the ether. Elsewhere, the droning "Deetjen's" nods in the direction of My Bloody Valentine's output right around the time of the Tremolo EP, a nice buzz looping through this, even as the excellent, previously-mentioned "Anorak" put me in mind of stuff from D.C.'s own Unrest.

Now, for all that talk of those other, earlier excellent bands, there's no way to deny how effortlessly Peel Dream Magazine pull all this off. There's a real subtlety here that other bands would have stumbled over. Where it would have been an easy move to lose themselves in feedback, Peel Dream Magazine instead ride easy hooks through the future funk of "Fires", or glide off into a woozy haze on Due To Advances In Modern Tourism", a real highlight here on Modern Meta Physic.

There's something special here on Modern Meta Physic and if, admittedly, some of these numbers sound familiar, at least Peel Dream Magazine manage to make these selections sound fresh too. A listener is likely to feel a renewed, invigorated enthusiasm for this kind of thing thanks to the tuneful offerings here.

Modern Meta Physic by Peel Dream Magazine is out Friday on Slumberland Records.

More details on Peel Dream Magazine via the band's official Facebook page.

[Photo: Migs Govea]