Tuesday, May 22, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

[Photo: Abby Banks]

Friday, May 18, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 17, 2018

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

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

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

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

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

Wide Awake! is out on Friday via Rough Trade.

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

[Photo: Ebru Yiliz]

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Photo: Leah Nash]

Monday, May 14, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, May 12, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 10, 2018

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

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

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

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

Rest In Peace will be out tomorrow via PNKSLM.

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

[Photo: Anna Rauhala]

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

[Photo: Shawn Brackbill]

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

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

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

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

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

Floating Features is out on Friday via Hardly Art.

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

[Photo: Chona Kasinger]

Monday, May 7, 2018

Dream Away: A Quick Review Of The New Connections Album

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

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

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

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

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

[Photo: Seth Moses Miller]

Sunday, May 6, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Photos: me or my wife]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Catch It: A Brief Review Of The New Iceage Album

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

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

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

[Photo: Steve Gullick]

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

[Photo: Yasamine June]

Sunday, April 29, 2018

How It Can Be: A Quick Review Of The New Album From Cut Worms

The new album from Cut Worms, Hollow Ground, out on Friday via Jagjaguwar, is as fine a collection of indie-pop as 2018 is likely to see. Song after song charms and quietly amazes here, with main-man Max Clarke revealing himself to be a substantial talent on this record. But we sort of knew that already, didn't we?

Opener "How It Can Be" sounds like something from The Beau Brummels, while numbers like "Coward's Confidence" signify a considerable debt owed to Phil and Don. Elsewhere, "It Won't Be Long" suggest the influence of The Kinks in their Muswell Hillbilly-phase, while "Till Tomorrow Goes Away" is bright, chippy music hall-stuff, the sound of a Yank sifting through a dozen or so worthy influences from the British music scene some decades ago. The longer "Like Going Down Sideways" didn't work as much for me, but when Max keeps things concise, like on the peppy "Think I Might Be In Love", Clarke hits at a sort of timelessness that imbues these cuts with a weird familiarity, such that a listener can grasp at pieces that sound like bands you're in love with already.

There's so much here to love that Hollow Ground seems like one of the more significant records of 2018 and we're only 4 months in. Max Clarke as Cut Worms has crafted a set of tunes here that all charm. Fans of chamber-pop, and the Nuggets-era stuff, should love this record, and so should anyone who's looking for well-crafted indie-pop.

Hollow Ground by Cut Worms will be out on Friday via Jagjaguwar.

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

[Photo: Joyce Lee]

Stars Align: A Few Words About The New Belly Album (Yes, I Said The New Belly Album)

I don't think anyone was losing sleep waiting for a Belly reunion. Sure, some of us positively loved Star in 1993 and King in 1995, but it's doubtful that there seemed a need for the band to return, especially considering Tanya Donelly's consistent career as a solo artist.

Still, there's reason to rejoice as the band -- Donelly, Thomas Gorman on guitars, Gail Greenwood on bass, and Chris Gorman on drums -- have reconvened to present us with the surprisingly melodic Dove, due for release next Friday. If the record doesn't quite punch with the intermittent ferocity found on those earlier 2 releases, it at least succeeds remarkably well as a showcase for the talents of Tanya Donelly, one of the most formidable band-leaders from the heyday of alt-rock.

The lyrical "Stars Align" finds Donelly offering up that familiar mixture of vulnerability and bravado found in her best vocal performances, as the band revs up comfortably behind her, while the easy-to-love "Girl" features a hook to die for. Elsewhere, the mid-tempo "Artifact" sounds a tiny bit like something from The Pretenders, while the more expansive "Human Child" takes more risks musically than one might expect to find on a Belly record. Some of this ("Suffer the Fools", "Quicksand") is going to sound very familiar to anyone who's been following Tanya Donelly's solo career, but stuff like "Army of Clay" has a kick that echoes those earlier, great Belly recordings, and suggests that these players are still capable of firing on all cylinders when the material's right.

A record full of of modest successes, Dove sees Belly offer up an album that's not only an extension of the sound of the band's earlier releases, but also a set of many reminders of what a fantastic singer Tanya Donelly is, and how much joy her voice can continue to bring listeners.

More details on Dove via the official Belly website.

[Photo: Uncredited promo picture from the band's website]

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

What's Your Secret? A Quick Review Of The New Bart And The Bedazzled Album

Bart Davenport is a guy who knows exactly how to craft a pop song. In that regard, he's the sort of natural at songwriting that places him within range of favorable comparisons to Michael Head and Paddy McAloon. The new record from Bart and the Bedazzled, Blue Motel, drops on Friday and it's a sublime affair, full of the sort of melodies and hooks that echo old Associates singles and more recent Divine Comedy offerings.

The band is made up of Davenport, bassist Jessica Espeleta, guitarist Wayne Faler, and drummer Andres Renteria, and the players here make this material positively soar. The title cut chimes, while the even-lighter "What's Your Secret (Cleo)?" nods in the direction of both Aztec Camera and The Pale Fountains. Elsewhere, the lovely "The House That Built Itself" made me think of stuff from The Wild Swans and, oddly, Squeeze, while the superb "Grownups" is the sort of thing that Roddy Frame once perfected, all smart lyrics over rippling guitars. There aren't any serious missteps here, though the laconic jazz of "The Amateurs" suggests weaker album cuts from Everything But The Girl. Still, for the most part, Blue Hotel is rapturously beautiful in the fashion of old Pearlfishers albums, or even that first great Danny Wilson release.

Blue Motel will be out on Friday. More details below, or via the links on the band's Bandcamp page.

More details on Bart Davenport and Bart and the Bedazzled via Bart's official website.

[Photo: Carlie Kinnear]

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Next Heroes: A Brief Review Of The New EP From D.C.'s Own Piramid Scheme

Piramid Scheme are a relatively new band from the D.C. area but front-person Lisa Said has been a mainstay of the local scene here for some time. She's now brought her formidable talents to this act, along with Darrien Day on bass and guitars and Andrew Toy on drums, to offer up forceful and assured post-punk. The group's debut release, the EP Get Rick Quick Too, drops on Friday, and it's a blast.

Opener "Bandwagon Jumping Machine" sees Lisa offer up a near-snarl, near-purr over top of a slinky riff that suggests something from Concrete Blonde, or even Marianne Faithfull, while the memorable "Next Hero" finds the band riding a rhythmic hook full of coiled tension. The cut illustrates the wonderful symmetry between these players, as does the poppy "Regular Guy", a track which has a great video from director Scott Crawford (Salad Days: A Decade of Punk in Washington, DC 1980-1990). Lisa's vocals on this one have an undeniable Patti Smith-like quality to them, and one can't help but favorably compare this song to stuff like "Glitter in Their Eyes" or similar numbers from Patti's Nineties Renaissance. Piramid Scheme close their EP with the blues-y strut of "Pay2Play", a selection that marries a guitar-figure like something off of a Radiohead record with a more insinuating approach to alt-rock, like those recent Afghan Whigs songs.

Centered as they are around the powerful vocals of Lisa Said, the tunes of Piramid Scheme are fresh additions to the rich musical history of this region. Get Rick Quick Too is out on Friday and I'd urge anyone who's a fan of Lisa Said, or the acts I mentioned in passing here in this review, to seek this release out and see the band when you can.

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

[Photo: Lynda Julie]

Monday, April 23, 2018

Isn't It Obvious? A Few Words About The New D.A. Stern EP

It seems only days ago that I was raving about D.A. Stern's Aloha Hola, out now on Slumberland Records. And while that hype should certainly continue since that is a great record, it's time to crank up the enthusiasm again as D.A. Stern has offered up a brand-new EP featuring 2 originals and 2 choice covers.

Opener and title cut "Isn't It Obvious?" positively chimes. A distant sonic cousin to "Everything With You" from Slumberland Records legends The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, the track expands on the sort of power-pop found on Aloha Hola to offer up a fuzzier sort of indie-rock. Elsewhere, a cover of "Art School" from Frankie Cosmos sees Stern turn the number into a woozy bit of business that sounds a whole lot like "The Concept" from Teenage Fanclub to these ears, while "My Baby (Axe Nice)", originally by Mannequin Pussy, roars by on a bed of buzzsaw guitars. Closer "Tenafly Cop" finds Stern delivering an original that echoes both glam rock and early Cramps numbers.

Isn't It Obvious? may not be a long record but it is a superb one. A nice dessert treat following the feast of Aloha Hola, this new EP from D.A. Stern is a real gem, and the sort of thing that should please both fans of earlier Slumberland Records bands, as well as those who've come here for bright, modern American power-pop.

Isn't It Obvious? is out now via Slumberland Records.

More details on D.A. Stern via his official Facebook page.

[Photo: Christopher Chou]

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Be Positive: A Quick Review Of The New Album From Trevor Burton (The Move)

Founding member of The Move, Trevor Burton has returned to offer up a really affecting album of cover versions, and a few originals. The release, Long Play, drops on Gray Sky Records this week, and it's a nice blend of the sort of English pop one would expect from the guy behind "Blackberry Way", as well as a record of modern British folk.

Burton wisely chose some good songs to cover here, from the sweet "Flirted With You All My Life" by the late Vic Chesnutt, and on to the loveliest song Tom Petty ever wrote ("Wildflowers"), Burton reveals himself to be an expert interpreter of these compositions. Elsewhere, "After It Ends" offers up a hook that's vaguely reminiscent of a Move single, even if the cut was written by the genius John Vanderslice, while "Just Breathe" by Eddie Vedder allows Burton an opportunity to inject a good deal of emotion into his performance here on Long Play. The odd "Be Positive", originally by Refrigerator, sees Burton approach the track like he would have the rougher numbers on the final Move records, while the more familiar "In The Aeroplane Over The Sea" by Neutral Milk Hotel allows Burton a chance to move beyond the folk-y vibe here into something more complicated.

Trevor Burton has revealed talents here that are markedly different than those that allowed him to create so much great music with The Move. And yet, there's something familiar here in his delivery that allows, say, a cover of a Mountain Goats song to sound vaguely like those wonderful Move singles from so many decades ago.

Long Play by Trevor Burton is out this week via Gray Sky Records.

More details on Trevor Burton via TrevorBurton.net.

[Photo: Uncredited promotional image]

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Come Down Softly To My Soul: A Few Words About A Few Spacemen 3 Reissues

In the very near-future, the fine folks at the fine Superior Viaduct label are going to be offering up a bunch of Spacemen 3 reissues. For lots of you, this material is stuff you're familiar with. For lots more, it's stuff that you probably have on some format, but which you now want on vinyl. Whatever the reason for your attraction to these releases, these records are some of the best proto-shoegaze offerings from an era when indie rock in the U.K. was lurching through the diminishing C86 wave, and about to crash into another one, with bands like My Bloody Valentine and Spacemen 3 at the helm of the ship.

Originally released in 1990 or so, Taking Drugs To Make Music To Take Drugs To is a collection of demos from the early days of the band, when Jason Pierce and Peter Kember were finding their way, and before Spacemen 3 settled into being the garage-y outfit found on records like The Perfect Prescription. Tracks here bristle with life, with numbers like "The Sound of Confusion" and "Come Down Easy" serving in these versions as rough templates for the longer, more out there editions that were released later on subsequent Spacemen 3 albums. The sharp brutalism of "Amen" is the V.U.-style of drone rock reduced to its most basic elements, a shadow of "No Fun" by Iggy and crew casting itself over the track as well. Elsewhere, "Things'll Never Be The Same" rips things up, while the eerily-lovely "Transparent Radiation (Organ Version)" sees a familiar number from the band's catalog in its earliest, purest form.

The essential Playing With Fire from 1989 finds Spacemen 3 riding between musical poles that suggest pure bliss ("Come Down Softly To My Soul") and the start of an anarchic uprising ("Revolution"). What's here from Sonic Boom (Peter Kember) and the guy who'd form Spiritualized (Jason Pierce) is the melange of the sounds that both musicians would unveil in other outlets later. At their best here, like on the brief "I Believe It", one can hear the very sound that Bobby Gillespie would use as the basis for his best tracks on the Screamadelica album some time later, or, on "Honey", the kind of thing that suggests what bands like Slowdive and The Telescopes would pursue in the years after the release of Playing With Fire. And to say that is to acknowledge that this release is indeed that seminal to the entire genre. Kember and Pierce may have been on the outs here but what's on the record is remarkably coherent and cohesive. This remains one of the great, underrated shoegaze records.

Recurring from 1991 is an album I didn't really like back then but which I sort of appreciate now. Of a piece with the sort of band-simplifying-their-sound-approach found on the self-titled Love and Rockets album from 1989, Recurring sees the sonic attack of Spacemen 3 polished and refined to its simplistic core. Gone are the Nuggets-style work-outs from earlier releases, and in their place are gems like the spacious and space-y "Hypnotized" and similar numbers that foreshadow what Pierce would do on the best Spiritualized records, and Kember would do on those Sonic Boom releases. Still, for the moments that shine here, there's stuff like the lengthy and unwieldy "Big City (Everyone I Know Can Be Found Here)", a 10-minute trip through the detritus of acid summer in England, that is far less successful for being too of its era.

The very essence of the sound of Spacemen 3, and, as such, some of the building blocks of an entire genre of music in England and elsewhere, Taking Drugs To Make Music To Take Drugs To, Playing With Fire, and Recurring make the collective case for the continuing importance of Spacemen 3, and, by extension, the genius of Peter Kember (Sonic Boom, J. Spaceman) and Jason Pierce (Spiritualized). The records remain expansive, near-visionary listening experiences.

Taking Drugs To Make Music To Take Drugs To, Playing With Fire, and Recurring are all out this week via the Superior Viaduct label.

Monday, April 16, 2018

You Could Be Better: A Quick Review Of The New Drinks Album

Some few years ago, I expressed my befuddlement at the first Drinks record -- and I also explained why I simply refuse to write the band's name in all-caps as it's shown elsewhere. And, since I only review things here that I like, I faced the challenge of trying to outline the positives of a record that really sort of puzzled me.

Well, now, in 2018, I'm happy to report that the new Drinks album, Hippo Lite, out Friday on Drag City, is a good deal easier to embrace. If anything, Hippo Lite sacrifices none of the experimentation of the first album from the band, while offering up a new layer of accessibility. "Blue From The Dark" blends a bit of Sixties-style chamber pop with an insistent melody to start the album, while the jittery "Real Outside" echoes both early Talking Heads and Slits records. To name-drop those artists is not to suggest that Tim Presley sounds like David Byrne, nor that Cate Le Bon sounds like Ari Up, but, rather, that Drinks clearly owe a huge debt to artists that pursued new textures and rhythmic attacks in the immediate post-punk years some decades ago. "In The Night Kitchen" is more angular, while "Greasing Up" nods in the direction of those V.U. cuts where John Cale took the lead, to go even further back for a comparison point. "Leave The Lights On" is a good showcase for Cate Le Bon as a vocalist, while closer "You Could Be Better" marries the more avant-garde approach of Drinks with something that sounds a bit like the sort of thing routinely offered up by bands like Broadcast or Lake Ruth.

Drinks have taken a lot of risks here on their second album, even as they've edged a tiny bit closer to what makes up a fairly mainstream strain of alternative music in the 21st century. Given that, I'd heartily recommend Hippo Lite to both fans of Tim Presley (White Fence) or Cate Le Bon, as well as to listeners in search of something a bit more adventurous than lots of what's out there at the moment.

Hippo Lite is out on Friday via Drag City.

[Photo: H. Hawkline]

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Made Out Of Honey: A Quick Review Of The New Azalia Snail Album

Azalia Snail has been a mainstay of the American indie scene for a long time. And one can understand her longevity when one hears the sort of bright pop she routinely cranks out. Her newest record, Neon Resistance, is out now via Silber Records and it's as fine a record as any in her rich back-catalog.

The trippy "Celeste (Can You Feel It)" kicks things off, before the percolating electro-pop texture of the peppy "Field Rep" propels things forward into the ether. This is spacious, nearly-dazzling indie, the sort of thing that should soundtrack a spring day nicely. Elsewhere, the lovely "Cherry Blossom" recalls stuff from Broadcast a bit, as does the more languid "Made Out of Honey" after that. The very best tunes here, namely "Weekend Back" and "The Moral Chemist", nod in the direction of The Go! Team and Danielle Dax, respectively, Snail wisely layering multiple electronic effects upon the tracks to offer up lo-fi that's less reliant on guitars than other stuff out there in the market-place. The subtle and space-y "I Am The Night Sky" closes the record in splendid fashion, the tune a nice cousin to the sort of thing Laetitia Sadier has been attempting as a solo artist recently.

Every Azalia Snail record is interesting. That's a given. But I'll venture that Neon Resistance is one of her better, bolder recent releases. Azalia has taken some chances here and the results are some of the lightest-and-loveliest compositions in her rich back-catalog. Subtly brave, the electro-tinged indie on Neon Resistance is great stuff that's easy to love.

Neon Resistance is out now via Silber Records.

More details on Azalia Snail via her official Facebook page.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Never Coming Back: A Brief Review Of The New Album From A Place To Bury Strangers

Three years, A Place To Bury Strangers dropped a record which was loud and boisterous. Back then, I found a lot to enjoy in the band's music. With the release today of their new album, Pinned, out now on Dead Oceans, I find myself not as enamored of what this crew is doing.

Whereas before it seemed as if the band was at least cribbing a bit from My Bloody Valentine and Loop, now, it seems like they have been listening to and taking notes from a bunch of Interpol and Sisters of Mercy records. Admittedly, "There's Only One of Us" has a nice throb reminiscent of Eighties electro-poppers, while the brighter "Execution" offers up a more interesting set of textures. "Look Me in the Eye" suggests Nine Inch Nails, while the catchy "Never Coming Back" is more 21st century Depeche Mode than anything else. The harder songs here -- "Attitude", "Act Your Age" -- are moderately enjoyable but, really, for a band that was previously a bit derivative, I kinda wish that A Place To Bury Strangers had picked more interesting reference-points this time around.

Pinned by A Place To Bury Strangers is out today via Dead Oceans.

More details on A Place To Bury Strangers via the band's official website, or their official Facebook page.

[Photo: Ebru Yildiz]

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Everybody Needs You: A Quick Review Of The New Laura Veirs Album

The new Laura Veirs record, The Lookout, out tomorrow via Raven Marching Band, is the sort of release that both surprises and soothes. There's a lot of rich and artistic material here from the prolific singer-songwriter, and one gives thanks to whatever deity is watching over indie-pop that music like this is still being made.

From the bright, skittering rhythms of lead single "Everybody Needs You" and on to the rolling chords of "Watch Fire", a number with Sufjan Stevens, lots of what's here on The Lookout is superbly-realized art-folk, for lack of a better term. Veirs understands both how to construct a hook, as well as how to create texture, and that's darn important. "Lightning Rod", for instance, uses a loping rhythmic figure underneath vocals from Laura that makes the composition seem to recall songs from both Nanci Griffith and Jane Siberry. To name those other artists is to place this in some sort of context for newer fans such as myself. While some of this, like "Seven Falls", nods in the direction of past giants like Judee Sill, lots of other cuts here, namely the rich "Canyon", recall the more lyrical work of The Roches, for instance. There's even something vaguely Stones-y about "Mountains of the Moon", another highlight here.

For all her tremendous talent, Laura Veirs remains an artist who can control her gifts, as the material here is concise, and expertly-performed. The Lookout is so easy to enjoy, and so full of moments of grace and heart, that it stands as one of the best releases of this season.

The Lookout by Laura Veirs is out tomorrow via Raven Marching Band.

More details on Laura Veirs via her official website.

[Photo: Jason Quigley]

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

A Soundtrack To The Void: A Quick Review Of The New Manic Street Preachers Album

There's something so big, so majestic about the chorus of "International Blue", the lead single off of Resistance is Futile from Manic Street Preachers, that one marvels at how this band have consistently not been embraced on this side of the Atlantic the way they have overseas. Then again, look who's president now, eh? So much for the mystery of Yankee bad taste. As the Welsh band prepares to drop this, their 13th album, there's something reliably ambitious about the kind of pop being pursued and crafted by this lot here.

And what we're confronted with here on Resistance is Futile is an assessing and an assimilating. For as much as some of this sounds like bits from Send Away the Tigers (2007), or has flashes of the futuristic sheen of Futurology (2014), or even dashes of the odd punchiness of Know Your Enemy (2001), there's something new here, something slicker, more refined. If the Manic Street Preachers have done anything here on Resistance is Futile it's to swing for the fences (to use a baseball metaphor about a bunch of guys from Wales). And what this all means for fans, both old and casual, is that we've to give ourselves over again to that strange mix of brain-and-heart at work here in the music of Sean Moore, Nicky Wire, and James Dean Bradfield. What's here is, as always, the sound of a trio of smart fellows surrendering to their own pure-pop inclinations, with the result being the band's best -- and most consistent -- record in ages.

Now, for all that, there's also a lot of cribbing here, perhaps more than is normal for a trio of guys who've always worn their love of a bunch of diverse influences proudly on their sleeves. Maybe even more than on any recent release, the band seem content to nod in the direction of dozens of fine reference points: "In Eternity" is all Ultravox-pining-for-Bowie's-Berlin, echoes of the Manics' own Futurology (2014) abounding, while "Hold Me Like a Heaven" is easier to get stuck in the head, the tune's big hook decidedly radio-friendly, almost like an Imagine Dragons chorus. The song is, like a few here, almost catchy in spite of itself, the Manics pushing themselves dangerously close to the mainstream yet again, even as the more contrary "Broken Algorithims" ends up sounding more like Rush than anything else.

"Dylan and Caitlin", featuring guest vocals from The Anchoress, about Dylan Thomas and his wife, is this band's "Angel of Harlem", which is to say an unexpectedly peppy throwback to an era when Dusty Springfield and Dionne Warwick were in the Top 40, while AC/DC's "Thunderstruck" seems to have been the inspiration for "Sequels of Forgotten Wars", another clear winner here thanks to Bradfield's success with a skewed, understated guitar-line. On "Song for the Sadness", James nicks the faintest hint of a Slash guitar hook to serve as the central riff of the track, even as drummer Sean Moore seems to be channeling every John Bonham skin-smash ever sampled by the Beastie Boys. The cut is the more bombastic cousin to earlier numbers like "The Second Great Depression", but more buoyant, while the chugging "People Give In" has all the "Autobahn"-like precision of cuts from Futurology, even as it breaks into grand, sunshine-dappled string-breaks, the peaks of "Australia" writ even larger.

Those moments, and many in the first 2 singles ("International Blue" and "Distant Colours"), highlight the genius of this band, that unique blend of intellect and emotion that is rarely pulled off so deftly and precisely. The moments that move here -- and there are many, especially on the Hillsborough-referencing "Liverpool Revisited" -- season tracks every bit as big and shiny as those of, say, ELO, with the sort of smart pop that post-punk perpetually promised (and rarely delivered). Resistance is Futile sounds like the culmination of something, the search, sans Richey, for those moments when rock-and-roll truly can deliver us from our misery, and reveal something large and majestic within us as listeners and fans.

Resistance is Futile is out on Friday everywhere.

More details on Manic Street Preachers via Manics.co.uk

[Photo: Uncredited promotional picture from band's Facebook page]

Monday, April 9, 2018

Just Passing By: A Brief Review Of The New Anton Barbeau Album

The new album by Anton Barbeau blends the musician's familiar, playful take on power-pop, with a more lyrical, inspired spin on the sort of stuff Todd Rundgren could once be reliably counted on to provide. Natural Causes, out on Friday via Beehive, is a fine record, one that is sure to appeal to fans of XTC and Jellyfish, and, of course, Rundgren's stuff.

Robbie McIntosh of McCartney's band adds some guitars to the lush "Disambiguation", one of the highlights here, and "It's The Coffee" reminded me of Split Enz a bit, another major compliment to the skills of Barbeau at delivering this sort of thing. Elsewhere, "Magic Sandwiches" sounds like you might imagine, but it's less silly and brighter than you'd figure, while "Just Passing By" positively rocks, the chords sharp and crackling ones. And while I suppose that a lot of listeners will be drawn to this because of how Rundgren-ian lots of Natural Causes sounds, or because of the guests on this record (Andy Metcalfe, members of Bevis Frond, Karla Kane, etc.), but what those listeners should really be attracted to is Barbeau's ease here at crafting material like this. This is really good stuff for power-pop fans, especially anyone who's worn out their copy of Oranges and Lemons.

Natural Causes will be out on Friday via Beehive Records.

More details on Anton Barbeau via his official website.

[Photo: Kristine Chambers]

Friday, April 6, 2018

Unnatural Act: A Quick Review Of The New Wreckless Eric Album

The new album from Wreckless Eric, Construction Time and Demolition, out today, is as good a showcase for the multiple talents of the legendary singer-songwriter as one is likely to encounter. A ramble through multiple genres, Eric Goulden (birth-name of Wreckless Eric) tries his hand at various styles here and succeeds at most of them.

From the twang-y near-glam of "Unnatural Act" and the absolutely lovely "The World Revolved Around Me", the cuts here are uniformly excellent, with Eric operating with a level of assurance that is wonderful. Goulden uses "Wow and Flutter" to tell a cautionary tale, while the brighter "Flash" offers up a jaunty hook in an all-too-brief song. The pointed "Gateway to Europe" stands as one of Goulden's very best compositions to date, even if the longer, rambling "Forget Who You Are" seems less successful.

Construction Time and Demolition sees Wreckless Eric traipse through the forms of both classic pub rock, and the sort of singer-songwriter stuff that owes far more to Luke Haines, for example, than it does to Richard Thompson. An excellent record, Construction Time and Demolition works for a listener who's deeply familiar with this guy's back-catalog and for those who only know that one big hit from "40 Years" ago (as the track here goes).

Construction Time and Demolition is out today. More details via WrecklessEric.com.

[Photo: Uncredited Bandcamp image]