Thursday, January 31, 2019

Until The End: A Brief Review Of The New Album From The Telescopes

For a band that's rightly labelled as one of the pioneers of the first wave of shoegaze acts, the new record from The Telescopes is remarkably spacious and expansive. Full of as much emptiness as it contains feedback, Exploding Head Syndrome, out tomorrow on Tapete Records, is a fairly consistent offering from a band that's never really stopped making challenging music.

Stephen Lawrie knows his way around a good drone, as evidenced by this record's superb "You Were Never Here", even as he favors a more rhythmic approach on "Everything Turns Into You", a song full of unease and softly-thunderous percussion. Elsewhere, "Until The End" nearly drifts away into the cosmos, the void beckoning, while the more straightforward "Don't Place Your Happiness In The Hands Of Another" takes a real hook and stretches it to the breaking point. The tune is, like a few here on Exploding Head Syndrome, languid and druggy, but isn't the best music that too?

A record that seems, if not visionary, at least begrudgingly transcendent, Exploding Head Syndrome is a fairly tight release from The Telescopes. One of the quietest records this lot have yet brought forth, this LP is really soothing, even as the faint throb of album closer "Why Do We Do This To Each Other?" suggests a new direction for Lawrie and his muse.

Exploding Head Syndrome is out tomorrow via Tapete Records.

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

[Photo: Tapete Records]

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Chasing That Feeling: A Brief Review Of The New Album From Business Of Dreams On Slumberland Records

A neat blend of chamber pop and bedsit indie, the new album from Business of Dreams, out on Friday, is another feather in the cap of Slumberland Records. And while lots of Ripe For Anarchy recalls Corey Cunningham's other bands (Smokescreens, Terry Malts), there's an elegance here that suggests nothing so much as the brighter numbers on that fab Young Guv record that Slumberland put out a couple of years ago.

"Chasing That Feeling" whirs and coos, a neat blend of power pop and modern indie, while the lush "Ripe For Anarchy" made me think of both O.M.D. and Death Cab For Cutie. Cunningham is using this material to work out questions of loss and grief, and a listener can easily appreciate how the bright sheen of these tunes is being used as a sort of counterpart to the emotions in the lyrics, like on the aching "Don't Let Our Time Expire", a Jimmy Webb-goes-electronic number here. Elsewhere, the shiny "Naive Scenes" stands out as a sort of neat amalgamation of Care and The Blue Nile, to use two easy points of comparison. To his credit, Corey Cunningham doesn't overdo things, the production and instrumentation serving these compositions, rather than simply being ends unto themselves. At his very best, like on the Joy Division-recalling "Keep The Blues Away", Corey Cunningham manages to make indie that stays just this side of ornate, the pop sense at work here a strong one.

Ripe For Anarchy is out on Friday via Slumberland Records.

[Photo: Uncredited promotional image]

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Everything's Thrilling: A Brief Review Of Zeppelin Over China From Guided By Voices

The genius of Robert Pollard is a perennial thing. And while he's prolific, he's not always as prolific as he is poised to be in 2019. The first of three Guided By Voices releases set for 2019, and just a mere month or so removed from the release of their last two superb EP offerings, the band is set to drop the epic Zeppelin Over China this Friday. The 32-track monster is a double-album that covers the entire breadth of Pollard's landscape of composition. It is also a pretty good showcase for the talents of the other players here, with Doug Gillard (guitar), Bobby Bare, Jr. (guitar), Mark Shue (bass), and Kevin March (drums) relishing every twist and turn found on the tunes on this sprawling record.

Lots of these tracks were trotted out on the band's recent tour dates, and hearing something like "You Own The Night" in its finished form reveals a more focused, tighter number than the one played in concert. Similarly, the lyrical "My Future In Barcelona" echoes both "My Valuable Hunting Knife" and "Echoes Myron" before it explodes in an exquisite chorus. The cut is modulated, with Pollard seemingly drawing out the power-pop richness as the band fires up behind him. Elsewhere, recent live fave "The Rally Boys" positively rocks, the band's best slab of direct Who-like rock they've put forward in at least a year. "Everything's Thrilling" is, like compositions on Space Gun, full of bits that seem to directly reference old Townshend-penned singles, while "Questions Of The Test" is even harder, drummer March and bassist Shue anchoring things behind an attack of ragged guitars from Gillard and Bare.

And while it's fun to focus on just the obvious, punchiest numbers here on Zeppelin Over China, a record like this, of this length, also obviously contains loads of other, more intricate tracks. The light "Bellicose Starling" pursues an easy hook through near-folk-y folds of music, while the excellent "Nice About You" is a bit of not-too-complex post-punk, the twists-and-turns giving way to moments that are nearly cathartic.

I suppose one can detect some diversions here from the band's last few records. Things are (at moments) murkier, and closer to what one heard on, say, Bee Thousand of Alien Lanes than anything else, with Robert Pollard pushing this excellent line-up of the group to stretch as players, a bit. Zeppelin Over China *seems* a new start in spots, with stuff like "Holy Rhythm" and "Lurk of the Worm", for instance, pointing towards a more exploratory approach for GBV.

Still, for all that, Bob Pollard isn't going to mess with success too much with this set of guys around him. With this group firing on all cylinders throughout Zeppelin Over China, the usual GBV thrills are offered up, even amid fuzzier work-outs, or bits of quick, power-pop. Twenty years ago, Pollard and his fellas would have served up 32 tracks in 40 minutes, or something, but now he's content to let this material breathe where it needs to. And given the skills of this line-up, that makes perfect sense. Zeppelin Over China is a record to get lost in, a release that gives up enough in terms of listening pleasure, that surely fans of any of this band's many eras will be able to find lots to love here.

Zeppelin Over China is out on Friday via Rockathon Records.

More details on Guided By Voices via

For information on Robert Pollard's artwork, check

[Photos: Guided By Voices at Black Cat in D.C., October 2018, by me]

Monday, January 28, 2019

How Much: A Quick Review Of The New Album From Tiny Ruins

The new record from New Zealand band Tiny Ruins, Olympic Girls, out on Friday via Ba Da Bing here in the States, is a remarkable release. At first listen, things seem pitched in the direction of the audiences of Cat Power or Elliott Smith, and yet the material here is quietly risky, with each cut containing something subtle to haunt a listener.

Leader Hollie Fullbrook anchors the selections here, like the woozy "How Much", with the sort of warm vocals that one once found on albums from Aimee Mann and Sandy Denny, while tunes like the title cut here reveal debts owed to early solo records from the members of The Beatles -- well, maybe not any of Ringo's. Elsewhere, the fantastic "Holograms" nods in the direction of the best offerings from Fiona Apple, or Van Morrison, the tune a slow burn that gives itself over to a real rush of a chorus. And while "One Million Flowers" sways on the back of the sort of hook that Joni Mitchell would have used at the peak of her powers, Fullbrook and crew -- Cass Basil on bass, Alex Freer on drums, and Tom Healy on electric guitar -- burnish the big melody with understated, and thoroughly precise bits of jazz inflection.

So much of Olympic Girls charms that I really hopes it reaches a wide audience here. If people want to lump this in with Cat Power's style of music, that's fine because I like Cat Power, but, really, there's a lot going on here under the surface of things, enough that I kept thinking back to my favorite, most meditative Van Morrison releases, or certain ballads from Rufus Wainwright even as I enjoyed this sort of take on those forms. Hollie Fullbrook has revealed herself as a formidable force here, and I recommend this record highly.

Olympic Girls by Tiny Ruins is out on Friday via Ba Da Bing Records.

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

[Photo: Jenna Todd]

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Swimming Against The Tide: A Brief Review Of The New Album From Deep Cut (ex-Revolver, Death In Vegas)

Mat Flint was in Revolver back in the Nineties, and then in Death in Vegas after that. He's also the guy behind Deep Cut. And while the band's name might suggest something in the house vein, the group's newest album, out now on Gare Du Nord, is a superb shoegaze offering. Recorded in 2015, Different Planet features tunes that recall the best moments from Slowdive or Lush.

Vocalist Emma Bailey leads the purring "Still Counting" to glory, while the lighter and brighter "Hanging Around" made me think of not only the already-mentioned Lush, but Dubstar. Elsewhere, the excellent "Swimming Against The Tide" soars, thanks in no small part to the drums of the ubiquitous Ian Button, and the bass of Mat's brother, Simon Flint. The cut is a catchy creation, as is the tight "The Last Goodbye", and for a band clearly invested in the shoegaze form, the players rarely get lost in a wash of effects. All the cuts here are expertly played and elegantly composed and Different Planet really surprised me.

I liked this record a lot, even as I had to acknowledge to myself that the album is a bit of a throwback. Still, there are worse things than being compared to the releases from the best bands of the Nineties. If Deep Cut seem to owe huge debts to earlier acts, they at least manage to make this sort of material feel fresh again. That almost all of Different Planet is infectious and fun to listen to helps too.

Different Planet by Deep Cut is out now via Gare Du Nord Records. More details via the label's official Facebook page.

[Photo: Uncredited promotional image]

Saturday, January 26, 2019

You Tear Me Up: A Review Of Two New Buzzcocks Reissues From Domino

The fine folks at Domino Records were already at work on a series of Buzzcocks reissues long before the band's singer and leader, Pete Shelley, died tragically last month. And while this music was already nearly burned into the brain, it is nice to have two new opportunities to revisit the most fertile period of these Manchester legends. Another Music In A Different Kitchen and Love Bites, the first two full-length albums from the band, both dropped in 1978 and they remain, as these remastered versions remind, fantastic distillations of the songwriting talent of Shelley and his crew, as well as virtually perfect post-punk pop records.

Another Music In A Different Kitchen was produced by Martin Rushent and the album still amazes. Seemingly rougher and less poppy -- in spots, at least -- than I'd perhaps remembered, the tunes here positively burst out of the speakers, with brash numbers like "Fast Cars" and "You Tear Me Up" jostling for space with more direct and catchy numbers, like the sublime and pristine "I Don't Mind", still a classic. Elsewhere, "Love Battery" offers up one of the best mixes of the group's punk and pop sensibilities one could find, with Steve Diggle's guitar an absolute beast here. "Fiction Romance" and "Autonomy", similarly, pound, the bass-work of Steve Garvey and the drumming of John Maher carrying these numbers into the void. "Moving Away From The Pulsebeat", the big closer with its electronic effects, indicated that the talents of these four players were not going to be confined by the limited palette then on offer for the first wave of punk rockers.

Love Bites, also released in 1978, saw the band team up with Martin Rushent for what seems an even more consistent release. Every cut here, even the risky "Late For The Train", roars by on the back of big hooks and even bigger riffs. "Real World" has an immediacy rivaled only by the big hit after it. "Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn't've)" is just a brilliant single, and the perfect example of how Shelley was able to channel a sort of cynical-yet-resiliently romantic outlook in the service or writing power-pop numbers. "Operator's Manual", "Nostalgia", "Just Lust", and "Sixteen Again" follow next and they remain punches on the joy button, just perfect compositions. Bassist Steve Garvey's "Walking Distance" and the lighter "Love Is Lies" are only slight missteps on what is a fantastic album. And I say that because two of my favorites Buzzcocks songs ever are on Love Bites. "Nothing Left", on this Domino Records version of Love Bites remains a delightfully-crisp rocker, buzzsaw guitars fighting it out with Maher's caveman drums and we've got what is, really, the U.K.'s version of The Ramones on this track. Finally, "E.S.P." starts with my favorite hook in the whole Buzzcocks back-catalogue, played (presumably) first by Diggle, then Shelley, before the bass and drums come in and carry things forward. It's an infectious cut that alternately roars and bounces, and I still think it's one of the best things Shelley ever composed.

If you've never heard these records you're in for a treat as these Domino versions of Another Music In A Different Kitchen and Love Bites sound modern and fresh. If you've already got these albums, and have cherished them for decades, you'll be surprised at how immaculate they sound now, instruments mixed perfectly, with the overall effect of each record even more readily apparent.

Another Music In A Different Kitchen and Love Bites are out now from Domino Records.

More details on Buzzcocks via the band's official website.

[Band photo: Chris Gabrin]

Friday, January 25, 2019

Magnetic Woman: A Quick Review Of The New Album from Eerie Wanda

Eerie Wanda is Marina Tadic. She sings songs that sound like they are from another world, with instrumentation that's just as unique. Her new album, Pet Town, is out today via Joyful Noise Recordings, and it's a distinctive release in a month filled with them.

The spry "Magnetic Woman" skips around the ears like a lullaby, while the title cut is more deliberate and icy. Elsewhere, "Hands of the Devil" and "Sleepy Eyes" recall earlier works by artists like Jane Siberry and Victoria Williams. If Tadic occasionally veers dangerously close to territory I'd call precious, she at least redeems a lot of this by keeping things light as air, and simple.

Lyrical and oddly catchy, the tunes on Pet Town linger in the memory thanks largely to Marina Tadic's delivery style. If the hooks are not nearly as sharp as one would like, the overall effect is a decidedly pleasant one, enough so that Pet Town is highly recommended.

Pet Town by Eerie Wanda is out today via Joyful Noise Recordings.

[Photo: Raphael Irie]

Thursday, January 24, 2019

I Can Dream You: A Quick Review Of The New Album From Tim Presley's White Fence

Tim Presley has, of course, offered up interesting records under his White Fence moniker, like 2016's The Wink, or that last Drinks album with Cate Le Bon, or the other Drinks record from even earlier. And while Presley can confound and perplex, he can also charm, and lots and lots of his new album, I Have To Feed Larry's Hawk, charms.

The record, billed to Tim Presley's White Fence, drops on Drag City on Friday, and it's alternately lush and (gently) discordant. The title cut is elegant, as is the John Cale-like "Phone", but it's stuff like the brighter "I Love You" that really grabbed me. A near-glam guitar-hook jostles with Presley's disembodied vocals, and the overall effect is like some odd mix of Tiny Tim and Syd Barrett. It's a blast of a tune, and "Lorelei" is even better. A bracing bit of art-rock, the track recalls early recordings from Broadcast, or even a more stripped-down Cardinal. Elsewhere, "I Can Dream You" marries a stark melody with faint flashes of instrumental ornamentation, while the fantastic "Forever Chained" soars and pops, like something off The White Album re-imagined by Seventies Bowie.

And while I Have To Feed Larry's Hawk succeeds as a bracing chamber pop record, it oversteps a bit by throwing two epic-length electronic pieces on to the album. At nearly 17 minutes total, these two tracks really distracted me from the charms that were peppered throughout the rest of the release. Still, I Have To Feed Larry's Hawk is one of the best Tim Presley offerings in recent memory.

I Have To Feed Larry's Hawk by Tim Presley's White Fence is out on Friday via Drag City.

[Photo: Devendra Banhart]

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Everyone's Going Somewhere: A Brief Review Of The New Swervedriver Album

I never quite understood how Swervedriver got labelled a shoegaze band. I mean, the Adam Franklin-fronted act favored loud tunes but there was focus in them, and little of the atmospheric explorations that some other players in that scene favored. And while Franklin is still interested in volume as a musician, he's offered up a remarkably direct record in Future Ruins, out on Friday via Dangerbird Records.

Opener "Mary Winter" roars like a truck going down a highway, a neat riff ridden into overdrive by Franklin and his crew, while the lovely "Good Times Are So Hard To Follow" marries an elegant instrumental-line with a really powerful hook. It's propulsive and contemplative all at the same time, and, really, few do this sort of thing better than Franklin. Elsewhere, the wonderfully-titled "Everyone's Going Somewhere And No One's Going Anywhere" unfurls in a dreamy haze, the drums from Mikey Jones beating time into the fog, while the rougher "Drone Lover" soars on the back of a melody that Teenage Fanclub or The Posies would kill for. "The Lonely Crowd Fades In The Air" chimes, a precise attack on all cylinders, while the more spacious "Theeascending" benefits from the presence of Mick Quinn in the band. The ex-Supergrass bassist finds ways to buttress the formidable guitar assault of Franklin and Jimmy Hartridge throughout Future Ruins and, most of the time here, the four-piece sounds confidently loud and enthusiastic.

Future Ruins finds Adam Franklin refining the Swervedriver sound a bit, such that the band still packs a loud punch, even as the prevalence of more mid-tempo numbers suggests something more considered and measured. There's force here, for sure, but also a kind of graceful exploration of both guitar-noise as well as the silence both before and after the feedback. Full of nuance and charm, Future Ruins seems to this reviewer one of the most consistent things Adam Franklin's offered up in ages.

Future Ruins will be out on Friday from Dangerbird Records.

More details on Swervedriver via the band's official website.

[Photo: Uncredited promotional image]

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Love Wins: A Brief Review Of The New Album From Light Vibes

Whatever you call it -- chamber pop or dream-pop -- it's a genre that has remarkable resilience. And while I almost hesitate to use it cavalierly, it fits the music of Sweden's Light Vibes. The duo's new album, Past/Present, out on Friday via Fading Trails Recordings, is a fantastic record, and one that veers easily between styles with a real melodic heft.

From the rippling pop of the title cut and on to the spry electronica of "Ivory Satin", there's a real sense of craft at work here. Erik Klinga and Mathias Zachrisson know exactly how to make this sort of thing work, with little wasted around the big hooks. "Love Wins" is elegance and grace, while the lush "Why You?" is a mix of aching loveliness and a big dose of the sort of music that one once found on albums from, say, The Blue Nile. Elsewhere, "Following" whirs by effortlessly, while the glorious "A Piece Of My Heart" coos and purrs, staying just this side of precious.

Light Vibes manage to compose and perform tunes that feel as light as air, and which retain a really strong sense of melodic power. I guess you could say that they know their way around a hook, ornamenting things with a carefully-chosen set of instrumental flourishes or effects. And that makes Past/Present a minor masterpiece of chamber pop, really.

Past/Present is out on Friday via Fading Trails Recordings.

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

[Photo: Uncredited photo from the band's Facebook page]

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Unwind: A Quick Review Of A Pair Of Green River Reissues From Sub Pop

There is no doubt that Green River were the first grunge band. Still, to say that is not to offer up a revelation of any kind but, rather, to remind again what that term once meant. Listening to this band's earliest recordings, reissued last week courtesy of Sub Pop, is to dive in again into a form that was -- albeit briefly -- something legitimatelly unseemly and dangerous.

While it's well known that two of these guys (Steve Turner and Mark Arm) would later form Mudhoney, and another two (Jeff Ament and Stone Gossard) would form Pearl Jam, the reality is that Green River were a pretty good act in their own right, as 1986's Dry As A Bone reveals. Expanded here considerably, the EP from the group sees Arm offer up Iggy-inspired riff-rockers like the spry "Unwind", and "Together We'll Never", all "No Fun"-style menace done up in a 'Mats-ish form. The release itself is nearly essential, especially for fans of both Mudhoney and Pearl Jam considering how far this music remains from the more recognizable sounds of those two groups.

Rehab Doll, the band's final full-length release, contains quite a few gems from the era, with rough numbers like "Swallow My Pride" and the wonderfully-named "Porkfist" staking out territory that's equal parts sludge-metal and Butthole Surfers noise-rock. The version of "One More Stitch" found here on Rehab Doll is more languid and sinister than the version found on Dry As A Bone, with shades of Sabbath even showing up, and it indicates a new direction that this band could have pursued.

If the music of Green River lacked the focus of that of later Sub Pop bands, at least there's a real, definable sound apparent on these two reissues. Grunge really, for all intents and purposes, begins here, with Mark Arm and his crew figuring out as they go along how to translate a love of old Stooges records into something that fit in with the Eighties U.S. alt-rock scene.

Dry As A Bone and Rehab Doll are out now via Sub Pop.

[Photo: Charles Peterson]

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Stars Around My Heart: A Quick Review Of The New Album From Steve Mason (The Beta Band)

That Steve Mason was in The Beta Band is relevant information for a potential listener to this record, surely. However, that fact shouldn't predispose you to judge his record, About The Light, out on Friday via Domino, a certain way prior to hearing it. In reality, for all the creative anarchy that the Betas unleashed in the studio, and spilled onto tape, About The Light reveals that Mason was always trying to write a great, big tune, even as the Betas sounded as if they were flailing about and splicing reels half the time. Which is another way of saying that About The Light is a great, direct pop album, no matter what you thought of The Beta Band.

Opener "America Is Your Boyfriend" offers up the sort of thing that Graham Parker once routinely cranked out, while the peppy "No One" is more straightforward alt-rock, with soaring hooks and big drum fills. Mason worked with Stephen Street here and, as a result, it makes sense that About The Light benefits from that partnership, with single "Walking Away With Love" a near-Britpop classic, while the title cut is a loose, flowing ramble with hints of both Traffic and late Blur about it. At his best here, like on the tighter "Stars Around My Heart", Mason marries an instrumental confidence with an easygoing charm, the sort of thing that suggests (somehow) a mix of the Beta Band and solo Noel Gallagher. Now, trust me, it works, as most of About The Light is remarkably tuneful, and the sort of release that offers up superb, modern indie-pop.

About The Light by Steve Mason is out on Friday via Domino.

More details on Steve Mason via his official website, or via his official Facebook page.

[Photo: Uncredited promo image from Steve Mason's Facebook page]

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Celebrate: A Quick Review Of The Debut Full-Length Album From Angelic Milk

There's something approaching a PNKSLM sound. To say that is not to suggest the kind of overarching sameness that one found on, say, 4AD right before the label signed Throwing Muses and Pixies, but, rather, to highlight that this label has an aesthetic. And the folks at PNKSLM pursued that vision perfectly when they signed Angelic Milk.

The Russian band has released a few things already, but this Friday sees the four-piece drop their debut full-length release. Divine Biker Love is, as its title suggests, the finest sort of glam-smash mash-up one could possibly envision coming from these musicians. As "Acid and Coca Cola" rockets out the speakers, equal parts Transvision Vamp and Phil Spector, a listener is knocked on the heels. The sound here is at once pop and the deconstruction of pop music. Nay, it's the obliteration of the form and reconstruction of it all at once. If a number like "Ball Gag Ki$$" suggests The Glitter Band covering early Siouxsie, it's also a superb rock-'n'-roll number, equal parts snarling and seductive. Elsewhere, the bright "Celebrate" sees Angelic Milk offer up something that sounds like The Cure circa-Head On The Door mixed with The Primitives. Lush and catchy, this is one of the best tracks this lot have offered up so far, and an indication of some subtle progression in their approach.

Divine Biker Love stands on its own as an excellent record. And for those of us who already loved this band, it reveals a refinement of the act's attack. "When The Limousines Pass By", for instance, is elegant and stately, even as "Black Flaming Hotel" nods directly back at The Jesus and Mary Chain. I suppose name-checking other acts is a futile cause here as so much of Angelic Milk's music is beyond easy description. Sure, stuff like "Winona" chimes with a certain indie familiarity, but the rest of Divine Biker Love stands as truly original in an era of safe approximation. There's something genuinely dangerous bubbling under here, and yet Angelic Milk have managed to craft something divinely catchy on this album. Divine Biker Love really is one of the best long-players I've heard yet from PNKSLM and I can think of no higher praise to offer than that.

Divine Biker Love is out on Friday via PNKSLM Recordings. More details via PNKSLM's official Facebook page.

More information on Angelic Milk via the band's official Facebook page.

[Photo: Uncredited promotional picture]

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Best Thing I Have Heard So Far In 2019 Is This New Single From Brighton's Winter Gardens

Brighton's Winter Gardens wear their influences on their sleeves, and, yeah, lots of new bands do. What Winter Gardens do that is so remarkable is blend those influences into something unique that stands on its own. The band's new single "Coral Bells", set to drop on Austerity Records next month, is a superb debut record, and the sort of thing one wants to play about a dozen times in a row after a first listen.

The players here -- Ananda, Jim, Matt, and Alex -- positively soar on "Coral Bells", and if a listener (obviously) thinks back to mid-Nineties-era Cocteau Twins stuff thanks to Ananda's incredible vocals, one should also notice how easily the other three players here have mastered this sort of thing. Shades of classic 4AD bands abound -- it is worth noting that the band has opened for Modern English already -- but flashes of "Spellbound"-era Siouxsie and The Banshees are also apparent, along with rhythmic lines reminiscent of early singles from New Order.

This is an absolutely fantastic track and I cannot wait to hear more from this band.

More details on Winter Gardens and the whole Austerity Records roster over at Austerity Records, or the label's Facebook page.

For more on Winter Gardens, head over to their official Facebook page.

[Photo: Uncredited promotional picture]