Kai Hugo works in two guises. Palmbomen is a group-oriented collaboration suited for live dynamics and instrumentation, while Palmbomen II is geared toward solitary production with an austere toolset: classic sequencers, time-tested drum machines and their contemporary counterparts. Hugo's foray as Palmbomen II makes its debut on Beats In Space Records with the eponymous full-length Palmbomen II.
Toy, the fourth LP from A Giant Dog and their second for Merge, shows the Austin quintet at the height of their powers. A solid year of road-dogging and woodshedding has made the band tighter than ever, the charging dynamo of Andrew Cashen and Andy Bauer's guitars in lockstep with the primal chug of the rhythm section Graham Low on bass and the recorded debut of Daniel Blanchard on drums. Singer Sabrina Ellis turns in another masterful performance, in equal parts brash, defiant, vulnerable, and raw. The band recorded Toy with Grammy-winning engineer Stuart Sikes (Loretta Lynn, Cat Power, The White Stripes, Reigning Sound), and singer/songwriter/guitarist/wildman Cashen produced it. "Andrew as producer makes a lot of sense," Sabrina says. "He composes the songs and knows better than anyone what they should sound like in the end. With him at the helm, we've arrived at a raw, truthful, risky, and rangey album." Toy is also sonically huge, pulling from a range of influences as diverse as Tinariwen and Thin Lizzy.
Swim Inside the Moon is a record by 24-year-old Angelo De Augustine. This second full-length of Angelo's career captures a sound he’s been looking for since he started playing music a decade ago:
"A sound behind the voice," says Angelo, who recorded all of this record in his bathtub using a reel-to-reel machine and a single Shure SM57 microphone. "I noticed that when you sing off a reflective surface you hear two voices. I was compelled to isolate that voice and bring it more to the front of the songs because in many ways I feel more connected to and comforted by that voice following me."
Listeners might hear Nick Drake's intricate arpeggiated guitar parts, Elliott Smith's pure vocals, or, at times, a likeness to the soulfulness of artists such as Vashti Bunyan, Judee Sill, and JosÃ© GonzÃ¡lez. But for Angelo's part, he found this sound on his own terms. As to what these songs mean, well, that’s harder to say. "I couldn’t tell you," says Angelo. "I get into this place, and then I wake up with a song instead of a dream."
'Spear in the City' is the fourth album from Los Angeles' Bodies of Water, and their first release since 2011. Since then, they've played with different friends in different guises (Music Go Music, Physical Jerks, The Confessions, The Coast), and recorded a trove of mostly unreleased music. "Before we dove into putting out another record," says singer David Metcalf, "we wanted to make sure we had a set of songs that felt like they needed an audience, which took a while to happen."
'Spear in the City' is an album of expansive and apocalyptic gospel music, pulsing baritone-led chansons Ã¡ la Jacques Brel and Scott Walker, but with the rhythmic groove and vocal polyphony that's been the group's signature since its beginnings. Metcalf elaborates: "When I tell people that it's a gospel record, what I mean is that the songs are about the world and work of the Spirit. It's not worship music. Since I've never felt the need to connect with religious culture or institutions, songs are a way to keep my eyes trained on the world inside the world, and the movement of the supernatural dimension into ours.
The songs on 'Spear in the City' are a continuation of a narrative that Bodies of Water began writing long ago. Songs of experience informed by lives entwined with faith. Songs that revel in the unknown, and the mysteries at the heart of that faith. 'Spear in the City' is not dogma, it is a reckoning.
It's hard to imagine who Forsyth's contemporaries might be, but it's always been that way: the greats tend to feel a little out-of-plumb with their moment (only hindsight lets us see it otherwise), and Forsyth's music has been sparring with some large forces from the beginning. He's always united the homely with the astral, the abstract with the visceral in his Solar Motels and Intensity Ghosts. There's something different about Dreaming In The Non-Dream, though. There's a fresh economy involved here, a sense, strange as this is to say about a record with two songs longer than eleven minutes, of not a note wasted. Despite psychedelic leanings, Forsyth's records have always trained toward concision -- plenty of space, yet never slack -- but these tunes erupt with startling swiftness, then spend the rest of their quick-burning lives teasing multiple moods and patterns out of relatively simple materials.
In August 2017, Ghostly International will reissue Com Truise's Cyanide Sisters EP in premium 12" jacket. The first official Com Truise release - originally a digital download through AMDISCS in 2010, remastered and expanded by Ghostly in 2012 - Cyanide Sisters was an electrifying introduction to a prodigious new talent. At the time Seth Haley was a designer by trade, making music out of his bedroom in Princeton, New Jersey with a collection of analogue equipment. While many of his contemporaries were mining nostalgia as an end unto itself, Haley recombined older musical forms as a means of expressing something deeper and more ambitious, building a carefully conceived picture of the artist’s vibrant inner world.
Three long years of anticipation have preceded San Francisco's psych-blasted, starry-eyed weirdos The Fresh & Onlys' return with Wolf Lie Down, their 6th LP and debut for Sinderlyn Records. Building on the band's literate guitar-pop arcana and seamlessly incorporating their pastoral desert-noir sensibility, Wolf Lies Down finds the band equally at home with anthemic garage rock burners and the brooding western twang. This new chapter in the elusive world of The Fresh & Onlys is a triumphant return to form as underground jangle titans.
Drum is the bold second album from Gold Class. The follow-up to 2015 debut It’s You, Drum is a brasher, vivid widescreen account of a band hitting its stride while betraying the complex signs and scars of a life since lived.
Formed in 2014 by a union of workmates and friends from a Melbourne bar and creative-writing course, Gold Class' string of lean, explosive live shows culminated in It's You - distillation of the then-fledgling group's wiry punk, carried by Curley's booming baritone and themes of personal politics, sexuality and identity. Recorded at Melbourne's Head Gap studios and co-produced by Gareth Liddiard of The Drones, Drum sees Gold Class explore new territory in both songwriting and sonics. Liddiard was instructive in helping the band capture these new moods. "We wanted to take a risk," says Curley. "He was the one person everyone felt could do something interesting with the album." Drum distils the messy scope of life into a brave, sometimes brutal but beautiful new document. Whatever will come, the beat - at least - goes on.
(Insight on Drum by Adam Curley, singer/lyricist for Gold Class)
The week we started to write Drum, my relationship ended and I was left alone in a draughty old house, which belonged to a friend of a friend. In the house, I sat around with my notebook, the quiet hours cut with news from friends and the TV: the suicides of musicians and writers I'd known and queer kids I hadn't; the systematic abuse of vulnerable people, the constant mockery of anyone on the outs.
I knew what the purpose of the album would be when I wrote the repeated line in 'Get Yours': "There’s none left here and all I need." I wanted it to be a record of defiance, a resistance to the idea of scrambling for a place at a table that wasn't set for you. A sort of a love letter to anyone who not only can't meet the standard but doesn't want to. I wanted it to be a record of rage and ecstasy and endless nights and sex and dumb fun and ventures in solidarity. Not just an album of urgency and longing, but one of abandon and a reclaiming of a self beyond boundaries.
But I couldn't avoid what was immediately happening in my life, either, that the end of my relationship had uncovered a lot of the feelings of isolation I experienced growing up. And so it turned out that the album is also personal, and I think is in conversation with queer histories of silence and evasion and transgression, which I was revisiting through the writing of James Baldwin and Cocteau. Childhood imagery kept creeping into the lyrics. Maybe I was trying to come to some peace with the past and to stand up and find some agency in the present. I suppose it was the most defiant thing I could think to do: not to write as some act of catharsis but in an attempt simply to document and claim my existence; that I am here.
On the farm in rural Australia where 24-year-old Sophie Payten - AKA Gordi - grew up, there's a paddock that leads down to a river. A few hundred meters away sits another house, which belongs to her 93-year-old grandmother. The rest, she says, "is just beautiful space. And what else would you fill it with if not music?"
And so she did, first tinkling away on an out-of-tune piano, and then on the acoustic guitar she got for her 12th birthday. Gordi's first foray into songwriting came in the form of performances at her school’s weekly chapel. There the chrysalis of the music she's making now — a brooding, multi-layered blend of electronica and folk, with lyrics that tend to avoid well-trodden paths -- began to form. "I often find that writing about platonic relationships," she says, "can be a great deal more powerful than writing about romantic ones." "Heaven I Know," the first single from Gordi's debut album Reservoir, is an example of just that. With the breathy chant of "123" chugging along beneath the song's sparse melody and melancholic piano chords, "Heaven I Know" gazes at the embers of a fading friendship. The ramifications of loss ripple throughout Reservoir, which she wrote and recorded in Wisconsin, Reykjavik, Los Angeles, and Sydney. Gordi produced two of the tracks herself ("Heaven I Know" and "I'm Done"), and co-produced the rest.
When it comes down to it, the running thread of the album is its lyrics. "Music is kind of what encases this story that you're trying to tell," says Gordi. Her stories are stark, honest, and soul-searching. Like "the trifecta" of Billy Joel, Carole King and James Taylor that sound-tracked her upbringing, she's unafraid to sit in contemplative melancholy — a place she calls, fittingly, "the reservoir."
Debut solo album from Jack Cooper of Ultimate Painting. A beautifully melancholic song cycle about life in England's "Las Vegas of the North",Blackpool and the desolate Fylde Coast.
Saxophonist and composer Joseph Shabason's debut Aytche builds a bridge off of the precipice his forbears established, skirting jazz, ambient, and even new age with the same deliberate genre-ambiguity that made their work so interesting.
Aytche is a document of exploration both inward and outward. Every step taken in sound-design mirrors a stride in emotionality, as Shabason employs a variety of effect pedals to coax rich moody textures from his instrument. He explains, "I feel like robbing the sax of the ability to shred by effecting it and turning it into a dense chordal instrument really helps the instrument become something that it's not usually known for." Aytche deals with themes of degenerative illness and assisted suicide with eloquence that instrumental music rarely achieves regarding any subject, much less such difficult ones.
Album highlight "Westmeath" approaches Aytche's subject of inspiration head-on. Here, the album's only verbalization appears in the form of an interview with a man discussing his father's trauma and eventual suicide after surviving the holocaust. Though we only hear a few obscured words and phrases from the interview, the impact is powerful. For Shabason, whose grandparents survived the holocaust, this selection is anything but frivolous.
A haunting and volcanic suite of electric guitar and piano from the modern master of the avant blues and the abstract -- Loren Connors. Angels That Fall slips deeper into Loren's headspace where vocalists in glissando and the swelling romanticism of chamber strings echo from beyond this mortal plane. Transcribed through Connors’ effect-laden six strings, he carries the listener from bluesy violence to sadness, hope and eventually a piano coda. Angels That Fall was recorded May 2016 at First Unitarian Congregational Society in Brooklyn, NY. This 500 edition 1-sided LP features cover art by Connors and a full-color inner sleeve with portraits of Connors. Includes download coupon.
On Mike Krol Is Never Dead: The First Two Records, we catch up—with the past, that is. Indeed, Turkey, released in 2015, is Chapter 3 of the Krol saga; here, finally, are its long-lost predecessors. Self-released in 2011, I Hate Jazz was the opening salvo of World War Krol. Only 500 copies were pressed; they were given away to anyone who showed interest (and many who showed none whatsoever). Including Krol classics like "Fifteen Minutes" and "Like a Star," the record has long been unavailable. Trust Fund followed in 2013; its 500 copies sold out on the ensuing tour, fueling a mini-mania that would elevate it to cult status. This set includes both records on freshly pressed Merge vinyl; an illuminating selection of digital outtakes, demos, and B-sides; and a fold-out poster showcasing a selection of Mike Krol ephemera.
Originally released in the fall of 2015, Palm's debut album, Trading Basics, challenges the listener's expectations with moments of dissonance that are reigned in and precise. The pretty moments are often where the chaos is. Amid these constant and rapid changes, the band sneaks in an unrelenting, trance-inducing repetition. Recorded and mixed by Eli Crews (Deerhoof, tUnE-yArDs) at Figure 8 Studios in Brooklyn, the album is a confident statement that this young band has carefully crafted a unique sonic vocabulary and methodology during their short time together. Being somewhat removed from city life, and having access to a 24-hour practice space, has resulted in an unparalleled level of discipline and focus on their craft, as well as a jaw-dropping live show that is not to be missed.
When I listen to our first album now, other than cringing at some clams and the vocals and the juvenile attitude of the whole thing... what was I angry about? You’ll have to ask 21-year-old me because in my memory, we were having fun. I hear the accumulation of our influences, which I suppose is normal for a first album—weaving all the things you loved up to that point into your own first thing. The Buzzcocks, HÃ¼sker DÃ¼, Dinosaur Jr, and Sonic Youth are all right there and what we were listening to.
I was living in NYC finishing school when we made this record, so rehearsals and recording were all rushed. I'm surprised we knew this many songs well enough to record them. Twenty-seven years later, we still play at least three or four of these songs live occasionally (one of them all the time...), which says something good about a few of the songs, anyway! We got so much better as a band, and as songwriters, that it’s hard to even see this as any kind of template for what Superchunk would eventually be, but it's definitely where we were at in 1989/90.
- Mac McCaughanMay 2017
Seven years in, Widowspeak remain purveyors of mood. Existing in a sonic overlap of indie rock, dream pop, downtrodden shoegaze, slow-core and invented "cowboy grunge", Widowspeak use familiar aesthetics as a narrative device, a purposeful nostalgic backdrop for songs that ask, "How did we get here?" Expect the Best, their fourth for Brooklyn's Captured Tracks, sees Widowspeak finding balance between opposing forces: darkness / light, quiet / loud, tension / calm. Moving around -- specifically the move back to the place where Hamilton grew up -- was the catalyst for a record concerned with self-examination and the sense of dread that comes from feeling adrift ("Dog"). Whether navigating anxieties in the digital age ("Expect the Best"), struggling for motivation ("When I Tried") or critiquing wanderlust and aspiration ("The Dream"), the songs here recognize you can't go back in time. The band navigates dynamic changes with subtlety and restraint; the nine tracks brim with both wide-eyed optimism and resigned melancholy. Their usual palette of dusty guitars and angular twang are still front and center, but now with a 90s homage, even if abstractly. It's perhaps their heaviest record to date, but never loses the sense of intimacy Widowspeak is known for.
It's either her second album or her ninth, depending on how you count, which means Amy O is both a new artist and a veteran. Growing up in Fayetteville, Arkansas, she taught herself to play guitar and write songs, eventually recording a series of lo-fi albums as she moved around the country for college and work. The endeavor was more about her own experience: the thrill and the discipline of making art. "Songwriting became a way for me to process things and make sense of my life. I got hooked on it emotionally."
Today, Amy's songwriting processes remains the same. 'Elastic' is an album about learning to live in your own inescapable skin- a challenge that defines not just Amy's life, but everybody's existence. Identifying that universal truth has shaped Amy into an exciting and insightful artist, one who is no longer making music for herself but is working to command whatever stage she steps onto. "I always had an aversion to being a girl onstage with a guitar singing quiet songs. There's nothing wrong with that at all, but I always knew I wanted to do something with a bit more volume, a bit more anger. I'm just now figuring out how to represent myself, and I think a lot of that has to do with feminism- learning how to be loud and take over a room, when those are things I've been socialized not to do. It's been a very powerful realization that I can do that."
There is something unforgettable about great love songs, and Briana Marela's Call It Love wraps its welcoming arms around the subject, invoking all its complexity. Before writing the songs that would become Call It Love, Briana Marela was guided first and foremost by her instincts as a producer & engineer. Marela's original vision for this album was to dig into the two poles of her songwriting styles: her ambient, ethereal side and her brighter, beat-driven pop leanings. She enlisted the production help of Juan Pieczanski & Ryan Heyner of the band Small Black upon hearing their most recent self-produced album.
On this album, Briana Marela has made her proverbial giant leap, deepening her songwriting and expanding her palette to explore the sounds of love in beautiful, striking new ways. "Give Me Your Love" explores what Marela calls "love's immature, silly & selfish side." "Quit", the deep, dramatic centerpiece of Call It Love, was originally penned about a breakup with a longtime partner and written with the idea that she could give the song away to another artist. Instead, "Quit" is powerful and revealing in Briana's own hands. And, if "Be In Love" is the sound of falling in love, "Farthest Shore" is the sound of looking inward, of reckoning with and without ourselves. It is an intricate, cavernous song, setting a deceptively pretty melody over ominous drones and skittering percussion. And here, again, the contradictory becomes complementary.
LUV IN THE RUINS is the third release from CARE and their second with Winspear. The album interrogates the abusive interval of "love" and "struck," posing a critique of self-crucifixion and those whom culture has coronated with the privilege to resurrect. Though much of LUV IN THE RUINS was written and recorded in Grand Rapids, MI, CARE currently resides in Queens, NY. The record has garnered much praise for it's dark and unique sound. Ian Cohen for SPIN says "this kind of melodramatic, genre-absorptive oversharing is probably emo's future," and Stereogum says "Majetich fills that vast space with textures that are as wide-ranging and volatile as the emotions he's attempting to work through, and the way he processes the end of a relationship feels brazen and painful."
50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can't be Wrong is the debut by Alabama-raised, Austin-based Caroline Sallee, aka Caroline Says. There are rays of youth beaming through this music, but they never outshine a kind of maturity that betrays the fact that Sallee was just 22 years old when 50 Million was made. After college she took a job as a waitress in Yellowstone as an exercise in solitude and independence. With the money she saved there, she took a transformative journey via Greyhound to explore the West Coast before returning to Alabama where she would record her debut album in her parents' basement. 50 Million puts us in the seat right next to Sallee where we can feel the warm West Coast light through the window, the bus route charting the lines between our youth, and our delayed future.
Sallee's gift lies in pitting the familiar against the unexpected with a delicate assuredness, never compromising the one for the other. These kinds of debuts can sometimes feel like an over-promise of what is to come, but in the case of Caroline Says there's clearly plenty more thread to be unraveled. It'll be a pleasure to see where the next bus ride takes us.
Introducing, the debut solo album from the enigmatic legend that is Dale Crover.Amongst his 30+ year career as one half of the essential Melvins roster, Crover has contributed to countless albums ranging from platinum-plated classics (ahem, Nirvana) to seminal cult LPs. However, up until this point Crover's solo efforts have only appeared once in a blood moon, limited to the Melvins 1992 KISS-themed solo EP, and a couple intermittent 7" releases. The Fickle Finger Of Fate marks Crover's first calculated, full length solo effort.But let's be clear: this is not a drum record. The album features a perplexingly diverse batch of songs that recall the best moments of the Melvins catalog. With 90% of all instruments played by Crover, and recorded by longtime engineer Toshi Kasai, the album is sure to tickle the temporal lobes of Melvins devotees.Sonically, the album ranges from slightly microwaved heaviness, to surprisingly chill Pink Floyd-tinged ballads, to Max Roach-meets-Throbbing-Gristle drum experimentations, to good old fashioned Andy Kaufman-style head-fuckery.Though consistently otherworldly, The Fickle Finger Of Fate is surprisingly approachable— dare we say, catchy. But even at it's most anthemic, you won't be able to shake the feeling that a sinister ambience is hovering just beneath the surface.