Oakland band Rays return with their second album, You Can Get There From Here, their first release since their eponymous Trouble In Mind debut in 2016. You Can Get There From Here represents a turning point for the band, angling their scrappy, post-punk fury into a more refined & melodic pop sensibility, drawing inspiration from UK DIY pop & punk like Dolly Mixture, Cleaners From Venus& Television Personalities. Songs like "Fallen Stars" & "The Garden" temper their sonic crunch ever so slightly, relying more on the harmonic wallop of a solid hook than the sheer volume of guitars. This is urgent, chiming guitar pop that clangs with a sonorous melancholy & a ramshackle grace. Rays can still lay it down with the rest of 'em; tunes like "Subway" &"Work of Art" shuffle & stumble forward, skirting chaos in a flurry of strums, recalling antipodean groups like UV Race or Dick Diver who cull inspiration from idiosyncratic UK greats like Mark E. Smith or Robyn Hitchcock. The new album findsthe core group of Stanley Martinez, Eva Hannan, Troy Hewitt & Alexa Pantalone augmented by new member & keyboardist Britta Leijonflycht, whose synth flourishes add melodic embellishments, sonic heft or psychedelic swirl where needed.
Swiss group Klaus Johann Grobe have been at it since 2012, and as they prepare to release their third album "Du Bist So Symmetrisch" (and third on Trouble In Mind), the group continues to defy description & blur thelines between electronic pop, dance music, synthesis & kosmische."Du Bist So Symmetrisch" follows the inevitable path laid out by their previous album (the Basel Prize-winning "Spagat der Liebe"), incorporating the slinky, jazz-fusion-laced grooves populating late night clubs and braiding them together with the band's own blend of mutant electro-funk. Driven by an organic, metronomic beat aligned with synth, chant-like vocals, and a monstrous funky bass, the music aims towards a certain kind of hypnosis, particularly as the sleeping pill echo-heavy vocals cycle over the locked grooves the pair throw down. "Du Bist..." begins with the cascading arpeggio of a synth, edging into view, before lurching into the placid dancefloor groove of the first single "Discogedanken". While the band invariably feels more at home in the club, Klaus Johann Grobe certainly aim towards the more dance-orientated arena of German music (see "Der König" or "Von Gestern"), aligning the metro pulse of Klaus Dinger and Kraftwerk's later techno work to more biological factors - like moss growing on the mainframe.
"Pink Skies", the seventh album from New Haven quartet Mountain Movers, comes closest to capturing what makes The Movers such a thrilling live band, padding the instrumental passages of their primordial psychedelia with lumbering numbers like "Snow Drift" or "My Eyes Are Always Heavy", that stumble forward lead-footed, soaked in a cacophonous clamor with songwriter/guitarist Dan Greene's lyrics floating atop like couplets of magical realism. "Pink Skies" coalesces midway through with long-form jammer "The Other Side of Today", an epic near-twelve minute masterclass in modern, improvised guitar music; the rhythm section of drummer Ross Menze & bassist Rick Omonte sizzles like an acid-fried sunset, and lead guitarist Kryssi Battalene showcases what makes her one of the most enchanting guitarists in the game right now (ask a "head", they'll tell ya). A player able to vacillate between low-key solos that crackle to head-splitting, ear-piercing noise, riding that ever-so-thin line between expertly controlled feedback & chaotic discord. The album's final two tracks "This City" and "Heavenly Forest" blend so seamlessly into one another that all of "Pink Skies" second side feels like one long piece of elemental sonic alchemy.
Over the course of the past six years, Omaha, NB musician David Nance has released three full-length albums for labels Grapefruit and Ba Da Bing, a 7-inch, numerous cassettes, CDRs and unlicensed "cover albums". His latest full-length is credited to the "David Nance Group" and features Nance alongside his recent hot-shit live band of fellow Omaha musicians. "Peaced and Slightly Pulverized"'s sounds are alternatingly tender & brusque. The anthemic "Poison" with its fuzzed-out guitar riff that leans into a Crazy-Horsian guitar maelstrom and white-hot solo, to "Ham Sandwich"; a blisteringly frantic rant about a lunchtime torment - uncomfortable in its directness. Side one closes with the epic seven and a half minute "Amethyst"; an emotional odyssey with Nance & Schroeder strangling their guitars into a twin-guitar, barbed-wire duel. The album's centerpiece is "In Her Kingdom", an emotive ballad that fades into view with a plaintive guitar strum that ebbs and flows with a rising tide of swelling guitars, it's riffs gilding the melody & adding flecks of gold to Nance's tale of poverty and grace. The album closes with "Prophet's Profit"'s biting commentary on false idolatry utilizing the group's not-so-secret weaponry of Nance and Schroeder's six-string simpatico to bring the listener home.
"A self-described "bad time band", Chicago group Ethers' debut consists of twelve songs of ragged, soulful rock and roll; heavy on hooks, with stark arrangements and sticky melodies that hang with an unexpected resonance. Instant earworms like opener "Empty Hours", "Rip Off" and "Modern Dating" recall bands like soulful punks Royal Headache or Asheville troubadours Reigning Sound, while third quarter-album high point "CBD" rages with nervous energy like a long-lost Feelies "Crazy Rhythms" outtake. Tunes like "Carry What You Kill" and album closer "Something" are soaked in melancholy, but peppered with cynicism and charm. The band oozes a world-weariness, but the tunes yearn with a hopeful ache for better days ahead. Recorded in the raw, with very little audio adornment by Chicago engineer Dave Vettraino & mastered by Melbourne legend Mikey Young (Total Control, Eddy Current Suppression Ring), the spartan production allows the songs to be the main focus."
Chicago punk band Negative Scanner return to the fray with their second long-player, the cheekily titled Nose Picker. Once again recorded by the band themselves in their Chicago practice pace, Nose Picker opens with a question; "Is there anybody there?", which acts as both a legitimate query as well as a rallying cry. Despite the darkness on the surface, Nose Picker has an unmistakable air of whimsy, and a sense of humor, punctuated by the very literal album cover, and by the sound of a toilet flushing at the album's closing. The past two years have seen the band step out of the Midwest DIY spaces and basement shows and tour the USA and Europe, support UK band Sleaford Mods on select dates in the UK and the USA and standing toe-to-toe with the underground's finest acts, including Sheer Mag, Protomartyr and more.
Parisian quintet En Attendant Ana has been nonchalantly crafting perfect pop songs since 2014. Their debut 12-inch "Songs From The Cave" was released in late 2017, garnering rave reviews for their refreshing blend of nouveau French pop, C86 indie, and foggy Flying Nun influenced jangle.
"Lost and Found" begins with the ominous clanging of guitars, before launching into a churning whirl of sound; guitars slash, keyboards drone, trumpets wail, and drums crash. What follows are nine more songs of urgent and thrilling pop dazzle.; from the adrenaline-soaked anthem "This Could Be", to the driving "RÃ©" with it's rapturous "oohs" and Camille FrÃ©chou's uplifting trumpet fanfare, echoing Entwistle's French horn lines from "Sell Out"-era Who. Vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Margaux Bouchaudon's a yearning, tuneful register can't help but recall the indie cool of Laetitia Sadier or Nico, but still boasts a style of her own. The clarity and timelessness of the band's songwriting proves them to be a band filled with craft and promise.
"Lost and Found" is released on CD, black vinyl LP (a limited "sunset orange" version is available for direct accounts while supplies last), and via all Digital retailers.
San Francisco's The Love-Birds have been breaking hearts and making fans across the city's disappearing DIY spaces and proper venues alike since 2016. After releasing a 7-inch EP in early 2017, they’re ready to unveil In The Lover's Corner, their debut album & first release on Trouble In Mind. The album eases into view with the first track, "Again"; it’s gentle acoustic strum augmented by guitarist Eli Wald's chiming electric twelve-string. From there the listener is treated to dynamic, life-affirming power-pop; bell-ringing, fuzz stompers, warm, carefully crafted fragile pop and urgent, crystalline rockers. The Love-Birds approach their craft with a classicist's ear; with nods to their Seventies originators as well as Nineties torch-bearers, composing near-perfect future classics that ooze with subtle, interesting melodic twists and hummable, finger-pricking hooks that are instantly memorable.Mastered by Norman Blake (Teenage Fanclub), with album art by Shayde Sartin (Fresh & Onlys) and recorded with Glenn Donaldson and Kelley Stoltz.
Since 2013, Columbus, Ohio's Connections have made four near-perfect albums of lo-fi pop majesty for the seminal Midwest label Anyway Records, and "Foreign Affairs" continues that winning streak with sixteen songs packed with sardonic tunefulness and Buckeye bombast. Connections sprung forth from Nineties pop band 84 Nash, infamous for being the only non-GBV related band released on Robert Pollard's own Rockathon Records and comparisons to the Indie Rock underdogs seem inevitable, if not a little shortsighted. Connections' brand of indie rock definitely has one foot in The Nineties but maintains a classicist's penchant for nuanced & timeless rock'n'roll. These guys have done their homework, but nothing feels studied - they've drunk from the waters of the Ohio Underground and the tunes flow forth naturally, with nods to their Nineties brethren as well as idiosyncratic Midwest legends. For every obvious, life-affirming hit on 'Foreign Affairs' ("Good Cop", "Low Low Low") there are equal numbers of stealthy earworms like the chiming "Short Line", or the yearning, organ-drenched "Downtown" The songs ooze familiarity and an instant lyrical relatability, with singer Kevin Elliot's lyrics reveling in the everyday's little details; good friends, love and rock 'n' roll with restlessness and desire in a harsh, unforgiving but still beautiful world.
FACS sprung forth in early 2017 from the ashes of beloved Chicago band Disappears. "Negative Houses" is their debut recording; an abstraction of their former outfit, even more minimal and bare than what came before. "Negative Houses" approaches the stark, gothy post-punk previously perfected more rhythmically and abstract than in Disappears, with Leger's motorik, machine-like drumming taking the forefront (see the tunes 'Skylarking' and 'Others') and van Herik's guitar alternating between slashes of dissonant ambience and percussive accent. Case switches from guitar to bass in FACS, adding an economical throb to the band's drive on songs like 'Just A Mirror' & the album's centerpiece, the near nine-minute, sax-soaked tour-de-force 'Houses Breathing', whose electric heartbeat lumbers forward, sounding like an outtake from Cold Storage Studios circa 1979.
Olden Yolk is a New York-based group led by songwriters, vocalists, and multi-instrumentalists Shane Butler (Quilt) and Caity Shaffer whose penchant for dystopian folk, abstract poeticism, and motorik rhythms have enveloped them in a sound uniquely of-the-moment yet simultaneously time-tested. The band's debut ruminates on questions surrounding love, self-doubt, and locating autonomy amidst burgeoning unrest. Wrought with hazy melancholy and halcyon joy, these songs are ecstatic odes to the life of the city; to the subway platforms, kiosks, and monuments which enliven and encompass our collectivity, elevating into an urban-psychedelia.
Brooklyn ensemble Sunwatchers return with the incendiary follow up to their 2016 eponymous debut, the appropriately titled "II". The quartet continues to defy adequate description, incorporating elements of free jazz, psychedelia, punk, Ethiopian and Thai music and funk into a dizzy, invigorating sound. "II" kicks off with the click of sticks and launches into "Nosebeers", a righteous burner that writhes and squawks with heady desert vibes and white hot saxophone, soundingnot unlike something akin to Group Doueh jamming with John Zorn. "The Hot Eye" is next, and the band doesn’t let up revving up an anxious marching beat into a raging squall that ebbs & flows with tidal waves of horn and guitar. The band has more in store for listeners, easing into the third track "There Are Weapons You Can Bring To School". With it's contemplative tone, the song sets a mood for the album, righteous, socially conscious messaging, no more evident than the message embroidered onto the tapestry that graces the front cover artwork: "SUNWATCHERS STAND IN SOLIDARITY WITH THE DISPOSSESSED, IMPOVERISHED AND EMBATTLED PEOPLE OF THE WORLD". The band considers it both a mission statement & a battle cry: "We are musicians, and we will leave political specifics to those more qualified than we are. All the time and energy and passion we can muster we dedicate to writing, performing, recording and releasing music instrumental music, released from the tyranny of semantics into the freedom and hopefulness of universality-of-connection. We thusly realize the need to become overt about our own intentions and our own mores; without the ease and accessibility of direct language, the onus is on us to express our principles in other ways."* The album's second side opens with the barn-burning "Silent Boogie" with saxophonist Jeff Tobias tapping into the elemental fires of free-jazzskronk while the rhythm section hammers away like the Asheton brothers on a speed trip. "The Works" & "Flowers Of The Water (For Lou)" close out the album, simmering the boil, and firing the listener off into Interstellar Space. Sunwatchers "II" is released on compact disc, black vinyl & limited "rainbow splatter" vinyl for direct account. It will also be made available via all digital retailers.
Christchurch, New Zealand's Salad Boys are back with "This Is Glue", the follow up to their critically acclaimed 2015 debut album "Metalmania". Recorded once again by bandleader/guitarist Joe Sampson at his home studio, "This Is Glue's" twelve songs dig deeper, with sharper hooks embedded deep within a more mature musicality. "This Is Glue" hones Sampson's songwriting chops to a razor edge, with many of the album's songs sounding utterly timeless. The riffs and melodies seem all too familiar, perhaps recalling greats that came before them (The Chills, R.E.M., The Bats), but Sampson has a voice all his own. The themes are darker, the lyrics more claustrophobic and yearning; confronting anxiety, mortality, and fear through an abstract lyrical lens. Album opener "Blown Up" kickstarts with motorik drumming that crescendos into a thrilling guitar riff that could crack mountains. "Psych Slasher" crashes forward frenetically awash in phaser before easing into a melodic denouement buoyed by a bubbling synthesizer before a tidal wave of guitar crashes down again.