The musical duo of Shane Butler & Caity Shaffer released their debut album as Olden Yolk last year, an alluring concoction of hypnagogic folk & kosmiche rhythms, expanding & refining Butler's work in his former band Quilt toward a more focused direction. The songs on "Living Theatre" were written & recorded during a heavy time of transition & upheaval for the duo, with personal tragedies and a big move from their NYC home to a warmer climate in Los Angeles coloring the album's inception. Musically, the duo's songwriting has gelled into a unified front, relying more on the subtle shifts of melody & rhythm than a barrage of chord changes; Living Theatre's hooks lap at your feet like a babbling brook, rather than bowl you over like violent waves. The refinement in tunes like "Castor & Pollux", "Grand Palais" & first single "Cotton & Cain" points to a new frontier for the group; soaring skyward toward the emotionally textural plateaus of trailblazers like The Go-Betweens or Yo La Tengo. There's a discernible romantic feel to tunes like "Violent Days" or Distant Episode's lush arrangements - Living Theatre showcases a band breaking free from it's chrysalis, and embracing its next phase of evolution.
Tucson, Arizona's Matt Rendon has certainly done his homework. Over the course of 22 years and six albums as The Resonars (seven if you count the Butterscotch Cathedral album; a one-ff psychedelic magnum opus released in 2015) for labels like Get Hip & Burger, Rendon's musical vision has remained unwavering; a paean to a lost-era of analog recording, whip-smart, dynamic songwriting, and soul-stirring anthems to ignite generations. "No Exit" is his latest album as The Resonars. Rendon has consistently proven to have a knack for an everyman style of songwriting that doesn't seem rote or tired, lacing his melodic vocal harmonies with that melancholic joy omnipresent in the best numbers by bands like The Beach Boys, Big Star or even Simon & Garfunkel's pop hits. Despite being the first Resonars album in 5 years, Rendon shows no signs of stopping; He's a rock & roll lifer, having been raised in a musical environment & osmosis thru older sibling's rock fandom, proving once it's inside you there's no escape. "No Exit", if you will.
Sparrow Steeple's music exists in its own universe. An imagined utopia (or is it a dystopia?) of wolfmen, murderous wizards, whispering woods & leprechaun treasure. Their second album "Tin Top Sorcerer" arrives near the front end of 2019, just in time for spring to blossom. Comprised of three members of inscrutable indie legends Strapping Fieldhands, Sparrow Steeple specialize in mini-opuses that drift & careen haphazardly like Grimm's Fairy Tales sung by Syd Barrett - psychedelic tales of rapturous joy & sinister machinations by creatures real & imagined, all wrapped around dreamlike tunes of avant folk, psychedelia, and outsider music. "Roll Baby's" drunken-tavern sing-a-long is peppered by blistering guitar leads & wobbly harmonica, while "Stabbing Wizards" backwards guitar lends a foggy aura of disquiet to the tale of treachery & betrayal. Despite the fantastic yarns spun (see the tragic tale of the "Wolfman of Mayberry", or "Girl of the Whispering Woods"), "Tin Top Sorcerer" has an air of magical realism that place these songs in a place simultaneously out-of-time and from a possible future, permeated by a sense that these things could actually have happened (or will happen) at some point in our shared existence.
"Chicago trio FACS was founded in 2017 by former Disappears members Brian Case & Noah Leger, along with their bandmate Jonathan van Herik. After van Herik amicably parted ways with the group just before their debut album "Negative Houses"'s release, Case & Leger recruited longtime friend Alianna Kalaba (Cat Power, We Ragazzi) to play bass. "Lifelike" is their sophomore release; six tracks clocking in at half an hour, carrying forward the musical trail blazed by the debut towards a new frontier. "Lifelike" occupies a space in between the band's debut & Case & Leger's work with Disappears, applying minimalism & space in compositions that reside somewhere near the realms of post-punk, art-rock, shoegaze, industrial music & post-rock. "Lifelike" however adds a more melodic sensibility, without sacrificing any of the debut's punishing sonic muscle, with a discernible audial force perceivable thru the speakers (credit due to engineer Jeremy Lemos' recording via Electrical Audio as well as John Congleton's mastering for accurately capturing the punishing heft of the band's live sound)"
"New York quartet Sunwatchers drew a line in the sand with their last album "II", a powerful statement of the band’s unique brand of spiritual, free-rock, gonzo attitude and a progressive socio-political worldview. "Illegal Moves" is their second album for Trouble In Mind. "Illegal Moves" is the band's most potent blend yet; a heady potion of free-jazz, psychedelia, punk & noise rock that is both tender and ferocious; the perfect soundtrack to smash capitalism and fix our broken system thru sonic catharsis and revolution. Songs like "Everybody Play" and "Beautiful Crystals" insinuate themselves into your brain with the rubbery synchronicity of bassist Peter Kerlin and drummer Jason Robira. Elsewhere "New Dad Blues" and "Greeneyed Pigmen (Get The Blade)" sting with a righteous fury beyond the piercing scree of guitarist Jim McHugh's electric phin or Jeff Tobias' saxophone skronks, and the band's cover of Alice Coltrane's "Ptah, the El Daoud" transforms her meditative elegy into a fiery protest march. The songs crackle with an energy informed by passionate disgust of the status quo realized on the album cover's illustration of the Kool-Aid Man battling the personifications of evil from across the world. A psychedelicized avatar for the general wrath and action that they believe in."
Writhing Squares have been conjuring up cosmic slop from the Philadelphia underground for a few years now, mixing growling bass, motorik synthesis, and skronking sax into a heady brew of punk-laced progressive R'n'R. The duo of Daniel Provenzano & Kevin Nickles emerged in 2015 with their self-released "Gemini Blues" 7-inch, following it up the next year with their debut album "In The Void Above" for the renowned Siltbreeze imprint. "Out of The Ether" is their sophomore effort, & first for Trouble In Mind. The album consists of 5 tracks of minimal, droning ambience, overtaken at times by Nickles' wailing, sax skronk; a mixture of the soulful runs of The Stooges' Steve McKay & the no-wave stabs of James Chance - drum machine, and Provenzano's guttural basslines that add an industrial menace to a locked-in groove and lysergicly introspective lyrics. Album closer "A Whole New Jupiter" takes up all of the LP version's side two, slingshotting the listener over the event horizon and thru the center of a sonically sculpted black hole, it's relentless motorik dirge evolving over the course of the track's 19-minute run time into an abstract pulse before lurching back into the groove, riding it into the sun.
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.