Eddy Current Suppression Ring

Couldn’t have been more surprised to see this one pop up on the radar for 2019. After a lengthy hiatus that saw rise to tributaries like Total Control, the aughts’ most potent punks are back and bashing with a new long player this year. The record would probably daunt lesser souls – a pristine reputation left dangling for a decade is dusted off and the band feel like they’ve made the logical next step in their sound. Still walking the line between the bar fight bruisers of pub rock that crept out of the gutter in the ‘70s to become punk’s nascent form, the band also finds a way to skip over the meat of those very same punk years and add in the wiry wreckage of post-punk fallout to the mix. They’re the alpha and the omega hurtling through the speakers in riot-wracked glory.

Ten-odd years behind the mixing desk and twisting the knobs on a synth set hasn’t dulled Mikey Young’s guitar attack one bit. He’s still bashing out angles that others would overlook – slinging hooks like a tried and true record collector who’s absorbed an era’s worth of wreckage by osmosis. Then there’s the gloved-menace himself, Brendan Huntly, who brings the nasal hammer once again, a punk-poet who doesn’t go for the pretense. He’s Richard Hell if Hell spent less time artfully arranging holes on his shirt and just got straight to the jitters. They update the invective for a new round of political punishment by the worldwide punters of 2019 but through the faces change the burn remains the same. This is a band that pretty much touched off what’s been ripping through the Aussie underground in the interim since they left and its good to see them kick the kids off the throne and casually tip the crown on their heads. A late slip into the 2019 fold, but this one should be on your year’s best for sure.




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Willie Lane – A Pine Tree Shilling’s Worth

Starting in 2009 guitarist Willie Lane issued a run of albums on his own Cord-Art label, ranging from fingerpicked folk to ragged blues. The albums, Known Quantity, Guitar Army of One and A Pine Tree Shilling’s Worth all seeped out quietly and went out of print quickly. Thankfully Feeding Tube have sought to correct the scarcity of the originals with a run of reissues over the last couple years and they’re now drawing that to a close with a new version of Pine Tree, which might be the best of the bunch. The LP is far more electric than the other two in the trilogy, leaning in heavily to the ragged blues and experimental feel of the series. The record isn’t tied to genre or feeling, but explores a shifting sense of sound that’s as rooted in the Takoma take on folk as it is in the dirt-caked Philly scene that would surface years later. Lane acts as a bridge between eras and does so without any whiff of overthinking. The pieces on A Pine Tree Shilling’s Worth flow with a loose ramble that weaves between the roots of the now snow-soaked Pioneer Valley.

Lane has been an integral part of the latest wave of psych-folk froth, not to mention the one before it, having collaborated with Elkhorn, Matt Valentine, Meg Baird, Samara Lubelski, Specrte Folk, and Espers over the years. Having this trilogy of releases back in print is a vital link between where Lane has been and where he’s headed. There’s word that another LP is on the way, so perhaps this last reissue will be preamble to the next node of his songwriting. Personally, I’m quite interested in what’s next, though 2019 itself is packed with Lane hallmarks. Besides this reissue, you can hear him on Elkhorn’s Sun Cycle/Elk Jam and Valentine’s Preserves album. If you’re just starting in on his works, I’d recommend beginning with this one and then diving backwards.



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Grace Cummings

The debut LP from Australian songwriter Grace Cummings snuck out last month and maybe it’s the end of year crush of content, but this one should be kicking up more dust. Cummings’ voice is raw, rankled, and electric – packed full with notes of stripped pine, floral gin, defiance and defeat. It’s no surprise that she’s come to the attention of her label with a cover of Bob Dylan. Her voice falls into that same ineffable, indefinable valley as his own, the kind of voice that divides a room but brings a community together in the right corners of culture. Now, if she were just to possess a voice on par with past idols like Dylan, Buckley, and Van Ronk, that would be notable but not necessarily transformative. Good thing then that she’s also a songwriter of the highest order and that makes Refuge Cove one of the year’s secret gems.

For a debut this hits incredibly hard, a record wrought with rifts as Cummings’ world seemingly dissolves around her in strands of celluloid. Feelings don’t slide in subtly on the record, rather they tear recklessly at Grace’s soul and in turn she exhumes the ghost of grief and glory and sets it to tape. There have been great records that gutted lately, but it’s been a while since one has set the humors on fire like this has. Grace’s songs can be felt traveling through the nerves, alchemically transmuting sorrow and sin to exhaustion in an incredible act of catharsis. The only sad capper on this is that the label (Flightless) only pressed this in an edition of 500 and they’re seemingly gone in a snap. Hopefully this one will return to the fold, though digitally it still delivers. Still some of the year’s best coming out, so don’t let the lists fool ya.




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Ten Years Gone: A Tribute To Jack Rose

I didn’t have a chance to mention this one yesterday, but essential news nontheless. Its been ten years since Jack Rose vanished from this earth too soon and its still the decade hasn’t lessened the tragedy one bit. My fondest memory is of seeing him and Wooden Wand in the back of a small bar in Greenpoint. Jack’s presence was magnetic and made any venue come alive with the movement of his strings. Tompkins Square has released a touching tribute to Jack, curated by Buck Curran and it features “original instrumentals made as tribute to Jack by a few of his friends (Mike Gangloff, Sir Richard Bishop, Helena Espvall, Buck Curran, Micah Blue Smaldone, Nick Schillace) and by a group of emerging artists inspired by his music (Andy McLeod, Simone Romei, Matt Sowell, Joseph Allred, Prana Crafter, Paolo Laboule Novellino, Mariano Rodriguez).”

There are a ton of RSTB favorites in this list, and the album carries on the spirit of Jack Rose with beauty and grace. I’d highly recommend tucking into this one on a crisp winter’s morning and letting it wash over you for the rest of the day.



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Will Johnson – “Cornelius”

Another one that’s slipped between the cracks this year, the latest album from Will Johnson (Centro-Matic, South San Gabriel) is a weathered and worn take on country, folk, and Americana that shows the long-running songwriter in top form. Johnson’s been a part of the American songbook for years, playing alongside Jason Molina and Jay Farrar finding those moments of truth that lie between the dust of genres. Wire Mountain should find purchase with those who’ve been digging deep on that latest Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy LP and want another album to help heal the cracks and creases of age and shoulder the weight of heartache through the night. The video features Will in the studio alongside Britton Beisnherz (who also recorded the album at his studio Ramble Creek outside Austin), Jon Dee Graham, Thor Harris (of Shearwater and Swans), and Lindsey Verrill (of Little Mazarn) who all contributed to “Cornelius.” There’s an intimate vibe to the clip, a humble beginning to a heavy song. Johnson’s about to embark on a West Coast tour alongside the likes of Bob Mould and John Moreland. Definitely worth seeking this out in the live setting.

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Donovan Quinn

Like a star on the horizon, Soft Abuse comes creeping in with some essential late 2019 releases, including the fourth solo album from Donovan Quinn. The California songwriter has been a longtime fixture on RSTB, having anchored Skygreen Leopards, New Bums, and Verdure in the past. His albums are few and far between, bucking a trend of so many lately to work feverishly to amass a catalog that could cripple shelves and wallets alike. Quinn’s measured pace always pays off with songs that constantly recontextualize the past into something undeniably new — like beams of a barn brought to new life in new construction. The ghosts of those beams remain ever present and they seep out slowly into the room to mix with the mites and stir up the senses.

The songs on Absolom are even more haunted than most of Quinn’s works, having evolved from an idea to build songs around the lore of other artists. Ultimately that idea was set aside, but there’s still a feeling of these songs having been lived in, lyrically or otherwise by the ethers and embers of the past. On the long, winding highlight “Satanic Summer Nights” Quinn conjures Nikki Sudden with an ear towards ambitious boundaries. Its Sudden rewriting the The Pretty Things’ Parachute for a new age. Elsewhere Quinn’s tales are rife with loss, haunted not only by his heroes but by feelings just out of reach. He saunters through the rooms, touching each stick of furniture and mourning the dust as much as the lack of inhabitants that let it settle.

On Absalom Quinn’s assembled a rotating cast of performers from his circle but their contributions are just paints in his set. There’s rarely been a record that has more of Quinn’s mark on it. His voice is embedded in the grain of the guitars, the worn spots on the piano keys, the magnetic fields on the tape. Whether or not these tales are his, he’s embodied them with his whole and its an undeniable record, one that stands high in an enviable catalog. Its late in the year, which makes me think that a lot of ears have shut themselves tight, but I hope this one reverberates across the cold air and into the hearts that need it.



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Elkhorn – “Electric One (Part B)”

Its been no secret around here that Elkhorn issued one of the year’s best LPs, but the pair proves that a towering achievement such as Sun Cycle/Elk Jam is only the beginning of a productive streak that takes them far into 2020. Cloistered with their friend and collaborator Turner Williams after a snow storm cut short that night’s show the three embarked on a lengthy improv session that resulted in two side-long flights of fingerpicked ripple, ozone-smeared electric singe and Williams’ meditative runs through electric bouzouki and shahi baaja. I’ve seen Turner work that bouzouki when he laid out some improvs with Jesse earlier in the year and it’s a sight to behold.

The result of these sessions is a record that burrows deeper to find the cosmic thread than ever before. As we are again encased in the sort of ice that birthed these pieces in the first place, it seems only fitting now to light this candle for all to see and shine it out into the world. This is Elkhorn finding the thread at the center of the universe and spooling it out into ribbons of psychedelia, spiritual jazz, meditative float, and Kosmiche. The Storm Sessions arrives February 7th on Beyond Beyond is Beyond.



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East Village Reissue on Slumberland

Slumberland is rolling out the essential reissues of late. Alongside their recent Springfields retrospective they’re reissuing a previously CD-only singles collection from late, great jangle-pop band East Village. The band showed up in these pages a while back as a Hidden Gems pick from James Hoare, but that album is only half the picture. The band’s album was released posthumously after they broke up on stage, but they’d left a catalog of singles up to that point that finally found a collective home on Summershine Records, but it has remained an ellusive pickup ever since its 1994 release. Great then to have Slumberland issue this on LP for the first time, giving the band another day in the sun. If you’re unfamiliar, I’d recommend letting James give a few reasons on what the band is all about or take a listen to a couple of singles tracks below.



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Enhet för Fri Musik

Even with the global connective tissue tightening daily in realms of music, its still hard to ferret out some of the best bits from across the globe. Times like these I’m glad that outposts like Grapefruit are looking out for me. In 2017 the LP, Det Finns Ett Hjärta Som För Dig was issued on Omlott, a label run by members of Enhet för Fri Musik and let quietly out into the arms of collectors of psychedelic folk and freeform ephemera. The band’s issued a few others in 2015, but this record shines as a jewel in their catalog. The record seeks to dig into the pastoral folk of their forebears, capturing the winds in their strings like Pärson Sound, Trad Gras Och Stenar, and International Harvester before them. The record is psychedelic in an organic way, not relying on effects or pastiche, but rather rooting itself in the experimental impulses of noise and free folk, spoken word, and concrete ideals. Its not reaching for acceptance, but digging for art in the frostbitten grounds of their homeland — a bracing, barren, yet homespun record.

The band and the accompanying labels run by their members, Förlag För Fri Musik and Omlott, remind me of their Finnish counterparts in Fonal records, a tight-knit collective that pulls light out of frayed and fractured ends of the musical spectrum. The record captures the spirit of a few of their alumni as well, with the intimacy of Islaja coming through alongside the inventive experimentalism of Kemialliset Ystävät and Paavoharju. The band includes members of higher profile Swedes in the mix (Neutral, Makthaverskan, Arv & Miljö, and Blod) but they don’t bleed over too much with these tributaries, giving the record something of a sacred harbor. While there are certainly elements of Neutral’s starkness, the band seems to create its own world nestled among the whispers of the fields. Grapefruit are certainly right that this was a gem that was lost on many on its release and as such the new issue is a welcome addition to a wider Western audience this year. As I sit locked in ice for the last couple of days, the discomfiting warmth of this record has been appreciated. Its like an itchy sweater, just enough comfort to stave off the cold, just enough irritation to keep you from becoming complacent on the couch.



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Hollow Ship – “We Were Kings”

Swedish psych-pop unit Hollow Ship roll out the video for the A-side from their upcoming PNKSLM single “We Were Kings,” a kaleidoscopic collage animated by Freddy Wallin. “We Were Kings” sets the band into a the cradle of psych occupied by Goat, Flamingods, or Khruangbin, bands that find something new while rifling through the overlapping detritus of the past. The song is anchored by rhythm, owing to a studio suggestion to keep the drums high in the mix. The chugging beats keep a heartbeat bop that lays a bedrock for the swirling synths, flutes and funk-laced guitars. The video is as eclectic as the song itself – swirling with cut n’ past aesthetics that play well with the band’s all-inclusive approach.

They note of the Wallin’ led clip, ”In an animated reality, not to different from our own, we are invited to follow a vessel on it’s intergalactic trip through the universe. Along the way we experience colorful encounters with extraterrestrial beings and heavenly bodies. A journey into the unknown making it possible for the traveler to finally find itself” The 7” arrives this Friday from the Swedish outpost and speaks well to what’s on the horizon for the band as we enter 2020.



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