Design Inspiration: Chris Reeder

There have been plenty of touchstone labels around here, but I’d wager to say that Rocket Recordings is up there in the top ten that get referenced on the site. Their take on psych and metal is always interesting and always quality, but aside from just digging up some of the best band, the label also embraces a spotless design aesthetic that I’ve always been attracted to. This comes largely in part from label heads Chris Reeder and John O’Carroll, who both contribute sleeves to their stable of releases. Design in psych and metal can either be transcendent (see Design Inspiration: Arik Roper) or drag the releases into parody. Reeder and O’Carroll fall squarely in the former camp, elevating their releases to art pieces visually as well as aurally.

Reeder and O’Carroll both agreed to contribute picks to Design Inspiration, but I’ll focus first on Chris Reeder. His sleeves have a clean design that’s crisp and classic at the same time, rendering them iconic each time. If you’re familiar with the output of Goat, GNOD, Lay Llamlas, Pigs x 7 and Hey Colossus, then you’ll have an idea of what I’m talking about. Chris dives into five of his all time favorites, but leaves the caveat: “It is really hard to pick only 5 sleeves as so many have meant so much over the years, but on the day I wrote this piece these are the 5 that I wanted to talk about.”

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Trimdon Grange Explosion

Forming in the wake of The Eighteenth Day of May, Trimdon Grange Explosion is an extension of the previous band’s psychedelic folk while also embracing heavier modal impulses that had only begun to pop up in within the members’ previous form. The band drags their hands through the waters pooled by Pentangle, Fairport Convention and John Martyn and pulls off the likeness well, but they’re not simply and exercise in revivalist nostalgia. Like contemporaries Espers or White Magic, the band also embraces the less Anglo influences that have cropped up since dark folk was the vogue in ‘’69. Within traditional structures on ballads like “The Bonnie Banks of Fordie,” the band embraces the sawing yawp of John Cale’s string sounds and the slight wobble that underpins The Incredible String Band.

There’s another shade that pops up on Trimdon’s debut, though, and it’s a woven strand of indie that’s not just a hangover from the Espers/White Magic connection, but hews closer to perhaps Vetiver in its approach. On “Christian’s Silver Hell” and “Heading For a Fall” the band keeps the fuzz, clangor, and atmosphere, but when Alison Cotton is away from the mic and Ben Philips picks up vocal duties the band adopts a bit of a lighter tone. They work the duality well, with Cotton letting the heavy mantle of murder balladeer billow her sails and steel her gaze and Philips providing the sobering shelter from her storm.

There’s something inviting about the darker strains of folk, subverting the form from storytime revelry to strombringing omens, but too much gloom drags the swimmer under the tide for good. Trimdon create a vital symbiosis between blood and bone – the paralysis of mourning and the steadfast necessity of travelling on at all costs. There’s a stately grace to their eponymous album that picks up the yoke from their former band without being beholden to it. Rooted in the ash and dirt, the band are steadily seeding the clouds to bring on a deluge of hurt and relief to eventually wipe it all clean.




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Martha – “Heart Is Healing”

I dug Martha’s last album of emotionally raw power punk, but came to it late, making me feel like I’d been missing out until that moment. The band picks at the bones of pop punk but adds a heavier hit with touches of Ted Leo in their DNA and a jangle splattered twang that belies their UK roots. This time I’ve vowed to pay attention and it seems to have paid off. On their way to what I’d hope is an announcement for LP3, the band has offered up a new single and video for the strummy, knotty, and as might be expected, emotionally fraught “Heart Is Healing.” The video is a dizzy, homey shot of the band lounging, but it lets the song stand out as the focus here. The track lands among their stronger singles, hinged on a hook but letting some slippery slide work smoothe the edges on those jangles. Its a damn fun ride and hopefully a herald of new works to come.



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Mixtape: This Is Aus

Ok please allow one more year-end indulgence here in the form of a recap mixtape. It should no longer be a surprise that I have a sweet spot for Aussie indie, and as the genre has made up so much of the site’s direction in the last year, I’ve decided to round up some of my favorites into a massive mixtape that should keep you busy for a few hours and serve as a primer to those looking to break the seal on their Aussie pop habit. Plenty of usual suspects arise in the label department here with representation from RSTB favorites Bedroom Suck, Anti-Fade, Lost and Lonesome, Poison City, Hobbies Galore, Milk! Records, Flightless, and Tenth Court alongside internationally friendly harbors like Trouble in Mind, Upset The Rhythm, Share It, Kanine, and Emotional Response. There were plenty of offerings to love this year from the South Hemi, so get cracking on that listen. Click below for tracklist and stream.

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Snapped Ankles – “Drink and Glide”

UK rhythm-picked psych lobbers Snapped Ankles are back with a new album next March and its shaping up to kick just as hard as their last. The band has put forth a clip for lead single “Drink and Glide” that’s chafing the corporate mindfulness and self-care cavalcade. The song itself is built on their stew of hard-chugging rhythms, squelchin’ keys and anthemic vocals. Lotta psych bands utilizing the Echoplex vocal stab these days, but it takes a new tack to not make it sound like an Oh Sees rip. The band skirts the influence of their American compatriots, while crafting a sound that would slot in quite nicely next to them on any playlist. Feels like the second album is shaping up to be just as freakishly fun as the first. Check out the clip above and stay tuned as the album creeps closer.

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Oh Sees – “Clearly Invisible”

Its quite possible that Oh Sees never rest, never sit still, and never let the feedback die down. Off of a tour and LP from last year (and with the inevitable new one coming sometime in the next year) the band lays down a single-track one-sided EP bonus for the fans. Seems that Dwyer and the band are as ardent Simply Saucer fans as I am and they’ve worked up a live in the studio cut of a Saucer jam from the fringes. “Clearly Invisible” existed purely as a live cut within Simply Saucer’s world and hearing John and crew tackle it with the intent to further dive into the sonic supernova is exciting. The track’s all tension, a nearly 15+ minute build of menace with crisp-fried guitar noodles topping it like a holiday casserole. The track touches the Hawkwind totem and seeps out into the furthest expanses of cosmic brain fry. While its probably best as a fan piece for completists and psych warriors, rather than an entry into Oh Sees chamber of psychedelic wonders, that’s not to diminish the impact of this limited gem. Wrapped up in the stunning photography of Martin Oggerli, this one begs the question of whether your Oh Sees shelf can squeeze one more.



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The Cowboys – “Some Things Never Change”

Photo: Caroline Marchildon

Every new LP from Bloomington, Indiana’s The Cowboys further cements them in my mind as true savants of garage bliss. Over the past few years the rough edges have fallen away but their sense of chaotic fun hasn’t ebbed one bit. Their fourth LP is on the way from Feel It records who’ve worked with the band in the past, bringing their Volume 4 to LP from its humble cassette origins. “Some Things Never Change” is a sunny day strummer that’s pinned to a tumble of organ and some of the band’s catchiest hook work to date. This one carves out some of the soul and heads to the heart of power pop and it sounds good on ‘em. Definitely bumping this record up to the top of the anticipated pile for 2019.



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Lorelle Meets The Obsolete – “Lineas En Hojas”

Perennial RSTB favorite Lorelle Meets The Obsolete have a new album, De Facto, on the way in January and a hypnotic new video to get you excited for said album. The band plowed into the studio after touring their last album, Balance, and began a new process of writing that relied more on synths than guitars, an aesthetic shift for the band who’s often used the feedback-rich foundations of MBV and Jesus and Mary Chain as a starting point. “Lineas En Hojas” is gauzy and gazey at the same time, luxuriating in verses that are airy and, yes, decidedly synth heavy. They don’t throw out their distortion pedals and amps altogether though, as they surface again during the toughened chorus. The band pairs the song with a blissful beach walking video focusing on the pull of the waves. Be sure to check out the new album when it hits on Jan. 11th.

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RSTB Best of 2018: Reissues, Etc.

A large part of the site is not only focusing on new releases, but also the great reissues that are unearthed during the course of a year. Below are my picks for the best editions dug up by the hardworking folks on the reissue circuit. Every year there are less options to work from and every year labels continue to surprise me with what they bring out. I’m also going to take a moment to give tribute to an album that could have been this year but due to unfortunate circumstances didn’t make it to fruition.

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RSTB Best of 2018

So, it seems that 2018 is finally coming to an end. It’s been a hell of a year by most standards, but musically its been damn entertaining. Perhaps its fair that there’s some bright spot in all the chaos. Not to diminish the chaos, but when the negativity is at an all-pervasive fever pitch, its feels good to have something to hold onto. I’ll choose to remember 2018 as a banner year for music and for the birth of my second daughter rather than the year that page refresh politics threatened to give me an ulcer any day. Below are my favorite albums of the year, taking care to highlight some that might otherwise get forgotten. They’re in (quasi) alphabetical order with no other particular weight on the list. Keep your eyes out for a few more year-end features this week before I reset for the new year. As always, thanks for sticking with RSTB for these 12-odd years or so.

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