Purling Hiss – “Out Tonight”

Seems fitting that Purling Hiss are taking a whack at Spacemen 3, the legends’ squall molded psych is an apt precursor to Mike Polizze’s own fuzz-caked face-melters. Though it seems they’re almost doing a twofer here. While the flip of this single is a cover of S3’s classic, “Walkin’ With Jesus,” the Purling original sounds like it came straight off of a day spent flipping Recurring over until the grooves got gooey. The song is sparking with that same ozone bliss that’s been a longtime Spacemen hallmark and the kind of hook that ducks its head under the horizon to let the repetition and guitar splatter do the heavy lifting. Personally, I’m a fan of the “best song a band never wrote” approach to homage, and while the world cries derivative, I just see a love letter blown thirty feet tall and electrified for visibility. It’s a fun curio that keeps the band’s fuzz pop banner aloft until the next album comes creeping in.

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Michael Rault on Billy Nicholls – Love Songs

There have been many great surprises this year, but the latest album from Michael Rault is quite possibly among the best. Rault refashioned his sound in the guise of ‘70s pop with a soft heart, echoing the Apple records stable if they’d been mixing it up down in Memphis with Big Star and The Hot Dogs. Its easily the best power pop album to find its way to your speakers in 2018. So, naturally it seemed fitting to have Michael dive deep for a pick in the Hidden Gems series. I’m constantly intrigued at what people pick for these because some true gems get unearthed. Rault stayed true to his pop influences going for the oft overlooked ’74 sophomore album from a true psych-pop purveyor Billy Nicholls. It’s a true lost classic that’s been out of print for far too long. Check out how it came into Michael’s life.

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LFZ – “Naturalistic”

Drumming up JD Emmanuel comparisons and carving at the heart of Kosmiche float, LFZ (aka Sean Smith) taps the cosmos via heavily processed guitar rather than the genre’s preferred weapon, the synth. Finding some solid overlap with later period Ashra as well, “Naturalistic” is bubbling with a crystalline calm, lulling the listener through hypnotic higher states with liquid licks. Smith notes that, “Where most of Name Plus Focus deals with airy themes, “Naturalistic” is elementally the most earthy piece on the record and is more about conjuring an image or place to one’s mind than the usual emotional abstractions in my work. I visualize an ancient woodland ritual or a lumbering mammal or an insect on the move in the redwoods of Northern California, but the listener should experience the freedom to perceive natural spaces familiar to them.”

The track is locking down a space on his upcoming LP for Casleface, giving them an unusually calm respite in a sea of fire eaters on that roster. Keep eyes out for it July 20th.


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Tony Molina – “Wrong Town”

Every new bit from Tony is better than the last. His upcoming sophomore LP for Slumberland is fully entrenched in his acoustic persona, wedging his songs between the heartbroken strains of Elliott Smith, Emmitt Rhodes and the gentlest bits of the Davies brothers. “Wrong Town” is practically begging for Wes Anderson to write the scene it belongs in, throwing the bittersweet gauntlet down in a one minute challenge. From the sounds of the first couple of tracks off of this Molina is well on his way to a newly minted classic. As usual each song gets its hooks into and then fades away like a memory gone too soon. Damned evil in that way, leaving the listener always wanting just a touch more.

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Glad Rags – “Alamo”

Chicago chamber-psych orchestra Glad Rags shove the disjointed post-punk of The Talking Heads through a cosmic wormhole, chugging with sweat-stained rhythms and horns one minute and spreading the spacey synths like butter the next. “Alamo’s” not a lyrical wunderkind but it rides repetition without hammering their hooks to death. The song is snaking with a neon and rubber weirdness that makes it hard to get a hand around, but they’re definitely onto something. The backup vocals shift from flashes of ’70 Who to Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson vamping up the parties down Athens’ way. The band are throwing a lot in the pan with this one but its all coming out of the oven just fine in the end.



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The Wave Pictures

After last year’s brittle, buoyant, jagged and jilted turn as The Surfing Magazines I was eager to see how Dave Tattersall and Franic Rozycki returned to their home in The Wave Pictures. While their latest is a far cry from the precision take on art-surf that tumbled out of the speakers last year, Brushes With Happiness is no less intriguing. Recorded as a one-night stand with only some lyrics in hand, the band entered the studio, stripped back the walls of inhibition chemically and laid down the album as an improv to tape. The result is a minor key comedown that’s batting the bare bulb around the room and slowly curling into the embrace of depression-laced garage blues.

The band nails the codeine cool of late night diviners that came before them, finding a detached swagger in the menacing single, “Jim” or the slinking follower “Laces.” The album’s off the cuff nature gives it a distinct and consistent mood, vibing off the room and practically sweating sour sneers and old smoke at every turn. The songs don’t get overly samey, but they’re clearly part of something bigger than themselves. It’s an album’s album, a suite that’s imbued with the nighttime, infused with solitary penance and grappling with demons itching just below the surface.

While the band are admittedly reaching for their Tonight’s The Night Moment, they aren’t quite clamping down that degree of indispensable output, but that’s not to say this isn’t a shining moment in The Wave Pictures’ catalog. Brushes With Happiness is an abrupt heel turn on the majority of their UK contemporaries – loose, unfussed with hooks, and crackling with an energy that’s not built for the machinations of radio placement. Instead the band have followed their own muse down the crumbling k-hole and come out the other side with a delightfully cohesive and dour record that’s a perfect drinking buddy. They embrace the ache and put it back out into the world for one more revolution.



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The Holydrug Couple – “I’ll Only Say This”

Chilean psych unit The Holydrug Couple have been getting lush for as long as I can remember, but their latest for Sacred Bones doubles down on the sparkling light and hazy wash of aftrnoon sun that dapples their sound. The single is the first off of their upcoming LP Hyper Super Mega. The accompanying clip goes for more for cultural saturation then for visual gauze, flipping through touchstones of music and history until the track crumples in on itself. From the blissed pop on display here its apparent that the band has yet another stunner in store when that album rolls down the pike in September. After a summer swelter like we’ve had on the East Coast these past couple of days, the band’s gooey take on psych is just the thing to embrace the humid vibes coursing through June.

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RSTB Best of 2018 (So Far)

Somehow or other it is now June and that means that the barometer must be checked for what albums have had the biggest impact (here, not on a worldwide stage or whatnot). Its been a hell of a slog politically, nationally and emotionally, but it has been a good year for music. Can’t quite call that a silver lining, but its a balm of sorts and that’s something. As usual the list is presented in no real order (quasi-alphabetical with a couple of last minute additions thrown in for good measure.) These are the records that spent the most time on the turntable here. If you like ’em, buy ’em. Its as simple as that. I’ll echo the admirable Liz Pelly’s sentiments in the crusade against the streaming giant to say its not enough to simply clock time through the cloud. The small labels and independents here need some love so seek them out and give a small monetary hug where applicable.

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Flasher

While they cherry pick from several eras (‘70s power pop, 80’s New Wave, 90’s indie pop) the way that Flasher assembles the pieces of their musical landscape feels swaddled in the arms of the early ‘00s. That time period in the band’s native DC was rife with bands like The Dismemberment Plan, Q and Not U, and Black Eyes who were knocking down genre walls like a pit-dizzy Kool Aid Man. Flasher, it appears, absorbed this era’s open source structure as the core of their being, creating a guitar record that’s blown through with sugar high hooks without clutching to the tatters of any genre too tightly. The album is punk in its beating heart, but dancing on the outside, much like guitarist Taylor Mulitz’ other band Priests, without the political posturing.

The record is an elastic shock of color erupting out of the speakers, bursting with a joy that’s sometimes lacking in modern guitar bands that have studied every nuance of a particular sound, only to inflict albums that read like carefully constructed dioramas – meticulous but missing that spark of life. Flasher’s sonic quilting approach by turns feels refreshing, with the band never loitering in any sonic nook long enough to grow mold. They’ll splash a track with keys shiny and bright, take a hazy stumble through shoegaze to block the sun, disjoint the rhythms until your feet can’t help but twitch and still the record feels as cohesive and complex as any of their contemporaries.

Its nice to step back to a time when indie pop found joy in riffling the whole toy box. Flasher have made a strong statement with Constant Image and the fact that it’s a debut only sweetens the pot. While they’ve had a few singles, the band has essentially come out of the box fully formed without second guessing their melting pot pop for one second. Gotta think if they start here, where they go can only solidify their enthusiastic blend.



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ORB – “Space Between The Planets”

Must be something in the water, I was just thinking about ORB the other day and here we are with a new single on the docket and an album on the way. “Space Between The Planets” taps right into Zak Olsen’s holster of heavy psych weapons – crushing fuzz riffs, phased space-rock atmospherics and a rumblin’ rhythm section that pounds heavy and menacing as tank treads. The new song locks into this Hawkwind / Sabbath comfort zone and honestly, that’s just what I came for. There’s still room for the bong-rattling basics of prog-psych these days and if the formula’s solid, why shake it too much? The song will wind up the title track of an upcoming LP for Flightless, so keep an eye out because you know there’s some limited, splattered petroleum platters on the way soon.



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