Good Morning

Aussie duo Good Morning graduates from the EP to the LP but shows no signs of ditching the band’s ramshackle, disjointed style with a larger overarching container. Good on ‘em too, because their “life stuffed in a knapsack” aesthetic is largely the engine driving their charms. The band is of and beholden to the new wave of Aussie indie that embraces substance over sheen, often recorded in fits and starts in kitchens and basements around the country. It is music by and for friends that just happens to trickle out when the right label gets an ear on it. So, it is that Stefan Blair and Liam Parsons birthed this album alone, with the hum of tape as constant companion and the image of a lone bare bulb swinging above a Tascam as mascot to its creation. The record is sparse, as are their previous EPs, but without so much as a coat of paint the record is primed for its revelry in anxiety’s ouroboros, melancholy’s sway and sighed choruses that don’t rely on hooks so much as commiseration.

Despite a decidedly laid-back veneer the record doesn’t leave itself open to easy entry points. Guitars find themselves whittled down to second-tier status on Prize // Reward, replaced by a rec room piano that sounds like it might have two generations worth of drink rings to buff out. The pair swoons and shuffles through their songs with a brilliant disheveled approach, the very aural image of Nilsson’s robe-clad cover of Schmilsson – blank-eyed, bleary and perhaps privately destroyed by tiny catastrophes like running out of milk. They encapsulate a detached cool that’s almost a private joke between the songwriters, scoff if you must but they’re not out to win you over.

They hint at aspirations of elevating the record from its dehumidifier din – flutes peck at opener “Plant Matta” and a gang of vocal interlopers can be heard before they’re melted by the easy bake warble that takes the track to its resting place. There’s a running thread of sax that finds its way through the record, provided by Blair’s dad, though his debauched skronk colors the songs with a lounge-light hangover that’s not pulling the curtains any time soon. Now, despite the milieu that all of this isolation brings to mind, the record is actually a stunner of slack, feeling unfussed with the preening rabble outside of their creative bubble. Good Morning has slyly slipped out the best dip into the pill cabinet dressed up like a ‘70s private press depression session you’re likely to hear this year.



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Lithics

When it comes to post-punk these days, I’m a fan of the brittle, parched-throat approach that’s stuffed with bulbous bass and crimped wire guitars. Stow your smokey-eyed goth crooners, I want those guitars to lacerate and the atmosphere choked to hospital waiting room levels of forced air. Portland’s Lithics serve up just the thing, a satisfying album that’s scoring and snapping hooks off like drywall – rough-edged and choking the listener on their dust. The band is bred on a cocktail of The Contortions, Galaxo-Babies and Au Pairs – hiding rusted hooks in their surgical slice with ill intent. The approach is just enough to let the listener wander close before the sucker punch of Aubrey Hornor’s ball peen hammer vocals knocks them sideways.

Perhaps only labelmates Taiwan Housing Project or British dance diviners Shopping are working in quite such frantic strokes these days. But Lithics, unlike their contemporaries in label parentage or their UK counterparts don’t let on the sly wink that there’s fun to be had. Not that you can’t move to Lithics – you can and should, but they inspire a top-button tamped down, full-body jerk that feels manic and draws looks of concern from other occupants of the mashed mass audience. There’s beauty in their dissonance and order to their entropy but there’s menace in their strings and you best not take them too lightly.

If all this sounds like it’s not fun, then perhaps things are too kush on your side of the couch. Anxious energy throttles the sinews and Lithics know just how to draw it out. They’ve created a perfect conduit for shaking the itch that threatens to catch in the lungs. Lithics know you either face the panic head-on or let it consume you. Your choice I suppose.


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One Eleven Heavy – “Old Hope Chest”

Last week I mentioned the growing presence of a new crop of bands raised on soundboard rips and zine culture conversations regarding which night held the true elevation of a solo from rote to enlightened and this week I’m introducing the first taste of one of the best of what’s next. While over time the mere implication of a band leaning jam seemed to set higher-handed listeners hackles on full alert, now that niche is king and cultures upon sub-cultures have cropped up quicker than crabgrass in internet back-alleys there’s a growing demand for bands that process their love of Little Feat, NRBQ, Levon, Trux and the Dead without worrying about cultural cache. There’s a demand and 2018 is bursting to contain the response.

Let’s not go throwing around that itchy term ‘Supergroup’ here but, be fair, there’s an overabundance of talent coursing through the veins of One Eleven Heavy. Started as a gauntlet thrown by James Toth (Wooden Wand) to fellow traveller Nick Mitchell Maiato (Desmadrados Soldados De Ventura) “Old Hope Chest” was conceived to “rise above the mundane, descriptive, lifestyle narratives of contemporary singer-songwriting.” It was, they decided, “Something that connects to our shared rock tradition and celebrates our musical identity without the apology of irony.” The track swings on groove and taps into a collective consciousness of what was actually “classic” about rock, without being dictated by what was pressed, sold or spun through the static crackle of radio. This echoes the ’72-’74-era Grateful Dead as it was lived in the room, and not as it was felt from the runout.

Joining in this crack team of cosmic workmen is Hans Chew (Hiss Golden Messenger/Jack Rose/Endless Boogie), Ryan Jewell (Ryley Walker band/Psychedelic Horseshit), and Dan Brown (Royal Trux/’68 Comeback) and the LP opens up shop as the first release on Scott McDowell’s (WFMU/ 120 Minutes) new label Kith & Kin. So, yeah, like I said this one’s not treading lightly. Drop into “Old Hope Chest” below and get prepped and hydrated to receive Everything’s Better in September.



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The Skygreen Leopards Archival Compilation

More great news filters out of the Skygreen Leopards camp today. After the release this month of archival Ivytree material for Recital Records, news comes today that former Skygreen home Soft Abuse will round up some early material from the band’s CD-r days. Culling from I Dreamt She Rode On A Pink Gazelle & Other Dreams, The Story Of The Green Lamb & The Jerusalem Priestess Of Leaves, and One Thousand Bird Ceremony, the new LP gives an overview of the band’s pre-Jagjaguwar days of live to tape captures and 3-minute folk-pop that beamed like the California sun. If, like most, you missed out on a lot of this material, then the release comes as an indispensable primer. Plus, this is the first time any of these recordings have found their way to vinyl. Just in time to usher in summer. The record is out June 22nd, right before they hop on a few dates with Frog Eyes on the West Coast.



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Velveteen Rabbit – “Mind Numbing Entertainment”

Rising out of the ashes of longstanding NYC power pop band The Jeanies comes a new band of glam-popped punchers holding onto a lot of what made their former band sizzle. Velveteen Rabbit are, however, doing it with quite a bit more refinement than The Jeanies ever mustered. Glam pop revivalists often get a bad rap for mining a movement that many see as a passing fad – the soon sullied toy found in the cereal box of punk, power pop and proto-metal at the end of the ‘70s. However, when done right there are fewer genres that can crack a smile so wide. Sure, the affectations are preposterous, the fashion was downright criminal and there was bubblegum stuck all in the hair of everyone involved, but as far as frivolous genre experiments go I’ll take it any day.

Velveteen Rabbit dip their paws into the great crossover between glam’s fuzz-tumbled crunch and the fey end of power pop. The bands that were able to hit this stride found a bit of a golden hour sound that rocks like the punks but shies away from the pit to pine over girls at the bar. Think The Quick, Brett Smiley, Milk n’ Cookies or Phil Seymour and you’re on the right track here. The double shot of flippant fun leaves ya wanting more, which always marks a good single. This is prime ‘70s jukebox fodder following in the footsteps of plenty before them but absolutely a good time with each spin it takes around the platter.



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Wooden Shjips

With certain types of recreational drug use, or even meditation for that matter, there’s a point when the subject becomes detached from their current surroundings – a shift in time, an outside looking in feeling of calm introspection that lets slip the boundaries of pressing matters. In this stasis, somewhere between numbness and bliss, exists V the latest record from Wooden Shjips. The band seems to toss around that this is their “summer record” and to be sure there’s plenty here that compliments the staunch humid nights of mid-August swelter – Ripley Johnson’s guitars dripping through layers of wet reverb like condensation down a can, tempos slowed to a molten crawl, and bass that can’t be contained by rolled tight windows. More than merely a seasonal accoutrement, though, this record is a balm, a respite, a state of mind – or in the spirit of summer – a vacation from the current mudslide of daily life that threatens to consume us all.

With V the band has softened the focus on its trademark sounds – the fat, motorik rhythm section that slaps like waves against the breakwater, the sunlight suffused guitars that sparkle and ripple in equal measures and Johnson’s vocals that billow and diffuse in a cloud of vapor overhead. The enveloping warmth of this particular iteration of the band has added a few new moving parts as well. Are those strums peeking out of the haze on “Already Gone?” Were there always this many slinking keys in the Shjips’ universe? The vacation vibes bring on a prog haze that holds over from the lighter half of Moon Duo’s last experiment in duality and it feels like a missing puzzle piece found under the couch, perfectly cut to relieve the anxiety that was created in its absence.

Along with Cooper Crain (Cave, Bitchin’ Bajas) the band has created a perfect headphone record, adding further to the escape hatch mentality of the album. The aforementioned elements dance across the headspace in sketchbook animation while the bass acts as a barrier to the worries, realities, information overload and creeping dread that’s become a constant weight in 2018. For forty-two blissful, nebulous minutes Wooden Shjips let the listener breathe before the waters rise again. Best to gulp in a few last breaths, drop into the airtight bunker b ‘n b of sound and enjoy because those waters show no signs of slowing any time soon.





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The Love-Birds

In the wake of their Empty Cellar debut single, a sparkling tangle of jangles and clear-sky hooks, San Francisco’s Love-Birds wound up on the radar of a new generation thirsting for guitar’s pop prominence. They funnel the energy of that short-form stunner into an LP that proves they have a deft hold on jangle’s cross-generational evolution – tapping into The Byrds, 12-string history while echoing alt and indie pop hallmarks from R.E.M. to The Flaming Groovies and Teenage Fanclub. They even drag the rudder through the South Hemisphere, picking up nods to The Go-Betweens and The Chills then cold-press all this history down to a record that feels instantly familiar while still coming out fresh as a bay breeze in spring.

While they’re definitely pulling down a full set of sleeves, practically polka-dotted with hearts beating for the past, they swerve the stamp of college-town cover band looking to stun with their ability to belt out “End of the World As We Know It” sans crib-sheet. Instead they’ve bound up the control board glow of late night nineties college radio and, with the aid of San Francisco strummer and legend in his own right Glenn Donaldson, offered up a record that’s intangibly catchy, bittersweet and buoyant. The album captures that feeling when the airwaves were just right and the lo-watt station two towns over came in crystal clear at 12am, letting a few late-night discoveries blossom into lifelong obsessions.

On In The Lover’s Corner, the band feels comfortable picking at songs of love unrequited and scratching the itch of nostalgia that a good many likely have for an era with more to offer than the packaged in amber playlists built on hits rather than heart. The Love-Birds are helping helping further the left side of the dial even as the dial disappears from view.



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New Parents – “Well”

Something heady’s been happening in central Mass of late and it’s brought a lot of new favorites to the fold, but this time an old traveler treads through the halls of Raven. New Parents is the brainchild of former Sore Eros member Adam Langelotti and his new endeavor springboards off of his former band’s warbled psych for a more pristine approach that ropes warm violin strings to a bed of sunset ripples and bittersweet plucks of guitar. Langelotti invites collaboration, as the familial leanings of the band’s name might imply, and the album boasts musical drop-ins from Shannon and Beverly Ketch, Ma Turner and on the sunshine-psych sigh of “Well,” Gary War stops by for some warbly reverse vox that give the whole song a heatstroke fevered haze. The band is reported to push these songs out further to the edges on stage, but the velvet pop numbers that are finding their way to record have their own hearth glow that can be felt through the phones. The record lands on Feeding Tube next month.



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Alex MacFarlane – “Planetarium Nights”

While there are plenty of great Aussie indies to keep on radar Hobbies Galore seems to be kicking up the dust quite nicely this year. With releases by Stroppies, Blank Realm and a tape issue of the debut Green Child album, there’s quite a bit of talent to be had. A cornerstone of the label, however, has been solo releases from Alex MacFarlane a fixture in Twerps, The Stevens and Teen Archer. The latest 7″ sees MacFarlane working through jangle-pop structures with prog-blocked overtones. There’s a slight dissonance that doesn’t always pop up in his other works, but at the core this is still prime Aussie jangle that’s a testament to MacFarlane’s prowess.

Standouts “Good With Little Numbers” and “Starter People” push this way beyond solo sketchbook fodder, proving that MacFarlane has plenty of hooks in his back pocket and a warped sense of pop that burrows under the skin. He fleshed it out with instrumentals that writhe and twist with synths and curls of noise. While I’d never balk and new Twerps or Stevens material, this release in particular begs for more from the artist solo. This one’s slipping out quietly but that’s no excuse to let it slip by completely.

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Szun Waves – “Constellation”

Enter an engrossing new video from jazz-psych combo Szun Waves. The trio, consisting of producer Luke Abbot, drummer Laurence Pike (PVT) and composer Jack Wyllie (Portico), unleashes an enveloping track of glistening tones and majestic brass from their upcoming LP on LEAF. The accompanying video, directed by Sam Wiehl, forms a xeroxed wonderland in muted tones and mutable shapes that reads like microscopic images set to work by the Joshua Light Show. The video’s effects were created with 3D models, paints, solvents, and air fresheners but the results are nothing short of otherworldly. If this is just a taste of the album, I definitely want to sink into this wholesale. Keep an eye out for New Hymn To Freedom in August.

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