Browsing Category Bits & Pieces

Mixtape: Goin’ West

Been a while since there was a mixtape up, but these things take time and tenderness. For the latest mixtape I’m taking some inspiration from 2018’s slide towards Cosmic Americana. With albums from One Eleven Heavy, Garcia People, Howlin’ Rain, New Parents and Wet Tuna leading the charge back towards ’71-’72 I though it might be in order to round up some of those West Coast sounds that hit on resonant frequencies to the new crop of smooth players. While most, if not all, have already pledged allegiance to their own favorite boots of The Dead and there’s a communal love for Royal Trux, Little Feat, Crazy Horse and Levon Helm, I thought I’d scoop up some outer-stream suggestions to fit the bill. Ok, sure, I’m cheating a bit with the Flying Burrito inclusion, but despite a wealth of praise from any outlet that would let you listen, that one’s just a great song that fits the vibe.

Travel further down this roadmap of country-tinged, sun-soaked songs from ’69 on and feel the vibes slow down to a simmer for the end of summer. It’s not all West Coast -The Wizards from Kansas were actually from Kansas, Mountain Bus were from Chicago despite longing for the country – but each of these hits on that cosmic view of American psych that cropped up along the coast. It all winds down with one of the germs of the sound, The Charlatans’ “Alabama Bound,” a song that’s often been noted as being the proto-“Playing In The Band.” Artwork inspired by so many Grateful Dead bootlegs. Click below for tracklist and stream.

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Doug Paisley – “Drinking With A Friend”

Its been about five years since Doug Paisley graced the speakers here, but he’s come back subtle and strong. Paisley’s pulling from the well of Townes and Guy Clark in a big way here. The song is world weary in a way that yokes the listener hard with the weight of Paisley’s years. It’s a drinking song, but not a jolly one, the kind that helps to kill the pain as quick as the whiskey. I’ve always found myself in the camp that thinks the best country songs are simple, no embellishments, no bombast, just pain and strums and a little sweet ache of steel in the back. Paisley’s hitting all the marks here and if the rest of the album follows suit, then this is going to be a hard hitter for 2018.

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Gregor – “This Heat”

Melbourne’s Gregor hit back with a new single from their upcoming LP Silver Drop. “This Heat,” despite sharing a name with the noise purveyors of yore, is actually smooth and slippery, an air-conditioned escape from the sun baked sidewalks and parched-throat bake of midday. The song melts reggae stabs around an EZ-listening lilt that lands just this side of queasy. The song’s heat-rippled rock is just the thing to stave off the unseasonable heat wave that’s gripping our country, even though their own is probably nice an temperate right about now, lucky bastards.



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Meg Baird & Mary Lattimore – “Painter of Tygers”

Kindred spirits Meg Baird and Mary Lattimore have connected for a collaborative release that’s delicate and haunted. Anchored by the sun-squinted folk of Baird, the first track from the duo’s upcoming Ghost Forests lays a film of noise over Baird’s voice like dust on windows. Baird calls out from behind the din, slowly receding into the Kodachrome ache of time while Lattimore’s harp is upfront and present, sparkling in full color and framing the song’s heartache hues brilliantly. A true partnership elevates both songwriters and this pairing seems like such a natural extension of what both women have been cultivating in their own works that it feels like a band that’s been playing together for years bringing forth their best work. Keep an eye out for the album on Three Lobed this November.



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Pat Thomas – “The Money Guys”

Told you it was a good time for the Bay this week, and here comes your next reason. Cool Ghouls have consistently stunned with their catalog of country-curled psych rock, with not a bummer in the bunch of their three albums. Now the band’s Pat Thomas is striking out on his own and tucking into the AOR shimmer of the ‘70s. He heralds his upcoming sophomore solo LP, I Ain’t Buyin’ It, with the golden glow of “The Money Guys.” The track hinges on the soft-focus horns and cellophane riffs that tied Chicago, The Doobies Bros. and Steely Dan together with late period Tim Buckley.

The track takes down economic inequality and does it while wearing boat shoes. It’s a ‘70s lounge jam critical of the man as played from the hired piano of venture capitalists’ own yachts. No one’s paying attention at the party so you might as well spite ‘em, eh? I’m eager to see where Pat takes the sound on this, too much of a plunge through ‘70s cheese could sink into pastiche, but if he keeps striking a balance between smooth strings and an acid tongue, then it could soar above easy listening.



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Rays – “Yesterday’s Faces”

More excellent news from the Bay Area today, as Rays return with a news of an album this winter. The band’s previous album knocked down a lovable corridor of post-punk that was particularly jangle jostled, bringing to mind the curdled pop of The Soft Boys and the brash honesty of Television Personalities. They show no signs of dropping those jangles from their arsenal on the upcoming, You Can Get There From Here, employing the very same tactics that have thrown their South Hemi counterparts in Australia and New Zealand head over heels for the sonics of past, with a laconic lyrical view on the present. On the excellent first single, “Yesterday’s Faces” the band even touches down in OZ to pick at the shaggy licks of The Clean, then welds them to the urgency of Wake in the ’90s.

Allusions to other bands aside, it’s a crackling track that’s balancing the upbeat tangle of strings with a sighed sadness that sticks like a lump in the throat for days gone past. The keys buzz like bar-light neon and Stanley Martinez’ vocals are flecked with a detached disillusionment that gives the track its bite. The band’s debut showed promise and with this track they’re definitely making good on it. Gonna want to keep an ear out for this one when it lands in November.

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Mary Lattimore on Julee Cruise – Floating Into The Night

Next up on the dock for Hidden Gems is another favorite from this year. I caught Mary at Soundscape last year and her set was enigmatic in its depth and simplicity. She’s a master of using the harp to build emotive worlds and her latest record for Ghostly is one of the best records of 2018 for sure. I asked her to pick out a record that hadn’t gotten its due, a gem that despite merit doesn’t get fawned over as fervently as it should. She’s picked Julee Cruise’s debut LP, Floating Into The Night, a record that’s as much about atmosphere as it is about emotion. Seems like a perfect pairing to her own mastery of the same. While the record is forever associated with its most glaring TV and film associations, she tries to divorce it from its Lynchian moors and assess it on its own dreamy merits. Check out how the record came into her life and what impact its had on her own writing.

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Blades of Joy – “Be Kind”

To be honest, I’ll trust Melters to pick out the best new SF nuggets any day, and they don’t disappoint with news of the upcoming LP from Blades of Joy. Featuring members of Swanox and Dissolve, the band couches jangles in a soft sea of reverb haze, poking at Sarah Records memories and Creation cravings. The label’s gone ahead and done the service of name checking Rain Parade, which sounds about right here. “Be Kind” revels in a kind of orange-pink glow rising off of the water, endlessly rippled and delightfully cool. If the band continues to capture half the pillowy ease of this one, then the rest of the album threatens to be just the Autumn companion I’ve been searching for.



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Charalambides – “True Love”

Despite longstanding solo careers and consistent collaboration, Tom and Christina Carter keep the Charalambides ship afloat and consistently moored in a precarious haze. In anticipation for their upcoming eponymous LP, their first since 2011, the pair releases the stark, haunted “True Love” With guitars ringing into the night air beneath her, occasionally crumbling under the atmosphere, Christina moves from whispers to wails, lost and lonely in the duo’s misted harbor. While the song may title like a love story, the delivery is more heartache than heartthrob over the track’s ten minutes.

The pair still have the power to captivate with minimal means. Their stripped setup has never won a loudness war, but there are some sounds that can’t be denied. Heading past their second decade, the band proves that slow and spectral wins out in the end.



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Dungen / Träden’s Reine Fiske on Alrune Rod – S/T

This one works as a double shot wishlist for Hidden Gems collaborators. Reine Fiske holds down time in perennial RSTB favorites Dungen but has recently been working alongside legend in his own right Jakob Sjöholm in a newly revived Träd, Gräs Och Stenar (now recording as Träden. Normally it’d be great to get some input from either of those bands, but Reine holds together eras of Swedish psychedelic tradition in his role, giving this one that much more heft. Both artists have been fixtures around here since the beginning of the site, so it’s a pleasure to have him involved. Ahead of Träden’s upcoming eponymous album, Reine digs into a Hidden Gem from Danish band Alrune Rod (translation: Mandrake Root), their 1969 debut LP for the Sonet label. Fiske explores what makes this album such a treasure and, as usual, what impact its had on his own music.

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