Browsing Category Tracks

Kelley Stoltz – “The Quiet Ones”

For those of us who’ve found the entryway into Stoltz’ disorienting alternate history of pop, each new record is a tumble down a new unseen corridor in his secret world. The last record pulled on a crooked tie and a cocked smile for a power pop pub crawl that came and went with only the lucky to nab it for their shelves and the rest to pine. Stoltz is a wily one, though, and he’s not through with 2020 just yet. Another LP looms, with the SF songwriter returning this time to his roots at Agitated Records, stewards of his ’01 kicker Antique Glow. The first taste of Ah-etc packs the power pop back in the suitcase and returns to the lacquered Formica lilt of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. Tiptoeing a guitar slink through hallways of chromed keys, the song turns up the voyeurism and eavesdrops on the neighbors, lurking with a queasy charm. Stoltz, ever the Echo & The Bunnymen fan, spent time as a touring member and his bandmate Will Sergeant returns the favor and lends guitar to “The Quiet Ones.” There’s something of a lost afternoon feeling to the track, swirling around the listener and feeding the internal monologue that turns neighbors into puzzles that populate the mind. The loneliness is palpable and the fluorescent flicker just seeps into those synths harder on each listen. The LP is out November 20th from Agitated.

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SUSS – “Echo Lake”

There’s been no shortage of Cosmic Country in 2020 and for that I’m grateful. The genre’s been slowly creeping into the crevices of the year to create a billow, sigh-heavy buffer against the indignity of daily life in this fraught year. With that in mind SUSS’ latest scrawl through the ambient arm of that particular Cosmic headspace is a perfect gift this week. The band’s last LP, High Line was a quivering sluice through the slipstreams of the mind and with another dose of earthen ache in the bones of “Echo Lake,” the band looks to be extending their stay in the calm waters of our minds. This one wafts in on echoed pedal steel and nebulous dust clouds of synth just in time for the weather to cool off the scorch of summer. The single’s out now, sounds like an album’s on the horizon soon.




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Pearl Charles – “What I Need”

There was an inkling of change that snuck into the subtle EP that slipped out from Pearl Charles earlier this summer. The reworking of “Night Tides” from a disco romp into a country cool down was an unexpected treat this year. Charles’ new LP for Kanine follows suit in the best ways, trading off the ‘70s sweat of a dancefloor hangover for a quiet twilight in the bungalow alone, spinning the euphoria of the night into a melancholy melt that tugs at the suede center of the soul. Hung on a slouched organ line and sundown slides, the first single “What I Need” sums up the album nicely — a lone saunter down the strip with a chill in the air, smoke and sweat escaping into the atmosphere. The buzz of the night is coursing through the veins right up until the moment when a bittersweet lump forms in the throat. While it’s quite naturally about how this feeling might arise in the end of a relationship, the analogy works the same as any whirlwind night. There’s a knowing feeling that washes over you, an ache that enters, knowing that its over before you hit the sheets, stuck between bliss and the emptiness of a lonesome morning. Her last album waded into several pop waters, but this one dives into the deep end with a confidence that’s hard to shake. The record arrives January 15th on Kanine.



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Lavender Flu – “Rake The Face”

One Lavender Flu LP has already hit the shelves this year but it seems there’s another on the way from the Chris Gunn lead group. This time the fidelity’s crumbling like an accurate reflection of society in 2020, but the gutpunch grit of The Flu remains. Gunn’s songwriting has always straddled psych and the noisier end of the indie spectrum and this LP seems bound to let the lines blur even further. Lead single “Rake The Face” churns a bright buzz within its tape hiss hovel of sound. Pushing against the walls of redline in all direction the song has a clammy sweat groove that’s more cold turkey desperation than turbulent dance. There was some tenderness in the last Lav Flu, but this one seems to be packed with panic, pain, and a wash of noise. Tomorrow Cleaners lands in late October from MEDS.



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Barry Walker Jr. – “Up the Fan, Into the Keyhole”

Already populating one of 2020’s highly anticipated releases, the just announced North Americans record for Third Man, pedal steel player Barry Walker Jr. is helming his own follow-up to 2018’s excellent Diaspora Urkontinent as well. Like his compatriot McDermott, Walker is expanding the boundaries of his genre in all directions, trading the American Primitive of North Americans for a brand of psychedelic country that’s more indebted to Göttsching and Fripp than it its to the traditional straits of Cosmic Country or even the pedal steel virtuosity of Herb Remington. While his last album might have sat nicely alongside Luke Schneider’s latest (also for Third Man), this is no solo saunter. Walker bends the lonesome tears of his instrument through the black rainbow, but he brings along a shuffling back section as well, tumbling the first inklings of the record through a brokedown valley that’s littered with rusted arcticture that’s either junkyard or sculpture garden. Its up to the listener to parse it out against the squint of the low-hung sun. This marks a welcome return to the game for Holy Mountain Records, who’ve long been a favorite of RSTB. Glad to have ‘em back. The record is out October 30th.





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Elkhorn – “Acoustic Storm Sessions (exerpt)”

Earlier in the year Elkhorn released an album of pent-up psychedelic darkness and desperation that was forged in an unintentional lock-in during a snowstorm that caused them to miss a pivotal Brooklyn gig last year. The album, made with friend and collaborator Turner Williams, showed the band at their improvisational peak, exploring their psych-folk prowess by turning an environment of disappointment into something extraordinary. Seems that the album, which found them in a configuration with Jesse on acoustic, Drew on Electric, and Turner shifting between electric bouzouki on one side, shahi baaja on the next, spawned a sister album that’s just now seeing the light of day.

This time Elkhorn eschew the plugs to release their first completely acoustic album, letting three guitars entwine in the ice-ensconced studio to create something that’s both meditative and mercurial. Not quite born of the Basho/Fahey axis, not quite beholden to the kind of ambient plains dusters that spawned Barn Owl, this is is a more tempered vision of Elkhorn’s apocalyptic folk. On the sample below, you can feel just a small fraction of the scope of these acoustic sessions, stripped bare of the ozone-crackle of their psychedelic fry, but no less devastating in their barren burn. If anything, the austerity only enhances the permafrost isolation of the band’s stranded situation during the recording. The LP is out October 2nd on Centripetal Force and Cardinal Fuzz.




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Smarts – “Cling Wrap”

A defibrillator to the soul from a new Aussie unit (with some familiar names) out of Geelong. Smarts nail nervy, synth-jolted punk to the wall and the first cut off of their upcoming LP Who Needs Smarts, Anyway? is an absolute bumper car wreck of sprinting guitars, gulping at serotonin and slamming into whatever’s in their way. The band brings Anti-Fade helmer Billy Gardner (Cereal Killer, Ausmuteants) back together with his Living Eyes bandmate Mitch Campleman. They round out the crew with Sally Buckley keeping the synths greasy, Anti-Fade regular Jake Robertson (School Damage, Hierophants), and Stella Rennex (Bananagun, Parsnip) on sax. Like Devo knocked up half a speed and bent through wonky wiring, the band is chomping at the squirm-punk pedigree of the loner class of the ‘70s. They’re picking through the garbage of Suburban Laws and Black Randy & The Metrosquad while finding some purchase with the Midwestern glue brigade from Ubu to Dow Jones and on through the anti-social teardowns of The Uranium Club. Somehow the players in this crew are constantly exhuming Geza X, but I think that’s a more of a pet project than a selling point. If they connect it to enough bands one of you listeners is bound to check that lost classic. The LP is split between Anti-Fade in Aus and Feel It for US, and I’d recommend getting it locked on your speakers soon.




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Grace Sings Sludge – “The Pledge”

was always a fan of The Sandwitches and this hammock swung strummer from the band’s Grace Cooper is a good taste of her latest LP and a bit of an extension of their charms. There’s a loose feeling to “The Pledge,” dangling its feet in the breeze and hardly taking itself too seriously. Cooper has a way of making the ordinary, lackadaisical musings on love feel slightly profound, though. While the song’s themes of self-improvement to serve the ends of a relationship seem both relatable and at their heart, doomed, Cooper’s sighed delivery gives them some weight that makes the hollow promises thud even harder. The song flits by in a haze that takes full advantage of Grace’s dreamy style of folk-pop. It’s hard not to feel the room instantly fill with incense the moment her guitar begins to strum and by the end, even though the words ring false, we’re all calmer somehow anyway. The LP is out now on Empty Cellar.




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Daniel Romano’s Outfit – “Green Eye Shade”

A second offering from the upcoming LP out of the ever prolific enclave of Daniel Romano’s Outfit. The songwriter’s put out a cool 9-10 record just since the beginning of the year and its both a wealth of great earworms and an intimidating barrage that leaves one wondering where to begin. However, his next official release for You’ve Changed is a slick, huge pop record with a classic tilt. “Green Eye Shade” sees Romano employ full brass, handclaps, charming backup vocals and a hook that’s hard to get out of your system. The song swells to brimming, oozing a multi-colored pop perfection that’s part classic Petty, part My Morning Jacket with a crossover feeling of the last King Tuff record — another artist who embraced larger vistas with open arms and nailed the delivery. It’s an ambitious move from his low-key country past, but then again, if you’ve been listening over the last year, that should come as no surprise. The new LP is out September 18th.





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Badge Époque Ensemble – “Sing a Silent Gospel”

This week’s just packed with RSTB faves and news of another Badge Époque Ensemble LP is pretty high on the docket. The band’s debut was an undersung jazz-psych odyssey, but it was the last 12” that really caught hold and it was in no small part because of the contribution of vocals from Dorothea Paas, who returns here in a duet with U.S. Girls’ Meg Remy. The band retains their exploratory psychedelic jazz touches, letting poly-rhythmic percussion, cold-sweat organs, and a cool down of sax lead the way. Remy and Paas add a touch of ice water to the veins of the track with banter that’s feeling out the shape of the infinite. For some this might dip into the more ‘adult’-oriented, buttoned-down end of the ‘70s but that’s discounting the smolder that the band creates. Don’t let the smooth taste fool ya, BEE hits hard. This is no lite-jazz parlay, it’s a continuation of filtering deep between Herbie and Stevie and mapping out the outer edges of the soul while they’re at it. The stakes are a bit heavier that on their debut, but with the flute fluttering through the air, I’m down to embark on the journey. The record is out 11/20 on Telephone Explosion.



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