Browsing Category New Albums

BALL

The bounty of 2020 is only getting fuller by the day. While the rest of the world slides into chaos, the music of the moment is as potent as ever. To that whit, the sophomore LP from Ball is just the pelvic thrust of power that August has been waiting for. The Swedish group has long been posing as lascivious fuzz freaks pulled straight from the primordial ooze and this album does little to dissuade the audience from that impression. Built on the power trio tumult of the ‘70s, not to mention the sex, drugs, and damnation ethos, the band is a leather codpiece come to life. Like You Are…I Once Was…Like I Am – You Will Never Be finds the band lusting after a Satanic priestess that leads them down corridors of corroded bass rumble, through hovels heated with brimstone guitar and into fields filled with a war drum pound that’s as funk-bridled as it is refreshingly frenetic.

While on a larger world stage Ball is not anywhere near approaching the accolades they deserve, there seem to be plenty of bands looking to light a spark this bright. Fuzz in particular is sniffing up this same ‘70s power pummel and, while they’re packing a force to be reckoned with, Ball often edges them, pairing a looseness with a certain chaos that feels like they might just break apart at the seams at any moment. Hard rock has unfortunately been taking itself too seriously of late and the hormonal wink at the heart of Ball, paired with a proficiency that careens without collapsing is a formula that I hope to see more of in the future. Lock it up in an album cover that’s straight out of the Heavy Metal film scraps and this is hard to resist. Its a bit sparser in the states, but worth nabbing when you find it.




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Vintage Crop

No secret around here that I have a penchant for Aussie punk, and some of the best singles banging out these days come not from Melbourne or Brisbane, but from Geelong via Vintage Crop. The band’s bit hard on the live socket swagger of Wire, The Fall, and other such ‘70s spitters with jagged leads and caustic choruses. The record swings from pit-sweat thrummers to the kind of writhing, coiled killers that have made the band such an endearing presence the last couple of years. Serve To Serve Again was recorded with Mikey Young and there’s certainly a reverence for Young’s own ECSR legacy in the mix. With Young at the boards VC are accentuating the spring-loaded attack and brittle ends that have let punk and post-punk copulate in the current Aussie environment to create a sickened and swinging brand of propulsive punk that won’t be pinned to the floor.

Bass lines bulge at the seams, barely fitting into their niche, guitars scorch, slash, dart, and dodge the microphones and atop the glorious din Jack Cherry lays into the louche life with a sneer that can be felt through the wobble of the speakers. Unfurled late-stage capitalism, wage slave doldrums, and the festering tension of a generation left in the lurch all leak into the lyrics. The band wraps Jack’s invective around their supple songwriting, mulling the bile before letting it loose into the water supply. Vintage Crop have been hammering out squirm-inducing sonics for the past few years, but with Serve To Serve Again I do believe they’re peaking.




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Kanaan

With an album already on the books for 2020, Oslo’s Kanaan prove ever prolific with a second LP close on its heels, dubbed Double Sun. The record pushes back to structured psychedelia swerving slightly away from their last outing of improvisations with label head Jonas Munk in the mix. Like their debut Windbourne this is an exercise in building monolithic structures of heavy psych rooted to the ground by fifteen tons of solid groove. The band doesn’t waste too much time setting things back on the widescreen path, pushing past the opener into the far flung expanses of “Mountain.” The 12+ minute crusher shows the band at their best — rhythm section churning like an angry ocean and guitars diving straight into the glare of the sun. While the riff-ready dynamic remains their bedrock, this time the band lets loose from the earthen confines, exploring cosmic impulses through exploratory keys that scrape the upper atmosphere.

The Odense Sessions pushed the band out of their niche a bit and it’s clear that they felt the impact of their time in the studio with Munk. The songs here, while not nearly as loose as the improvisational LP, still retain a sense of movement — a dreamlike quality that lets the listener float through the cosmic reaches of the album in embryonic bliss. Though while the listener remains nestled in a cocoon that can’t be cracked, outside the core, there’s the chaos of the cosmos, the burn of re-entry, and the mountain of debris they kick up once they return to Earth. Where Scandinavian psych prevails, El Paraiso is there to catch ‘em and as they settle Kanaan into the catalog deeper each year, the band proves exactly how they got there.



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Tony Jay

I first caught wind of Tony Jay on a great comp from Rocks In Your Head that came out last year rounding up an essential crop of Bay Area bands. The track there stuck to the ribs, a swooning jangler buried in a blanket of hiss. The name’s a misnomer. There’s no Tony in the flesh, but he exists in the mind of the players, if only to inform the scope of the band’s lament. They create a vision of loner pop that’s scuffed and sullen, yet still saddled with enough hope to soften the edges and let the listener peek into the crinkled diary pages of Tony’s heartsick limbo. The band’s been knocking out singles and tapes for quite a few years it seems, but this new one on Paisley Shirt has the band peaking. A Wave In The Dark gives their vaseline-lensed pop a proper stretch out, adding some heft and dimension to their decidedly lo-fi basket of hooks and harmonies.

The hushed delivery wafts over the speakers with a confessional color that finds the band retreating behind bedroom walls rather than filling out stages. If anything, it feels like this was a tape recorded and left by accident on the high school bleachers. It’s a secret treasure found and played endlessly in the tape deck of a car filled on summer job wages and driven around the outskirts to shake out the rejection of a crush. The songs here are hooked on the K catalog —picking at the delicacy of The Softies and Heavenly, with a touch of Sarah alums Brighter in the mix. There’s been a good glut of jangle-pop that wants to mix the bittersweet with the sun, but it’s nice to feel the cloudy day drift of Tony Jay on the headphones. Some days that sun just won’s shine.




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Mike Polizze

With slight exceptions, the prior works of Mike Polizze have tended to center on volume, gnawing at the air until the oxygen is burnt and a char lays over the scene. His first entry to the amplified atmosphere came via Birds of Maya — blistering paint and eroding eardrums through releases on Holy Mountain and Richie. A left turn towards the garage with a touch of pop as Purling Hiss didn’t turn down the turmoil in the early years, letting feedback fight the tape hiss for prominence on initial releases before beginning to edge towards a classic rock sound that’s been more refined. In a lot of ways Polizze’s been following the same trajectory as Ethan Miller’s slide from Comets on Fire to the slipstream sheen of Howlin’ Rain. With a new run under his own name Mike’s stripping away the electric grit altogether, though, and letting the warm amber glow of late October firelight color his folk-pop with a particular nod to his Philadelphia surroundings.

Hunkering down with fellow Philadelphiles Kurt Vile and producer Jeff Zeigler, and letting the results out on Paradise of Bachelors, this is the sound of Philly transplants growing easy into their next phase. The pure joy of it comes through in every fiber. The stamp of Vile is particularly present on the album and he lends vocals to quite a few of the tracks here, with Polizze stepping up and delivering on his own version of Vile’s hammock-swung porch vibes. The record cools the swamp of summer into the sweater-hugged nights of fall from the moment the needle hits the platter. In fact those feeling an ache for a new Vile LP would be wise to see this as a stop-gap gift from the songwriter as it feels almost like an even collab between the two at times. Even hidden in the haze, Polizze had a handle on songwriting that made it stick, but here with the volume twisted down, he’s proving that he’s got hooks and grace to spare. The record is a departure for the songwriter, but it feels like a natural shift that could spawn the next phase rather than an outlier among the fuzz.





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Lloyd Thayer and Jerome Deupree

Always happy when the Feeding Tube mailers arrive with something that hits outside of my consciousness but well within the site’s wheelhouse. Since that crew is constantly tilling the best musical soil, this happens pretty regularly to say the least. While plenty of Eastern and American Primitive guitarists happen through the halls here, I’ve not found an entry point into the work of Lloyd Thayer previously, despite his roster of 30+ CDs and cassettes. The Boston string-slinger is working in the earthen thrum blues styles that pulls from Basho and Bull while making a stop around Hamza El Din for good measure. The artist employs a Weissenborn-style lap guitar and a 22 stringed instrument called a Chaturangui, and he winds the album into a headspace that’s entrancing, soothing, yet dipped in a mild poison that brings about strange dreams.

Thayer’s playing is masterful but restrained, a quality I’ve begun to enjoy greatly in instrumental string albums. White-knuckle string runs come and go, but its worth an album’s weight to let the songs sink into skin-ripple tension and slo-motion slide visions. Thayer delivers the dose, but doesn’t come to the task alone. He brings with him the percussion work of Jerome Deupree — a session regular and immensely versatile player who’s resume boasts time with The Humans, Joe Morris, and a co-founding credit in Morphine as the band’s original drummer. His rhythms don’t drive so much as urge the record forward. Deupree plays off of Thayer’s work with a flexibility and grace that’s palpable. His playing sways with the slides of Thayer’s stings, giving the album an even greater tie to the tumble of the winds and the hum of the Earth.

With title nods to blues legends Al Wilson and Melvyn Marshall, shouts to hip-hop pioneer Ramelzee and the boats of Apocalypse Now the record’s certainly not hitting the usual notes for this kind of vibe, but that all adds too the charm and hypnotic hold that Duets brings to the turntable. The more I listen, the more this one latches on.





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Floodlights

The jangled goodness that rolls out of Australia never flags and Melbourne’s Floodlights have taken up the emotionally scarred mantle from many of their peers – echoing The Bats, The Chills, Goon Sax, and more specifically feeling like a less cheeky version of Scott and Charlene’s Wedding. Like the latter there’s a conversational, working stiff quality to the band’s debut. The songs act as pub rally points, but underneath the hooks, there’s a searching unsureness that’s looking to find where the band members fit into a world that seems daunting by any measurable standards. The discomfort bubbles through From A View giving the songs an itch even when their melodies sway towards earworms. On “Don’t Pick That Scratch,” and “Glory of Control” the band lays out a world that’s unforgiving, mired in wounds that won’t ever heal fully until they’re attended to properly. “Scratch’s” premise is perhaps a sentiment that engulfs 2020 more than any other, as each day pulls back a layer of systemic dysfunction and piles on a few more layers of dystopian atrocity.

While the lyrical content might get take the focus, the band’s not letting the underlying aesthetics fall by the wayside. While the references above might start to give you a picture of where the band is coming from they don’t stick to jangle-pop as a rote means. Goon Sax and Scott and Charlene act as good modern equivalents because like Floodlights they’re injecting a certain element of tension and Floodlights have that in tow. The more I listen this actually begins to cross this over into Billy Bragg territory. Though perhaps not as outright political in nature, there’s a bit of a Brewing Up feeling to Floodlights’ debut that can’t be completely shaken once its felt. After a soft lead in on their Backyard EP this debut establishes the band as ones to keep a watchful eye on in the coming years. It’s a grower that takes more than a few listens to latch, but I’d recommend putting in the work to let this get under your skin.



Support the artist. Buy it HERE (out in Australia now, US August 28th).

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Silver Scrolls

Silver Scrolls work to elevate the simple act of walking into a microcosm of introspection, providing a soundtrack to clear your head or parse the infinite. The band probably didn’t think the album would land this presciently, but here we are in the grip of 2020 and the walk itself has become a necessity in cloistered times while also transforming into a moment that’s more prepared for than impromptu. The band, which boasts ex-Polvo members Dave Brylawski and Brian Quast doesn’t take the predicted route in association with introspective space. When I’d first heard that the title was Music For Walks, thoughts of ambient headspace immediately cropped into view, but the pair crib from their wheelhouse of psych, math, and angled indie instead.

The album is hardly reduced to a shade of background music, though they work to employ a certain hypnotic quality in the riffs. While Polvo is the name that sticks out most on paper, Brylawski’s songwriting here might more align with the psych-blues of Black Taj, which had a short run on Amish Records in the early Aughts. Blending some of the textures of Polvo, with the exploratory blues model of Taj, he lets the album wind in a sort of steam of consciousness feeling that moves from heavy amplifier curdle to delicate finger work and introspective ruminations. I feel like (if such a thing as commutes existed anymore) this one would have made a good Music for Commutes as well. The centering quality is good for getting the head straight whether its for the numbness of Capital servitude or a good 40 minutes through the neighborhood. These days, any even keel is appreciated, and this is an asset for ballast.




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Wednesday Knudsen & Willie Lane

Back about a year ago, Wednesday Knudsen (The Pigeons, Weeping Bong Band) and Willie Lane (The Golden Road, Elkhorn) released a duo set on Black Dirt Studios in-house label Natch. The set was a highlight from both artists, combining Lane’s slippery guitar blues with Knudesen’s ability to mold atmospherics from electric guitar, alto saxophone, and flute. Their dynamic is symbiotic, each pushing the record further into dark corners of spectral loneliness, fusing folk and psychedelic jazz into something a bit more protean than either. The pieces hang on the air in cold humidity — wounded, weary, but engrossing in a way that’s hard to shake. The pieces feel instantly canonical to something older than the players. Its a record that has hold of the central root of psychedelic sprawl.

The record is the first (of hopefully many) on the new Feeding Tube sub-label Drowned Lands, headed up by Black Dirt’s Jason Meagher. The Natch series alone provides a good amount of fodder, and I’m holding out that the Garcia Peoples and Hans Chew LP is next, but this is as good a place as any to start. The players have deep roots in the Hudson/Pioneer Valley psych scene, and this is too good a set to simply hold sway over the digital realm. With a proper LP entry as mark 001 in the Drowned Lands catalog, this is both a statement of purpose and a deserved pressing of a fantastic document of two top artists at work.




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The Sunset Canyoneers

The California coast is always fertile ground when it comes to Cosmic American Music and Cosmic Country in particular. Adding to a scene that’s already packed with faves like Pacific Range, GospelbeacH, and Mapache, Sunset Canyoneers pick up on the twang-simmered ease that lends itself so well to the salt-scented airs of their surrounding environs. As befits their inclusion on Spainish label You Are The Cosmos’ roster, the band focuses on breezy pop harmonies but tinge them with a low-swung sweetness, jangle and slide-dipped sound that’s heir to an amalgam of Big Star, New Riders of the Purple Sage, and Crosby, Stills & Nash. Though, at their most pure, the band seems to be distilling those same influences through the lens of aughts faves like The Tyde or The Stands.

The band’s pop penchant, sky-high, three-part harmonies and tight format set them apart bit from their contemporaries, who often dig into the folk, or extended jam sides of the spectrum. While Sunset Canyoneers feel like they might be able to stretch the boundaries of a few of these live, their sound is built on crisp pop tracks that are dressed up in Western shirts. It’s a shift from quite a few of the members’ previous projects, but that’s not to say that they don’t pull off their new sound amiably. When they slip off the twang and lean into the warm breeze of pop on “As Far As I Can Tell,” there’s a hint at where the players are coming from, yet it sits alongside the Cosmic Country without too much of a change in temperature. The marriage of indie pop and psych-draped country comes through most prominently, making their enthusiasm for the sound an infectious part of the process. You can feel that Powers and the band are having a good time and in the end that’s the feeling that permeates and the vibe that radiates.




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