Browsing Category New Albums

Oh Sees

Dropping an article doesn’t dampen the clamor that claws up from the very glowing soul of John Dwyer annually. His merry band’s evolved and mutated so many times that who could want to keep track at this point? We’ll shake it all out in the official biography at a later date, right? Down to four players, but using them with admirable precision, they even pull a cameo from longtime member Brigid Dawson on a few tracks here. The band’s taken a page from their kindred demons in King Gizz, kept the double drum attack and let it propel this album like a mechanical heart fed on coal fumes, nuclear fallout, and a bonfire constantly stoked with copies of Sleep’s Holy Mountain.

Last year’s A Weird Exits seemed a hard hill to top, but the band manages to dig darker, twist the knife further into the psychedelic wound and blow this out louder than Thee Oh Sees ever managed. Any lingering remnants of the garage phase of Thee Oh Sees are buried under the soil with Orc. They’re rummaging through the deepest end of the heavy psych costume trunk now and managing to make the squall take on a fresh finish. Bending German Progressive click tracks with metal rumble, breaking down into deep space eddies of calm, then sawing through them with a serrated slice of noise – everything you’ve loved about Dwyer and co. is here, but magnified and swollen to epic proportions and stuffed full of new tricks to boot.

JD has always felt like he’s processed his influences well, and it’s easy to pose that he’s cast a long shadow over several of today’s psych monsters. You’d be hard pressed to find a band working along the garage-psych spectrum that’s not as sick of the comparisons as we all are of hearing them water down John’s trademark Echoplex howl. Here though, he’s taking his own tour of heavy hitters and fitting them in a way that’s pushed this to the top of their 19-odd release stack. Weaving Groundhogs amp shredders through Amon Duul II and Hawkwind atmospherics, they graft the aforementioned Sleep bong-rattlers to towering psych-synth works that make this come off like a double-wide concept album whose theme is sonic destruction. Many have tried to knock the crown from his head, but essentially most just need to come to the conclusion that they’re not even on the same mountain.




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Ornament – “It Must Be The Season”

Ran across Nashville’s Ornament when the band was just working out photos through Nashville scene photographer Emily Quirk. Her coverage usually spans some great up and comers that roll through the town. I was sad at the time that they hadn’t really had much recorded output clanging around but now it seems that the band is releasing their debut single, “It Must Be The Season” b/w “Family Happiness.” The double shot positions the trio on the edge of indie/precipice of country in a wide-skied ’70s fashion that’s been bleeding more and more into the preferred fashion of late. Tip in bit of psych smoldering at the edges and I’m pretty much sold.

The A side has a loping ramble that works chiming guitars to great effect before sliding through a twanging solo that’s pure amber tones grafted to AM haze. The track’s a strong starter that’s putting them in league with EZTV or Ultimate Painting. The flip takes things to an even lusher locale with the sunset hues creeping high in the sky and a swell of strings making this feel much larger than their humble roots would suggest. Definitely a band to keep tabs on and a solid single top to bottom.




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King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard

So, three albums down, two to go if we’re keeping score in 2017. I’d opted out of the running commentary surrounding Murder of the Universe, ostensibly a real turning point for the band from a press saturation point. Now, its not that I had deep fundamental issues with the album, but if you’ve been taking the full tour as I have all these years, MOTU had all the hallmarks their best work, but that was as much to its credit as it was the problem. If you’ve heard the canon, you’ve got the idea. They saturated that one with the time change whiplash of their previous heavy psych monsters Mindfuzz, Microtonal Banana, and Nonagon. They even brought in a narrative voice-over in the spirit of Eyes Like The Sky. For a band that usually doesn’t cease to amaze, they seemed to have locked into some safe harbors on that one.

Now that makes their latest, Sketches of Brunswick East, all the more satisfying. The album, conceived collaboration with Mild High Club’s Alex Brettin, sees the band back off their breakneck psych mode, providing a similar respite on par with Paper Mâché Dream Balloon. Where that album went acoustic, this one delves into a lush jazz fusion that winks with the title’s play on Sketches of Spain but winds up lodged much further into the ’70s models of jazz-psych. The luxurious setting here lets the band sink into a completely new direction, embracing their slower jams and letting the groove drive them more than the mania.

I’ve always had a love for the band’s softer, silkier work, and after a low key show upstate NY a few years back that leaned heavily on that material (think “Stressin,” “Sleepwalker,” “Hot Water,” “Slow Jam 1”), its felt clear that they were also itching to embrace that direction. The album is all about vibe, playing up bass, hooking in Brettin’s beats to tone down their usual tornado of double drums, and letting Ambrose lay the flute on thick. This is the kind of album I look forward to from the band. It’s the kind that indulges and I’m all about their indulgence – want to keep things burning the psych core, make it microtonal, make it acoustic, learn the oboe, go jazz funk. With five in a year, they can’t all lean on the psychedelic warlord principles that shaped Nonagon Infinity. That’s a high water mark for sure, but Sketches proves that they can’t be backed into a corner.



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Milk Teddy

Been a few years since Milk Teddy laid their blissful gem, Zingers, on us, but the wait seems to have been well worth it. The band breezes in with their sophomore LP, Time Catches Up With Milk Teddy, which is equally shambolic in its scope. The band has an innate knack for bridging contemporary Aussie jangles with a windswept approach that scatters any of the natty, prim plucks into the surrounding sunshine. A lot of the credit for this can be hung squarely on the neck of vocalist Thomas Mendelovits, whose blissfully faded delivery folds in an out of the band’s swells with a natural ease.

Mendelovits’ anchoring croon remains a constant, but those underlying swells have taken on considerably more texture from their first outing. Zingers was awash in an echoplex haze, rendering the album gorgeous but gauzy and at times harder to sink your teeth into. Milk Teddy come down to the Earth’s crust to bump elbows with the rest of us on Time Catches Up. They’ve injected the occasional brush with post-punk in a few of their basslines and a couple of space-cake instrumentals but they’re essentially still working through their own brand of gossamer jangle, just on a more tactile level this pass.

The band’s relative obscurity in the US has always struck me as a tragedy, but perhaps it’s time to right a years-long wrong. Time Catches Up is a bold move by the band, stuck together with off-kilter interview snippets and woven like a patchwork quilt made of denim in varying quality and hues. It’s pock-marked and imperfect and that’s exactly what makes it so desirable. Get your perfect glossy pop elsewhere. The LP is worn in all the right places and comfortable as an old t-shirt. Each listen just makes this one more and more endearing as an album that’s gonna test time and come out winning.




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Tuusanuuskat

More great work out of the universe of Jan Anderzén, following on a great new Tomutonttu record earlier this year. Tuusanuuskat is a collaboration between Anderzén and Es member/Fonal honcho Sami Sänpäkkilä and the two artists’ worlds meld together into a skittering, experimental electronic wonderland. The name, Tuusanuuskat is a play on words in Finnish, meaning essentially “total shambles” and if that’s not a phrase that hits home these days, I’m not entirely sure what is. The duo picks apart melodies into a kind of glitching, thrumming sanctuary from the world at large – a respite for reflection and preparation. Not coincidentally the album name Toiminnan aattona means “On The Eve of Action”.

Then consider this album a loading zone for a week of shit that’s too complex and saddening to comprehend. Let the gentle lap of delicate cacophony wash over you before emerging into the hot sun of reality. Who can be blamed for wanting to hide in headphones while the world rots? And while that certainly can’t be a constant state of being, Tuusanuuskat have created an oddly meditative space that’s found a way to organize chaos into readiness. They muster noise into a centering force that leaves the listener ready for, if not action, at least a semblance of organization and calm. This is the album that we all need now, and probably in the months to come.



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Astral TV

Formed by Causa Sui synth player Rasmus Rasmussen alongside Keith Canisius, Astral TV picks up the Kosmiche baton from so many other tape trade analog wizards operating in the wake of Onehotrix and Emeralds. While the heyday of instrumental synth’s resurgence may be in flux, there’s still room at the table for those that are doing it with a deft hand on the knobs. Astral TV eschews the Goblin and Morricone tropes of the genre, going in for true German progressive float that comes straight out of the Göttsching school of meditative psychedelics.

The album has a tender arc, reigning in light-soaked burbles of sound that push the sensory deprivation vibes with euphoric results. On tracks like the sublime “Sun Flares” the duo rides the open consciousness fader to the top, rippling with a soft ecstasy that’s buoyed by arepgiated synths and glowing lines of honey-dipped guitar. They cross into some pastoral-psych / ’70s synth hybrids that skirt towards territory that Belbury Poly or The Advisory Circle might rightly feel comfortable in and it’s not a stretch to imagine Astral TV sharing a stage with either.

For minimal synth there’s always the danger to get sucked too hard into the New Age filter at the end of the pool, at least for me. There’s a huge audience for that and if you’re vibing on Vaporwave and loving it, more power to you. For my money though, the brand of Kosmiche that Astral TV has inhabited winds up with more meat on its bones and a longer lasting effect on the blissful comedown they’re searching for.

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Marvelous Mark

I have to admit, I have a soft spot for power pop that echoes the ’90s variety, sloshing through the lurid puddles of sound left behind by Matthew Sweet, Weezer and Teenage Fanclub. There are quite a few that are picking at this point in the power pop food chain, choosing to ignore the roots of the sound that tied heavily to ’60s nostalgia or ’70s sinew. Toronto’s Mark Fosco definitely has his roots in this varietal, and every heartsick note comes ringing through with a love for the big stage bittersweet riffs that permeated the sunnier side of grunge’s heyday.

The LP has rough moments, it’s chewed through with fuzz like an asbestos coating over a great deal of these tracks, but underneath the cracked woofer tone is a syrupy sweet bit of pop that definitely makes better use of the aforementioned Fanclub, Superdrag or Ash’s approach than the majority of the pop punk followers of the sound. Fosco has a knack for finding big hooks and running them through a sticky sweet bummer echo chammber that’s welling up some nostalgia for cracked case mixtapes of days past. Yes, by nature this is leaning on the crutch built from others‘ accomplishments, but I’ll be damned if he isn’t making it sound fun to cherry pick the past.




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Cool Ghouls

Not all EP’s are created equal, and often when connected with a tour, the word ‘asset’ gets tossed around more than the word release. So, it’s comforting to know that even on a stopgap tape they created for tour, the band still maintains a high caliber of songwriting. Not that I’d call most Cool Ghouls releases regimented, but this has a looser feel than most of their work – delving into instrumental psychedelics to stretch out their stage muscles a bit, but more often, crafting breezy West Coast country psych ramblers that swell with jangles and amber hues.

On the tape’s title track, they’re at their faded AM best, flipping through the kind of private press psych that burns the mind and warms the insides. They’re cycling through their Byrds lineage well, picking from the band’s permutations while hinting at great imitators like The Wizards From Kansas or Sapphire Thinkers and even a bit of Moby Grape as well. The EP isn’t as coalesced as they’ve been on record, but it feels like a way to indulge some influences in a great way. To be honest the loose production suits them so well, it makes me hope that they carry over the general vibe of this into their next proper album. Hard to get a bad bump from the ghouls, and this paints them as ardent ’60 psych fans with deep shelves.


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A.M. Son

There’s been a glut of power pop with an emphasis on the power half of the equation, but lately it seems that a few artists are starting to find the sweet spot between country ramble, Rundgrenesque ’70s AM sheen and the kind of power pop that befit The Flaming Groovies in their later Beatles obsession. Throw in an affinity for Muswell-era Kinks and Adam Paulson’s debut as A.M. Son checks all the boxes. Floating in on a sweet breeze of strums, twang, fiddle, and thick ’70s organ licks, this stands as a solid outlier in 2017’s indie field. The timbre of Paulson’s straw-scratched croon made me at once think that somehow Nobunny’s Justin Champlin had gone softly into the arms of country pop. And while Paulson doesn’t hold over in that circle, he’s not without his own garage and indie roots.

Paulson’s last stint saw him co-leading the short-lived but always intriguing Rainbow Gun Show, who had a few tracks out on HoZac. He’s also a touring member of Mild High Club, and though their psych-soul doesn’t really bleed in here, he does pick up psych in the form of a nod or two to the Elephant 6’s lush, strum-heavy variety (“You’ve Got Me”.) The record’s brief nine tracks are solid and endearing pop from start to finish, putting him squarely on the radar alongside some up and comers like New Rose or L.A.’s Mikah Wilson, who’s finding his way to similarly breezy territory. A pitch perfect offering from Throne Age, who, themselves are building up a nice little reputation as a label as well.




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Pregnancy

A shift from the usual ragged indie of the Aussie underground, Pregnancy is wrapped in a clipped urgency perpetuated by shards of post-punk guitar, broken-leg disco snare and the muted blare of distant horns. The band’s members pull roots in Ciggie Witch, Totally Mild and The Ocean Party, but they leave the more laconic territory of those names behind. Urgency lives up to its name for the most part, pounding breathless through a ten-piece of post-punk’s darkened corners. Though, they get some extra points for not just biting off the tension via rubber-band bass aesthetics.

What gives the album the upgrade is a focus on atmospheres – pinprick guitar lines are shot forward in bas relief when the background is full of synth fog and streaked with neon tones that splashed across in a gossamer glow. They avoid the early aughts’ tendency to take post-punk’s angles and throw them into twisted metal spotlights. Their approach is much more soft-focus, learning a lesson or two from shoegaze, but never going full-stop with the fog machine. Pregnancy’s less is more approach to a genre that’s sometimes wrought with drama makes them welcomed newcomers to an overcrowded scene.




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