Browsing Category New Albums

Six Organs Of Admittance

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Following on the heels of Ben Chasny’s experimental Rubik, Hexadic, he returns to the smokey, raw emotion of records like like School of the Flower or The Sun Awakens. The album, for the most part, steers its way shy of the guitar explosions that collided Six Organs with elements of Comets on Fire and instead focuses on the soft touch and texture of Chasny’s songcraft. On those two particular records, he honed the beauty in his work, sanded the raw edges and focused the froth of emotion through the tangle of strings and his own cedar smoke drawl. The next phase would bring fire, and while the fire was satisfying, there’s something inherently interesting about calm laced with the haunt of pain. That element has returned with eperience on Burning The Threshold.

Chasny’s voice is high and present in the mix, putting the focus on the man, rather than any hint of din rising around him. The only noise seeping through on many songs is the light flutter of tape hiss that wraps the songs in a Kodachrome weather of age. Largely, it’s just Ben and his guitar, recorded cavernous and enveloping, as if the listener is observing from inside the instrument itself. As the record builds to a peak, he strides outside of the lone troubadour mode for the standout, “Taken By Ascent,” which acts as a single focal point for the full release of the tensions bubbling throughout the album. Where every other track is building and aching, “Ascent” is the moment when there’s a flash of menace in the eyes, a wounded bristling that turns dangerous but rides the rise into a tense bout of prog-laced psych without exploding into noise.

After the track simmers to a close the album returns to the lonesome and even wistful modes of the closing numbers, picking up some of the same solemnity of that preceded the row on “Ascent.” There are no other glimmers of that tension on the album, but collected as an arc, it plays well as an argument for albums in a renewed age of singles. The songs are all inherently interesting apart, but when stacked into the tableau that Chasny has assembled, they create something bigger than any of the pieces. Six Organs has a deep catalog, but this easily stands out as a high water mark in a lifetime littered with gems.




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King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard

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King Gizzard have never been accused of slacking, but 2017 might just be pushing the limits for the band. Flying Microtonal Banana is the first of five proposed albums to be relesed by the end of the year and it booms out with a concept no less. The album is built around member Stu McKenzie’s acquisition of a microtonal guitar. The decision was then made to challenge the rest of the band to acquire instruments operating in microtonal tuning. The band then set out to lay down the workings of Banana. The result is an album that’s still fed on the band’s relentless rhythm, but with the addition of the insturmentation limitations, gives the album a middle-eastern psych quality that’s a nice shift.

Basically the album winds up sounding like King Gizzard as fed through bent psych of Turkish guitar slinger Erkin Koray, the heavy otherworldlinesss of Flower Traveling Band and the North African shuffle of Tinariwen. But its not all just cribbing notes and rolling them in rumble, the band adds plenty of their signature atmosphere to spacey bits on “Melting” and “Sleep Drifter.” They stretch out into a slower slink on “Billabong Valley” which really ups the Middle Eastern aura, adding in Zurna to float the track into a sea of psych vibes. While not quite as overly ambitious as their loop of fury on Nonagon Infinity, this is nonetheless another more academic approach from a band that never ceases to challenge themselves under the guise of limitations. If this is just the tip of the iceberg in 2017, then I’m plenty excited to see what else lies in the coming months.




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Mind Meld

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L.A.’s Mind Meld follow up their tease of single, “The Viper,” with a full length that makes good on all the promises locked into that rock candy double-shot. The album shares a a few obsessions with the current crop of metal-dipped, space-rock altar worshipers, and they’re making a very worthy bid to be running in the same pack that Ty, Meatbodies and Aussie heavies like King Gizzard and Orb are heading up. The band knows their way around the yoke of heaviness, but for every Winnebago flattening riff they add a dose of catchy crunch topping and an air of spaciness that speaks to their love of ’70s wizards like Hawkwind or The Edgar Broughton Band. The latter, they even pay double down respects to here with a cover of the band’s Why Can’t Somebody Love Me”.

The eponymous album is pure hedonistic fury, amps on fire and tumbling down with pumice and ash. Though that almost tips a cap into doom territory, and while its obvious that the record shelves of Mind Meld members are not without a few Sabbath records, they actually keep the tone celebratory. Its heavy, but not evil. There’s more Blue Cheer in their growl than anything, frying out the West Coast vibes and feeling like they’re having a pretty good time doing it. Check out the band’s album in full below, dressed up in all is garage-psych glory. Recommended you tip the volume knob rightward here. Shake the windows.



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Paperhead

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A distinctly polished upgrade of Paperhead’s nostalgia-centric rock trip, their latest Chew is an ambitious reach that pays off for the most part. The Paperhead is one of those band’s that has been clanging around in RSTB’s reach for a few years now. They came up as underage wunderkinds with a taste that spoke to hours dosed in YouTube fodder that knocked through Nuggets-era material like Kaleidoscope, Gandalf, Tomorrow, July and Rainbow Ffolly. They emulated the off-kilter, day-glo pastiche so well that it was charming, but not didn’t necessarily speak to carving out their own space. They’d excelled at winking at collectors who couldn’t help but feel that “the kids were all right.” But on Chew they begin to move away from that and into their own space, finally coming to terms with the influences that have bubbled up in their formative years, blending that ’60s sweet tooth with a more complex pop that speaks to their familiarity with the Elephant 6 catalog as that stable developed out of their own adolescence.

Tracks like “Emotion (Pheromones)” speak to the kind of lush pop made by Beachwood Sparks and middle marks of Beulah. “Little Lou” is a hazy dose of Olivia Tremor Control’s outer reaches. Elsewhere they fully embrace a ’70s eclecticism that found a home for country’s mellow glow within psych-pop’s walls. They dabble in dual languages on standout “Dama De Lavanda” and they seem to fully swell into a sense of who they want to be. Yes, they are still quite smitten with the seeds of the past, but now they appear to have let more of themselves into the mix. As an added plus those skin deep and sleeve worn influences have all seeped deep into the system and germinated in delightful ways. This is a band still having fun with the kind of music they enjoy, indulging but also adding to the conversation. It’s psych-pop with a human heart.




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Easy Love

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Easy Love is the solo project of Summer Twins’ Justine Brown. She’s crafted an ode to lost love and smeary-eyed breakups, channeling her remorse and longing into her best material yet. Like her work in Twins, Easy Love’s eponymous album flutters into shades of ’60s pop (via the late ’90s obsession with the decade) for its inspiration. However, Easy Love seems to synthesize those influences rather than keeping them sleeve deep as her previous outlet often tend to. She’s solo, but not necessarily on her own here, with sister Chelsea (also of Summer Twins), Natalie Burris, and Dave Jauregui rounding out the lineup for a full sound that’s working towards the aloof maturity of Jenny Lewis’ country-tinged crooning or a more actualized version of La Sera.

There’s been an outpouring of crunchy pop with streaks of sun in its hair over the last decade or so, but Brown doesn’t lean on any of her culture crutches too hard, making for a hazily sweet mixture. Oh sure odes to love and loss are a literal dime a dozen, but heartbreak’s the universal binder and being able to let listeners into your heart with a hook is still commendable. Its a lovely record that’s distinctly Californian, but without printing up t-shirts to shout about it like Best Coast. Its an indie pop record in every sense, but without donning the twee accoutrements of She & Him. Easy Love is Brown’s heart wrapped and ready to be put back together by anyone with a half hour to spare and a shoulder to lean on.




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Mac Blackout Band

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Mac Blackout (aka Marc McKenzie) has been a fixture here for a while, running a vein through Chicago’s garage rock underground for a good solid clip at this point. As leader of RSTB faves Mickey, McKenzie will always have a soft spot in my heart for creating one of the last ten years’ most fun power pop records. As the Mac Blackout Band though, the pop side has melted away a bit and the full on garage-punk assault is in total swing with just a whiff of metal floating on the air. Burning Alive is a raw nerve of pent up aggression and full bore rock shot out of the barrel wild and loose. The album is practically shaking with beads of sweat, tumbling and scuffing its way through the speakers looking to get into a fight as soon as possible.

The record blasts out of the start with the fiery anthem “Rise Up” and that pretty much sets the tone for the record to come. Once Blackout has you on your feet and ready for a rumble he just stokes the blaze of fight burning in your core and lets the furious riffs and tornado of toms do the rest. The album isn’t remapping the garage rock landscape, but as I’ve said countless times, that’s not always the point. It’s a fun record that’s unhinged at its best, bringing to mind fellow Midwestern legends Timmy’s Organism. At its worst, its still a damn fun ride, that begs for volume, lowered windows and blank stares from the passersby.




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Okey Dokey

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Nashville duo Okey Dokey struck a chord around here with their single last year, “Wavy Gravy”. Now they’ve snuck out a full length that expands on their exploration of blue-eyed soul through an updated filter of psych-pop and indie charms. They capture just a touch of the full swell hopefullness that drove fellow Tennessee-pop troupe Magic Kids. Like that outfit they employ large scale arangement, taking full advantage of the nostalgic twinge of stings and brass. Likewise they meld in doo-wop and soul vocal takes that give their songs a flashback flutter around the edges.

Guitarist Johny Fisher’s also made time in The Weeks, and while he doesn’t bring a huge influence of the band’s southern rock into the room, his chops remain here with some sprightly guitar work that shades the pair’s songs nicely. That said, its really the vocal treatments that stand out here, from the swooning church picnic swing of “Congenial Man” to the wide-eyed wonder of “Wavy Gravy,” the album floats along on the pair’s upfront approach to the voice on Love You, Mean It. Rounding out the sound, they bring along a wealth of talent in the form of friends from Wild Child, The Weeks, Rayland Baxter, Morning Teleportation and Bully. It winds up as a nice bit of sunshine, hazed with just a touch of stained glass light, brightening up any afternoon.




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Business of Dreams

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Taking a sidestep from the crunch-pop of his day gig in Terry Malts, Corry Cunningham dives longingly into synthpop with convincing conviction. The eponymous album, released on his own imprint, Parked In Hell, captures an aesthetic that mines the early aughts’ love for the mid-80s. He’s got all the right hints of smeared window pane synth, 2 A.M. headspace-wandering jangles and lightly lapping beats that nudge the feet forward but don’t inspire any dance breakouts. Now on their own, those are hallmarks that dog-eared many acts in the wake of Ben Gibbard’s sudden affection for crying over keys vs. strings, and the shift has clotheslined many well-intentioned songwriters over the years. But getting it right, without feeling overly sappy or bogged down in influences takes a hard case.

Cunningham brushes off the flys of doubt, divining the core melancholy that makes this sort of synthpop work and he combines it with an approach that goes for subtlety over flash. He’s not necessarily reaching for hits territory, but he’s found a home between texture and temperance. The record winds up as aural comfort food, a smirking nod to those that always return to certain corners of the Factory, Creation and Sarah Records shelf when things look dour. In that regard I think the only true praise here is just a wordless nod in the night as we pass Cunningham walking around, hat pulled tight and breath rising cold into the street lamps. He might be right, “the world wasn’t made for us.”



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Meatbodies

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So just to get it out of the way, yeah it’s obvious that Chad Ubovich, Charles Mootheart, Ty Segall and Cory Hanson have at one time or another borrowed from each other’s record collections. There are a lot of the same influences at work here, and while the lazy review could write Meatbodies off as just a carbon copy of any of the others, Ubovich has built an impressive tower of psychedelic pop in his own right on Alice. What he’s really excelled at is finding a way to seamlessly intertwine the best hallmarks of any ’70s guitar freak’s record shelf. There’s the Bolan warble bumping into Syd Barrett’s own tremolo madness, neither affectation overtaking the other completely in a dance of madness. The band builds matchstick temples to Sabbath and burn them down with the glee of bubblegum glam. They know that Bowie and The Sweet both wanted to make you bop and treat them on equal footing, no hero hierarchy here, egalitarian aesthetics copped to the core.

In an age when it’s possible to completely saturate yourself in an almost overwhelming amount of musical output, it’s impressive to see someone take his obsessions and lacquer them together into a monster of an album that doesn’t whiplash between styles like a giddy kid in a candy store. Stacking LEGO┬« pulled from your best bins can muddle more than it can shine, but the band builds a solid psych foundation that keeps me coming back time and again for another dose of cotton thick clouds of fuzz. Ubovich, along with West Coast studio backbone Eric Bauer shellac this sucker into its shiny fanged form. They indulge (heavily) in the effects of their forefathers, but let them color strategically out of the lines in hypnotic shapes rather than make a splotchy mess.

There’s an overarching theme here of “war, sex, politics and religion,” but to be fair that covers a lot of ground and while the lyrics stick Alice together some, it’s more of an album about feel and tone, time and space. It’s the past skinned, sliced, packaged and shuffled into an order that feels natural. It’s the countless hours of a music junkie made material and fed through a Big Muff for good measure. If that’s not enough for you, then door’s on the right, be sure to hit the black light your way out and let the rest of us fuzz out grinnin.’



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Moon Duo

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As Moon Duo continues to refine and coalesce their sound, they find themselves achieving a shimmering balance of malice and sweetness. Burrowing deep into an uneasy cocoon of Kosmiche and synth (provided by the band’s master texturist Sanae Yamada); the album buzzes, twitches and festers at times with an uncomfortable darkness that gets its hooks in you. It’s a quality that rears its head most prominently on standout single “Cold Fear” and the sinister “Will Of The Devil.” There’s a feeling of cold sweat, clammy palms and permanently bloodshot anxiety at work here and perhaps these are the feelings that serve this album as the dark-toned Yin in the two part album cycle that the band has embarked on. But if it were that simple, that cut and dry, then it would just grind the listener down under a boot heel of panic.

The album does play with fear and fever, but it breaks the sweat-soaked chaos into a neon lit blitz of speed and freedom. As much as any album of synth lapping Vangelis freaks want so badly to become the soundtrack to your dystopian thrill ride, I feel that Moon Duo might be hitting the vibe more accurately than any of those Korg temple acolytes ever could. The band is splitting the dark corners of Blade Runner with the dazzling imagery onslaught of The 5th Element here. It’s future pop as divined by stark realists with a smirking penchant for leaking optimism and excitement into their formula.

While Yamada is the world builder here, the extravagant paint splashes belong clearly to Ripley Johnson’s guitar work. His playing has always added the psychedelic spring in their motorik grind, but here he’s finding a fluidity that’s like liquid mercury turned to sound waves. Every time Johnson’s guitar surfaces from the frothing deep, it cuts in heated, glowing flashes that turn the world to steam in their wake. The combination of the two forces spins like tumblers in a lock, unleashing the band at an undoubtable peak. Now, one can only hope and wait for what the second piece of this puzzle holds.




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