Browsing Category New Albums

Brigid Dawson & The Mothers Network

It feels like this album from Brigid Dawson & The Mothers Network has been sorely overlooked in the lead-up to its release. Its a damn shame because the ex-Oh See has put together an album that pushes her range far beyond the garage and psych roots attached to her. Within Oh Sees Dawson always provided the light to the rest of the band’s brooding dark — washing in areas of harmony and humility to the band’s rhythmic furor or blood-spattered psychedelics. On Ballet of Apes she’s filtering through the frames of folk and jazz, lounge and a hopeful strain of soul. Her songs crouch and coo, then open wide and soar. The album is bruised but resilient and its some of her best work in any context.

As for those lumped into her Mothers Network, Dawson has assembled a rather enviable crew. The backing musicians range far and wide, picking up friends from New York, San Francisco, and Melbourne. The Mothers Network are at any time Mikey Young (Total Control/Eddy Current Suppression Ring), Mike Donovan (Sic Alps), Shayde Sartin (Fresh & Onlys, Flying Canyon), Mike Shoun (Oh Sees, Peacers). Then as the album slides into its latter half Dawson pairs with RSTB faves Sunwatchers for a bout of jazz smolder that slips beyond the veil of light and into a space that’s inhabited by smoke and smudged by hot coal chemical interactions. The band and Dawson make a particularly potent pair and here’s hoping that they might make it more of a regular occurrence. Highly recommend digging further into this one again and again.




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Zachary Cale

The latest album from Zachary Cale, while awash in a sort of sunset dulcet feeling is also soaked in a good dose of uncertainty that feels rather relatable. While the album’s been in the works for the last five years, that uncertainty captures the feeling of a year that seems unable to let up. Cale’s pace quavers between rambling fingerpicked rivulets and the kind of buttered comfort that’s made Kurt Vile, Mike Polizze and the Philly set simmer. He peppers in instrumentals that let his understated prowess shine — skewing pensive at some times, and propulsive at others — tying the album together like a faded tapestry. It’s in his equally worn and weathered lyrics, though, that Cale glows the warmest.

False Spring, as the title suggests, deals with a glimmer of hope snuffed by chance and change. Time is beast on this record, leaving the protagonist stranded, stifled, and generally set adrift. Cale’s songs gnaw at uncertainty and are in turn gnawed right back. Occasionally he revels in the looseness of it all, but more often than not Cale is leaning into the bitter winds with an eye in both directions. He’s looking for the lamplight on the horizon and it’s never quite clear if he’s bound to find it. He brings along a pretty good crew on the voyage, though. His tight backing band including Brent Cordero and Charles Burst of The Occasion is amplified by particularly languid pedal steel from Dan Lead, whose lent his tone to Jess Williamson, Kevin Morby and Cass McCombs. The record is a raft in waters that aren’t so forgiving and its worth holding on tight.




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Stonegrass

I let loose a track from this monster earlier in the month, but now the full album is upon us and it’s even more expansive than the fuzz chomper, “Tea” lets on. Brainstormed out of sessions between Matthew ‘Doc’ Dunn (The Cosmic Range, The Golden Road) and Jay Anderson (Badge Époque Ensemble) following the end of their previous endeavor, The Spiritual Sky Blues Band— the two find a cosmic nirvana that mixes hazed strums with wind-bitten fuzz. The album employs haunted psych textures beset with flute fumigations and deep-set zones that ripple through a particularly nocturnal temperament. The pair link up with Tony Price (US Girls/Young Guv) on production, making for a potent triumvirate of psychedelic resonance. There’s a deeply grooved library music mantra about the album, rolling together elements of The Feed-Back and Alessandroni while slicing through prog puddles filled with the likes of Xhol Caravan, Kraan, and Paternoster.

Anderson’s involvement injects a slight tinge of funk to the project, as can be heard in the predawn dabbling of “The Highway (To All Known Places),” but the default setting is one of scorched mind-flay with the amps set at fuzz-rumble and the ambience creeping in with a full dose of menace. Dunn and Anderson are certainly no newcomers to the psychedelic sense, but what’s most affecting here is their want to delve deep into their archives of personal pedigree to emulate the far-gone burnt ends of instrumental indulgence. There’s something to love here for the heads who just want to hole up in groove and fuzz, something for those who love the instrumental crust belt, and something for fans of Dunn and Anderson in general. Stonegrass is every bit the dropout dose that the signifiers suggest and more. I suggest strapping in for a turbulent ride.




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2nd Grade

This one’s a huge undertaking. While the power pop universe of Peter Gill (Friendship, Free Cake For Every Creature) rarely lasts more than two minutes, he’s packed 24 songs onto this LP from Double Double Whammy. Gill’s approach pushes aside the dedication to the late ‘70s and early ‘80s that so many of the latter day saints of power pop have adopted, almost to a dogged fault. Instead it’s clear that Gill’s heart belongs to the ‘90s school as it bled into the early aughts and he’s not afraid to wear that badge proudly on his sleeve. Snagging both ends of the decade, there are the huge hooks and that touch of sunshine with a melancholy soul that marked the works of the Velvet Crush/Mathew Sweet/Choo Choo Trains axis. Yet its clear that Gill may have had a Ben Kweller or Radish CD in his Case Logic clutch as well. Moments that recall the sorely overlooked 2nd offering from Superdrag crop up as well as an aftertaste of Fountains of Wayne.

Gill’s ability to pluck from so many different nooks of the ‘90s and still make the album feel cohesive and natural speaks to his songwriting. Shifts from winsome and sweet, to a more gnarled feel come without the jostling they might cause in lesser hands. Inside jokes that would make the Apples in Stereo blush abound. Strums that are simple and saccharine litter his work, but they land every time. The album’s a treasure trove of hooks and a ‘choose your own adventure’ volume of heartbreak and joy if the shuffle feature is employed. There’s something about the sheer volume of tracks mixed with the bite-size approach that feels like there’s no wrong way to listen to Hit To Hit. With the temps climbing this month, it feels like letting a little sun shine in is a good idea and 2nd Grade have got ya covered for any moment.





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Prana Crafter

While there may be a lot going on (even while there’s nowhere to go) that’s no reason not to focus in on the head zone these days. In the midst of global pandemic, there’s been a wealth of new music from RSTB fave Prana Crafter — from tapes to streams, and it begs lower light and a deep dive into the embryonic abyss. First, as a part of an excellent drop of albums from Null Zone Tapes, which also included one from Rootless, Curanderos, and Khoutek, Will Sol inhabits the cosmic cloud on two sidelong tracks. The first cut nudges into Terry Riley territory – amorphous and numbing in a wonderful way before it begins to take shape from the dust with ripples and riffs that let the mind wander interdimensionally for at least a few minutes. As the listener is lead out of the stasis haze, Sol filters in a touch of organ and acoustic playing that brings us all back to our senses. The visions that floated to the surface during the sensory depravation of the first 10-12 minutes fade away, but footing is still a bit spongey at best. Things turn much darker on the second side, and a whole lot less serene.

With a riff that sounds like Sabbath, or Amon Düül II filtering over the hills (its hard to pin down through the tempest winds that seem to blow up), Sol begins a more scorched approach on “Eye Closed Inner Thunder.” The song quivers in an unseen gale, but it seems defiant in the face of nature — screaming into the void and lashing itself to the mast. The two pieces, while nothing alike in tone give the impression of two halves of a whole. The first is bliss, ignorant or otherwise, and overwhelming calm. The second is the voice inside that told you to panic and the rage that bubbles beneath the surface come calling for a visit. Though neither of those feeling overwhelm the second piece by the end. Sol tame the tempest with a flurry of acoustic strums that match up with some of his best.

If this hits you right and you’re in the mood for more Crafter then I’d recommend heading over to Youtube to check out a set Will did from home that lays out some new material — comprised of the bulk of a new album he’s working on for Cardinal Fuzz/Feeding Tube later in the year along with few embellishments. Definitely an engrossing 30-min set for any night you need to hit the zone. Side note on the Null Zone releases as well — all proceeds from digital sales for this album will be donated to the Garrie Vereen Memorial Emergency Relief Fund organized by Nuçi’s Space in Athens, GA. The set is pay as you wish, but keep that in mind as you checkout.





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Woods

Following 2017’s healing hand that was Love Is Love, Woods return changed, as we all are, but still mining the same mercurial magic that’s always surrounded them. While the last album dealt with finding optimism in the face of crushing disappointment (2016 in a nutshell), Strange To Explain has the benefit, or rather the burden, of having lived in the world a few more years since the bottom fell out. The band spent time growing— nurturing family and the label — and now they return with an album that’s tender, but also bruised. That yearning optimism that surrounded Love Is Love has tempered into a wistful reservation. They’re still looking to spread that love, but Woods seem to understand that it can feel hard to find a foothold on the ladder out of our low points these days. Likewise, despite the inclination there might to lash out, the record lacks the rhythmic turbulence that drove City Sun Eater In The River of Light. In its place there’s a contentedness underlying the album, the feeling that while the outer universe might spin out of control, our own nuclear worlds can still be a center of peace.

There’s some worry too, how could there not be? It melts for the most part, though, under Earl and co’s radiant glow. The band’s been refining their sound for years, and each new album adds a layer of lush comfort that solidifies them as leading their folk peers while constantly existing outside of any established models. Woods and Woodist are inseparable and the community that they’ve built around themselves shimmers through on Strange To Explain. The communal vibes of the label’s namesake festival are threaded through the album. The harmonies hug close. The instruments blend in watercolor coolness.

Don’t let the smooth taste take away the band’s bite, though. The headiness that positions them high atop the list of bands who can knock the hell out of a live set pokes out from under the lacquered veneer. Album closer Weekend Wind, pushes the album out of its sun-in serenity and into a few gnarled grooves that catch the Cosmic Americana wind. “Fell So Hard,” feels like it might lend itself to ten-minute extension once the amps are warm and humming. There are probably few who need an introduction to what Woods are about at this point, but if you need a reminder of why they’ve remained vital this past decade or so, Strange to Explain is more than up to the challenge.




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Rob Noyes & Sam Moss

As always, Scissor Tail Records remains a divining rod of excellent folk and acoustic music. The label’s been quietly serving up classics from Rosali, Scott Hirsch, Sarah Louise, and label head Dylan Aycock over the past few years and the latest run of gorgeously packaged tapes shows no signs of a dip in quality. Alongside a split from Aycock and Joshua Massad and a solo jaunt from Danish guitarist Anders Holst, this rustic, spiritual split from Rob Noyes and Sam Moss has been just the thing to soothe the restless spirit this week. Pairing fingerpicked guitar and violin, the tape has the feeling of a fireside village collaboration — seasoned artists playing off one another to settle the dust of the day, and perhaps dig out something new from each other in the process. Noyes’ playing is measured and understated. Like Nathan Bowles, who also evokes a sort of Appalachian, colonial American style, Noyes doesn’t trade in flash, but rather in a hypnotic low ramble that serves as an elixir for anxiety.

Moss’ violin is played more as a fiddle than a classical conduit over most of this album. It has a dust in the strings that’s wiser than its years, as if the instrument were passed from family player to family player, picking up a calloused instinct that radiates no matter who’s at the bow. There are certainly moments when the pair hit on something more avant sliced, “Suburban Potions” for example, and “Stairway to the Stars” hits a slightly frantic pitch, breaking their nocturnal spell for just a few minutes. Yet, when they enter the kind of comfort and calm that can be found between the symbiosis of two players in thrall with the push-pull of harmonic air between them, the album becomes a solemn, serene set that feels communal in the best of ways.





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R. E. Seraphin

A sparkling power pop cut from R.E. Seraphin (Talkies, Apache, Buzzer) starts off his solo tape for Paisley Shirt and it’s stuffed full of a bittersweet optimism that feel as prescient as ever. Laced with strums and yearning leads, the song swells to a chorus full of hangdog hope. Seraphin knows his way around a hook, but the song, along with the majority of the album, thrives on a soft-focus pop approach that’s woozy and winsome. Seraphin’s approach is charged enough to keep this one stuck in your head all day, but melancholy enough to leave a sigh in your lungs by the third rotation through your brain. As he eases into the rest of the album, Seraphin balances vaseline-lensed pining with a power pop pounce that’s lined up with the kind of forgotten gems that littered the cut-out bins, but were necessary pickups to those with the right kind of ears. Churn a brew full of Phil Seymour b-sides, deep cuts from The Phones, Jags, and Pointed Sticks and this tape starts to come together.

Having spent time in a number of power pop upstarts from Apache’s similarly faded ‘70s slink and Lenz’ new wave quiver to the glam on the cheap workouts of Glitz, Seraphin has spent plenty of time in this pocket, but its nice to see him going all in with his name on the marquee. He’s not completely alone, though, bringing along the original Talkies rhythm section, but this is a new strain from what Talkies were laying down. A close (if not kissing) cousin of his other band, but still making its own imprint in more faded denim direction. I’ll still maintain that if you press your ear to the rail, the last ten years ring true with a wellspring of solid power pop and this one slides into the collection nicely.



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Loose Koozies

I’ve said it many times, but its worth repeating, the past few years have been a golden age for alt-country. The strains are many — cosmic-tinged psych that dots a few pot leaves on the ol’ nudie suits, indie country that pulls from No Depression template, folk strummers with a touch of twang, wage-puncher rags that take the edge off. The latest LP from Detroit’s Loose Koozies employs most, if not all of these subsets at once, while making the transitions appear seamless. While the can scrape the infinite with the best of ‘em, mostly they’re splitting time between the Jayhawks/Tuepelo template and The Replacements shaggy dog day-job sufferers with a bit more barroom twang on board. The band’s E.M. Allen has got a damn fine Jay Farrar gristle in his windpipe and that might make the comparison lazy if it weren’t so spot-on. Aside from the aesthetic similarities, the band excels at making the ordinary trappings of work, vice, sorrow, and simple pleasures elevate from the benign to divine, like both of their influences before them.

While Detroit might not have the stamp of a country hotbed, it’s certainly got all the right pieces in place. Having grown up in Michigan myself, I know the hold the genre can have on the populace. Seems their prowess proved infections and the band caught the ear of local legend Warren Defever (His Name is Alive), who hopped on board to help guide the grooves that the Koozies lay down. He also found himself studio-side contributing a bit of keys to the record. It’s easy to see what enamored Defever with the band as they’ve captured one of the more raw-nerve version of the new country grit that I’ve heard elsewhere. Many have tried, but few have found the right balance of country-rock chops and sweat-stained honesty that made that ‘90s wave click. Each spin on this record locks it down further as a jukebox staple just waiting for a college town or night-shift bar to embrace it as their own. Don’t let this one slip away.



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Rose City Band

Its been no secret around here that the sophomore LP from Rose City Band has hit hard. Expanding on the debut’s humble roots in private press psych, country, and Americana, the second offering from Ripley Johnson’s solo outfit refines his vision and takes a light dusting to the dollar-bin veneer. The scrub up doesn’t degrade the charms though, and the more refined RCB doesn’t lose a single ounce of the endearing value of Rip’s sound. Largely, RCB leans further into the streaked skies of Cosmic Country this time around, with a good dose of twang and ramble seeping into the strings underneath a blanket of heat-wave warble that seals in the saunter. Johnson forgoes a long psychedelic excursion like the debut’s “Fear Song,” this time around, instead focussing on set of songs that build to a simmer with just enough time to froth without foaming over. I

ts a tighter record, but that doesn’t mean he’s not interested in letting those liquid silver guitar lines shine. The hallmark sound of lysergic licks still graces the record, leaving Johnson’s unique stamp on it. While still paying homage to his original crop of past masters — Relatively Clean Rivers, Jim Sullivan, KAK, and Curt Newbury, — the vibes on Summerlong seem to be swinging full well into Western nodes of The First National Band, Timbercreek, or Country Funk. The shift is subtle but fits Ripley well. His honey n’ dust croon lays low like a fog over the horizons of these songs, which amble slow and choogle slightly less than he has in the past, but what they give up in rollick they make up in melt. Though, as the album wafts into its second half, the temperature heats up just a bit and the breeze dies down.

“Morning Light” picks up the pace, but not the urgency, still laying back into sunshine ease, but “Reno Shuffle” lets the night in and a bit of heat lightning, hinting at a bit of danger in the distance. For the most part it lounges in languid moments and spot-on shimmer. The album is a perfect companion to hazy summer days as they turn into warm summer nights. There’s been a wealth of entries to the Cosmic Americana canon over the last few years and this one’s standing near the top. While it was on constant rotation here, its possible that the debut from Rose City Band got lost among the releases last year. Hoping that same fate doesn’t befall this, because its definitely edging its way towards the top of the list of albums for 2020. Don’t sleep on this one.



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