Browsing Category New Albums

Young Guv

I may have mentioned that I have a particular soft spot for Young Guv’s 2015 mini-album Ripe 4 Luv, not in the least because it’s Ben Cook’s most pure distillation of his power pop instincts. That statement’s gonna have to be amended, though, because the release of GUV I acts as a direct descendant of that album, dragging the line from the late ‘70s and early ‘80s right into the mid ‘90s for power pop that was thicker, sunnier, and a touch dreamier. There’s less punk edge in this newer vision, but just as much pop. Young Guv has often served as a mutable base for Cook’s musical lens and while last year’s excursion into slippery funk had its charms, it’s clear that his pop heart beats the strongest.

Pick a point in the record and pretty much any track could have ruled the CMJ charts from ’91-’95. Cook’s shuffling his collection, throwing Matthew Sweet LPs into Fanclub sleeves. He’s rolling Velvet Crush licks in sprinkles of Sloan, second-album Superdrag, and L.A. hook-lovers The Blondes. It’s hard not to time shift when the album’s running through it’s almost heartbreakingly short runtime, and there’s some sort of universal injustice that Cook will never play in front of the racks at Sam Goody. Yet, despite this ingrained nostalgia, the songs also feel timeless, like the best pop from any era. They’re full of joy, bittersweet swoons, and a palpable yearning. Cook has proven that when he’s got pop on his side, his records are indispensable treasures there to comfort your core.



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Föllakzoid

Seemingly going backwards, sideways, or completely untethering from this reality, Chile’s Föllakzoid follow up their 2015 album III with I. I suppose the reset makes sense, though. This is not Föllakzoid as it operated in the past. There’s still a kosmiche touch and a sense of reverberating dread that devours wonder on their latest, but rather than constructing these in the linear sense, the band shifted strategies. Recorded in bits, the band left the assemblage of the album to Uwe Schmidt, more commonly known as the producer Atom™. The band recorded the album as 60 separate stems and Schmidt organized them into four coherent movements. The tracks push the clock, even for Föllakzoid’s typically lengthy impulses, but where they were once creating nebulous galaxies, now they’re creating dense black holes of sound that seek to absorb the listener and disorient the journey.

The Atom™ stamp seems to push their sound further towards the trance end of the spectrum. There’s no more rhythm than the band usually employs, but the rhythms he’s arranged are less likely to scrape through German progressions left from the ‘70s than they are to riffle the Raster Norton and Editions Mego fallout bins. While this is likely the furthest from Terra Nova that the band has traveled, I have to admit I was a fan of their particular niche of Krautrock. This still scratches the same itch in a way, but the darkness has devoured the gauze and I miss it. Still, if you’re looking to lose yourself in the veil of rhythm, this is your best bet.



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Ty Segall

There’s always a fresh hit of Segall on the horizon and 2019 is no gap year. Skidding out of the last two heavy hitters – the acerbic ball of anxiety, Emotional Mugger, and the grandiose vision of Freedom’s Goblin – Ty’s turning inward for an album that’s got less boogie in its butt, less angst in its eyes, but no less experimental spirit than his last couple of outings. Musically Segall is plucking from several camps. There’s a freshly pumped in Eastern air, some sax teeth – not skronking quite as vicious as on Goblin – but still toasting the edges, and he’s littering the album with plenty of prog-minded excursions that twist sound into ragged towers. Lyrically, he’s looking for inspiration at home, in a more settled life, but that’s not always apparent when the guitars flare and the mutant cicadas set the pace.

It’s a bit telling that, in a recent Hidden Gems for the site, Ty cited Greek prog album 666 by Aphrodite’s Child as a recent favorite, admitting its shade had fallen on his more recent sessions. That album is nothing if not eclectic, finding its tone more in cumulative excess than cohesion and First Taste operates much in the same way. Every sonic scrap is at his disposal as long as it pushes the final result further from the bounds of this Earth. That’s not to say this is just a collection of chaotic experiments, there’s always that refreshing thread of pop running through Ty’s albums and its here in fine form.

The folk cool-down “I Sing Them” is up there with Segall’s great acoustic material, but twisted with a dissonance that doesn’t always creep into his sweeter songs. “Whatever” sounds like it could have met with the Emotional Muggers in a darkened alley, a slight vicious smile between its lips. “Radio” is a pop heater that won’t quit and “Ice Plant” plays with space and patience more than most of Segall’s fare, haunting in a way he rarely does. First Taste is the sound of Segall enjoying his freedom. Ascending to the heights of the indie scaffold is no easy task, but this doesn’t feel like an album for the masses, more for Segall himself. That his own winking indulgences also happen to be endlessly entertaining is just a bonus for the rest of us.

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Mick Trouble

When word of Mick Trouble first surfaced in 2017 the hazy narrative centered around a lost artist that just missed his luck by backing out of a John Peel session and then subsequently disappeared to the winds. Owing to the fact that pretty much every song by Mick Trouble sounds like a garden shed discovery of a lost tape from The Television Personalities circa ’78-81, the story seemed plausible as any. Obfuscation aside, however, the band is in fact the spot-on send up of Jed Smith from latter day indie-pop stalwarts My Teenage Stride, themselves plenty indebted to the jangled agenda of that same time period. If you’re keeping tabs on 2019, Smith has also already dazzled with his contributions to Jeanines, backing up Alicia Hyman’s songs with a breezy swing.

Back to Trouble, though. A few listens in to … Here’s The Mick Trouble LP and the figment of Smith’s imagination begins to take more shape than on the previous EP. Smith inhabits the aura of Dan Treacy, from his hi-tone strums to the crooked smile that inhabits every scrap of TVP’s catalog. “In a year that sees Fire Record dump two major collections of vintage Television Personalities singles collections on the world though, why would we want a facsimile,” you ask? Because there’s every chance you’re not gonna get a new Television Personalities record, and it’s definitely not gonna grace the hallmarks of the ‘70s singularity that sparked this particular version of their sound. Because Smith’s doing it so well that if you close your eyes, time melts away and the six-string spirits of a half-cocked past come seeping through the floorboards ready to get pissed and sweat indie pop for you once again.

So be grateful or be dismissive if you must, but be ready to smile at least a little bit at the wonderful weirdness and absolute beauty of Mick Trouble. He’s been lost and found and somewhere in between the ghost of Bill Grundy will smile on us all and regale us with another tchune.



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Dan Melchior Band

There are few forces as pungent, as potent, or as prevalent as Dan Melchior. The garage vet has a formidable cache of records piled under his belt and he’s constantly slipping in new entries under the cover of night. 2019’s volley comes with the Dan Melchior Band tag, last used on 2017 single. This time he’s swinging for Atlanta’s Midnight Cruiser Records and it’s a damn sight better use of the DMB moniker than others have hoisted in the past (sorry Ryley). Outside In has a cinder-scorned midnight feeling to it, slinking through the darkened streets in search of some some forgotten solace, some inner peace that never quite conjures through the haze.

Falling in the blues-buttressed valley between his fuzz-freaked noise offerings and his poppier days in the Broke Revue, the record is a greasy slide that hops back and forth with a pugilist’s swagger. Melchior doesn’t quite curry the same cache that some of his contemporary garage-slingers with equally prolific output’s might, but in my book he’s a rock solid bet every time. Outside In crushes some gravel in its teeth, spits splinters to the wind and lets fly with a few rusted hooks that leave a mark and warrant a check at the clinic. Though there’s a haze hovering over the record, Melchior can still land a decent dent when he’s aiming for it. For the completists, it goes without saying this is an easy pickup, for the first-timers, maybe this isn’t the way in. For those looking to blast a bit of rust and rancor through the speakers, I say go for it.



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De Lorians

From The Jacks to High Rise to Kikagaku Moyo, I’m always down for what’s bubbling out of the hotpot of Japanese Psychedelia and this year the Beyond Beyond is Beyond crew make room for one more name in that holy roster. Tokyo collective De Lorians are hopping back through time like Doc Brown on a mission to melt the tried and true psychedelic crayon box into a puddle that drips Zappa’s ‘smarter than necessary’ approach to the ‘70s rock canon into the buttoned up and boiled down impulses of the never cool/always awesome Canterbury sound. In particular the record is picking apart the seams of latter period Soft Machine — during the sunset of Mike Ratledge and the brief dawn of Allen Holdsworth. If you’re a rare fan who thinks the Bundles period never got its due (and I am) then this is the bastard son of Soft you never saw coming. Throw in some heady nods to the liquid licks of Steve Hillage and this record begins to take a bit of shape.

Jazz rock isn’t exactly a genre that most music fans were barking for in the 7th inning stretch of 2019, but I’m gonna go ahead and thank the Beyonders for seeing past what people want and serving up what the heads need. The band’s blown way past the typical “you got yer psych in my jazz” hat tips. This isn’t dosed up Miles in his prime, and its way more than Weather Report fusing the forms. Instead the band is blowing full stack through the greasy grips of Placebo’s “Balek” if it was surprised in the dark by The Feed-Back’s freaked out agenda. Hold on though, that’s too many references to properly rinse this through your system. The band’s clearly spent time touring the rough terrain of the nerd-high psychedelic wasteland, turning the screws on jazz-ensemble editions and churning out progressive missives for the microdosed mentors, but what does it sound like?

The band runs smooth when they need to, riding groove like a good jazz-funk friendship society, but they lose their calculus cool more often than not, breaking down the tracks into jagged edges, found-sound snippets that pull the rug out from under the listener. They breeze through multiple time signatures that flex for the theory crowd over the groove riders every time. This is an album that’s got a niche, but 2019 is all niche so I say go for it. For the Japanese psych heads, this one doesn’t burn, doesn’t lay into the South Asian traditions or heavy fuzz gamut, but it crumples and crisps like a Gehry building come to life, stomping over the hills spreading the gospel of academic acid to the masses.



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Weak Signal

Those already familiar with the works of Mike Bones have probably already perked their ears at his mention. His solo albums for aughts enclave The Social Registry brought a gnarled sense of indie grandeur, while his album with Soldiers of Fortune (Mexican Summer) produced a supergroup that should have gone down in history, bringing members of Endless Boogie and Oneida together with Matt Sweeney (a wise move if you ask me). Its hard to keep a good slinger down and as proof Mike’s quietly slipping out a 2019 gem that deserves a few louder shouts. Weak Signal is his most compact vision yet, and appropriately the music is a skin-flayed, no pussyfootin’ vision of indie tumble that’s got teeth in the flesh and smoke in the air. Bones picks at the same carrion carnage in which his contemporaries Sweeney and Chris Forsyth often find themselves embroiled. There’s a sense of timeless tension — every bit the early ‘90s major label gamble and early aughts classicists in one. The trio can wire-strip the soul (“Tell Me How You Like It”) and still seed the clouds for a bare fist melancholy melt (“Lyin”).

The touchstones on Bones’ syllabus feel more than familiar but he’s spinning it anew, lighting a new fire into the indie rock pyre that’s been smoldering to the coals on the back of 2019. Along with a propulsive thunder from rhythm section Sasha Vine and Tran Huynh, and a bevy of complimentary harmonies as well, Weak Signal is proving to be a record that’s hard to shake and harder to evict from the turntable. The album eeked out last year from NYC tape label Reality Delay, but finds a welcomed new life on LP from Jacuzzi Boys’ label Mag Mag this year. It’s highly recommended that you put this ring-spun sizzler on the table and let it drip over your soul a few times. Let it burrow under the skin and itch with delicious discomfort.



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Trash Kit

I’m honestly not sure how Rachel Aggs keeps up with her pace. After solid LPs from Shopping in the past few years and another from Sacred Paws already this year, she’s reviving the post-punk tussle of Trash Kit this year. The band is one of the first places I’d herd her pleasantly knotted riffs and urgent vocals and with their third LP for UK hotspot Upset The Rhythm, they’re solidifying their place in the pantheon of latter day post-punk pickers. Horizon isn’t the scrappy slap across the face that their early albums embodied. Its still bouncing on a bubble of Afrobeat-knicked guitars and polyrhythmic patterns but there’s a richness this time around. While saxes still squawk like the lingering reminders of Maximum Joy’s perfection, the band’s layering in nodes of beautiful harmonies, melancholy violins, and playful pianos. This isn’t the stockpot output of a band looking to regurgitate pogo powered visions of the past. This is an album informed by post-punk’s progression, reinvention, and deconstruction, but also informed by pop’s need to put it all back in place again.

The record is an intricate sweater, knitted with love, time, and talent, unraveling in the breeze. Its something beautiful being picked at over and over until it finally breaks free and floats to the sky. The record breaks down into repeating patterns —broken glass reflecting again and again in a puddle, each layer no less glittering but just a bit further from reach. Aggs’ guitar has never been threaded so steadily while leaving its edges so smooth. Often she’s got a jagged quality, but there’s no sense that any part of Horizon might cut the listener. Its not dangerous in the traditional sense. There’s not rebellion and rancor like Shopping embody, but here the danger is that the listener might forever become lost in an Escher-like landscape of sound that answers questions with questions as to which way is up or out. Its been a big year for Aggs with this on top of the SP rec, but this is definitely the crowning achievement of her year.



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CFM

On his second solo album as CFM, Charles Moothart distances himself further from his closest collaborators — shying from the glam-garage punch of Ty Segall and the more metallic slap of Meatbodies. CFM carries a lot of the same DNA, though, so its not entirely shod of the shadow of Segall and co. just yet, but Moothart comes into his own with some tender tugs at the heart and some psych burn that dabbles in shoegaze fizz. The album opens with a few burners, proving he’s got his own heat at the ready. “Black Cat” and “Sequence” tussle with hot tar licks, and “Street Vision” slows the choogle to a steady swagger, but its not until the wound opens for “Green Light” that the album shows what Moothart has at his disposal. The track’s fraught with menace and pain but also an open woundedness that’s not often seen in his particular pack, save for maybe Mikal Cronin.

He returns to the fray for a few more songs, and pulls it off with a more than serviceable acid burn, but he returns to the raw nerve on the album’s title track, “Soundtrack to an Empty Room,” which makes a double case for Moothart to dispense with the amplifier fry altogether and explore a full album of guarded bloodletters that aren’t at all interested in proving his weight in riff returns. Likewise the stately sway of “River” gives the second side a shove towards transcending his roots. There’s plenty to love for the buried needle brigade here, and I’m all for the fuzz, but there’s also an inkling of where Moothart might be headed. I’d say if he can go all in on the tender trappings, he might just have a stunner on his hands.



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Jefre Cantu-Ledesma

After two albums that scratched the itch of pop (albeit buried beneath a wash of shoegaze acoustics) Jefre Cantu-Ledesma is heading to a more serene perch for his latest release. Along with a litany of collaborators, including Mary Lattimore, Chuck Johnson, Gregg Kowalsky, David Moore and Meara O’Reilly, Cantu-Ledesma has crafted a statement of glittering stillness. There’s no foam or froth, no static this time around. Instead he’s focused on finding the spaces that form between the sparkles off of the waves, the peace that’s found between the ripple of leaves. There’s an inherit lonesomeness to Tracing Back the Radiance, but its hardly ever somber, rather JCL revels in the temple of solitude, dragging his fingers along the stones to feel every fine edge.

At first blush the record is awash in glistening tones, a wave of muted energy that brings everything to a hush around the listener. It seems simple, but the layers unfold the further the listener lets themselves recede into the wave. The overlapping tones gently push away trouble, without seeking to solve the roots. Tracing Back The Radiance is a respite even within the crush of city life. Head further to the hills and it acts as nature nodding back in rippling harmonics. Jefre’s been cooking up some great records over the last few years, and this marks among his best, if only for its attention to finely tuned details and his dedication to quietude as an all encompassing aesthetic. Coupled with his contributions to MexSum’s Surf Comp from the first half of 2019, I’d say that he’s having quite the year. If you need to let the nagging bite of this year’s constant noise cycle die down a touch, its recommended you let this one seep into every pore.



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