Browsing Category New Albums

Mary Lattimore

Each new album that arrives from harpist Mary Lattimore is a more gorgeous exploration of sound than the last. Lattimore’s work has the quality of soundtracks to forgotten films buried in the earth — wordless, imaginary flickers of celluloid that may or may not have existed but break our hearts all the same. With a low hum of synth, teardrops of guitar, and her shimmering harp work the songs on Silver Ladders hold the listener captive within the snowglobe sanctuary of its runtime. There’s a feeling of water all around the album, a glinting off of waves that recedes to the blue line where the water drops off and pulls deep. The songs swing from delicate to ominous over the course of the LP. As we progress the water’s gone from pleasure to peril — inviting us in with its azure hues and innocent glint of sunlight, but revealing a hungry pull towards dangerous depths.

To construct the works on Silver Ladders, Mary reached out on a whim to Slowdive’s Neil Halstead. He agreed to produce and over nine days at his airfield studio they worked through her songs to build an album that’s enveloping but also a bit more spare than some of her past works. Halstead adds guitar to several tracks, and his aqueous lines only add to the sense of submersion into the harrowing depths of Lattimore’s compositions. This is especially true on standouts “Don’t Look,” and “Sometimes He’s In My Dreams,” both of which feel like they’re turning points from serene to sinister. Lattimore has remained one of the most consummate and sought after collaborators of late, often elevating an album with her intuitive playing, but here, on her own works she proves that when she’s at the helm the harp becomes more than shading, it’s an entrancing force.




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Gunn-Truscinski Duo

A decade into their partnership Gunn-Truscinski Duo continues to strip rock’s impulses back to its most basic elements. Despite Gunn’s rise to Matador namesake in more digestible waters, the pair have kept the Duo as an outlet of experimental edge — with Gunn’s guitar work weaving fragility and fury into instrumental bliss and Truscinski proving he’s an infinitely flexible foil. Much like contemporary Steven R. Smith, the pair are able to form compositions that radiate calm, dredge anxiety, and hound the listener with sonic horror, though they’re keeping close to the calm on Soundkeeper. As the record opens, they pad their way into the room with patience, not working to stun or shun the listener with a tumult unitl the moment is right. On through “Valley Spiral,” the record is coiled and cautious — picking through its motifs in slow spirals.

Once the band kicks into “Pyramid Merchandise,” though the tone changes. With a low-slung Gunn riff and an audible “whoo” sent up from the room, the duo begins to buck against the tide. Clangorous blues are wrestled and Gunn’s grit-teethed riffs grow fangs. John kicks the pace to match and the album lights a blaze against the forming darkness. From there the pair pushes through dirt-caked blues, crumbling under the Rust Belt’s weight before emerging once again with the languid, shimmering tones of calm waters once again. The title track pulls some tension once agan, urging them through 16+ minutes of wrangle and wain before skidding into the psychedelic blur in homage to Eddie Hazel that closes out the record, a smoldering elegy to the guitarist that rides away on the ashes of what they burnt down over the last hour. Its an excellent springboard into Three-Lobed’s new 20-year anniversary and a reminder of what’s made the label, and this band’s involvement in it over the years, so vital.




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North Americans

Aiding an expanded focus at Third Man on another side of guitar based records, North Americans’ Patrick McDermott follows up 2018’s Going Steady with his most transcendental work yet. The previous album was rooted in American Primitive, with a bubble of outre synth and experimental touches rising just below the surface. He drew in Julliana Barwick, Dylan Baldi (Cloud Nothings), and pedal steel player and fellow Driftless alum Hayden Pedigo into his orbit and the resulting record had an immediate feel like a woolen blanket for the soul. For Roped In he’s extending the comfort and calm, spending the majority of the record elevating the serene with pedal steel player Barry Walker, though this time friends Mary Lattimore and William Tyler add harp and guitar respectively. Largely, this is a landscape built and maintained by the gentle lap of Walker and McDermott and the world they envision is radiant, rippling in all directions with the slow pick of strings and painterly melt of slide passages.

That Tyler appears on the album is fitting as Roped In evokes many of the same communal cares as his own aching entry from 2019, Goes West. Every song feels like it might have beamed from the players to tape fully in tact as dawn rose over the hills. The playing is nothing if not verdant — alive with a natural fragility and reverence for the meditative state. Every opportunity the record hits the speakers time and trouble seem to melt away. McDermott roots the album in the same American Primitive that brought him to focus in the past couple of years, but its now mixed with a New Age thrum that’s slowing the fingerpicked pace, buoyed by Walker’s weeping slides that land somewhere between harmonious drone and mournful sigh. I mean that in the most complimentary way possible, too. This is the kind of new age that Laraaji is born from, the true believer strain that smooths the edges of angst. While Walker has his own gem of a record on the way later in the year, here he and Patrick have pushed North Americans towards a bliss that cannot be ignored. Quite simply there may not be more beautiful records than this in 2020.



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Garcia Peoples

Four albums on Garcia Peoples still sound like they’re tapping into the main nerve driving guitar rock in an era of subdivision and split-hair genres. While Nightcap at Wit’s End lands more refined and textural than their first couple of LPs, it retains the essential spirit that imbued their catalog with life in the first place. With Pat Gubler firmly entrenched in the band and not just a touring player, the Garcias bound off the experience of creating the massive “One Step Behind” to embark on an album that’s more than a gift to the jam — an all encompassing journey between the edges of the platter. Acoustic touches find greater import, letting the band slip past the phalanx of three-pronged guitar whirl laid down by Arakaki/Malach/Spaldo. Flutes bring the mists, organs swell with sinister purpose. The album is decidedly darker and more complex than their shaggy choogle of yore, seeing the band embrace an earnest vision of prog as it might find footing in 2020. Though they’d likely skirt the term, there’s some bones of the Düül and a touch of the Crimson finding its way into the complexity here. As the album wears on, though, some surprising new names enter the fray as well — bearing claw marks of Agitation Free, Roy Harper, and even solo David Crosby.

The first half of the LP sets out to absorb a wider array of cosmic rays, flung wide through their and hurtling out beyond mere stage-born grooves. From the full bore guitar growl that opens “Gliding Through” to the folk touches that seep through the sifter on “Painting A Vision That Carries,” this is Garcia Peoples at their most adventurous. The latter track sees the band marry a touch of Fairport / Trees fingerpick and freakout to their already stuffed basket of influences and it feels good to let in a little softness. Yet if the first side embraces a spin through various progressive heartthrobs of the ‘70s, the second half clinches it.

Flip the record and we find them constructing a suite of songs that lets vision win out over the instinct to set a song to riff. Here they swab the strains of several of the aforementioned ‘70s forbears to create a huge, mercurial set that bleeds one song into the next. The last album took us all on an epic ride, but here they’re building something even more solid. If “One Step Beyond” embraces their drive, then “Our Life Could Be Your Van” has to be something of a core mantra. Which begs the point — I truly regret that our current circumstances mean that its going to be a while before I get to witness these songs taking flight on the stage, but for now this is a hell of a lot to pick through and parse at home.




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Elkhorn

The second installment of Elkhorn’s snowed-in sessions from last year strips away the electricity and effects, but with the cords cut the session only delves further into their dark night of the soul. Acoustic Sessions conjures up a relaxed vision of something previously posed in the electric setting, but here its no retread, but a tap into their similar apocalyptic folk vision, kicking at the dust bowl barrens just after the amps have gone dry. Working repetition and stark minimalism into a psychedelic experience that puts the echoplex away and turns up the inner turmoil, the Acoustic Storm Sessions create something of a haunted introspection that cycles ‘round and around in the brain with the three players pushing their stringwork through meditative moments that tapped isolation before it was cool.

Passages feel like they come from several planes of sound at once, pulling gently for attention before another player’s fingers rack the focus back. The set is split into two side-long improvisations, with the first more biting than the second. They stir up the ash and bone with side-A, letting the wounds heal a bit with the healing of Side-B. That second side wafts into a tender territory — resolute, exhausted, mindful of the flow of the aural conversation the guitars share. The strings find tension and twist on the record, but just as often they find a sort of solace solace over the winding trip laid bare here. This is one of those releases that’s stunning for the fact that it wasn’t even the focus of the sessions. This is the second wave, but its no less accomplished than the first — a bonus session that’s hardly cutting room worthy.




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Order of the Toad

Always happy to see some familiar names pop up together in collaboration and this eccentric pop nugget from Order of the Toad brings together The Wharves’ Gemma Fleet and Robert Sotelo, who released a gem of an album for Upset The Rhythm last year. Their combined talents pick at a few fun pockets of sound — mixing psych-pop and the occasional dip into propulsive disco swing with a grandiose, Baroque approach that positions them as the Left Banke or Ultimate Spinach of indie pop. Every band today dreams of the Ultimate Spinach name drop, no? Strums and jangles trade their place with ceremonial stabs of organ. The vocals swap swiftly between Fleet and Sotelo with the former reaching for the higher registers that stretch for a heighten pop excess that’s picking up the English folk fascination of the ‘70s and threading it through the glam-wrapped excess of the following decade’s decadence.

Plenty are treading in the waters of psych-pop, but these days there’s something of a slickness that infects quite a few or a retread element that feels like paying homage to an almost exacting degree. Like their fellow UK psych exports Wax Machine, this one feels like its made by voracious devourers of the past who weave the ends of their obsessions together into new strains of psych sickness that continue the traditions of generations past rather than just look to scan and print a reasonable facsimile. Though they don’t let the occasional foray into the lysergic pool drown them in the genre. The tone shifts and the trappings skitter between aesthetic poles, but that only makes the album all the more dizzying and delightful. This one gets under the skin nicely.



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John Kolodij

Just after a split release with Ezra Feinberg, John Kolodij embarks on his first true solo release away from the High Aura’d name. The release, which sees light thanks to Jazz imprint Astral Spirit’s more freeform sister label Astral Editions, is an album of two minds. Representing multiple sides of Koldij’s oeuvre. Each half contains a sidelong composition and on the a-side we’re thrust into the depths of “First Fire.” Built on gnawing drones and frothing static, the track is menace come to inhabit the recesses of the mind. Anxiety is at the forefront and its all encompassing with Kolodij’s drones rising up like insurmountable edifices in the dark. Here his collaborator Anna Rg provides just a touch of violin, but its lost in the onslaught of darkness that permeates the track.

It’s the second side that brings back the light. After the hurricane of howl that side one brings, Kolodij swings pastoral for the flip, paring field recordings with banjo, guitar, and a much less imposing drone for one of his most calming offerings to date. With a light lope of repetition, “At Dawn” makes good on the promise of its title, feeling like the world just waking — a dew dusted respite from the chaos that comes once the light reaches the top of the mountain. Rg’s fiddle returns and here she’s given much more space to maneuver, driving the song with a refreshing breeze of sound that’s cold, but forgiving. On the whole this is a nice addition to the High Aura’d helmer’s catalog, but if it is indeed a new dawning of works under his given name, it works well as a statement of purpose.




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Frankie and the Witch Fingers

I’ve had this new platter from Frankie and the Witch Fingers rolling around my brain for a little while now and its certainly among the best they’ve ever battered into our collective brains. A lineup change finds the band fresh and foaming, ready to embrace the concept album and chomp down on the ragged strands of rhythm at the same time. There’s a renewed sense of movement, imparted both by the band’s live to tape take in the studio and some time with a toy box full of percussive augmentations that give the album some shimmy between the shred. As we enter the alternate reality of Monster Eating People Eating Monsters… the band takes hold of the listeners’ psyche with both hands and shakes the soul like a gourd, pounding out polyrhythms in morse code warnings that reverberate through the temporal plane. Ozone crackles in anguished thick plumes from sweat soaked amps and a mantra of metamorphosis glows from the walls in blacklight brilliance.

There’s a sense of menace at work taking over for the euphoria and grind from past albums. It’s creeping through the bottom-end burnout and permeating the guitar scorch. The band comes as hard as they ever have but this time the turbulence is unrelenting, slipping from one song to another in seamless careen. The band’s been leading up to the album with a bevy of visuals that chew at altered states and consciousness evolution, a constant theme throughout the LP. Should we ll be so lucky to be rendered through the simulator in the Witch Fingers’ world. Sadly we’re all stuck here on the most malevolent time line waiting for the escape hatch to blow. Until then, it’s a fine time to let the cycle of scorch that the Witch Fingers lay down here lead the way into some sort of sonic oblivion. I recommend a few repeat rides on this one.



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Nick Mitchell Maiato

There’s joy and sadness in the new solo LP from Nick Mitchell Maiato. The joy is always inherent in his works — it’s a feeling that bubbles under his songwriting these days and one that explodes into waves of color when he lets fly guitar parts that shift and shimmer as much as they burn incandescently. The sadness comes, as most seems to of late, with the knowledge of what could have been had we all not been set adrift due to disease. The songs on this album were to be the beginning sketches of the lineup for a third One Eleven Heavy album that, at least in this form, will likely never be. The band was set to convene and combine these with works by Toth and Chew that would have carved themselves into their latest love letter to classic rock cyphers and cosmic choogle. That third album will come, but not as it was originally conceived.

Still, the feelings of joy should win out in this struggle of the senses and sentiments, as we cannot lament forever what might have been and instead have to embrace what Pino Carrasco has become. Those sketches were worked into full flight songs that embrace Nick’s half of the Heavies — the buoyant tangle of guitar that’s rooted in Crazy Horse’s grit, Canned Heat’s heartbeat boogie, and Satana’s playful willingness to experiment with rhythm. That Nick’s able to channel the push/pull feeling of testing one another that a full band can attain is impressive to say the least, for an artist alone. While the Heavies have an ecstatic dynamic, Maiato’s able to create his own imaginary ensemble in the studio, adopting amiably the instruments of his peers and creating a whiskey-rubbed Brill Building of one with cosmic ambitions. The dynamic comes to a head on the album’s anchor pieces “Show Yourself” and “Ode To What,” the latter an impressive feat of time-change gymnastics that tumbles the listener through more than a few hairpin highs. Don’t lament the loss, just let Pino Carrasco lift up your heart during the dour months. Its a sunshine-scrubbed delight that keeps the listener on their toes.




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The Reds, Pinks and Purples

If you’ve spent time around the halls of Raven, then Glenn Donaldson’s bands are a familiar sight and his current fixtures The Reds, Pinks and Purples and Telephone Numbers have been a particular comfort in the past couple of years. RPP embody some of the same space that The Art Museums once occupied, albeit with a much heavier heart and a bleary-eyed autumn air floating about them. Tough Love has put together a mini-LP that rounds up more of the singles that Glenn’s been workshopping through Bandcamp over the past year and the picture that fits together on You Might Be Happy Someday fits the pieces together into a brief, but affecting record that’s hung up on lonely souls, impermanent living conditions, the small details that haunt the memory, and the sunset stains at the end of relationships.

Though he’s wandered through noise and folk quite often, The RPPs pick at the scars of a particular side of jangle-pop that knits together the quiet crouching of The Wake and more often, that of Brighter and St. Christopher from their Sarah years. Mix in some of the college rock fallout form the US around the same time, say The Springfields or The Suncharms and the record begins to take shape. Once under the gaze of Donaldson all these bits swim together into a melancholy melt — the body thrown to a sea of jangles, the mind grasping at the gauzy vocals that billow with a heavy heart and a halo of pink haze around them. This is just a precursor to an LP out soon in The States, but even though this might count as somewhat of a singles collection, it feels like a singular sigh. Those hooked on the early CapTracks era of Wild Nothing and Beach Fossils would do well to turn their ears towards wheat Glenn’s working up. Those were kids with newfound crushes, The Reds, Pinks and Purples have spent their years with the ‘80s sitting in their soul, ably transferring the anguish of the past into today’s heartache.




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