Browsing Category New Albums

Savoy Motel

The latest Savoy Motel LP has been fermenting in the background of 2020, threatening to break at any moment. With a release date formally announced just a few weeks ago, following a steady stream of singles over the past few months, the band seeks to follow up the raw funk-soul strut that emanated from their eponymous 2016 LP. With a slightly augmented lineup, Love Your Face dives into some of the same indulgences from the debut, but tempers quite a few of their more tenacious impulses. The debut left its ends frayed, windmilling around pop and funk with a touch of the platformed freak of glam. As they ease the listener into Love Your Face, there’s a steady hand on the pop tiller. They’re smoothing out their rumples and pushing into a more polished sound that’s still sipping from the soul-funk chalice, but also moving towards ‘70s AM pop as well, letting shades of caramel country and power pop show through.

While the songs on Love Your Face don’t explode with the same tenacity as the debut — don’t let the smooth taste fool ya — Savoy Motel still has a bit of the street-whipped sweat seeping out of their skins. Grafting a greased shimmy that slides through the wake of Stevie Wonder to the spit shined pop of Raspberries and Status Quo, the album is still hard to pin down. I do miss a bit of the electric spit eclecticism of the debut, but the band finds plenty of new corners to explore and I can’t fault ‘em for not remaking the debut wholesale. Still consummate players, the Nashville band makes a case for exploring the itch of your influences and wriggling in between the crevices that exist in the pop lexicon.




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Eli Winter

There are still more corners of my listening pile to unearth and this one’s been popping to the top now and again. The latest LP by young string wrangler Eli Winter is a lovely, meditative record that’s rooted in the traditions of Basho and Rose, with a nod to the rise of Bachman before him as a player of promising talent who only continues to outdo himself. Opening strong on Unbecoming, Eli works his way through the nearly 23-minute “Either I Would Become Ash” — a dizzying display of fingerpicked folk with a tender touch. The song swirls like snow on the wind, dancing in the light and bringing a touch of lighthearted magic to the record.

The rest of the LP doesn’t flag in its warm embrace. “Maroon,” pales in length to the opener, but its marked by an immediacy that shines. With Sam Wagster (Mute Duo) on pedal steel guitar, Cameron Knowler is on nylon-string guitar, and Tyler Damon (Circuit Des Yeux) on drums, the quartet lets this one gather the rose glow of dawn. The song’s full of promise and a refreshed feeling that, frankly I could use more of in the coming months. He ends the record with a live cut, which expresses a more raw side. While the tonal shift pulls the listener out of the magic of “Maroon,” “Dark Light” still showcases exactly what makes Winter’s playing so vital. It’s technical, but woven with grace. Winter’s is a talent that’s certainly worth watching and the proof is woven into the bones of Unbecoming. Its a stitched together collection of highs that while disparate feel like they’re leading to bigger statements in the future.



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Future Museums

No end in sight of the great 2020 releases that skirted around my gaze while the year was in full tilt. This one in particular has been languishing in my queue and definitely needs further attention. Its long been a hallmark of present day Damo Suzuki shows that he’ll pick musicians from the local psych scene to lay down backing and then improv a set over the top without rehearsal. For a prime example of this, pick up that live tape of Damo and The Band Whose Name is a Symbol that was released this year on Feeding Tube. The 2012 set exemplifies Suzuki’s hold on a room and his interaction with high caliber players.

Similarly, when Suzuki set out to tour Texas in 2019 he reached out to Neil Lord of Future Museums to put together a band. Visa issues cropped up and the shows themselves never materialized, but never one to waste a good ensemble, Lord gathered the expanded Future Museums that he’d put together to back Damo and they laid out a tapestry of psionic groove that was imbued with the spirit of the man they’d been assembled to back. The players that night were Michael C. Sharp(Drums), Peter Tran(Synth), Rodolfo Smith-Villareal III(Drums), Mari Maurice(Synth, Saxophone, Violin), Nicolas Nadeau(Guitar), Reed Faitak(Bass), and Neil Lord(Guitar) and the resulting Damo’s Dream is vibrating a a high frequency melt.

For almost forty minutes of free psychedelic immersion, Lord’s guitars churn in oceanic tones. Mari Maurice’s sax and violin scar the set with a haunted wail while Sharp and Smith-Villareal push the ensemble towards the the cliff’s edge of rhythm in head-to-head pummel. There’s a glowing grace to the set, feeling like it was a moment never to be reinvented once the last notes fell from the rafters. While the masses might have missed out on what Damo and Future Museums might have wrought, there’s no denying that fate let loose something just as intriguing here.



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Permits

Melbourne’s Permits come together like so many of the great bands circling the loose-knit scene in Australia these days — a few friends who all populate other great bands (in this case the Shifters, Pop Singles, Dag & Chook Race) knot up with a one-day session and wind up with a record that feels immediate, yet never half-baked. The band hit the studio in 2019 but due to pandemic life finished this one out over the course of 2020, swapping overdubs between the members via email. While the pedigree of bands the members are culled from speak to the crooked-smile careen that plays out here, the members seem to also be bringing the best out of one another in the studio, and more importantly having fun while they do it.

Pinned to a twang-riddled jangle, the songs on Time Permits are shaggy n’ shambolic, but not without a chewy pop center that’s hard to slough off as accidental. Underneath the saunter of drums and waggle of guitar, keys blush at the seams, a power-pop heart bleeds out the sleeves, and a tender brush of folk colors in the corners. The record takes a few listens to really slip under the skin, but once it does, its apparent that there’s a lot to return to here time and again. As with quite a few others this year, its a damn shame this one is coming out so late in the year, as I feel people are sleeping on this a bit, but here’s hoping this gets a few people into the ragged magic the band are making on Time Permits.




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Ostraaly

Still making a valiant attempt to round back on some of the great albums that got lost in the shuffle for me over the last year before I tie up 2020 and this album from Melbourne’s Ostraaly is definitely deserving of another look. The album came out on Cassette way back in January, but if you missed out like I did on the band’s slightly askew avant-pop, then now’s the time to at least grab it digitally. Like many of their fellow country-mates, this record shirks the frills for a spare sound, tinged with post-punk in places, but just as often wobbling woozily into genre’s that feel right in the moment. “Struggling” has a country lilt to it that’s only further amplified by the barroom piano pound. They stay loose as they toss the listener the following rumpled romp, “My Baby,” though the twang here starts to curdle in all the right ways.

The band manages to work in caustic folk pop that cribs from Josephine Foster alongside VU violin shivers that tangle with speak-sung incantations. By the time they swing into the last half of the LP, the light touch starts to fade and the band careens into what surely must be the highlight of their live show the back to back hits of “Kants” and “Daddyswims.” A crunch of fuzz barrels out of the start of “Kants,” which froths like a Fugs tune in the sun. Then they cap this one with a perfect pop strummer that gets stuck in your head for days. Over a galloping beat and knock down strum, Ostraaly tears out the quivering notions of their earlier folk and bent pop offerings to prove that when pressed they can and will knock you to the floor with a pop song, they just don’t feel the need to pack ‘em in edge to edge. Love this album and I’m longing for more from the band, or at the very least a US distributed vinyl version in the new year. A guy can hope, eh?




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Sam Burton

This year has seen plenty of artists dig back into the past for inspiration, embedding themselves into the ‘70s like wood paneling with macrame accents. From the faded desert high of Rose City Band to the wrinkled postcards of Cut Worms and the upcoming pre-dawn sighs of Pearl Charles, there’s a pervasive sway of West Coast calm from another time. The debut from Sam Burton falls in-between the time-traversed radio waves of those offerings. Burton’s voice, as the good folks over at Tompkins Square point out, evokes a bit of Roy Orbison’s wearier moments, away from the lights and upswung soul of his more pop works. In the same respect, there’s a touch of Glen Campbell in Sam’s delivery, and much of I Can Go With You sounds like Bobby Gentry might show up for a duet at any point.

That might paint Burton into a sort of turtle-necked pop corner, but that’s not entirely accurate. While he could easily slip in and out of time with that sound vocally, musically the record has a more lost highway country stamp on it. With a wounded countenance at the forefront of his songwriting, Sam sets himself up rifling through a smoke-curled pile of private press casualties — limping like Bob Desper, staring off into the distance like Jim Sullivan, or waiting for the sunrise with Dave Bixby. It’s the kind of record that would have (and still just might) wind up a collector’s treasured find. Burton’s guitars don’t come with flash, there are no psychedelics to obscure the pain, but there’s an innate companionship in his songs. If last call lands like a crushing blow, Sam’s songs help heal the ache that’s left untouched by substance or sobriety alike. This album’s been rolling around my ears for a few weeks, but it pairs quite well with a cold night with morning feeling like it’s taking its time to come.

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Golden Brown

It’s been a packed year, at least musically, and for that I’m always a bit grateful that December slows down to a bit of a crawl. Though, the rush to zip up the year seems to be especially pervasive this year. Nonetheless, there are still plenty of albums that need a good shout before I can call the line on 2020. Case in point is this immersive work from Colorado’s Golden Brown. The record popped up in Bandcamp digging but got swept away until now, but that’s no assessment on the works couched in Flora and Fauna of the Uncanny Valley. Stefan Beck adds to the year’s renewed focus on lush instrumental folk and cosmic country. With touches of charango, cello, lap steel, and a gentle brush of field recordings, Golden Brown’s album is a pastoral delight glows under the rays of a rising sun. Beck lets his guitars ramble, but less in the Takoma school and ebbing into the open arms of Cosmic American breakdowns shot through with an Appalachian heart.

The record stretches out, long as sun on the valley — the songs waft in and out with a feeling of changing on the breeze. The natural qualities endear this quite nicely to the work of North Americans, both records wind themselves through the natural world in symbiotic bliss. Beck handles all instruments here save for the cello, and it’s an impressive undertaking to say the least. Beck hasn’t remained still since Flora and Fauna’s release, re-recording some early material with fresh ears and creating a dub version of several of the album’s tracks, playing with the sense of atmospherics. Beck’s is a talent I hope to hear more from in the coming years, but for now this is a glowing album of subtle grace.



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Anthroprophh

Gonna lock in for this week before I make any end of year judgements because there’s still a lot of heard fought music coming out. Case in point; this absolute burner from psych veterans Anthroprophh. The band, an offshoot of Bristol legends The Heads with the band’s Paul Allen at the wheel, has long been hovering in an afterburner bliss of noise-addled psych. Their latest, a split between Cardinal Fuzz and Feeding Tube, doesn’t disappoint in that regard. The record launches itself into the higher reaches of the atmosphere pretty much immediately with the 16 1/2 minute opener “German Oak” with leads the listener on a journey through an amplifier acid bath of guitar scorch that’s admittedly also laced in thick plumes of venomous smoke. Guessing that title is an homage to the ’70s German Progressives of the same name, and its a pretty nice homage in that regard.

The song doesn’t play into riffs so much as it unhinges from the universal need for tether — free jam sonic curdle at its best. The second side plays out over four additional pieces that take the temperature down quite a few degrees, preferring to work through meditative creep, cosmic float, field recording ambience, and even some acoustic tangle. It’s a varied player that shows all sides of the band’s influences without losing the thread. It seems that while broken into four tracks, the second sweep is more of a suite of songs that melt together into a soft-touch counterpoint to the first side’s charred ruins ravaging. The record is out now and any Heads fans already know they need to get this one on the shelf. UK psych folding in a full array of past obsessions for a new era.



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Ryan Garbes

Still a steady stream of great albums tumbling out of 2020, so don’t expect a wrap from me while there are still corners to uncover. There’s more to scrape from this year yet. This one comes from a longtime favorite from the site, Ryan Garbes, who has been kicking around RSTB for years as part of Raccoo-oo-oon and Wet Hair. Both were constants on the site back in the ol’ Blogspot days and Ryan’s kept up the exploratory spirit in his solo releases since. Tabbed View explodes the notion of pop — burrowing incessant hooks under a layer of crust, a careen of noise-chewed psychedelics, and a deluge of disjointed rhythms. This release feels like it would sit right at home with the broken Teac days of Raven, burrowing through noise-pop fodder from Sic Alps, Times New Viking, and Psychedelic Horseshit. Though Garbes isn’t exactly miring himself in the past. That would be selling the record short. There’s a surreal crispness to this album that plucks it out of the lo-fi froth that constantly surrounded the class of ’08, letting this one creep into the room in 3-dimentional crystalized crumple.

Garbes’ sound has pushed into a sort of skin-slipped acid-sluiced funk as well and it’s a sound that’s hard to shake. The urge to dance is inherent in Tabbed View but the mechanics constantly elude the listener as the drums lag and lap and the guitars blot out proper motor skills under a wash of corroded fuzz. Garbes is inhabiting some sort of bomb shelter disco, keeping the captive audience fluid until the sickness seeps through the walls. There have been a lot of sounds that have come to define the year, but few albums hit like this one in 2020. Garbes proves he’s still a pop innovator, chewing on the wires and turning the taste of voltage into freaked funk for the rest of us.



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SUSS

Since December warrants looking back at the year, I have to say in trawling through my personal listening and buying habits of the year, no genre dominated my headspace more than that of ambient country. The space carved out for the sound has been fringe for the last couple of years, but in tandem with a recent rise in Cosmic Americana, the sister sounds of pedal steel and synth float have become more and more prevalent. Or maybe my compass just got permanently shifted, who knows? Still, in a year spent searching out serenity that doesn’t become background mush, the genre is as good as it gets and it’s lucky for us all that one of the genre’s greats, SUSS have yet another offering as 2020 clambers to a close.

The band’s High Line hit me hard last year, and Promise doesn’t disappoint as a similarly-minded follow up. The band builds sprawling sonic landscapes that set the contrast high but fill in subtle details in their twilight meditations with curls of synth smoke and the palpable creak of wildlife settling within the hushed valleys of their songs. Under the blinking high tension wire lights, the band finds a patient pace that’s colored in nicely with buzzing guitars and a pedal steel shimmer that supplants the instruments usual amber glow with a silvered hue of moonlight. The whole record feels like finally being able to exhale after a day of holding it tight in the chest. In a crop of country outliers that excel in shivers (see: Barry Walker Jr, Bobby Lee, Luke Schneider, John Jeffrey) SUSS prove that they’re still innovators of a sound that’s been their engine all along. Absolutely an essential 2020 release.




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