Browsing Category New Albums

Steve Palmer

Sunrise Ocean Bender doesn’t push product with the veracity that some labels seem to adopt these days, rolling out a few choice cuts over the last couple of years – Prana Crafter’s, Enter The Stream and Tengger’s Segye among them – but I’m a firm believer in quality over quantity. The label’s back into the fray this year with the sophomore release from Minneapolis’ Steve Palmer. As with labelmate Will Sol’s Prana Crafter works, Palmer seems adept at mixing the spirit of spare folk with elements of Kosmiche and psychedelia, creating a record that’s densely layered, but also built on a tenderness of touch. I’ve expressed admiration for starting a record off with a crusher in the past (see Axis: Sova) and Palmer does just that, thundering into the album with the cosmic crush of “Statesboro Day.”

As Useful Histories peers out of the clearing smoke from the opener, Palmer blends the barren landscapes of Steven R. Smith and Evan Caminiti with a crumbling sense of American Primitive. Palmer’s version isn’t built on the pristine waters of the plains, but on the ash and ache of our current political climate. There’s less hope to his songs, but it’s there between the cosmic aspirations of “Statesboro” and the ambient numbness of “I Am John Titor.” Palmer has a clear vision that spreads over the disparate, but complimentary impulses on this album and it crafts Useful Histories into a record that is patient and propulsive in equal measures. This record feels like the beginning of a conversation about Palmer that will last well into the coming decade.



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Plates of Cake

The latest LP from Brooklyn’s Plates of Cake expands on their ability to sit comfortably between genres. The band cherry picks strengths from jangle-pop, power pop, and AOR tropes without fully investing in any of them. They employ a breezy bounce on the guitars — carefree to the point of Lounge on “The Man I Want To Be” — but most often it gives their songs an air that’s just short of aloof. They read casual and cock-eyed but still strangely approachable. Singer Jonathan Byerly has a croon that sits somewhere between the resonant wink of Jonathan Richman and Tom Verlaine, but when employed right he can give a track the requisite simmer. They skew the jangle over time and let a creep of acrid fuzz linger into their sounds corroding the clean lines with a subtle crumble.

As the band winds into the mid-section they really hit onto the power-pop lacquer. “Crusader Castle” and “Misery Behind Her” have a bigness to them that pulls from the classic swagger of the ‘70s (Petty, Costello, Lowe) but lets the line linger on into the early ‘10s summoning up comparisons with fellow BK influence alchemists Nude Beach. The band proves they’ve got a boil brewing for the live nights with the instrumental “Rendition” — the kind of cut you know is gonna work itself into a sweat-puddle set-ender unbuttons their sound in the process. They’ve been burning through the rungs of small platter dealers (Uninhabitable Mansions, All Hands Electric) before taking things into their own hands and while they might need to shout louder than some of their peers to get heard, they definitely have the right to be shouting.



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Tongues of Light

Back in 2016, Pre-Cert Home Entertainment, the label run by members of Demdike Stare and Andy Votel, put out an excellent record by Sam A. McLoughlin under the name Tongues of Light. The idea behind the project was to wrap the phenomenon of glossolalia (commonly known as speaking in tongues with no discernible translation) into hypnogogic collages with synth surroundings that properly frame the otherworldly transmissions funneled through the speakers. The samples are sourced from a wealth of YouTube clips of the phenomenon (or hoax depending on your point of view) and by removing them from the sterility of the videos the McLaughlin finds a sense of haunting musicality in their incantations. Paired with vibrating synth landscapes, the vocals beam in from a subconscious ceremony of the mind.

Tongues of Light finds the line where psychedelic meats spiritual and hops back and forth across it like a sine wave pulse. The record mixes the haunted hollows of Leyland Kirby associated projects from The Caretaker to The Stranger with the translation-less vocal stylings of Dire Wolves or Magma. McLaughlin is able to weave the disparate source recordings into a tapestry of light and shadow that feels like it would have been right at home as a piece of Jodorowsky’s Dune – perhaps vibrating between the bands of Fremen that dot the barren landscapes. Whether you buy into the phenomenon or not, the second Tongues of Light LP makes plain that something eerily beautiful is at work in these recordings as he attempts to find a common thread between the immaculate and the intangible.



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Teddy and the Rough Riders

Missed out on this one, sadly due to the announcement running through Instagram and me looking the other way. I live for Bandcamp notifications, get it up there Rough Riders! Now, to the record. I’ve been keeping the band’s TRR EP in pretty heavy rotation on the RSTB radio show and it only grows better with age. The band, which shares members with Natural Child and The Paperhead and has backed up Sean Thompson’s Weird Ears, has been steadily carving out a mellow alt-country crevice from Nashville’s underbelly. The band captures a melancholy wind that tousles the hair of the standard country crowd – ably picking at traditional tropes and applying requisite studio shine, while fitting in with the sunburst strums and pedal-steel melters of Mapache, James Matthew VII, and Tobacco City. The record’s bootlegger stomp and backporch ramble let it sink in and simmer without falling fate to any stereotypes that might befall a band with less inclusive tastes.

While not as compact and consistent as their seamless EP, the room to experiment lets the band play with form. Songs like “Too Drunk” are build on the sing-song lilt of English folk, but dressed in Nudie Suits all the same. They make it work before tumbling back into river-ramble tales of mischief and summer sun fitted with psych’s rosey-hued spectacles. The record breezes by with a smile and a sigh, as if it already knows that the carefree days are bound to end. As I mentioned the real problem stems from an availability for those outside the streaming-system (guilty). I’d love a proper physical issue, so labels worth your weight, help ‘em get a run going. Sometimes you gotta dig the gold out, though, and The Congress of Teddy and The Rough Riders shines up real pretty. Find it where you can and enjoy!




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Mythic Sunship

After a year of letting it ferment, Mythic Sunship’s last album Another Shape of Psychedelic Music is still reorganizing the molecules in my body. The band had long been working to ferret out the thunder and squall from heavy psychedelics, but their addition of saxophonist Søren Skov pushed them into a zone that swiped at free jazz and rolled the burnt sensibilities of the genres together with a renewed vigor. The songs begged to be played live, as the feeling that the band could push these songs beyond the bounds of the studio seemed readily apparent. Now, that’s just what the band along with El Paraiso have done. Mythic Sunship locked down three nights at Roadburn’s yearly gathering of psychedelic shred in Tilburg and the most adventurous night was pressed down to LP.

The live performance doesn’t shy away from the expectations put forth by the studio LP. They work through ferocious and fuming renditions of “Way Ahead” and “Elevation,” but rather than simply expand on the collaborations they’d already done with Skov, they pushed even further. They spend the rest of the set working through new cuts that scrape the cosmos and scar them with a phalanx of sax singe and the titanic rumble of the band’s rhythm section. Too often Mythic Sunship seems to be left out of conversations Stateside that include both psych and free jazz, and this set proves that they should not only be included but at the forefront.



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Black Lips

Like many I suppose my relationship with Black Lips has been fraught. The band’s always hand a sneer that’s both admirable (their ability to not give a damn about the winds of trend) and irritating (knocking out songs that feel like they coulda baked a minute longer). There’s an irreverence to their humor that skirts juvenile jabs, but it’s a good-natured poke to the ribs. Even when trying to put on a scrappy, dangerous garage guise, the Lips don’t really wish you ill. They’ll pick you up after shoving you to the ground. Aesthetically, their last record seemed to sap the last ounce of steam out of the sandpaper-piped garage that they’d been hounding for the past decade, so good news descends as the band has been born anew beyond the veil of country-rock. The gamble works and the twang sits well in their wheelhouse.

They add a roadhouse grit to the genre, melding their snide asides with the forlorn tales of hard luck, hard living, and hard liquor. It’s not a baptism in the genre but they’re definitely having as much of a dalliance as The Stones ever had. The Lips have always had a hardscrabble heart, now they’re just letting it bleed a bit more Tennessee Whiskey. Some of the renewed sheen might have something to do with Laurel Canyon vet Nic Jodoin at the board. With the exception of their Mark Ronson steered 2011 breakout, the band has often let the layers of sound fall by the wayside, preferring impact over subtlety, but Sing In A World That’s Falling Apart doesn’t just twang the guitar, it adopts the studio slick of their influences as well.

Lonesome harmonica pulls at the heartstrings, even when the song’s about a rogue GI Joe. Pedal steel soaks up the beer from the bar, sax squawks bump the jukebox, and Cole Alexander’s never sounded so buttoned up (but ready to rumple should the opportunity arise). While its nice to keep scratching the same itch, eventually that leads to lesions, so its nice to see the Lips swivel and shine. Country-rock’s a tried and true midlife dabble for a band, but nailing it takes more than a whim as they prove here.



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Bill Fay

Its not always a given that artists can resurrect a career and keep the same quiet dignity that marked their revered works. British songwriter Bill Fay released two albums on Deram in the early ‘70s that, while not commercial killers, eventually became sought after works that would become in demand on the secondary market. The demand would eventually also bring him back for a second leg of his career over this past decade. His newer works have matched the depth of his early recordings, but added a shading of age and experience that let them trace the scars of a life lived. It’s astonishing, then, that his third album into this renewed fertile period is one of his best yet. Pulling back to sparser surroundings, Fay lets his words and melodies shoulder the burden. There’s still some orchestration at play, but this is as much a solo folk record as ever, with his scars laid plain for all to bear.

Fay doesn’t shy away from hurt, but he doesn’t dwell. There’s much beauty in the cracks and crevices of Countless Branches. He ruminates on the wonders of nature without making sound like schtick. He finds the humility of family life and lifts it up to something more than routine. Bill’s early records, while worth their reputations were pocked with the self-involvement of youth. His debut was serious to the point of bleak and the follow-up, a true folk breakthrough that would take years to find its crowd, was doused in his preoccupation with faith. Here, those edges soften, as must everything in time, yet there’s a different kind of faith — a faith in love and humility as the harbingers of true meaning. There’s something alluring about reaching Fay’s age and still finding those bright spots against all odds that the current world throws at us. For that, the album is a wellspring of hope and a reminder that no matter how dark the dawn, there’s brightness if you look in the right spots.



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OOIOO

As with her time in The Boredoms, YoshimiO’s own outlet OOIOO takes rock as a suggestion, moving instruments through clouds of noise in chaotic bursts. The sounds on nijimusi swarm from seething, stuttering percussive brambles through synth ether leaks and into angular guitars gutters choked by the angles and barbs. Entering into an OOIOO album comes with an understanding that, like surrealism or psychedelics, the world will shift and you’re likely not the one in control of when and how. Sounds penetrate from all directions. The listener must be ever vigilant or ever pliable, whichever suits your sway. YoshimiO is a master of mayhem, but she makes it seem like a sensible scramble once the gears start clanking into the second or third track.

OOIOO is like an auditory toss into the woodchipper, floating among the debris the patterns begin to emerge and the seemingly unhinged becomes a mechanism for rhythm and movement. The record enters itself high among the band’s ever-expanding catalog. Seemingly its no quiet coincidence that one of their best, Gold & Green was just given a new life by the label. The two pair well as poles of pulse in Yoshimi’s universe. Goes without saying, if you’re already plugged and pulsating on the OOIOO wavelength that this will continue to crinkle your soul. If this is the first time, quite honestly, nijimusi is a nice entry point as well, classic as ever but overwhelming just the same.

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Alien Nosejob

Constantly in motion, Jake Robertson has kicked out records with Ausmuteants and School Damage over the last couple of years and is back spinning the genre dials of Alien Nosejob. His solo banner leaves room to explore and, in the past, Alien Nosejob has found footing among disco, electronic rumble and punk. This time the tides turn more to New Wave, with those punk impulses fading into a keyboard quease that’s got love for The Units and Devo, but also knows that the Mongoloid years were weirdcore at their best. Shades of The Clean crop up to give the record more of a close-to-home feel and Robertson manages to stuff all the influences into the grooves with a nice balance.

Alien Nosejob has seemed like its chafed to fit into its last couple of iterations, so its nice to see Jake finding a real comfort zone on this record without letting us feel comfortable. The record relishes the squirm that infected much of the best early New Wave and synth-punk. That feeling of getting saddled with this skin and figuring out how to mold it into a shape that fits comes through each and every note. Night sweat sucrose courses through the veins of the record, keeping it peeled and panicked even when it seems at its most accessible. This is a rock record for the insomniac armada, the ones kept awake by the EMF energies of a throbbing technological hangover. It can’t sit still so why should you? Cheers to Alien Nosejob for keeping the Aussie Underground from getting complacent. Suddenly Everything is Twice As Loud is a gulp of glue for a year that won’t let us ease in slowly. Drink deep.



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Sore Eros

The histories of RSTB and Sore Eros are fairly intwined. A long running fixture on the site, the band also graced the first show ever booked under the banner of RSTB at Northside festival a million years back. So, its only fitting that as the band releases their swan song it should wind up here. Robert Robinson has been holding the spark, but the band drifted to different coasts and doesn’t find themselves working live so much any more. Enter engineer/producer (and the force behind The War On Drugs) Adam Granduciel, who was able to coax the band’s distant members back into the studio for a fitting sunset on the band. The band simmers in a brand of soft-focus psych — part folk’s whisper, part hypnogogic shimmer, and here, part sun-kissed West Coast foam rolling back out to sea. The low-light linger adds a nice touch to sound and gives the whole record a relaxed nature that reverberates calm and coolness.

The record orbits around the ten-minute plus roil of “Ocean Tow,” an unusually extensive cut from a band who usually keeps things in the pop song range. The stretch works and they slide down the movement chute as the track folds and unfolds itself in billowing layers . Floating around the centerpiece, the band pings through the echoplex quasars, feeling out the foam with a bittersweet bent. Though this may be their last, the record makes a strong statement of purpose for Sore Eros. They were never at the forefront, but for those that dug into their tender psychedelic heart, it was a welcome journey.




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