Browsing Category New Albums

Josh Doss

Flying way under the radar, this tape from Lexington songwriter Josh Doss snuck out on Was Ist Das last month and its packed with hazed late-night gems tipping on a fulcrum of damped down boogie blues and sore-throated Americana. Doss’ delivery has a way of sounding like your old Tom Petty tapes got left in the dust and sun too long, crackling and warbling with a slow draw delight. Aesthetics aside though, Doss knows his way around country-twanged chooglers that swagger with a strange menace, shouldering their way through fellow patrons to dance woozily in the open floor of last call calm. Doss breathes worn leather epithets over a simple setup that favors plodding bass and copper strums. The fidelity’s got all the charms of room mic house show capture, but that humble draping seems to suit Doss just fine. Sheen would only make these songs squint.

Though he draws from a wealth of ‘70s outlaws for inspiration, on a contemporary level the album feels like a kindred spirit to the great and elusive Golden Gunn LP that saw Steve Gunn and Hiss Golden Messenger team up a few years back. Like that treasure, Don’t Let Your Time Pass You By is bound by a debt to the night, to the bar and to the dirt. It reeks of loose tobacco, wooden bar tops that can’t let go of last night’s beer and the dank, humid cold of mid-October at 3AM. Already feeling like a private press holy grail in its own time, Doss’ cassette is worth digging up while it lasts.




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Sarah Louise

Though Sarah Louise has let loose her vocals with her pastoral duo House and Land, her upcoming LP for Thrill Jockey marks a shift away from her typically instrumental trappings under her solo guise. On Deeper Woods her voice is prominent and transfixing, pushing her nimble passages out of the Appalachian blues that she’s been drawing from and into a darker, and as the title might suggest, deeper territory. In addition to her transcendent vocals, Deeper Woods pushes further into the psych-folk trenches than either her previous efforts, burning a bit of cinder and sage at the edges of her songwriting and pulling from the wells of Susan Christie and Six Organs in equal measures.

But to call this simply a folk album is to dismiss the work that Louise is doing here. On “The Field That Touches My House and Yours” she weaves those yearning vocals over a bed of synths and restrained piano, eschewing guitars entirely and pushing her headlong into the realms of somber ‘70s songwriters burdened with a heavy heart and a shadowed soul. She draws out some of the fullest realizations of her shipwrecked croon yet, radiating woe and bolstering songs with sighs of violin, nudges of bass and raindrop keys that all set this album adrift into a sea of sadness.

Up to this point Sarah Louise has been no lightweight, but with Deeper Woods she announces her intent to capture every ear in the room, to snuff any trace of conversation with her gravitational pull. This is a watershed moment for Louise and she’s left us with an album hits like a downpour – heavy, cool, beautiful and beguiling. This feels like just the beginning for Louise but its refreshing to linger in her creation.


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Les Halles

Two years on from his equally diaphanous record Transient, French ambient artist Baptiste Martin returns with a new collection of air-cooled bliss. This time he’s moved out of the solely practical realm and into building his works via samples – bumping up his arsenal with Slovikian fujara flutes, PVC panpipes and a library of chimes. While this all sounds like it could devolve into a drug store impulse buy New Age CD on paper, in practice Martin is working much closer to the spiritual realms of meditative divination rather than the “free with incense” version. His compositions not only tap into the ether with a rippling calm, but his stacked drones sparkle with a complexity that makes them just as interesting to pick apart as they are effective at blocking out of the world around.

Part of the constructed quality of his meditations stems from Martin’s insistence that he’s building landscapes free from human hands. The pieces are all labeled as either Horizon, Distance or Mirage and each category conjures up a corresponding sonic simulation – with the Horizon pieces creating a palpably close feeling and Distance and Mirage working their way further from scope and into formless abstractions respectively. The artist has been steadily building a repertoire over the years with an excellent bounty of labels (Constellation Tatu, Noumenal Loom, Carpi) but his work with Not Not Fun seems to find him reaching new peaks. Highly recommended for those looking to melt away some of the sludge of 2018, but seconded for those of you who appreciate ambient’s shimmering sway.



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Weeping Bong Band

Massachusetts is pumping out some high-quality psych of late, with MV & EE constantly dispensing gems via their Child of Microtones label and, of course, Feeding Tube serving the needs of the warped and warbled soul in all of us. With an already commendable performance behind him in Wet Tuna, P.G. Six has taken up with members of Pigeons, Crystalline Roses and Viewer to form Weeping Bong Band. Not ones to waste an apt moniker, the band’s eponymous debut is perfect fodder for higher consciousness excursions and late-night fade outs into the ether. The record exists in a state of permanent 2AM Dead improvisations twisted through the soul of Brightblack Morning Light and doused in the blood of Fahey. The record is vibrating as an unconscious conduit to the astral plane, glowing like embers in holy fire. If J. Spacemen was taking drugs to make music to take drugs to then his likely heirs have all just formed a coven on the shores of the Connecticut River.

The band weaves primal moments of solitude and natural communion with an uneasiness that coalesces in the final track, “Jaume 1.” They strike a tentative accord between man and nature, feeling like kindred spirits with the mossy groves around them, but knowing they are intruders all the same. So it becomes that chemical consumption shifts the plane and the record drops the listener into a verdant cocoon of earthen menace. This is a record built for headphones, or speakers pushed to fill a room to the brink. Quiet and calm as it may be, Weeping Bong Band is a record that’s felt as light and heat and smell just as much as it taps on the eardrums. The band can be commended for breaking the fourth wall and taking us all along for the ride.


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Gnod

Gnod’s last album was full of righteous indignation, sparked by the toxic fumes of Brexit and Trump, it was a searing manifesto of rebellion that called for bucking the system, underpinned with the kind of noise hurricane that rightly accompanies such sentiments. Their follow-up remains, at least tonally, in line with the pounding rock typhoon they unleased on that album, dipping toes slightly into the caustic post-punk and harsh noise masks they’ve donned before but welling up the same level of intensity that spiked the blood pressure last time ‘round. On Chapel Perilous though, they ditch a great deal of the straight-forward, sonic turpentine execution that marked Just Say No… ‘s beating heart.

This time the band aren’t operating as the first line dissenters, they’re leaning into the chaos that’s become the daily bread. Their intensity and anger is shot through a disorienting prism, bouncing the blindingly heavy hues across an endless web of mirrors via gummy dub touches, clattering repetitious beats and acid bath guitars. There’s still a gnashed tooth, clenched fisted attack but on Chapel Perilous Gnod act as a conduit for the fears that are arising around us seemingly by the moment. The band is plugged straight to the alarmingly quick descent into dystopian ideals that have come one after another these days and they’re just as adrift, still angry but now swinging wildly rather than acting as a battering ram set to topple the gates.

This can be felt most prominently in the gale force opener “Donovan’s Daughters,” a fifteen-minute ripper that builds to cathartic screams of “I don’t know where this is going.” The track shines an x-ray on every panic attack moment had while scrolling through the day, building to boil until the tension can’t hold. Dread’s been a good friend to Gnod over the years but they’ve rarely wielded it as well as they have here. Sandwiched between that opener and the similarly riled “Uncle Frank Says Turn It Down,” the band trades in itchy instrumentals that claw at the base of the skull and the respirator drones of “A Body”. If Just Say No… was a call to arms, this album is a distress call bouncing off the beacons with little hope that anyone’s going to answer.



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The Buttertones

L..A. foursome Buttertones have been working their way through the chutes and ladders of indie garage for some time now, looking for their place in a sweatbox scene that’s crowded at best. Following up on Gravedigger, they look to the oil slick riffs and curled sneers of The Cramps, Gun Club, Hasil Adkins and maybe even a touch more Cramps (for good measure) as their inspiration. Rolling their hip-slung swagger in twang worthy of Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet and gripping an ace horn section to fatten things out, the band hangs a crisp white collar on typically dirty linen. Their clean lined delivery pines like Nashville looking down Memphis way. They’ve got the studio set up right, the moves practiced until they’re seamless but they need to scuff the tape and aim the dial towards the red to really push this sound into its comfort zone.

Like their labelmate Nick Waterhouse, they’re adept at emulating eras and tone and for what its worth they find purchase in some genuinely fun moments here – the Lux Interior grease stain hop of “Baby C4,” the lounge comedown of “Don’t Cry Alone” – but something in the margins feels like for all The Buttertones’ bravado they’d probably blanche at trying to bum a smoke off of Nick Cave. When you name a song “You and Your Knife” there needs to be a feeling that the danger is real, and even though the rumble on Midnight In a Moonless Dream is more Jets vs. Sharks than Warriors vs. Rogues, they give the danger enough spark to feel fun. The band clearly know which shelves in their collection hold favorite LPs and they’re making the stretch to try to hit the marks. Might just need a few more scraped knees to pull off the darker direction, but I appreciate the effort nonetheless.



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Vive La Void

Most know Sanae Yamada as one half of Moon Duo, where her synths butt against Ripley Johnson’s guitars for a hypnotic grind that’s forever indebted to the German Progressives that came before them. During endless hours on the road with the Duo Yamada began work on a tangential venture, one that’s still buzzing with Kosmiche life, but taking on a much more introspective bent than Moon Duo. Vive La Void comes as an apt title for her solo work. The eponymous LP on Sacred Bones floats in a psychic ether, sandwiched between planes as it were – with insistent beats pillowing a steady pulse of synth tones and Yamada’s trapped under glass vocal delivery giving the project a dreamlike appeal.

The rhythms beg movement, a dance, a twitch even, but their contrast with the spectral vocals makes for a record that’s at odds with itself. Vive La Void is constantly pulling towards the calm float of sensory deprivation but forgetting to lock the lid on the capsule. The boombox grind from the outside ekes its way into Yamada’s dream and she and the listener are suspended in time watching the lights and imaginary dancers spin around us, partitioned by plexiglass just out of reach. As such her album takes on a slightly sinister quality, detached and appalled at the situation. Her alchemy makes for a standout debut from VLV, placing this far from side project status and well into the realm of dream pop purveyors of the highest order.




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Cut Worms

On his debut proper for Secretly Canadian Max Clarke invokes swooning ‘60s doo-wop, country shimmer, a dash of Danny Elfman’s quirk and plenty of love for The Kinks. Hollow Ground is particularly steeped in the Muswell Hillbilies era of the latter band, creating characters that are rough around the edges, but easy to love. He’s a storyteller in the country tradition, with few of his heroes coming out unscathed, but these tear-in-beer anthems find themselves in more precious terrain than hardscrabble hollows. While his shiny, shaggy country-folk cold easily find a kindred spirit in the likes of Sonny and the Sunsets and perhaps even slide after Beechwood Sparks on your infinite alt-country playlist, Clarke is crafting turn-key dioramas that are stuffed with moving parts that all seem to delight the listener rather than overwhelm the sense.

He’s crafting calliope wonderlands on “Cowards Confidence,” sweeping out a bar room tear-jerker on “It Won’t Be Too Long” and evoking the heartfelt warmth of John Denver or Neil Diamond on “Like Going Down Sideways.” The record flips the dial around enough mid-60s pop nuance it could practically qualify as a Wes Anderson soundtrack, all that’s missing are a few interludes from Mark Mothersbaugh. And just as often as the films connected to those soundtracks, Hollow Ground is a splash of colors, intricate draping and meticulous craftsmanship housing characters with a heavy heart and more than a dash of ennui.

Clarke’s skill is apparent here and its an impressive album for a debut – If this is only the start, one has to wonder how far he’ll go in time. Come for the whimsy, stay for the endlessly enjoyable songs that burrow deep with earworms and just a touch of aural pizazz.



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The Sueves

Still plenty to love in the Chicago punk scene these days and the sophomore LP from The Sueves proves it. There’s a slight bump up the clarity counter from their debut, and yet this new record is still torn and tattered and ripped to shreds in all the right places. The band’s core is a visceral gut punch, relying less on hooks than on the lock top drumming of Tim Thomas (formerly of Heavy Times) and a few chemical burn guitars to get the point across. That’s not to say there aren’t any riffs slicing through R.I.P. Clearance Event, there are plenty, but the band utilizes them like a saw blade, tearing at the listener with their insistent teeth.

The Sueves have studied up on their Stooges, their Hot Snakes and their Seeds catalogs, borrowing heavily from the wild man aesthetic and turning sweat into joy over the course of these some sixteen tracks. Songs swerve and duck and shimmy as the album works its course, fighting not to be pinned down. They relent the hammer down determination a few times and let through a smirk on “Slammer” and rope in the barroom crowd for “What They Did,”- sounding not unlike The Strange Boys for a bit – but otherwise this is a breathless buncha bashers. Good for what ails ya, and ready to rumble when you are, R.I.P. Clearance Event leaves a few turf marks on the turntable to be sure.




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Grouper

Days were when Liz Harris had a new album on the way it was the rippling fringe that was excited. Now by the grace of gauziness, Grouper is practically a household name (ok maybe not quite) and expectations are high going into Grid of Points. From the very first moments those expectations are met. Harris’ voice is still battling with hiss for prominence, but this time it’s winning out handily, soaring in a heartbreaking lilt over “Parking Lot’s” somber refrain and soaking the album through with a confessional nature that pushes her past the markers of dreampop and noise that used to pen her in. There’s still that natural warmth that makes Grouper Grouper, but it seems over time Liz Harris has seen fit to let us further into her world with an intimacy that’s palpable in every moment of the new record.

It’s almost too bad that warmer climes and sunny skies are on their way because every inch of Grid of Points makes me want to hollow out a couch cushion and bunker down to weather frigid gloom for another few months. The album is, as is usual with Grouper, haunting in its ability to draw sadness out like a fragile divining rod. Even without the cocoon of aural foam and tape hiss that’s ever present, there’s a feeling that just Harris and a piano would command rapt attention for an album twice this length. If anything, the problem is the album’s brevity leaves the listener wanting more – needing Harris to commiserate and tug gently at the toothache of longing just a little while longer.

I’ll take what I can get though, and this is Harris at her best, showing an artist willing to evolve, even if that evolution is just a gradual peek from behind the curtain over time. If there’s a shred of sadness looking for relief inside of you, then Grouper is here to rub salt in the wound. The pain is real, but the sparkle is worth it.



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