Browsing Category New Albums

Mikal Cronin

Of all the songwriters to come out of the Segall orbit, Mikal Cronin’s always been the most prone to pop. Where others found solace in the crushing fuzz and rancor of rock, Cronin has been the voice of melody, and the guiding light of embellishment. Fittingly Cronin’s also been one of the most masterful producers in this orbit, fitting Ty’s psych-flecked garage with buzzing sax, mellowed keys and all manner of interesting ephemera. He’s followed the flow of this sentiment with his own songwriting career as well and the traits that prevailed over the years are the urges to explode rock in all directions, awash in pop’s arms and swirling through a sound that’s not lean, but never unbalanced. Cronin’s songs are packed with hooks and snagged on melancholy. It seems fitting that he’s the one from this enclave that’s found his way to Merge, ever a home to the bittersweet pop loner.

This album jus that, a lonely album. There are surely others in the room, but Mikal gives it the feel of a solo project built on his own pain and pulse. Seeker is probably one of Cronin’s most meticulous releases, and this serves as both a benefit and poison to its direction. While the songs swoon, awash in strings, velvet harmonies, and piano key tears, it’s missing a bit of the rawness and whimsy of his earlier catalog. In the past his songs felt ready to explode at any moment from emotions pent up and propelled by a power pop catapult that splashed them across the soundfield in ecstatic colors. Those colors seem muted on Seeker, perhaps dampened by time among the studio’s walls. The songs seem like they might find that spark more in the live setting. The core kernels of pop are there, but they’re sealed in packaging and ready for Cronin to get them out to play.

That feeling does return as the album wears on, “Lost A Year’s” second half goes for the win, but even there it could feel looser. “Caravan” lets that sax creep in but why not let it crack at the corners, get wile and free? That’s not to knock the songs themselves, there are some hooks in the bucket, but I just keep wanting Cronin to spill them all over the place and have fun. He’s never seemed worried about mussing his hair before, so maybe that’s why the quick-comb feels like a pretense for school pictures, a buttoned-up version of what could be. I’ve confidence that the stage will sort it out. This is a solid shot from Cronin, but it could have been a shout.




Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

Vetiver

While Vetiver has always had a preternaturally calm demeanor, there’s something inherently broken-in, yet endearingly comfortable about Andy Cabic’s latest LP under the name. Vetiver captures the worn and weathered valley between ennui and ease and the album is marked by a familiarity that’s hard to shake, but mostly because Cabic’s able to synthesize his influences into a faded denim delivery that couldn’t be mistaken for anything other than Vetiver. His past catalog obviously speaks to the same feelings, but there seems to be a particular abundance of warm amber waves and cool blue ripples that slip off of the ends of Up On High. He’s dug into a secret stash of country touches and folk flecks that coalesce into an album built on hurt, but also built to heal.

Themes of wanderlust, lost love and new beginnings have (rightly) earned the album comparisons to Tom Petty’s mid-life high water mark Wildflowers. Shades of R.E.M. jangle up and there’s a rootsy honesty that knocks at Crazy Horse’s door, but it’s Petty’s ode to the dissolution of routine that hangs its head over the album the heaviest. Cabic similarly seems to embody a sense of loss and loneliness and packs the record with an ideal of finding oneself beyond the horizon no matter how many times you have to cross it. The record is one of his best since 2009’s Tight Knit, reinvigorating Vetiver even while technically mellowing. The record is a comfort for the soul in troubled times, and honestly that’s something we could all use time and again.



Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

Owen Tromans

Been a while since Owen Tromans has popped up in these pages, but that’s on me, not him. Tromans last caught my ear trading covers with Wooden Wand on a 7” back in 2011, but he’s had a solid clip of singles and tapes since then. 2019 sees the UK singer-songwriter surging back with his most complete statement to date. Between Stones is a winding exploration of driving folk tipped with a heavier heart that dives into progressive impulses and dresses in the tatters of American indie. Tromans retains a sense of grandeur that pays homage to the UK folk form — fanciful characters and lyrical runs open into an appetite for progression that see him open up latter half stunner “Grimcross” into gnarled, prophetic darkness. In many ways though he’s simply channeling the restlessness of these lost bards through a modern lens.

Tromans echoes Johnathan Melberg’s expanse under the wings of Shearwater, who in turn borrowed a lot of it from Talk Talk. “Vague Summer” toughens his take, driving a thread of ‘90s colors through a sound that tumbles close to the crumbs that Bob Mould or Jay Farrar left behind. He’s not one to ruminate too long though, and those flashes all melt together as the record winds on. Tromans has stitched this together into a beautiful, yet tough record. He lilts with the wounded soul of a man hurt but not hung, churning his tales into windswept epics fit to be carried on the wind. Its been a long time coming, but hearing Tromans thrive on Between Stones feels like a triumph for the songwriter. 2019’s packed, but you’d be foolish to let this one slip away into the fray.




Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

Simon Joyner

Omaha’s Simon Joyner has a painter’s tongue and his way with words lays out a landscape caked with the dust of an American promise gone to seed. He’s carving out simple truths that lie ignored on the shelves of corner shops and gas stations next to quarter juices barrels and car parts – dreams deferred, expired, or squandered. There’s something small in Joyner’s songs, and that’s not a slight, he’s a man who not only notices the minutia, but finds the poetry that radiates through it. Between the grease of diner eggs, borrowed prescriptions, and beers beset by nagging end of season bees, Joyner finds a humanity that seems to have been obscured by the constant clip that life acquired when it got wired up. Joyner snips the sizzle and slows it down to just the tangibles. He drains out the seep of over-saturation and lets things snap back into their naturally rusted hues once more.

There’s been a tendency to compare Joyner to Townes Van Zandt over the years, and that’s apt. I won’t fight it. Both artists share an innate ability to paint a picture that focuses on the cracked hinges and weathered wood rather than the crowd pushing through the door. He trades in vignettes of normalcy giving the slightest details the weight and worth they deserve. The details are small, but the scars they leave run deep. Like Townes, Joyner’s got a wry wit that’s in a constant tug ‘o war with his realist’s melancholy. He’s able to devastate the heart but slip in a grin at the end to stem the tears, or at least sop them up a bit.

Underneath Pocket Moon drips a subtle country cavalcade that wraps his words in heavy sighs and deep set hues. Joyner’s been working with a consistent crew of locals who’ve been seasoned in his soul for years. Yet for Pocket Moon he steps away and throws himself into the unknown, relocating to Phoenix and set adrift into the hands of a crew of players assembled by his longtime collaborator Michael Krassner. The trust is warranted, to say the least, as the players shape this into one of Joyner’s finest offerings. The album is tender, polished by his standards, but not overly so. The players step back and let Joyner shine, but like true seasoned session troupes they shade in the edges with a sound that elevates the songs. It’s been said that Joyner is your favorite songwriter’s favorite songwriter, and that’s largely true, but if he hasn’t found his way into your own repertoire until now, this is a fantastic starting point. Wade deep, and then swim backwards into his vast revue. In the meantime, Pocket Moon is working its way the essentials list for 2019 and getting hard to beat.



Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

Program

These days the most potent indie emanating from Australia is coming from the ranks of Anti-Fade, no question about it. The label continues their winning streak in 2019 with the debut from Melbourne four-piece Program. The band’s sound is rooted in the tangled punk ends of Pavement, the twang-tipped offerings of Toy Love and even a touch of Go-Betweens’ pop romanticism, but the band stews it all together without letting one flavor favor the top end. There’s even a beefed up whiff of what The Verlaines were aching about, though to be fair Program pair their strums and lyrical pining with a more gnarled and snarled sensibility that gives these songs a rib-sticking quality. They seem so versed in the cross-hairs of Aussie / Kiwi lore that the result is an instantly classic album that feels like its been kicking around the racks for years, just waiting to be plucked from cracked-case obscurity in dollar bin hell and put into regular rotation on the speakers.

The album’s got a breezy effortlessness that doesn’t come off cocky, just surefooted. The players have been knocking around a few other hook-knackered bands in their tenure (mems belong to The Stroppies, The Blinds, Meter Men, DARTS, The Faculty) and their collective consciousness channels the best qualities of their tangential projects into a potent sonic slap. They shuttle between wounded janglers and cock-eyed Aussie self-deprecation with ease and slip on into something harder, licking at the boots of power-pop without ever quite completing the jump. There’s a ‘90s nuance to what they’re doing, but it doesn’t come off as overtly backward tumbling or nostalgic, just reverent about sorting through their influences and making ‘em stick. There aren’t too many stateside that are finding this same uncanny valley and making it their own, though Omni, Uranium Club, and The Hecks come to mind, and Program can hang right next to any one of those bands. I’ve said it before, can’t lose with an Anti-Fade record, so don’t fight it. Get it on the table as soon as you can.



Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

Bill MacKay & Katinka Kleijn

After already gracing 2019 with a hushed and humble folk opus, Bill MacKay changes tack and delivers a stunner of an instrumental collaboration with Chicago cellist Katinka Kleijn. Equally inviting and engrossing as Fountain Fire, STIR winds down another woolen path, though one fraught with slightly more experimental inclinations. The pair play off each other’s strengths – MacKay’s guitar bristles and flows here, threading a more technical side of his playing that’s come forward in his work with Ryley Walker in the past. Kleijn, for her part, gives the songs a less soft-focus approach than his previous album, adding layers of unease and prickled anguish through her discordant passages and plucked delivery. The record is reportedly inspired by the Hesse novel Steppenwolf, though that seems to be more of a guide than a milemarker as this one winds by. The story isn’t the focus, but the emotions weigh just the same.

The album is heavy with hope and sadness, emotionally bare and ready to get hurt again. MacKay’s playing is inquisitive one moment and heartbroken the next. Kleijn balances his runs as a well-worn foil. They fade into one another as the dominant voice of the pieces so easily that the focus blurs and bends, giving neither a true supporting role. They are a duo in the truest sense, weaving their sounds like sonic textiles, knotted but never tangled. Perhaps this isn’t for the fans who are looking for MacKay to lull them down the river, but for fans of guitar prowess and instrumental acumen, this is a gem to be sure.




Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

Ned Collette, James Rushford, Joe Talia

If you’re familiar with Ned Collette via his previous outing for Feeding Tube, last year’s Old Chestnut, then the new collaboration from Collette, James Rushford and Joe Talia might throw you off a bit. HIs last record was defined by its storyteller soul, treading a crossroads between Roy Harper, Lee Hazelwood, and Leonard Cohen. So, to walk into Afternoon-Dusk and hear not a word is spoken, seems like a complete about face for the artist. That line of thinking, however, discounts the playing on Old Chestnut which, divorced from his lyrics simmers and bows with its own beautiful intensity. Here Collette pairs his guitar with the idiosyncratic drumming of Talia (Jim O’Rourke’s band) and the viola experimentents of Rushford. While “Afternoon” dips into the water with the same grey-skied intentions as the instrumentals on Old Chestnut, where it goes from there is anywhere but languid.

The trio coats the first track in clatter and anxiety. As that sun dips, the the shadows loom and the creeping dread of night grows closer. There may be three of them, but the solitude here is palpable. Guilt gnaws at the bones of “Afternoon” turning the sun’s beams cold and giving every passing stranger a sinister hue. On the next side, “Dusk” does little to dispel this sense of dread and dire circumstances. Rushford’s viola doesn’t swoon or weep, but instead cries out in panic stabbing at the senses and inspiring a bit of fight or flight. The drums skitter like wild animals and Collette brings all manner of anxious energy to the track. The tones in dusk reach a peak that feels as if the listener is cornered and consumed, or at least in danger of becoming consumed at any moment. The record is another side of Collette and the ensemble he’s put together is playing at a peak. If you’ve come for round 2 on Old Chestnut, then this isn’t the right place, but it’s a great place to be nonetheless.




Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

The Hussy

Wisconsin’s finest, The Hussy, have been holding down the garage gamut in the Midwest for years now and they’ve consistently churned out a string of albums that synthesize sweat into fuzz-crusted hooks. Their latest, Looming, is more fodder for the fans who’ve already made them staples of the listen list, though it should entice any diehard of dinged and damaged garage in 2019. Bobby and Heather expanded their sound a bit on Galore and Looming finds itself a natural sequel to that hook-slinger. The guitars still grind, the drums pop n’ punish, and the vocals whip back and forth between the pair, with Bobby giving his tracks a nasal hammer that’s heavy and hurtin’ while Heather softens the blow (just a touch) with some smolder and soul. Though, she can bring just as much invective to a track as her counterpart to be sure.

The record culls in some new sounds, with flutes tickling the underbelly of “Sorry” but they make their biscuit from the overwhelming abundance of fuzz n’ rumble that they kick up over the course of 27-minutes. The band recently spent a tour opening and acting as backing band for Nobunny, and the experience doesn’t seem to have been lost on them. They channel a good dose of the feelgood recklessness that the Bunny has always captured into their new set, proving that they were perfect choices for the job all along. There’s been a slight shift away from the snotty punk vein with a heart of gold that was long being flayed by Jay Reatard prior to his tragic death and has been constantly caved at by Ty Segall, but The Hussy place themselves in the same school as both of these artists, finding the axis between pop and pummel and making it sound good. If you’re not down with The Hussy, you reconsider some life choices. Looming is a Midwest ripper to the core, and endlessly entertaining on each new listen.




Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

Garcia Peoples

I’ve already broken down both halves of this LP as track posts, but this one’s a true 2019 crusher so it deserves proper credit in the long rundown. To echo the label, two tracks doesn’t make this release an EP, so don’t do it the disservice of calling it one. One Step Behind embraces the Garcias’ prowess for improvisation (as best observed in the live setting ) and amplifies it with ventures into psychedelic jazz and slow-burn downer epics alike. The title track gets most of the focus, which seems warranted given it’s the most ambitious recording the band has ventured in the studio to date. Recorded with Jason Meagher at Black Dirt, the track times in over the half-hour mark and the band doesn’t waste a minute of it, taking the listener on a multi-part journey and employing guitarist Tom Malach’s father Bob on Saxophone to drive this one through the Cherry/Sun Ra cosmic curtain.

The band builds the beginning into a circular riff, sliding off of the jam/psych axis for a while and into a minimalist float that locks somewhere between Terry Riley and Steve Hillage’s Rainbow Dome Musick. When Mallach Sr. hits the speakers he brings the full force and nuance of his years locked in sessions with everyone from Stevie Wonder to Arto Lindsay and his sax proves dexterous and devastating in equal measures. The band exits the psych-jazz rumble with a powerslide into their expected, but always welcome vision of Cosmic Americana and it’s just as drenched in sunshine curls and verdant strums as any of their works. The track tears into its second half with a twin guitar attack but the band makes it feel like they’ve hardly broken a sweat. The song is a proper showcase of all that makes the Peoples tick – technical skill, boundless enthusiasm for elevating guitar rock, and grooves that can’t and won’t be denied. The band’s played extended and abridged versions of the track live lately and both work incredibly well, a further flex of their arranging skills.

After all that, they still have the energy for an eight-minute closer that channels the broken and beautiful excess of Gene Clark’s No Other, albeit with a good deal less cocaine dusting the edges. With a swap in songwriting duties, the band shifts bassist Derek Spaldo to the piano and new permanent keys player (and man of many instruments) Pat Gubler to flute for a late night, whiskey-soaked comedown dedicated to lost love. It’s one of the more tender moments in the Garcia Peoples songbook, and it’s good to see them shading in their edges beyond expectations. The whole record leaves the listener twisted and torn, lifted and lowered. I can’t predict where the band goes from here, but standing on the precipice of this release I can only imagine they’re going to completely tear down what it means to be a jam/psych/choogle/rock band in 2019 and rebuild it in their own image.




Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

Comet Gain

It’s been a long time since the last Comet Gain LP graced the turntable, and in that time the world’s sought to smash itself head-first into the walls as often as possible. The woven comfort of their last album, while perhaps providing shelter from the storm, wouldn’t be quite what’s called for in this year of eroding centers, our own personal hell of 2019. So it’s only fitting that Fireraisers Forever! is here to save us from ourselves. David Feck is back with his knuckles bared, a la Réalistes, a companion piece in discomfort and disillusionment to their new slab. The record raises its teeth against politicians and the body politic, idiots and ignorance in all it’s greasy splendor. There’s a relentless restlessness to the album – turning their jangle n’ strum into a shield against the everyday dig of the doledrum foxhole.

Feck doesn’t feint as the record bursts open with a declaration that “We’re All Fucking Morons” and the rhetoric only gets more sizzle from there on out taking down the scumbags and scroungers on “The Institute Debased” and knocking the very core of nostalgia from its pedestal on “Mid 8Ts”. That said, it’s not all invective and gnash, there are moments that soften in the sun (“The Godfrey Brothers,” “Her 33rd Goodbye”) but they only balance the stiffened resolve of the rest of the album. This is a classic clash of Comet Gain impulses — melodic, melancholic, misanthropic, and mad and mellow. What’s clear is that Feck and co. have never lost a step over the years and every new Comet Gain just adds to the legacy.



Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments