Browsing Category New Albums

The Living Eyes

One of the most consistent exports from the Aussie underground comes via Anti-Fade Records’ agit-punks The Living Eyes. On their third LP for the imprint they continue to sneer ‘n shred their way through a dozen compact punk nuggets that feel like they’re handed down from the conglomerate schools of The Saints, Richard Hell, Pere Ubu and Toy Love. While keeping things distinctly Aussie (and sharing a searing similarity to labelmates Ausmuteants) they’re kindred spirits to the kind of itchy, agitated, raw-nerve of punk that festered in the American Mid-West some 40-odd years prior.

The difference is that while they seem to carry the outsider jitters in their very DNA, they’ve also found a way to inject an incredible amount of catchiness into the core of their songs, much like South-Hemi heroes Eddy Current Suppression Ring before them. That band’s Mikey Young pops up in the supply chain here on mixing and mastering duties, so you know things are kept brittle and pushing well into the red. The band has always been a fave around here but I have to admit they’ve outdone themselves on this one. They’ve never sounded more vital, electric or combustible as they do on Modern Living.

At the risk of beating the drum too hard in their praise, this is one of the rawest, most delightfully jagged pieces of punk to roll down the belt this year. Its been a good year for unrest and a bad year for everything else, but this one jolts like a car battery to the tongue. It’s chomping tinfoil like breath mints and dusting any contenders that are hoping to paddle through their wake. I know we’re all looking for a salve these days, and it’s nice to sink back into a malted hazed of indie stupor sometimes, but Modern Living is a good reminder to stay agitated and jolt a few others on your way out of the room.




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Odd Hope

It’s hard to capture the feeling of an era lost. There are plenty of jangle-pop imitators and even a new crop of Kiwis that are attempting to resurrect what Flying Nun once found so effortless. In California, however, there remains a solitary lifeline to the sound in the form of Tim Tinderholt’s Odd Hope. Following on a solid single for Fruits & Flowers, Tinderholt has come ratcheting back with a perfect distillation of all those lost gems from the underside of the equator. Though, its not without noting that he’s also mining a great deal from The Jacobites and The Pastels as well. He’s found purchase not only in their sunny, jangled ebullience but also in the quieter, introverted weirdness that made so many of these ’80s and ’90s oddities such coveted releases.

Produced by Fruits & Flowers co-founder Glenn Donaldson, (Skygreen Leopards, The Birdtree) the record retains an unmistakable touch of his own homespun and hissed-flecked folk pop, but at the heart is Tim’s distinct gravitational pull. Tinderholt’s songwriting is given a treatment that flickers like an emergency candle in a power outage, an inviting harbor in the face of unblinking darkness. The album is both a beacon and a comfort. When he’s reflecting the brilliant sun’s glow there’s no other light that can hope to outshine his positivity, but when the vibes turn, as they often do, to smirking, unsure, melancholy and jittery, Tinderholt is the friend who understands just how overwhelming the outside world is.

So maybe just huddle down into these ten tracks like a blanket in a storm that may or may not pass. Tinderholt’s eponymous debut is the kind of record that’s destined to be missed by the oblivious as anathema to modern trends and revisited years later as a cherished totem to those who were paying attention. With so many of those types of records now getting the reissue treatment, it would seem only intuitive to nip into this while it’s fresh and fidgeting. Odd Hope is a truly endearing open wound that sucks the listener in with its weird and blissful ache.




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Causa Sui

El Paraiso Records is already on a tear this year with the epic, crushing release from Mythic Sunship, a slinking Kosmiche LP from Astral TV and now they cement it with an incendiary new record from flagship band Causa Sui. Splitting time between a tsunami of thick, frothy stoner rock vibes and a more space-rock approach that lifts them up out of the Sabbath ‘n Sleep ghetto of doom chasers, this record solidifies the Danish band’s worthiness on the stage of heavy psych flayers. It pushes their profile past the circuit of European psych bands to render them players on the world stage.

Though touted as a ‘mini LP,’ the record is anchored by two huge jams clocking in at 9+ minutes and they know how to use that length to their advantage. Hell, there’s really only one track here that dips below 7-min. Centerpiece “El Fuego” is a hammer-stung bit of metal-tipped prog that seethes with the appropriate amount of fire espoused by its title. “Seven Hills” follows shortly after with an almost cleaner burn, just plowing every living thing in its path with a spritz of lava and pumice before cooling off into a shimmering black glass sheen. The band has always proven their prowess in the live setting (see their recent Live in Copenhagen set for proof) but they’re proving that the studio is every bit their muse with this record. If the band had a foothold in the hearts of psych collectors before, they’ve just latched on permanently with a batch of tunes that never relent.



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OCS

As Castle Face rightly points out in any mention of this album, it seems that in all the amplifier fallout that John Dwyer has amassed in the past decade, people forget that the seed of Thee Oh Sees was a much more acoustic vision. I remember seeing “the guy from Coachwhips” at a show many years back in NY club Rothko (RIP) and trying to get people to hush the constant whinging about when Ted Leo was coming on. Dwyer was still banging the project into shape, but his presence was as indelible then as it is now. Revisiting the hushed ambiance, but with a hefty bit of vision and refinement under his belt, this version of OCS is again acting as a respite from John’s more flammable works.

This time the ramshackle folk is replaced by a loving ode to ’60s chamber folk records. Strings yawn underneath the hushed bedtime pop of Dwyer and longtime Oh Sees companion Brigid Dawson and the compositions skew heavily to the lush, yet mournful. The love of this era of psych has peeked into the band’s catalog but never taken center square until now. There are shades of Subway, Nick Garrie, The End, Susan Christie, and Sunforest flickering into view as we ease into this new incarnation of the band. As the record progresses impressions of The Free Design and The United States of America surface as well, but it’s clear that the synthesis of influence on this can’t be pointed at any one band. It’s a true divination of the murkier side of the ’60s. This is the sound of someone getting frustrated with searching out a certain sound from the crates and just doing it better themselves.

Dawson acts as the perfect melancholy specter on the album, with her veiled delivery sitting Shiva for the hearts of a hundred crackled ’45s. The bench on this record gets even deeper though, with Mikal Cronin chipping in a full horn workup on some tracks and those note-perfect strings, courtesy of Heather Lockie’ (Spiritualized, Sparkelhorse, Cory Hanson) making all the difference here – pushing the listener into a deep, lush vista of sound. There’s even a few breakdowns from original member Patrick Mullins, driving this into Soft Machine territory. The record’s probably not a pickup for the casual Oh Sees fan, maybe not even the devout, if JD’s scuzz is what you crave. But for those of us who are always looking for more candlelit visions of bittersweet warble, this is a nice gift. If you were charmed by Cory Hanson’s excursion into similar territory then you’ll feel right at home here. Honestly, even if you do usually come for the fuzz, maybe just sink back into this one and cool off.



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Spinning Coin

For all their plaudits abroad Glasgow’s Spinning Coin aren’t wrestling for review space Stateside. The crux of that probably has to do with my theory of America’s threshold for UK bands at any given time. I suppose the press feels we’ve already filled the tank on 2017, but that’s no reason to let this one languish. The album comes via a powerful pair of post-punk signifiers – released on The Pastels’ Geographic Music imprint and produced by Orange Juice’s Edwyn Collins. For what it’s worth, this sounds altogether like an album cherry-picked by The Pastels. It shares their penchant for jangled charms and an alternating emphasis on barbed hooks and lush surroundings.

That alternation is the key to Permo‘s strengths and, at times its unevenness. The band shares a pair of songwriters who each have a strength they choose to flex on any given track. Sean Armstrong tends to take his songs to those lush vistas, fully reclining in the bleary-eyed nostalgia of Sarah Records and the softer side of Creation. His counterpart, Jack Mellin tends to bring the ragged edge to Spinning Coin’s work, often making tracks that are fun but barely standing on their feet (which is not necessarily a bad thing in my opinion). The whiplash between gives the record plenty of variety, but can make it feel like two different bands. I’d think moving forward, they’d be wise to find a smoother way to bounce off of one another, but that kind of symbiosis takes time.

What comes about is a record that’s got a real grip on the past and more than half a handle on how to recontextualize the nostalgia. They hit the nail hard sometimes, namely the ragged glory of “Magdalene” or the frothing elation of “Raining on Hope Street”, but its clear there’s more in the coffers to come. This hits me in a lot of my personal obsessions, and I’m definitely going to keep an eye on where Spinning Coin winds up. For now, some playlists just got stocked up around here.


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Anna St. Louis

There’s something inviting, cozy even, about Anna St. Louis’ songwriting. She’s exploring a spare form of folk that’s not at all out of place on a sub-label of the Woodsist Family, but she’s lighting a fire that’s a touch warmer than even their catalog usually embraces. Her songs explore a fingerpicked style that’s immediately bringing to mind Jack Rose, James Elkington and James Jackson Toth. She’s got her ramble and knows how to let it ripple through a song, but St. Louis’ strength comes from expanding the atmosphere with that aforementioned heat – a dusty, homey feeling that makes each song feel as lived in and storied as an old family cabin.

The vocals on First Songs hang in the air with no pretension. They’re unadorned but buzzed around by ringing chords like hummingbirds at dawn. St. Louis has found a way to incorporate a timeless country vision into her folk. When those humid, drenched vibes start to drift off into the horizon she tethers the album down with a fireside simplicity that lets the listener into the room, curled on the floor next to her and sleeping out the sickness with the sound of her pepper and woodsmoke delivery. It’s hard not to fall in love with this one on first listen, and repeated plays really only cement the feeling. This album feels like a scratch demo given a larger audience, so one only wonders what she’ll dig into with a bigger budget and more time.




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The Cowboys

Bloomington’s Cowboys spit-shined their work for Volume 4, the first of their records that found them studio bound. That record snuck out on tape last year and caught a few ears, but hardly enough, given the promise the band showed and the kind of sweat ‘n soul whirlwind they were showcasing between those two spools. Happily, a couple of folks agreed enough to press it down to LP this year and the band follows on with their a brand new LP for Hozac.

They’ve strayed from the studio back to their home setup, but despite cranking these tunes to 8-track, they’ve still managed to keep the crust at bay. Despite a little tape hiss, the transition isn’t too noticeable. Forging on with plenty more sweat-wrenchers, the band’s prowess is cemented within the grooves of the new record, and on 3rd LP, they should rightfully garnish comparisons to Aussie exports Royal Headache. For all their shakin’ bouts of guitar twang their true asset is apparent in vocalist Keith Harman, who’s got a a leather-scratched soul wail that’s as classic as any. His delivery bumps them up out of the cattle call of garage bands that swarm the country. Though, to say Harman’s the only reason to listen isn’t giving The Cowboys enough credit.

The band’s also got a real affinity for shying away from the cliches of garage’s past and present. They’ve got a lighter touch and aren’t afraid to swagger into territory that’s more Todd Rundgren than tortured fuzz (“Mike’s Dust”, “Like A Man”) and it suits them well. Even when they’re still hitting the gas, Harman pulls them closer to Jagger blue-eyed soul territory rather than tumbling through the Sonics/Stooges axis that’s often split by so many these days. The record’s got a ton of appeal and feels like it’s constantly just a hard push away from making something that’s indelible in the halls of rock. This feels like its going to be a watershed moment to look back on from their undoubtedly future classics.




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Maston

Usually talks of psychedelia around here involve some amount of fuzz, bombast or a drench in effects. Frank Maston has always taken a decidedly lighter step into psychedelia. His records are draped in the soft cues and clever subtitles that populated the mix I explored a while back. It’s little wonder he once shared label space with Jacco Gardner, as he also shares with him a propensity for lush psych dreamscapes that bubble slightly and burn away at the edges like filmstrips caught on the bulb.

He’s setup Tulips like a Library record from sleeve to song, emulating the kind of records that enamor collectors – releases from Pasquale Castiglione & Paolo Casa, Remigio Ducros, or Alessandro Alessandroni. The record conjures visions of Italian beaches, winding roads along the California coast and decadent interiors fit with Dutch Modern furnishings and ankle deep shag. Maston has clearly spent some time with his influences and absorbed every shred of DNA from their work he could. He’s not only created a loving homage, he’s also crafted another fine entry to the lineage of psych Library issues.

Much like the Belbury Circle record from earlier this week, this is a great example of an artist continuing the traditions of instrumental music. It’s actually a wonder, given the tone and scope of the record, how Maston hasn’t ended up working with Ghost Box at this point. Needless to say this is a key pickup for those interested in soft psych, Italian Library issues or setting the right tone to your newly constructed ’60s grotto.




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Rabit

If Communion was producer Eric C. Burton’s real introduction to the world (despite several notable EPs preceding it) then Les Fleurs Du Mal is his grand gesture – an album that cements his stature among those who’d look to move the needle forward to the point of stress. The album embraces much more than Communion‘s stark atmospheres and crumbling visions of an organism eating itself from the inside out. Here, he’s let in air and light and allows them to dance around in the carcass of the beast he’s made his home, then steadily closes out through a process of aural disintegration.

The album is on a larger scale, with sonic debris littering the gritty world he’s built. It’s an album that’s frightening at moments, with heft that can be felt ricocheting through the marrow of the listener if administered through headphones. He’s an adept builder of tone, so when he turns from the airy, sunlit alleys of his opening tracks to the bombstruck nights of “Ontological Graffiti” and “Dogsblood Redemption,” the panic that sets in is real and visceral. He continues through the album like a refugee of sound in a world devoid of hope, picking at the scattered static images of our self-crowned utopia for sustenance. The record feels like a judgement, a montage of hate and hope beamed through to an alien race that speaks only in terms of atmospheric pressure on the skull.

It’s easy to see how Burton’s star has risen (he did just get off a turn working with Björk) as he’s a master of environments and doesn’t feel tethered to the notions of an album’s flow as dictated by beats, pop aesthetics, or accessibility. He’s a producer who’s working art into electronics and vice vesa. What he’s wrought here is probably one of the best futurist visions of the last few years. It’s an album that would work as orchestral doctrine in a world that’s given up on organic instruments. It is a record built for the the scavengers of the scrap heap of our modern times. When we all reach that bleak ecological break that’s been promised, this is the soundtrack that’s going to be in the headphones of the next generation.




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Gunn-Truscinski Duo

Has it really been since 2012 that Steve Gunn and John Truscinski paired their prowess to purge a temperamental squall from their instruments? Seems that it has, but the pair is back together and despite Gunn’s rather meteoric rise in the interim, it feels like not a day has passed in their symbiotic sonic pact. Bay Head, their new LP, sounds like two artists making music simply for themselves and the cut cord of commercial appeal suits them nicely.

Moving away from Gunn’s recent reliance on pop structure, the record builds its stormfronts on both his fingerpicked runs, threading the album like looped vines of sound, and a more caustic, rusted metal explosion of corroded fuzz. The album is, for the most part, covered in clouds that are grey streaked and threatening at times, but when the duo lets a little light in there’s a peek of delicacy as well (“Shell,” “Some Lunar Day”). Even Gunn’s most enticing moments, however, are not without a bouquet of thorns for listeners who relax into their twined beauty too quickly. This is not a sunshine ramble of folk, but rather a full picture of turmoil and respite.

The real beauty here is in the interplay between the two artists. With guitar and percussion duos the language is the most important thing and Gunn and Truscinski know how to converse, playing off one another in subtle nudges. When the guitars threaten to boil, scratching at their amps like caged animals, Truscinski pulls the chain, tumbling with Gunn but knowing where the boundaries lie. Bay Head is ecstatic and free, but never messy, never threatening to buck its listener. This album is a reminder of just how potent these two musicians can be, and even if its another five years before we get another one, it’ll have been worth it.




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