Browsing Category New Albums

Paint

L.A.’s Allah-Las trade in their fair amount of ‘60s shaded nostalgia, and while they’re usually brimming with a decent dose of homegrown appeal, the solo stint from ‘Las guitarist and songwriter Pedrum Siadatian makes his mainstay sound positively modern by comparison. The faded photo trappings are most certainly by design. Siadatian is reaching for the hidden bins that house the hometapers, the 4-track quiet geniuses and the unstable imps of the acid-blotted paisley past. Helmed at the production desk by the similarly inclined pastiche painter Frank Maston, he crafts an album that seeps up from the humble hovels of R. Stevie Moore and F.J. McMahon sounding like its never seen so much as the door to a proper studio. That’s not a complaint mind you, the pair are aiming for a record that could easily slip between the cracked covers of the private press gold rush and blend in seamlessly and they’re pulling it off swimmingly. Siadatian’s clearly done his research and delights in creating something of a crumpled homage.

Paint catches the same prism-bent dusty sunshine that revs up the cardboard kaleidoscopes of Kevin Ayers, Danny Graham and Billy Nicholls. Siadatian makes it seem effortless, but I get a sense that he and Maston have gone to lengths to meticulously craft an air of economical wonder to match these low-key touchstones. Maston doesn’t push the project too hard, or imprint himself as heavily as one might imagine given his own passions for the past. Instead of coifing this record in lush brushstrokes of the Library psych he’s so fond of, he’s let the backroom hiss and bedroom sleepiness linger. Just because the mics are bedroom bound doesn’t mean this thing is totally sparse, though. The songs are still adorned with brain tangling backwards guitars, satin organs and flute swells, but the sounds are stuffed into the spectrum like they were tracked in tandem, stuffed into a third-floor apartment.

Paint has the feeling of a one-off curio, which are oftentimes the best records. It remains unclear if this is to become a new avenue for Siadatian in the long run, or just a way to shake out some private press psych impulses. Either way he’s ticking a lot of boxes on the RSTB favorites list and the album elevates itself to be more than just style over substance. It’s a well-conceived diorama of psych that creeps under the skin time and again.



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Rat Columns – “Sometimes We’re Friends”

Those promised Slumberland SLR30 singles are beginning to land and that’s good news for fans of David West’s output. West’s Rat Columns issued a criminally underrated album on Upset The Rhythm last year, and to top it he also put out an equally excellent album of his own on Tough Love a few months later. This short form release for Slumberland picks up where both of those left off. Just as bleary-eyed and blissful as the previous Rat Columns tracks, the single starts off with the hazy strummer “Sometimes We’re Friends.” Caught in the crossfire between jangle-pops bright bounce and shoegaze’s gauzy confusion, the track is an extended descent into headphone glory.

The flip showcases the more pristine aspects of West’s songwriting. “Astral Lover” is a bittersweet bit of pop perfection that hangs its heartbroken hook on a sea of strings and two-part harmonies that place this alongside many of the best moments of Candle Power. They wind the single up with the rainy-day sleeper, “Waiting To Die,” a track that’s not nearly as goth as that title might lead one to believe. Instead the track lopes along on a shuffle of drums and some softly tangled strums, with West pining for the end in a surprisingly upbeat fashion. I’d recommend picking this up alongside the rest of the 30 yr set, since there are limited colors at hand an the promise of a Black Tambourine exclusive tied to the set.



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Cool Sounds

Melbourne’s Cool Sounds shift their spotlight from the “Real Estate dreaming of John Hughes subplots” sound they held on previous album Dance Moves and embrace a more languid, jazz-soaked vision of Aussie indie. While a stop-gap EP last year leaned towards a more austere acoustic vision, on Cactus Country the band again fleshes out the sound with rain stained sax lines, sunset twang that makes good on the promise of that title and a narcotic cool attached to the vocals that’s never in a hurry to push out of the permanent vacation saunter. The band once coined the term jazz-gaze to approximate their sound, but up until now it didn’t really feel like they were making good on it. While that’s still a bit of a smirking swing at how their sound shakes out, the comparison lands. Cool Sounds have baked this record on the boardwalks and beachfronts and tied the whole thing up in strains of “Baker Street” sax crushed out just a touch by the din of the waves.

At times the effect can push Cactus Country into the background music category, like quite a few of the lite jazz and drive time ‘80s references it’s evoking. Yet, the band has worked tirelessly on the aesthetic and even when they’re sometimes poking at the saccharine or cheesy (see: “Nylon”) they still feel genuine in their affection for the delivery and that gives the record its own gravity. There are some positively gorgeous moments on the record that melt away the frantic pace of 2018 and help hold the clock’s hands at bay for at least the thirty-odd minutes that Cactus Country spends on the speakers. For that respite, I remain grateful.

Ultimately the record feels like a faded and folded brochure for a long-gone vision of recreational living. The band succeeds in making it never feel like a modern take piped through a wood-grain filter, but rather a vintage find that’s just been packed in a dusted crate all these years. The nostalgia gives the record a slight tinge of bittersweet bliss and an aura of comfort that’s hard to resist. Cactus Country isn’t going to shake your foundations, but it might just soothe your soul, which is a welcome promise these days.



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Pat Thomas

Cool Ghouls’ Pat Thomas ventures out solo for a second time, with a concise LP of tracks that pick at his personal indulgences outside of the breezy confines of his day gig with the Ghouls. Naturally there’s a general veneer of Cali-cool about the LP, but Thomas winds the album around a stylistic maze that sometimes meshes and sometimes clashes. There’s a prevalent thread of ‘70s AOR that pops up throughout the record, dipping his toes in the sharkskin slick pop of Steely Dan and tangling his tongue around the kind of pop nonsequitors that would make Joe Walsh check his hydration levels and belly back to the bar. Its here that Thomas seems most comfortable, flipping the background fizz of radio staples into winking pop nuggets. He dons the disguise well enough to slip into the grownups’ party but the sparkle in his eye and the flask in his pocket says he’s not planning on playing it cool for long.

Sometimes, though, the winking gets a bit too heavy and Thomas lets his disguises tumble and drop. He goes full ’60 bubblegum pop on “Are You Okay,” but rather than adopting the candy thick pop hooks and carefree attitude like The Dirtbombs achieved on their tribute to the sound, he goes for the clash and clang of The Banana Splits picking out covers of Sgt Pepper’s most over the top moments. It’s a bit too heavy on the sound effects to be more than pastiche leaning nostalgia. He finds the balance a bit better, though, on “What Is Coming,” a jittery new wave wobble that pecks at David Byrne’s bug-eyed ballast to great effect.

Horns get put through their paces on I Ain’t Buyin’ It, whip-lashing from grandeur to gloss to kinked-up skronk. They might actually be the most cohesive through-line to the whole record, shading each track with a brass sheen. Is a hodgepodge to be sure, but a well-constructed one and while the playing is ace it just feels like many of these might have been the start of a few different records all vying for dominance. Thomas has always had a deft hand in Cool Ghouls and its nice to see him shake out the wrinkles a bit and go for broke. If this is the odds and sods, then so be it, no one says every record is a front-to-back keeper. It’s a fun, if frivolous collection held together by faded yellow cellophane tape like the dollar bin names it checks. There’s definitely a few keepers in the bunch and in hindsight, I’ll be interested to see how this all leads to the next Cool Ghouls sound.



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Ty Segall

Those of you in for the long haul on Ty know that the man loves a good cover, but more so than most California’s favorite son has always been an alchemist of the art form. Early seven inches often used the flip as a forum for Segall’s deep bench record shelf swoons – covering ground from Echo and The Bunnymen to Simply Saucer to The Groundhogs. Live sessions gave reason to scratch the psychotic itch with GG Allen cuts and then, of course, there’s a multi-year endeavor to cover as much ground on the T. Rex catalog as possible. What’s set Ty apart from your favorite ‘90s ska band pumping up the tempo on old Paul Simon cuts with a crass smile is that Ty’s got the perfect combination of taste and chops. He’s passionate about the source material, but not so precious as to deliver note by note recreations. On Fudge Sandwich he picks out a handful of faves deserving new life and gives them their own caustic twist through the lens of the fuzz kaleidoscope.

A multitude of singles comps have scooped up the best of the B’s in the past, but outside of those RSD Rex pressings this is the first time that Ty’s ripped into a fresh set of covers with the pure idea of breathing new life into old favorites. Its not a new idea, hell The Detroit Cobras made a damn good living out of this model for years. Still, Fudge Sandwich maintains vitality in a crowded medium, largely because in Ty’s hands any song can become newly exciting. As he does with Hot Chocolate’s “Everyone’s A Winner” from Freedom’s Goblin, Segall dirties up a fair number of his subjects – giving acid grit to War’s “Lowrider,” and injecting a fair amount of evil to John Lennon’s “Isolation.” He’s just as apt to strip things back, though, folking up The Dill’s “Class War” into a summer strummer that hits hard lyrically in 2018.

The rest of the set does its best to bring some standards to grind in the garage – fuzzing out Grateful Dead, Neil Young, The Spencer Davis Group and Sparks. He then sprinkles in some deeper cuts for the heads, hopefully opening up a few young guns to Amon Düül II, Gong and Rudimentary Peni in the same way he might have done for Simply Saucer and The Groundhogs before them. While the year already has its peak Ty release in the form of Goblin, this is a reminder that the man never sleeps and we all reap the benefits.



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Crepes

When Crepes’ debut LP hit the speakers last year, it was a sparkling collection of indie pop that leaned towards a matured early ‘70s hangover of breezy touchstones – from George Harrison solo jaunts to Todd Rundgren’s more reigned in Runt years. Just below the breeze, though, was a dark current, a chill that occasionally braced against their otherwise sunny strums. The ripple reared its head on standout “Tough” and the bittersweet gem “In A Dream,” giving the album a nice bit of shading that kept it from ever skewing saccharine. The band seems to have enjoyed those moments as well, because on their follow-up, In Cahoots, they seize on the darker driven pulses wholesale. The album is tinged with a kind of slinking funk, a spaced-jazz sizzle, and a propulsive pop instinct that infects the listener with an urge to move. They then cool the whole thing down on the b-side with a sunset scratch of country cool to ease the simmer out of the stylus.

The band padded out their sound for the sophomore LP, adding an additional guitar and perhaps most vitally, keys, to the mix. The keyboard shading picks up where the debut left off, perching on the edge of ‘70s pomp, but sidling down easily into puddles of power pop and nascent New Wave. In Cahoots is a subtler record than its predecessor, and as such the songs need to sit in the headphones a few more rotations to really embed themselves. It also proves to be a richer collection, though, and Crepes fuses their influences in ways that don’t always paint by the recommended numbers. It doesn’t hurt that the songwriting from Tim Karmouche (The Murlocs) is as biting as ever, burrowing hooks under the skin with a sly wink and a subtle tip of his cap. His songs endear themselves, but stop just short of showy touches, giving them a lived-in comfort that doesn’t wear out on repeat visits.

The band’s last record didn’t really anchor itself too well Stateside, and I fear that this record may suffer the same fate, due to little physical distribution in these parts. It’s a damn shame though, because In Cahoots is yet another Aussie export putting domestic competition to shame. The record latches onto just enough nostalgia and classicism to feel familiar, but this time around the band are pushing the brick forward a few wide strides. Their pop stew is damn enjoyable, not to mention a perfect accompaniment to the crisper days ahead. Do yourself a favor and skip out of the US zip code for one of 2018’s hidden pop gems.



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Papercuts

Jason Quever has done the indie arc, working up from charming scrappers like Antenna Farm and Gnomonsong to bigger players like Sub Pop and Easy Sound. Now he’s settling into his seventh album for Slumberland and it feels like a perfect fit. Quever has always straddled the lines between folk-pop and dream pop but he’s never quite blurred the borders like he has here. The record opens with the narcotic, hazy strains of “Mattress on the Floor,” a half-dreamt attempt to work the sleep out of his eyes, but from there he grabs hold of hooks like a man with conviction. Quever conjures melodies to his aid with the deft hand of a seasoned musician, The album is full of strums and swoons, heartbreaks and hubris and each piece of the puzzle has the potential to hook into listeners with a wave of primrose pinpricks. Its an album about leaving behind a life that was supposed to pan out for a new venture that’s no sure thing. As Quever is crushed, so are we but he’s not always playing his hand straight.

The soft focus approach here is what gives Papercuts such purchase in the Slumberland ranks. There’s a jangled core that’s not too far from the folk shores he’s often populated, but this time each song is smudged at the edges like a photo faded by time, colored by the orange and brown hues that eat at old Kodak prints, clouded by dust and fingerprints to the point where the shapes remain, but the details are lost. In the same way he looks back on a relationship set adrift, the mistakes smudged the same as his strums and the details lost by one’s own dusty biases and emotional gaslighting. Parallel Universe Blues is a strong entry to the Papercuts catalog – dreamy and working its way into your life with subtle earworms that are as strong as any at his command. While the album is about leaving pain behind, its also a comforting companion to those who ache and a salve in times of need. Its proof that Quever was never just a tangential folk voice, but a vital one that never quite got his day.



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CAVE

Though they’ve often ebbed and flowed over the years, parceling out their revered releases to a fanbase happy to put some rhythmic ripple in their daily dose of psychedelia, Allways feels like a true high point for CAVE. Cooper Crain has been infinitely busy, splitting time between production credits and the cosmic float of Bitchin’ Bajas, but CAVE’s hold proves too strong and he’s obviously loath to let the band lose their yoke on the pounding pulse that beats beneath the psych heart eternal. With this album they perfect the bio-mechanical motion that’s worked the wheels of CAVE’s core for years, keeping just enough of the motorik menace that’s marked their everlasting Krautrock itch and synthesizing it into a much looser slink. The album fishhooks a South American psych groove alongside ‘70s jazz-funk flutes, toasting them ever so gently in the mountain sun before dropping the hot rock down onto double tape deck speakers for a lap around the park.

Crain and his cohorts prove they know how to splice quasar-crusted ambience with the cosmic slop of funk, barreling out of the bunker like a 300 lb hippie who’s surprisingly light on his feet. This is what the whole hep world would be listening to if Santana and Azimuth replaced every pimpled teen’s Zeppelin obsession. There’s something to be said for an album that could easily fuel the soundtrack of ‘70s Scorsese and at the same time tune up the geodesic domes of the best hippy commune. CAVE has found their formula with this record. Whatever deep dives into the bins Crain and co. have been doing over the last couple of years is paying off nicely. The band had exhausted their search for a new take on the German Progressive niche they’d been exploring since their formation and with the gamble to dose the psych with a heaping helping of wah and wobble they’ve created their best album to date.

Something tells me that CAVE purists might split opinions on the new direction. While the band still has a hand on the cosmic tiller – tunneling through space echo wormholes on “Dusty” and stomping the “flame on” guitar gusto for “Beaux,” the record almost feels like its made by a different band. To me, that’s admirable. That’s the essence of evolution. To some, that might be heresy, but screw the psych luddites, this album was made to burn and if there’s anything you need to have stuck in your car stereo for the next few months, its Allways.

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Charalambides

I’ve mentioned previously that Charalambides exist in a kind of ephemeral limbo between psych, folk, drone and experimental songform. Their music often conjures visions of rites and rituals more than concerts proper. There’s something elemental about what Tom and Christina Carter are invoking. Their songs are scarred by stone and smudged by the ashes of ceremonial fires. In the same way a camera can’t actually trap your soul, the ½ inch tape can’t hope to truly soak up their smolder and infect the listener the way a dusty basement gig can, but Charalambides: Tom and Christina Carter comes as close as any to achieving the impossible. The couple have been scraping at the raw nerves of folk for long enough that they’ve achieved elder statemen status and their latest proves exactly why they’ve remained vital for so many years.

The band itself has existed, even when relegated to hiatus, for well over twenty-five years. Often Charalmabides recedes to the background while Tom and Christina Carter have pursued solo ventures, external pairings and guest spots on the works of others. Amidst all this tangential activity, though, the idea of Charalambides still burns bright. So, it is fitting that the album is subtitled Tom and Christina Carter. It is momentous when those two halves unite, like an alignment of planets that can’t help but throw elements into disarray. The record doesn’t pride itself on brevity. Most songs stretch beyond the nine and ten-minute marks with ease, never in a hurry to halt the ceremony the duo sets in motion. Songs tend to fill up a space like firelight, warm and flickering, alive, aloof and perhaps a little dangerous. There are those that go to lengths to find their conduit to the thrum of nature, but they’d be wiser than most to seek out the Carter’s gospel.

The record sees Tom Carter ruminating on midnight guitar rituals – haunted and heavy as Loren Connors and intricate as contemporaries like Chasney and Bachman. Christina is no less an indelible presence on the record, her voice reaching for the upper registers like Linda Perhacs and Vashti Bunyan before her, imbuing their folk with a spiritual wonder that’s vibrating on the same harmonic hum as the nature around them. Its easy to tumble down the darkened paths of the Carters and get lost in the overgrowth and the dense earthen humidity, but there’s a light at the end that pulls the listener out of the dank. While that light offered escape, there are no promises about the changes that Charalambides inflict along the way. In a time ruled by wires and windows and incremental spikes in dopamine, the duo unleash an album to help it all crumble away – a dirt bath for the soul, an ego molt for the cult of culture.



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Mountain Movers

Still the headiest thing rolling out of New Haven, if not the rest of the Northeast, Mountain Movers new album sees the Connecticut four-piece perfect their brand of heatwave psychedelia. Pink Skies works swimmingly as a companion to last year’s eponymous LP, extending their reach towards the heart of the sun and exemplifying the unrestrained heat of their live sets. Though the band doesn’t revel in nearly enough fanfare for their cathartic cache of six previous mind-flayers, their scorched n’ singed delivery should have this climbing to the top of psych heads’ most anticipated releases. Guitarist Kryssi Battalene is funneling an overdose of ozone-toasted radiation through the speakers, distorting reality with a sonic sweep across every section of a listener’s brain. She’s quite easily one of the most ferocious guitarists working and it’s about high time she got some accolades to that effect.

The band rides the knife edge between psychedelic euphoria and an acid bath of noise with the noise often blotting out the sun to gain the edge in the tussle. Though, the record isn’t constantly set to singe, the Mountain Movers’ ability to work between back-alley menace, haunted forest anxiety and blast furnace freakout is enviable to say the least. The record is vibrating with enough sinister swamp energy to levitate any listener a good three inches from the floor, which is some feat for a band from the concrete caverns dotting the Northeastern nape of eternal sprawl. When Battalene lays into a riff, which is more often than not, the record explodes into an aural oblivion, both terrifying and ecstatic. These are the moments when the band sparks to an electric life.

The album taps into a classic vein of ‘90s psych – tough outer shell housing a blissful core – and Mountain Movers should dredge up sense memories for fans of Bardo Pond, Major Stars or early Sonic Youth. Like those acts, the Connecticut crew build a towering sound that feels impenetrable until you stop fighting and let the record envelop the brain. At this point, seven albums in, there should be little doubt that the band knows how to wield riff and ravage, but just in case you needed a reminder, Pink Skies topples pretty much all 2018 contenders to prove the point.



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