Browsing Category New Albums

Matthew ‘Doc’ Dunn

Canadian psych keystone Matthew ‘Doc’ Dunn has a seemingly infinite reserve of boundless energy, already lending his talents to two solid releases for 2019 (The Cosmic Range, Sacred Lamp). Add in touring duties with U.S. Girls and this would stretch most songwriters thin, but this month he’s following up on his two(!) excellent solo albums from last year with another bout of faded singer-songwriter gems. Lightbourne made the biggest impression in the press, but it was swiftly followed by the equally sun-streaked Some Horses Run, which tumbled out just a few months later, and might rightfully get chalked up as one of 2018’s most overlooked record. Continuing to mine his country-flecked, rambling pop predilections on Upper Canada Blues Dunn douses the speakers in a honeyed drawl and low simmering arrangements that pull back from his more psychedelic output.

Dunn’s solo records tend to run the early ‘70s ambitions of Van Morrison through a denim wash that dries deep on the line in the Laurel Canyon sun. Dunn’s versatility as a sideman (tightening the turns for U.S. Girls, lending airy atmosphere to MV & EE) come crashing through on Upper Canada Blues. The arrangements are lush to the point of quenching an invisible itch. As the slides saunter in on “Ribbons” there’s a smell of wet grass, hot coals, and rain on the air. Dunn has an ability to instantly feel familiar, like an artist you’d grown up with – crackling from the AM speakers on an uncle’s truck, humming on the hi-fi of an older sibling, somehow always around and waiting to be found when your ears aged to the proper temper.

That familiarity never rubs off as stagnant, though. The easy entry to Dunn’s work is only further rewarded by its richness. The leather lounge of “Save Our Grace,” the hip-swing wink of “The Beast,” the exhale ease of “Running Right Out” – Dunn’s crafted another afternoon sipper of an album. This is the kind of record that slips off a hard day every time and its likely you’ll be thankful for Dunn’s gravitas. The last couple seemed to slip away from folks, I’d warn not to let this one fly under cover as well. Its too good to miss.



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Joseph Allred

Feeding Tube resumes its breakneck schedule of underground gems with a new release from Boston picker Joseph Allred. The guitarist has been knocking out great tapes for some time, including a few this year on the quietly endearing new imprint Garden Portal recs, but this marks the man’s third LP proper, following up 2016’s Fire & Earth for Scissor Tail. In his tape travels Allred has explored the persona of Poor Faulkner, a lonesome middle-aged man with an inner sadness and outer problem with ghosts of the non-metaphorical variety. Though his works are instrumental, this character’s narrative informs the tangle of strings that Allred weaves over the course of O Meadowlark. The titles tell of a man visted by a bird, coaxed to a wooded cabin in search of an Angel who brings a vision to Poor Faulkner. The album only plays out through his ascension with the promise of that vision to come in a later album.

While the narrative adds a nice color and emotional heft to the stringwork, even without the tale the album is an engrossing listen. Following in the Takoma tradition, Allred’s phrasing knocks between the river rambles of Basho and the Eastern sun salutations that Richard Bishop prefers. He swaps between guitar and banjo with ease, using the latter to rise like the sun in his vignette. Allred’s style is absorbing and it’s hard to escape the web of notes that he weaves. They surround the listener, dancing, dizzying, taunting, coaxing. He pulls the album back from the brink of technical showmanship, careful not to let it become just a flex of talent. Rather he imparts every note with the proper emotional heft to make the tempest of sound a heartbreaking aural journey. If you’re new to Allred’s catalog, this is a nice entry point and here’s hoping that Faulkner’s epiphany warrants a sequel to this stunner.



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Honey Radar

Wafting like wasp spray on the summer’s breeze, Honey Radar’s Ruby Puff of Dust comes oozing into the pop pool with ill intent. Jason Henn’s Philly outpost has long sum in the wake of Athens’ psych-pop resurgence and they’re presenting one of their most refined visions with this round of twelve crusted twisters. Like a lower-fi Olivia Tremor shorn and shucked of Green Typewriters and write-in dreamscapes, the band reassembles the psych-pop pit of the universe with frayed wires and wood glue. The album’s got a bedrock beat that’s built on The Byrds, The Troggs, and Them, but its all been corroded like wet Kodachrome in the basement. Jangles ring out ,straining to swing wild before a wave of fuzz comes crashing onto their shores obliterating the crystal clear shake n’ shimmy they pine for. The twin-tone twang rattles out of the transistor tubes like a half-formed memory, memorexed and microwaved like shrinky-dink ditties that are always floating just out of reach in the recesses of memory.

That’s not to say the album doesn’t make a hell of an impact, though. The caustic crunch of guitars leaves a fair amount of scars on the ol’ cerebral cortex, jamming in hooks that are barbed and bouncy among the fuzz-bomb flotsam. Henn’s got Pollard’s proficiency with boiling a song down to the elemental necessities and he’s shot this record through to the bone with enough catchy crusters that we’re gonna all need a quarantine before the record is over. It’s been three years since Honey Radar hit the long play market and its damn good to have this melter on the deck, spinning round and round until the night consumes us all.



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Daughter of Swords

Dawnbreaker eases in spare and stark, just Alexandra Sauser-Monnig and a guitar, with just a crackle of static in the background. It was originally how she intended the rest of the album, a simple emotional connection with little artifice. The rest of the album did wind up more fleshed out, adding in the voices of her former Mountain Man bandmates Amelia Meath and Molly Sarlé, the stringwork of Ryan Gustafson, and arranging from Phil Cook, but the record still reverberates with the spirit of Sauser-Monnig on a road trip with her guitar. The fuller sound pulls her away from pining folk and into a country ramble that’s dipped in evening sunlight – awash in amber hues and a dousing of verdant cool that battles the slight heat-ripple ramble of summer. The record is full of quenchers straight through. Though her songs are about loss and transition, there’s no woe in sight. The songs are comforting and resilient, the kind of songs that comfort without cradling. Each one is an exhale of strength, the resolution to get up and move on confidently, no matter how many butterflies of uncertainty have housed themselves in one’s restless soul.

There’s a theme of breakup throughout the album, but its not a breakup album. Those tend to wallow and pick at the hurt. This is not the kind of album that let you know its ok to cry, one that lets the burning ball of hurt come rising to the surface. Rather, Sauser-Monnig faces loss with a fresh dawn determination. Her songs sparkle with the sun-dappled brilliance that Mountain Main wove between every harmony. As much as they’re the soundtrack to a new life they’re also the wind outside the window as a hand skims through the cool air in sine-wave sweeps. They’re the rumble of the seat lulling the pain away with each mile. They’re the horizon line ever receding but always promising. With Dawnbreaker on the speakers it feels like that next hill’s going to be the one that lets you cross over the threshold.



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Dire Wolves

The ‘cosmic sound’ might just be coming to a head with the release of Dire Wolves’ latest LP. Grow Towards The Light. Aligning themselves again with Beyond Beyond is Beyond, the record represents a bit of a lineup shift for the band. This marks their first without noted psych-folk stalwart Lau Nau on main vocals, but her shoes have been ably filled by regular member Georgia Carbone, who shifts this record towards the celestial – singing the album in her own invented language of bewitching moans and soaring incantations. Thrumming behind her, the band do their own part to elevate Grow Towards The Light to infinite proportions. As ever, bandleader and vibrational North Star Jefferey Alexander winds his guitars around limber and languorous nodes, stretching the passages beyond mere psychedelia and into a freeform headspace that sutures together folk, jazz, and prog on top of a lysergic backbone.

Further adding to the glorious din, Arjun Mendiratta’s (Village of Spaces) violin bobs and weaves between Carbone’s vocals, playing off them in acrobatic tangles throughout the album. Taralie Peterson (Spires In The The Sunset Rise) brings stabs of sax, charring passages into an amber ombré that melts the margins of the band’s vortex. The record is a tempest of sound – rhythms and grooves develop but just as often the players are fighting for space in the storm – wrestling with time and tempo and leaning hard into the whirlwind fray. At times the record is harrowing and haunting, biting into the brain with more than one set of teeth, but its not all flash and a friction.

The band lounges in verdant vibes as well, letting the oasis of “Water Bearing One” cool the wounds of the previous songs like a calming gel. “Discordant Angels,” while less outwardly comforting, lets up the gale force to saw a psych-folk spiritual out of the ruins. The song’s mournful shores provide a welcome shelter, but it winds up devastating in its own right – hanging heavier on the heart than the surrounding slashers. Standout, “Spacetime Rider” brings a dose of space rock, leaning into one of their most inviting grooves before the band winds up the whirlwind once more. Dire Wolves have an intimidatingly vast catalog, but if you’re a newcomer looking for a place to start, you’d do well to begin with Grow Towards The Light. It’s a not only one of the band’s strongest sets, it’s a top turner for 2019 as well.


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75 Dollar Bill

On their previous album, Wood/Metal/Plastic/Pattern/Rhythm/Rock 75 Dollar Bill scratched out a new high water mark, taking their austere setup (guitar and wooden crate) to new heights via repetition dropout zones of buzzing bliss. It’s four tracks packed more experimental rhythm riot than pretty much any other LP that year. It seemed a hard bar to hurdle, but the band’s not only bested that slab, they’ve soared far over its ambitions to create one of 2019’s most vital shakers. At double the length, and spanning four sides, the LP isn’t holding anything back. Rick Brown and Che Chen lead their troupe further down the wormhole of rhytmic wrangle than ever before with tracks stretching in excess of sixteen minutes, beset by locklimbed tangles of strings, stomps, skronk, and saw. It’s hypnotic in its execution and brilliant in its scope.

As with the previous album, whittling this just down to Brown and Chen is only half the equation. I Was Real owes just as much to its gathered ensemble as its predecessor, with a cadre of collaborators adding sax, viola, synth, contrabass, and additional guitars to the mix. The players summon a primeval boogie that resonates deep from the earth’s core and smelt it into audible heat. The band has made it adamant that they don’t consider this blues, but it’s a close cousin. When not doused in drones, the record is bursting with boogie – a kind of shaggy, euphoric, sweat sequined strain of boogie that’s more akin to the brokedown soulshake of someone like the name-checked Tetuzi Akiyama (see: track #3).

Like Akiyama’s Don’t Forget To Boogie the band deconstructs the heartbeat hum of ionic vibrations broadcasting from every environ and contorts them into shards of guitar that slice at the listener with a satisfying scratch. The band hammers on phrases, digging through Middle Eastern fuzztone and African Tuareg desert blues with equal hunger. The record is a sun ritual for a new age, dancing out the technological marvels of our time and crushing them into clatter matter, shaking their shambles along to the insistent beat and loosing all tethers in the process. As the title asserts, this is real – a tactile, turbulent, throttle that shakes up the last reluctant bones in one’s system and frees the listener from a life of stagnation. Get this on the turntable as soon as humanly possible.



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Bench Press

On their sophomore album, Melbourne’s Bench Press have tightened their sound and hammered out a focused approach that whittles away any excess. Built on a bedrock of muscular postpunk, the band brings an unusually milkfed force to the typically wiry genre. The guitars still bend and contort, attempting to squirm away in distress, but the frame they’re fashioned to is fortified by knotted bass grooves, a thick pummel of drums, and the gruff growls of singular singer Jack Stavrakis. The record works hard to avoid the typecast tropes that have bogged down so many in their field, giving the crushed glass crowd a hardcore makeover.

It’s really Stavrakis’ oversized personality that pushes Bench Press out of the common channels that modern day post punks have allowed themselves to be filed. His voice swings wild, almost always at a gale force gusto, deconstructing doubt, self-care, self-improvement, and hypocrisy. From the name on down, the band seems like it should be a bro’s dream of dirgey hooks, and testosterone stained 20 rep jams, but the band’s self-aware, turning their bombastic frustration into a manifesto for change, not status quo.

When the band’s edges are sharpened and their hooks are harnessed right, it’s a powerful record that charges breathlessly at any target. Occasionally it stumbles, with the flipside cooldown “Take It Slow” going at it a bit literally, and bogging down the energy. For the most part, though, this is another win for Poison City, an angular, damaged punk rumble that’s bashing at all the right recipients.



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43 Odes

Eiderdown revives the spirit of the long languished Jewelled Antler, if only for a moment with a new cassette from 43 Odes. Comprised of Glenn Donaldson (Skygreen Leopards, Ivytree) and Steven R. Smith (Ulaan Passerine, Hala Strana) the band brings the pair back together for the first time since they ground out noise rituals in Thuja. While 43 Odes is certainly landing softer blows than Thuja, there’s a communal spirit. Steeped in the moss n’ fog feelings that led the compass point of Jewelled Antler, the record builds an atmosphere of trepidatious wonder. From the outset the pair summons the ceremonial atmosphere – dub-struck drums patter in the background, Donaldson’s bass slithers with controlled menace, and sawed strings chase smoke rings into a trance.

There’s a clear-cut vision of sound here, no dabbling or cross-pollinating pet genres. This is psychedelic infinite, dripping with sweat and blood, rolled in linen and soil. The two players have spent years building their catalogs and the practice is palpable. The songs on their eponymous tape don’t sound so much studied, though, as uncovered, unearthed on sonic digs through the remains of crumbled cultures. There’s beauty in the stately, breath-baited “Majha” or the soft glow of “Veema” and “Myr Vehrt.” There’s celebration and relief in the cool climes of “Braspt” and there’s danger in between the bars of “Gryvk.” The whole album laps at the listener with a freeform flow – folk that’s free from song, left to explore the incontrovertible truths that lie between the drops in an unending cycle of storm and solace.



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Plastic Crimewave Syndicate

Its been a little while since a Plastic Crimewave project barreled down the halls of Raven, but Krakow and co. were always instrumental in the development of the site. Back when Steve was rolling with Plastic Crimewave Sound, the band contributed to the site’s first compilation. Now the Sound has crumbled and the Syndicate has risen, but the same thread of acid-scratched psychedelia remains. Massacre of the Celestials opens with a yowl of guitar and a veneer of fuzz caked on so thick its hard to wade through the wreckage. Those guitars find their way through though, streaking sickness all over the inflammatory opener “Bound to Seek.’ From there the band dives into the murk, digging their sound deep into a puddle of sludge-psych that’s heavy, leaden and loud as hell.

There’s power in that porridge of sound still and the Plastic Crimewave that barrels out of it crests and demolishes all that stands in its path. Add in a squirm of sax, some spaced-phasing that knocks the mind into astral projection, and the record chomps down some Hawkwind vitamins with the best of ‘em. What I’ve always loved about Krakow’s brand of psychedelic soup is that he’s never even thought twice about pushing it too far. Effects? Double down until you can barely see the light from the haze. Guitar scorch? Make it hurt. Make it third degree. The songs tie together under a banner of excess, but in general its like wading through a surrealist stew that’s sticky, mossy, murky, and humid enough to bring on a fevered froth. Whether you’ve been following the choose-your-own psychedelic adventure with Krakow from the beginning, lapsed and returned, or just toeing in now Massacre is as good as any a place to start. Jump in an swim in the deep end of delirium with them and don’t just try not to think as the temporal shift hits its stride.



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Taiwan Housing Project

From its very first beat, the latest LP from Philly’s Taiwan Housing Project is brutal in its sonic assault. Shredding the crumpled remains of No Wave and noise and kicking them wildly around the room, Sub-Language Trust is every bit the equal of the band’s ferocious debut from 2017. Front and center, and impossible to ignore are the air-raid riot vocals from Kilynn Lunsford. She bends phrases until they break, growls from the very sinews of her form, and generally becomes the human embodiment of catharsis. Shit, that’s just track one. She, along with ex-Harry Pussy string-wringer Mark Feehan also manage to sledgehammer their acerbic noise into some rather memorable hooks over the course of the next thirty minutes. Mind you, Taiwan Housing Project don’t mold and press their hooks in forms that gently nod the head and leave you with a vacant smile. No, THP’s brand of hooks siphon the screws from your home, knock down the walls and leave a smoking wreckage of barbed noise-pop smoldering in your lap.

All the better, though, as the band purports on “Buy Buy Buy,” the beige existence you so secretly covet needs a good kick in the clavicle. So, the band extols a new brand of mall pop, one that might incite a little loose looting, one that might turn the screws on the saps in the second floor salon until they exfoliate more than the first or second layer of deadened nerves. The band uses any edge at their disposal to draw blood — bent scraps of guitar meant to lacerate and leave ‘em wanting a second slice, sax-scratch that boils the veneer off your precious ear drums, and a wild tangle of percussion that inspires all manner of disjointed dance. It’s a damn good year for music in 2019, but not a damn soul so far has managed wield the maniacal force that Taiwan Housing Project channels straight to the dopamine depths of your broken mind. The record is an absolute killer and an easy contender for one of 2019’s best slabs to hit the turntable.



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